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Parent categories: perception - sensation

Regarding the Pain of Others (2002) Susan Sontag [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]

And painful pleasure turns to pleasing pain -- Edmund Spenser (ca. 1552-1599) The Fairie Queen (1596) Book III, Canto 10, Stanza 60

Related: algolagnia - body - BDSM - psychology - punishment - self injury - torture

Compare: pleasure

Some philosophers, such as Jeremy Bentham and Baruch Spinoza, have hypothesized that the sensations of pain and pleasure are part of a continuum.

Word origin

Pain derives from the Latin poena, which means punishment.

In philosophy

A critical issue in philosophy is the role of pain and pleasure. Two near contemporaries in the 18th and 19th centuries, Jeremy Bentham and the Marquis de Sade had very different views on these matters. Bentham saw pain and pleasure as objective phenomena, and defined utilitarianism on that principle. However the Marquis de Sade offered a wholly different view - which is that pain itself has an ethics, and that pursuit of pain, or imposing it, may be just as useful and just as pleasurable, and that this indeed is the purpose of the state - to indulge the desire to inflict pain in revenge, for instance, via the law (in his time most punishment was in fact the dealing out of pain). The 19th century view in Europe was that Bentham's view had to be promoted, de Sade's (which it found painful) suppressed so intensely that it - as de Sade predicted - became a pleasure in itself to indulge. The Victorian culture is often cited as the best example of this hypocrisy.

In the 20th century, Michel Foucault observed that the biomedical model of pain, and the shift away from pain-inducing punishments, was part of a general Enlightenment invention of Man, a concept that simply did not exist prior to that intellectual shift - the idea of species-wide empathy was literally created, in which, the pain of the punished is itself a pain to the punisher, and so on.

The body, of course, remains an object, and so a subject-object problem arises in many cases. Consider the problem of considering the body and its irritation (to use an objective word) as a moral duty: hygiene for instance is something advised and imposed by the culture, which may irritate the child for instance, but may avoid (according to the culture) a greater pain in future.

Descartes' Error is one of many works that questions the idea that the mind and body are only linked by imagination, and suggests that they are also much linked by socializations of pain and of pleasure.

It is only we who can know the meaning of our individual pain. But it is that pain which gives us the motivation to do something to avoid giving it to others. Empathy itself relies on this very socialization which Foucault identified as having arisen as a cultural norm only in the 18th century.

Today, presumably painful experiences are often viewed on television, and we are encouraged by media presentations to identify strongly with pain of "our troops" and sometimes "civilians", but not in general "their troops" or "enemies", whose pain is abstracted and invisible, often not even summed up as statistics. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pain_%28philosophy%29 [Apr 2005]

Phantom (pain)

  • Phantom pain may occur virtually in any of the extremities of someone's body after having had an amputation of the respective part. In fact, the damage to the ends disturbs signalling along nerves. Under such condition, there is no mental means to distinguish between pain that would have caused in reality and equivalent reception.

    Pain and pleasure

    Some philosophers, such as Jeremy Bentham and Baruch Spinoza, have hypothesized that the sensations of pain and pleasure are part of a continuum.

    There is strong evidence for biological connections between the neurochemical pathways used for the perception of pain and those involved in the perception of pleasure and other psychological rewards.

    These probably involve dopamine and endorphin pathways. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pain_and_pleasure [Apr 2005]

    The function of pain

    The very unpleasantness of pain encourages an organism to use any means at its disposal to disengage from the noxious stimuli that cause pain. Preliminary pain can serve to indicate that an injury is impending, such as the ache from a "soon-to-be-broken" bone. After an initial insult to an organism, pain can prevent further damage from occurring. Finally, pain promotes the healing process as most organisms will instinctively take great care to minimise the experience of more pain, hence protecting an injured region from further damage.

    [...] Nociception, one of the physiological senses, is the term commonly used to refer to the perception of physiological pain. Pain in this context can be defined as a harmful stimulus which signals current (or impending) tissue damage. As a result and despite its unpleasantness, pain is nonetheless a critical component of the body's defence system. The term nociception is not used to describe psychological pain. -- http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pain I am looking for the medical term for people who can't feel pain.

    Pain in BDSM

    "Much S&M involves very little pain. Rather, many sadomasochists prefer acts such as verbal humiliation or abuse, cross-dressing, being tied up (bondage), mild spankings where no severe discomfort is involved, and the like. Often, it is the notion of being helpless and subject to the will of another that is sexually titillating... At the very core of sadomasochism is not pain but the idea of control--dominance and submission.

    Thomas S. Weinberg and G.W. Kamel (1995). "S&M: An Introduction to the Study of Sadomasochism," S&M: Studies in Dominance and Submission, Prometheus Books, pg. 19.

    Havelock Ellis on pain in BDSM
    Havelock Ellis, M.D., produced a groundbreaking study of sexuality: Studies of the Psychology of Sex, in which he wrote that the concept of pain is much misunderstood:

    "The essence of sadomasochism is not so much "pain" as the overwhelming of one's senses - emotionally more than physically. Active sexual masochism has little to do with pain and everything to do with the search for emotional pleasure. When we understand that it is pain only, and not cruelty, that is the essential in this group of manifestations, we begin to come nearer to their explanation. The masochist desires to experience pain, but he generally desires that it should be inflicted in love; the sadist desires to inflict pain, but he desires that it should be felt as love...."

    Havelock Ellis, M.D. (1926). Studies of the Psychology of Sex, F.A. Davis Company, pg. 160.

    Regarding the Pain of Others (2002) Susan Sontag

    See Susan Sontag

    Enduring Creation: Art, Pain, and Fortitude (2001) - Nigel Jonathan Spivey

    Enduring Creation: Art, Pain, and Fortitude (2001) - Nigel Jonathan Spivey [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Times Literary Supplement
    "Spivey's historical knowledge is enjoyable, and his commentary is sane and humane."

    Product Description:
    Nigel Spivey takes on one of the greatest taboos in Western culture in this brilliantly original work of cultural history: why is so much pain depicted in the art of the West? Beginning with a meditation on Auschwitz, the prizewinning author then takes us on a journey that encompasses the stone-bound screams of classical sculpture, the many depictions of the Crucifixion, the Massacre of the Innocents and St. Sebastians pierced with arrows, self-portraits of the aging Rembrandt, and the tortured art of Vincent van Gogh. Exploring the tender, complex rapport between art and pain, Spivey guides us through the twentieth-century photographs of casualties of war, Edvard Munch's The Scream, and back to the recorded horrors of the Holocaust.

    Beauty and disfigurement, violence and thrill, horror and comfort-these are pairings fostered throughout Western art, for causes as various as religious martyrdom, judicial torment, artistic virtuosity, and erotic gratification. The ancient Greeks invented tragic drama: but how far was pity for tragedy's victims tempered by the notion of just deserts? The first Christians preached Christ Crucified: why then did it take some five hundred years before images appeared of Christ on the cross? The Massacre of the Innocents was an event that never happened: for what reasons were artists of the Italian Renaissance so eager to show it convincingly?

    Enduring Creation reveals the amazing power of art to console, to warn, to prepare the viewer for the harsher experiences of life, raising intriguing questions: Can pain be beautiful? Do we always pity suffering? Are sainthood and sadomasochism linked? This compelling study concludes with a positive message of hope for the enduring human spirit.

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