Pain is a fundamental evil. It is also a topic on which all extant views of intrinsic value are intuitively inadequate. The badness of agony doesn't seem to lie just in your not liking it; claiming that its badness lies in its unpleasantness seems pleonastic. These views are incomplete, but not wholly implausible. Your dislike of a pain, the way it impels you to escape, and the way it feels, all seem to be part of its intrinsic badness.
I believe the intrinsic badness of pain lies in the way it usurps a sufferer's control over herself. All creatures capable of purposeful action properly have a particular kind of control over aspects of their mind and body. By usurping this control, a pain undermines the dominion necessary for a being's well-functioning.
This accounts for what was plausible in the extant views. In disliking a pain we rebel from the foreign invader; we are passive in its impelling us to escape; and part of the usurpation is the way a pain feels as though it consumes one's mind.
Along with practical implications for the ethics of palliative care, my view has deep implications for our understanding of the nature and sources of value. It yields, inter alia, insights into the reality and strength of our reasons to alleviate other's pains; the role of subjective desire in value-theory; the nature of torture; animal's pain; and the structure of pleasure. [237 words]
05 October 2004
I've been trying to write a 200 word summary of my eight-million chapter dissertation. I'm having trouble writing anything that is at all informative and coherent. At risk of embarrassment, I'd like to know what you think.
Posted by Adam at 9:01 PM