11 January 2006

Plotinus on pain

Ok. I believe some wierd* things about pain (e.g., pains are not just sensations; pains have two potentially conflicting intrinsic values; some painful sensations are not pains; pain is essentially and intrinsicaly bad in virtue of being the privation of that which is intrinsically good for a person, and many others). But Plotinus seriously one-ups me with this claim about how a person suffers pain.
13. The characteristic activities are not hindered by outer events
but merely adapt themselves, remaining always fine, and perhaps all
the finer for dealing with the actual. When he has to handle particular
cases and things, he may not be able to put his vision into act without
searching and thinking, but the one greatest principle is ever present
to him, like a part of his being- most of all present, should he be
even a victim in the much-talked-of Bull of Phalaris. No doubt, despite
all that has been said, it is idle to pretend that this is an agreeable
lodging; but what cries in the Bull is the thing that feels the torture;
in the Sage there is something else as well, The Self-Gathered which,
as long as it holds itself by main force within itself, can never
be robbed of the vision of the All-Good. Link

I wonder if Plotinus thought himself a Sage...

The Bull of Phalaris:
Perillos of Athens, a brass-founder, proposed to Phalaris, Tyrant of Agrigentum, the invention of a new means for executing criminals; accordingly, he cast a brazen bull, made totally of brass, hollow, with a door in the side. The victim was shut up in the bull and a fire was set under it, heating the metal until it became "red hot" and causing the victim inside to slowly roast to death. So that nothing unseemly might spoil his feasting, Phalaris commanded that the bull be designed in such a way that its smoke rose in spicy clouds of incense. The head of the ox was supplied by a complex system of tubes and stops so that the prisoner's screams were converted into sounds not unlike the bellowing of an infuriated ox. It is also said that when the bull was reopened, the victims' scorched bones shone like jewels and were made into bracelets.

Phalaris commended the invention, and ordered its horn sound system to be tested by Perillos himself. When Perillos entered, he was immediately locked in, and the fire was set, so that Phalaris could hear the sound of his screams.Link

* Since I'm presently on the job market, 'wierd' here means 'exciting, insightful, and challenging'
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