26 October 2007

In which Adam experiences a privation of calm

Some time ago my little girl, then three years old, dislocated her shoulder. I was alone in the house at the time. The pain was so intense that she became faint. I treated her the best I knew how, but kept holding the thought that just as soon as some one came I would run for help. She seemed to grow worse and cried very much. I undressed her and tried to twist the arm into place, but it caused such suffering that I began to get afraid. Then like a flash came the thought, What would you do if you were out of the reach of a practitioner? Now is your time to prove God's power and presence. With these thoughts came such a sense of calm and trustfulness that I lost all fear. I then asked the child if I should read to her; she said "Yes, mamma, read the truth-book." I began reading aloud to her from Science and Health. In about half an hour I noticed she tried to lift the arm but screamed and became very pale. I continued to read aloud and again she made an effort to put some candy into her mouth. This time I noticed with joy that she almost reached her mouth before she felt the pain. I kept reading aloud to her until my sister and two boys came in, when she jumped off her bed, so delighted to see her brothers that she forgot her arm. She then began to tell her aunt that she had broken her arm and mamma treated it with the truth-book. When this happened, it was about 10.30 A.M. and by 3 P.M. she was playing out doors as though nothing had ever happened.--Mrs. M. G., Winnipeg, Man Link

Someone please read to me from the truth-book and pour me a stiff drink. Heal me of the burning rage I feel.

12 October 2007

Why pains can't be privations

I've looked all over for someone making the most obvious and powerful objection to privation theories. Thank you Stanley Kane:
The difficulty is that pain seems clearly to be more than merely the absence of its contrary opposite. There is a marked difference between a limb which merely lacks feeling is numb or paralyzed or anesthetized and one that is racked with pain. In the former case it is quite plausible to say that is merely a privation of something, namely normal feeling, that under usual circumstances would belong to the limb. But it is clearly inadequate to describe a limb aching with pain as suffering merely a privation of good health or normal feeling. When pain occurs in the body, there is something new and different in a person’s experience which is not present when the body has simply lost feeling.

G.Stanley Kane, "Evil and Privation" Int J Phil Rel 11 (1980) 43-58

10 October 2007


From the OED definition of 'agony'. 1b is rather surprising, no?

The development of the senses in Gr. was:{em}1. A struggle for victory in the games; 2. Any struggle; 3. Mental struggle, anguish, e.g. Christ's anguish in Gethsemane. But the historical appearance of the meanings in Eng. was as follows:

1. a. Anguish of mind, sore trouble or distress, a paroxysm of grief. agony column, (a) the column of a newspaper that contains special advertisements, particularly those for missing relatives or friends, and thus often gives evidence of great distress; (b) a regular newspaper or magazine feature containing readers' questions about personal difficulties, with replies from the columnist; cf. problem page s.v. PROBLEM 7(b); agony aunt(ie), a familiar name for the (female) editor of an agony column (sense b); in extended use, an adviser on personal, psychological, etc., problems.

b. Hence, Intensity or paroxysm of pleasure.
a1725 POPE Odyssey x. 492 With cries and agonies of wild delight. 1877 MRS. OLIPHANT Mak. Flor. v. 138 He struck the marble in an agony of pleasure and content, bidding it ‘Speak’!

2. spec. The mental struggle or anguish of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane.

3. The convulsive throes, or pangs of death; the death struggle. (med.L. agon mortis.) Seldom now used in this sense without qualification, as agony of death, mortal agony.

4. a. Extreme bodily suffering, such as to produce writhing or throes of the body.
b. transf. and fig.
1835-40 etc. [see PILE v.2 2b]. 1863 GEO. ELIOT Let. 23 Oct. (1956) IV. 111 We shall soon be in the agonies of moving. 1924 R. CAMPBELL Flaming Terrapin ii. 25 The mountains frown, Locked in their tetanous agonies of stone. 1932 W. B. YEATS Words for Music 2 Dying into a dance, An agony of trance, An agony of flame that cannot singe a sleeve.

5. A struggle or contest. (Rarely without some shade of the preceding senses.)

Link (requires subscription)

Thanks to the most awesome PDT for the reference.

08 October 2007

In which Adam experiences a privation of sanity

In an amazing display of how a mistaken theodicy can lead to idiocy, Anglin and Goetz write:
one must distinguish between pain as an evil (a privation of normal consciousness, an inability to enjoy the weather) and pain as an experienced quality (a strong stimulus, an overwhelming sensation). A pain is only an evil insofar as it is privative.

Sounds a bit weird. But let's hear some more...

The privationist must agree that the experienced quality of a pain is not a mere absence of something but this does not commit him to saying that it is a good. Instead he can maintain that it is neither good nor evil but a sort of neutral thing. Of course, the experienced quality of pain always entails a privation of our normal state of consciousness and it often signals a privation of our normal state of bodily well-being. It can result in fear or resentment which are tied up with yet other privations.

Wait for it...........

However, just insofar as it is an experienced quality, pain is not an evil. Indeed, in some cases, the absence of this experienced quality would be an evil. If you cut your finger it would be worse if you did not than if you did feel pain.


Someone please douse me with the distinction between intrinsic and instrumental value to put the fire in my brain out........


*Anglin and Goetz, "Evil is Privation" Int J Phil Rel 13: 3-12 (1982), p.5