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I've long been curious about what pain actually is.  Yea, I know physical pain is caused by nerves sending pain signals to the brain in response to tissue damage, etc.  But once it gets to the brain, what is it?  In other words, how does animate matter manage to torture itself such that the being that is the emergent phenomenon created by the magic loom feel agony (for a good purpose)?  Maybe I should take this to the philosophy section.  Any ideas?
 

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Pain is what helps us avoid dangerous stimuli. It helps us learn about our environment and protects us from revisiting harm and from staying engaged with current harms too long.

It’s also is incredibly complex and can cause its own form of harm, especially when we consider the ways physical pain overlaps with and adds to mental and emotional pains.

There’s a primary pathway up the base of our neck that sends nearly all physical pain stimuli to the brain, but focusing only there IMO doesn’t do justice to the broader issue of pain and it’s management. Phantom limb syndrome comes to mind. 

Either way, pain is a gift. It’s a teacher. It’s many things, and in most cases helps keep us alive for longer... until it doesn’t. 

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Thanks for that iNow, but all that I already know and that's really not what I was looking for at all.  I know that science has not answered that question either.  I was just looking for ideas and seeking to provoke a discussion, so your response is welcome too.

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If not Scientifically then:- pain is the opposite to happiness, without one you wouldn't appreciate the other. So pain could be thought of as the foundation of happiness. Maybe.

Maybe a better way to look at pain is to look at the good things it's responsible for, like Empathy etc..

Sorry, my philosophy is just as crap as my science unfortunately.

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6 hours ago, tjackson2112 said:

But once it gets to the brain, what is it?

What any sensation like this actually “is” is a question that baffles philosophers. Look up “qualia” for endless meandering discussion on this and the relationship to consciousness. 

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The nociceptors handle the actual sensing. Not sure tells you what pain really 'is' though.

I'm kind of torn. Sometimes you can push through pain, other times it knocks you on your arse.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nociceptor

 

Quote

Pain, even agony, is no more than information before the senses, data fed to the computer of the mind. The lesson is simple: you have received the information, now act on it. Take control of the input and you shall become master of the output.

— Chairman Sheng-ji Yang, Alpha Centauri game

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In medical circles the standard definition is, whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever the experiencing person says it does.”

Never really found that helpful, myself.

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1 minute ago, Prometheus said:

In medical circles the standard definition is, whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever the experiencing person says it does.”

Never really found that helpful, myself.

It's kind of the Turing test for pain

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Posted (edited)
Quote

 

If not Scientifically then:- pain is the opposite to happiness, without one you wouldn't appreciate the other. So pain could be thought of as the foundation of happiness. Maybe.

Maybe a better way to look at pain is to look at the good things it's responsible for, like Empathy etc..

 

Certainly pain makes for a good standard of comparison to measure happiness with.  Like Empathy... and Survival of both the individual and the species too.

Survival... as endless generations of critters goaded by pain stay alive as long as they can to create new generations of fitter food for fiercer beasts.  At least we humans know we're caught in that amazing though cruel natural system of life (and fortunately climbed to the pinnacle of the food chain).

I think if we ever do understand what pain really is, we will have by then understood what consciousness and awareness are too.  Thanks, Strange (are you a type of quark?), that's a term of the trade that I was looking for.  Endless Google searches on 'what is pain', 'what creates pain', etc only come up with the answers I'm not looking for.

Quote

Phantom limb syndrome comes to mind.

 

I wonder if the study of it might bring us closer to the answer to my question - to the core of what it actually is, the kernel of the operating system code as it were.

Edited by tjackson2112

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9 hours ago, tjackson2112 said:

I've long been curious about what pain actually is.

Your formulation of the question ("What is ...") already is a hint that the question is philosophical.

9 hours ago, tjackson2112 said:

Yea, I know physical pain is caused by nerves sending pain signals to the brain in response to tissue damage, etc.  But once it gets to the brain, what is it?

The way you pose the question already shows a category error. By using 'brain' and 'signals' you are referring to the neurological basis of pain. So that is what iNow refers to in his posting. But that is exactly what you do not want to know. And I do not know in what sense the nerve signals of pain differ from e.g. from those of non-painful tactile sensations. With other words, I assume that a nerve signal is just that: a signal with no meaning in itself. The meaning, and the experience, as you correctly say, somehow occur in the brain. But the neurologist can only tell us what the difference in processing is (higher frequency of nerve signals coming in? Different pathways in the brain? Both? Other? Maybe iNow can tell a bit more about this?). But you are right, a neurologist does not 'see the pain'. He has to trust the reports of the subject that he is in pain, or assume that 'pain-behaviour' is a clear sign of being in pain (this of course is especially important with none-human animals).

9 hours ago, tjackson2112 said:

In other words, how does animate matter manage to torture itself such that the being that is the emergent phenomenon created by the magic loom feel agony (for a good purpose)?

There is of course an evolutionary aspect of pain. See e.g. here:

Quote

... biologist Richard Dawkins addresses the question of why pain should have the quality of being painful. He describes the alternative as a mental raising of a "red flag". To argue why that red flag might be insufficient, Dawkins argues that drives must compete with one other within living beings. The most "fit" creature would be the one whose pains are well balanced. Those pains which mean certain death when ignored will become the most powerfully felt. The relative intensities of pain, then, may resemble the relative importance of that risk to our ancestors. This resemblance will not be perfect, however, because natural selection can be a poor designer. This may have maladaptive results such as supernormal stimuli.

Strange's reaction is more or less to the point:

3 hours ago, Strange said:

What any sensation like this actually “is” is a question that baffles philosophers. Look up “qualia” for endless meandering discussion on this and the relationship to consciousness. 

(Of course I would not use the word 'baffle'...)

But the discussion on qualia is often illustrated with pain-examples, as you can see here.

Personally, I do not think qualia exist, or said better, can be completely analysed in terms of neurology and (verbal and none-verbal) behaviour. But I don't think in such an analysis you can get around the meaning of pain. In that case your question opens the whole can of worms connected to the question of consciousness, and how it arises out of neurological and cultural interactions. 

I do not think the question will ever really be answered. Some possible answers might turn out to be wrong answers under philosophical scrutiny or scientific research. But I like to compare it with the concept of 'life'. There was a time that 'life' was associated with a separate principle in nature. But in discovering more and more how organisms live, the question is more or less forgotten, and only pops up in border cases (like 'are viruses life?'). As, in my point of view, it is impossible to imagine a philosophical zombie, i.e. a body that acts exactly as we do under the same circumstances (so it also talks about its pain experiences), but is not conscious, I think the question will 'dissolve', instead of being answered.

41 minutes ago, Prometheus said:

In medical circles the standard definition is, whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever the experiencing person says it does.”

At least once in my life I experienced the opposite of what you describe here: I had let extract all my 4 wisdom-teeth. So I was injected with the anaesthesia compounds, and the oral surgeon left the room for a time until the anaesthesia worked. I sat there, not feeling something special. Then he came back, and asked me to open my mouth, and it hurt. He reacted by saying this was logically impossible: if I had no pain before the injections, then it was impossible that I could feel pain now. Even when in my philosophy study we were discussing 'private language' as in Wittgenstein's 'Philosophical Investigations', of course I was not in the mood anymore to discuss this topic with the surgeon...

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Posted (edited)

And our brains usually seem to bring us to an equilibrium when they can (not too much pain, not too much pleasure - the same reason recreational drugs are generally a bad idea), since one experiencing too much of either is ultimately not a fit critter (or species).  I love Dawkins by the way.  The Selfish Gene is one of those books that reads like the poetry of truth to me.

Do atoms scream in agony in the bellies of suns?  Probably not, since the essence of awareness would seem (to me at least) to ultimately be a function of the flow of information from place to place and its (temporary) persistence.  And ever greater levels of organization/cooperation the destiny of life.  Quarks to atoms to molecules to cells to multicellular to big beasts to thinking minds to civilizations to thinking machines. 

Energy (of motion as opposed to its 'imaginary' twin - potential energy) is an emergent phenomenon that rides for a while within whatever apparatus it temporarily infests, but is not the apparatus itself, from pendulums to elliptical planetary orbits, until parasitics slowly nibble it back out and share it back to the void usually as heat (with a perfect accounting - i.e. the conservation of energy law) and the relentless march of increasing entropy continues.  A drop of water falling into a pool is a good model of the particle/wave duality of high energy physics (let the drop fall far enough and the waves the particle induces upon entering the pool might generate enough counter energy to cause another particle to pop back up into the air for a moment before falling back down to produce yet more waves).  Fling the protons fast enough at each other and you might get enough energy in the collision to find the momentary Higgs boson you're hoping to find.  A flock of birds is a blob with a will of its own shifting here and there constituted by an organized apparatus of individual birds.  Maybe sensation/awareness might someday be understood with similar comprehensible though imperfect models.  But I only add to the ramble.  I think, therefore I feel pain might be as far as we can get in that understanding.

Philosophy.  I see what you mean about 'qualia', Strange Quark.  You throw so many words at it that you loose what you were looking for in the process.  Like some of those highly contrived contraptions seeking the perpetual motion machine.  At some point you realize... it just can't be done.

Edited by tjackson2112

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59 minutes ago, Eise said:

(Of course I would not use the word 'baffle'...)

Of course you wouldn't. :)

And thanks for bringing some clarity to my brief comment.

 

19 minutes ago, tjackson2112 said:

Do atoms scream in agony in the bellies of suns? 

No. But what a great line

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Posted (edited)

Do we understand the essential ontology of anything? All we can do is surround a thing with words without actually ever capturing and consuming it to the extent of understanding its underlying nature; we are limited by our available means of expression and symbology.

Edited by StringJunky

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6 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

All we can do is surround a thing with words without actually ever capturing and consuming it to the extent of understanding its underlying nature; we are limited by our available means of expression and symbology.

Isn't that why art is so important?  It can communicate that which cannot be put into words. You can't watch Grave of Fireflies without feeling some measure of pain.

 

1 hour ago, Eise said:

At least once in my life I experienced the opposite of what you describe here: I had let extract all my 4 wisdom-teeth. So I was injected with the anaesthesia compounds, and the oral surgeon left the room for a time until the anaesthesia worked. I sat there, not feeling something special. Then he came back, and asked me to open my mouth, and it hurt. He reacted by saying this was logically impossible: if I had no pain before the injections, then it was impossible that I could feel pain now. Even when in my philosophy study we were discussing 'private language' as in Wittgenstein's 'Philosophical Investigations', of course I was not in the mood anymore to discuss this topic with the surgeon...

The medical definition was made precisely to try to stop such incidents from happening. Clearly hasn't worked in all cases.

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Posted (edited)

Try this one. 

http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/the-talk-3

It can evidently be done sometimes, but not by tiny minds like my own, which can't seem to inflate itself to the volume necessary for 'The Talk'...  The Chinese are, after all, making practical use of quantum communications.  And quantum computers would appear to be on the horizon.  Personally, I have trouble getting past the notion of quantum bits.  I can consider the way that quantum particles in essence take every possible path through the double slit and interfere with themselves along the way through both paths, and wonder how other geometries could represent computational dualities to take advantage of nature's odd 'every possible path at once in a probabilistic sense' for fast computation.  And then I pass out with a headache.

 

Quote

Isn't that why art is so important?  It can communicate that which cannot be put into words. You can't watch Grave of Fireflies without feeling some measure of pain.

Ugh.... Art.  And in that way of 'The Game' is regularly and formulaically used to communicate that which polite society normally refuses to put into words otherwise.  Speaking of fireflies, they seem to be slowly rising from their grave of relative extinction in and about Atlanta and becoming more numerous again.  Maybe there's hope for the world.  But not with Trump in office!  Ha.  Give me a little Vermeer.  He captures the life of his subjects and brings their souls to the viewer.  And the way that the Dutch of Leeuwenhoek's time were a bit like Americans of a previous age, before we got so fat with success and started to devolve back into an idiocracy again, with 'The Game' busying itself at deniably devouring the rougher edges.  I doubt you know what I'm talking about, as I continue to digress from my own question.  As far as wisdom teeth go, I tolerated their occasional painful rumbling, until they finally shattered themselves with nowhere else to go, now just well behaved ragged tree stumps that cause no further pain.  American medicine.  Started out as a good idea that has slowly devoured itself in greed, even as the rest of rich and well to do America does the same and continues to march towards sharpening that edge between rich and poor.  Avoid them at great cost as it were!  But where were we?  Ah yes, pain.

Edited by tjackson2112

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33 minutes ago, tjackson2112 said:

I doubt you know what I'm talking about, as I continue to digress from my own question. 

!

Moderator Note

Then please stop it. If you want to blog, do so elsewhere. Others are taking their time to discuss What is Pain?

 

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Posted (edited)

Uh oh, Phi is back to Game me again.  But alas, he's right.  Time to go.  Enjoyed it.

Edited by tjackson2112

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51 minutes ago, Prometheus said:

Isn't that why art is so important?  It can communicate that which cannot be put into words. You can't watch Grave of Fireflies without feeling some measure of pain.

Yes, good point. I should have said: "With respect to the written word".

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13 hours ago, tjackson2112 said:

But once it gets to the brain, what is it?

An experience. A pattern of activation itself carried forth by chemistry on a biological substrate. Beyond that, it's roughly the same as anything else... an idea employed, a dream enjoyed, an interaction annoyed... (I probably should've left the rhyming out of it... that last one was a stretch).

Your question doesn't seem to be about pain at all, but about existence and consciousness itself; pain being just a subset of that larger whole.

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Maybe asking what pain is IS simply to ask what the others are.  I guess when I pose such questions, I'm just hoping someone will jog me into that mental state where you suddenly go, "Aha...!" like that first time you suddenly saw the duality between the drop and pool and particle/wave of quantum physics or began to understand why calculus works.  You know, when you learn something new.  I approach things from an intuitive perspective.  Forgive me.  But keep up the rhyme.

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Posted (edited)

I just hope that some day scientists will find a way to abolish (or turn off) all forms of pain but especially physical pain (i'm talking about the pain you feel after an injury).

A life without pain will certainty make the world a better place for many people, including me of course.

Perhaps some day scientists will even be able to give us mechanical bodies, mechanical bodies that don't need to constantly shit, urinate or even sleep.

Mechanical bodies also don't feel pain and never get sick which could be so much better for so many people.

Maybe some day we could abolish all kinds of physical pain and suffering throughout the living world, including the animal kingdom.

I believe that the creation of a world without involuntary pain is a precondition for any civilized society.

Edited by seriously disabled

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On 7/9/2019 at 2:23 PM, tjackson2112 said:

Do atoms scream in agony in the bellies of suns? 

Hydrogen does not die in the Sun. It transforms to Deuterium, later to Helium-3 and then to Helium-4.

Helium-4 does not die in the Sun. It transforms to Beryllium-8, later to Carbon-12.

etc. etc.

You used to be part of star, in distant past. Now you are here.

 

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Pain is part of life, part of who we are for better or worse; we can't always reject or ignore pain unless we choose to reject life, which is an option but not one that contains the pleasure/bliss that the end of pain brings. If we accept the pain today we'll know the relief that tomorrow can bring.

 

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Posted (edited)
On 7/9/2019 at 9:52 AM, tjackson2112 said:

I've long been curious about what pain actually is.  Yea, I know physical pain is caused by nerves sending pain signals to the brain in response to tissue damage, etc.  But once it gets to the brain, what is it?  In other words, how does animate matter manage to torture itself such that the being that is the emergent phenomenon created by the magic loom feel agony (for a good purpose)?  Maybe I should take this to the philosophy section.  Any ideas?
 

This question relates to the famous problems of QUALIA in philosophy and the psycho-physical problem. Not only to pain, but also any kind of feelings, emotions, and reality perception. According to my knowledge modern science cannot offer any sound solutions to these problems. It lays beyond human understanding. 

Edited by Moreno

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28 minutes ago, Moreno said:

It lays beyond human understanding. 

Perhaps the only things beyond human  understanding are those for which we willingly accept such disappointing and defeatist attitudes. 

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