THE PHILOSOPHY OF PAIN
Before we explore the details of pain, we must consider the general plan of what we expect to find. The commonest prevailing opinion, which comes from our intuition and is expressed by the majority of philosophers, is dualistic: that is to say, we have a body and a separate entity, the mind. The body is generally seen as a wonderful, intricate machine operating on understandable principles which will be revealed by increasingly sophisticated scientific investigation. It includes a sensory nervous system whose function is to detect events in the world around us and within our own bodies. This sensory nervous system collects and collates all the available information and presents it in a form that generates pure sensation, according to the dualists. At this supposed frontier, the mind, which operates on entirely different principles, may inspect the sensory information and begin mental processes such as perception, affect, memory, self-awareness and planning of action.
There are those who believe that these mental processes operate on such different principles that they will never be revealed by a continuation of present-day scientific exploration. Such people admit that the general outcome of mental processes can be described by psychologists but that the mechanism by which they are achieved will remain obscure. A more cautious group of dualists see mental processes as operating on principles that are entirely different from those of the body but that will eventually be understandable in materialist terms, including obeying the laws of physics. However, we will take the approach that the abrupt frontier between body mechanisms and mental processes does not exist. Instead, I will propose that mind, body and sensory systems exist as an integrated unity serving the biological needs of the individual with no abrupt shift of fundamental mechanism.
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