Philosophical Observations Based on Pain

24 Nov 2008

Surgery is traumatic to the body, but is administered in such a way as to minimize pain from start to finish. Let's look at a wisdom tooth extraction as an example: Prior to receiving the Novocain injection, they numb your gum with a topical ointment. During the procedure, you feel nothing but pressure thanks to said Novocain. After the procedure, you're given pain pills to ease your recovery. Sure, there is discomfort, but it's managed as best as doctors can.

Last week, I underwent a wisdom tooth extraction procedure under a local anaesthetic, just as described. While the procedure itself was uncomfortable and disturbing, the actual pain experienced during the procedure was thankfully minimal. Afterward, though, it hurt like a bitch. And it continues to ache even now (four days later -- though it's beginning to wane ever so slightly). But it was and is manageable pain. If it had been deeper pain, I'd have requested something stronger than the (useless) Vicodin prescribed to me -- and I'm sure they'd have found a more effective painkiller. But Advil seemed to work.

While I was somewhat apprehensive before the procedure, I had to admit to myself that others around the world were certainly feeling much worse pain. How can you fear a dentist, for example, when wars are being fought across the globe? Sure, a wisdom tooth extraction hurts like hell for a week or so, but what must getting shot in the face feel like?

This leads one to numerous further questions about the nature of war itself, the justifications used for such action (by all parties involved), the role of the state in forcing individuals to experience such pain on its behalf, and many other areas. I have my own opinions, of course... But I wonder how much the role of pain is considered in decisionmaking for acts of aggression and/or retaliation. Just thinking out loud a bit...

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