Introduction

Introduction

When asked, “what is pain?” many respond: “the response to something painful.” That answer is tautological. To escape tautology, we need to understand pain independent of any stimulus; we need to understand pain subjectively.

A subjective focus, however, causes problems. The need for subjectivity might deny pain to the unborn and to animals, and seemingly leads to the conclusion that we can “think” ourselves into, and out of, pain. Consequently, many argue that pain should be understood objectively as the expression of biological changes (hormonal increases, brain activity) that are mobilised by noxious events and defend or warn the organism against injury.

An objective focus, however, also causes problems. Viewing pain as objective means either locating subjectivity in material objects or turning subjectivity into a determined object. Both positions lead towards a great deal of lunacy, such as believing that thermostats might be a little bit aware or that perception is an illusion.

The escape from unpalatable conclusions based in subjective and objective views of pain relies on an understanding of subjectivity as emerging not from the physicality of the brain, which is determined, but from the varied and complex social interactions of human beings, which are negotiable. This enables escape from the necessity to force physics to have subjective properties and escape from the necessity to force subjectivity to be determined.