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Paul Grobstein's picture

pain on/in the brain

My point wasn't at all to argue that "psychology as something a biological organ does" should be understood to "lessen the importance of suffering." Very much to the contrary, my point was to argue that discomfort and pain is just as important and needing of attention ("just as real") when doctors can't trace it to an origin elsewhere in the physical body as it is when they can. Nor did I intend to be heard as saying that because pain is "in the brain" it should be possible for the brain, acting on its own, to make it go away. My point instead was that we should no more expect disturbances of the brain to fix themselves then we do disturbances of any other bodily ("physical") organ. Its interesting, no?, that I see recognizing the origin of psychology in the brain as a way to discourage people from either trivializing or overvaluing "psychological" phenomena while you see them as contributing to both. That's worth talking more about.

Yes, I think recognizing the brain dependence of pain can also help in the long run with the so far otherwise intractable problem of deciding whether and how much "non-verbal" organisms (human or otherwise) experience pain. And, for that matter, with understanding pleasure as well, and how pleasure seeking and pain avoidance interact in the behavior of humans and other organisms. All this, though, depends on a distinction between unconscious and conscious nervous system function (which we are indeed building to in Bio 202).

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