A brood comb

….philosophical and other notes….

Cyborgs Sharing The Pain

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on January 28, 2007

Phenomenologically in terms of accessibility we can do a division:

1) One group of things are those which appear in publically accessible space. The objects, them undergoing changes, the agents’ actions, their speech, also sounds, smells and properties of the things, like colors, shapes, etc… – all appear in publically accessible space. A person can ask another person for example to touch surface of something, to smell or taste something etc… To access what is there publically accessible.

Here are some side notes on this (I have already wrote about those things in separate posts, I will just shortly repeat them here):

  • Some qualia, are in this publicly accessible space. Colors, sounds, music… they all are. It is not somehow to see them, they are themselves somehow, we just can see them in their being somehow. And being in publically accessible space, they are experienced as accessible by multiple people in their being somehow (if others can see them too).
  • People can show them to other people, and it is one and the same thing that that the one person is showing, and that the other person is being showed (that’s how is it in our phenomenal experience). It is one and the same intentional content for both of them – we have there the ground for the intersubjective transcendence of intentional content.
  • Things exist. The time is an abstraction taken from changes of those things, and is not some kind of self-subsistent background (absolute time idea) on which events unfold. Things undergoing changes are what is primary, time is what is only an abstraction. And such are the things in our phenomenal experience. They transcend time. (I’m looking at a thing. It takes time, but in that time, neither me, nor the thing that I’m looking at looses its identity, there are things which change through looking, but it is not me or the object [except if me or the object disappear, or change into something else])

2) But there are things which don’t appear as such. Pain is one example. It apparently doesn’t appear in publically accessible space. It can’t be shown to other person. For sure, other person can feel the same type of pain, and even one can show to the another person how to inflict such and such pain to oneself, but the token of pain isn’t in publically accessible space.

For example, I can touch some hot thing, and if it is not too hot, I feel its hotness as a property of the object. And even it is too hot, it is still property of the object. But when it is too hot, it burns me and causes pain in my finger. Now, if some other person touches the same object, he also will get pain in his finger. But now we have two tokens of pain – the hot object caused a change in my and his finger. Wherever I move my finger, the pain is there. And wherever that other person moves his finger the pain is there. But the pain in my finger is only accessible by me, and pain in his finger only accessible by him.

Both mine and his finger are though in publically accessible space. I can ask him which finger hurts, and he can show me. But if the finger is in publically accessible space, and the pain is in the finger, isn’t the pain in publically accessible space?

Maybe we thus shouldn’t say that the pain isn’t in publically accessible space. Maybe what differs is the possibility of specific access to that thing. While me and the other person have both the visual, tactile, auditory etc… access to my finger, maybe the other has no “feeling the pain in it” access, and I have.

If it was so, it seems that it would mean that it is in principle possible (in our phenomenology) to feel the same token of pain.

Imagine a scene in a SF movie…

Two cyborgs, Michael and Ethan walk on the surface of a distant planet after a fight with alien troops. Michael notices that Ethan’s finger has a hole in it.

-Does it hurt much? – asks Michael.

Ethan unscrews his finger, and hands it to Michael, who replaces one of his own fingers with it.

-Gosh, that hurts a lot – says Michael.

-Thanks for sharing my pain. – says Ethan. -Now give it back to me.

It this sharing of pain possible in principle? I’m inclined to answer positively.

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2 Responses to “Cyborgs Sharing The Pain”

  1. Clark said

    I think we have to be careful. While the experience might not be public I’m not sure the token is not public. After all the physicalists might be right at the token might be some particular neural state.

    Further one could argue, as for instance Peirce does, that all our phenomenological knowledge is mediated by signs. That is to be in pain and to know we are in pain are different. Thus the knowing we are in pain entails the token and not the being in pain.

  2. Hi Clark,

    I agree that the issue is complex. I was trying to analyze the pain just as a phenomenon, and the instance as phenomenon – unconnected to what actually pain is.

    I just posted a new post around the same cyborg story where I hope I made this more clear. I also tried to analyze the situation in more details, keeping the analysis isolated from other connected issues (relation of phenomenal to physical etc…).

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