Pain and Pleasure – Philosophy Vs Science

There are innumerable phenomena which are well placed in the awareness-kit of humans. Whether illiterate or literate, poor or rich, they know the phenomena and deal with the phenomena within the confines of their awareness-kit. However, philosophers and scientists are never satisfied with the general knowledge of the phenomena. They, therefore, jump into the field of study, evaluation and explanation of the phenomena to enlighten everybody.

Logically right it would be to say that in all such situations, it is the philosophers who drive the scientists into the field of study, evaluation and judgement of things and phenomena to lift the phenomena out of the glitter of philosophy. Had there not been a philosophy, probably there could not have been any scientific studies to demystify the philosophic revelations. Pain and Pleasure are two such instances where philosophers made imaginary conclusions which scientists had to demystify:

Philosophers Jeremy Bentham, Baruch Spinoza, and Descartes described that pain and pleasure are part of a continuum which go on and on from one condition after the other, non-stop. Perhaps these thinkers might have construed that pain and pleasure appear one after the other continuously for generations after generations. The idea ought to have sprung up out of a view that both pain and pleasure are interlinked universal sufferings.

Another philosophy as propounded by Marquis de Sade says that pain has ethic connotations and that pain ultimately leads to pleasurable situations in continuum. Similarly, Rene Descartes under the garb of Cartesian dualism strongly argued that pain and pleasure are inherent in one’s own consciousness within the inner world of the mind. On the other side, Atheist Philosopher Nietzsche explained that meaning of pain is the meaning of life which is made up of pain and pleasure.

Philosophy is built on subjectivism. Philosophers build thoughts on the basis of imaginations and shape their conclusions as per the world view they hold. Their world view always evades objective reality where each and every thing including matter and phenomena has material existence. Therefore a scientific approach only will give clear idea about the experiences of pain and pleasure both of which relate to body (and mind).

Pain and pleasure are sensory experiences felt by living organisms. The experiences are distinguished clearly and specifically by humans as compared to other living organisms like animals and birds. Animals and birds do certainly feel the experiences but fail to make localization and thereby to deal with the experiences pointedly to find the causes and effects of situations as humans can do.

Pain is explained as an unpleasant experience closely associated with strong emotional feelings arising out of both mental and physical damages and hurts. It is a physically motivated alarm signalling the brain that something is not going well for the body. Pleasure is attributed to situations which give feelings with emotional craving that enlivens physical needs of the organism required for pleasant feelings.

Pain motivates the living organism to escape from situations that hurt the physique and thereby to protect the body from damage. Pain also cautions the organism to keep away from situations that result in similar experience in future. Pain induction is carried out by the body parts which include the brain. There are pain receptors everywhere in the body. They exist in the skin, body-joints, peiosteum lining around bones, surfaces of arteries and skull structures. Pain-centric Signals from internal and external sources stimulate the receptors: The stimulus reaches the sensory centres in the cerebral cortex of the brain via spinal cord by the working of inherent nerve connections called unconditioned reflexes. The stimuli excite the sensory centres and thereby the person concerned get the sensory experience of pain and reacts mentally and physically to deal with the situation. Sense organs and motor centre in the brain are the executors of the task.

Unlike the negative trauma conveyed by pain, pleasure induces enjoyable feelings for both the mind and body. The feelings of pleasure induced by same situations may differ from person to person depending upon type and excitatory and inhibitory reactions of sensory centres. Most of the pleasure situations relate to food, health, resource-availability, sex, family, relations, friends, surroundings, society, social drives, recognition, art, music, literature and such other environs that go in line with the craving of the individual. Feelings of happiness, delight, joy, gladness, satisfaction, gratification, fulfilment, contentment, enjoyment and amusement are synonyms of pleasure. They are the undercurrents of pleasure situations.

Pleasure is experienced when the result of an activity coincides with the aim and aspiration a person has set or foreseen: It is postulated that the more important the aspiration is the more difficult (painful) it would be for the person to achieve it. Once the aim and aspiration are achieved the person becomes happier. That postulation leads to believe that pleasure always follows pain.

Some researchers have come with a set of conclusions stating that there is specific centre in the brain which produces the experience of pleasure. While one group of researchers identified the brain structure nucleus accumbency as pleasure centre another group claimed septum pellucidium as the pleasure centre while for yet another group hypothalamus is the pleasure centre. The very context that the views of the researchers differ from one another shows that pleasure centre theory has no tangible scientific evidence.

All experiences, including pain and pleasure are felt as a result of excitation of the sensory centres in the cerebral cortex of the brain. The stimuli for excitation are conducted through either unconditioned reflexes or conditioned reflexes which are nerve connections of nerve to nerve communication path. In the absence of sense organs which direct the stimuli to sensory centres, no living organism, including humans could experience any feeling; pain and pleasure no exception.

Pain and pleasure have played major role in the survival path of the species. In the course of existence each species, each living organism aims at the pleasure of existence by undergoing pains to achieve the aim. The nervous system of the organism enables the twin processes of pain and pleasure to tread the path of survival. The path led the route to natural selection and genetic mutation of evolution of the species.

Pain and pleasure are inter-linked sensory-experiences; But for pain and pleasure the world of humans of today could not have been what it is of today