Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Minimization of Pain

The refinement of the process of minimizing pain results in the realization of pleasure, and the consequent pursuit of pleasure. Pleasure is an experience both of relief - the process of moving toward lesser pain - and also of the anticipation of further lessening of pain. Such activity, the most basic maximization of the individual’s physically selfish interests, characterizes the Animal realm-stage. Such motivation does not, however, preclude the cooperative behavior in which some species engage, as such behavior results from instincts pre-selected by the process of genetic evolution rather than any internal evolution of thought. The attainment of a “pleasure-maximum” ironically leads to an awareness of its limitations. The maximum level of pleasure that the animal-self may attain is limited to the individual’s potential for physical pleasure (in terms of degree and frequency). Also, the sense of one’s own mortality, implied by the knowledge that others die, results in the suspicion that the current pursuit and potential attainment of physical pleasure may be ephemeral. This dissonant coupling of physical satiation with a less defined, though ever-present, feeling that the self is insufficient unto itself exists in higher animals, at the border between the animal and human realms. It is a flickering recognition that beings other than one’s self have existential significance, and that there is a world outside of one’s physical self, to which one is connected, in an intimate and perpetual, albeit unknown manner. It is natural to assume that the animal self might experience the first semblances of such notions in the form of dreams; for sleep, the decceleration of physical activity and period in which the resting mind makes play of thought, occurs when the day’s overriding demands for safety, food, and sex have been satisfied to the degree that circumstances allowed. More evolved animals take greater care of their young than the more primitive forms, and some, especially those which congregate in groups, such as herds and packs, evince feelings of a sort of group, or species, sympathy, which may be likened to a primitive form of compassion. Whether this is merely a Darwinistically selected instinct, by which those of like genes favor one another, or a more deliberate and conscious form of cooperative reciprocity, enhancing the coherence and survival of the group, it represents a significant practical step beyond the preservation and promotion of the individual self.

(c) Copyright 2009 by A. Rogolsky

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