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Archive for January, 2012

A Tapestry of Pain

The general capacity to feel pain is part of being human, yet it is subject to a number of seeming paradoxes. For one, we alone must endure the pain in our own bodies, yet we readily observe pain in others and expect that they suffer from it as we do. Furthermore, while we fear pain and condemn those who wantonly inflict it, violence in all its forms and meanings fascinates us. It is these, and other, paradoxes that Arne Johan Vetlesen, professor of philosophy at the University of Oslo, discusses in his recent book ‘A Philosophy of Pain’. The diversity of phenomena and contexts through which pain manifests itself inevitably leads to a certain degree of eclecticism. The result, writes reviewer Chuanfei Chin, is less an analysis of pain and a model of its ‘circulation’ in society, but a more or less loosely woven tapestry of observations — one that may not be strong enough to bear the weight of the author’s ambitious project, but one whose patterns nonetheless stimulate the reader.