Pain and value

Dissertation, Rutgers University, New Brunswick (2006)
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All existing explanations of why pain is intrinsically bad are false. They all rest upon a mistaken conception of what pains are. On this false view, pain is merely a kind of sensation or feeling. The nature of a stubbed toe is exhausted by the way it stings and throbs. However, on the correct view, pains are much richer and much more complex. For example, a pain’s intrinsic properties also include its sufferer’s beliefs about the causes and implications of her pain, the fear and anxiety she feels, and the way the pain compels her to contort and groan. But none of the existing accounts of pain’s intrinsic badness can place these additional properties at the source of pain’s evil. We should therefore reject them. Instead, we should adopt an account of pain’s intrinsic badness on which pains are intrinsically bad in two separate ways. One way lies in a certain conjunction of the pain’s intrinsic properties. The other lies in the way that many pains invade and seize control over a person’s mind and body. These novel accounts of pain’s nature and intrinsic badness have many important implications throughout value theory. Accepting them leads us, for example, to a new understanding of the nature and bearers of intrinsic value.
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