Friday, 25 January 2008

Pain and fortitude

Yesterday I went under general anaesthetic for the first time, to have a dental cyst removed. While waiting to be called to the theatre I read these comforting words by the great Oxford philosopher, R. G. Collingwood:
I would go so far with the hedonist as to say that anything good is pleasant. Any activity which I definitely choose to go in for, so far as my experience goes, yields me feelings among which there is pleasure, And I will add that although the pleasure sometimes comes as a surprise, a by-product which I had not expected, this happens more and more rarely as I become more and more experienced and acquire (as I hope I do acquire) more and more savoir vivre. Experience of life teaches me to expect the unexpected; in this case, to expect that I shall get pleasure out of things which, if I had been less experienced, I should not have thought likely to prove pleasant. A child may undergo dental surgery and find little in it except pain; when more advanced in years, he will find that bearing the pain gives him a curious and seemingly perverse but unmistakable pleasure; still later, he may learn to expect and reckon on the pleasure. This is not masochism. It is not a pathological enjoyment of merely being hurt. Being hurt is one thing; fortitude under pain is another. So the masochistic enjoyment of pain is one thing; the pleasure of finding that a certain degree of pain does not destroy one's fortitude is another. (pp. 426-7, 'Goodness, Rightness, Utility', The New Leviathan, Clarenden Press 1992)
With modern anaesthetics and pain-killers, in my case little fortitude was required.

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