Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pain, consciousness, intent and the Dentist

Yesterday I had to visit the local dentist to have a cracked filling drilled-out and replaced. As I anticipated and imagined this event beforehand, I recalled Daniel Dennett's account of how he arranged to have dental treatment without anaesthesia in order to understand better the nature of pain and consciousness (in The Intentional Stance as I recall). Dennett reported that if you really, really concentrated on pain, then the awful sensation went away, but that pain was so boring that it was impossible to keep this level of concentration going for too long.

My other pre-visit inspiration was Lao Tzu, and the benefits of not fighting experiences but accepting them as integral to participation in the evolution of the Tao.

Modern dental practice being what it is, I was subjected to an almost unnoticed application of injected anaesthetic before I could nerve myself to refuse it, and there was consequently no pain whatsoever.

However, with the further assistance of Lao Tzu, I convinced myself that this, too, was consistant with 'the way'.


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