Pete Carlton wrote:
The discussion about whether it would be okay to use anesthetic that
worked only by removing memories is missing one important piece: that the
effects of pain are not just floating "experiences" perceived by the
"mind", but have very real effects on the body - high stress levels,
release of stress hormones, behavioral trauma, etc. Before stating
whether you'd be willing to undergo torture followed by memory loss, it
also has to be specified what the long term effects of repeated stress
would be. If it's stipulated in the thought experiment that there would
be -no- lasting effects at all; i.e., no way in principle that you or
someone else could tell after the torture that you'd been tortured as
opposed to merely sedated, then it doesn't look like such a bad deal.
It's interesting that during an operation, while the patient is well and
truly unconscious, the same physiological response to a painful stimulus is
seen as in an awake person: when the surgeon makes the first incision, heart
rate and blood pressure immediately rise. If you give the patient more
opioid analgesic (like morphine or fentanyl), this response is attenuated -
again, just as in an awake patient with pain who is given opiods. Another
strategy is to use local anaesthetic in conjunction with the general
anaesthetic, so that the part of the body the surgeon is working on is numb.
It sounds silly: why would you want to make it numb when the patient is
unconscious? The reason is, as you suggest, because of the associated
physiological response to painful stimuli which is present even when there
is (presumably!) no conscious experience of pain.
Returning to the topic of torture with memory loss, consider the most
extreme case. You are to be tortured for the rest of your life. When you get
really old you will become demented, or, if you escape that fate, you will
have a stroke or a myocardial infarct which will result in brain damage and
complete loss of memory and other cognitive facilities, just before you die
or end up a vegetable. Therefore, anyone who is tortured will eventually
have their memory of the experience completely erased, and it should be OK
to torture people.
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