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.

--Stathis Papaioannou

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