Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pain as aporia

One of my favorite article writers on pain, Dr. John Quintner, has a site, . He is one of the pain world's foremost deconstructionists. I admire his ability to cut through all sorts of erroneous nonsense about what pain is and isn't. I like that he prefers to regard peripheral pain as pain from nerves themselves, not from mesoderm of one sort or another, admirable especially in that he is a rheumatologist and one would expect, be all about "joint pain".

Anyway, if you read his webpage you'll discover that down near the end he states that pain is an "aporia". I became fascinated by the concept and spent a bit of time looking up what is meant by the term.

Here are some useful links to "Aporia":
1. Wikipedia
2. Literary encyclopedia
3. Postmodern terms
4. Grammar and Composition

The gist of "aporia" seems to mean, a way that is blocked; "poria" must be the "way" and "a"-poria, the blockage of that way. Note that there is a subtext here, of movement, frustrated in its expression.

I did my own little deconstruction, working backwards from the wikipedia definition, following a few of the links. I know beans about philosophical discourse, but here's what I think I found out. First, I clicked on the word "elenctic", attracted by the novelty of a word I'd never before seen in my life. It went to a page about some long-dead guy I'd never heard of, Elenchus. From there I looked up "dialectic", which seemed interesting, a word I had heard in poly-sci circles long ago..

There it was. Sublation. A way to get around, over, through, out of the "a" part of "poria", past the impasse. Go Hegel:
"Sublation is an English term used to translate Hegel's German term Aufhebung. The German word Aufhebung literally means "out/up-lifting."

But what does any of this have to do with pain, an astute reader might wonder?
Everything, I would answer. Consider this.
"...the term Aufhebung has the apparently contradictory implications of both preserving and changing (the German verb aufheben means both "to cancel" and "to keep"). The tension between these senses suits what Hegel is trying to talk about. In sublation, a term or concept is both preserved and changed through its dialectical interplay with another term or concept. Sublation is the motor by which the dialectic functions."

Just as continuing dialogue helps to move a conflict past its flash point, or an argument towards resolution, so does having a kinesthetic "conversation" - an inner dialogue, help a person in pain's brain move past pain. It is at least a three way conversation. The therapist supplies a small amount of kinesthetic input to help the patient's brain settle and focus. Most of the dialogue however, is completely internal, between the patient and the various levels of his or her own nervous system. Eventually the impasse is surmounted, sublated, and pain resolves. Or doesn't. Usually it will, but sometimes it doesn't.. so, no guarantees can be be ethically made....

Neurotopian, would you concur? You are both German and a nervous system treater. Did I get the meaning of "aufhebung" correctly translated into Kinesth-ese?


Matthias Weinberger said...

Until now I've never realized that we use the same term but with two completely different meanings. It's always nice to get a look at one's own mother tongue from another perspective.

And yes - you have used the term perfectly! - more than that actually since "aufheben" is used nowadays only in regards to sanctions, tariffs and other bureaucratic sounding stuff.

Diane Jacobs said...

Thank you Matthias, for the confirmation. (Frankly, I had never heard of the English term, "sublate" either, until I looked it up by following my nose through Wikipedia, looking for adventure - sometimes it pays to just wander aimlessly, following your own non-conscious around.. :))