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August 1955

The Nature of Pain

Author Affiliations


From the Department of Psychiatry, National Naval Medical Center, U. S. Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Md.

AMA Arch NeurPsych. 1955;74(2):174-181. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1955.02330140058012

WHAT IS PAIN?  It might seem pedantic to ask such a simple question as "What is pain?" Indeed, in the expression "physical pain" there is a ready-made answer should such a question arise. We are told that pain is due to something physical, by which it is meant that there is an injury or a dysfunction of the body.Even at the risk of seeming pedantic, it might be worth while to examine the notion of "physical pain." For not only does this expression plunge us directly into the age-old dichotomy of physical and mental, but it also asserts a causal connection between so-called physical (bodily) events and pain without first clarifying what is meant by pain. This maneuver is at once an evasion of the problem and a sign of scientific impatience. Instead of trying to understand puzzling, sometimes disturbing, phenomena in terms of processes or situations in which