Today, I am off to Lithuania! This will be the farthest east in Europe that I have ever gone, and I am looking forward to the trip. The reason for my trip is a philosophy conference and the topic is fascinating, which is why I mentioning it here: the Phenomenology of Emotions.
Basically, the conference is about how we experience emotions and some of the philosophical ramifications of that. These emotions range from surprise and joy, to disgust and pain — and in this area, pain is considered an emotion! It is interesting how emotions can color our entire world. If we are happy and joyful because of someone we love loving us back in a new and exciting way, even a gray, rainy, cold day can seem marvelous. On the other hand, after the death of a loved one, not even the greatest summer day can ease the darkness felt by their absence.
I am presenting on a phenomenology of other-inflicted pain. Specifically, I am focusing on other-inflicted pain that intends harm. So, I am bracketing or disregarding things like surgery, discipline, and the like. Instead, I am looking at pain caused by another person intending my harm. The examples are rife and coincide, oddly enough, with a list of crimes. These are anything from a physical confrontation with a school bully to being tortured. As my own research is about developing a phenomenological definition of torture, I am dealing more than that end of the spectrum than the bullying. Nonetheless, that too shares in the structures that define other-inflicted pain.
One of the main things that other-inflicted pain does is remind us of our vulnerability. To be embodied is to be vulnerable, with the flesh of four bodies open and exposed to the world. There is no entirely safe place, there is no impregnable refuge. We are in the world, and there is always risk in it. The pain inflicted by another also bear with it the traces of suspicion, of not being able to entirely trust the other or another, especially if this pain is caused by someone we trust in a moment of insanity. this changes or challenges a fundamental attitude that we have towards the world, which one of trust, with borders or boundaries of the self respected by others. Once that trust is broken, it never fully returns.
So, anyways, here I go — off to Lithuania to speak about torture, violence, pain. And hopefully by speaking about it, by addressing the issues our world is facing in this regard, I can help reduce the pain experienced in the world and the violence inflicted. If we understand more fully what we are doing and what it causes, I do believe that we can act differently and live differently. That may be naive, but it is my hope.