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Online ISSN 1827-1596
Federspil G., Vettor R.
Università degli Studi - Padova, Dipartimento di Scienze Mediche e Chirurgiche, Cattedra di Medicina Interna
The paper discusses the epistemological question of pain and the way this concept forms part of scientific knowledge. The first part gives a rapid overview of the main aspects of modern scientific knowledge. In earlier times Bacon, Galileo and Descartes felt that the new form of knowledge could head to a knowledge of truth and certainty. Today, these ideals have proved unattainable and science only takes the form of well founded, rigorous and objective knowledge. Moreover, the objectivity of science is based on intersubjectivity. The second part of the paper examines pain and underlines that it is a subjective phenomenon which cannot be ascertained by the doctor in the same way as commonplace anatomic and physiological phenomena. Our scientific knowledge of pain is based on operations for which it is possible to achieve an intersubjective knowledge: these operations constitute the protocol criteria on which it is possible to base a scientific knowledge of pain. In the last part of this paper, having stressed that pain is a concept belonging to many disciplines—scientific, psychological, philosophical, religious—the emphasis is placed on pain itself as opposed to suffering. While the former is a concept that belongs to scientific medicine, the latter belongs to that area of medicine which lies beyond the boundaries of science and concerns the activity of a man who helps a fellow human who is suffering.