I talked with a 78 y.o. woman whose ears were pierced (for earrings) when she was 1 y.o. or so. I asked her if she didn't think her parents were wrong in having her ears pierced, because they caused her intense pain without need and without her consent. She looked very surprised with my question and told me that her parents did the right thing, since she would always have wanted to use earrings AND (this is the point) it would have been much WORSE if she would have her ears pierced when she was 7 or 12. She told me that she doesn't remember the pain inflicted on her when she was 1 year old, and so that pain "was nothing", it was "worth nothing" (the conversation was not in English....). I wonder if this makes sense. Is pain that one will absolutely forget within an hour much less important than pain that we will remember?

That's what we'd generally expect. Pain you remember can have consequences beyond the painful experience itself. It may give you unpleasant memories. It may intrude on your thoughts unbidden. It may make you phobic, avoidant, fearful. In extreme cases it may leave you with PTSD.

I'm old enough to have had more than one routine colonoscopy. I don't know for sure what drug they used, but if it was Midazolam, then there's a good chance that I've experienced pain that I have no memory of whatsoever.* If so, I think your acquaintance's description gets it right: the pain was "worth nothing." If my doctor told me that I actually was given Midazolam and asked me whether I'd be willing to have the same medication the next time I'm due for the procedure, I'd say yes.

Pain as such isn't as important as a crude version of utilitarianism might lead you to think. What matters much more is how it fits in with the rest of your life.

* Actually, it's virtually certain that I've experienced pain I don't remember. I have no memories at all of anything that happened to me when I was an infant. As anyone who's been around babies will agree, it's a safe bet that at some times when I was that young, I was in a lot of pain. Far as I know, it didn't leave any psychic scars and I don't think it carries any weight in my biography.

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