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Observations placeholder

Bose, Sir Jagadis Chandra - Plants and perceptions - emotions and pain



Type of Spiritual Experience


I think it is important to point out that the terms 'depression and exaltation' in these observations are simply measures of the activity shown – very active or not very active at all, growing or not growing and so on.  Thus the response Dr Bose was measuring was, of course, movement responses and not emotional responses.  Nevertheless, there did seem to be a few indications that some emotions of a sort might be involved.

He found for example that a plant can suffer from shock.  But does it 'love', or feel 'hurt?  Does it experience joy or sorrow?  Does it suffer pain?  And how can we tell  whether a plant suffers pain?  Plants, like many animals cannot speak, so they cannot express pain.  We don't know, and we do not appear to want to find out.  There is a natural reluctance of any human being to want to believe that a plant suffers pain – pick a cabbage for tea and you could experience endless pangs of remorse and agonies of conscience if you thought you caused it pain.

A description of the experience

Sir Jagadis Chandra Bose – His Life and Speeches

'The life of plants is a mere reflection of our own... shocks and wounds affect them as they affect animals; a common death throb marks the crisis when life passes into death....'

Dr Bose explained how trees when transplanted frequently died under the shock of the operation just as human beings sometimes died, not from the operation but from the shock caused thereby.  Similarly he discovered and proved that trees could, like human beings, go through severe operations and survive the shock, if placed under the influence of an anaesthetic.

'When a man receives a blow or shock of any kind, his answering cry makes us realise that he is hurt, but a mute makes no outcry.  How do we realise his sufferings?  We know it by his agonised look, by the convulsive movement of his limbs and through fellow feeling realise his pain.

When a frog is struck it does not cry, but its limbs show convulsive movement.  ...One who feels for the humblest of His creatures alone knows whether the frog is hurt or not.

Man's sympathy appears to aspire; it is sometimes extended to equals, hardly ever to inferiors.  And so it happens that many would doubt whether the lowly and the depressed possess the fine sense of the 'exalted' to feel the same joy and sorrow, and to resent social tyranny.  When human attitude is so finely discriminative as regards different grades of its own species, it might be extravagant to believe that the frog could have any consciousness of pain.  A concession might however be made that the frog perceives a shock to which it responds with convulsive movements.

But we should be careful about the use of terms, for an eminent biologist insisted that animals never felt any pain; when an oyster is swallowed alive, it did not, according to him, feel any pain but rather a sensation of grateful warmth at contact with the alimentary tract.  The question will remain undecided for no one has as yet returned from the gastric cavity of the tiger to expatiate on the exquisite sensation.............'

The source of the experience

Bose, Sir Jagadish Chandra

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps