Came up with this question when I read this.

Would Immortals feel pain?

Pain is our bodies reaction to a stimulus, telling us that something is wrong and that we should stop doing what we are doing because it is detrimental to our health.

With an immortals ability to be able to heal from any injury, would there actually be a reason for an immortal to feel pain from a physical injury?

Secondary questions;

If they don't really feel physical pain, would they feel emotional pain more?

How would this effect how they interact with each other?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It could be a trait inherited from when they weren't immortal (think of why humans, being intelligent, need so many emotions). $\endgroup$ Sep 15, 2015 at 0:54
  • $\begingroup$ Also, if you it takes energy to heal (which then leads to time being used forging for food), you would have an incentive not to hurt yourself. $\endgroup$ Sep 15, 2015 at 0:54
  • $\begingroup$ they would feel pain too but whether can they experience fear is somewhat speculative. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Sep 15, 2015 at 1:59

4 Answers 4


This really depends on the nature of their immortality. There may be no reason for someone who can't be hurt to feel pain, but there's no reason for humans to have hair, tonsils or an appendix, either. There's a lot about living organisms that doesn't really do much any more; evolution doesn't really have any grand designs in mind, it just selects whatever traits keep the most organisms alive and reproducing.

That said, pain is very useful for getting people to stay alive. It gets you to stop hurting yourself or being hurt, and thus usually gets you away from further danger. Now, the fact that humans have become immortal means they no longer have to flee danger, but that doesn't mean that they'll suddenly stop being afraid of things. Evolution is a slow process, and it'll probably take hundreds of thousands of years before humans can kick the habit of being scared. It's possible immortality developed in parallel with this diminishing fear response, or maybe it was an instantaneous magical change; if the latter, you could say that some similar magic removed human fear, but that's beside the point.

Now, as to your point about emotional pain, you must note that with immortality, humans have one less basic desire to worry about. Well, two, actually, if immortality means they don't have to eat. All that's left is the desire to have sex, and make/raise babies. So yes, I would say that evolution would start favoring the fearless romantics over the timid loners. But as before, this would be a gradual change.

  • $\begingroup$ This is pretty much what i was thinking. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Sep 15, 2015 at 2:08

Why would immortal feel pain ? Why wouldn't they ?

While I don't really agree with DaaaahWhoosh answer, he pointed out that pain is really usefull.

That said, pain is very useful for getting people to stay alive. It gets you to stop hurting yourself or being hurt, and thus usually gets you away from further danger.

I think (I may be wrong) that pain is a powerful stimulus that indicates the body that some threshold have been reached. In that way it is just a feed-back from the body that tells, if the situation remains as it is, there will be a risk of damage to the body. (Damaging a body is different from killing it).

Also, pain is really useful for learning processes. For example, in computer science, when you try to teach a neural network something, you have to recompense him when it does good, and punish him when it does not good.

So, I can't find any reason why immortals won't feel pain as it is a useful tool to learn the limits of one's body.

As of emotional pain, obviously I think it necessary for them. I see that trait as part of empathy and what would be immortals without empathy but psychopaths ?

Again, emotional pain is useful to avoid hurting oneself and to understand why it is wrong to hurt someone else.

Two statements bother me from DaaaahWhoosh's answer :

Now, the fact that humans have become immortal means they no longer have to flee danger

Being immortal just means you can not die. But there still exist conditions they want to flee (like being imprisoned for decades), so danger still exist for them.

All that's left is the desire to have sex, and make/raise babies

I think the opposite. Some unicellular bacteria are "immortal" but can not reproduce. In fact, would it be sustainable over long-term if immortals could reproduce? There would be virtually an infinite amount of children who cannot die and would have children of there own. Considering infinite life time, when would they stop being a child and becoming adult ?

  • $\begingroup$ I agree with your first counterpoint, but to the second one I must remind you I was building on the premise that humans weren't always immortal. I don't see why, or even how, evolution would be able to select individuals who don't want to reproduce; you're right that immortals shouldn't have kids, but I was just saying they'll still really want to. $\endgroup$ Sep 15, 2015 at 13:26

If a normal human gains immortality, there no innate clause that says his nerves no longer work like they used to. He is the result of evolution. And pain is a result of successful breeding in a world where feeling and reacting to pain is very useful. Meaning it's in his genes.

Pain and emotional pain are both ways your subconsciousness is telling you that you are in perceived danger. A species that were immortals from the get-go might have never gained the ability of feeling pain.

Therefore, I think the answer can lie in the origin story of the Immortal in question.

Or, perhaps, it's a medical question. There's a Kung-Fu style called Iron Shirt. The student's body is beat meticulously several hours every day, and at the end, the nerves in his skin is so worn out that he doesn't register superficial pain on the skin. (practical for ignoring pain in combat, obviously). Without knowing the practical benefits of your story's variant of immortality, maybe the Immortal will be less and less subject to pain over long periods of time. Maybe his curse is that he's slowly losing feelings, first physical, then emotional.

  • $\begingroup$ I like this answer. Pain is such a powerful stimulus because we fear it. We fear it because we recognize it as a signal that something is threatening us. If that threat were removed, the mind would be able to ignore pain. I'm guessing they would still feel it but it could be largely ignored to the point where they may not even notice it. $\endgroup$ Sep 15, 2015 at 20:21

This depends on their genetics. If they belong to a race of immortals (talk about Greek and Roman gods), their supreme genetics would probably have shifted towards a painless physiology during the eons long course of their evolution.

However, if you are talking about a human who attained immorality due to some quirk, unless you also change their genetic information in a really outrageously precise and accurate way, they will continue to feel pain as humans do.


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