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If you feel a sharp pain in your knee, say, after a ruthless training session for a marathon, it is clear that there may be some tissue damage in your knee, and you are experiencing pain. However, things may become less clear if we take a closer look at the issues revolving around the nature of pain. For example, consider what you would say if someone asks you where your pain is. Philosophers’ answers are divided. Some argue that pains are mental states, which are in the head if they ever occupy any physical space, while others argue that pains are states of body parts or objects, which are located in body parts.

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  1. Is Pain Representational?Murat Aydede - forthcoming - Belgrade Philosophical Annual.
    [Special issue honoring Nikola Grahek] Representationalism in philosophy of perception has become more or less the dominant view. There are various versions of it not all of which are motivated by the same set of concerns. Different metaphysical and epistemological agendas are at work in different strands of the movement. In this paper, I will focus on what has come to be known as strong representationalism. This view has reductive and non-reductive versions, which are usually paired with realist and irrealist (...)
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  2. The Philosophy of Pain.David Bain, Michael Brady & Jennifer Corns (eds.) - forthcoming - London: Routledge.
    A collection, edited by David Bain, Michael Brady, and Jennifer Corns, originating in our Pain Project. Table of Contents: Colin Klein and Manolo Martínez – ‘Imperativism and Pain Intensity’; Murat Aydede and Matthew Fulkerson – ‘Pain and Theories of Sensory Affect’; Dan-Mikael Ellingson, Morten Kringlebach, and Siri Leknes – ‘A Neuroscience Perspective on Pleasure and Pain’; Michael Brady – ‘The Rationality of Emotional and Physical Suffering’; Jennifer Corns – ‘The Placebo Effect’; Jesse Prinz – ‘What is the Affective Component of (...)
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  3. Towards Affective-Evaluativism: the Intentional Structure of Unpleasant Pain Experience.Jonathan Mitchell - 2024 - Philosophical Quarterly.
    Evaluativism about unpleasant pains offers one way to think about unpleasant pain experience. However, extant Evaluativist views do not pay enough attention to the affective dimension of pain experience and the complex relations between the affective, evaluative and sensory dimensions. This paper clarifies these relations and provides a view which more closely reflects the phenomenology of unpleasant pains. It argues that the intentional structure of paradigmatic unpleasant pain is as follows: unpleasant pains essentially involve a proprietary intentional mode—what I call (...)
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  4. Pain Linguistics: A Case for Pluralism.Sabrina Coninx, Pascale Willemsen & Kevin Reuter - 2023 - Philosophical Quarterly 74 (1):145-168.
    The most common approach to understanding the semantics of the concept of pain is third-person thought experiments. By contrast, the most frequent and most relevant uses of the folk concept of pain are from a first-person perspective in conversational settings. In this paper, we use a set of linguistic tools to systematically explore the semantics of what people communicate when reporting pain from a first-person perspective. Our results suggest that only a pluralistic view can do justice to the way we (...)
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  5. Pain as a Secondary Quality: A Phenomenological Approach.Alejandro Escudero-Morales - 2023 - Problemos 103:103-116.
    This work proposes that pain meets the requirements of being characterized as a secondary quality, as it covers, like a color, a determined extension. The argument seeks to establish a literal pain-color analogy through an inquiry into the intensity and location of the pain. From the classic intensity/location relationship reported by patients with acute appendicitis, three degrees of pain are distinguished: mild, moderate, and severe. The objective is only achieved by examining the Body’s extensional determinations (primary quality) insofar as each (...)
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  6. Can a Bodily Theorist of Pain Speak Mandarin?Chenwei Nie - 2023 - Philosophia 51 (1):261-272.
    According to a bodily view of pain, pains are objects which are located in body parts. This bodily view is supported by the locative locutions for pain in English, such as that “I have a pain in my back.” Recently, Liu and Klein (Analysis, 80(2), 262–272, 2020) carry out a cross-linguistic analysis, and they claim that (1) Mandarin has no locative locutions for pain and (2) the absence of locative locutions for pain puts the bodily view at risk. This paper (...)
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  7. The Bodily Theory of Pain.Erlend Winderen Finke Owesen - 2023 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 14 (4):1329-1347.
    One use of the noun ‘pain’ is exemplified in sentences like ‘There is a pain in my foot’. According to the Experiential Theory, ‘pain’ in this context refers to an experience located in the mind or brain. According to the Bodily Theory, it refers to an extra-cranial bodily occurrence located in a body part. In this paper, I defend the Bodily Theory. Specifically, I argue that pains are proximal activations of nociceptors that cause experiences of pain. This view is preferable (...)
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  8. Liking That It Hurts: The Case of the Masochist and Second-Order Desire Accounts of Pain’s Unpleasantness.Jonathan Mitchell - 2022 - American Philosophical Quarterly (2):181-189.
    Recent work on pain focuses on the question ‘what makes pains unpleasant’. Second-order desire views claim that the unpleasantness of pain consists in a second-order intrinsic desire that the pain experience itself cease or stop. This paper considers a significant objection to second-order desire views by considering the case of the masochist. It is argued that various ways in which the second-order desire view might try to account for the case of the masochist encounter problems. The conclusion is that until (...)
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  9. Is Pain “All in your Mind”? Examining the General Public’s Views of Pain.Tim V. Salomons, Richard Harrison, Nat Hansen, James Stazicker, Astrid Grith Sorensen, Paula Thomas & Emma Borg - 2022 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 13 (3):683-698.
    By definition, pain is a sensory and emotional experience that is felt in a particular part of the body. The precise relationship between somatic events at the site where pain is experienced, and central processing giving rise to the mental experience of pain remains the subject of debate, but there is little disagreement in scholarly circles that both aspects of pain are critical to its experience. Recent experimental work, however, suggests a public view that is at odds with this conceptualisation. (...)
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  10. The Paradox of Pain.Adam Bradley - 2021 - Philosophical Quarterly 71 (4):pqaa084.
    Bodily pain strikes many philosophers as deeply paradoxical. The issue is that pains seem to bear both physical characteristics, such as a location in the body, and mental characteristics, such being mind-dependent. In this paper I clarify and address this alleged paradox of pain. I begin by showing how a further assumption, Objectivism, the thesis that what one feels in one’s body when one is in pain is something mind-independent, is necessary for the generation of the paradox. Consequently, the paradox (...)
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  11. A Hole in the Box and a Pain in the Mouth.Laurenz C. Casser & Henry Ian Schiller - 2021 - Philosophical Quarterly 71 (4):pqaa091.
    The following argument is widely assumed to be invalid: there is a pain in my finger; my finger is in my mouth; therefore, there is a pain in my mouth. The apparent invalidity of this argument has recently been used to motivate the conclusion that pains are not spatial entities. We argue that this is a mistake. We do so by drawing attention to the metaphysics of pains and holes and provide a framework for their location which both vindicates the (...)
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  12. How to Locate Pain in Mandarin: Reply to Liu and Klein.Tsung-Hsing Ho - 2021 - National Taiwan University Philosophical Review 61:75-80.
    Some philosophers argue that pain is an object located in bodily parts because the locative form of pain report is permissible in English. To examine this argument, Liu and Klein recently argue that the linguistic argument cannot work because the locative form is impermissible in Mandarin. They are wrong, however. I demonstrate that the locative form in Mandarin is not only permissible but also common.
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  13. Spatial content of painful sensations.Błażej Skrzypulec - 2021 - Mind and Language 36 (4):554-569.
    Philosophical considerations regarding experiential spatial content have focused on exteroceptive sensations presenting external entities, and not on interoceptive experiences that present states of our own body. A notable example is studies on interoceptive touch, in which it is argued that interoceptive tactile experiences have rich spatial content such that tactile sensations are experienced as located in a spatial field. This paper investigates whether a similarly rich spatial content can be attributed to experiences of acute, cutaneous pain. It is argued that (...)
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  14. What is a pain in a body part?Murat Aydede - 2020 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 50 (2):143–158.
    The IASP definition of 'pain' defines pain as a subjective experience. The Note accompanying the definition emphasizes that as such pains are not to be identified with objective conditions of body parts (such as actual or potential tissue damage). Nevertheless, it goes on to state that a pain "is unquestionably a sensation in a part or parts of the body, but it is also always unpleasant and therefore also an emotional experience." This generates a puzzle that philosophers have been well (...)
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  15. Pain Experiences and Their Link to Action: Challenging Imperative Theories.Sabrina Coninx - 2020 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 27 (9-10):104-126.
    According to pure imperativism, pain experiences are experiences of a specific phenomenal type that are entirely constituted by imperative content. As their primary argument, proponents of imperativism rely on the biological role that pain experiences fulfill, namely, the motivation of actions whose execution ensures the normal functioning of the body. In the paper, I investigate which specific types of action are of relevance for an imperative interpretation and how close their link to pain experiences actually is. I argue that, although (...)
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  16. The intuitive invalidity of the pain-in-mouth argument.Michelle Liu - 2020 - Analysis 80 (3):463-474.
    In a recent paper, Reuter, Seinhold and Sytsma put forward an implicature account to explain the intuitive failure of the pain-in-mouth argument. They argue that utterances such as ‘There is tissue damage / a pain / an inflammation in my mouth’ carry the conversational implicature that there is something wrong with the speaker’s mouth. Appealing to new empirical data, this paper argues against the implicature account and for the entailment account, according to which pain reports using locative locutions, such as (...)
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  17. Suffering Pains.Olivier Massin - 2020 - In Jennifer Corns & Michael S. Brady David Bain (ed.), Philosophy of Suffering: Metaphysics, Value and Normativity. London: Routledge. pp. 76-100.
    The paper aims at clarifying the distinctions and relations between pain and suffering. Three negative theses are defended: 1. Pain and suffering are not identical. 2. Pain is not a species of suffering, nor is suffering a species of pain, nor are pain and suffering of a common (proximate) genus. 3. Suffering cannot be defined as the perception of a pain’s badness, nor can pain be defined as a suffered bodily sensation. Three positive theses are endorsed: 4. Pain and suffering (...)
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  18. Schmerzlokalisation und Körperraum.Mihai Ometiță - 2020 - International Journal on Humanistic Ideology 10 (1):214-237.
    The paper brings a challenge to Cartesian dualism, while introducing some under-explored manuscript remarks from Wittgenstein’s middle period, which are methodologically and thematically akin to some passages from Merleau-Ponty’s early period. Cartesian dualism relegates pain to mental awareness and location to bodily extension, thus rendering common localizations of pain throughout the body as unintelligible ascriptions. Wittgenstein’s and Merleau-Ponty’s attempts at doing justice to common localizations of pain are mutually illuminating. In their light, Cartesian dualism turns out to involve an objectification (...)
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  19. Unfelt pain.Kevin Reuter & Justin Sytsma - 2020 - Synthese 197 (4):1777-1801.
    The standard view in philosophy treats pains as phenomenally conscious mental states. This view has a number of corollaries, including that it is generally taken to rule out the existence of unfelt pains. The primary argument in support of the standard view is that it supposedly corresponds with the commonsense conception of pain. In this paper, we challenge this doctrine about the commonsense conception of pain, and with it the support offered for the standard view, by presenting the results of (...)
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  20. Pain.Murat Aydede - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Pain is the most prominent member of a class of sensations known as bodily sensations, which includes itches, tickles, tingles, orgasms, and so on. Bodily sensations are typically attributed to bodily locations and appear to have features such as volume, intensity, duration, and so on, that are ordinarily attributed to physical objects or quantities. Yet these sensations are often thought to be logically private, subjective, self-intimating, and the source of incorrigible knowledge for those who have them. Hence there appear to (...)
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  21. Locating and Representing Pain.Simone Gozzano - 2019 - Philosophical Investigations 42 (4):313-332.
    Two views on the nature and location of pain are usually contrasted. According to the first, experientialism, pain is essentially an experience, and its bodily location is illusory. According to the second, perceptualism or representationalism, pain is a perceptual or representational state, and its location is to be traced to the part of the body in which pain is felt. Against this second view, the cases of phantom, referred and chronic pain have been marshalled: all these cases apparently show that (...)
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  22. On The Content and Character of Pain Experience.Richard Gray - 2019 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 100 (1):47-68.
    Tracking representationalism explains the negative affective character of pain, and its capacity to motivate action, by reference to the representation of the badness for us of bodily damage. I argue that there is a more fitting instantiation of the tracking relation – the badness for us of extremely intense stimuli – and use this to motivate a non-reductive approach to the negative affective character of pain. The view of pain proposed here is supported by consideration of three related topics: the (...)
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  23. Putting pain in its proper place.Kevin Reuter, Michael Sienhold & Justin Sytsma - 2019 - Analysis 79 (1):72-82.
    In a series of articles in this journal, Michael Tye (2002) and Paul Noordhof (2001, 2002) have sparred over the correct explanation of the putative invalidity of the following argument: the pain is in my fingertip; the fingertip is in my mouth; therefore, the pain is in my mouth. Whereas Tye explains the failure of the argument by stating that “pain “creates an intensional context, Noordhof maintains that the “in” in ‘the pain is in my fingertip’ is not spatial, but (...)
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  24. What the Body Commands, by Colin Klein: The MIT Press: Cambridge, MA, 2015, pp. xiv + 210, US$40. [REVIEW]David Bain - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (1):193-196.
  25. Pain and Space: The Middle Wittgenstein, the Early Merleau-Ponty.Mihai Ometiță - 2018 - In Oskari Kuusela, Mihai Ometiță & Timur Uҫan (eds.), Wittgenstein and Phenomenology. New York, NY, USA: pp. 141-160.
    The paper identifies in Cartesian dualism a common target of the middle Wittgenstein and the early Merleau-Ponty. By relegating pain to mental awareness and location to bodily extension, Cartesian dualism renders common localizations of pain throughout the body as unintelligible ascriptions. Wittgenstein’s and Merleau-Ponty’s efforts to do justice to common localizations of pain illuminate one another. In their light, Cartesian dualism involves an objectification and a deappropriation of one’s body. Further, Wittgenstein’s acknowledgment of a heterogeneous multiplicity of corporeal spaces (e.g. (...)
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  26. Pain: Perception or Introspection?Murat Aydede - 2017 - In Jennifer Corns (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Pain. Routledge.
    [Penultimate draft] I present the perceptualist/representationalist theories of pain in broad outline and critically examine them in light of a competing view according to which awareness of pain is essentially introspective. I end the essay with a positive sketch of a naturalistic proposal according to which pain experiences are intentional but not fully representational. This proposal makes sense of locating pains in body parts as well as taking pains as subjective experiences.
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  27. What the Body Commands, by Colin Klein. [REVIEW]David Bain - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy (1):1-4.
    In various papers, Colin Klein has argued that pain experiences are commands. This monograph goes well beyond the papers, re-shaping his ‘imperativist’ view, setting it within a general account of ‘homeostatic sensations’, presenting new arguments, and criticising alternatives. Original, empirically informed, clear, and often persuasive, it is a lovely book.
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  28. Pain and representation.Brian Cutter - 2017 - In The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Pain. Routledge. pp. 290-39.
    This chapter focuses specifically on the case of pain. Despite traditional opposition to the representational thesis, the latter has won widespread assent. The most important early proponents of the representational thesis were David Armstrong and George Pitcher, both of whom held that pain is a form of perception. Following Armstrong and Pitcher, intentionalists have traditionally held that the experience of pain has a content with roughly the following form: there is a disturbance with such-and-such features at location L. Since the (...)
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  29. Bad by Nature, An Axiological Theory of Pain.Olivier Massin - 2017 - In Jennifer Corns (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Pain. Routledge. pp. 321-333.
    This chapter defends an axiological theory of pain according to which pains are bodily episodes that are bad in some way. Section 1 introduces two standard assumptions about pain that the axiological theory constitutively rejects: (i) that pains are essentially tied to consciousness and (ii) that pains are not essentially tied to badness. Section 2 presents the axiological theory by contrast to these and provides a preliminary defense of it. Section 3 introduces the paradox of pain and argues that since (...)
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  30. Experimental Philosophy of Pain.Justin Sytsma & Kevin Reuter - 2017 - Journal of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research 34 (3):611-628.
    The standard view of pains among philosophers today holds that their existence consists in being experienced, such that there can be no unfelt pains or pain hallucinations. The typical line of support offered for this view is that it corresponds with the ordinary or commonsense conception of pain. Despite this, a growing body of evidence from experimental philosophers indicates that the ordinary understanding of pain stands in contrast to the standard view among philosophers. In this paper, we will survey this (...)
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  31. Are Pains Feelings?Michael Tye - 2017 - The Monist 100 (4):478-484.
    This essay defends the view that pain is a feeling, and thus that token pains are instances of feeling, against a number of objections.
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  32. Pain (Oxford Bibliographies Online).David Bain - 2015 - Oxford Bibliographies Online.
    Philosophers think of pain less and less as a paradigmatic instance of mentality, for which they seek a general account, and increasingly as a rich and fruitful topic in its own right. Pain raises specific questions: about mentality and consciousness certainly, but also about embodiment, affect, motivation, and value, to name but a few. The growth of philosophical interest in pain has gone hand-in-hand with the growth of pain science, which burgeoned in the 1960s. This is no accident: developments in (...)
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  33. What the body commands: the imperative theory of pain.Colin Klein - 2015 - Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
    In What the Body Commands, Colin Klein proposes and defends a novel theory of pain. Klein argues that pains are imperative; they are sensations with a content, and that content is a command to protect the injured part of the body. He terms this view "imperativism about pain," and argues that imperativism can account for two puzzling features of pain: its strong motivating power and its uninformative nature. Klein argues that the biological purpose of pain is homeostatic; like hunger and (...)
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  34. Pain and Pleasure - A Special Issue of Review of Psychology & Philosophy.David Bain & Michael Brady (eds.) - 2014 - Springer.
    Table of Contents: Olivier Massin, 'Pleasure and Its Contraries'; Colin Klein, 'The Penumbral Theory of Masochistic Pleasure'; Siri Leknes and Brock Bastian, 'The Benefits of Pain'; Valerie Gray Hardcastle, 'Pleasure Gone Awry? A New Conceptualization of Chronic Pain and Addiction'; Richard Gray, 'Pain, Perception and the Sensory Modalities: Revisiting the Intensive Theory'; Jonathan Cohen and Matthew Fulkerson, Affect, Rationalization, and Motivation; Murat Aydede, 'How to Unify Theories of Sensory Pleasure: An Adverbialist Proposal'; Adam Shriver, 'The Asymmetrical Contributions of Pleasure and (...)
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  35. Hallucinating Pain.Kevin Reuter, Phillips Dustin & Justin Sytsma - 2014 - In Justin Sytsma (ed.), Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Mind. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 75-100.
    The standard interpretation of quantum mechanics and a standard interpretation of the awareness of pain have a common feature: Both postulate the existence of an irresolvable duality. Whereas many physicists claim that all particles exhibit particle and wave properties, many philosophers working on pain argue that our awareness of pain is paradoxical, exhibiting both perceptual and introspective characteristics. In this chapter, we offer a pessimistic take on the putative paradox of pain. Specifically, we attempt to resolve the supposed paradox by (...)
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  36. Towards raising awareness of qualitative pain research.Simon van Rysewyk - 2014
  37. Pain: New Essays on Its Nature and the Methodology of Its Study, edited by Murat Aydede. [REVIEW]David Bain - 2010 - Mind 119 (474):451-456.
    Our preoccupation with pain can seem an eccentricity of philosophers. But just a little reflection leads one into the thickets. When I see a pencil on my desk, I’m aware of a physical thing and its objective properties; but what am I aware of when I feel a pain in my toe? A pain, perhaps? Or my toe’s hurting? But what is the nature of such things? Are they physical? Are they objective? To avoid unexperienced pains, we might say they (...)
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  38. If it itches, scratch!Richard J. Hall - 2008 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (4):525 – 535.
    Many bodily sensations are connected quite closely with specific actions: itches with scratching, for example, and hunger with eating. Indeed, these connections have the feel of conceptual connections. With the exception of D. M. Armstrong, philosophers have largely neglected this aspect of bodily sensations. In this paper, I propose a theory of bodily sensations that explains these connections. The theory ascribes intentional content to bodily sensations but not, strictly speaking, representational content. Rather, the content of these sensations is an imperative: (...)
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  39. The location of pains.David Bain - 2007 - Philosophical Papers 36 (2):171-205.
    Perceptualists say that having a pain in a body part consists in perceiving the part as instantiating some property. I argue that perceptualism makes better sense of the connections between pain location and the experiences undergone by people in pain than three alternative accounts that dispense with perception. Turning to fellow perceptualists, I also reject ways in which David Armstrong and Michael Tye understand and motivate perceptualism, and I propose an alternative interpretation, one that vitiates a pair of objections—due to (...)
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  40. Another Look At Representationalism About Pain.M. Tye - 2005 - In M. Aydede (ed.), Pain: New Essays on its Nature and the Methodology of its Study. The Mit Press. Bradford Books. pp. 99-120.
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  41. The Intentional Structure of Consciousness.Tim Crane - 2003 - In Quentin Smith & Aleksandar Jokic (eds.), Consciousness: New Philosophical Perspectives. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 33-56.
    Newcomers to the philosophy of mind are sometimes resistant to the idea that pain is a mental state. If asked to defend their view, they might say something like this: pain is a physical state, it is a state of the body. A pain in one’s leg feels to be in the leg, not ‘in the mind’. After all, sometimes people distinguish pain which is ‘all in the mind’ from a genuine pain, sometimes because the second is ‘physical’ while the (...)
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  42. Pains and places.John Hyman - 2003 - Philosophy 78 (303):5-24.
    I argue that itches, tickles, aches and pains—sensations of all sorts—are generally in the places where we say they are. So, for example, if I say that I have an itch in the big toe on my left foot, then, by and large, that is the very place where the itch is. James denied this in the 1890s; Russell and Broad denied it in the 1920s; Wittgenstein and Ryle denied it in the 1940s; Lewis and Armstrong denied it in the (...)
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  43. On the location of a pain.M. Tye - 2002 - Analysis 62 (2):150-153.
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  44. Intentionalism defended.Alex Byrne - 2001 - Philosophical Review 110 (2):199-240.
    Traditionally, perceptual experiences—for example, the experience of seeing a cat—were thought to have two quite distinct components. When one sees a cat, one’s experience is “about” the cat: this is the representational or intentional component of the experience. One’s experience also has phenomenal character: this is the sensational component of the experience. Although the intentional and sensational components at least typically go together, in principle they might come apart: the intentional component could be present without the sensational component or vice (...)
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  45. A representational theory of pains and their phenomenal character.Michael Tye - 1995 - Philosophical Perspectives 9:223-39.
  46. On viewing pain as a secondary quality.Natika Newton - 1989 - Noûs 23 (5):569-98.
  47. Are qualia a pain in the neck for functionalists?George Graham & G. Lynn Stephens - 1985 - American Philosophical Quarterly 22 (1):73-80.
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  48. Might a tooth ache but there be no toothache?James W. Cornman - 1977 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 55 (1):27-40.
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  49. A Materialist Theory of the Mind.D. M. Armstrong - 1968 - New York: Routledge. Edited by Ted Honderich.
    Breaking new ground in the debate about the relation of mind and body, David Armstrong's classic text - first published in 1968 - remains the most compelling and comprehensive statement of the view that the mind is material or physical. In the preface to this new edition, the author reflects on the book's impact and considers it in the light of subsequent developments. He also provides a bibliography of all the key writings to have appeared in the materialist debate.
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  50. Taylor on pain location.L. C. Holborow - 1966 - Philosophical Quarterly 16 (April):151-158.
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