Pain

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2019)
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Abstract

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 be reasons both for thinking that pains (along with other similar bodily sensations) are physical objects or conditions that we perceive in body parts, and for thinking that they are not. This apparent paradox is one of the main reasons why philosophers are especially interested in pain. One increasingly popular but still controversial way to deal with this apparent paradox is to defend a perceptual or representational view of pain, according to which feeling pain is in principle no different from undergoing other standard perceptual processes like seeing, hearing, touching, etc. But there are many who think that pains are not amenable to such a treatment. Although it was the treatment of pain as a sensory-discriminative experience that had dominated the philosophical discussions throughout most of the twentieth century, attention to pains’ affective-motivational dimension has gained prominence in recent years.

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Murat Aydede
University of British Columbia

Citations of this work

Unfelt pain.Kevin Reuter & Justin Sytsma - 2020 - Synthese 197 (4):1777-1801.
Reasons and Theories of Sensory Affect.Murat Aydede & Matthew Fulkerson - 2019 - In David Bain, Michael Brady & Jennifer Corns (eds.), The Philosophy of Pain: Unpleasantness, Emotion, and Deviance. New York, USA: Routledge. pp. 27-59.
Pain, paradox and polysemy.Michelle Liu - 2021 - Analysis 81 (3):461-470.
Is feeling pain the perception of something?Murat Aydede - 2009 - Journal of Philosophy 106 (10):531-567.

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