Pain, Perception and the Sensory Modalities: Revisiting the Intensive Theory

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 5 (1):87-101 (2014)
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Pain is commonly explained in terms of the perceptual activity of a distinct sensory modality, the function of which is to enable us to perceive actual or potential damage to the body. However, the characterization of pain experience in terms of a distinct sensory modality with such content is problematic. I argue that pain is better explained as occupying a different role in relation to perception: to indicate when the stimuli that are sensed in perceiving anything by means of a sensory modality exceed a significant level of intensity. Viewing the system underlying pain experience as an integral and functionally integrated feature of all the senses provides a new perspective on the diverse forms of pain, what it is like to experience pain and the contrasting natures of pain and pleasure.

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Richard Gray
Cardiff University

Citations of this work

Tracking representationalism and olfaction.Błażej Skrzypulec - 2022 - Mind and Language 38 (2):446-463.
Spatial content of painful sensations.Błażej Skrzypulec - 2021 - Mind and Language 36 (4):554-569.
On the alleged evidence for non-unpleasant pains.Thomas Park - 2023 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 66 (5):738-756.
On The Content and Character of Pain Experience.Richard Gray - 2019 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 100 (1):47-68.
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Materialism and qualia: The explanatory gap.Joseph Levine - 1983 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 64 (October):354-61.
What makes pains unpleasant?David Bain - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 166 (1):69-89.
Is feeling pain the perception of something?Murat Aydede - 2009 - Journal of Philosophy 106 (10):531-567.
An Imperative Theory of Pain.Colin Klein - 2007 - Journal of Philosophy 104 (10):517-532.
Of Sensory Systems and the "Aboutness" of Mental States.Kathleen Akins - 1996 - Journal of Philosophy 93 (7):337-372.

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