Towards an ontology of pain

In Proceedings of the Conference on Ontology and Analytical Metaphysics. Keio University Press (2011)
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Abstract

We present an ontology of pain and of other pain-related phenomena, building on the definition of pain provided by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). Our strategy is to identify an evolutionarily basic canonical pain phenomenon, involving unpleasant sensory and emotional experience based causally in localized tissue damage that is concordant with that experience. We then show how different variant cases of this canonical pain phenomenon can be distinguished, including pain that is elevated relative to peripheral trauma, pain that is caused neuropathically (thus with no necessary peripheral stimulus), and pain reports arising through deception either of self or of others. We describe how our approach can answer some of the objections raised against the IASP definition, and sketch how it can be used to support more sophisticated discrimination of different types of pain resulting in improved data analysis that can help in advancing pain research.

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