A Criticism of the IASPs Definition of Pain

Journal of Consciousness Studies 18 (9-10):9-10 (2011)
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Like other fundamental experiences, the phenomenal qualities of pain seem to defy description. But, unlike these experiences, it is difficult to define pain in terms of a consistent relationship with the extra-mental world. The IASP's solution is to qualify an imprecise characterization of pain's phenomenal qualities through an association with tissue damage and an ability to recognize pain sensation. In this paper I will argue that the IASP's definition lacks the clarity and coherence necessary to provide an adequate definition of pain. I begin by setting out the difficulties of defining pain. I then describe the IASP's solution and provide a detailed criticism of their approach. I also discuss inconsistencies evident in their wider taxonomy. In the final section I argue that pain can be objectively grounded by reference to pain's evolutionary role and suggest an alternative definition



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