[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.
Pain, suffering and positive emotions in patients in vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (VS/UWS) and minimally conscious states (MCS) pose clinical and ethical challenges. Clinically, we evaluate behavioural responses after painful stimulation and also emotionally-contingent behaviours (e.g., smiling). Using stimuli with emotional valence, neuroimaging and electrophysiology technologies can detect subclinical remnants of preserved capacities for pain which might influence decisions about treatment limitation. To date, no data exist as to how healthcare providers think about end-of-life options (e.g., withdrawal of artificial nutrition (...) and hydration) in the presence or absence of pain in non-communicative patients. Here, we aimed to better clarify this issue by re-analyzing previously published data on pain perception (Prog Brain Res 2009 177, 329–38) and end-of-life decisions (J Neurol 2010 258, 1058–65) in patients with disorders of consciousness. In a sample of 2259 European healthcare professionals we found that, for VS/UWS more respondents agreed with treatment withdrawal when they considered that VS/UWS patients did not feel pain (77%) as compared to those who thought VS/UWS did feel pain (59%). This interaction was influenced by religiosity and professional background. For MCS, end-of-life attitudes were not influenced by opinions on pain perception. Within a contemporary ethical context we discuss (1) the evolving scientific understandings of pain perception and their relationship to existing clinical and ethical guidelines; (2) the discrepancies of attitudes within (and between) healthcare providers and their consequences for treatment approaches, and (3) the implicit but complex relationship between pain perception and attitudes toward life-sustaining treatments. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Pain assessment in fish is particularly challenging due toBioscience Building, Liverpool, L69 7ZB their evolutionary distance from humans, their lack of audible vocalization, and apparently expressionless demeanour. However, there are criteria that can be used to gauge whether pain perception occurs using carefully executed scientific approaches. Here, the standards for pain in fish are discussed and can be considered in three ways: neural detection and processing of pain; adverse responses to pain; and consciously experiencing pain. Many procedures that we (...) subject fish to cause tissue damage and may give rise to the sensation of pain. Fish are popular as pets, in animal exhibits, and as experimental models, but are also cultured or caught for food. There is little legislation for the protection of fish welfare. Many countries are now exploring the welfare cost to fish, and current practices may need to be reviewed with respect to the current evidence for fish perceiving pain. (shrink)
Postulating the subcortical organization of human consciousness provides a critical link for the construal of pain in patients with impaired cortical function or cortical immaturity during early development. Practical implications of the centrencephalic proposal include the redefinition of pain, improved pain assessment in nonverbal humans, and benefits of adequate analgesia/anesthesia for these patients, which certainly justify the rigorous scientific efforts required. (Published Online May 1 2007).
According to the increasingly popular perceptual/representational accounts of pain (and other bodily sensations such as itches, tickles, orgasms, etc.), feeling pain in a body region is perceiving a non-mental property or some objective condition of that region, typically equated with some sort of (actual or potential) tissue damage. In what follows I argue that given a natural understanding of what sensory perception requires and how it is integrated with (dedicated) conceptual systems, these accounts are mistaken. I will also examine (...) the relationship between perceptual views and two (weak and strong) forms of representationalism about experience. I will argue that pains pose very serious problems for strong representationalism as well. (shrink)
Historically, treatment for pain relief has varied according to the social status of the sufferer. A similar tendency to make arbitrary distinctions affecting pain relief was found in an ethnographic study of animal research laboratories. The administration of pain-relieving drugs for animals in laboratories differed from standard practice for humans and, perhaps, for companion animals. Although anesthesia was used routinely for surgical procedures, its administration was sometimes haphazard. Analgesics, however, were rarely used. Most researchers had never thought about using analgesics (...) and did not consider the subject worthy of serious attention. Scientists interviewed for this study agreed readily that animals are capable offeeling pain, but such assertions were muted by an overriding view of lab animals as creatures existing solely for the purposes of research. As a result, it was the exceptional scientist who was able to focus on anything about the animal's subjective experience that might lie outside the boundaries of the research protocol. (shrink)
Though pain scientists now understand pain to be a complex experience typically composed of sensation, emotion, cognition, and motivational responses, many philosophers maintain that pain is adequately characterized by one privileged aspect of this complexity. Philosophically dominant unitary accounts of pain as a sensation or perception are here evaluated by their ability to explain actual cases—and found wanting. Further, it is argued that no forthcoming unitary characterization of pain is likely to succeed. Instead, I contend that both the motivating (...) intuitions behind unitary accounts and the wide range of pain phenomena are best accommodated by a componential view of pain that does not privilege any single component as necessary or sufficient. (shrink)
This paper examines pain states (and other intransitive bodily sensations) from the perspective of the problems they pose for pure informational/representational approaches to naturalizing qualia. I start with a comprehensive critical and quasi-historical discussion of so-called Perceptual Theories of Pain (e.g., Armstrong, Pitcher), as these were the natural predecessors of the more modern direct realist views. I describe the theoretical backdrop (indirect realism, sense-data theories) against which the perceptual theories were developed. The conclusion drawn is that pure representationalism about pain (...) in the tradition of direct realist perceptual theories (e.g., Dretske, Tye) leaves out something crucial about the phenomenology of pain experiences, namely, their affective character. I touch upon the role that introspection plays in such representationalist views, and indicate how it contributes to the source of their trouble vis-à-vis bodily sensations. The paper ends by briefly commenting on the relation between the affective/evaluative component of pain and the hedonic valence of emotions. (shrink)
This essay concerns what people should do in conflict situations when a doubt of fact bears on settling whether an alternative under consideration is legitimate or not. Its principal audience are those who believe that abortion can be legitimate when not having an abortion gives rise to serious harms that can be avoided by having one, but who are concerned that fetuses might feel pain when being aborted, and who believe that causing unnecessary pain should be avoided when doing so (...) would not pose an undue burden. The essay remains neutral on the substantive questions of the moral status of the unborn and the morality of abortion. The question of fetal pain has taken center stage in the last few years in the .. (shrink)
The measurement of pain depends upon subjective reports, but we know very little about how research subjects or pain patients produce self-reported judgments. Representationalist assumptions dominate the field of pain research and lead to the critical conjecture that the person in pain examines the contents of consciousness before making a report about the sensory or affective magnitude of pain experience as well as about its nature. Most studies to date have investigated what Fechner termed “outer psychophysics”: the relationship between characteristics (...) of an external stimulus and the magnitude and nature of pain experience. In contrast, Fechner originally envisioned that “inner psychophysics” should investigate the relationship between physiological states and subjective experience. Despite the lack of established research tradition, inner psychophysics has a potential utility in elucidating underlying mechanisms for the production of phenomenal self-report. We illustrate this, using causal modeling analyses of the accuracy of self-reported pain ratings from our laboratory. We submit that the results are inconsistent with representationalist assumptions. Converging trends from several domains of consciousness studies seem to suggest that we need to abandon the unquestioned doctrine of representationalism and search for a more viable framework for understanding the generation of subjective self-report. (shrink)
Understanding the nature of pain at least partly depends on recognizing its inherent first person epistemology and on using a first person experiential and third person experimental approach to study it. This approach may help to understand some of the neural mechanisms of pain and consciousness by integrating experiential–phenomenological methods with those of neuroscience. Examples that approximate this strategy include studies of second pain summation and its relationship to neural activities and brain imaging-psychophysical studies wherein sensory and affective qualities of (...) pain are correlated with cerebral cortical activity. The experiential paradigm of Price and Barrell offers the possibility of improved designs and methods for investigating neural mechanisms underlying pain and consciousness. (shrink)
When you suffer a pain are you suffering a sensation? An emotion? An aversion? Pain typically has all three components, and others too. There is indeed a distinct sensory system devoted to pain, with its own nociceptors and pathways. As a species of somesthesis, pain has a distinctive sensory organization and its own special sensory qualities. I think it is fair to call it a distinct sensory modality, devoted to nociceptive somesthetic discrimination. But the typical pain kicks off other processes (...) too. For one it can grab your attention in a distinctive way, alerting you to its presence and sometimes obliging you to focus attention on the damaged member. Intense pain can eliminate your ability to think about anything else. Pain typically has direct and immediate motivational consequences: one wants it to stop, has an incentive to do whatever one can to reduce it, and is gratified by its termination. As these desires and motives collide with neural reality, emotional components of mental anguish, anxiety, and dread arise. The suffering involved in suffering from pain has multiple strands: it is not just the painfulness of the sensation, or the frustration of the desire that it end, but also the anguish over the possibility that it will never end, and the impossibility, if the pain is sufficiently intense, of focusing one’s attention on anything else. (shrink)
Consider the following two sentences: " I see a dark discoloration in the back of my hand. I feel a jabbing pain in the back of my hand. " They seem to have the same surface grammar, and thus prima facie invite the same kind of semantic treatment. Even though a reading of ‘see’ in where the verb is not treated as a success verb is not out of the question, it is not the ordinary and natural reading. Note that (...) if I am hallucinating a dark discoloration in the back of my hand, then is simply false. For to be true, therefore, I have to stand in the seeing relation to a dark discoloration in the back of my hand, i.e., to a certain surface region in the back of my hand marked by a darker shade of the usual color of my skin, a certain region that can be seen by others possibly in the same way in which I see it. Also note that although the truth of doesn’t require the possession of any concept by me expressed by the words making up the sentence, my uttering of to make a report typically does — if we take such utterances as expressions of one’s thoughts. So my seeing would typically induce me to identify something in the back of my hand as a dark discoloration. This is a typical case of categorization of something under a concept induced by perception. Of course, my uttering of does more than attributing a physical property to a bodily region, it also reports that I am seeing it. (shrink)
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 Pain to Subjective Well-Being'. (shrink)
What does feeling a sharp pain in one's hand have in common with seeing a red apple on the table? Some say not much, apart from the fact that they are both conscious experiences. To see an object is to perceive an extramental reality -- in this case, a red apple. To feel a pain, by contrast, is to undergo a conscious experience that doesn't necessarily relate the subject to an objective reality. Perceptualists, however, dispute this. They say that both (...) experiences are forms of perception of an objective reality. Feeling a pain in one's hand, according to this view, is perceiving an objective condition of one's hand. Who is closer to truth? Because of such metaphysical issues, the subjectivity of pains combined with their clinical urgency raises methodological problems for pain scientists. How can a subjective phenomenon be studied objectively? What is the role of the first-person method in science? Some suggest that the subjectivity of pains is due to their metaphysical irreducibility to purely physical processes in the nervous system. Can this be true? The study of pain and its puzzles offers opportunities for understanding such larger issues as the place of consciousness in the natural order and the methodology of psychological research. In this book, leading philosophers and scientists offer a wide range of views on how to conceptualize and study pain. The essays include discussions of perceptual and representationalist accounts of pain; the affective-motivational dimension of pain; whether animals feel pain, and how this question can be investigated; how social pain relates to physical pain; whether first-person methods of gathering data can be integrated with standard third-person methods; and other methodological and theoretical issues in the science and philosophy of pain. (shrink)