The unpleasantness of pain motivates action. Hence many philosophers have doubted that it can be accounted for purely in terms of pain’s possession of indicative representational content. Instead, they have explained it in terms of subjects’ inclinations to stop their pains, or in terms of pain’s imperative content. I claim that such “noncognitivist” accounts fail to accommodate unpleasant pain’s reason-giving force. What is needed, I argue, is a view on which pains are unpleasant, motivate, and provide reasons in virtue of (...) possessing content that is indeed indicative, but also, crucially, evaluative. (shrink)
Pain asymbolia is a rare condition caused by brain damage, usually in adulthood. Asymbolics feel pain but appear indifferent to it, and indifferent also to visual and verbal threats. How should we make sense of this? Nikola Grahek thinks asymbolics’ pains are abnormal, lacking a component that make normal pains unpleasant and motivating. Colin Klein thinks that what is abnormal is not asymbolics’ pains, but asymbolics: they have a psychological deficit making them unresponsive to unpleasant pain. I argue that an (...) illuminating account requires elements of both views. Asymbolic pains are indeed abnormal, but they are abnormal because asymbolics are. I agree with Klein that asymbolics are incapable of caring about their bodily integrity; but I argue against him that, if this is to explain not only their indifference to visual and verbal threat, but also their indifference to pain, we must do the following: take asymbolics’ lack of bodily care not as an alternative to, but as an explanation of their pains’ missing a component, and claim that the missing component consists in evaluative content. Asymbolia, I conclude, reveals not only that unpleasant pain is composite, but that its ‘hedomotive component’ is evaluative. (shrink)
Accounts of the nature of unpleasant pain have proliferated over the past decade, but there has been little systematic investigation of which of them can accommodate its badness. This paper is such a study. In its sights are two targets: those who deny the non-instrumental disvalue of pain's unpleasantness; and those who allow it but deny that it can be accommodated by the view—advanced by me and others—that unpleasant pains are interoceptive experiences with evaluative content. Against the former, I argue (...) that pain's unpleasantness does indeed have noninstrumental disvalue; against the latter I argue both that my critics’ own desire-theoretic accounts of pain's unpleasantness cannot accommodate such disvalue, and that my evaluativist view can—either by appealing to “anti-unpleasantness” desires or by exploiting pain's perceptuality. (shrink)
Pain may appear to undermine the radically intentionalist view that the phenomenal character of any experience is entirely constituted by its representational content. That appearance is illusory. After categorizing versions of pain intentionalism along two dimensions, I argue that an 'objectivist' and 'non-mentalist' version is the most promising, if it can withstand two objections concerning what we say when in pain, and the distinctiveness of pain. I rebut these objections, in a way available to both opponents of and adherents to (...) the view that experiential content is entirely conceptual. (shrink)
Pain, crucially, is unpleasant and motivational. It can be awful; and it drives us to action, e.g. to take our weight off a sprained ankle. But what is the relationship between pain and those two features? And in virtue of what does pain have them? Addressing these questions, Colin Klein and Richard J. Hall have recently developed the idea that pains are, at least partly, experiential commands—to stop placing your weight on your ankle, for example. In this paper, I reject (...) their accounts. Against Klein, I use dissociation cases to argue that possession of ‘imperative content’ cannot wholly constitute pain. Against them both, I further claim that possession of such content cannot even constitute pain’s unpleasant, motivational aspect. For, even if it were possible to specify the relevant imperative content—which is far from clear—the idea of a command cannot bear the explanatory weight Klein and Hall place on it. (shrink)
It can seem natural to say that, when in pain, we undergo experiences which present to us certain experience-dependent particulars, namely pains. As part of his wider approach to mind and world, John McDowell has elaborated an interesting but neglected version of this account of pain. Here I set out McDowell’s account at length, and place it in context. I argue that his subjectivist conception of the objects of pain experience is incompatible with his requirement that such experience be presentational, (...) rationalizing, and classificatory. (shrink)
Perceptualists say that having a pain in a body part consists in perceiving the part as instantiating some property. I argue that perceptualism makes better sense of the connections between pain location and the experiences undergone by people in pain than three alternative accounts that dispense with perception. Turning to fellow perceptualists, I also reject ways in which David Armstrong and Michael Tye understand and motivate perceptualism, and I propose an alternative interpretation, one that vitiates a pair of objections—due to (...) John Hyman—concerning the meaning of ‘Amy has a pain in her foot’ and the idea of bodily sensitivity. Perceptualism, I conclude, remains our best account of the location of pains. (shrink)
Sometimes the philosophical armchair gets bumped by empirical facts. So it is when thinking about pain. For good or ill (good, actually, as we shall see) most of us are intimately acquainted with physical pain, the kind you feel when you stand on a nail or burn your hand. And, from the armchair, it can seem blindingly obvious that pain is essentially unpleasant. There are of course unpleasant experiences that aren’t pains – nausea or itches, for example – but surely (...) there aren’t pains that don’t hurt, pains that are neutral or even pleasurable rather than unpleasant. Surely, indeed, there couldn’t be. For it is part of the very concept of a pain that a pain be unpleasant. Or so it has seemed to many. Yet over recent decades philosophers’ confidence in these putative truisms has been shaken by some fascinating cases from the clinic, the lab, and life. (shrink)
Compare your pain when immersing your hand in freezing water and your pleasure when you taste your favourite wine. The relationship seems obvious. Your pain experience is unpleasant, aversive, negative, and bad. Your experience of the wine is pleasant, attractive, positive, and good. Pain and pleasure are straightforwardly opposites. Or that, at any rate, can seem beyond doubt, and to leave little more to be said. But, in fact, it is not beyond doubt. And, true or false, it leaves a (...) good deal more to be said: about the nature of sensory affect; its relations to perception, motivation, and rationality; its value; and the mechanisms underlying it. Much is said about these matters in the contributions that follow. Here, in this introductory essay, we map the dialectical landscape and locate our contributors’ papers within it. (shrink)
Evaluativism is best thought of as a way of enriching a perceptual view of pain to account for pain’s unpleasantness or painfulness. Once it was common for philosophers to contrast pains with perceptual experiences (McGinn 1982; Rorty 1980). It was thought that perceptual experiences were intentional (or content-bearing, or about something), whereas pains were representationally blank. But today many of us reject this contrast. For us, your having a pain in your toe is a matter not of your sensing “pain-ly” (...) or encountering a sense-datum, but of your having an interoceptive experience representing (accurately or inaccurately) that your toe is in a particular experience-independent condition, such as undergoing a certain “disturbance” or being damaged or in danger (Armstrong 1962; Tye 1995). But even if such representational content makes an experience a pain, a further ingredient seems required to make the pain unpleasant. According to evaluativism, the further ingredient is the experience’s possession of evaluative content: its representing the bodily condition as bad for the subject. In this chapter, I elaborate evaluativism, locate it among alternatives, and explain its attractions and challenges. (shrink)
Over recent decades, pain has received increasing attention as – with ever greater sophistication and rigour – theorists have tried to answer the deep and difficult questions it poses. What is pain’s nature? What is its point? In what sense is it bad? The papers collected in this volume are a contribution to that effort ...
Simon Blackburn objects that Wittgenstein's private language argument overlooks the possibility that a private linguist can equip himself with a criterion of correctness by confirming generalizations about the patterns in which his private sensations occur. Crispin Wright responds that appropriate generalizations would be too few to be interesting. But I show that Wright's calculations are upset by his failure to appreciate both the richness of the data and the range of theories that would be available to the private linguist.
Philosophers think of pain less and less as a paradigmatic instance of mentality, for which they seek a general account, and increasingly as a rich and fruitful topic in its own right. Pain raises specific questions: about mentality and consciousness certainly, but also about embodiment, affect, motivation, and value, to name but a few. The growth of philosophical interest in pain has gone hand-in-hand with the growth of pain science, which burgeoned in the 1960s. This is no accident: developments in (...) pain science have prompted philosophers to take account of empirical data, and to revisit their assumptions about pain. Pain, in short, demands interdisciplinary investigation, hence while this entry focuses on the philosophy of pain, it makes liberal reference to empirical literature along the way. This entry’s focus is on physical pains, that is pains that are felt in bodily locations, not emotional suffering more broadly, such as grief or disappointment. The entry also does not address pain’s place in ethical theories; its focus is rather on issues that arise within philosophy of mind. Even so, part of what makes pain such an interesting and important topic is that the questions it raises span boundaries, and normative questions concerning pain’s badness, on the one hand, and its value, on the other, are never far away. (shrink)
Our preoccupation with pain can seem an eccentricity of philosophers. But just a little reflection leads one into the thickets. When I see a pencil on my desk, I’m aware of a physical thing and its objective properties; but what am I aware of when I feel a pain in my toe? A pain, perhaps? Or my toe’s hurting? But what is the nature of such things? Are they physical? Are they objective? To avoid unexperienced pains, we might say they (...) are subjective, or are themselves experiences. But do those with hurting toes therefore have experiences in their feet? The issues rapidly proliferate. Many of them are addressed in this interesting collection of original essays by philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists, edited by Murat Aydede. (shrink)
I defend externalism about color experiences and color thoughts, which I argue color objectivism requires. Externalists face the following question: would a subject’s wearing inverting lenses eventually change the color content of, for instance, those visual experiences the subject reports with “red”? From the work of Ned Block, David Velleman, Paul Boghossian, Michael Tye, and Fiona Macpherson, I extract problems facing those who answer “Yes” and problems facing those who answer “No.” I show how these problems can be overcome, leaving (...) externalism available to the color objectivist. (shrink)
In various papers, Colin Klein has argued that pain experiences are commands. This monograph goes well beyond the papers, re-shaping his ‘imperativist’ view, setting it within a general account of ‘homeostatic sensations’, presenting new arguments, and criticising alternatives. Original, empirically informed, clear, and often persuasive, it is a lovely book.
Over 35 years, Daniel Dennett has articulated a rich and expansive philosophical outlook. There have been elaborations, refinements, and changes of mind, exposi- tory and substantive. This makes him hard to pin down. Does he, for example, think intentional states are real? In places, he sounds distinctly instrumentalist; elsewhere, he avows realism, ‘sort of’. What is needed is a map, charting developments and tracing dialectical threads through his extensive writings and the different regions of his thought. This is what Matthew (...) Elton’s impressive book supplies. Accessibly written, with a useful glossary and detailed guides to the literature, it will be ex- tremely helpful to students and professionals alike. (shrink)
The best route into philosophy is not to consider a definition, but to get your own philosophical cogs turning. Consider the questions philosophers engage and think about the many different ways they've addressed them. But, most important, grapple with the questions yourself.
All drama is meant to be heard by an audience, so that there is a sense in which any utterance in a play may be called audience address. It is possible, however, to draw a distinction between on the one hand the kind of drama in which the presence of an audience is acknowledged by the actors—either explicitly by direct address or reference to the audience, or implicitly by reference to the theatrical nature of the action the actors are undertaking, (...) or by a combination of some or all of these elements—and on the other hand the kind of drama in which such a presence is not acknowledged, where the actors maintain the pretence that they are enacting a real as distinct from a theatrical event. (shrink)
While many agree that unpleasant pains motivate, little attention has been paid to this idea’s action-theoretic significance, to what kind of motivation pains are, or to the status of the behaviour they motivate. I claim that some pain behaviour belongs to a neglected category. For it is not brute behaviour, but action; yet it is not motivated by desires or intentions, nor like other behaviour that philosophers construe as neither brute nor desire-motivated, such as habitual action. Rather it is what (...) I call “world-motivated”. This idea is a powerful antidote to the competing temptations either to overintellectualise such behaviour or, conversely, to deny its status as purposive action. And, since some views of pain’s unpleasantness capture it better than others, the world-motivated conception of pain behaviour bears not just on action theory, but on what I call the affect debate. (shrink)
There are good reasons for wanting to adopt an intentionalist account of experiences generally, an account according to which having an experience is a matter of representing the world as being some way or other—according to which, that is, such mental episodes have intrinsic, conceptual, representational content. Such an approach promises, for example, to provide a satisfying conception of experiences’ subjectivity, their phenomenal character, and their crucial role in constituting reasons for our judgements about the world. It promises this, moreover, (...) without incurring the difficulties that face the adverbialist and the friends of such items as qualia and “private objects”. Still, even many of those who have been persuaded of that much are inclined to make an exception of the bodily sensations, since pains and the rest have traditionally been taken to be peculiarly “blank”—instances of brute, non-conceptual feeling. In this study, I reject that tradition and argue that sensation experiences are indeed representational, and hence not in that respect exceptional. The idea that they are nevertheless distinctive in other ways vis-à-vis ordinary perceptual experiences has led intentionalists such as John McDowell to adopt an account of their content that is both mentalist and radically subjectivist: an account, in other words, that takes the items represented by such experiences to be mental and constitutively dependent on their being represented. To my mind, such subjectivism is both viciously circular—like the parallel view of colours—and at odds with the admirably intentionalist aspirations of these views. Hence I turn to consider objectivist versions of intentionalism, views that assimilate sensations to somatosensory perceptual experiences such as those that inform us of, for example, the position of our own limbs. Admittedly, these views not only risk losing the “interiority” of sensations, but I argue that they also cannot be combined with mentalism and that this generates considerable difficulties—difficulties that have either been ignored or underestimated by those working with less demanding conceptions of content. Nonetheless, I make a number of preliminary moves to show how such difficulties might be dealt with, and how the objectivist can register even the distinctively “inner” character of sensations—by, amongst other things, focussing on the peculiarities of somatosensory content. So the prospects for intentionalism about sensations are, I argue, good. (shrink)