Bibliography — Philosophy of Pain (~320 entries; ~500 K)
This is a partially annotated bibliography listing largely philosophical literature on pain. It also contains some scientific works that are of particular interest to philosophers or are useful to a general audience. It focuses on psychological, epistemological and metaphysical issues rather than ethical or religious ones. It is a work in progress and by no means complete. I'll try to complete (or, replace) the annotations in time -- some of them are downloaded either from PsychInfo or Phil Index, and are not always very useful. I would appreciate if the authors provide me with short abstracts of their own articles that appear in the bibliography. Corrections, modifications, suggestions and new entries are always welcome. (I'll organize the entries into cross-referenced sections in the future.)
Some useful links:
Some of my own work on pain and related issues:
"Is Feeling Pain the Perception of Something?" [PDF, courtesy of JPhil] Journal of Philosophy, October 2009.
¥ ABSTRACT. 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. I argue that given a natural understanding of what sensory perception requires and how it is integrated with conceptual systems, these accounts are mistaken. I also examine the relationship between perceptual views and two (weak and strong) forms of representationalism about experience. Strong representationalism is a thesis about the metaphysics of the phenomenal content of perceptual experiences that says that the representational content (externalistically construed) and the phenomenal content of experiences are one and the same so they cannot come apart. I show how the case of pains (and other similar bodily sensations) poses a serious challenge for strong representationalism. I argue that strong representationalism fails to meet the challenge. In the concluding section, I spell out some of the consequences of my account for theories of introspection, phenomenal concepts, and experiential consciousness.
Review of Nikola Grahek's Feeling Pain and Being in Pain (MIT Press, 2007). Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 2008.01.02.
New Essays on Its Nature and the Methodology of Its Study (editor), MIT
Press, January 2006.
[Order a copy from Amazon.com]
"A Critical and Quasi-Historical Essay on Theories of Pain" to appear as introductory chapter in Pain: New Essays on the Nature of Pain and the Methodology of its Study (edited by me, MIT Press, January 2006).
"The Main Difficulty with Pain," This is a commentary on Michael Tye's "Another Look at Representationalism and Pain." Both appeared in Pain: New Essays on the Nature of Pain and the Methodology of its Study (MIT Press, Jan 2006) along with other commentaries and Tye's replies.
"Naturalism, Introspection, and Direct Realism about Pain" [PDF], Consciousness and Emotion, Vol. 2, No 1, pp. 29-73, 2001. Parts of this work were presented at the 25th annual meeting of SPP at Stanford, June 1999; at 2000 Tucson Conference on Consciousness; at the PSA meeting in Vancouver, 2000.
¥ ABSTRACT. 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. It starts 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. Its conclusion 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. The paper ends with a positive sketch of how to naturalize the affective as well as emotional qualia, which is a psychofunctionalist extension of an informational direct realism.
"An Analysis of Pleasure vis-a-vis Pain" [PDF]. A shorter version appeared in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 61, No. 3, November 2000, pp. 537-570.
¥ ABSTRACT. I take up the issue of whether pleasure is a kind of sensation (a feeling episode) or not. This issue was much discussed by philosophers of the 1950's and 1960's, and no resolution was reached. There were mainly two camps in the discussion: those who argued for a dispositional account of pleasure, and those who favored an episodic feeling (sensational) view of pleasure. Here, relying on some recent scientific findings I offer an account of pleasure which neither dispositionalizes nor sensationalizes pleasure. As is usual in the tradition, I compare pleasure with pain, and try to see its similarities and differences. I argue that pain and pleasure experiences have typically a complex phenomenology normally not so obvious in introspection. After distinguishing between affective and sensory components of these experiences, I argue that although pain experiences normally consist of both components proper to them, pleasure, in contradistinction to pain, is only the affective component of a total experience that may involve many sensations proper and cognitions. Moreover, I hold that although the so-called "physical" pleasure is itself not a sensation proper, it is nevertheless an episodic affective reaction (in a primitive sense) to sensations proper.
"Against Pure Representationalism about Qualia: The Case of Intransitive Bodily Sensations" (Acrobat PDF). This is a rough draft of a short piece in progress. Comments are welcome!
¥ ABSTRACT. Pure qualia representationalism, as I construe it in this paper, is the view that all qualia can be accounted for in terms of the representational content of sensations. This view is motivated by naturalism about qualia. I argue against this thesis by showing that so-called intransitive bodily sensations such as pains, tickles, itches, orgasms, etc., are intransitive precisely because their qualitative character is not entirely representational. But once we see the reason why, and review common representationalist attempts to rebut this criticism, a proper response to the problem will emerge, which suggests supplementing representationalism with psychofunctionalism about qualia. Thus, I will be arguing not against representationalist attempts to naturalize qualia per se, but for a better way of doing it.
"The Experimental Use of Introspection in the Scientific Study of Pain and its Integration with Third-Person Methodologies: The Experiential-Phenomenological Approach" (with Donald D. Price). Appeared (with commentary by Shaun Gallagher & Martin Overgaard, Robert D'Amico, Robert Coghill, and Eddy Nahmias) in Pain: New Essays on the Nature of Pain and the Methodology of its Study (MIT Press, Jan 2006).
¥ ABSTRACT. Understanding the nature of pain depends, at least partly, on recognizing its subjectivity. This in turn requires using a first-person experiential approach in addition to third-person experimental approaches to study it. This paper is an attempt to spell out what the former approach is and how it can be integrated with the latter. We start our discussion by examining some foundational issues raised by the use of introspection. We explain what makes such a first-person methodology indispensable in the scientific study of pain. We argue that there is no reason to think that the use of such a first-person approach is scientifically or methodologically suspect. We give examples approximating experiments that use the kinds of first-person methods that we propose and defend here, which we call the experiential or phenomenological approach that has its origins in the work of Price and Barrell (1980). We conclude that integrating such an approach to conventional third-person methodologies can only help us in having a fuller understanding of pain and of conscious experience in general.
"Some Foundational Problems in the Scientific Study of Pain" [PDF] (with Guven Guzeldere). Philosophy of Science, 2002, 69 (Suppl.), pp. S265-S283.
¥ ABSTRACT. This paper is an attempt to spell out what makes the scientific study of pain so distinctive from a philosophical perspective. Using the IASP definition of 'pain' (1986) as our guide, we raise a number of questions about the philosophical assumptions underlying the scientific study of pain. We argue that unlike the study of ordinary perception, the study of pain focuses from the very start on the experience itself and its qualities, without making deep assumptions about whether pain experiences are perceptual. This in turn puts scientific explanation in a curious position due to pain's inherently subjective epistemic nature. The reason for this focus on the experience itself and its qualities, we argue, has to do with pain's complex phenomenology involving an affective/motivational dimension. We argue for the scientific legitimacy of first-person phenomenological studies and attempts to correlate phenomenology with neural events. We argue that this methodological procedure is inevitable and has no anti-physicalist ontological implications when properly understood. We end the paper by commenting on a discussion between two prominent pain scientists in the field, Don Price and Howard Fields, about the need to distinguish more dimensions in the phenomenology of pain and how to classify them vis-a-vis the recent scientific findings. Our interest in this discussion is not only to introduce some clarifications but also to show how "neurophenomenology" has already been shaping the scientific research and to back our claim about why this methodology is inevitable with an example.
"Cognitive Architecture, Concepts, and Introspection: An Information-Theoretic Solution to the Problem of Phenomenal Consciousness" (HTM version) [Click here for a cleaner PDF version], Nous, 39(2): 197-255, June 2005. (Portions of this were presented at the APA Eastern Division meeting in New York, December 27–30, 2000; the SPP meeting in Cincinnati, June 14-17, 2001; and the NEH Summer Institute on Consciousness and Intentionality at UCSC, July 2002.)
¥ ABSTRACT. This essay is a sustained information-theoretic attempt to bring new light to some of the perennial problems in the philosophy of mind surrounding phenomenal consciousness and introspection. Following Dretske (1981), we present and develop an informational psychosemantics as it applies to what we call sensory concepts, concepts that apply, roughly, to so-called secondary qualities of objects. We show that these concepts have a special informational character and semantic structure that closely tie them to the brain states realizing conscious qualitative experiences from which they are acquired. Sensory concepts (like RED) typically apply to objects external ones body, i.e., to the objects of perceptual experience: they don't apply to experiences themselves. We then develop an account of introspection which exploits this special nature of sensory concepts. The result is a new class of concepts, which, following recent terminology, we call phenomenal concepts: these concepts apply to phenomenal experiences themselves and are the representational vehicles used in introspection. On our account, the connection between sensory and phenomenal concepts is very tight: it consists in different informational/semantic uses of the same cognitive structures underlying the sensory concepts, like RED. Contrary to widespread opinion, we show that information theory contains all the resources to satisfy internalist intuitions about phenomenal consciousness, while not offending externalist ones. A consequence of this account is that it explains and predicts the so-called conceivability arguments against physicalism on the basis of the special nature of sensory and phenomenal concepts. Thus we not only show why physicalism is not threatened by such arguments, but also demonstrate its strength in virtue of its ability to predict and explain away such arguments in a principled way. However, we take the main contribution of this work to be what it provides in addition to a response to those conceivability arguments, namely, a substantive account of the interface between sensory and conceptual systems and the mechanisms of introspection as based on the special nature of the information flow between them.