Pain Linguistics: A Case for Pluralism

Philosophical Quarterly 74 (1):145-168 (2023)
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Abstract

The most common approach to understanding the semantics of the concept of pain is third-person thought experiments. By contrast, the most frequent and most relevant uses of the folk concept of pain are from a first-person perspective in conversational settings. In this paper, we use a set of linguistic tools to systematically explore the semantics of what people communicate when reporting pain from a first-person perspective. Our results suggest that only a pluralistic view can do justice to the way we talk about pain from a first-person perspective: The semantic content of the folk concept of pain consists of information about both an unpleasant feeling and a disruptive bodily state. Pain linguistics thus provides new insights into ordinary pain language and poses an interesting challenge to the dominant unitary views of pain.

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Author Profiles

Pascale Willemsen
University of Zürich
Kevin Reuter
University of Zürich
Sabrina Coninx
VU University Amsterdam

Citations of this work

Experimental Philosophy of Consciousness.Kevin Reuter - 2020 - In Joshua Knobe & Shaun Nichols (eds.), The Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy. Oxford University Press.

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Philosophical investigations.Ludwig Wittgenstein & G. E. M. Anscombe - 1953 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 161:124-124.
Unfelt pain.Kevin Reuter & Justin Sytsma - 2020 - Synthese 197 (4):1777-1801.
The Polysemy View of Pain.Michelle Liu - 2023 - Mind and Language 38 (1):198-217.

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