Is a phenomenal pain a conscious primitive or composed of more primitive phenomenal states? Are pain experiences necessarily or only contingently unpleasant? Here, I sketch how to answer such questions concerning intra-phenomenal metaphysics using the example of pain and unpleasantness. Arguments for a symmetrical metaphysical independence of phenomenal pain and unpleasant affect are presented, rejecting a composite view like the IASP definition and dimensional views. The motivating intuition of these views is explained by common binding mechanisms in consciousness and characterized (...) as fallacious if generalized. There are, however, underlying commonalities between pain perception and unpleasant affect, e.g. formal content or evolutionary ancestry. (shrink)
Can we find necessary and sufficient conditions for a mental state to be a pain state? That is, does pain have a nature? Or is the term ‘pain’ ambiguous? I argue here that our expression ‘pain’ lacks necessary use conditions if one considers a range of contexts. As use conditions constrain the reference class, I argue that ‘pain’ does not refer to a natural category, but binds together a bunch of loosely resembling phenomena. This leads to problems for scientific and (...) clinical discourse. To solve these, a method of explication is suggested, based on a discursive combination between analysis of first-person reports and theories of natural science. Lastly, I consider the ethical implications of this ambiguity that lead to a reformulation of the goal of pain science: Not alleviation of all pains ought to be our goal, but only manipulation of conscious and negatively emotionally charged pains. (shrink)
In this article, I focus on what is we know when we know pain or that someone is in pain. I argue that claims of knowledge about pains are problematic because of the complex nature of the phenomenon and because of "pain" is a cluster concept.