Evaluativist Accounts of Pain's Unpleasantness

In Jennifer Corns (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Pain. London: Routledge. pp. 40-50 (2017)
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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.
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