Pain (Oxford Bibliographies Online)

Oxford Bibliographies Online (2015)
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Abstract
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.
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