The Function of Pain

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 99 (2):364-378 (2021)
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Various prominent theories of pain assume that it is pain’s biological function to inform organisms about damage to their bodies. I argue that this is a mistake. First, there is no biological evidence to support the notion that pain was originally selected for its informative capacities, nor that it currently contributes to the fitness of organisms in this specific capacity. Second, neurological evidence indicates that modulating mechanisms in the nociceptive system systematically prevent pain from serving a primarily informative role. These considerations threaten to undermine standard perceptual and representational accounts of pain.

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Laurenz Casser
University of Texas at Austin


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