Pain Experiences and Their Link to Action: Challenging Imperative Theories

Journal of Consciousness Studies 27 (9-10):104-126 (2020)
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According to pure imperativism, pain experiences are experiences of a specific phenomenal type that are entirely constituted by imperative content. As their primary argument, proponents of imperativism rely on the biological role that pain experiences fulfill, namely, the motivation of actions whose execution ensures the normal functioning of the body. In the paper, I investigate which specific types of action are of relevance for an imperative interpretation and how close their link to pain experiences actually is. I argue that, although imperative theories constitute an apparently promising version of strong intentionalism, they cannot provide an imperative content that meets their own criteria of both sufficiency and necessity. I further argue that this issue cannot be solved by impure imperative theories either.

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Sabrina Coninx
VU University Amsterdam


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