The Intentional Structure of Consciousness

In Quentin Smith & Aleksandar Jokic (eds.), Consciousness: New Philosophical Perspectives. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 33-56 (2003)
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Newcomers to the philosophy of mind are sometimes resistant to the idea that pain is a mental state. If asked to defend their view, they might say something like this: pain is a physical state, it is a state of the body. A pain in one’s leg feels to be in the leg, not ‘in the mind’. After all, sometimes people distinguish pain which is ‘all in the mind’ from a genuine pain, sometimes because the second is ‘physical’ while the first is not. And we also occasionally distinguish mental pain (which is normally understood as some kind of emotional distress) from the ‘physical pain’ one feels in one’s body. So what can be meant by saying that pain is a mental state? Of course, it only takes a little reflection shows that this naive view is mistaken. Pain is a state of consciousness, or an event in consciousness, and whether or not all states of mind are conscious, it is indisputable that only minds, or states of mind, are conscious.2 But does the naive view tell us anything about the concept of pain, or the concept of mind? I think it does. In this paper, I shall give reasons for thinking that consciousness is a form of intentionality, the mind’s ‘direction upon its objects’. I shall claim that the consciousness involved in bodily sensations like pain is constituted by the mind’s direction upon the part or region of the body where the sensation feels to be. Given this, it is less surprising that the naive view of pain says what it does: the apparent ‘physicality’ of pain is a consequence of confusing the object of the intentional state—the part of the body in which the pain is felt—with the state of being in pain.

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Tim Crane
Central European University


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