Pain: A Natural State without a Nature? Dealing with the Ambiguity of „Pain“ in Science and Ethics

In Heather McKenzie, John Quintner & Gillian Bendelow (eds.), At the Edge of Being: The Aporia of Pain. Inter-Disciplinary Press (2010)
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Can we find necessary and sufficient conditions for a mental state to be a pain state? That is, does pain have a nature? Or is the term ‘pain’ ambiguous? I argue here that our expression ‘pain’ lacks necessary use conditions if one considers a range of contexts. As use conditions constrain the reference class, I argue that ‘pain’ does not refer to a natural category, but binds together a bunch of loosely resembling phenomena. This leads to problems for scientific and clinical discourse. To solve these, a method of explication is suggested, based on a discursive combination between analysis of first-person reports and theories of natural science. Lastly, I consider the ethical implications of this ambiguity that lead to a reformulation of the goal of pain science: Not alleviation of all pains ought to be our goal, but only manipulation of conscious and negatively emotionally charged pains.
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