Pain without power

National Chengchi University Philosophical Journal 20:123-182 (2008)
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Some theories of consciousness emphasize its relationship to language, its emergent quality, and its causal role. Prominent among these theories is the one that Dennett has been developing for nearly four decades. According to Dennett’s most recent version, consciousness is a kind of cerebral clout. But consideration of examples of pain—arguably the best candidate on offer for a paradigm of consciousness—reveals that clout is neither necessary nor sufficient for consciousness. Moreover, pain doesn’t necessarily have the aftermath that is predicted by Dennett’s Clout Theory (CT); pain cannot always be accommodated by Dennett’s methodology; and, pain does not always conform to Dennett’s proposed ontology. Dennett might wish to substitute episodic memory as a preferred paradigm for consciousness, but episodic memory is shown to be non-essential. And, were it to be treated as a paradigm of consciousness, it would create new explanatory problems for CT. Rather than abandoning CT, because it does seem to help explain some pain phenomena and because it does comport well with certain views of language, I propose that some of its more intriguing proposals be retained and treated as hypotheses to guide further empirical inquiry. Finally, I recommend some specific empirical cases wherein relevant research might be pursued.

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Timothy Joseph Lane
Academia Sinica


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