The intuitive invalidity of the pain-in-mouth argument

Analysis 80 (3):463-474 (2020)
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In a recent paper, Reuter, Seinhold and Sytsma put forward an implicature account to explain the intuitive failure of the pain-in-mouth argument. They argue that utterances such as ‘There is tissue damage / a pain / an inflammation in my mouth’ carry the conversational implicature that there is something wrong with the speaker’s mouth. Appealing to new empirical data, this paper argues against the implicature account and for the entailment account, according to which pain reports using locative locutions, such as ‘There is a pain in my mouth’, are intuitively understood as entailing corresponding predicative locutions, such as ‘My mouth hurts.’ On this latter account, the pain-in-mouth argument seems invalid because the conclusion is naturally understood as entailing something which cannot be inferred from the premisses. Implications for the philosophical debate about pain are also drawn.

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Michelle Liu
Monash University


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