Painfulness, Suffering, and Consciousness

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The popular view on which unpleasant pain consists of two dissociable components, and on which there may be pains that wholly lack affect, is the product of a theoretical deference to consciousness. The same is true of the thesis that suffering is exclusively a conscious phenomenon. Pain researchers defer to consciousness, but in my view they do not properly heed its message regarding pain, painfulness, and suffering. I will argue that consciousness actually gives us a double-edged message about these phenomena. Introspection reveals pain and painfulness to be essentially kinds of qualia, or qualitative character, (§1)—a thesis I defend from the ‘heterogeneity problem’ (§2). But introspection also prompts a conception of pain and painfulness on which these are capable in principle of unconscious existence (§3, §5). This implies, in turn, that suffering may well occur unconsciously (§§4-5), something I argue for in part by criticising rival models of suffering (§4). Taking consciousness seriously as an epistemic source for the natures of pain, painfulness, and suffering, thus has the surprising result that consciousness is removed from the metaphysics of pain, painfulness, and suffering.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhilosophy of Suffering
Subtitle of host publicationMetaphysics, Value, and Normativity
EditorsDavid Bain, Michael Brady , Jennifer Corns
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781351115469
ISBN (Print)9780815361787
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2019


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