Objectifying Pain

Nada Gligorov

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Pain is characterized as difficult to investigate and to explain using objective scientific means because of its purportedly inherent subjectivity. In this chapter, I distinguish among the various ways in which pain is considered to be a subjective phenomenon, including introspectability, privacy, and incorrigibility. I argue that introspectability and privacy are features that could be shared by states both mental and physical. The kind of subjectivity that is often thought to threaten the scientific study of pain arises only when introspectability and privacy of inner states are coupled with a theory of pain states that posits nonphysical properties to account for the content of pain. Thus, I defend the view that the content of pain can be reduced to what it represents. I also argue that pain is not incorrigible. I argue that the first-person individuation of pain states requires the possession of a rudimentary conceptual framework that includes the concept of pain. This conceptual framework changes over time as an individual is exposed to a variety of different noxious stimuli and acquires a wider vocabulary to express the feeling of pain. Given that the identification of pain requires a concept of pain and that changes in the relevant conceptual framework can alter the feeling of pain, I argue that pain reports are in principle corrigible. Although I acknowledge that there are currently no established criteria to challenge or circumvent the need for a first-person report of pain, I describe some promising new strategies that could lead to the development of such a tool.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudies in Brain and Mind
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages21
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NameStudies in Brain and Mind
ISSN (Print)1573-4536
ISSN (Electronic)2468-399X


  • Noxious Stimulation
  • Noxious Stimulus
  • Pain Sensory System
  • Pain State
  • Representational Content


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