The Paradox of Pain

By Adam Bradley (Antwerp, Center for Philosophical Psychology)

Date: Friday 4th October

Time: 1100-1230

Place: H-232

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Abstract: Bodily pain strikes many philosophers as deeply paradoxical. The issue is that pains seem to bear both physical characteristics, such as a location in the body, and mental characteristics, such as being subjective entities to which subjects have privileged and peculiar epistemic access. In this paper I clarify and address this alleged paradox of pain. I begin by showing how a further assumption, Objectivism, the thesis that what one feels in one’s body when one is in pain is something mind-independent, is necessary for the generation of the paradox. Consequently, the paradox can be avoided if one instead adopts Subjectivism, the thesis that what one feels in one’s body when one is in pain is something mind-dependent. Subjectivism, however, raises serious puzzles, for it is not obvious how anything can possess all of the features we associate with bodily pain. To address this puzzlement and finally put the paradox of pain to rest, I develop the Embodied View of Pain, a novel metaphysical account on which pains are constitutively mind-dependent features of parts of a subject’s body.

About the speaker: Adam Bradley received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley and his undergraduate degree from the University of Cincinnati. He works at the intersection of philosophy of mind, cognitive science, epistemology, and metaphysics. His research to date has been focused on bodily awareness, our awareness of our bodies ‘from the inside,’ including bodily pain. This has lead to a recent article in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research on the feeling of bodily ownership. Dr Bradley is currently a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Centre for Philosophical Psychology at the University of Antwerp, working on with Bence Nanay and colleagues on the ERC funded project ‘Seeing Things You Don’t See.’