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Philosophy of Suffering: Metaphysics, Value and Normativity
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The paper aims at clarifying the distinctions and relations between pain and suffering. Three negative theses are defended: 1. Pain and suffering are not identical. 2. Pain is not a species of suffering, nor is suffering a species of pain, nor are pain and suffering of a common (proximate) genus. 3. Suffering cannot be defined as the perception of a pain’s badness, nor can pain be defined as a suffered bodily sensation. Three positive theses are endorsed: 4. Pain and suffering are categorically distinct: pain is a localised bodily episode, suffering is a non-localised affective attitude. 5. Suffering can be expressed, pains cannot. As a consequence, we can have compassion for the suffering of others, not for their pains. 6. The relation between pain and suffering is akin to the relation between danger and fear, injustice and indignation, wrongdoing and guilt: suffering is the correct reaction to pain. One upshot is that both the influential view that the experience of pain is incorrigible and the influential view that the ordinary conception of pain is paradoxical are false.
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