Sabrina Coninx, Pascale Willemsen, & Kevin Reuter
Coninx, S., Willemsen, P., & Reuter, K. (2023). Pain Linguistics: A Case for Pluralism. The Philosophical Quarterly, 74(1).
Publication year: 2023

The most common approach to understanding the semantics of the concept of pain is third-person thought experiments. By contrast, the most frequent and most relevant uses of the folk concept of pain are from a first-person perspective in conversational settings. In this paper, we use a set of linguistic tools to systematically explore the semantics of what people communicate when reporting pain from a first-person perspective. Our results suggest that only a pluralistic view can do justice to the way we talk about pain from a first-person perspective: The semantic content of the folk concept of pain consists of information about both an unpleasant feeling and a disruptive bodily state. Pain linguistics thus provides new insights into ordinary pain language and poses an interesting challenge to the dominant unitary views of pain.