‘The Complex Reality of Pain’ Royal Institute of Philosophy Invited Speaker Seminar, Thursday 30 November


Our fourth externally funded Royal Institute of Philosophy Human Sciences Invited Speaker Seminar this term is Dr Jennifer Corns of the University of Glasgow. This is the last RIP HSS of the Autumn term 2017. Please distribute widely in your networks as you see fit. The seminar is free and open to everyone, including students and the general public.

When: Thursday 30th November, 17:00-18:30

Where: Manchester Metropolitan University, All Saints, Geoffrey Manton Building GM 226.

 Title: The Complex Reality of Pain


In this talk, I argue that the complex and idiosyncratic reality of pain should lead us to reject that either pain, or any purported type of pain, is a natural kind. Natural kinds are taken to be those kinds usefully referred to for explanation and prediction in scientific generalizations. Philosophers and scientists alike often appear to implicitly assume that pain is a natural kind in virtue of their explicit assumption that there is a pain mechanism, or pain system. Through attending to pain science, I first argue that each token pain is instead explained by the idiosyncratic convergence of multiple mechanisms. While one might initially suspect that the identified heterogeneity is negligible for the explanatory or predictive utility of at least some scientific generalizations, I further argue that this is not the case. The idiosyncratic mechanistically heterogeneous explanations of each token pain are such that generalizations about either pain as such or purported pain types are rendered inadequate for scientific purposes. In particular, they are inadequate for treatment. I close by noting implications of the non-natural kind thesis both for leading philosophical theories of pain and for clinical practice.

Talks last for 40-45 minutes, followed by an answer and question session. After the talk we take the speaker for drinks and dinner, all of which everyone is welcome to join.

The Human Sciences Seminar Series is a research seminar organised by the Philosophy section of Manchester Metropolitan University’s Department of History, Politics and Philosophy. It continues thanks to the generous support of the Royal Institute of Philosophy. Meetings are held regularly in at 5pm on Thursdays during the autumn and spring term. The series was founded by David Melling and Wolfe Mays in 1979 out of a desire to explore the various human sciences in a systematic way from the standpoint of critical philosophy. It has now run without break for nearly forty years.