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Distinguishing the Appearance from the Reality of Pain

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It is often held that it is conceptually impossible to distinguish between a pain and a pain experience. In this article I present an argument which concludes that people make this distinction. I have done a web-based statistical analysis which is at the core of this argument. It shows that the intensity of pain has a decisive effect on whether people say that they 'feel a pain'(lower intensities) or 'have a pain' (greater intensities). This 'intensity effect'can be best explained by people's varying confidence about their pain, and indicates that 'feeling pain' can be identified as introspective report and 'having pain' as an objective statement — analogous to the traditional sense modalities. However, if people have the ability to make both introspective and objective statements about pain, then it seems indeed the case that they distinguish the appearance from the reality of pain.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HX, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2011


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