Pain as Enactive Perception: Applying Noe's Theory of Perception

Abstract

We begin with a view defended elsewhere that pain is a representation of tissue damage that is dependent on what one is doing. We extend this view by exploring a relation between pain and action inspired by Alva Noë’s theory of perception. We consider whether sensorimotor knowledge related to tissue damage plays a role in pain experience. We explore this possibility by considering various kinds of pain, including the pain of a thorn in one’s foot, that of a herniated disk, and the chronic pain that sometimes follows the healing of an injury. We find that there is a large class of pain for which the phenomenal experience could easily be informed by sensorimotor knowledge in much the way Noë claims it is for vision and other forms of perception. We also find that conceiving of pain in this way inspires new understanding of phantom limb pain and chronic pain.


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