Research & Publications

I. Pain Project

The phenomenon of pain is commonly understood in terms of a corresponding phenomenal quality: there is a certain subjective feeling of what it is typically like for us to experience pain in contrast to, for example, itches, anger, or sadness. This phenomenal character fixes the class of phenomena to be considered pains. This is merely the starting point, however. Most researchers ultimately aim to explain and predict the circumstances under which pains occur. To do so, they search for a certain type of property that is common to all pains and at the same time specific to pains, besides the previously described subjective feeling. Depending on the field of research different types of properties are under consideration. The guiding question of my pain project is whether there exists a certain type of property, synchronic or diachronic, that is common to all pains and pains only; and if not, which consequences we need to draw from such insight.

Phenomenal Quality & Memory

Pain is one of the most unique experiences we undergo in life. In most cases, we can identify pains as pains in a straightforward manner from a first-person perspective. The corresponding subjective feeling has been addressed in the philosophical literature under different labels – phenomenal quality, qualitative character, or quale. In one subproject, I provide an overview concerning different possibilities of how to analyze said phenomenal quality and discuss the most promising interpretations of the ‘orthodox view’. In another subproject, I develop a consistent multidimensional interpretation of a possible phenomenal quality for pain and put it to the test with regard to conceptual and empirical challenges. Moreover, in a commentary on the work of Barbara Montero, I address the question of which conditions need to be met in order for us to plausibly assume the lack of a qualitative memory for pain.

Related Publications

Research Articles

Coninx, S. (under review): paper on interpretations of the orthodox view, arguing for the existence of a pain quality

Coninx, S. (2022): A Multidimensional Phenomenal Space for Pain: Structure, Primitiveness, and Utility. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 21, 223–243.   Publication

Commentary

Coninx, S. (2020): Pain, Amnesia, and Qualitative Memory – Conceptual and Empirical Challenges. Commentary on Barbara Montero’s paper ‘What Experience Doesn’t Teach: Pain-Amnesia and a New Paradigm for Memory Research.’ Journal of Consciousness Studies, 27(11-12), 126-133. Publication   Draft

 

 

Bodily Sensations & Intentionalism

In due consideration of recent empirical research, I aim to show in different subprojects that there exists no property common to all pains and pains only. This is due to the substantial variation across pains and the systematic similarity between pain and other phenomena, including emotions and other bodily sensations. In particular, I  argue against strong intentionalist theories presuming the existence of a certain type of intentional content necessary and sufficient for pain. First, I aim to show that strong representationalist theories of bodily sensations do not provide convincing evidence in terms of causal covariance and biological function. Second, strong imperative theories have clear advantages in highlighting the relevance of action but cannot tell an overall conclusive story for the introduction of an intentional content satisfying the criteria of necessity and sufficiency.

Related Publications

Research Articles

Coninx, S. (2021): Strong Representationalism and Bodily Sensations: Reliable Causal Covariance and Biological Function. Philosophical Psychology, 34(2), 210-232. https://doi.org/10.1080/09515089.2020.1858476   Publication   Postprint   Draft

Coninx, S. (2020): Pain Experiences and Their Link to Action: Challenging Imperative Theories. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 27(9-10), 1104-126.   Publication

 

Neurophilosophy & Family Resemblance

There is nothing common to all pains and pains only, even if, subjectively, they may appear to us as a phenomenologically unified class of phenomena. This becomes particularly clear when we take a closer look at the neural systems involved in pain processing. Nonetheless, I think that it is possible to develop an empirically adequate and scientifically useful theory of pain that provides a guiding heuristic for future research projects. Such a theory needs to focus on the resemblance relations that hold between the properties of individual pain cases. In my opinion, this allows us to bridge the gap between idiosyncrasy and generalizability. Thereby, I argue against accounts of scientific pain eliminativism.

Related Publications

Monograph

Coninx, S. (2020): Experiencing Pain: A Scientific Enigma & Its Philosophical Solution. De Gruyter.
Publication   Reading Sample

Research Article

Coninx, S. (2021): The Notorious Neurophilosophy of Pain: A Family Resemblance Approach to Idiosyncracy and Generalizability. Mind & Language.   Publication

Others

Coninx, S. (2018): The Frustrating Family of Pain. iCog Blog.          Blog Post   Draft

II. Situated Affectivity & Clinical Practice

In my recent research, I address the more general phenomenon of human affectivity and suffering, connecting my previous research on pain with knowledge concerning other affective phenomena, including grief, loneliness, and depression. This research field is of particular relevance in its application to clinical contexts. I am therefore increasingly concerned with the interface between philosophy, clinical medicine, and psychiatry, whereby the influences of situated approaches come into play concerning concepts of affordances, scaffolds, and niche construction. In particular, I address the question of the extent to which environmental conditions shape our affective lives and can be actively used, for example, in therapeutic contexts.

Affective Scaffolding & Negative Niche Construction

I consider the application of concepts of situated approaches to affective phenomena as promising. This requires, however, a detailed understanding of such concepts. In cooperation with Achim Stephan, I argue that the concept of scaffolding can contribute to a better understanding of our affective life and the complex manners in which it is shaped by environmental entities. We develop a taxonomy along paradigmatic examples of affective scaffolding which emphasizes distinctions that are often conflated and identifies commonly overlooked fields of application. Further, I am currently working on the negative aspects of niche construction across different spatio-temporal units of analysis, using chronic pain as an illustrative case study.

Related Publications

Research Articles

Coninx, S. (under review): paper on negative niche construction and  the role that conflicts between processes located at different spatio-temporal scales can play for our understanding of modern challenges in medicine and public health care

Coninx, S. & Stephan, A. (2021): A Taxonomy of Environmentally Scaffolded Affectivity. Danish Yearbook of Philosophy, 54, 38–64.   Publication

 

Affordance-Based Models of Chronic Pain

In cooperation with Peter Stilwell, I have developed an affordance-based approach to chronic pain. In our first paper, we conceptualize differences between acute and chronic pain, as well as the process of chronification, in terms of changes in the field of affordances. This is, in terms of the possibilities for action perceived by subjects in pain. In a second paper, we collaborate with Michael Ray, aiming to further unpack the complex concepts of an affordances-based model of chronic pain by means of an illustrative video game analogy. In a third paper, under the lead of Daniela Vaz, we explore in detail the potential of such affordance-based model for clinical practice and health care.

Related Publications

Research Articles

Coninx, S. & Stilwell, P. (2021): Pain and the Field of Affordances – An Enactive Approach to Acute and Chronic Pain. Synthese, 199, 7835–7863.   Publication

Coninx, S., Ray, M., & Stilwell, P. (under review): paper on the core concepts of affordances-based models of chronic pain using a video game analogy

Vaz, D., Stilwell, P., Coninx, S., Low, M., & Liebenson, C. (under review): paper on the implications of an affordance-based model of pain for clinical practice and health care

 

Bio-psycho-social Models & Enactivism

In a subproject, Peter Stilwell and I argue that due to its limited theoretical foundation, the biopsychosocial model is too often implemented in a reductionist, fragmented, and linear manner. In particular, it remains too vague concerning the integration of the involved biological, psychological, and social processes. We differentiate five facets of such integration problem: (i) ontological, (ii) conceptual, (iii) explanatory, (iv) methodological, and (v) therapeutic. Further, we develop an enactive theory of chronic pain and outline how far it provides solutions to these different integration challenges. In another subproject with Ben Cormack and Jo Gibson, we show that many applications of the biopsychosocial model in recent clinical practice deviate from the original ideas of George Engel. We show that these deviations have led to suboptimal patient care and indicate more promising alternatives relying on humanistic and enactive principles.

Related Publications

Research Articles

Coninx, S. & Stilwell, P. (under review): Chronic Pain, Enactivism, & the Challenges of Integration  Pre-Print

Cormack, B., Stilwell, P., Coninx, S., & Gibson, J. (2022): The Biopsychosocial Model is Lost in Translation: From Misrepresentation to An Enactive Modernization. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice.   Publication

Others

Stilwell, P. & Coninx, S. (2021). A New Paradigm to Understand Pain. IAI News.   Blog Post   Draft

 



III. Folk Concept of Pain

In the last ten years, there has been a steady increase in vignette-based research investigating the folk concept of pain. That research challenges the standard view of pain, according to which pains are unpleasant feelings. However, the results of these studies also suggest that the concept of pain is ambiguous and difficult to pin down. In collaboration with Pascale Willemsen & Kevin Reuter,  we approach the topic from a new angle, using linguistic tests to decipher what people communicate when making statements such as ‘I have a pain in my arm’. The results suggest that first-person pain reports semantically entail information about both an unpleasant feeling and a disruptive bodily state. This speaks in favor of a pluralist view on the semantic meaning of pain.

Related Publications

Conference Proceeding

Coninx, S., Willemsen, P., & Reuter, K. (2022): An Experimental-Linguistic Study of the Folk Concept of Pain: Implication, Projection, & Deniability. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society.  Publication

 

 

IV. Social Understanding

Theories of social understanding have moved away from arguing that just one epistemic strategy constitutes our ability of social understanding. In contrast, the empirical evidence seems to support a pluralistic approach. In cooperation with  Albert Newen and Julia Wolf, we aim to defend in different subprojects a pluralistic view, but highlight two open questions: what is the residual role of mindreading within this framework, and how do different strategies of social understanding relate to each other? That is, we aim to clarify the arguments that might be considered in evaluating the role that epistemic strategies play in a pluralistic framework: frequency, centrality, and reliability. On this basis, we argue that mindreading constitutes a core strategy in human social life. Further, we provide an account of the relation and dynamic interaction between different epistemic strategies in social understanding.

Related Publications

Research Articles

Coninx, S. & Newen, A. (2018): Theories of Understanding Others: The Need of a New Account and the Guiding Role of the Person Model Theory. Belgrade Philosophical Annual, 31, 127-153.    Publication

Wolf, J., Coninx, S. & Newen, A. (2021): Rethinking Integration of Epistemic Strategies in Social Understanding: Examining the Central Role of Mindreading in Pluralist Accounts. ErkenntnisPublication

Conference Proceeding

Wolf, J. & Coninx, S. (2021): The Role of Mindreading in a Pluralist Framework of Social Cognition. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 341-3047.   Publication



Publications

 Monograph

2020

1. Coninx, S.: Experiencing Pain – A Scientific Enigma & Its Philosophical Solution. de   Gruyter.  Publication   Cover   Reading Sample

 Peer-Reviewed Research Articles

 2022

2. Cormack, B., Stilwell, P., Coninx, S., & Gibson, J. (2022): The Biopsychosocial Model Is Lost in Translation: From Misrepresentation to An Enactive Modernization. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice. https://doi.org/10.1080/09593985.2022.2080130  Publication 

3. Coninx, S.: A Multidimensional Phenomenal Space for Pain: Structure,  Primitiveness, and Utility. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 21, 223-243.  htttps://doi.org/10.1007/s11097-021-09727-0 [Online Publication in 2021]  Publication

2021

4. Coninx, S.: The Notorious Neurophilosophy of Pain: A Family Resemblance  Approach to Idiosyncrasy and Generalizability.  Mind & Language. https://doi.org/10.1111/mila.12378  Publication

5. Coninx, S.: Strong Representationalism and Bodily Sensations: Reliable  Causal Covariance and Biological Function. Philosophical Psychology, 34(2), 210-232. https://doi.org/10.1080/09515089.2020.1858476  [Online Publication in 2020]   Publication  Post-Print   Draft

 6. Coninx, S. & Stilwell, P.: Pain and the Field of Affordances – An Enactive  Approach to Acute and Chronic Pain. Synthese, 199, 7835–7863. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-021-03142-3  Publication

7. Coninx, S. & Stephan, A.: A Taxonomy of Environmentally Scaffolded Affectivity. Danish Yearbook of Philosophy, 54, 38–64. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10670-021-00486-7  Publication

 8. Wolf, J., Coninx, S. & Newen, A.: Rethinking Integration of Epistemic Strategies in Social Understanding: Examining the Central Role of Mindreading in Pluralist Accounts. Erkenntnis. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10670-021-00486-7  Publication

 2020

 9. Coninx, S.: Pain Experiences and Their Link to Action: Challenging Imperative Theories. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 27(9-10), 104-126.  Publication

 2018

 10. Coninx, S. & Newen, A.: Theories of Understanding Others: The Need of a New  Account and the Guiding Role of the Person Model Theory. Belgrade Philosophical Annual, 31, 127-153. https://doi.org/10.5937/BPA1831127C   Publication

Commentaries

2020

 11. Coninx, S.: Pain, Amnesia, and Qualitative Memory – Conceptual and Empirical  Challenges. Commentary on Barbara Montero’s paper “What Experience Doesn’t Teach: Pain-Amnesia and a New Paradigm for Memory Research.” Journal of
Consciousness Studies,
27(11-12), 126-133.  Publication   Draft

 Conference Proceedings

2022

12. Coninx, S., Willemsen, P., & Reuter, K. (forthcoming): An Experimental-Linguistic Study of the Folk Concept of Pain: Implication, Projection, & Deniability. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society.   Publication

2021

13. Wolf, J. & Coninx, S.: The Role of Mindreading in a Pluralist Framework of Social Cognition. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society 43, 3041-3047.  Publication

 Blog Posts

 2021

14.  Stilwell, P. & Coninx, S. (2021). A New Paradigm to Understand Pain. IAI NewsBlog Post   Draft

2018

15. Coninx, S. (2018): The Frustrating Family of Pain. iCog Blog.   Blog Post   Draft

If you have any questions or comments cornerning my research projects & publications, please contact me.