Bodily Sensations & Intentionalism: Perception & Action
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 thereby argue against strong intentional theories presuming the existence of a certain type of intentional content necessary and sufficient for pains. On the one hand, I aim to show that strong representationalist theories of bodily sensations – inlcuding pain, itches, hunger, and sexual feelings – do not provide convincing evidence in terms of causal covariance and biological function. On the other hand, 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.
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 Draft
II. Situating Affectivity & Suffering
In my recent research, I adress the more general phenomenon of human affectivity and suffering, connecting my previous research on pain with knowledge concerning phenomena, such as grief, loneliness, or depression. This research field is of particular relevance in its application to pathological disorders. 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.
Enactivism in Clinical Medicine: The Dynamic Field of Affordances
In cooperation with Peter Stilwell, I develop an enactive approach to chronic pain and its treatment. First, 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. As such, we aim to do justice to the lived experience of patients as well as the dynamic role of behavioral learning, neural reorganization, and socio-cultural practices in the generation and maintenance of pain. Second, we show in which manners such an enactive framework may contribute to a comprehensive understanding of pain that avoids conceptual and methodological issues of reductionist and fragmented approaches. In particular, we aim to prove the relevance of the enactive framework as a heuristic in treatment.