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, hunger, itches, anger, or sadness. This phenomenal character fixes the class of those phenomena to be considered pains. This is merely the starting point. Most researchers ultimately aim to explain and predict the circumstances under which pains occur. In order 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 respective field of research different types of properties  are under consideration. The guiding question of my research project has been to investigate 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 insights.

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 with different commitments under different labels – phenomenal quality, qualitative character, or quale. In a subproject, I address the question of how to analyze said feeling. 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 Article

Coninx, S. (2021): A Multidimensional Phenomenal Space for Pain: Structure, Primitiveness, and Utility. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences.   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: 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  argue against strong intentionalist theories presuming the existence of a certain type of intentional content necessary and  sufficient for pains. 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    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 Resemblances

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

Monography

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 adress the more general phenomenon of human affectivity and suffering, connecting my previous research on pain with knowledge concerning other affective phenomena, including grief, loneliness, or 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

I consider the application of concepts of situated approaches to affective phenomena as promising. This requires, however, a detailed understanding of such concepts and their differentiated application to specific subject areas. In cooperation with Prof. Achim Stephan, I argue that the concept of scaffolding can contribute to a better understanding of our affective live 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 fields of application that are commonly overlooked. Further, I a currently working on a new paper on the negative and harmful aspects of niche construction across differnt spatio-temporal units of analysis.

Related Publications

Research Article

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


 

Enactivism in Pain Management

In cooperation with Peter Stilwell, I develop an enactive approach to chronic pain and its treatment. 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. 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. Recently, we develop two follow-up projects, providing an in-depth understanding of the implications of an enactive view on chronic pain for pain research and management.

Related Publications

Research Article

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

Others

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

 

III. Social Understanding: Models & Mindreading

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, reliability. On this basis, we argue that mindreading constitutes a core epiststrategy in human social life that opens new spheres of social understanding. Further, we provide an account of the relation between different epistemic strategies which integrates and demarks the role of mindreading and other epistemic strategies for 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 43, 341-3047.   Publication



IV. Pain Reports & Experimental Philosophy

In collaboration with Pascale Willemsen & Kevin Reuter, I address the question of what pain reports express. Traditonally, the debate is divided into representatives of the mental and bodily view. In recent years, pluralistic approaches have become more popular. We are mainly concerned with the question to what extent (mental and bodily) contexts can affect our way of interpreting the implications of pain reports.

Publications

 Monography

2020

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

 [Based on the PhD thesis of the same name; submitted 2019] 

 Peer-Reviewed Research Articles

 2021

 2. Coninx, S.: The Notorious Neurophilosophy of Pain: A Family Resemblance
 
Approach  to Idiosyncrasy and Generalizability.  Mind & Language.   Publication

3. Coninx, S.: A Multidimensional Phenomenal Space for Pain: Structure,  Primitiveness,
 and Utility. Phenomenology and the Cognitive SciencesPublication

4. Coninx, S.: Strong Representationalism and Bodily Sensations: Reliable  Causal
 Covariance and Biological Function. Philosophical Psychology, 34(2), 210-232.
 Publication   Draft

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

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

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

 2020

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

 2018

 9. 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. Publication

Commentaries

2020

 10. 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

2021

11. 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

 2018

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

13. 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.