David Bain/Michael Brady

The Nature of Pain: Hedonic Tone, Motivation, and Non-Human Animals

To properly engage with the problem of evil, a better understanding of pain is needed. Hence our project seeks to answer two fundamental questions: What is pain’s point? In what sense is pain bad? This requires addressing two of pain’s most obvious but least understood aspects: its unpleasantness and its motivational force (how it drives us to injury-avoiding behaviour). For one might wonder what good pain’s unpleasantness does us. Might God not have given us injury-avoidance systems just as effective, but less unpleasant? Addressing these core questions, our project has three strands. How does pain relate to perception, whose role seems informational rather than motivational? How does pain relate to emotional suffering, which is both implicated in and intriguingly parallels physical suffering? And, crucially, how is pain illuminated by comparisons and contrasts between human and non-human pain? An interdisciplinary engagement with these questions promises to generate original and illuminating results for philosophers of religion, other theorists, and society at large.