01 May 2004

Talk II

---Here's a brief explanation of the dialectic of the point Adam and Denis(?) were pressing with part of my response, please leave any comments you may have---
---Other readers: This discusses without defining a bunch of theses and views; it will therefore probably be nearly unintelligible to those not at the talk.--

The ease with which the intuitively plausible Kernel View dismissed suggests that PHENOMENOLOGY, SELF CONTAINMENT and TRANSPORTABILITY, did not capture the picture underlying the Kernel View. Perhaps the Kernel View, as I have described it, was a strawman.

The obvious concern is that the Kernel View never was committed to TRANSPORTABILITY. Why should we think, the proponent of the Kernel View might ask, that just because the same stimulus is present in each of two contrast cases, the phenomenology is the same? If the essence of the Kernel View is the intuition that pains are bad because they hurt, it seems that PHENOMENOLOGY and SELF CONTAINMENT are essential. But why add the problematic TRANSPORTABILITY?

Eliminating TRANSPORTABILITY from the Kernel View permits easy rejoinders to many of my arguments. Consider the argument from attention (Section I.A) where I claimed that the Kernel View is committed to the same pain persisting between attention and distraction. But why not simply say that the pain feels different in each case? Why should the Kernel View assume that the same pain is present in each case? While TRANSPORTABILITY plausibly captures an intuitive atomistic dimension of pain, perhaps the cost of including it in the Kernel View is too high.

Abandoning TRANSPORTABILITY would help rehabilitate pain kernels as the basis of the intrinsic badness of pain. If the phenomenology associated with a particular stimulus is labile enough to vary from context to context, then the contextual elements I have identified could serve to explain why the pain feels as it does in a particular case. Differences in contextual elements would then explain why the same stimulus produces pains which feel differently in each of my contrast cases. The badness of the pain might then still depend entirely on how a pain kernel feels as described by PHENOMENOLOGY and SELF CONTAINMENT.

But in thusly revising the Kernel View, it is important to be clear about an ambiguity in what ‘how the pain feels’ and ‘phenomenology’ are referring to. A wide reading of ‘phenomenology’ takes the phenomenology of pain to include the felt components of the conative, affective, and desiderative contextual elements. In a sense, this would make the phenomenology of pain like the phenomenology of audition. Just as a heard sound has pitch, volume, timbre, and density (etc), a felt pain might be thought to have sensory, affective, conative, and doxastic (etc), qualities.

The Revised Kernel View cannot accept this wide reading of ‘phenomenology’. Since variation in these qualities of a felt pain affect its intrinsic badness, this is simply a form of the Iceberg View. It could be a form of the narrow version on which ‘pain’ refers to any phenomenological quality of the pain, or it could be the wide version as written.

Instead, this Revised Kernel View must retain the narrow reading of ‘phenomenology’ that restricts the role of non-sensory contextual elements to affecting the sensory quality of the pain. It is logically possible to claim that these other elements are present in phenomenal consciousness but are not part of the phenomenology of the pain, but that would be implausible. The Revised Kernel View must therefore claim that the other contextual elements are not themselves present in phenomenal consciousness but influence how the (sensory component of the) pain feels. It must be that the pains in each of my contrast cases simply differ in their sensory qualities (where these are those aspects of pain experience described by adjectives such as [insert from McGill Q]). The tenability of the Revised Kernel View thus rests on an empirical issue: Do the pains in my cases differ in their sensory components?

As the empirical literature suggests, there are more quantifiable aspects to the experience of pain which influence its badness than simply the sensory qualities. Thus I submit that the Revised Kernel View is false. Unfortunately, since there are some important issues lurking here about how to interpret the scientific data, the case is admittedly not air-tight.