Sharing Pain: A Command for Concern
When a person communicates that they are in pain, it is often assumed that the speaker is providing an assertion or report. Call this the cognitivist stance of pain utterances. Nevertheless, many sentential pain utterances seem to have both indicative and imperative communicative content in virtue of expressing both the speaker's pain belief and the pain experience, respectively. I call this hybrid expressivism about pain. I argue, if pain functions as an experiential command, then given the communicative content of pain utterances, they typically function as a secondary command. I identify, "Be concerned!," as the imperative expressed by both a felt pain and a pain utterance. I specifically use 'concern' to refer to the (1) attention, (2) beholdenness to the promotion of one's well-being, and (3) action when otherwise appropriate that is typically demanded by pain.
Jada Wiggleton-Little is a Neuroethics Fellow at Cleveland Clinic and an incoming Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Ohio State (starting August 2024). She primarily works in philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and clinical ethics. She is especially interested in how these areas interest as it relates to pain. Her research is focused on pain communications, particularly in the context of racial and gender disparities in pain management.