Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 255–262 | Cite as

Pain and communication

  • Stan van Hooft


It is frequently said that pain is incommunicable and even that it “destroys language”. This paper offers a phenomenological account of pain and then explores and critiques this view. It suggests not only that pain is communicable to an adequate degree for clinical purposes, but also that it is itself a form of communication through which the person in pain appeals to the empathy and ethical goodness of the clinician. To explain this latter idea and its ethical implications, reference is made to the writings of Emmanuel Levinas.

communication empathy ethics Levinas pain 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stan van Hooft
    • 1
  1. 1.Philosophy, Faculty of ArtsDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia

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