Pain as a Subjective and Objective Phenomenon

  • Wim DekkersEmail author
Living reference work entry


Pain belongs to human life. Although pain is not a medical phenomenon per se, reflections on pain touch upon the philosophical foundations of medicine. Pain confronts us with basic questions such as the tension between an objective and a subjective approach, the concept of brain disease, human consciousness, and the relationship between body and mind. In this contribution, pain is placed in the context of the philosophy of medicine. Attention will be paid to some basic medical-biological and behavioral theories about pain and their underlying presuppositions. For about four decades, several holistic approaches of pain have existed. It appears that the meaning of pain is hard to understand from a scientific perspective. Pain is a sensory and emotional experience, the quality of which is difficult to express in words. Pain is a mystery; it cannot be explained as having just a signaling function. It has also an ontological and an existential dimension.


Chronic Pain Palliative Care Pain Sensation McGill Pain Questionnaire Phantom Limb Pain 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IQ Healthcare, Radboud University Medical CenterNijmegenThe Netherlands

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