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Mad pain and Martian pain


Brief overview

Mad Pain and Martian Pain is a philosophical article written by David Kellogg Lewis. Lewis argues that a theory of pain must be able to reflect the most basic intuitions of both functionalism and identity theory. As such, he proposes the existence of two beings both in pain - one whose physical explanation of pain differs from ours and one whose reaction to pain differs from ours. Lewis states that any complete theory of the mind should be able to explain how each being is in pain.

Lewis's two forms of pain

The being with "mad pain" is human like us. The primary difference is that when his brain is in the same state we are in when we experience pain, his mind turns to mathematics and he begins to snap his fingers. He is not at all inclined to prevent the pain from occurring. Lewis ultimately goes on to explain that pain is relative to a species, implying that the man who exhibits mad pain is essentially an exception. He is in pain because, instantiated in him, is that physical state which is normally an instantiation of pain in his (our) species.

A being with "Martian pain" is one who, subject to pain, will react in the same way that we do. He is strongly inclined to prevent whatever stimulus is causing discomfort. However, the physical explanation of Martian pain is different from that of human pain. He has a "hydraulic mind" and pain causes inflation of cavities in his feet. Lewis suggests that the Martian is indeed in pain, because, instantiated in him is the filler of the relevant functional role for pain in that species: inflation of the cavities in the feet.


Those who hold that the intuitions behind identity theory need not be respected are free to disagree with Lewis, and to say that "mad pain" need not be permitted or explained by a theory of pain. Equally, those who hold that the intuitions behind functionalism need not be respected are free to say that they see no reason why the Martian's 'pain' should be accepted as real pain.

See also

  • Pain
  • Philosophy of the mind
  • David Kellogg Lewis


  • Lewis, David. 1980. 'Mad pain and Martian pain', in Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology, Vol. I. N. Block, ed., Harvard University Press, 1980, pp. 216-222.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Mad_pain_and_Martian_pain". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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