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The Nature of Pain: An Interdisciplinary Perspective

Prof. Colin Klein
Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia


Prof. Albert Newen
Institut für Philosophie II

Prof. Colin Klein

Prof. Colin Klein is Senior Lecturer at the Macquarie University in Sydney and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow. In January 2018, he will join the Philosophy Department at the Australian National University in Canberra as an Associate Professor, and participate in the recently founded Center for Philosophy of Sciences. He is engaged in various projects spanning the field of philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychology and philosophy of science. As one of his primary fields of research, Prof. Klein defends an original theory of physical pain which opens up new perspectives on the phenomenon in the philosophical debate. According to his account of pure imperativism, pain can be defined exhaustively in terms of bodily commands demanding the subject to protect a certain part of the body. Thus, the body functions as a practical authority that gives for instance the order to avoid putting weight on a sprained ankle or to keep a burned hand from being touch. The innovative aspect of his account bases on the fact that he proposes a content of pain that is imperative. This means that pain does not represent a certain state of the body, such as tissue damage. Instead, it that it motivates protective behavior that, on the whole, prevents the occurrence of physiological damage. As such, he offers an alternative opposite to the widely distributed and recently still predominant model of perceptual-representational accounts. Moreover, Prof. Klein is engaged in the philosophy of agency, consciousness and animal cognition.

The Project

The co-cooperation between Colin Klein and researchers from the Institut für Philosophie II (Ruhr-Universität), especially hosted by Prof. Albert Newen and Sabrina Coninx, provided through the VIP-Grant of the Research School enables the establishing of a common pain project. In the course of it, various highly debated issues – such as the necessity of an intentional content for pain, the relevance of behavioral, bodily and social aspects in its processing and the relation to psychological pain - shall be addressed. Moreover, this co-operation includes supervisory support for PhD-students, such as Sabrina Coninx, who intends to develop an integrated and dynamical pattern theory of pain. Finally, joint conferences on the topic of pain and emotion located at the University of Bochum as well as a general strengthening of relations to the Australian National University are projected.

Previous Events

On the 20th September 2017, the workshop ‘The Nature of Pain: An Interdisciplinary Perspective’ took place in Bochum. The aim of the workshop has been to bring together neuroscientists, experimental psychologists and philosophers of different sub-disciplines to discuss the nature of pain and the possibilities of co-operations. Colin Klein as one of the keynote speakers presented his work upon ‘An Interspecies Perspective on the Dimensions of Pain’. He thereby discussed the question whether animals are able to experience pain while including considerations about the consciousness of fishes and insects.




Colin Klein stayed in Bochum from the 18th to the 24th September and offered various researchers, particularly PhD students, the opportunity to discuss their own work with him. Moreover, he participated in the ‘Philosophy of Mind and Language Conference’ which took place in Bochum from the 21st to the 23rd September.


Further visits of Prof. Klein in Bochum and visits of Sabrina Coninx and Prof. Newen in Australia are planned for 2018 and 2019.