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Theoretical Issues Arising From Recent Research On Pain And Pain Empathy

Workshop with Frederique de Vignemont and John Michael.

Info about event


Monday 7 October 2013,  at 13:30 - 17:00


Campus Aarhus, Nobelparken, building 1483-3, IMC meeting room


John Michael, Copenhagen University

About the workshop:

In a series of papers Frederique De Vignemont (in collaboration with Tania Singer and Pierre Jacob), has developed the view that empathy involves interpersonal similarity between an empathizer and a target person with respect to their internal affective states. In doing so, she has homed in on a specific type of empathy, namely empathy for pain, and proposed a theory of the neural substrate of pain empathy.

In this workshop, she will respond to objections that have recently been raised by John Michael and Francesca Fardo (In press), and outline her revised theory. The one objection pertains to difficulties surrounding the notion of interpersonal similarity, i.e. whether the relevant similarity must be in the type of affective state, the intentional object of the state, or both. The second objection pertains to De Vignemont’s interpretation of the research on the neural underpinnings of pain. In the past few years, the concept of the “pain matrix”, upon which De Vignemont’s theory rests, has been criticized on the grounds that the different brain structures gathered together under this label in fact make up a functional catch-all that is not specific to pain at all, but rather to stimulus salience regardless of sensory modality.

Frederique de Vignemont works in philosophy of cognitive science. Her training has been both in philosophy (at the Jean-Nicod Institute, Paris and at the department of philosophy, NYU) and in cognitive science (at the Institute of Cognitive Science, Lyon and at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, London). Her current work is twofold. First, she works on bodily self-awareness, and in particular on the sense of bodily ownership. Her second main interest concerns the relationship between self and other, and in particular empathy and shared representations between self and other. She is currently finishing a book entitled "Mind the body" to appear in Oxford University Press. 

Frederique de Vignemont