Pain, Pleasure, and Masochism.

To some, a slap to the face may be a highly unpleasant experience; however, to others, a slap to the face may be a pleasurable experience. Those who derive pleasure from suffering physical pain are swept under the term ‘masochist’. In order for one to understand why a person would willingly subject themselves to physical pain, one needs to understand what ‘pain’ is, as well as why it is perceived and felt differently amongst human beings.


The impact an experience with pain has on one’s psychological state can heavily influence a person’s perception and interpretation of pain. It is necessary to look at the subjective psychological conditions that may influence an individual’s action or reaction although examining it through a philosophical lens can result in the realization that pain is not solely a psychological event.

My project in this piece is to question D.C. Dennett’s notion of pain by challenging his definition of pain with the case of the masochist. More particularly, I shall explore different ways of understanding a masochist’s reaction to pain by employing the modes of thinking proposed by Donald Davidson and Jennifer Hornsby.

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