Can there be delusions of pain?

Lisa Bortolotti, Martino Belvederi Murri

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Jennifer Radden argues that there cannot be delusional pain in depression, putting forward three arguments: the argument from falsehood, the argument from epistemic irrationality, and the argument from incongruousness. Whereas delusions are false, epistemically irrational, and incongruous with the person’s experience, feeling pain from the first-person perspective cannot be false or irrational, and is congruous with the person’s experience in depression. In this commentary on Radden’s paper, we share her scepticism about the notion of delusional pain, but we find the arguments from falsehood and incongruousness ultimately unconvincing, given that delusions are not always false or incongruous. Rather, we develop the argument from epistemic irrationality, suggesting that, although some aspects of pain (its cognitive and emotional components) may exhibit informational plasticity and other characteristics shared by mental states that can be assessed for their rationality, the sensory component of pain does not.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-172
JournalRivista internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2021


  • Pain
  • delusion
  • depression
  • epistemic irrationality
  • falsity
  • incongruousness


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