Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

2011 Edition
| Editors: Henrik Lagerlund


  • Simo Knuuttila
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9729-4_368


The Latin word dolor, as it is used in medieval philosophy, can refer to simple physical pain or to an emotion of the sensory soul. According to Thomas Aquinas, physical pain is an unpleasant experience of something repugnant to the body; emotional pain of the sensory part of the soul is a reaction to an experience of something taking place against sensory appetite. This analysis was introduced by Plato and was often repeated in ancient sources of medieval philosophy. While medieval thinkers usually regarded physical pain as supervenient on immediate bodily sensations, some of them followed Avicenna in arguing that physical pleasure and pain are also felt directly and should be added to the touch qualities. Avicenna distinguished between 15 sorts of bodily pain. Latin authors usually located the experience of physical pleasure and pain in the sensory moving power which was also the seat of the emotions. This was in line with the Aristotelian view that nature had provided all animals with the sense of touch in order to keep them away from what is harmful – pain immediately triggered avoidance.

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Primary Sources

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simo Knuuttila
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of TheologyUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland