What is ‘mental action’?

Philosophical Psychology 32 (6):971-993 (2019)
  Copy   BIBTEX


There has been a resurgence of interest lately within philosophy of mind and action in the category of mental action. Against this background, the present paper aims to question the very possibility, or at least the theoretical significance, of teasing apart mental and bodily acts. After raising some doubts over the viability of various possible ways of drawing the mental act/bodily act distinction, the paper draws some lessons from debates over embodied cognition, which arguably further undermine the credibility of the distinction. The insignificance of the distinction is demonstrated in part by showing how the focus on ‘inner’ acts hampers fruitful discussion of Galen Strawson’s skepticism of mental agency. Finally, the possibility is discussed that a distinction between covert and overt action should supplant the one between mental and bodily action.

Similar books and articles

Action Unified.Yair Levy - forthcoming - Philosophical Quarterly:pqv056.
Mental Action and Causalism.Jing Zhu - 2007 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 28 (2):89.
How (not) to think about mental action.Andrei A. Buckareff - 2005 - Philosophical Explorations 8 (1):83-89.
Meditation and the Scope of Mental Action.Michael Brent & Candace Upton - 2019 - Philosophical Psychology 32 (1):52-71.
The Instrumental Structure of Actions.Markos Valaris - 2015 - Philosophical Quarterly 65 (258):64-83.
The Power of Agency.Michael Brent - 2012 - Dissertation, Columbia University
Consciousness in act and action.Keith Hossack - 2003 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 2 (3):187-203.
On Action.Carl Ginet - 1990 - Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Volition and basic action.Hugh McCann - 1974 - Philosophical Review 83 (4):451-473.
Animal Mental Action: Planning Among Chimpanzees.Angelica Kaufmann - 2015 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 6 (4):745-760.
Mental Action and Self-Awareness.Christopher Peacocke - 2006 - In Jonathan D. Cohen & Brian P. McLaughlin (eds.), Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Mind. Blackwell.
Mental acts as natural kinds.Joëlle Proust - 2013 - In Till Vierkant, Julian Kieverstein & Andy Clark (eds.), Decomposing the Will. Oxford University Press. pp. 262-282.


Added to PP

841 (#15,324)

6 months
222 (#8,771)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Yair Levy
Tel Aviv University

Citations of this work

Embodying Mental Affordances.Jelle Bruineberg & Jasper van den Herik - 2021 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-21.
Imagination, Endogenous Attention, and Mental Agency.Tom Cochrane - 2023 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 1:1-21.

Add more citations