1st Edition

Mental Action and the Conscious Mind

Edited By Michael Brent, Lisa Miracchi Titus Copyright 2023
    322 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Mental action deserves a place among foundational topics in action theory and philosophy of mind. Recent accounts of human agency tend to overlook the role of conscious mental action in our daily lives, while contemporary accounts of the conscious mind often ignore the role of mental action and agency in shaping consciousness. This collection aims to establish the centrality of mental action for discussions of agency and mind. The thirteen original essays provide a wide-ranging vision of the various and nuanced philosophical issues at stake. Among the questions explored by the contributors are:

    • Which aspects of our conscious mental lives are agential?
    • Can mental action be reduced to and explained in terms of non-agential mental states, processes, or events?
    • Must mental action be included among the ontological categories required for understanding and explaining the conscious mind more generally?
    • Does mental action have implications for related topics, such as attention, self-knowledge, self-control, or the mind-body problem?

    By investigating the nature, scope, and explanation of mental action, the essays presented here aim to demonstrate the significance of conscious mental action for discussions of agency and mind. Mental Action and the Conscious Mind will be of interest to scholars and graduate students working in philosophy of mind, philosophy of action, and philosophy of agency, as well as to philosophically inclined cognitive scientists.

    Introduction Lisa Miracchi Titus & Michael Brent

    1. Disappearing Agents, Mental Action, Rational Glue Joshua Shepherd

    2. How to Think Many Thoughts at Once: Content Plurality in Mental Action Antonia Peacocke

    3. Attending as Mental Action: Mental Action as Attending Wayne Wu

    4. The Most General Mental Act Yair Levy

    5. Mental Action and the Power of Effort Michael Brent

    6. Inference as a Mental Act David Hunter

    7. Reasoning and Mental Action Markos Valaris

    8. Modeling the Causal Efficacy of Mental Action Holly Andersen

    9. Skepticism about Self-Understanding Matthew Boyle

    10. Embodied Cognition and the Causal Roles of the Mental Lisa Miracchi Titus

    11. Two-Way Powers as Derivative Powers Andrei A. Buckareff

    12 Are Practical Decisions Mental Actions? Alfred R. Mele

    13. Self-Control, Attention, and How to Live without Special Motivational Powers Sebastian Watzl


    Michael Brent is Responsible A.I. Expert at Boston Consulting Group and Cofounding Faculty at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, USA. Previously, he was Senior Program Manager in the Office of Responsible A.I. at Microsoft Corporation and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Denver, USA. His published work has appeared in the Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Journal of Buddhist Ethics, and Philosophical Psychology.

    Lisa Miracchi Titus is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, USA, where she is also a General Robotics, Automation, Sensing, and Perception (GRASP) Lab Faculty Affiliate and a MindCORE Faculty Affiliate. Her published work has appeared in the Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness, Philosophical Psychology, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, and Synthese.