Intentional action and the post-coma patient


Drayson Z (2014) Intentional action and the post-coma patient. Topoi, 33 (1), pp. 23-31.;

The presence or absence of intentional action plays an important role in the clinical diagnosis of patients emerging from coma states. Judgments about a patient's capacity for intentional action have traditionally focused on the nature of their bodily movements, but recent neuroimaging data suggests that brain activity can be indicative of intentional action. I will suggest that this change of focus, from the interpretation of motor behaviour as intentional (bodily) action to the interpretation of neural activity as intentional (mental) action, raises philosophical issues that have not yet been addressed in the literature. In particular, I am concerned that the notion of ‘intentional mental action' is not as straightforward as the notion of ‘intentional bodily action', which leaves the neuroimaging experiments open to different interpretations. Furthermore, I suggest that the kind of neuroimaging data that would settle the question of interpretation will be difficult to obtain, partly due to the nature of intentional mental action.

Argument from volition; Consciousness; Imagination; Intention; Mental action; Vegetative state

Topoi: Volume 33, Issue 1

Publication date30/04/2014
Publication date online2013
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Publisher URL