What is ‘mental action’?

Yair Levy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There has been a resurgence of interest lately within the 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)971-993
Number of pages23
JournalPhilosophical Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 18 Aug 2019


  • Mental action
  • covert action
  • embodied cognition
  • extended mind
  • overt action


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