A mental event is a particular occurrence of something going on in the mind or mind substitute that make up the conscious mind of an individual. It can be a thought, a dream, a feeling, a realization, or any other mental activity. Some believe that mental events are not limited to human thought but can be associated with animal and artificial intelligence as well. The issue of whether mental events are identical with complex physical events, or whether such an identity even makes sense, is central to the mind-body problem.
Mental events often occur because of physical events, however, physical events do not always occur because of mental events.
However, some see such a distinction as erroneous, and state that the mental and the physical are the very same property which cause any event(s).
- Mary is walking through a park and she sees and recognizes City Hall. This instance of seeing and recognizing City Hall is an instance of perception—something that is supposed to be going on in Mary's mind. That instance of perception is a mental event. It is an event because it is something that happens, and it is mental because it happens in Mary's mind.
- Mary feels happy after doing well on an exam and she smiles. This thought is a mental event. The smile is a physical event.
- A killer whale recognized a feeling of hunger. It eats a fish. The recognition of the feeling of hunger is a mental event. Eating the fish is the physical event.
- The Mental Life of Plants and Worms, Among Others Oliver Sacks April 24, 2014 issue New York Review of Books