In a recent paper, Gray, Knickman, and Wegner (2011) present three experiments which they take to show that people judge patients in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) to have less mental capacity than the dead. They explain this result by claiming that people have implicit dualist or afterlife beliefs. This essay critically evaluates their experimental findings and their proposed explanation. We argue first that the experiments do not support the conclusion that people intuitively think PVS patients have less mentality than the dead. And second, we provide an alternative explanation of our ascriptions of mentality to the dead and PVS patients, one which turns on Epicurean considerations about the nature of death.
- Mind Perception
- Persistent Vegetative State (PVS)