A great deal of the theory of mind is based upon supposedly obvious observations about our mental states. E.g. that they are immediately available, or that they are introspectable, at least in theory.
It seems obvious that the functions of the nervous system that ultimately control truly autonomous functions like peristalsis are not aspects of one's mental state. But someone recently suggested that the unconscious adaptations that keep one from stepping on rocks at the beach should be such.
These seem to stake out a vague borderland in the middle of which falls something like breathing, as something we can control at will, but usually don't, never learned or decided much about, and almost never notice. When we wait "with 'bated breath", we have made an unconscious decision not to breathe right then. But is that an element of our 'mental state'?
I can't say I could consider any of these processes even close to 'mental'. Mental-ness seems to involve will and decisions, but only ones that eventually become conscious. Still, I cannot say on what basis I would place those constraints, or where my favored position actually comes from.
What, if anything, have various schools of thought put forward as a 'litmus test' for whether something is or is not a mental state, and what are their respective justifications for their chosen definitions?
Is there a useful continuum of 'mental-ness' that clarifies or points up the sticking points between different basic positions or theories?