This is the context:

would say that the science of consciousness is extremely challenging and that in the context of trying to make operational evaluations of patients, that is, when trying to determine if they are conscious or not, we don’t have a standard model—I don’t even think there’s a dogma (the idea of a standard model here is laughable). So, while we do have measurements and some operational approaches, and while we certainly know in a casual sense when somebody’s conscious, it is very difficult to demonstrate that a comatose patient who starts to recover but inconsistently responds is actually conscious. If the patient never responds, could he/she be—or become—conscious? Is the patient conscious now and we just don’t realize it? We’re getting better tools that provide measures for approximating probabilities of a state of consciousness.

source: The enigma of human consciousness.New York Academy of Sciences.

What is the meaning of "inconsistently" in this context? Does it mean "not regular" or "erratic"? Or could it mean "incompatible" or "discrepant", for example?

  • are there any other meanings of "inconsistent" that are confusing you?
    – James K
    Dec 7, 2019 at 17:08
  • @JamesK doesn't "inconsistent" mean incompatible or discrepant, for example? Dec 7, 2019 at 18:04

1 Answer 1


Look at the situation. We are talking about the difficulty in deciding if a person in a coma is "conscious", particularly when they have "inconsistent" responses.

Now how could a comatose patient give "inconsistent" responses. Surely this must mean "sometimes they give a strong response, sometimes they give a weak or no response" It is this inconsistency that makes judging the level of consciousness difficult. So inconsistent means "not dependable" or "erratic"

It can't mean "incompatible", because there is nothing stated or implied for the response to be incompatible with.

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