The Internal Monologue

Part of the New Directions in Philosophy and Cognitive Science book series (NDPCS)


People commonly report an internal stream of words constituting their own private thoughts. Reflections come and go in the form of linguistic expressions, whether we are thinking about dinner plans, mulling over a philosophical debate, or rehearsing a discussion with another person. This phenomenon is known as inner speech. Inner speech is the experience of articulated natural language phenomena through internal auditory images and sub-vocal assertion, typically with phenomenal properties similar to one’s own voice, as if one is silently speaking to oneself.1 In this chapter, I will discuss and analyze the nature of this inner speech and the roles it plays in introspection. I will argue that a significant portion of our thoughts (namely, our conscious propositional thoughts) occur through inner speech and, consequently, that this vehicle for conscious thought provides the basis for substantial aspects of our awareness and understanding of our own minds. I will then discuss the epistemic status of inner speech, explaining how inner speech utterances exhibit a variety of different epistemic qualities, from utterances that self-constitutively determine their own truth values to the tendency of some linguistic phenomena to misguide and even deceive ourselves about the contents of our own minds.


Conscious Experience Propositional Content Conscious Thought Speech Utterance Conceptual Thought 
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Copyright information

© Jesse Butler 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Central ArkansasUSA

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