A technician explains measurements whilst a scientist explains observations.

Inner speech

Our verbal thoughts, also known as "inner speech", are a special part of the contents of our minds. Many people believe that this "inner speech" is their inner self. However, the philosophers Renee Descartes and later, Gilbert Ryle, spotted that inner speech has a problem. Descartes noticed that inner speech simply pops into mind unbidden. You can notice this too, just close your eyes and wait for an item of inner speech - it just pops into mind. Ryle went further than Descartes, he pointed out that if inner speech were truly the product of conscious "thinking" then you would need to think of a thought before you could have a thought. Try it, thoughts just pop into mind, you cant consciously think "now I am going to have a thought" because if this were "conscious" you would need to think "now I am going to think that I am going to have a thought" and before this you would need to think "now I am going to think that I am going to think that I am going to have a thought". Ryle pointed out that having conscious verbal thoughts would involve an infinity of prior thoughts (this is known as Ryle's Regress).

So inner speech is derived from the activity of some part of our brains that is not conscious. Verbal thoughts just pop into mind as this inner speech processor generates a stream of words. This means that our inner speech is only a peripheral part of our minds - it pops into mind for consideration. It is the least part of us, our true minds being this glorious space and time where we exist that is based on the data from our senses.

So why do we have inner speech? My best guess is that it is normally a way of working on our emotions, making our glands release adrenaline and other hormones to create the peripheral vasodilation and discomfort of anger or the gastric inflammation of worry etc. It is also used to rehearse social interactions and to solve problems.


Ryle, G. (1949). Concept of Mind. (Incidently, Ryle used his "regress" in an attempt to prove that mind itself does not exist!).

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