Bayes and the first person: consciousness of thoughts, inner speech and probabilistic inference

Synthese 195 (5):2113-2140 (2018)
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On a widely held view, episodes of inner speech provide at least one way in which we become conscious of our thoughts. However, it can be argued, on the one hand, that consciousness of thoughts in virtue of inner speech presupposes interpretation of the simulated speech. On the other hand, the need for such self-interpretation seems to clash with distinctive first-personal characteristics that we would normally ascribe to consciousness of one’s own thoughts: a special reliability; a lack of conscious ambiguity and incomprehensibility; and a sense of causal agency. I try to resolve this puzzle by proposing an account for the requisite self-interpretation of inner speech in terms of Bayesian probabilistic inference. Drawing on “perceptual loop” accounts of speech control, I argue that such interpretive probabilistic inferences are used for the control of inner speech, and that as a consequence of this function, they are biased toward the correct interpretations. I conclude by showing how this model can explain the first-personal characteristics of consciousness of one’s own thoughts. In the case of the sense of causal agency, the resulting explanation yields novel accounts for “audible thoughts” and thought insertion.



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Franz Knappik
University of Bergen

References found in this work

The Predictive Mind.Jakob Hohwy - 2013 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
The Modularity of Mind.Robert Cummins & Jerry Fodor - 1983 - Philosophical Review 94 (1):101.

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