50th Annual Cincinnati Philosophy Colloquium


March 28 - 29, 2014 University of Cincinnati

Sponsored by the Department of Philosophy and the Charles Phelps Taft Research Center

Free and Open to the Public.

Keynote Speaker and Don Gustafson Memorial Lecture: Peter Carruthers, University of Maryland "The Contents and Causes of Inner Speech"

Picture of Peter Carruthers, University of Maryland

Peter Carruthers, University of Maryland

Friday, March 28, 3:45 PM - 5:00 PM

This talk argues that inner speech should be understood within the broader framework of motor imagery, and that it shares many of the properties of overt speech. It is created by attending to sensory forward models of low-level motor instructions, and is processed and interpreted in the normal way. Like outer speech, it is heard as expressing attitudes of various kinds, with the results bound into a sensory event-file as part of the latter's content. Inner speech is guided by many of the same goals as overt speech, and shows similar pragmatic effects. Moreover, although it seems to us introspectively that inner speech is sometimes passive in nature (as when thoughts seem to "pop into our minds", especially during episodes of mind-wandering), in fact it is always under intentional control, just as is overt speech.

Gary Lupyan, University of Wisconsin, Madison "Language Augmented Cognition"

Picture of Gary Lupyan, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Gary Lupyan, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Saturday, March 29, 3:45 PM - 5:00 PM


It is sometimes claimed that human cognition draws on conceptual universals or depends on a symbolic "language of thought" natural language simply mapping on to this pre-existing structure. On this view, thought without language is difficult to share but is essentially unchanged. One alternative is that thought happens in natural language. I will provide empirical evidence for another possibility: that normal human cognition is language augmented cognition. On this view, learning and using language modulates basic cognitive and perceptual mechanisms that humans share with other animals and may be critically involved in enabling aspects of human cognition that are unique to humans. Within the framework of language augmented cognition, words and larger linguistic constructions are cognitive operators. Turned outward, language is used to program the minds of others. Turned inward, language in the form of overt utterances and covert inner speech is used to program our own minds

Peter Langland-Hassan & Christopher Gauker, University of Cincinnati: "Does Inner Speech Play a Role in Metacognition or Conceptual Thought? Some Preliminary Results from People with Aphasia."

Picture of Peter Langland-Hassan and Christopher Gauker

Peter Langland-Hassan and Christopher Gauker

Saturday, March 29, 2:15 - 3:30 PM


Some theorists have proposed that inner speech plays an important role in metacognition—that is, in making one aware of one's own thoughts.  Others have claimed that inner speech supports or enables conceptual or "abstract" thought.  We have developed a paradigm for testing both of these claims with an experiment involving people with aphasia, who have deficits in inner speech.  Goals and assumptions of the study will be discussed, and some preliminary data will be presented.

Edouard Machery, University of Pittsburgh: "Desires, Beliefs, and Inner Speech"

Picture of Edouard Machery, University of Pittsburgh

Edouard Machery, University of Pittsburgh

Friday, March 28, 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM

Desires and beliefs manifest themselves differently in inner speech. This talk will examine the implications of this phenomenological fact for the nature of beliefs and desires.

Casey Oâ Callaghan, Rice University: "On Hearing Meanings"

Picture of Casey O'Callaghan, Rice University

Casey O'Callaghan, Rice University

Friday, March 28, 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM


This talk develops constraints and consequences of the claim that it is possible to perceptually represent meanings or semantic properties of spoken utterances, including consequences for certain theoretical appeals to inner speech.

Anna Papafragou, University of Delaware: "Interactions between Language and Thought"

Picture of Anna Papafragou, University of Delaware

Anna Papafragou, University of Delaware

Saturday, March 29, 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM

Language draws from basic, probably universal, elements of perceptual/cognitive structure. Nevertheless, little is known about how cognition maps onto language production. Furthermore, languages differ in terms of how they segment and package objects and events. This cross-linguistic variation raises the question whether the language one speaks could affect the way one thinks about the world. This talk addresses how cognition interfaces with language, paying special attention to the encoding of events. Our studies reveal remarkable similarities in the way events are perceived, remembered and categorized despite differences in how events are encoded cross-linguistically. Nevertheless, our studies also suggest a role for language in augmenting and retaining event representations (through a form of 'inner speech').

Agustín Vicente, University of the Basque Country & Fernando Martínez-Manrique, University of Granada: "Inner Speech: What is It?"

Picture of Agustín Vicente & Fernando Martínez-Manrique

Agustín Vicente & Fernando Martínez-Manrique

Saturday, March 29, 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM

In this talk we want to address the issue of what inner speech is. This issue has many different facets, including the questions of (i) what kind of representations are engaged in inner speech; (ii) how inner speech is produced; (iii) what mechanisms make it conscious; (iv) what particular features it has at different levels of description; and, finally, (v) what functions it serves (i.e. what it is from a functional point of view). We think that, at this stage, we are far from having an account of inner speech which can respond to all these questions, but progress has been made in at least some of them. We will explore all these different dimensions of inner speech, raising issues here and there. However, the main focus of the talk is the functional dimension of the inner speech phenomenon. We will argue that most extant accounts, which hold that inner speech is an instrument for conscious thinking, are misguided. We will suggest that inner speech is the result of the recruitment of an activity, speech, which serves many different functions, only one (or some) of them being related to conscious thinking. We conclude that inner speech should not be seen as an instrument for conscious thought in any strict sense.

Kritika Yegnashankaran, Bard College: "Inner Speech as an Active Use of Language"

Picture of Kritika Yegnashankaran, Bard College

Kritika Yegnashankaran, Bard College

Friday, March 28, 2:15 PM - 3:30 PM

Two different conceptions of inner speech coexist within philosophical and psychological treatments: a passive conception, and an active conception. On the passive conception, inner speech is a state that individuals can become aware of but do not control. On the active conception, inner speech is an activity that individuals initiate and control. Elsewhere I argue that we are forced to countenance the active conception of inner speech because we are forced to countenance an active form of reasoning that occurs in inner speech. Here I focus on an important consequence of the active conception of inner speech, namely that the semantic content of inner speech can be specified as a non-communicative use of natural language. A strength of this account is that it unifies semantic content for both sentential and abbreviated inner speech. A potential weakness is that it makes the connection between active and passive inner speech mysterious.

Colloquium Schedule

Friday March 28: Stratford Heights Banquet Room 2634 Stratford Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45220

9:30 – 10:45:  Casey O’Callaghan, Rice University:  “On Hearing Meanings”

11:00 – 12:15:  Edouard Machery, University of Pittsburgh:  “Desires, Beliefs, and Inner Speech”

12:15 --2:15 (lunch)

2:15 – 3:30:  Kritika Yegnashankaran, Bard College:  “Inner Speech as an Active Use of Language”

3:45 – 5:00:  Keynote and Don Gustafson Memorial Lecture:  Peter Carruthers, University of Maryland: “The Contents and Causes of Inner Speech”


Saturday March 29: 407 Annie Laws, Teachers College 2602 McMicken Circle Cincinnati, OH 45221

9:30 – 10:45:  Agustín Vicente, University of the Basque Country & Fernando Martínez-Manríque, University of Granada:  “Inner Speech: What is It?"

11:00 – 12:15:   Anna Papafragou, University of Delaware:  “Interactions Between Language and Thought”

12:15 --2:15 (lunch)

2:15 – 3:30:  Peter Langland-Hassan & Christopher Gauker, University of Cincinnati:  “Does Inner Speech Facilitate Metacognition or Conceptual Thought?  Some Preliminary Results from People with Aphasia.”

3:45 – 5:00:  Gary Lupyan, University of Wisconsin, Madison: "Language Augmented Cognition"