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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

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Comments

Kevin

Hello! I've been reading this blog for a year or two, and it's always fascinating reading, great content. So thank you for that. This post inspired a couple of somewhat off-topic questions, though, if you're not too busy.

When you were mentioning the other common opinions about the function of language, specifically the theory that thought is the function of language, I started wondering about inner speech.

How well do you think your position explains mental language, ie Vygotsky's "inner speech"? Is inner speech also a mechanism for focusing attention? I can see how an argument could be made that inner speech might help to regulate attention, or to maintain it during distractions.

And perhaps inner speech could also have the function of enabling joint attention about a topic. If so, who are the participants that are sharing attention? Could inner speech act as a sort of synesthesia, providing a pidgin or lingua franca for disparate mental functions to direct each other's attention?

I hope you don't mind if I'm asking you to speculate outside your area of expertise. It's only idle curiosity; I was just thinking about it, and thought I'd ask for your opinion (or any other commenter's!).
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BLOGGER: I love that part about being outside my "area of expertise," as though there was something in it. I model myself after the Lil' Abner cartoonist, Al Capp who claimed to NBC radio's expert on nothing with opinions on everything.

As for inner speech, I see two kinds. One is plain old perceptual where inner speech is really just a kind of play by play comment on what you perceive. Thus, we wait for a bus and after a while step out into the street. We see it coming and think, 'coming.'

But there is also inner speech where we try to work something out. In that case it works just like a conversation in which one's thoughts direct one's attention. I think of it as internalized speech, perhaps for autobiographical reasons. I can recall as a boy reasoning things out loud. Now I have internalized that process--it is exactly the opposite of the externalization process that Chomsky's folks talk about.

Einstein denied that language had anything to do with his thoughts.He was an intense visual thinker and translated his ideas into words only after working them out.

It would be interesting to have some real data on inner speech, but such a project runs against the grain of American psychology.

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