I, a philosophical zombie

I have just listened to the newest episode of the Serious Inquiry Only, which is about how peoples’ brains work differently.

SIO227: Do You Have an Internal Monologue?

… because one of your beloved hosts of SIO does not! Needless to say, this was a mind blowing realization to that person. We talk about the extraordinary differences in human internal experience, and some of the current science and philosophy on the topic.

The episode mostly focused on internal monologues, but the hosts also mentioned the fact that not everyone have a mind’s eye, and even mentioned someone on twitter who had neither an internal monologues nor a mind’s eye.

In the podcast, one of the hosts, Thomas Smith, said that people with neither an internal monologue nor a mind’s eye must be philosophical zombies.

As I understand the podcast, having an internal monologue means that there is an auditory aspect to peoples’ thought process, where they hear their thoughts as voices, either their own or someone else’s.

You might have guessed it from my description and the post’s headline, but I don’t have an internal monologue. Nor do I have a mind’s eye (I just learned that not haven’t a mind’s eye is called aphantasia,I have just always said that I’m not visual).

This means that, for me:

  • An earworm is just a song that I instantly recognize
  • I don’t visualize characters in books
  • I don’t read dialogue in the voice of the characters/people
  • For me, picture this/visualize this is just a metaphor for thinking about some

It also means for me that most memorizing techniques doesn’t work for me, since they often require the ability to visualize things.

What it doesn’t mean:

  • I am unable to make figures and diagrams that are useful

Quite contrary, I often make quite clear and useful diagrams/figures, since I have to think about how to communicate through them than people who make them “on the fly”.

  • I don’t enjoy reading

I have always read a lot, and I enjoy well written books. Unlike what some might think, I can also be affected emotionally by books.

  • I can’t improvise speeches and writing

On the rare occasions where I am giving a speech, I usually note a couple of subjects that I need to cover, and then improvise from there. When writing for my blog, I only have a faint outline of what I want to cover, before starting to read the blogpost.

Having listening to the podcast, I did realize that there probably is a connection between my lack of inner monologue, and why I don’t particular sing along songs. I much prefer to listen to the artists doing the singing, and I don’t have a inner monologue pushing me to open my own voice.

Feel free to ask questions about how my thinking process work, but do remember that I don’t have a shared experience with most of you, so I can’t describe the differences, just how I experience it.





  1. John Morales says

    Inner monologue?

    Sometimes I have it, sometimes I don’t.

    Generally, when I’m deliberating, I do.
    Generally, when I’m experiencing or reacting, I don’t.
    Other times, it depends.

    Reminiscent of the conceit that all people create a life narrative for themselves.

    In the podcast, one of the hosts, Thomas Smith, said that people with neither an internal monologue nor a mind’s eye must be philosophical zombies.


    Someone who does not understand the nature of a thought experiment.

    (Also, definitionally, PZs (heh) are supposed to be objectively indistinguishable from their converse)

  2. Paulino says

    My Internal Monologues is incessant and rather verbose. It’s a philosophical pain in the ass that won’t let me sleep.

    Fascinating subject, though, and like you said it’s very hard to imagine thinking without internal monologue and visualization.

  3. says

    When I am organizing words, I tend to monologue inside, so I can get the timing and the breaks right. Otherwise, I use whatever is the appropriate thought-stuff for whatever I am doing. If I’m making something, I think in terms of components and fit and production sequence and materials. If I am going somewhere, I think in terms of routing and waypoints. If I’m chilling and doing something entertaining, I let it flow through me (and often fall asleep) Most of the time there is no verbal thought going on, because I guess it’s too slow.

  4. nickmagerl says

    I remember well the moment when I realized I had an inner voice: I was sitting on a stoop, at age seven, with my older brother who was silently reading. I asked how he could read without saying the words ( I was just learning to read myself) and he told me to try to hear the words in my head when I looked at them.

    This is not such a big deal except that later in life I came to an understanding that we tie our ideas of self-consciousness to our ability to monitor an inner monologue by remembering that scene and others predating it. The idea that consciousness is not limited to humanity was the real game changing revelation.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    Some pop psychologists describe three modes of thinking.

    By their schema, if your thought processes do not use visual or verbal frameworks, you probably conceive of things in tactile analogies – e.g., the way Einstein recounted figuring out relativity by modeling acceleration as riding an elevator.

    Or does your mind work in a purely abstract style without sensory reference?

  6. says

    KG, I don’t know what my dreams are like. I can never remember them. I know I dream, because I sometimes wake up because of them, but they are gone as soon as I wake up.

  7. says

    Pierce, I would say closer to a purely abstract style – I do think in sentences when I focus, but I don’t hear them in any way, which is what I gather that many of the rest of you do.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    Kristjan Wager @ # 8: … I do think in sentences when I focus, but I don’t hear them in any way…

    As I plod through my verbal thinking process, I often suspect it slows me down. Does your less-encumbered mode seem to work faster than that of others?

  9. KG says

    Thanks Kristjan@7 – I wonder if the non-recall of dreams usually goes together with your aphantasia andor lack of an inner voice.