Inner Voices: Language's Impact on Human Moral Psychology


Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships




We are language-driven creatures: when we are puzzled, we ask ourselves questions; when we need resolve, we exhort ourselves. Philosophers have tended to overlook the role that language plays in our moral psychology. Theories of self-knowledge, weakness of will, and self-deception fail to acknowledge the centrality of our linguistic nature. This study removes this blind spot. I start with the issue of self-knowledge, arguing that self-knowledge is a product of inner speech. I hypothesize an expansion of traditional attitude psychology, in the form of a linguistically controlled attitude I call "affirmation," and provide new analyses of self-deception, rationalization, and weakness of the will.