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This article develops the idea of institution of psychic life via semiotic and expressive dynamics that crisscross and organize human life. To this end, we define a novel object of anthropological enquiry that nevertheless encompasses a range of intuitively familiar phenomena: the inner voice. This is the small voice that speaks to us, jeers, scorns, or cheers us up; the voice that resonates in our skull, mobilizes our (sub)vocal apparatus, and of which we are the main addressee. More importantly, this voice carries all the symbolic dimensions of human voice (agency, will, claim, identity) with the addition of being our intimate spokesperson. Beyond the paradox of having to tell oneself what one is supposed to already know, arise an array of phenomena that seem determinant for our very being human. Indeed, inner voice features the voice of the subject as a person and as a moral instance: since I talk to myself I entertain a dialogical relationship with myself, I am two-in-one, and I have to live up to the constraints of this coexistence (and to the pressure of the other voice). Inner voice also features what we called Alice’s workshop, i.e. medium, mnemotechnics, and field of integration and experimentation. This is the faculty for repeating, revising, rehearsing internally the normative, prescriptive, symbolic elements of our culture (language), whether in view of their consolidation, or transformation, in view of experimenting with their alternative variants, or creating novel instances – i.e. the fiction. There is a functional duality in inner speech whereby it operates both as an agent of the social world (by the use of common language and of its cultural repertory) and as a vector of individuality (autonomy of attention, intimate voice and spokesperson). On the whole, the range of phenomena encompassing the use of inner voice goes far beyond a simple modality of speech, and it is argued that inner voice has become a genuine institution of human life, and as such, is an important vector and regulator of inner and social life.
Pour citer cet article :Rosenthal Victor (2012/2). The Inner Voice. In Morgagni Simone (Eds), Semiotics and Thought, Intellectica, 58, (pp.53-90), DOI: 10.3406/intel.2012.1101.