Mind‐wandering: A philosophical guide

Philosophy Compass 15 (1):e12644 (2020)
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Philosophers have long been fascinated by the stream of consciousness – thoughts, images, and bits of inner speech that dance across the inner stage. Yet for centuries, such ‘mind‐wandering' was deemed private and thus resistant to empirical investigation. Recent developments in psychology and neuroscience have reinvigorated scientific interest in the stream of thought. Despite this flurry of progress, scientists have stressed that mind‐wandering research requires firmer philosophical foundations. The time is therefore ripe for the philosophy of mind‐wandering. Our review begins with a foundational question: What is mind‐wandering? We then investigate the significance of mind‐wandering for general philosophical topics, namely, mental action, introspection, and the norms of thinking and attention.



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Zachary C. Irving
University of Virginia

Citations of this work

Mental action.Antonia Peacocke - 2021 - Philosophy Compass 16 (6):e12741.
Flow and the dynamics of conscious thought.Joshua Shepherd - 2022 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 21 (4):969-988.
Explicating Agency: The Case of Visual Attention.Denis Buehler - 2023 - Philosophical Quarterly 73 (2):379-413.
Prolegomena to a phenomenology of mind-wandering.Saulius Geniusas - forthcoming - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences:1-20.

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Knowledge and Its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Philosophy 76 (297):460-464.
Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 64 (1):200-201.
Verbal Disputes.David J. Chalmers - 2011 - Philosophical Review 120 (4):515-566.

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