The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self

Overview

We’re used to thinking about the self as an independent entity, something that we either have or are. In The Ego Tunnel, philosopher Thomas Metzinger claims otherwise: No such thing as a self exists. The conscious self is the content of a model created by our brain—an internal image, but one we cannot experience as an image. Everything we experience is “a virtual self in a virtual reality.”

But if the self is not “real,” why and how did it evolve? How does the brain construct ...

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The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self

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Overview

We’re used to thinking about the self as an independent entity, something that we either have or are. In The Ego Tunnel, philosopher Thomas Metzinger claims otherwise: No such thing as a self exists. The conscious self is the content of a model created by our brain—an internal image, but one we cannot experience as an image. Everything we experience is “a virtual self in a virtual reality.”

But if the self is not “real,” why and how did it evolve? How does the brain construct it? Do we still have souls, free will, personal autonomy, or moral accountability? In a time when the science of cognition is becoming as controversial as evolution, The Ego Tunnel provides a stunningly original take on the mystery of the mind.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Library Journal
“Metzinger's intended audience is the lay reader, and he does a superb job of presenting his theory and introducing philosophical issues related to consciousness.”

Booklist
"Groundbreaking. This sophisticated understanding of the brain as an ego machine accounts remarkably well for the lived experience of being someone, a someone who transforms a bombardment of stimuli into a seamless present while still engaging in off-line planning for the future and reflection on the past."

Bookforum
“Metzinger is crisp in his arguments and has a keen appreciation of essential ideas.”

Publishers Weekly

Consciousness, mind, brain, self: the relations among these four entities are explored by German cognitive scientist and theoretical philosopher Metzinger, who argues that, in fact, "there is no such thing as a self." In prose accessible mainly to those schooled in philosophy and science, Metzinger defines the ego as the phenomenal self, which knows the world experientially as it "subjectively appear[s] to you." But neuroscientific experiments have demonstrated, among other things, that the unitary sense of self is a subjective representation: for instance, one can be fooled into feeling sensations in a detached artificial arm. So the author argues that the ego is a "tunnel" that bores into reality and limits what you can see, hear, smell and feel. Metzinger tests his theory by ranging over events of the consciousness such as out-of-body experiences, lucid dreaming and free will, and he concludes by probing ethical actions and what a good state of consciousness would look like. Most readers will have difficulty penetrating Metzinger's ideas, and those who do will find little that is genuinely new. (Apr.)

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Library Journal

For Metzinger (director, Theoretical Philosophy Group, Johannes Gutenberg Univ.; Being No One) the mind/body dichotomy will never be solved until we admit that our notion of a "self" does not exist. He explains that the self is created by our consciousness to make sense of the physical world. This process is what Metzinger calls the "Ego Tunnel." The Ego Tunnel takes our experiences of the outside world and organizes them for our understanding. Humans developed a notion of a self from this process because we determined that there must be someone who is having these experiences. According to Metzinger, research in neuroscience is finding that our actions, which feel like intentions, may be a product of brain states. These findings have begun to unravel our belief in the self and will in turn lead to a deeper understanding of brain functions and conscious thoughts. Metzinger's intended audience is the lay reader, and he does a superb job of presenting his theory and introducing philosophical issues related to consciousness. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.
—Scott Duimstra

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465020690
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 7/27/2010
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,373,685
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Metzinger directs the Theoretical Philosophy Group at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, and is an Adjunct Fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Study. He is the former president of the German Cognitive Science Society and one of the founders of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness. He has written and edited eight books, among them Being No One; Conscious Experience; and Neural Correlates of Consciousness. He lives in Germany.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

Part 1 The Consciousness Problem

1 The Appearance of a World 15

2 A Tour of the Tunnel 25

The Unity of Consciousness 66

Part 2 Ideas and Discoveries

3 Out of the Body and into the Mind: Body Image, Out-of-Body Experiences, and the Virtual Self 75

4 From Ownership to Agency to Free Will 115

5 Philosophical Psychonautics: What can we Learn from Lucid Dreaming? 133

Dreaming 149

6 The Empathic Ego 163

The Shared Manifold 174

Part 3 The Consciousness Revolution

7 Artificial Ego Machines 187

8 Consciousness Technologies and the Image of Humankind 207

9 A New Kind of Ethics 219

Notes 241

Index 261

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