The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self
This is a radical rethinking of the nature of consciousness. "The Ego Tunnel", a major work from one of the brightest of the new generation of philosophers of mind, proposes a simple yet radical rethinking of the nature of consciousness and a fascinating and controversial exploration of what it implies. We're used to thinking of the self's relation to the world as a dyad-the inner me as opposed to the outer world. This model assumes that what we're perceiving when we experience the world is actually the world. It's almost impossible to escape a sort of naive realism when you employ this model, since the alternative is that the world outside yourself is a dream. Thomas Metzinger's model, however, based on the increasingly sophisticated and bizarre findings of neuroscience, is different. There is an outside world and an inner, unconscious mind, but we directly perceive neither. Instead, both our outward perceptions and our inward consciousness are a kind of interface, a membrane, between the mind and the world. Everything that we experience is 'a virtual self in a virtual reality'. This idea leads to a number of implications, scientific, ethical and pharmacological. If the interface is not 'real' then why and how did it evolve? How does the mind construct it? What does it mean to manipulate it? Do we still have souls, free will, personal autonomy and moral accountability, and if not, how can we retain institutions that assume all of these things? "The Ego Tunnel" is an indispensable guide to a new era when the science of the mind may displace evolution as the most controversial of the sciences.
A must read on consciousness and the self
By Thomas W. Clark - May 21, 2009
I heartily agree with the positive opinions of others here - this is a first class addition to the lay person's literature on consciousness by a world class philosopher. Absolutely fascinating and revolutionary. I've written a detailed review at http://www.naturalism.org/metzinger.htm , some sections of which I've excerpted here:
Even after giving up belief in the supernatural "up there," many atheists and humanists continue to harbor quasi-supernatural intuitions about the self and free will "in here." The little god of the soul, the categorically mental agent or homunculus in charge of the brain, is still alive and well in the thinking of many secularists. As a result, some of the most profound developments in the ongoing project of scientific enlightenment are still ahead of us.
I am pleased to report that Thomas Metzinger's The Ego Tunnel is a major contribution to this project, written for the curious and fearless lay person wanting to know who, precisely,... read more
Fascinating blend of neuroscience and philosophy
By Brian Hines - April 21, 2009
I'm an avid reader of books about the brain, consciousness, and what the "self" is (or isn't). Metzinger's is one of the best. Thankfully, he isn't content with simply describing the current state of neuroscience, which can be dry to a non-scientist like me, with all its talk of physical brain functions and such.
Metzinger also addresses important philosophical and ethical problems such as free will, the concept of soul, how we can be certain an experience is real, consciousness exploration through drugs and other outside means, and whether happiness or truth-seeking is the best foundation of a meaningful life.
"The Ego Tunnel" is a great example of how one shouldn't judge a book by a single critical review. I read Owen Flanagan's review in New Scientist and questioned whether I should buy this book. I'm glad that I made up my own mind, because that review was way off the mark, in my non-humble opinion.
I didn't find a trace of the philosophical... read more
More informal in style than his other works, but lots of gems...
By Carolyn Suchy-Dicey - April 21, 2009
Those who want a formal description of Thomas Metzinger's theory of the self should go to his earlier works or his recent TICS article to find it. For those who find that kind of writing inaccessible, The Ego Tunnel is a good bet for an accurate, and often elegant, description of the work being done (and the work that should be done) in the sciences and philosophy on consciousness and the self.
The Ego Tunnel was written for those outside of consciousness research to answer Metzinger's felt imperative: "Scientists and academic philosophers cannot simply confine themselves to making contributions to a comprehensive theory of consciousness and the self. If moral obligation exists, they must also confront the anthropological and normative void they have created. They must communicate their results in laymen's language" (215). The Ego Tunnel is thus a double success: it communicates Metzinger's work on the self together with a normative groundwork for consciousness research in... read more
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