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The Ego Tunnel


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About 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.


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, Capital Area Dist. Lib., Lansing, MI Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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."

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.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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