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The Ego Tunnel : The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self
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.
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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March 14, 2009
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