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

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  1,108 ratings  ·  74 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 17th 2009 by Basic Books (first published 2009)
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What's Behind Your Belly Button? A Psychological Perspective ... by Martha Char LoveHow to Create a Mind by Ray KurzweilGödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. HofstadterThe Ego Tunnel by Thomas MetzingerThe Tell-Tale Brain by V.S. Ramachandran
Philosophy of Mind
4th out of 43 books — 34 voters
What's Behind Your Belly Button? A Psychological Perspective ... by Martha Char LoveOn Intelligence by Jeff HawkinsProust and the Squid by Maryanne WolfGENIUS INTELLIGENCE by James MorcanHow to Create a Mind by Ray Kurzweil
Brain Science Podcast Bibliography
13th out of 86 books — 19 voters

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Community Reviews

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This is quite simply one of the best books on consciousness I've ever read. I really want to do this book justice with a fantastic review, and I don't know if that's possible. But I'm going to do my best.

Consciousness is really the last frontier of neuroscience and philosophy...holy grail might be a more apt terminology. Sure, there are lots of other unanswered questions in the sciences, but besides maybe some questions about the fundamental makeup of our universe, we at least know HOW to go ab
Never mind that Buddhist philosophers have pointed out the nonexistence of the self for about 25 centuries, with thousands of great minds in major world cultures that created vast literatures containing detailed arguments, treatises, and textual commentaries all based in a highly-developed phenomenological methodology called "meditation" combined with reason, logic, and argument among numerous competing schools of refined thought in India, China, Tibet, Japan, Korea, and SE Asian countries.

"I am going to demonstrate the inferiority of your intelligence to you by spouting fantastically complex and seemingly endless sentences. They will make your short-term buffer collapse, because you cannot integrate them into a single temporal gestalt anymore. You won't understand a thing, and you will have to admit that your tunnel is smaller than mine." --My favorite quote so far ;)
Having long since come to the conclusion that 'self' is is right up there with souls, gods, and angels, I saw The Ego Tunnel as the an opportunity to explore where philosophy and neuroscience were on the subject. While I would like to say that Metzinger gave me solid grounds for his point of view, I must say that I'm disappointed to some extent. I have two basic complaints with the book.

One is that he is very selective in his evidence gathering. He has chosen neuroscientific reports carefully to
Lynne Williamson
I obstinately resist the tunnel metaphor, --insisting on a "bubble" metaphor. Now, after thinking about this web concept based on Google's page rank technology, I am picturing an "Ego Web" -- a multidimensional, highly complex, node-interdependent web -- a web slowly constructed by our brains in conjunction with our senses to form our ego. This "web" metaphor gets rid of the time aspect of a tunnel. Time is then an ego-web construction.

After reading several books about brain structure (The Acci
Kaj Sotala
Nice discussion of Metzinger's theory of consciousness. His basic claim is that what humans tend to think of as a "self" is what he calls a "phenomenal self-model" (PSM). As the name suggests, the PSM is the brain's model of the organism as a whole, and includes things such as a model of the organism's body. The PSM is situated within a broader world-model of the environment that the organism exists in. Metzinger claims that the reason why we experience there being thing such as "selves" is that ...more
Honestly, I don't know whether it's from reading way too many neuroscience books or just reading too many philosophy books, but there was nothing I felt was added to my experience from reading this book. It's a discussion of consciousness from a philosophical perspective that takes the neuroscience into account -- but having taken the neuroscience into account, there's little left to do besides document it and equate it to the "internal" experience. This is unproductive in itself, because the na ...more
Frank Jude
Thomas Metzinger is one of those rare philosophers who take neuro-science and cognitive science and the implications coming from the extensive research on the brain and consciousness seriously. In fact, seriously enough to engage in cognitive science research himself and in collaboration with other scientists. The importance for this engagement cannot be overly emphasized!

Most of the book is an argument for the "self" as an emergent phenomenon of our biology, which in certainly backed by the evi
Starts well, but gets entangled in nihilistic navel gazing. I think it's a wonderful recap on neuroscience and the dawning realization of another path of science discovering its root paradox. This has happened in math with Godel's incompleteness theorems and Quantum Mechanics for physicists.

A part for the whole can be seen in his basic misconception of Buddhism as a nihilistic path, when a cursory review would reveal Gautama and other Buddhists argue against both eternalism (e.g. no thing we can
I genuinely enjoy reading science books, and this was right up my alley. I am a Psychology student and much of the research in this work relates specifically to this particular science. There is, however, a lot of neuropsychology that I didn't understand. As much as I tried, parts of this book, in their science terminology and understanding, remain in the dark for me. That isn't to say that some day it won't be possible for me to properly understand the ideas presented in this book that exceeded ...more
I came to this book by way of science fiction author Peter Watts, whose excellent novel Blindsight was influenced by Thomas Metzinger’s philosophy. The Ego Tunnel is the best book I’ve read about consciousness since Antonio Damasio’s Self Comes to Mind . Damasio and Metzinger have much in common, but I ultimately prefer Metzinger’s approach; as a neuroscientist, Damasio focuses mostly on the technical issues of how consciousness is constructed, whereas Metzinger’s philosophical background pro ...more
Jackson Childs
Metzinger is obviously very well informed about the latest research in consciousness. The most valuable part of this book is his synthesis of this research into his theory of the “ego tunnel”. He provides a plausible, step-by-step argument for how the brain generates the mind. For that alone the book is worth reading.

However, the book has some major problems. It could be that some of these problems arise because of Metzinger’s intention to write a book for the general reader, and that consequen
Alex Zakharov
Yes, yet another book on consciousness but a pretty good one. Thomas Metzinger is a philosopher who heavily collaborated with a number of neuroscientists and his perspective is fairly technical. Not as technical as the "quest for consciousness" by Christof Koch but certainly more technical than the likes of Daniel Dennett.

"The ego tunnel" is a general audience version of his magnum opus "being no one” which quite frankly is too long and too expensive.

The book is uneven – some chapters are excell
This book is good for a few reasons. I appreciated the breakdown of the consciousness problem. It was also interesting to take a dive into the aspects of phantom limbs, out of body experiences, and lucid dreaming. The bad outweighed the good for me however. For a book that does very little to tie what's said to scientific results, and mostly seems to be the synthesis of the authors opinion, I found it difficult to absorb.

Other aspects that I did not appreciate are harder to pinpoint, but at time
With this book, Metzinger furthers an encouraging trend in academia: superstar theoreticians are writing accounts of their work for the layman.

His book is carved into three parts. The first summarizes his theory of consciousness, as rigorously developed in Being No One. The second introduces his theory of self-hood in the context of clinical neuroscience. The third discusses the imminent social conflict that will erupt as the public acquaints itself with the increasingly-surprising results of c
Oct 03, 2012 Sera rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Casey
Recommended to Sera by: El
Shelves: non-fiction, kindle, own
This book presents an overview of "consciousness" in the human being and then delves into some very interesting discussions around creating "ego machines" and whether we should manipulate peoples' consciousness so that they will feel (and ultimately act) in certain ways. Metzinger's answers here are "no" and "maybe", respectively. Metzinger does a nice job of asking the right questions and creating a context within which to consider them even though he doesn't offer any concrete solutions. He is ...more
Cal Thunder Hawk
Jun 09, 2014 Cal Thunder Hawk is currently reading it
This is the most interesting book I've read so far on the topic of consciousness. About a month ago, less than 20% through the book, I found myself looking into Husserl's Phenomenology in my attempt to understand Metzinger's ideas. Metzinger refers to his work. This, in turn, led to other Phenomenological philosophers, philosophers who were influenced by Husserl and/or Phenomenology and the background, and uses, of their research technique. It's all very interesting, so far.
This ancillary readi
Barry Belmont
Could I really appreciate anything about this book? If I could, I did. If I can't, something might have.
John Allen
Metzinger's "The Ego Tunnel" is a curious exploration into the vagaries of neuroscience. I wanted to read the book because of it's premise: that the self, or the coagulation of memories and impressions we have about "ourselves", is merely a fictitious neural spiderweb. Obviously this idea isn't going to go down too well with most people, as evidenced by many of the hostile reviews here.

Metzinger talks about phantom limbs and really strange experiments that disturb, warp, or temporarily distort o
Al Maki
If one assumes that all that exists is the stuff that the laws of Physics describe: mass, electromagnetic fields and so no, and there are no gods, no breath of life and no spirit, then what exactly is the "self". Thomas Metzinger, a German philosopher uses recent work in neurology, pharmacology and computer science to venture an answer. His answer is that there is no self, it is an appearance, like the color green. I won't try to recapitulate his case. Since he is a German Philosopher, it is lon ...more
Towards the end of the book the author admits that he is a philosophical parasite and that he feels indebted to the public for having used their funds,and is therefore attempting to make amends by elucidating the most current theories in consciousness research.I would say he has redeemed himself fully by producing a clear and not too technical book that is readable and informative and enhances the understanding of what it means to experience consciousness,how it evolved and where it is going.
Matt Kimball
The problem is this -- you have this idea that you are an indivisible entity with a point of view. You think you are a single thing in posession of a body and think you have the agency to use this body in pursuit of your goals. It turns out you are mistaken about all of that.

You are not indivisible at all. You are an entity composed of many cells, which are more fundamental units, and in the long history of evolution, were once independent from each other. We know from people with severed corpu
Grig O'
Apr 19, 2015 Grig O' rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: selfconscious people, unselfconscious people
Shelves: kindle
If there's one thing this book wholly succeeded at, it's convincing me that, aside from maybe global climate change, this (consciousness science) is THE big issue of our time, and its implications are hitting us more and more.

Now, I think the book could've used a better editor. Both the philosophical and scientific sides stay on a superficial level (which is understandable, that's what the references are for) but instead we get a lot of redundancy in the text. The interviews at the ends of secti
G Budai
Who is the feeler of our feelings and the dreamer of our dreams?
"'ll know exactly what I mean, and it's a chilling feeling. It happens to me maybe once or
twice a year, and it comes without warning. I'll be standing in front of the mirror, brushing my teeth, and I look at myself and suddenly think: Who's in there? Or, Who's that? I'm groping here for the words to express how odd it is to think about your own consciousness, your own self-awareness. In those weird moments in front of the mirr
Really thought this one would go a little deeper. It was a lot of fluff.
Vincent Noel
The first part, which describes a theoretical model of the mind as personalized world building within your brain, is really good and worth reading. It is a bit annoying that the author keeps coming back to the idea that we have no real selves as it was a big reveal. He also does not go anywhere interesting beyond that point -- even if everyone can agree the self is an illusion created by the brain that has no constant material existence, it is still an illusion we have to live with and within. M ...more
Berta Kleiner

After finishing Peter Watt’s „Blindsight“ I wanted to read this book and was prepared to find it interesting and exciting. Unfortunately the author managed to piss me off already in the introduction by the rude way he brushed off those older guys who invented the term „reality tunnel“ („lots of nonsense“). I consider this attitude to be kind of fishy.

That was when I decided to learn more about the author’s personal ego tunnel and googled him, to find (I am German) that in all seriousness he prop
Aug 06, 2015 Simon rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
A mindblowing tour of consciousness for the layman and scientist, this book shows how the brain creates a sense of self and the world in every waking moment. As a student of Cognitive Science, i cannot recommend this any more highly to anyone interested in how the mind works.

There is a whole chapter on the consciousness revolution, how we can globally come to terms with this disillusionment of abandonning supernatural concepts of the soul, which will not be easy. To those who fear this disenchan
"Attention is a finite commodity, and it is absolutely essential to living a good life. [ ... ] Our brains can generate only a limited amount of this precious resource every day."

So I will be brief. As a relative newcomer to consciousness studies and neuroscience, this book was a little bit like taking the Red Pill in the Matrix. I would frequently find myself reading a passage, trying to digest it's meaning and then looking up from the page with changed perception of the world around me. In thi
In this book on consciousness you can not find the concepts of soul, spirituality, higher mind or God. All of it does not exist according to the theory of "Ego tunnel". Forget about Fraud, Jung, and modern psychoanalysis, don't bother with your unconscious mind or dream analysis. Everything we are, everything we feel or know is the result of an evolutionary process that creates an illusion of our existence. It is only our brain, the unique creation of this evolution that makes this world and eve ...more
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Thomas Metzinger is a German philosopher. He currently holds the position of director of the theoretical philosophy group at the department of philosophy at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz and is an Adjunct Fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies.

He has been active since the early 1990s in the promotion of consciousness studies as an academic endeavor.

In 2003 he published
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“As modern-day neuroscience tells us, we are never in touch with the present, because neural information-processing itself takes time. Signals take time to travel from your sensory organs along the multiple neuronal pathways in your body to your brain, and they take time to be processed and transformed into objects, scenes, and complex situations. So, strictly speaking, what you are experiencing as the present moment is actually the past.” 9 likes
“Yes, there is an outside world, and yes, there is an objective reality, but in moving through this world, we constantly apply unconscious filter mechanisms, and in doing so, we unknowingly construct our own individual world, which is our "reality tunnel.” 8 likes
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