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

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  2,590 ratings  ·  151 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, 276 pages
Published March 17th 2009 by Basic Books (AZ)
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May 14, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Never mind that Buddhist philosophers have pointed out the (ultimate) nonexistence of the self for about twenty-five centuries, with hundreds of great minds in major world cultures that created vast literatures containing detailed arguments, treatises, and textual commentaries all based in a highly-refined 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 ...more
Aug 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
I have a psychology background, so I am deeply interested in neuroscience and AI research. I've even read Metzinger several times in the past, ranking him up there with Dennet and also a number of bleeding edge modern philosophers. :)

So I had to read this DESPITE that HORRIBLE TITLE. Ego Tunnel? Seriously? I mean, sure, he explains it as the outward connection after we've formulated our internal modality of consciousness, but STILL... EGO TUNNEL?

Enough bitching. And no crude jokes, please. This
Mar 03, 2013 rated it liked it
"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 ;)
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
I approached this book thinking it would be an integration of philosophy and neuroscience. I was wrong, and disappointed. Metzinger - philosopher by profession - seems to explain consciousness as in chiefly philosophical terms, supporting his argument by cherry-picked cognitive neuroscience findings. This cherry-picking is what angered me the most, especially when combined with the moral high-ground from which the author a field of science in which he's not an expert. Approved by a philosopher, ...more
ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos)
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
Nov 20, 2010 rated it did not like it
science fiction writers will enjoy this book. for the rest of us, it's poppycock. i'll never get those hours back. i felt i HAD to go the distance to be sure of his intent and because the purely fictional quality of the book had me stunned wondering how far his "what-ifs" would go. i found out: he wants to rule the world through chemistry and clever (human) boundary stretching. even though (some) current (legitimate) brain research fueled some of his "supportive" details, most of his chapters we ...more
David Peak
Mar 23, 2017 rated it liked it
I decided to read this because Metzinger's philosophy of consciousness is discussed at great length in Thomas Ligotti's The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, which is a book I am always trying to better understand. I'm fascinated by the concept of phenomenal selves, the problems of consciousness and perception, and I hoped that this book would support these ideas with a more rigorous, scientific understanding of the brain.

For the most part, The Ego Tunnel accomplishes this task, but it does so
Lynne Williamson
Mar 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jackson Childs
Jul 16, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Mar 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Kaj Sotala
Aug 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Teo 2050


Metzinger T (2009) (10:27) Ego Tunnel, The - The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self


• The Phenomenal Self-Model

Part I: The Consciousness Problem

1. The Appearance of a World

2. A Tour of the Tunnel
• The One-World Problem: The Unity of Consciousness
• The Now Problem: A Lived Moment Emerges
• The Reality Problem: How You Were Born as a Naive Realist
• The Ineffability Problem: What We Will Never Be Able to Talk Abou
Oct 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Berta Kleiner
Aug 17, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

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
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
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
Sam Tornio
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mar 15, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Andrei Khrapavitski
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For those seeking some coherent philosophy coming from continental Europe, Thomas Metzinger is your man. A couple of his books are on my reading list. I haven’t yet read “Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity,” but I hear it’s good. The one I’ve just finished is “The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self,” and it is on a similar subject. So here’s a brief review.

The big claim of the book is that there is no such thing as a self. Contrary to what most people b
Jun 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: neuroscience, science
The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self by Thomas Metzinger

“The Ego Tunnel" is the fascinating book about the myth that is the self. Using modern philosophy and cognitive neuroscience, philosopher Thomas Metzinger shatters any notion of the self while making difficult concepts such as the nature of consciousness accessible to the masses. This book was a very educational and enlightening experience. This 288-page book is composed of the following nine chapters: 1. The App
Juhana Karlsson
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book ("I" find the illusion of the self highly interesting), but it was more or less a disappointment. If one is familiar with the Buddhist doctrine of no-self, or with any non-dualistic spiritual traditions for that matter, there's basically nothing new here. Also, the presentation is rather incoherent and unnecessarily hard to read.
Apr 18, 2017 rated it liked it
The best part for me was the ethical / philosophical / social issues surrounding the acceptance of no-one-ness as the reality of our existence.
Lukas Vermeer
Impenetrable and simultaneously woefully incomplete. Lots of Big Words and Grand Speeches, but lacks depth and connection to other philosophers and philosophies. A missed opportunity, because there are some good bits hidden amongst the waffle.
I feel like I got what I wanted out of this book—that is, a fairly layman-friendly introduction to Metzinger’s philosophy of mind. Marking it as read because I’m not going to be putting it on hold, as I intend to move onto the more rigorous ‘Being No One’ instead.
Jul 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: neuroscience
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
Oct 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Alex Zakharov
Apr 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Casey
Recommended to Sera by: El
Shelves: own, non-fiction, kindle
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 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
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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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32 likes · 9 comments
“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.” 22 likes
“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.” 21 likes
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