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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2009 Thomas Metzinger; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"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." (Library Journal)
"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." (Booklist)

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  • Overall

non-specialist literature at its best

An intelligent, thought-provoking book from a philosopher who likes to conduct experiments. Written in a very understandable style, without shying away from difficult words: non-specialist literature at its best.

The narration is excellent: interesting, varied, with a good sense of distinction between main sentence and subordinate clauses and no hesitation before uncommon words. One of those audio books that makes me long for my commute.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Hasan
  • larchmont, NY, United States
  • 01-14-10

explorations on the margins of self

Strongly recommend this excellent work which brings modern neurobiological research and its philosophical implications.Reflections on broad spectrum which ranges From the formation of concsiousness to the rise of sense of self,future of sense of self and how this would play out in technology,economy and culture in near and distant future.This book is full of new ideas or new angles of looking at age old problems i,e consciousness,self,will and so on and so forth.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul
  • New York, NY, United States
  • 01-28-13

The Beginning of a Moral Storm

Lots of folks would be really angry if the scientific community said human beings were no more than very exotic machines. Yet as philosophers team up with neuro-scientists they are explaining the formerly unexplainable (perhaps spiritual) with measurable physical processes. To equate feelings with a chemical reaction in the brain is hard for some of us to believe. Yet what many humans believe about reality is also hard to believe. And so I found this book reached out to meet some of my own beliefs by treating philosophy and science less like oil and water.

It's hard to envision that all your reality is going on in your brain/mind based on a model you have evolved there from the many, many stimuli you've accumulated since birth. I can't share in your model but it's there in a tangible form of chemical and molecular configurations. But in very, very, very tiny ways neurobiologists are beginning to be able to read your mind/brain.

The Ego Tunnel reminds us that we are really living inside our heads because the flow of sights, sounds, feelings, etc. all end up in our brains where we manage it all into some sense (a model) of who we are, what is all about us and how we relate to it and them.

At this point in the book it's pretty easy to say, "So what." and switch to a murder mystery to listen to. But what I take away from this book is that you don't need more than a mixture of chemical elements to build a senescent being. This shakes up a lot of philosophical and spiritual thinkers who always added a non-material item to the physical ingredients that make up human beings. Can chemistry do what only spirit was supposed to be able to do?

Perhaps I am reading too much into the Ego Tunnel but I kinda like the ideas it is investigating.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Roy
  • Beaumont, TX, United States
  • 12-14-09

Technology and the Future Economy

This is another of many books considering where technology is taking us and what the future economy might look like. Globalization, collaboration, telecommuting, outsourcing - its all here.

This book is a thought experiment which raises a number of interesting implications. It is well written and well read. Readers new to the topics covered will be well served, but it would be wise to follow on with other volumes covering similar subjects from other perspectives.

12 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Sarah
  • Wherever Carmen Sandiego is.
  • 04-26-17

Good with a few caveats

An interesting foray into Consciousness studies, and definitely worth the listen for his perspective on the self, ideas of evolution, artificial intelligence, lucid dreaming and Altered States. However, Thomas Metzinger, a German philosopher, all too frequently throughout his argument of consciousness alludes to notions that derive from the enlightenment or Rene Descartes in his quest for an increasing rationality of human beings, and occasionally saying some quite offensive, colonizing remarks on indigenous societies and religion, especially in his concluding remarks about consciousness, and he fails to take the hard problem seriously because he thinks of consciousness as a virtual Oregon, and that phenomenal state-space is somehow fully replicable by the brain and represents fully what Consciousness is. It is clear that his religion is indeed philosophy and science, but he would have done better to be cognizant of his position and not fall into the same rationalist seeking explanations as have many others before him. Still a good book.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Very nice

This book pauses a lot of interesting questions on the way we understand our consciousness.

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Still a way ahead of time. The Ego tunnel is a metzingers tour de force. Highly recommended, if you can handle it

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  • Jay
  • Tennessee Colony, TX, United States
  • 09-16-12

Everything about this book sounds good...but...

What did you like best about The Ego Tunnel? What did you like least?

I try and finish a book even if I don't like it too much. However, I gave up on this book at the end of part 1, making it one of the few books I've purchased and not finished.

The subject matter is interesting. The reader did a good job. Based on my recent reading history, this should have been a four or five-star read for me.

The book is very technical and moves at a fast pace, and for some reason, it is like there are no points junctures in the book where there should have been more of a point made, in my opinion.

I don't mind technical, it is one of the reasons I picked this book, because I wanted it to be scientific. But, there is something about the pace of the book, the jargon used, and the lack of solid conclusions that made this a very hard book to focus on. If words went in my ears, it was translated to something like, "blah, blah, blah."

A battle of (free) wills? I did really try to follow this book, but it was like that little man in my head kept whispering, "turn it off."

Note that I did give it three stars, because it isn't a total waste of time. Several areas were covered that made me want to explore them deeper in the future.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

Slow it down a little bit, and make a little more effort at actually making a point instead of just presenting information at breakneck speed.

3 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Maggie
  • Baton Rouge, LA, United States
  • 11-20-10


where are the peers who should be vetting this writer's ideas before it is turned into a book?! this thesis is a matrix built on air and shadow being passed off as actual science. in addition to this nothingness, the writer returns us to the bad ideas of past chemical applications. better living through chemistry was duponts slogan from 1935-1986 with an increase in cancer and environmental pollution as the result. psychedelic experiments reached the heights in the 1960s with dead or brain dead folks taking the brunt of those "good times." the thalidomide birth defects (late 1950s) should be warning enough for the next century and a half! have we learned NOTHING?

and then there are the work's futuristic ideas ... based solely on the writer's imagination, not science ... not even hypothesis just absurd speculation. has anyone checked on this guys credentials?!

i'm especially disappointed because i was looking for an intelligent discussion of consciousness, the ego, and human nature. boy did i NOT get that hope fulfilled! this book was a total waste of my time, and the only audience for this book would have to be science fiction writers.

11 of 45 people found this review helpful