[ExI] Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity

x at extropica.org x at extropica.org
Wed Feb 17 17:29:34 UTC 2010

On Sun Nov 23 17:39:04 UTC 2003, Jef wrote:
> I received my copy of this book from Amazon and it exceeded my expectations.
> The first chapter describes what I think are the key issues today in
> undertanding the illusion of self that colors so much of the thinking and
> discussion on this list.  The text is dense, not for the casual reader.
>Highly recommended for those seeking a wider view of consciousness that
> encompasses the "paradoxes" of qualia and subjectivity and David Chalmers'
> so-called "hard problem of consciousness."
> - Jef

[Note that I'm replying to a thread on this list from 2003.]

For those *serious* participants in this discussion who for some
reason aren't already familiar with Metzinger's work, there is now an
easy one hour introduction by video available at

> Human Nature Review wrote:
>> Human Nature Review  2003 Volume 3: 450-454 ( 17 November )
>> URL of this document http://human-nature.com/nibbs/03/metzinger.html
>> Book Review
>> Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity
>> by Thomas Metzinger
>> MIT Press, (2003), pp. 699, ISBN: 0-262-13417-9
>> Reviewed by Marcello Ghin.
>> The notion of consciousness has been suspected of being too vague for
>> being a topic of scientific investigation. Recently, consciousness
>> has become more interesting in the light of new neuroscientific
>> imaging studies. Scientists from all over the world are searching for
>> neural correlates of consciousness. However, finding the neural basis
>> is not enough for a scientific explanation of conscious experience.
>> After all, we are still facing the 'hard problem', as David Chalmers
>> dubbed it: why are those neural processes accompanied by conscious
>> experience at all? Maybe we can reformulate the question in this way:
>> Which constraints does a system have to satisfy in order to generate
>> conscious experience? Being No One is an attempt to give an answer to
>> the latter question. To be more precise: it is an attempt to give an
>> answer to the question of how information processing systems generate
>> the conscious experience of being someone.
>> We all experience ourselves as being someone. For example, at this
>> moment you will have the impression that it is you who is actually
>> reading this review. And it is you who is forming thoughts about it.
>> Could it be otherwise? Could I be wrong about what I myself am
>> experiencing? Our daily experiences make us think that we are someone
>> who is experiencing the world. We commonly refer to this phenomenon
>> by speaking of the 'self'. Metzinger claims that no such things as
>> 'selves' exist in the world. All that exists are phenomenal
>> self-models, that is continuously updated dynamic
>> self-representational processes of biological organisms. Conscious
>> beings constantly confuse themselves with the content of their actual
>> phenomenal self-model, thinking that they are identical with a self.
>> According to Metzinger, this is due to the nature of the
>> representational process generating the self-model. The self-model is
>> mostly transparent - the information that it is a model is not
>> carried on the level of content - we are looking through it, having
>> the impression of being in direct contact with our own body and the
>> world. If you are now thinking that this idea is at least
>> counterintuitive, you should read Being No One and find out why it is
>> counterintuitive, and yet that there are good reasons to believe that
>> it is correct.
>> Full text
>> http://human-nature.com/nibbs/03/metzinger.html
>> Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity
>> by Thomas Metzinger (Author)
>> Hardcover: 584 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.56 x 9.25 x 7.32
>> Publisher: MIT Press; (January 24, 2003) ISBN: 0262134179
>> http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0262134179/darwinanddarwini/
>> http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0262134179/humannaturecom/
>> Editorial Reviews
>> Book Info
>> Johannes Gutenberg-Universitat, Mainz, Germany. Text introduces two
>> theoretical entities that may form the decisive conceptual link
>> between first-person and third-person approaches to the conscious
>> mind. Explores evolutionary roots of intersubjectivity, artifical
>> subjectivity, and future connections between philosophy of mind and
>> ethics.
>> Book Description
>> According to Thomas Metzinger, no such things as selves exist in the
>> world: nobody ever had or was a self. All that exists are phenomenal
>> selves, as they appear in conscious experience. The phenomenal self,
>> however, is not a thing but an ongoing process; it is the content of
>> a "transparent self-model." In Being No One, Metzinger, a German
>> philosopher, draws strongly on neuroscientific research to present a
>> representationalist and functional analysis of what a consciously
>> experienced first-person perspective actually is. Building a bridge
>> between the humanities and the empirical sciences of the mind, he
>> develops new conceptual toolkits and metaphors; uses case studies of
>> unusual states of mind such as agnosia, neglect, blindsight, and
>> hallucinations; and offers new sets of multilevel constraints for the
>> concept of consciousness. Metzinger's central question is: How
>> exactly does strong, consciously experienced subjectivity emerge out
>> of objective events in the natural world? His epistemic goal is to
>> determine whether conscious experience, in particular the experience
>> of being someone that results from the emergence of a phenomenal
>> self, can be analyzed on subpersonal levels of description. He also
>> asks if and how our Cartesian intuitions that subjective experiences
>> as such can never be reductively explained are themselves ultimately
>> rooted in the deeper representational structure of our conscious
>> minds. Metzinger introduces two theoretical entities--the "phenomenal
>> self-model" and the "phenomenal model of the intentionality
>> relation"--that may form the decisive conceptual link between
>> first-person and third-person approaches to the conscious mind and
>> between consciousness research in the humanities and in the sciences.
>> He also discusses the roots of intersubjectivity, artificial
>> subjectivity (the issue of nonbiological phenomenal selves), and
>> connections between philosophy of mind and ethics.
>> Human Nature Review http://human-nature.com
>> Evolutionary Psychology http://human-nature.com/ep
>> Human Nature Daily Review http://human-nature.com/nibbs

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