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Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity Paperback – Aug 20 2004

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99 by Wayne Gretzky 99 by Wayne Gretzky

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 714 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book; 1 edition (Aug. 20 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262633086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262633086
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 3.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #64,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


Being No One is Kantian in its scope, intelligence and depth. Steeped in contemporary neuroscience, psychology and philosophy, the book gives the unsolved Kantian problems of inner self and outer world a new look, a new life, and a new route to solution. Metzinger's story is understandable, compelling, and, quite simply, very, very smart.

(Patricia and Paul Churchland, University of California, San Diego)

Thomas Metzinger is one of those courageous explorers who dare to travel beyond the borders of their familiar territory. This book is a successful and brilliant attempt to bring together what had been separated artificially, the philosophy and the neuroscience of mind. It is a must for those who believe that consciousness is a mystery and for those who think it is not.

(Wolf Singer, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research)

While some philosophers have resisted scientists' incursions into the philosophy of mind, Thomas Metzinger has welcomed them. In this book he employs his impressively detailed knowledge of the latest developments in cognitive neuroscience to develop an exciting new philosophical approach to consciousness for which the experience of the self is fundamental. His is a truly interdisciplinary project which has important implications for future work in both philosophy and neuroscience.

(Chris Frith, Institute of Neurology, University College London)

Being No One is a superb and indispensable book. Thomas Metzinger's intelligence, open-minded honesty, and knowledge combine to produce the most complete and satisfying discussion of the problem of self currently available.

(Antonio and Hanna Damasio, Professors of Neurology, University of Iowa College of Medicine)

A convincing philosophical exposition and a well-structured compendium... without a doubt, a milestone of modern Philosophy of Mind.

(Reiner Hedrich Philosophy of Science)

Being No One is essential reading for all scholars interested in the study of the self and of its distortions. In this thought-provoking book Metzinger presents an exciting new theory of phenomenal awareness, a theory that has the merit of being firmly grounded on a vast neuroscientific and psychopathological literature, which is here synthesized and made available to a wider audience for the first time.

(Vittorio Gallese, University of Parma)

Metzinger's interdisciplinary approach opens a new path toward a scientific theory of consciousness and self-consciousness.

(Franz Mechsner and Albert Newen Science)

This book is a 'must' for anyone who is interested in empirical studies related to first-person issues or subjectivity.

(Kai Vogeley TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences)

Being No One is a superb and indispensable book. Thomas Metzinger's intelligence, open-minded honesty, and knowledge combine to produce the most complete and satisfying discussion of the problem of self currently available.

(Antonio and Hanna Damasio, Professors of Neurology, University of Iowa College of Medicine)

The strength of Metzinger's book lies in his mastery of supposedly disparate fields. Being No One successfully bridges the gap between elaborate philosophical models of the self and the neural models that were elaborated in our laboratories. It is a book that has much to offer to a wide array of scholars and readers.

(Marc Jeannerod, Institut des Sciences Cognitives)

About the Author

Thomas Metzinger is Professor of Philosophy and Fellow at the Gutenberg Research College at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz, and an Adjunct Fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Study in Frankfurt am Main. He is the editor of Neural Correlates of Consciousness and the author of Being No One, both published by the MIT Press.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars 11 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I find something to disagree with on almost every page ... Oct. 14 2016
By Daniel A. Demski - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I find something to disagree with on almost every page, but I still end up agreeing with the book as a whole. Not with Metzinger's ontological point on the incoherence of the self, but certainly with the steps which lead him there - the self as simulation; the empty Platonic cavern. And the details are well worth spelling out.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating ideas - like a marathon for the layperson Nov. 12 2007
By Ann McCann - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I came to this book from a footnote in Peter Watt's new novel 'Blindsight'. As an older layperson, I can say that Metzinger assumes a background and vocabulary in philosophy that I don't have. But, he has a habit of summarizing and clarifying his points that gives you a thread through the discussion. It's been like an immersion course in another language, and oh the joy when you can grasp a concept or some of his ideas flash out at you. I can think of nothing else I've read in the past few decades that has repaid my hard work with so very much food for thought.

Being No One (and note the specific grammar: it's not 'Being No-one) is more than worth the work. Highly recommended for anyone interested in how consciousness relates to brain activity.
124 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally.The monster can be tamed. Oct. 15 2004
By Carlos Camara - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is very hard to review. There are many reasons for this. One is that I may be biased: I think this may be the most important book written about consciousness in the last couple of decades. Then there is the fact that the book is enormous in scope, (and not far in size either- it is 650 pages long), brilliantly written and argued, and succeeds in doing something few other related books do. Reading this book makes you feel that consciousness has been explained. It makes you feel that the monster has been tamed, that progress can be made, that those who believe there can be no sensible exxplanation for consicousness are just wrong. Now in reality, it is not obvious that consciousness HAS been explained. But one feels like it has. And this is why I think this book is superior to Daniel Dennetts ¨Consicousness explained¨, arguably the book regarded as the most significant and influential philosophical contribution in the field. After reading Dennett, few believed consicousness had been explaied. Even few felt like it had. This book is unique, and I believe it is a matter of time until its impact is made apparent.

Metzinger wanted to show that the self can be explained in subpersonal terms, using representational analysis. He quickly noticed that since Selves are usually consicous entities, that he would first have to do this for consciousness. Imagine that. Having to explain consicousness to try to explain the self. And so, the book could be seen as divided in two. First, a theory of consicousness, and second, a theory of the self. I am by far more impressed with the former, although undoubtedly the latter is extremely interesting as well.

Before proposing a number of theorethical entities supposed to play the explanatory role, Metzinger carefully analyses the conceptual tools necessary to understand the problem, and formulate solutions. Thus, he analyses the concepts of representation, mental model, phenomenal presentation, etc. His account is also almost completely positive; that is, he almost does not stop to defend his ideas, or to analyse other philosphical theories. He focuses on arguing step-by step for a conceptual edifice that may lead to the explanation of phenomenal states in terms of non-phenomenal objective relations. This part of the book alone seems to me to be one of the strongest formulations of a representational theory of mental states.

Metzinger, then, is able to answer the question of what makes a mental state a conscious state. He argues that mental states have representational, and these states can have phenomenal content if the representational states meet some constraints. Consciously experienced content is content of an active phenomenal model, and phenomenal contents are all representational. The various constraints are the conditions that the representational content must meet in order for it to be a phenomenal content. Examples of these constraints are globality (integration into a global whole), activation in a window of presence, transparency.

The constraints are what makes these ideas powerful. Metzinger analyses the constraints in representational, phenomenological, information-processing, functional and neural-implementation terms. He gives what could be seen as necesary and sufficient conditions for a mental state to be a consicous state. He presents a theory of consicousness. And a very sensible, conceptually simple, naturalistic, and powerful one.

After doing this, he shows how his analysis can acomodate some abnormal phenomenons like blindsight, agnosia, and neglect. He then does much of the same last steps with the problem of the self. He defines concepts like subjectivity, self-hood, self-models. Then he proposes theorethical entities like the phenomenal self model, or the phenomenal model of the intentianality relation, to try to show how the conscious self might emerge. Here too metzinger argues that self content must meet some constraints to be considered phenomenal self content. He also tests his constructs against cases like anosognosia, multiple persoality, lucid dreams.

In sum, Metzinger deals with everything from mental representation, to content, qualia, subjectivity, intentionality, self, and does it in carefully ordered and convincing ways. Metzinger is a philosopher, and the theory is mostly philsophical. But few philsophers include such careful empirical and neurobiological observations. Few philosophers have such knowledge of the extensive literature. Few are as convinced of the central role that scientific objective theorethizing must play.

I must repeat that it is in no way evident that consciousness is explained in Metzingers book. But if there is a book that will set the conceptual framework that leads to such an explanation, it is this one. It is virtually imposible to explain his ideas concisely, and to understand them one has to follow his discussion completely. Therefore, I can do not much but to recomend that anyone interested in consicousness read this book. The book is quite technical and it is fairly long, however I believe that this should not stop the lay reader. The book is in my opinion simply too important. I have reviewed close to 100 books now, most of them on consicousness. I have said on numerous times that such or such a book is a must read. This one is the one I think more closely matches that description.
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant--A theory of consciousness tested against neurological disorders Sept. 28 2008
By Kirk Petersen - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a truly brilliant book, with some weaknesses. Anyone with a background in philosophy who reads any book about neurological disorders immediately sees the possibility of building a theory of consciousness and self based on those disorders. Metzinger has done just that.

Personally, I find Metzinger's arguments persuasive, and I think he has developed something truly original and valid. (Metzinger himself would admit, however, that not all aspects of his theory will turn about to be correct.)

The primary weakness of the book is its highly abstract nature. Multiple pages can pass by, all of a purely theoretical nature and without a single concrete example along the way. Moreover, for some of his subsidiary theories, Metzinger even creates acronyms which he uses afterwards throughout the book--which can be annoying. I often found myself trying to remember exactly what PMIR stands for. But given the depth and breadth of this work, I suppose acronyms are justified. This is just not a book intended for the general public.

One small criticism on vocabulary: Metzinger uses the terms "transparent" and "opaque" with their opposite connotative meanings. Metzinger's "transparent" is meant as invisible, like a transparent model not being visible as a model. But, unfortunately, for most English speakers, transparent usually connotes something being visible: a "transparent form of government" is one in which the citizens can peer into and see what's really going on. Something in the reverse direction happens with Metzinger's use of the word "opaque." English speakers sometimes use "opaque" as meaning obscure or difficult to understand--which is not what Metzinger intends at all. So when reading "transparent" or "opaque" in this book, I found myself having to take any extra cognitive step to consciously reverse my normal connotative expectations.

It may be possible to access some of this book without reading everything. What I would suggest is the following: the first chapter, Neurophenomenological Case Studies I and II (good discussion of concrete cases), and the first and last sections of the last chapter ("The Neurophenomenological Caveman" and "Being No One").

If you are not an expert in this field and have no intention of becoming one, it might be better to go to some different books. I would suggest Antonio Damasio's "The Feeling of What Happens." Damasio's book can be difficult in its own right, but with some cognitive effort it should be possible for most educated readers to get their minds around it. Better yet is Ramachandran's "Phantoms in the Brain," which is very readable and fascinating as well. Ramachandran focuses on concrete cases--with very little philosophical discussion. (In fact, Ramachandran seems to have a distaste for philosophy.) Indeed, "Being No One" includes many long quotes from "Phantoms." Just by reading through "Phantoms" you should be able to get a general notion of how a theory of consciousness and self might be developed from a study of neurological disorders.

One final point I'd like to make is a defense of Kant. Near the end of the book, Metzinger writes: "This phenomenally transparent representation of invariance and continuity constitutes the intuitions that underlie many traditional philosophical fallacies concerning the existence of selves as process-independent individual entities, as ontological substances that could in principle exist all by themselves, and as mysteriously unchanging essences that generate a sharp transtemporal identity for persons. But at the end of this investigation we can clearly see how individuality (in terms of simplicity and indivisibility), substantiality (in terms of ontological autonomy), and essentiality (in terms of transtemporal sameness) are not properties of selves at all."

When I read that sentence, I immediately thought of Kant's Paralogisms in the Critique of Pure Reason. Metzinger's point is almost exactly the same as Kant's (although Kant takes a purely theoretical approach devoid of discussion of neurological cases). All three properties of the self (1) the substantial "I," (2) the simple soul and (3) numerical identity over time are expressly described by Kant as being "illusions." I even thought that Metzinger must have been thinking of Kant when he wrote that sentence--just without citing him. But Metzinger does not seem to be familiar with the Paralogisms. No book of Kant's figures in Metzinger's long list of references, not even the Prolegomena (which includes an abbreviated discussion of the Paralogisms). Metzinger even criticizes Kant's "transcendental unity of apperception" as being undermined by a study of certain neurological disorders. Somehow, Metzinger believes that Kant "conclude[d] from the fact that, in standard situations, all of us experience ourselves as initiators of our own thoughts or that the 'I think' can, in principle and in the large majority of phenomenal configurations, accompany all states of consciousness, that some kind irreducible entity (e.g., a transcendental subject) must exist." Kant never concluded anything like that! Just the opposite. For Kant, the unity of apperception is transcendental: it does not exist in emperical reality. And in the Paralogisms, Kant wrote 50 pages of detailed, explicit arguments to that effect. What's even more exasperating is that Metzinger's entire point of the self's "substantiality," "essence" and "individuality" not being "epistemically justified" was prefigured by Kant himself two hundred years earlier--and Metzinger seems entirely unaware of the fact.

But in the end, my criticism of Metzinger's understanding of Kant is a minor one. The modern world is becoming overwhelmed with information, and an unfortunate side effect is that Kant is being forgotten. "Being No One" is still a great book.
4.0 out of 5 stars Metzinger is a bad boy! April 3 2015
By C. V. Reitzenstein - Published on
Format: Paperback
I'm so glad I got past my preconceptions about Metzinger as some kind of crude reductionist of mind. Although the book is provocatively titled, his theoretical model of consciousness is much more nuanced than pure physicalism. Also, he's often an uncannily good writer considering how dry the material could be and that English is a second language for him. I guess I give this four stars because he's altered his stance on a few issues slightly since this was written. The Ego Tunnel is like a condensed primer for this book, but a handful of the arguments differ as it is several years more recent. I'll give it five stars if Metzinger does an audiobook version of The Ego Tunnel - his voice/accent is both amusing and soothing. He's a suave bad boy of philosophical neuroscience.