Thomas Metzinger

Average: 3.5 (78 votes)
Fast Facts
Other Names and Nicknames: 
Professor Thomas Metzinger
Science, Being No One, Video Ergo Sum, Western Psychology, Western Philosophy
Main Countries of Activity: 
Date of Birth: 
March 12, 1958
Place of Birth: 
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
Other Related Gurus: 
Philosopher David Hume, Philosopher George Edward Moore


Thomas Metzinger is a renowned German philosopher. He has been active since the early 1990s in the promotion of consciousness studies as an academic endeavor. As a co-founder, he has been particularly active in the organization of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC), and sat on the board of directors of that organisation from 1994 to 2007.

In 2003 he published the monograph Being No One. In this book he argues that no such thing as "I" or "self" exists in the world: nobody ever had or was a "I". All that exists are phenomenal "I"s, as they appear in conscious experience. He argues that the phenomenal "I", however, is not a thing but an ongoing process; it is the content of a "transparent self-model."

Metzinger is director of the MIND group and has been president of the German cognitive science society from 2005 to 2007. In English he has published two edited works, Conscious Experience (1995), and Neural correlates of consciousness: empirical and conceptual issues (2000). The latter book arose out of the second ASSC meeting, for which he acted as local organizer.

Metzinger is praised for his grasp of the fundamental issues of neurobiology, consciousness and the relationship of mind and body.

Metzinger 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.


No I

No such thing as "I" or "self" exists in the world: nobody ever had or was a "I".

All that exists are phenomenal "I"s, as they appear in conscious experience.

The phenomenal "I", however, is not a thing but an ongoing process; it is the content of a "transparent self-model."

We are systems of ongoing process, we are not individuals, we only maintain a model of individuality. For some reason, these system fail to notice that their model of individuality is just a model, they mistake the model for the real.

This error is part of a broader misconception we have of mixing the representations of reality we have in our mind with reality itself. We regard the mental representation of an object as if it were the object itself.

The reason for this error is that the systems that map and represent for us the world and ourselves are "transparent" as the philosopher George Edward Moore used to call it. We do not see the mental processes that construct for us the representation of reality but see through them. This is the reason why whatever is represented to us is not grasped by us as a representation but as the reality itself.

Video Ergo Sum

From the Scientific Research "Video Ergo Sum: Manipulating Bodily Self-Consciousness" by Bigna Lenggenhager, Tej Tadi, Thomas Metzinger, Olaf Blanke:

Humans normally experience the conscious self as localized within their bodily borders.

This spatial unity may break down in certain neurological conditions such as out-of-body experiences, leading to a striking disturbance of bodily self-consciousness.

On the basis of these clinical data, we designed an experiment that uses conflicting visual-somatosensory input in virtual reality to disrupt the spatial unity between the self and the body.

We found that during multisensory conflict, participants felt as if a virtual body seen in front of them was their own body and mislocalized themselves toward the virtual body, to a position outside their bodily borders.

Our results indicate that spatial unity and bodily self-consciousness can be studied experimentally and are based on multisensory and cognitive processing of bodily information.

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Books & Media

Recommended Books: 
Cover image

Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity

by Thomas Metzinger


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.

Pro Opinions

wow, finally

dabka's picture

wow, finally.

Step by step western psychology matures and comes closer to the eastern psychology.


step by step

This is through the expansion of human understanding the western and eastern blocks of knowledge have been coming close more and more and this may be called global integrity.

NIDHI PARKASH | Wed, 11/25/2009 - 19:54