Picture: Autoscopy. Among a number of interesting features, The Ego Tunnel includes a substantial account of out-of-body experiences (OBEs) and similar phenomena. Experiments where the subjects are tricked into mistaking a plastic dummy for their real hand (all done with mirrors), or into feeling themselves to be situated somewhere behind their own head (you need a camera for this) show that our perception of our own body and our own location are generated within our brain and are susceptible to error and distortion; and according to Metzinger this shows that they are really no more than illusions (Is that right, by the way – or are they only illusions when they’re wrong or misleading? The fact that a camera can be made to generate false or misleading pictures doesn’t mean that all photographs are delusions, does it?).

There are many interesting details in this account, quite apart from its value as part of the overall argument.  Metzinger briefly touches on four varieties of autoscopic (self-seeing) phenomena, all of which can be related to distinct areas of the brain:  autoscopic hallucination, where the subject sees an image of themselves; the feeling of a presence, where the subject has the strong sense of someone there without seeing anyone; the particularly disturbing heautoscopy, where the subject sees another self and switches back and forth into and out of it, unsure which is ‘the real me’; and the better-known OBE. OBEs arise in various ways: often detachment from the body is sudden, but in other cases the second self may lift out gradually from the feet, or may exit the corporeal body via the top of the head.  Metzinger tells us that he himself has experienced OBEs and made many efforts to have more (going so far as to persuade his anaesthetist to use ketamine on him in advance of an operation, with no result – I wonder whether the anaesthetist actually kept his word) ; speaking of lucid dreams, another personal interest, he tells the story of having one in which he dreamed an OBE. That seems an interesting bit of evidence: if you can dream a credible OBE, mightn’t they all be dreams? This seems to undercut the apparently strong sense of reality which typically accompanies them.

Interestingly, Metzinger reports that a conversation with Susan Blackmore helped him understand his own experiences.  Blackmore is of course another emphatic denier of the reality of the self. I don’t in any way mean to offer an ad hominem argument here, but it is striking that these two people both seem to have had a particular interest in ‘spooky’ dualistic phenomena which their rational scientific minds ultimately rejected, leading on to an especially robust rejection of the self. Perhaps people who lean towards dualism in their early years develop a particularly strong conception of the self, so that when they adopt monist materialism they reject the self altogether instead of seeking to redefine and accommodate it, as many of us would be inclined to do?

On that basis, you would expect Metzinger to be the hardest of hard determinists; his ideas seem to lean in that direction, but not decisively. He suggests that certain brain processes involved in preparing actions are brought up into the Ego Tunnel and hence seem to belong to us. They seem to be our own thoughts, our own goals and because the earlier stages remain outside the Tunnel, they seem to have come from nowhere, to be our own spontaneous creations. There are really no such things as goals in the world, any more than colours, but the delusion that they do exist is useful to us; the idea of being responsible for our own actions enables a kind of moral competition which is ultimately to our advantage (I’m not quite sure exactly how this  works). But in this case Metzinger pulls his punch: perhaps this is not the full story, he says, and describes compatibilism as the most beautiful position.

Metzinger pours scorn on the idea that we must have freedom of the will because we feel our actions to be free, yet he does give an important place to the phenomenology of the issue, pointing out that it is more complex than might appear. The more you look at them, he suggests, the more evasive conscious intentions become.  How curious it is then, that Metzinger, whose attention to phenomenology is outstandingly meticulous, should seem so sure that we have at all times a robust (albeit delusional) sense of our selves. I don’t find it so at all, and of course on this no less a person than David Hume is with me; with characteristically gentle but devastating scepticism, he famously remarked “For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception.”

Metzinger concludes by considering a range of moral and social issues which he thinks we need to address as our understanding of the mind improves. In his view, for example, we ought not to try to generate artificial consciousness. As a conscious entity, the AI would be capable of suffering, and in Metzinger’s view the chances are its existence would be more painful than pleasant. One reason for thinking so is the constrained and curtailed existence it could expect; another is that we only have our own minds to go on and would be likely to produce inferior, messed-up versions of it. But more alarming, Metzinger argues that human life itself involves an overall preponderance of pain over pleasure; he invokes Schopenhauer and Buddha. With characteristic thoroughness, he concedes that pleasure and pain may not be all that life is about; otherr achievements can justify a life of discomfort. But even so, the chances for an artificial consciousness, he feels are poor.

This is surely too bleak. I see no convincing reason to think that pain outweighs pleasure in general (certainly the Buddhist case, based on the perverse assumption that change is always painful, seems a weak point in that otherwise logical religion), and I see some reasons to think that a conscious robot would be less vulnerable to bad experiences than we are. It’s millions of years of evolution which have ingrained in us a fear of death and the motivating experience of pain:  the artificial consciousness need have none of that, but would surely be most likely to face its experiences with superhuman equanimity.

Of course caution is justified, but Metzinger in effect wants us to wait until we’ve sorted out the meaning of life before we get on with living it.

His attempt to raise this and other issues is commendable though; he’s right that the implications of recent progress have not received enough intelligent attention. Unfortunately I think the chances of some of these issues being addressed with philosophic rationality are slim. Another topic Metzinger raises, for example, is the question of what kinds of altered or enhanced mental states, from among the greatly expanded repertoire we are likely to have available in the near future, we ought to allow or facilitate; not much chance that his mild suggestions on that will have much impact.

There’s a vein of pessimism in his views on another topic. Metzinger fears that the progress of science, before the deeper issues have been sorted out, could inspire an unduly cynical, stripped-down view of human nature; a ‘vulgar materialism’, he calls it. Uninformed members of the public falling prey to this crude point of view might be tempted to think:

“The cat is out of the bag. We are gene-copying bio-robots, living out here on a lonely planet in a cold and empty physical universe. We have brains but no immortal souls and after seventy years or so the curtain drops. There will never be an afterlife, or any kind of reward or punishment for anyone… I get the message.”

Gosh: do we know anyone vulgar and unsophisticated enough to think like that?


  1. 1. Krull says:

    “Gosh: do we know anyone vulgar and unsophisticated enough to think like that?”

    It’s on the blogroll

  2. 2. Rodger Cunningham says:

    Both your examples from Metzinger and Louie’s blogroll illustrate a pattern I seem to notice: that a good many writers who talk a lot about “illusions” and “delusions” seem to be operating on implicit definitions of these words that are both very broad, and so obvious to the writer that s/he doesn’t bother to state those definitions, let alone defend them.

  3. 3. Gary Williams says:

    Great post.It’s fun to follow Metzinger’s logic. If we are constantly being deluded about our basic selfhood, then we cannot trust our selves. If we cannot trust ourselves, then we cannot trust ourselves when we say “I cannot trust myself.” We then go round and round, wee!

  4. 4. Paul Bello says:

    Nice one, Gary. Good to see someone’s got thier thinking cap on. Even the words “illusion” or “delusion” are shot through with some sort of intentionality. They both imply observers and discrepancies in belief.

    I’m not sure if autoscopic phenomena really say anything about the self, broadly speaking. Near-death experiences usually involve OBEs, but often the experiencer is completely flat from a brainwave/EEG perspective. No activity in the cerebellum or brainstem even. If they come back from that and provide not only a story, but also veridical perceptual information that they should have had no ability to collect while “dead”, it strikes me that the spatial dissociations experienced here are just one small part of a much bigger picture. Not saying that NDE’s won’t one day be explained away, but I think at this point, we’ve got quite a chasm to cross.

  5. 5. Doru says:

    He clearly reached the non-dualistic perspective, the realization of illusory separation between an conscious experience and a conscious experiencer (the self).
    One path to this realization is to trust something separated of you that doesn’t trust you!

  6. 6. Vicente says:

    Wether the self is an illusion or not matters little, irrespective of its very nature, it is the basis for us to approach our existence, and the main driver of our behaviour. In addition, I don’t see why the self, being the protagonist of the play we create, should be more of an illusion than any other perception around, the self is an illusion as much everybody else, maybe everyting around are illusions too, as concepts. Once we have classified our reality in objects, categories and classes, we “selves” are one of those, probably the most important for each of us. On top of that, the film of our lives has to be projected on some screen for some spectator, call that close combination screen plus spectator self if you want.

    I presume that this approach has left no place for “free will”, since “will” would just be another illusory attribute of what is just an illusion.

  7. 7. Mike says:

    Great article, thanks! I’ve read The Ego Tunnel and realized a connection between his theories and the reports of long time meditators and spiritual “gurus”. Our phenomenal self model is all that we have access to in life, and as Metzinger mentions it is transparent to us. What meditators do is dissolve this self model until nothing is left of it in their experience, providing them with what they call an “experience of nothingness”. I have no evidence to back this up but I thought it might be an interesting connection.

  8. 8. Rob says:

    I’ve been searching this site for discussion of the work of David Bohm and Karl Pribram on consciousness, but with no results. Does such discussion here exist, if so could comeone point me to it, please?

  9. 9. Lloyd Rice says:

    Vicente: I agree. The perceptual analyses all leave their results in some kind of “workspace”, then these results are compared to all that is relevant and important from memory. This, by way of attention mechanisms, etc., produces a set of possible actions to be performed in response. Along the way, there seems to be some kind of inner view of what’s going on. Who’s doing the viewing? I have no idea. But it does seem like “I did it”. I think I just watched it happen.

  10. 10. Peter says:

    I’ve been searching this site for discussion of the work of David Bohm and Karl Pribram

    I’m afraid they’re among the many I haven’t got to yet, Rob.

  11. 11. Rob says:

    Thanks Peter. I do like your site and commentary. The Bohm-Pribram paradigm has immediately enchanted me though, and I’m searching wide and far for discussion on it. Found some, but it appears largely overlooked by the mainstream and unfortunately has been taken captive by new agers. Thanks anyway.

  12. 12. Lloyd Rice says:

    Just reading the Wikipedia entry on “holonomic brain theory”, it’s easy to see why these ideas might be “taken captive” by some of those with, shall we say, vague ideas. It’s certainly true that a Fourier transform produces different representations of a given set of data values, say, perceptions. But that says nothing about how the old or the new representations might be processed to produce perceptual results. I have been working with a form of the Fourier transform to generate detailed time/frequency representations of speech signals not normally seen in a spectrogram view of the signal. And it may well be that speaker recognition is easier when using these “off the beaten path” signals. But from what I have seen, the Pribram/Bohm work does not address how such transformed views might be useful for either perception or cognition.

  13. 13. Vicente says:

    The Bohm-Pribam holographic analogy, with its reference to the quantum entanglement effects is quite intellectual appealing. However, in real logical terms, it just shows how far we are to have a broad understanding of the basic structure of the Universe, and the place that mind/consciousness occupies in it. Even if “everything” were an illusory projection of some fundamental substance beyond space and time, in which every bit holds the entire rest (like a fractal) we have no idea how that happens to be.

    Coming back to the main point, there is no need to look for bizarre psicological effects to think that the self could be an illusion. Consider for example, people with brain damage that at a certain point deteriorates their, cognitive and memory functions… would we say that they are the same people, same “self”, they were before they suffer the damage.

    ¿What attributes define the self? ¿can we say a person remains the same one from birth to death? The moment the self changes/evolves/adapts continuously, we could say that in a way it is fleetering entity, or just an illusion.

  14. 14. Gary Williams says:

    I am reading The Ego Tunnel now. I agree with Metzinger about the phenomenal self-model (being a recent construction of the brain unique to humans), but I disagree with his equation of consciousness with a phenomenal “tunnel” of the world “appearing” out of the “internal world” generated from the raw, Lockean primary qualities of electromagnetic radiation. It’s straight up Cartesian and blindly follows the failed paradigm of sense-represent-plan-move models. Gibson sufficiently destroyed this kind of thinking by at least the 60’s, it’s a shame that Metzinger is falling into the same philosophical trap of representational internalism, generating “problems” of reality,sketicism, unity, etc. Have we not learned our lesson from Heidegger yet? Metzinger, like many others, seems to think that by calling it “naive”, realism is somehow epistemologically invalidated. He says “There is no immediate contact with reality”. Only upon the assumption of representationalism can this be true. I thought it was funny that Wolf Singer said “Admittedly, the argument is somewhat circular”.

  15. 15. Arnold Trehub says:

    Gary, would you claim that we are able to have direct sensory contact with the volumetric world space we live in?

  16. 16. Gary Williams says:

    Arnold, that depends on what you mean by “volumetric world space”. But Gibsonian theory says that we have direct epistemic access to invariant stimulus information concerning the external environment as reflected by the ambient array of light according to physical laws. Accordingly, we do not access the “world space” directly, but rather, the information about the world space as reflected in the ambient optic array. That we can pick such information up from the environment makes sense from an evolutionary perspective given that the fundamental purpose of sensory perception is to put us into contact with reality so as to behave adaptively. If we trace the history of representationalism, we can see it stems from Cartesian philosophy, and not from any knowledge of biology or evolution. It was simply assumed that the Mind is separated from the world by the veil of ideas. In light of ecological understanding, we have no reason to presume this; supposing that we perceive representations of the world and not the world itself is unnecessary in the explanation of basic perceptual cognition. Cognitive science itself is unable to tell us how representations function *as* representations i.e. how “grandmother cells” actually stand in for something else as opposed to merely responding to a stimulus reliably. William Ramsey has a great book on this called Representation Reconsidered.

  17. 17. Gary Williams says:

    Also, Arnold, I want to add that I think it really comes down to a methodological decision. Both internalist and externalist theories can explain the same phenomenona, with their own explanatory advantages and disadvantages, if we assume the truth of their presuppositions. I think direct realism is more parsimonious in light of Heidegger’s critique of the noumena, but I think there is room for representationalism within a cognitive theory, provided it is not ontologically foundational, in the sense of not being constitutive for primordial cognitive access to the world. But I could easily see how a Gibsonian externalist theory could be modified with representational functions as with higher-order cognitive phenomena. I think Andy Clark is on the money here is taking an ecumenical position in light of the complexity of human cognition, which is why I like some of Metzinger’s ideas on the phenomenal self-model; I just disagree with his epistemology.

  18. 18. Arnold Trehub says:

    Gary, look at the experimental results that I describe in *Philpapers* 2009-11-19 here:


    How could these results be explained on the basis of direct realism? It seems to me that these empirical findings directly refute the claim of direct realism.

  19. 19. Gary Williams says:

    Arnold, that is an interesting experiment, but I am skeptical that we can make inferences concerning the nature of visual perception from such an artificial set up wherein the subject’s head is prevented from natural locomotion. Would the illusion persist if the subject’s head was not perfectly still or would it disappear as soon as natural motion and informational self-correction is allowed? In natural perceptual behavior, completely passive reception of stimuli never occurs; the animal is always capable of *exploring* the world in order to overcome ambiguities of stimuli. So, it seems like in a natural setting, if we were presented with an illusionary phenomenon, the natural reaction would be to, so to speak, “look again”, perhaps from a different angle e.g. distorted room illusions are defeated as soon as one moves about.

    Thus, when you conclude that “This experiment demonstrates that the human brain has internal mechanisms that can construct accurate analog representations of the external world.”, I would say that this only establishes that the human brain constructs representations when normal perceptual mechanisms are unable to operate as in the case when head motion is restricted. The direct realist would interpret illusionary phenomena in terms of a malfunction of our normal direct access to the ambient optic array, but demonstrating that the brain *sometimes* generates representations (as with after images and other phenomena) doesn’t necessarily mean that the brain is *always* only perceiving representations and not directly picking up information from world.

    In other words, showing that representational phenomena are generated in artificially induced situations, in my mind, doesn’t carry over to natural perceptual situations, which never restrict the perceiver so that he is merely the passive recipient of stimuli instead of an acting explorer and seeker of information. Again, I am skeptical of restricting the head movement of a perceiver so that he becomes a passive receiver of ambiguous stimuli and then concluding from this that all stimuli are ambiguous and thus in need of representational computation. If natural locomotion disrupts the experience of illusionary phenomena, then why should we conclude that all experience is a constructed illusion rather than only in artificial situations?

    It is possible that I have misunderstood the nature of the experiment, but I generally agree with Gibson when he says that the study of illusions generated from passive reception of stimuli in laboratory settings will not help us understand natural perception, which is active and exploratory, not passive.

  20. 20. Doru says:

    As an “internalist” I can resonate with Metzinger’s point of view on consciousness.
    Biological beings, evolved or not are pretty much closed systems even though they apear to be connected with their environments. Without our predetermined nature I don’t see how we can survive.
    Of course we see with our minds.
    Of course the external world is only a projection of the internal representation.
    And of course, the old saying still holds its truth: there is no reality, only perception.
    At least until now,

  21. 21. Arnold Trehub says:

    In the SMTT experiment that I described, head movement was *not* restricted. Take another example: how can the moon illusion be explained on the basis of direct realism?

  22. 22. Gary Williams says:

    “In the SMTT experiment that I described, head movement was *not* restricted. Take another example: how can the moon illusion be explained on the basis of direct realism?”

    I’m sorry, I must have misunderstood it then; my apologies. Were the subjects instructed to keep their head still as they looked through the aperture? As for the moon illusion, and illusions in general, I am really not sure. Gibson said “misperceptions and illusions are deficiencies in a process which usually comes out right but which for various reasons sometimes goes wrong.” I guess that is all you can say outside of looking in detail at the reasons why particular instantiations of perception go wrong. Sometimes the stimulus information can be inadequate or the physiological mechanism for picking up the information can be deficient, but I think it is a jump to go from “we sometimes misperceive” to “we are never in contact with reality”. For the most part, perceptual systems are reliable at picking up stimulus information from the environment, otherwise we would not have been able to survive. To explain this process of reliable perception in the same terms that you would use to explain how it is we misperceive seems wrongheaded. The question of reliable perception then seems theoretically distinct from the question of perceptual failure. Gibson has a chapter on illusions and misperception in his book The Senses Considered As Perceptual Systems. I am not sure how other ecological psychologists deal with illusions, but generally they seem more interested in explaining how it is we have reliable perception of the world so as to behave in it adaptively and are concerned with the perception of affordances and what not.

    I apologize if I am coming off as arrogant or bullheaded, that is not my intention; my original comment on Metzinger’s internalism came off a little too strongly in retrospect. Like I said, I think internalism has a lot of explanatory power as a psychological theory; I just have a lot of trouble with the philosophical assumptions underlying it, namely, that we are locked within a “Matrix style” world of representations with no possibility of getting “out of our heads”. The argument leading to that conclusion seems to me circular. I kind of like how William Earle argues against this notion, speaking of phenomenological intentionality:

    “Thus, when we ask whether the object of thought is real we are asking whether that which is an object of thought (and, insofar as it is an object of thought, correlative to thought) is also independent of thought. It is not independent, of course, qua object. In this relation, it is a simple correlate. But what is it that is so correlated, what is it that has become an object of thought? This, I shall argue, cannot itself be another sheer correlate, but must be independent reality itself.”

  23. 23. vic p says:

    After listening to Metzenger’s 56:25 minute lecture at Berkeley: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mthDxnFXs9k
    I was struck by the Transparency notion (46:00 mins)

    At 50:25 “We are systems, which are not able to recognize our subsymbolic self-model as a model”

    I also read this passage from Chapter 4 of Nobel Laureate David Hubel’s Book on vision: http://hubel.med.harvard.edu/bcontex.htm

    “In the retina, the successive stages are in apposition, like playing cards stacked one on top of the other, so that the fibers can take a very direct route from one stage to the next. In the lateral geniculate body, the cells are obviously separated from the retina, just as, equally obviously, the cortex is in a different place from the geniculate. The style of connectivity nevertheless remains the same, with one region projecting to the next as though the successive plates were still superimposed. The optic-nerve fibers simply gather into a bundle as they leave the eye, and when they reach the geniculate, they fan out and end in a topographically orderly way. (Oddly, between the retina and geniculate, in the optic nerve, they become almost completely scrambled, but they sort out again as they reach the geniculate.) Fibers leaving the geniculate similarly fan out into a broad band that extends back through the interior of the brain and ends in an equally orderly way in the primary visual cortex. After several synapses, when fibers leave the primary visual cortex and project to several other cortical regions, the topographic order is again preserved. Because convergence occurs at every stage, receptive fields tend to become larger: the farther along the path we go, the more fuzzy this representation-by-mapping of the outside world becomes. An important, long-recognized piece of evidence that the pathway is topographically organized comes from clinical observation. If you damage a certain part of your primary visual cortex, you develop a local blindness, as though you had destroyed the corresponding part of your retina. The visual world is thus systematically mapped onto the geniculate and cortex. What was not at all clear in the 1950s was what the mapping might mean. In those days it was not obvious that the brain operates on the information it receives, transforming it in such a way as to make it more useful. People had the feeling that the visual scene had made it to the brain; now the problem for the brain was to make sense of it—or perhaps it was not the brain’s problem, but the mind’s. The message of the next chapters will be that a structure such as the primary visual cortex does exert profound transformations on the information it receives. We still know very little about what goes on beyond this stage, and in that sense you might argue that we are not much better off. But knowing that one part of the cortex works in a rational, easily understood way gives grounds for optimism that other areas will too. Some day we may not need the word mind at all.”

    If one applies Schopenhauer’s notion that the body is given to us in two ways as both “Simple” subject (SPINAL) and “External” object (TRANSPARENT OBJECT), one is further struck by the notion that we philosophically attempt to introspect consciousness through brain structure analysis but in reality “each of us sees the world consciously” through the self; or the ego “extrospects” the world up from the spinal cord into the base of the brain.

    Applying Pinker’s theories that thought and language is generated fundamentally from our visual perception AND PROCESSING:

    The “TRANSPARENT” is NOT TRANSPARENT AT ALL but is subconsciously extrospected as thought and language which is subconsciously generated up from the base of the brain and passed between us as thought and language via our senses.

  24. 24. Wally Peabody says:

    The world–the actual world–is whatever shows up. That includes the myriad differing points of view. Whatever shows up. What else could the world be made of? It may be objected that our surmises about the world can be found incorrect. Yes but the conclusion that the surmise is incorrect–may itself be found incorrect. In other words–all we have is what shows up as the state of affairs–it might or might not be refuted, or replaced or forgotten later but what shows up as a state of affairs is–for all intents and purposes—the state of affairs (and I am including sense and mind and what ever division of things you want to say is a state of affairs) What else is there to the world?
    Relativity corrected Newton’s equations, so should we say that Newton was wrong all along? No, Newton’s state of affairs was the state of affairs. So, we must and do assume that the state of affairs arising as the state of affairs is correct. We have no choice–it’s the only thing that shows up! If it is changed later–then it’s changed later and that becomes the state of affairs. At what point does the world stop? It doesn’t.
    Suppose I see a vast internal sea of being—and you say that is illusion, hallucination maybe. So, the state of affairs is that I have this internal vision and you say it’s hallucination. That is the state of affairs–what else could it be? You say your right I say I’m right
    that is the state of affairs. 10 people agree with me, 1000 agree with you–that is the state of affairs–it’s what showed up!
    You think there is some ‘thing in itself” that we can’t see–I disagree. That is the state of affairs, that’s what showed up.
    I think there is no entity “I” and it’s just an empty notion–you think that there is an entity “I” existing. That is the state of affairs–that is the world.
    The world excludes nothing embraces everything—whatever shows up is the world–what else could it be? Whatever shows up as the state of things, even the conclusion that there is no state of things–well, that is what has shown up–that is the world.

  25. 25. vic p says:

    WE certainly do recognize the states of affairs and coerce others around us to agree. The early 20th century Wittgenstein view also showed up in the anthropolgy of Ruth Benedict who wrote “Patterns of Culture”. All biological organisms form their own group behavior or internalized laws so that each individual contains a nexus of laws/stored behavior or their own personal ark which subtends the behavior of the body with the brain/environment/consciousness; and reflect as cultural patterns.

  26. 26. Lloyd Rice says:

    I just read the section of chapter 3 called “We live in a virtual world” — highly recommended. This is the core of the book; the elaboration of the idea first mentioned in the Introduction that the world/self map which constitutes consciousness is more complete, is all-encompassing, than I had ever considered. This section is a word salad of ideas about the functioning of the world/self map, how it is used to control the body, to sense and to act in the world. As with most of this book, parts of his descriptions are over-written, over-elaborate. But in this case, it leads the reader to think about the implications of having such an internal map, about how this leads to consciousness.

  27. 27. Lloyd Rice says:

    I’m just now finishing up this book. I thought the last two chapters were a bit off the deep end. I do agree that the eventual wide-spread publification/socialization of the idea of a computed self will probably have far-reaching social effects which will quite likely far exceed the present furor surrounding creationism vs. evolution. But I cannot go along with all of the social/moral advice Metzinger has to offer.

    He mentioned an interesting item, almost in passing, near the beginning of the last chapter. Without further comment, Metzinger notes that, among other things, our blind spot must be computed like everything else in the world we perceive. I think this brings up a most interesting point which serves to delimit the exact nature of the computed world. Presumably, evolution could have found a way to “fill in” the blind spot from memory of the most likely contents, were that an advantageous thing to do. That it has not been so done says to me that here is an aspect of the perceived world that is not entirely simulated. That, in fact, we are here seeing a bit of actual reality creeping in through the “tunnel”.

    In fact, in my view, the entire computed world/self must be an amalgam of direct perceptions together with purely computed representations. For example, the tidbits of reality available from the visual saccades has to be patched together into a coherent 3D picture, but the bits and pieces are direct from perception (as adjusted for lighting, shadows, etc.). So the view that the whole affair is a computed fiction is not quite correct.

  28. 28. Vicente says:

    Lloyd: just a few concerns on #27 (very interesting)

    – The concept of “direct perception” is difficult to define and defend for human senses. Even in the field of instrumentation and experimental techniques, what a “direct measurement” means is a thorny issue.

    – And again… the everlasting issue, no matter what you think you perceive to link it with subsequent qualia entails what you call the “big leap”, so it is a construction after all. The point is how much of “in-house” information is added to what it is input through the senses in order to build the final picture that can be quite distorted compared to the “objective actual” scene.

    – In my opinion, the main reason for which we can think that “the whole affair in not a computed fiction”, is that we can manage around, we efficiently interact with the environment and we survive. It is just partially a computed fiction. I believe only up to a little extent. Of course I am disregarding ideas like “the matrix” and similars, I assume the existence of an outer world. The truth is out there.

  29. 29. JSG says:

    I don’t believe that Metzinger pulls his punches on the free will-vs.-determinism issue except to say that he takes no position on free will in “The Ego Tunnel.” He mentions compatibilism as “the most beautiful idea” in the context of a brief survey of ideas about free will, but does not necessarily endorse it.

    Instead, he makes two main points: 1) There is “a deep sense of resentment” in public debates about free will because people sense that “certain types of answers will not only be emotionally disturbing but ultimately impossible to integrate into our conscious self-models.” And 2) Neuroscientists have added to the confusion “because they often underestimate the radical nature of their positions.”

    The pioneering neuroscientist Roger Sperry took a perhaps more broad-minded approach to this issue in a 1960s essay called “Mind, Brain and Humanist Values.” In it, he takes determinism to be a fact as far as science has been able to ascertain, and goes on to say, “‘If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em.’ Or as Confucius might have said, ‘If fate inevitable, relax and enjoy.'”

Leave a Reply