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Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity Hardcover – January 24, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


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)

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 Damasio, Professor 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 at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Germany. He is the editor of Neural Correlates of Consciousness (MIT Press, 2000).


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Product Details

  • Series: Bradford Books
  • Hardcover: 584 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book (January 24, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262134179
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262134170
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,081,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas Metzinger (*1958 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany) is currently Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz and an Adjunct Fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Study.

In 2008 he received a one-year Fellowship at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Berlin Institute for Advanced Study), is past president of the German Cognitive Science Society and was president of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness from 2009 to 2010.

His focus of research lies in analytical philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophical aspects of the neuro- and cognitive sciences as well as connections between ethics, philosophy of mind and anthropology.

In the English language, he has edited two collections on consciousness ("Conscious Experience", Paderborn: mentis & Thorverton, UK: Imprint Academic, 1995; "Neural Correlates of Consciousness", Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000) and one major scientific monograph developing a comprehensive, interdisciplinary theory about consciousness, the phenomenal self, and the first-person perspective ("Being No One - The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity", Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003).

In 2009, he published a popular book, which addresses a wider audience and also discusses the ethical, cultural and social consequences of consciousness research ("The Ego Tunnel - The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self", New York: Basic Books).
Details at

There are a number of videos on YouTube, German as well as English. More information at Wikipedia:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

117 of 128 people found the following review helpful By Carlos Camara on October 15, 2004
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.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Kirk Petersen on September 28, 2008
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.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Ann McCann on November 12, 2007
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.
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Format: Paperback
This overly long book is a perfect example of why Cognitive Science has yet to pull itself out of the pseudo-scientific realm of philosophical speculation and into the realm of actual science. Metzinger puts forward a theory that our phenomenological or experienced sense of self - as both bodily sense of self and abstract, conceptual sense of self - is produced by a kind of virtual reality simulation in the brain. The trick in giving such an account of how the brain is able to do this is to refer to "levels of explanation." For example, your experienced sense of self belongs to the phenomenological level of explanation, while how the brain generates this phenomenal level of experience is explained in terms of a "computational level" of explanation. In other words, your brain "computes" a virtual sense of self in the same way a computer can produce a virtual image of an object on a computer screen. If this idea sounds deeply unsatisfying to you and a perhaps riddled with philosophical difficulties then I would suggest that is because it is. Metzinger never raises the potential philosophical problems of his theory and instead proceeds to spend over 700 pages mixing in descriptions of consciousness experiences with references to brain anatomy and neural processing. We are led to believe that conscious experience and brain processes are seemessly connected together by his use of jargon borrowed from information science. The trick is tangle up your "levels" of explanation so that we no longer have to worry about how each level of explanation really maps on or relates to the other levels.Read more ›
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