Thomas Metzinger on ‘mental autonomy’

An interesting article in Aeon by Thomas Metzinger:

Are you sleepwalking now?

Given how little control we have of our wandering minds, how can we cultivate real mental autonomy?

He develops a metaphor of conscious thoughts as dolphins that leap from the water of unconscious processing into the air of conscious awareness, and asks:

The really interesting question then becomes: how do various thoughts and actions ‘surface’, and what’s the mechanism by which we corral them and make them our own? We ought to probe how our organism turns different sub-personal events into thoughts or states that appear to belong to ‘us’ as a whole, and how we can learn to control them more effectively and efficiently. This capacity creates what I call mental autonomy, and I believe it is the neglected ethical responsibility of government and society to help citizens cultivate it.

52 thoughts on “Thomas Metzinger on ‘mental autonomy’

  1. And again, you are confused if you think that Brady has posed an unanswerable challenge to Metzinger when he writes:

    And if no subject, or individual thinking process exists, what made the mistake?

    Metzinger has no trouble answering that question:

    It is this system, for example, the central nervous system of a biological organism, which really is the thinking thing.

    Brady’s “individual thinking process” is hosted by Metzinger’s “thinking thing”, the central nervous system.

    True, the idea did not come from Steiner’s ass, so it lacks the characteristic Steiner stink that you adore. But it makes perfect sense, and it’s backed up by the scientific evidence.

  2. keiths:
    And as I noted earlier:

    I would rephrase that as “my self” instead of “myself”, and Metzinger makes his meaning quite clear in the quote above, where he refers to the “sense of self” and “the illusion that we are actually the same person over time.”

    It’s clear that you don’t want to understand Metzinger, but why? Why does this idea of an illusory self-model spook you so?

    Well I do agree with Metzinger that the self-model is illusory. Any model that is taken for reality is an illusion. But the fact is that we can achieve self-knowledge directly without having to invent a model. And to equate the self with physical processes is to take a model for reality.

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