“Michael W. Taft: You’ve written at great length about the experience of selfhood in human beings. So let’s start off by asking, What is the self?
“Thomas Metzinger: The first thing to understand, I believe, is that there is no thing like “the self.” Nobody ever had or was a self. Selves are not part of reality. Selves are not something that endures over time. The first person pronoun “I” doesn’t refer to an object like a football or a bicycle, it just points to the speaker of the current sentence. There is no thing in the brain or outside in the world, which is us. We are processes… the self is not a thing but a process.”Michael Egnor, “Philosopher: I’m neither me, myself nor I… Yet I give interviews! ” at Mind Matters News
So Egnor asks,
What could Metzinger possibly mean by “there is no thing like ‘the self’”? Myself is the term I use to refer to me. I (and my self) are very much a part of reality, and I most certainly endure over time. I am an object like a football — in a sense — in that I exist in the world, I have mass and shape, and I have come into existence and will someday go out of existence in this world. Obviously, I have many abilities that a football doesn’t have — I have a sum of powers (physiological, sensory, motor, emotional, mnemonic, and rational) that comprise my soul. I am a composite of matter and soul, just as all things in the world are composites of matter and form.
And Metzinger’s claim that we are not selves (“things”) but processes is unintelligible. A process is a state of change, and change presupposes a being that exists continuously through the process of changing.Michael Egnor, “Philosopher: I’m neither me, myself nor I… Yet I give interviews! ” at Mind Matters News
Takehome: If Metzinger is an evanescent process without substantial enduring reality, does he refuse to pick up his paycheck? How real is “not part of reality” here?
You may also wish to read: Interview with a woman (or women) formerly called Susan Blackmore. A professor of psychology argues that there is no continuity between our present selves and our past selves. If her denial of personal continuity made sense, the video interview would be with Susan Blackmores or with countless women, one of whom was Susan Blackmore.