Thomas Metzinger's Papers on Out-of-Body Experiences 


Thomas Metzinger

Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, Frankfurt/Main, Germany and Department of Philosophy, Johannes Gutenberg-University at Mainz, Germany

Abstract: Contemporary philosophical and scientific discussions of mind developed from a "proto-concept of mind", a mythical, traditionalistic, animistic and quasi-sensory theory about what it means to have a mind. It can be found in many different cultures and has a semantic core corresponding to the folk-phenomenological notion of a "soul". It will be argued that this notion originates in accurate and truthful first-person reports about the experiential content of a specific neurophenomenological state-class called "out-of-body experiences". They can be undergone by every human being and seem to possess a culturally invariant cluster of functional and phenomenal core properties similar to the proto-concept of mind. The common causal factor in the emergence and development of the notion of the soul and the proto-concept of mind may consist in a yet to be determined set of properties realized by the human brain, underlying the cluster of phenomenal properties described in the relevant first-person reports. This hypothesis suggests that such a neurofunctional substrate led human beings at different times, and in widely varying cultural contexts, to postulate the existence of a soul and to begin developing a theory of mind.

Lenggenhager, Bigna, Tej Tadi, Thomas Metzinger & Olaf Blanke (Aug. 2007). Video ergo sum: Manipulating bodily self-consciousness. Science 317(5841): 1096-1099. (DOI: 10.1126/science.1143439). (Issue of 24 August 2007 Science).


Bigna Lenggenhager1, Tej Tadi1, Thomas Metzinger2,3 Olaf Blanke 1,4*

1 Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Station 15, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.

2 Philosophical Seminar, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, 55099 Mainz, Germany.

3 Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

4 Department of Neurology, University Hospital, 1214 Geneva, Switzerland.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: olaf.blanke [AT]

Abstract: 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.


Thomas Metzinger1,2

1 Philosophisches Seminar, Johannes Gutenberg Universität, D-55099 Mainz, Germany

2 Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, D-60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Email: metzinger [AT]

Available online 31 December 2007.

Abstract: A concise sketch of the self-model theory of subjectivity (SMT; Metzinger, 2003a), aimed at empirical researchers. Discussion of some candidate mechanisms by which self-awareness could appear in a physically realized information-processing system like the brain, using empirical examples from various scientific disciplines. The paper introduces two core-concepts, the "phenomenal self-model" (PSM) and the "phenomenal model of the intentionality relation" (PMIR), developing a representationalist analysis of the conscious self and the emergence of a first-person perspective.

Keywords: consciousness; self-consciousness; first-person perspective; ownership; agency; self-model; phenomenal transparency; phantom limbs; robotics; rubber-hand illusion; out-of-body experience; evolution of tool-use


Olaf Blanke1,2 and Thomas Metzinger3,4 Email: olaf.blanke [AT], Email: metzinger [AT]

1 Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland

2 Department of Neurology, University Hospital, 1214 Geneva, Switzerland

3 Philosophisches Seminar, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, 55099 Mainz, Germany

4 Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Available online 6 December 2008.

Abstract: We highlight the latest research on body perception and self-consciousness, but argue that despite these achievements, central aspects have remained unexplored, namely, global aspects of bodily self-consciousness. Researchers investigated central representations of body parts and actions involving these, but neglected the global and unitary character of self-consciousness, the 'I' of experience and behaviour. We ask, what are the minimally sufficient conditions for the appearance of a phenomenal self, that is, the fundamental conscious experience of being someone? What are necessary conditions for self-consciousness in any type of system? We offer conceptual clarifications, discuss recent empirical evidence from neurology and cognitive science and argue that these findings offer a new entry point for the systematic study of global and more fundamental aspects of self-consciousness.


Thomas Metzingera,b,c

a Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz, Germany

b Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Study, Frankfurt, Germany

c Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Received 27 August 2008;  revised 1 September 2008;  accepted 5 September 2008.  Available online 31 October 2008.

The first paragraph of this paper:

After decades of only sparse scientific interest, we are currently witnessing a renaissance of empirical research into out-of-body experiences (OBEs) and full-body illusions. Being a philosopher of mind, I obviously have only a limited judgment of how good this research actually is from a purely scientific point of view. What I can do, however, is to draw attention to a series of theoretical aspects that make OBEs a particularly relevant target of investigation in the ongoing search for the neural correlate of self-consciousness and in the wider context of an empirically grounded theory of the human mind.

About the Author


Professor Thomas Metzinger 

Photo from: Thomas Metzinger's Homepage 


Professor of Philosophy, Director of the Theoretical Philosophy Group at the Department of Philosophy of the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz.

Head of Neurophilosophy Section at IFZN.

Coordinator Neuroethics Section.

Adjunct Fellow, Frankfurt Institute for Advanced StudiesJohann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Max-von-Laue-Str. 1, 60438 Frankfurt am Main.

Mailing address (until July 2009):

Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Wallotstraße 19, 14193 Berlin

Tel: 30-89001-236

Fax: 30-89001-300

Email: metzinger [AT] uni-mainz [dot] de

Office: P 00-515 / N 36 (Wissenschaftskolleg)

Office Hour: By appointment only

Thomas Metzinger's Homepage: 

Wikipedia entry on Thomas Metzinger: 

Thomas Metzinger's Books 


▷ Metzinger, Thomas (1985). Neuere Beiträge zur Diskussion des Leib-Seele-Problems. Frankfurt am Main, Bern, New York: Peter Lang.

▷ Metzinger, Thomas (1993). Subjekt und  Selbstmodell: Die Perspektivität phäomenalen Bewußtseins vor dem Hintergrund einer naturalistischen Theorie mentaler Repräsentation. Paderborn: mentis. [Second revised edition June 1999; third printing 2004.]

▷ Metzinger, Thomas (Feb. 2003). Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 

▷ Metzinger, Thomas (Mar. 2009). The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self. Basic Books. 

▷ Metzinger, Thomas (Hrsg.) (1995). Bewußtsein: Beiträge aus der Gegenwartsphilosophie. Paderborn: mentis. [2nd printing December 1995. 3rd, expanded edition June 1996, 4th printing June 2001, 5th expanded edition fall 2004.]

▷ Metzinger, Thomas (ed.) (1995). Conscious Experience. Thorverton: Imprint Academic & Paderborn: mentis.

▷ Metzinger, Thomas (ed.) (Sep. 2000). Neural Correlates of Consciousness: Empirical and Conceptual Questions. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

▷ Metzinger, Thomas (Hrsg.) (2006). Grundkurs Philosophie des Geistes. Band 1: Phänomenales Bewusstsein. Paderborn: mentis. 

▷ Metzinger, Thomas (Hrsg.) (2007). Grundkurs Philosophie des Geistes. Band 2: Das Leib-Seele-Problem. Paderborn: mentis. 

▷ Metzinger, Thomas (Hrsg.) (Mai 2009). Grundkurs Philosophie des Geistes. Band 3: Intentionalität und mentale Repräsentation. Paderborn: mentis. 



지금 2009. 01. 18. 일요일. 아침 08시 56분. 새벽부터 겨울비가 내리고 있다.

콸리아 / 퀄리아 / qualia 

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