To Be or Not To Be: The Self as Illusion

Panel Discussion December 7, 2010

Evidence from studies of the brain and mind point to a construct of the Self resulting from complex neurobiological processes interacting with the environment. If distinct neurobiological correlates of consciousness do in fact exist, does that necessarily imply that the Self is an epiphenomenon and illusion? Furthermore, how do these characterizations of the Self affect the way we represent ourselves, our responsibilities, and our actions in the world?

Renowned philosophers Thomas Metzinger and Evan Thompson will join cardiologist and expert on near-death experiences, Pim van Lommel, to examine recent developments in neuroscience and philosophy that shed light on whether our conscious experience of a unified Self is reality or illusion.

Near-death experiences by Pim van Lommel


  • Krista Tippett Journalist, Former Diplomat & Peabody-Award-Winning Broadcaster
  • Pim van Lommel Author & Researcher in the Field of Near-Death Studies
  • Thomas Metzinger Professor of Philosophy, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
  • Evan Thompson Professor of Philosophy, University of Toronto


  • Tuesday, December 7, 2010
  • 6:00 pm - 7:15 pm
  • The New York Academy of Sciences
    7 World Trade Center, 250 Greenwich Street, 40th Floor


This volume stems from a six-part lecture series that fostered reflection and insight on the current concept and theories of the self and their moral, ethical, and social implications. In addition to full transcripts of each panel, the volume also contains a number of essays by many of the participants.

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About This Series

This event is the first in a six-part series, Perspectives on the Self, which brings together experts from the sciences and the humanities for conversations on the evolving meaning and experience of the Self.