Thomas Metzinger, "The Elephant and the Blind: The Experience of Pure Consciousness: Philosophy, Science, and 500+ Experiential Reports" (MIT Press, 2024)

The MIT Press Podcast

06-03-2024 • 51 min

What if our goal had not been to land on Mars, but in pure consciousness? The experience of pure consciousness—what does it look like? What is the essence of human consciousness? In The Elephant and the Blind. The Experience of Pure Consciousness: Philosophy, Science, and 500+ Experiential Reports (MIT Press, 2024)," influential philosopher Thomas Metzinger, one of the world's leading researchers on consciousness, brings together more than 500 experiential reports to offer the world's first comprehensive account of states of pure consciousness. Drawing on a large psychometric study of meditators in 57 countries, Metzinger focuses on “pure awareness” in meditation—the simplest form of experience there is—to illuminate the most fundamental aspects of how consciousness, the brain, and illusions of self all interact. Starting with an exploration of existential ease and ending on Bewusstseinskultur, a culture of consciousness, Metzinger explores the increasingly non-egoic experiences of silence, wakefulness, and clarity, of bodiless body-experience, ego-dissolution, and nondual awareness. From there, he assembles a big picture—the elephant in the parable, from which the book’s title comes—of what it would take to arrive at a minimal model explanation for conscious experience and create a genuine culture of consciousness. Freeing pure awareness from new-age gurus and old religions, The Elephant and the Blind combines personal reports of pure consciousness with incisive analysis to address the whole consciousness community, from neuroscientists to artists, and its accessibility echoes the author’s career-long commitment to widening access to philosophy itself. Jeff Adler is an ex-linguist and occasional contributor to New Books Network!