/ik/hack - Thomas Metzinger - Minimal Phenomenal Experience - A new theory about pure consciousness “as such”


One approach to explaining a complex target phenomenon is to define a minimal model - for example, of conscious experience as such. Is “pure awareness” a form of phenomenal character sui generis, which cannot be reductively defined or subsumed under a higher-order concept, a distinct class of conscious experiences? Does it exist?

In the spirit of Blanke and Metzinger (2009), who introduced the concept of “Minimal Phenomenal Selfhood” (MPS; TICS 13(1): 7-13) I will develop the notion of “Minimal Phenomenal Experience” (MPE; originally introduced by Windt 2015), adding phenomenological constraints. The talk will sketch a predictive processing model of pure consciousness, derive testable predictions, and argue that lucid dreamless sleep (LDS; Windt, Nielsen & Thompson 2016) is a real phenomenon while the minimally conscious state (MCS; Giacino et al. 2002; eg. Laureys, Boly, Moonen & Paquet 2009) actually is not the simplest form of phenomenal experience. MPE exists, but it is not “pure”, because it has an intentional object. If the model I will present is correct, it can perhaps serve as a basis for theoretical unification within consciousness research.


I will also attempt to draw together the different strands of argument as well as some of the new insights resulting from recent empirical work on self-consciousness, which were presented in the course of these three lectures. The general aim is to arrive at deeper understanding of the relationship between conscious experience as such, the gradual emergence of a phenomenal self, and high-level epistemic subjectivity.


Thompson, E. (2015). Dreamless Sleep, the Embodied Mind, and Consciousness - The Relevance of a Classical Indian Debate to Cognitive Science. In T. Metzinger & J. M. Windt (Eds). Open MIND: 37(T). Frankfurt am Main: MIND Group.
Windt, J. M. (2015). Just in Time—Dreamless Sleep Experience as Pure Subjective Temporality – A Commentary on Evan Thompson. In T. Metzinger & J. M. Windt (Eds). Open MIND: 37(C). Frankfurt am Main: MIND Group.
Windt, J. M., Nielsen, T., & Thompson, E. (2016). Does consciousness disappear in dreamless sleep? Trends in cognitive sciences, 20(12), 871-882

Course location

Hörsaal 1

Course requirements

Instructor information.

Thomas Metzinger


Thomas Metzinger (*1958 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany) is currently Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz and an Adjunct Fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Study (FIAS). He is also Director of the Neuroethics Research Unit in Mainz and Director of the MIND Group at the FIAS. Metzinger is past president of the German Cognitive Science Society (2005-2007) and of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (2009-2011). His focus of research lies in analytical philosophy of mind and cognitive science, as well as in connections between ethics, philosophy of mind and anthropology; he received several awards and Fellowships (see below), the last one being a 5-year GRC Fellowship by the Gutenberg Research College (2014-2019). In the English language, he has edited two collections on consciousness (“Conscious Experience”, Paderborn: mentis & Thorverton, UK: Imprint Academic, 1995; “Neural Correlates of Consciousness”, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000) and published one major scientific monograph developing a comprehensive, interdisciplinary theory about consciousness, the phenomenal self, and the first-person perspective (“Being No One – The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity”, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003). In 2009, he published a popular book, which addresses a wider audience and discusses the ethical, cultural and social consequences of consciousness research (“The Ego Tunnel – The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self”, New York: Basic Books). A revised and greatly expanded German edition has appeared in 2014, which is now also translated in other languages like Russian, Chinese, Polish, Spanish etc. An important recent Open Access collection (2015) is Open MIND at http://www.open-mind.net, see also http://predictive-mind.net (2017) for a follow-up.