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To Be or Not To Be


for Members

To Be or Not To Be

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The New York Academy of Sciences

Presented By

Presented by the Nour Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences


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.

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Krista Tippett, MDiv, Creator and Host of Public Radio's Being


Pim van Lommel, MD, Hospital Rijnstate, The Netherlands

Thomas Metzinger, PhD, University of Mainz, Germany

Evan Thompson, PhD, University of Toronto

This event is part of a 6-part series, Perspectives on the Self: Conversations on Identity and Consciousness, bringing together experts from science and the humanities for an interdisciplinary discussion of the evolving notion and experience of the Self.

Presented by


Thomas Metzinger, PhD

University of Mainz, Germany

Thomas Metzinger is Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz and an Adjunct Fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Study. He recently finished a prestigious Fellowship at the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study, is past president of the German Cognitive Science Society and currently is president of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness. His research focus lies in analytical philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophical aspects of the neuro- and cognitive sciences as well as connections between ethics, philosophy of mind and anthropology. He has edited the collections Conscious Experience and Neural Correlates of Consciousness, and one scientific monograph, Being No One – The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity. He is the author of The Ego Tunnel - The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self which discusses the ethical, cultural and social consequences of consciousness research for a broad audience.

Krista Tippett, MDiv

Creator and Host of Public Radio's Being

Krista Tippett is a journalist, former diplomat, and Peabody-award-winning broadcaster. As the creator and host of public radio's Being (formerly Speaking of Faith), she has innovated a new model of intelligent, in-depth conversation about religion, ethics and large questions of meaning in every aspect of life. The program is heard on over 240 public radio stations across the U.S. and globally via podcast and Internet at Krista was a journalist and diplomatic appointee in divided Berlin in the 1980s after graduating from Brown University. She received a Masters of Divinity from Yale in 1994. She is the author of a memoir of religion in our time, Speaking of Faith: Why Religion Matters, and How to Talk About It; and the New York Times bestselling, Einstein's God - Conversations about Science and the Human Spirit.

Pim van Lommel, MD

Hospital Rijnstate, The Netherlands

Pim van Lommel, MD was born in 1943, graduated in 1971 at the University of Utrecht, and finished his specialization in cardiology in 1976. He worked from 1977-2003 as a cardiologist in Hospital Rijnstate, an 800 bed Teaching Hospital in Arnhem, the Netherlands, and is now conducting full-time research on the mind-brain relationship. He has published several articles on cardiology, and since he started his research on near-death experiences in survivors of cardiac arrest in 1986 has authored of over 20 articles (most of them in Dutch), one book and several chapters in this new area.

In November 2007 his book Eindeloos Bewustzijn ('Endless Consciousness') was published in The Netherlands, becoming a bestseller with more than 100,000 copies sold within one year. The book has also been published in German by Patmos Verlag (Endloses Bewusstsein. Neue Medizinische Fakten zur Nahtoderfahrung) and in English by Harper Collins (Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience). In November 2011, his book will also be published in France.  See also, and

Evan Thompson , PhD

University of Toronto

Evan Thompson is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto. His areas of research are cognitive science, philosophy of mind, and phenomenology. He is the author of Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind (Harvard University Press, 2007); co-author of The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (MIT Press, 1991); and co-editor of The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness (2007). He is currently writing a new book titled Waking, Dreaming, Being: New Revelations about the Self from Neuroscience and Meditation.


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