A possible evolutionary origin of the concept of the soul

I’m reading Thomas Metzinger’s The Ego Tunnel, and found a great idea by someone else, quoted by Metzinger in a footnote. The context is a discussion about the flexibility of the body image, the way we can extend our sense of body ownership to tools, e.g. the way proficient drivers “feels” the boundaries of their cars.

If external objects can be reconceived as belonging to the body, it may be inevitable that the converse reconceptualization, i.e., the subject can now objectify its body parts as equivalent to external tools, becomes likewise apparent. Thus, tool use may lead to the ability to¬†disembody the sense of the literal flesh-and-blood boundaries of one’s skin. As such, it might be precursorial to the capacity to objectify the self. In other words, tool use might prepare the mind for the emergence of the concept of the meta-self, which is another defining feature of human intelligence. (footnote at p. 80)

A very exciting new perspective on these issues. And Metzinger takes it further:

It now looks as if even the evolution of language, culture, and abstract thought might have been a process of “exaptation,” of using our body maps for new challenges and purposes [...] (p. 81)

This line of thought continues later in the book. Looking forward to getting there.

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2 Comments on “A possible evolutionary origin of the concept of the soul”

  1. sigg3.net says:


    This concept would surely fall under phenomenology/existentialism (Heidegger) in the um-zu mode of consciousness, and is thus not entirely new to Western philosophy.

  2. sigg3.net says:

    “And don’t call me Shirley.” (Man with the naked gun)

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