The Ego Trick Book Summary By Julian Baggini

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The Ego Trick, published in 2011, is an examination of our sense of self.

It delves into the intricacies surrounding what we regard as our “I” or “me,” taking account of various factors such as brain function, dysfunction and its effects on identity, culture and technological advances.

Additionally, it poses certain philosophical questions about the idea of freedom of will and soul.

All of this makes for an engaging read that provides readers with an insightful look at the concept of ourselves.

The Ego Trick Book

Book Name: The Ego Trick (What Does it Mean To Be You?)

Author(s): Julian Baggini

Rating: 4.1/5

Reading Time: 16 Minutes

Categories: Philosophy

Author Bio

Julian Baggini is a renowned British philosopher and the author of several bestselling philosophical texts.

He is the founder of The Philosopher’s Magazine, and he has written such popular works as The Pig That Wants to be Eaten and Do They Think You’re Stupid? His latest book, The Ego Trick, delves into why we do the things we do.

It's an insightful look at how our egos shape our thoughts and behaviours - something that will certainly engage any reader who is interested in philosophy.

Who Are You? Exploring The Mysteries Of Identity And Personality


The Ego Trick invites readers to challenge their understanding of the “self”.

Are we our parents, our schools, or our jobs? What about multiple voices and personalities? How can we determine who is truly “us”, versus what makes us an individual?

These questions have inspired centuries of philosophical and scientific exploration, but they still remain largely unanswered.

That’s why The Ego Trick offers insight into possibilities like whether or not we have a soul; what might cause multiple personality disorder; and if free will really exists.

This book encourages us to reflect on the concept of self, and consider ideas that may be unfamiliar.

Read it for an inspiring look at our connection with ourselves and those around us.

The Brain Tumor That Gave Suzanne Segal A Transcendental Moment

The summation of The Ego Trick book presents an interesting proposition: Do spiritual awakenings reveal the truth of our existence – or are they the result of brain dysfunctions?

Suzanne Segal’s story illustrates this perfectly.

After experiencing a sudden loss of her personal identity, Segal explored how her experience related to Buddhist concepts such as Anatta, or the “non-self”.

She then attempted for the following 10 years to reclaim her identity, though successfully failed in the end.

Contrastingly, further research in neuroscience suggests that these spiritual experiences may be caused by abnormalities in the brain.

In Segal’s case it was eventually proven true – she had been suffering from a large brain tumor before she died tragically in 1997.

It thus appears that whether ones’ spiritual awakening is due to epiphany or medical cause may come down just as much to luck as it does to enlightenment.

Is the truth revealed through these moments or simply hindered by them? Ultimately, this remains unanswered according to science.

Avicenna’S Thought Experiment Tries To Prove The Existence Of A Soul But Falls Short

The notion that humans have immortal souls is part of nearly every religion and was of great interest to ancient philosophers.

One philosopher, Avicenna, asked the question of whether or not the soul was real by creating a thought experiment called the floating man.

In this state, without sensory inputs from the body, we would still know that we exist as an awareness separate from it all – suggesting there is something more to us than our physical bodies.

However, logically speaking this conclusion may not hold up.

The thought experiment assumes that we are imagining ourselves without bodies but in truth likely we are imagining what it would be like to have no awareness of our bodies – usually our bodies are hidden but still present in such an imagination which does not allow for our souls to be considered entirely separately.

Furthermore, sensations can often be deceiving and even under psychedelic drugs people can imagine all kinds of bizarre things which don’t actually prove anything tangible about some kind of soul as a separate entity from our physical selves.

Descartes’ famous quote “I think therefore I am” contains a similar logical mistake – just because you think doesn’t mean your mind is the only part of you that exists and believes in the idea of an immortal soul is intuitive, but considering it logically isn’t so convincing.

Multiple Personality Disorder Highlights The Subjective Nature Of Our Experience And How We Cope With Trauma

Multiple Personality Disorder

Multiple personality disorder illustrates the inherent subjectivity of our experience.

Robert B.

Oxnam’s case is a prime example of this; in his brain were eleven unique personalities, each unaware that the others existed.

As these personalities showed themselves, it became increasingly clear how subjective each person’s view of reality can be – one moment he would be in the form of Bobby, with a mischievous character fond of practical jokes and roller skating; and then in a matter of moments Tommy, an individual with an angry temperament prone to tantrums was present.

Traumatic experiences often contribute to cases like these; when faced with intense trauma, either physical, sexual or emotional, humans are unable to make sense of what is happening to them thus create alternate worlds just for them-selves.

This is exactly what occurred here – Oxnam created eleven distinct characters as he struggled to cope with the trauma from his childhood abuse.

These character existences represent varying perspectives on his world, showing us just how subjective everyone’s experiences really are in comparison to another’s lived truth.

Through therapy, Oxnam was able to recognize and work through his past traumas which brought him down from eleven different alternating personalities down to three – showcasing the power of growth and progress even when faced with difficult obstacles like severe trauma.

How Society’S Acceptance Shapes Our Sense Of Self

Our sense of self is profoundly impacted by how society perceives us.

This applies regardless of culture, as different cultures shape our individual sense of self in diverse ways.

For example, individuals in the West have a largely individualistic conception of themselves and their place in the world.

In this regard, transgender people need and seek validation and acceptance from society to ensure they are seen and treated according to the gender identity they identify with.

On the other hand, the Inuit have a less individualistic sense of self – their emotions tend to be intertwined with those around them, while decisions are made not just for one person but for their whole family or clan.

The story of Dru Marland illustrates the importance society’s view has on one’s own perception of self.

Only after transitioning she was often subtly disregarded or ignored completely which harmed her confidence and that has been experienced by many other transwomen too.

No matter where you come from or what culture you were raised in, it is essential to recognize that how we perceive ourselves is heavily influenced by how we’re seen and accepted by others in our community and society at large.

David Hume’S Theory Of The Illusory Self And The Inability To Observe One’S Own Consciousness

David Hume’s eighteenth-century theories proved that the existence of the ego is a trick of the mind.

To test out his ideas, Hume practiced introspection, looking for evidence of a constant subject or self that existed independently from his emotions.

To his surprise, he found no such thing – the self only manifested when it was connected to an emotion or sensation.

This led him to conclude that there really wasn’t any “self” at all; instead, it was just an illusion created from fleeting and sporadic feelings and perceptions.

In other words, we create our sense of identity by cobbling together fragments of experiences, even if those pieces don’t logically fit together.

We become convinced that we have some kind of a solid identity when in truth the self is not something we can observe directly – rather, it’s something that exists beyond our minds and may forever elude us.

The Buddhist Belief Of Non-Self: A Reinterpretation Of The Self As An Ongoing Construct


The notion of the self as an illusion isn’t just something found in Western philosophy, but can also be found in Buddhist teachings.

Ancient Buddhists believed that the self is actually an illusion and have been basing their wisdom on this idea for centuries.

This concept of ‘non-self’ or atte suggests that there is no such thing as a true self – but rather that we construct our identities from a bundle of impermanent and oftentimes painful thoughts and experiences.

These thoughts and experiences are where we draw our identity from, instead of it being presented to us already pre-defined.

Therefore, the self isn’t something static or pre-determined, but rather something that we become through choices and actions we take in our lives.

Additionally, some Buddhist schools argue against the existence of a divine consciousness called bramhan, suggesting instead that these alterable thoughts and experiences are all that exist.

This interpretation may seem simplistic at first glance, yet it speaks volumes by conveying how profound this teaching really is; and how understanding this concept can give people power over their own lives and sense of self.

Buddhist thought teaches us to look closely into ourselves to gain insight on who we really are – truly becoming our best selves in the process.

Is Free Will An Illusion? Exploring The Debate On Human Choice

The idea that we don’t have any influence over the decisions we make, be it a choice of ice cream or career path, can be equal parts freeing and paralyzing.

Without having to worry about making the right choices, life may feel hollow and pointless.

What determines whether or not we have free will comes down to which view of our soul is accepted.

If you adopt the theory that the self is a combination of emotions and experiences, and that what we do is merely the natural result of our brain interacting with reality according to physical laws, then you must accept that free will does not exist.

This big reveal can be difficult for us to process since our first instinct is to believe we do have autonomy over ourselves.

Like ordering a cup of tea – feeling as though you could choose a cappuccino instead – but in reality, your specific life circumstances may mean that picking tea was inevitable.

Though it’s not necessarily predicable due to the vast amount of conscious and unconscious stimuli out there influencing us all at once, unless those individual pieces of input can come together in order to establish something fixed like a weather system, prediction won’t become possible— no matter how much we wish it would rain or shine on certain days.

Essentially without a soul involved in such scenarios, it becomes harder to prove if one truly has control over their own actions or not.

Exploring The Changing Nature Of The Self In Science Fiction

Changing Nature

The world as we know it is rapidly changing, and this extends to our sense of self.

We’re no longer living in the same type of world where a child’s life is composed of constant and uniform experiences, leading to cohesive personalities with only a few cultural eccentricities.

We are now in an age where technology has advanced to the point that children are exposed to diverse people and ideas from all different cultures on a daily basis.

As these kids interact with new information, their identities become more multifaceted and complex.

What’s more, our perception of the self could become significantly altered when it comes to future generations.

Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield emphasizes how media has a powerful influence on developing minds, enabling them to understand themselves as individuals, part of groups or even “nobody” – for example when we watch an addictive TV show or lose ourselves dancing.

Altogether, these technological and cultural shifts have had genuinely started to revolutionize our conception of the self.

Wrap Up

The Ego Trick is a book full of thought-provoking ideas that can help us better understand ourselves.

It encourages us to reflect on our identity in order to gain self-awareness and break free from restrictive ideas.

By delving into insights from neuroscience, psychology, sociology, religion, and philosophy, it reveals how the self is an illusion that connects our ever-changing thoughts, emotions and experiences.

The book’s final summary can be summed up in one sentence: Take time to test these ideas on your own mind through meditation or philosophical introspection so you can learn to recognize the ways in which we subconsciously construct our identities.

Doing this can lead us to greater self-awareness and freedom from limiting beliefs about who we are.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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