A Scientific Song of Consciousness and Self

By Neuroskeptic | January 13, 2019 6:55 am

In what may be a world first, a peer-reviewed journal, Frontiers in Psychology, has published a song.

The musical contribution to science is called ‘It’s Hard Work Being No One’, and it comes from psychologist J. Scott Jordan of the Illinois State University. Here’s some of the lyrics, which deal with nothing less than the existential question of identity:

I got a ticket on the next train to OZ
Gotta see that crazy wizard because
Even tin man was an I, just had no heart
Scarecrow was an I, just not that smart
And the lion, he’s a coward, but at least he’s an I
Me, I’m just a guy who has to deny he’s an I
Oh I wish that I could depart
This lonely land of Descartes

You can listen to the rather catchy piece as part of the Supplementary Material.

In the accompanying notes to the song, Jordan explains that he wrote it in 2006 while working with philosopher Thomas Metzinger. ‘It’s Hard Work Being No One’ is a play on the title of Metzinger’s famous book Being No One (2003) in which Metzinger argued that the ‘self’ is an illusion.

For Metzinger, the self does not exist except as a model, yet we confuse this model for a reality: “Nobody ever was or had a self. All that ever existed were conscious self-models that could not be recognized as models.” This is known as the self-model theory of subjectivity (SMTS).

Jordan says that ‘It’s Hard Work Being No One’ is an affectionate tribute to Metzinger and contains many references to SMTS, as well as to Jordan’s own Wild Systems Theory.


Well. As mentioned, I think this is the first peer-reviewed song in history – although some journals (especially medical ones) have a long tradition of publishing poems. Neuroskeptic readers will know that Frontiers in Psychology has a rather mixed reputation and has published some rather outlandish articles down the years, but I’m a fan of this musical paper.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: funny, music, papers, select, Top Posts
  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

    At best, crap has parameters,(e.g., US Democrap Socialism – hate Trump, promise anything to everyone). There are no boundaries. Next turn of the psycho-scholar screw – music videos…

    …with bagpipes. And flames.

  • Kamran Rowshandel

    Speechless totally

    • live4ward

      Love this

  • live4ward

    Whoever’s not rocking that piano sure has it going on.

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

    Psychology is to science as the Democrap Party is to America. Music videos are the last refuge of the incompetent.

    • http://pathoskeptic.com Timo Ylhäinen

      I can feel your sorrow. Where does it come from?

  • Pingback: Accelerazioni - Ocasapiens - Blog - Repubblica.it()

  • Erik Bosma

    A psychologist discovers what a blues has /jazz musician has known for centuries and, no doubt, will want to take credit for it.

    • Erik Bosma

      Delete that first ‘has’… thanks.

  • J. Wunder

    “Nobody ever was or had a self.” Really? Damn good illusion, I must say.



No brain. No gain.

About Neuroskeptic

Neuroskeptic is a British neuroscientist who takes a skeptical look at his own field, and beyond. His blog offers a look at the latest developments in neuroscience, psychiatry and psychology through a critical lens.


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