I Am a Strange Loop Paperback – Jul 8 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Hofstadter—who won a Pulitzer for his 1979 book, Gödel, Escher, Bach—blends a surprising array of disciplines and styles in his continuing rumination on the nature of consciousness. Eschewing the study of biological processes as inadequate to the task, he argues that the phenomenon of self-awareness is best explained by an abstract model based on symbols and self-referential "loops," which, as they accumulate experiences, create high-level consciousness. Theories aside, it's impossible not to experience this book as a tender, remarkably personal and poignant effort to understand the death of his wife from cancer in 1993—and to grasp how consciousness mediates our otherwise ineffable relationships. In the end, Hofstadter's view is deeply philosophical rather than scientific. It's hopeful and romantic as well, as his model allows one consciousness to create and maintain within itself true representations of the essence of another. The book is all Hofstadter—part theory, some of it difficult; part affecting memoir; part inventive thought experiment—presented for the most part with an incorrigible playfulness. And whatever readers' reaction to the underlying arguments for this unique view of consciousness, they will find the model provocative and heroically humane. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* For more than 25 years, Hofstadter has been explaining the mystery of human consciousness through a bold fusion of mathematical logic and cognitive science. Yet for all of the acclaim his fusion has garnered (including the Pulitzer for his Godel, Escher, Bach, 1979), this pioneer admits that few readers have really grasped its meaning. To dispel the lingering incomprehension, Hofstadter here amplifies his revolutionary conception of the mind. A repudiation of traditional dualism--in which a spirit or soul inhabits the body--this revolutionary conception defines the mind as the emergence of a neural feedback loop within the brain. It is this peculiar loop that allows a stream of cognitive symbols to twist back on itself, so creating the self-awareness and self-integration that constitute an "I." Hofstadter explains the dynamics of this reflective self in refreshingly lucid language, enlivened with personal anecdotes that translate arcane formulas into the wagging tail on a golden retriever or the smile on Hopalong Cassidy. Nonspecialists are thus able to assess the divide between human and animal minds, and even to plumb the mental links binding the living to the dead. Hofstadter's analysis will not convince all skeptics. But even skeptics will appreciate the way he forces us to think deeper thoughts about thought. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Douglas Hofstadter attempts to understand the relationships between the "I" and the biological body. His looping analogies try to clarify what our consciousness could be in relationship with the numerous systems of symbols within our being. The book is written for an educated layman but certainly not engrossed in technical mish-mash. It is an unprovable concept and Douglas understands that. He just wishes to put the idea of "I" into some sort of representational or symbolic view within the mysterious goings-on in all of us. He does not ever expound upon souls living forever. Instead, Douglas observes that the thoughts and ideas of others can live on in others, as fragments of the deceased, in the vast collection of experiences and interactions with the "outside world".
If you are interested in a very thought provoking inquiry into what your "ego" could be, you should read this book.
And that's the most puzzling thing about this book. He doesn't discuss the neurology of the brain and the neurology after all IS the thing that creates conscious thought; not a math formula. The nature of the brain as a computer is highly constrained by its neural architecture.
In addition, given his heavy focus on analogies I was puzzled by the fact that he doesn't cite any of the work by George Lakoff in understanding the role of analogical reasoning in the human conceptual system or the work by researchers in cognitive psychology on metaphor comprehension.
But the weakest aspect of this book was its rather heavy handed moralism.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Some annoying things:
-Repeatedly gushes like a fanboy about Godel and repeatedly attacks Bertrand Russel. Gets really annoying and wastes time. Read more
I'm giving it two stars partly because I'm quite a generous person and I have no doubt there are people who will enjoy this book, but Hofstadter reads like his sole purpose for... Read morePublished on May 22 2011 by Alexander Parkinson
When I read Douglas Hofstadter's Pulitzer Prize winning book Gödel, Escher, Bach (GEB) many years ago, I found it to be challenging, but stimulating reading, as it was... Read morePublished on Sept. 16 2008 by Too Soon Old
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