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Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid Paperback – Feb 5 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 824 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; New edition edition (Feb. 5 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465026567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465026562
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.6 x 4.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (194 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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FREDERICK THE GREAT, King of Prussia, came to power in 1740. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 9 2004
Format: Paperback
The Atlanta Journal Constitution describes Gödel, Escher, Bach (GEB) as "A huge, sprawling literary marvel, a philosophy book, disguised as a book of entertainment, disguised as a book of instruction." That is the best one line description of this book that anybody could give. GEB is without a doubt the most interesting mathematical book that I have ever read, quickly making its place into the Top 5 books I have ever read.
The introduction of the book, "Introduction: A Musico-Logical Offering" begins by quickly discussing the three main participants in the book, Gödel, Escher, and Bach. Gödel was a mathematician who founded Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem, which states, as Hofstadter paraphrases, "All consistent axiomatic formulations of number theory include undecidable propositions." This is what Hofstadter calls the pearl. This is one example of one of the recurring themes in GEB, strange loops.
Strange loops occur when you move up or down in a hierarchical manner and eventually end up exactly where you started. The first example of a strange loop comes from Bach's Endlessly rising canon. This is a musical piece that continues to rise in key, modulating through the entire chromatic scale, ending at the same key with which he began. To emphasize the loop Bach wrote in the margin, "As the modulation rises, so may the King's Glory."
The third loop in the introduction comes from an artist, Escher. Escher is famous for his paintings of paradoxes. A good example is his Waterfall; Hofstadter gives many examples of Escher's work, which truly exemplify the strange loop phenomenon.
One feature of GEB, which I was particularly fond of, is the 'little stories' in between each chapter of the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Feb. 28 2004
Format: Paperback
No book could live up to this hype and praise, but still very worthwhile. It is best when describing difficult concepts of logic and computer science, weak when dragging in Zen and a tedious detour into molecular biology.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Edelman on June 30 2003
Format: Paperback
I've been reading reviews of GEB for years, and the most fascinating thing about them, aprt from the near-uniform enthusiasm of the readers, is that almost none of the enthusiatic readers have any idea of what the book is actually about! The typical reader seesm to think of GEB as a jouyous romp through any number of fascinating bits of logic, math and science without any idea as to what Hofstader's actually doing.
Yes, it's about Goedel, and recursion, and "strange loops", and linguistics Bach and ants and all that- but only trivially. The bulk of the book is taken up with what amounts to a very entertaining tutorial that sets the reader up for the real thesis of the book. What Hofstadter has attempted in GEB is nothing less than a concise, bottom-up theory of mind. You can read it as a theory of AI, or a theory of human intelligence, but either way he's telling you how to construct an intelligent entity.
True, he doesn't really have a theory of *how* a self-aware being should arise from his metaphorical anthill, but then, neither does anyone else. But he does have a very good story as to how intelligence does arise in such conditions.
If you've read this book before without understanding what his aim was, read it again, with that notion in mind. And if you haven't read it, and you're the sort of person who enjoys mathematic and scientific amusements of any sort, well, read it and discover how much fun a speculative theory can be.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 25 2002
Format: Paperback
I have just purchased my third copy of this book. I bought the first copy when it first came out decades ago.
Why, you ask 3 copies -- because I lent my two previous copies out to people who lent them out to people who ...
They never came back.
The book is that good that I'm willing to buy another copy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By brianvotaw on Nov. 28 2001
Format: Paperback
a cursory glance at a random passage of godel, escher, and bach, will likely appear to be jabberwocky, with its unapologetic, evolving vocabulary and sparkles of inside jokes based on such, this is ironic, because the right arm of this book is recursion, which implies that the whole is implied by each part, far from while reading, one most certainly must read godel, escher, and bach in its sequential order, too funny
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By llarq on Oct. 4 2001
Format: Paperback
This masterpiece has changed the way I think. I pity those have only read it once, or, even worse, didn't finish it. Only on the second reading can you understand that the entire book is itself a glorious ricercar and an endlessly rising canon. If you don't understand what I mean, read the book. And read it again, and again, and. . . .
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Oct. 6 2002
Format: Paperback
When this book first came out, I, along with probably most mathematically and scientifically minded people of my generation, would certainly have considered it one of the best books ever written. Hofstadter has refined the task of writing a book into almost an art form. Drawing on the central theme of "strange loops" (ideas that loop back on themselves in a paradoxical manner, as might be seen in the art of M.C. Escher), Hofstadter successfully draws together ideas from a large variety of different human pursuits. An important idea--shown to be connected to other ideas in artificial intelligence, music, and art--is Godel's incompleteness theorem, which shows that there are limits on our ability to prove concepts that may, nevertheless, be true. This, too, is based on a "strange loop"--these loops seem to crop up everywhere and Hofstadter spends a lot of the book showing how they are pretty much fundamental to human knowledge.
However, after reading the new preface in this 20th anniversary edition, I'm left with the sense that this once great book is now merely good. For one thing, Hofstadter seems to have evolved from a brilliant young man with a lot of great ideas into a somewhat cantakerous middle-aged man. He seems angry at the New York Times, and his readers, for not fully understanding the central message of the book. Yet he also excuses himself from making any attempt to update the book or bring the ideas in line with many of the enormous changes that have happened over the last 20+ years. It seems surprising to me that Hofstadter would constrain his own book to having only one central message--surely he should understand that a book of this complexity will mean many things to many different people, and that indeed is the reason for its popularity.
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