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Posted March 19, 2012
The short description of this book is: Nonsense about nonsense.
The short description of this book is: Nonsense about nonsense. My short review of the book is bad nonsense about wonderful nonsense.
Let me start with the subject of the book, nonsense which I find wonderful. Gödel and Turing demonstrated that the airtight Principia Mathematica of Russell is not as airtight as previously believed. This is a fantastic insight into thinking itself. In a sense ironically, the insight is that self reference, and in particular, thinking about thinking, will get you in trouble and turn everything into nonsense, albeit very useful and intriguing nonsense. But, there go absolute truths. It is indeed a fascinating subject worthy of a lot of pondering.
So, any treatise of the subject will necessarily be nonsense also. But the book, which to me was bad nonsense, does not do justice to the subject. It is ten times longer than it needs to be. While some of Hofstadter’s concoctions have value, stating each one multiple times in extremely lengthy ways left me trying to figure out how to skip most of his boring verbiage to find the next significant point. Also, his condescending approach constantly telling you that you have to agree with him, particularly when there are plenty of reasonably nonsensical ways to disagree, is way too annoying. For example, souls come in different sizes and although there is a unit of measurement no soul can ever be measured, but souls can be ranked by size and we HAVE to agree with this and his rankings. Really? That’s what I call bad nonsense.
So, If you have a lot of patience and don’t mind putting up with bad nonsense, go ahead; you’ll likely get something out of this book. Otherwise, unless you are extremely stubborn, chances are you’ll throw the thing into the “will never be finished” book pile.
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Posted January 9, 2010
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