Godel Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid / Edition 20

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Douglas Hofstadter’s book is concerned directly with the nature of “maps” or links between formal systems. However, according to Hofstadter, the formal system that underlies all mental activity transcends the system that supports it. If life can grow out of the formal chemical substrate of the cell, if consciousness can emerge out of a formal system of firing neurons, then so too will computers attain human intelligence. Gödel Escher and Bach is a wonderful exploration of fascinating ideas at the heart of cognitive science: meaning, reduction, recursion, and much more.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Great Minds Think Alike

It's rare enough to read a good book. Still rarer is a great book that expands not just human understanding but also human thought. Perhaps not as groundbreaking a work of science as Darwin's Origin of Species, Godel, Escher, Bach comes close to it in reforming the way we think about the world. If you have read it before, you know its strength (and after 20 years, it is well worth revisiting). If you have not read the book, here is a simple summary of what you've missed.

By looking at the brilliant minds of mathematician Kurt Godel, graphic artist M. C. Escher, and composer Johann Sebastian Bach, computer-science and cognitive-science professor Douglas Hofstadter ties together the aesthetic gift of pattern recognition and manipulation with theories on artificial intelligence, human intelligence, and the essence of self-awareness. Does that do the book justice? Not at all; Godel, Escher, Bach cannot be explained without delving deeply into the structure of the book itself and the analysis of self-representation Hofstadter weaves through his appreciation of the art of Bach, the designs of Escher, and the theories of Godel.

Godel, Escher, Bach is not a simple read. The ideas are complex and the logic subtle. But it is a completely satisfying book, and reading it is one of those rare experiences when you leave feeling smarter than when you started.

—Greg Sewell

Martin Gardner
...a major literary event. -- Scientific American
<:st> Cited in . Reprints the 1979 Pulitzer-Prize winning text that explores hierarchical systems, self-reference, and the cause of consciousness. Occasional playful dialogues<-->including some based on musical forms<-->employ characters borrowed from a little-known work by Lewis Carroll. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465026562
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 2/1/1999
  • Series: Art of Mentoring Series
  • Edition description: 20th Anniversary Edition
  • Edition number: 20
  • Pages: 800
  • Sales rank: 51,465
  • Product dimensions: 9.04 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 1.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglas R. Hofstadter is College Professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. His previous books are the Pulitzer Prizewinning Gödel, Escher, Bach; Metamagical Themas, The Mind’s I, Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies, Le Ton Beau de Marot, and Eugene Onegin.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Words of Thanks
Introduction: A Musico-Logical Offering 3
Three-Part Invention 29
Ch. I The MU-puzzle 33
Two-Part Invention 43
Ch. II Meaning and Form in Mathematics 46
Sonata for Unaccompanied Achilles 61
Ch. III Figure and Ground 64
Contracrostipunctus 75
Ch. IV Consistency, Completeness, and Geometry 82
Little Harmonic Labyrinth 103
Ch. V Recursive Structures and Processes 127
Canon by Intervallic Augmentation 153
Ch. VI The Location of Meaning 158
Chromatic Fantasy, And Feud 177
Ch. VII The Propositional Calculus 181
Crab Canon 199
Ch. VIII Typographical Number Theory 204
A Mu Offering 231
Ch. IX Mumon and Godel 246
Prelude ... 275
Ch. X Levels of Description, and Computer Systems 285
... Ant Fugue 311
Ch. XI Brains and Thoughts 337
English French German Suite 366
Ch. XII Minds and Thoughts 369
Aria with Diverse Variations 391
Ch. XIII BlooP and FlooP and GlooP 406
Air on G's String 431
Ch. XIV On Formally Undecidable Propositions of TNT and Related Systems 438
Birthday Cantatatata ... 461
Ch. XV Jumping out of the System 465
Edifying Thoughts of a Tobacco Smoker 480
Ch. XVI Self-Ref and Self-Rep 495
The Magnificrab, Indeed 549
Ch. XVII Church, Turing, Tarski, and Others 559
SHRDLU, Toy of Man's Designing 586
Ch. XVIII Artificial Intelligence: Retrospects 594
Contrafactus 633
Ch. XIX Artificial Intelligence: Prospects 641
Sloth Canon 681
Ch. XX Strange Loops, Or Tangled Hierarchies 684
Six-Part Ricercar 720
Notes 743
Bibliography 746
Credits 757
Index 759
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 32 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 32 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2007

    Thinking about everything and sure of nothing

    The headline I just wrote might sound like a negative, but it's not. Hofstadter's book, which is literally in a class by itself, reaches out in thought to music, art, biology, writing, religion... and all the rest of it, all through the lens of the proof of Godel's incompleteness theorem, which is about the inability of proving something about a system from within the system. And that, to my mind, is pretty much everything there is to say about 'mind'. What else can I say? I was a 24-year-old with a B.A. in English and no math since High School algebra II when I read this book now I'm a PhD in mathematics, and I use this book in a first year seminar.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2009

    A Definite Must Read

    This is a very thought provoking book. When you have finished it's 700+ pages you will feel as if you have gone through an entire year's worth of courses. It touches on art, philosophy, artificial intelligence, mathematics, and ascetics. It is a journey through cognition that I have never encountered before. Hofstadter is truly a genius. My only complaints are that he can be a bit long winded, and the reading becomes dry. But the read is deffinatley worth it. This book changed my life.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2014

    I came early to a love of logic, and to my love of Escher upon n

    I came early to a love of logic, and to my love of Escher upon needing posters for my dorm room, but this book introduced me to both Goedel and Bach. And so many other things and ways to think. By the end of my Bachelor's it had also helped me through my single grad level course--one semester spent on this very theorem.

    He does more than make complex ideas accessible, he makes them compelling. I find it hard to convince people to pick this book up, but even harder to convince them to put it down--by the end of second year, we'd all read it and fallen under its sway. It's worth reading again every few years, because it doesn't all fit in my head at once--there's always more to learn. I can't recommend it too highly. I think of it as the adult non-fiction Phantom Tollbooth.

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  • Posted August 23, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Most Amazing Book I Have Ever Read.

    Amazing book. Hofstadter's clean, lucid prose offers a deeper understanding of the topics covered in this book. Would rexommend to anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2012

    A book that will teach you more than you can imagine.

    I'll start with two things. First, I've yet to even finish. Second, I already know this book is one of the most important I've ever read.

    This book is a mountain to climb through, don't start unless you're willing to get into something big. Be prepared to spend alot of time thinking about it before you understand, and don't aim to read it as fast as you can. Read a chapter a day and you're good.

    The book is almost impossible to describe in terms of what it is about. It talks about a little of everything. Brains, Zen, Math, Language, computers and artificial intelligence, you will learn about everything.

    I know this review wasn't as detailed as it could have been, but there were none before and that was a shame, and I'm low on time.

    What it boils down to is this, I cannot possible give a review that would describe what this book is, but take me at my word when I say it is one of the most important books out there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    Godel Escher Bach

    Excellent. Extraordinary. Highest recommendation.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2008

    I can't claim I fully grokked all of it.

    I imagine that would take a true renaissance man, but it was a lifesaver for me during my discrete structures course.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2002

    Must Read

    One of the best books ever written.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2002

    Brilliant lay introduction to Goedel's Theorem

    Goedel's Theorem may be the most universally unappreciated result of 20th Century mathematics -- at least equal in importance to Einstein's relativity. Considering that most of us still live in Newton's clockwork universe, wound up and set to running down by an absent God ages ago, considering that most of us still struggle with the long division that bedevilled Samuel Pepys, considering that almost no one understands that mathematics has been fully modern since well before Beethoven, the sheer anaesthetic distance of Goedel's math from modern minds is hardly surprising. Hofstadter's analysis of the implications are fun, deep and finally laborious -- but from his efforts finally emerge a realization that Goedel proved the unknowability of 'ultimate' truth, and perhaps also some appreciation of a corollary, that in the hands of a master logician, or an unscrupulous one, no system of ethical thought whatsoever is immune to being stretched to the point of damning self-parody. In a world dominated by 'simple' fundamentalisms, the triumph of decent agnosticism - while hardly won - is a worthy note of hope.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2001

    Eternal Golden Braid - Finally, Truth in Advertising!

    Science and art have never been less accessible. They have become obscure private languages, requiring rites of initiation and proficiency in coding and decoding. But while art has largely remained the preserve of an elite - science has been popularized by both its practitioners and a host of talented observers and reporters. The reason is that science is all-pervasive while art is still a museum thing. In the genre of popular science there is nothing that comes close to this book. It combines music and literature with formal logic and computer science. It is poetic while being rigorous, breathless without deteriorating to pseudo-science. In short: a masterpiece. The book strives - and succeeds - to demonstrate that ostensibly disparate phenomena like ant colonies, Bach's music, the structure and functioning of the brain, and programming languages - have more in common than we imagine. Uncovering these strains of similarity and strands of common order is done in a systematic but highly entertaining manner. The book is as taut as a thriller and as fun as 'Alice in Wonderland' that it so often quotes. A treat untouched by the almost three decades that elapsed since it was first published. Sam Vaknin, author of 'Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2000

    Brilliant, thought provoking, all-encompassing

    Godel, Escher, Bach is a brilliant book. It will lead you on a journey through logic, mathematics, physics, biology, music, art, artificial intelligence etc. The dialogues between the chapters are simply exquisite, with layer upon layer of meaning. The book is not very easy, but I could not stop reading.

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    Posted November 29, 2009

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    Posted May 7, 2009

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