The Washington Post
I Am a Strange Loopby Douglas R. Hofstadter
Deep down, your brain is a chaotic seething soup of particles. On a higher level it is a jungle of neurons, and on a yet higher level it is a network of abstractions that we call "symbols." The most central and complex symbol is the one you call "I". An "I" is a strange loop where the brain's symbolic and physical levels feed back into each other and flip causality… See more details below
Deep down, your brain is a chaotic seething soup of particles. On a higher level it is a jungle of neurons, and on a yet higher level it is a network of abstractions that we call "symbols." The most central and complex symbol is the one you call "I". An "I" is a strange loop where the brain's symbolic and physical levels feed back into each other and flip causality upside down so that symbols seem to have gained the paradoxical ability to push particles around, rather than the reverse.
To each human being, this "I" is the realest thing in the world. But how can such a mysterious abstraction be real? Is our "I" merely a convenient fiction? Does an "I" exert genuine power over the particles in our brain, or is it helplessly pushed around by the all-powerful laws of physics?
These are among the mysteries tackled in I Am a Strange Loop, Douglas Hofstadter's first book-length journey into philosophy since his Pulitzer Prize-winning Godel, Escher, Bach. It is a tale crisply told, rife with anecdotes, analogies, and metaphors-cutting-edge philosophy that any strange loop can understand.
About the Author:
Douglas Hofstadter is College of Arts and Sciences Professor of Cognitive Science at Indiana University
The Washington Post
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 2007 Reed Business Information
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