Synopses & Reviews
Douglas R. Hofstadter's long-awaited return to the themes of Gödel, Escher, Bach
an original and controversial view of the nature of consciousness and identity.
What do we mean when we say "I"?
Can thought arise out of matter? Can a self, a soul, a consciousness, an "I" arise out of mere matter? If it cannot, then how can you or I be here?
I Am a Strange Loop argues that the key to understanding selves and consciousness is the "strange loop" a special kind of abstract feedback loop inhabiting our brains. Deep down, a human 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 in your brain or mine is the one we both call "I." The "I" is the nexus in our brain where the levels feed back into each other and flip causality upside down, with symbols seeming to have free will and to have gained the paradoxical ability to push particles around, rather than the reverse.
For each human being, this "I" seems to be the realest thing in the world. But how can such a mysterious abstraction be real or 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 the mysteries tackled in I Am a Strange Loop, Douglas R. Hofstadter's first book-length journey into philosophy since Gödel, Escher, Bach. Compulsively readable and endlessly thought-provoking, this is the book Hofstadter's many readers have long been waiting for.
"Hofstadter who won a Pulitzer for his 1979 book, Gdel, 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.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"I Am a Strange Loop is vintage Hofstadter: earnest, deep, overflowing with ideas....It may not make us kinder or more compassionate, but we will never look at the world, inside or out, in the same way again." Los Angeles Times
"Hofstadter's analysis will not convince all skeptics. But even skeptics will appreciate the way he forces us to think deeper thoughts about thought." Booklist
"[Hofstadter] conveys abstract, complicated ideas in a relaxed, conversational manner..." Library Journal
"Doesn't quite add up to a unified theory of anything." Kirkus Reviews
Douglas R. Hofstadter's long-awaited return to the themes of Godel, Escher, Bach - an original and controversial view of the nature of consciousness and identity.
About 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 Prize winning Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, Metamagical Themas, The Mind's I, Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies, Le Ton Beau de Marot, and Eugene Onegin.