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I Am a Strange Loop

Can thought arise out of matter? Can self, soul, consciousness, 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. The most central and complex symbol in your brain is the one called I. The I is the nexus in our brain, one of many symbols seeming to have free will and to have gained the paradoxical ability to push particles around, rather than the reverse. How can 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 laws of physics? These are the mysteries tackled in I Am a Strange Loop, Douglas Hofstadters first book-length journey into philosophy since Gdel, Escher, Bach. Compulsively readable and endlessly thought-provoking, this is a moving and profound inquiry into the nature of mind.
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About the Author

Douglas Hofstadter is College of Arts and Sciences Professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science at Indiana University, Bloomington. His previous books are the Pulitzer Prize-winning Goedel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid Metamagical Themas The Mind's I Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies and Le Ton beau de Marot. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana.


What do we mean when we say "I"? What is it like to be a strange loop? In his new excursion into the nature of consciousness and selfhood, Hofstadter (cognitive & computer science, Indiana Univ., Bloomington) returns to the themes of his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, G?del, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid-those of "strange loops," or "tangled hierarchies," that give rise to our sense of identity. Besides updating the central thesis of strange loops from his previous books, Hofstadter introduces new ideas about the self-referential structure of consciousness and offers a multifaceted examination of what an "I" is. He conveys abstract, complicated ideas in a relaxed, conversational manner and uses many first-person stories and personal examples as well as two Platonic dialogs. Though Hofstadter admits he writes for the general educated public, he also hopes to reach professional philosophers interested in the epistemological implications of selfhood. Recommended primarily for public and undergraduate university libraries.-Victoria Shelton, George Mason Univ. Libs., Manassas, VA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"(I am a Strange Loop) pulls off some remarkable achievements. For example, in a matter of 40 readable and even enjoyable pages, Hofstadter manages to explain Kurt Godel's incompleteness theorem in a way I have a never seen attempted before... he whisks us away to tangle with ever more layers of paradox and wonderfully mind-wrenching questions... (A) pacy mix of stories, metaphors, questions and explanations..." Nature "(A) brilliant American prof called Douglas Hofstadter has just written a book (about consciousness) that may point us in the right direction. And if I spend the next 700 words raving incoherently about it, that's because it is the most gripping 400 pages I've read in years..." The Times "In this pleasant and intriguing book, Douglas R Hofstadter returns to the themes of his 1979 bestseller Godel, Escher, Bach, ostensibly focusing on the nature of selfhood and consciousness. Hofstadter is a supremely skilful master of an educational alchemy that can, at the turn of a page, transform the most abstract and complex of thoughts into a digestible idea that is both fun and interesting. Times Higher Education Supplement Almost thirty years after the publication of his well-loved Godel, Escher, Bach, Hofstadter revisits some of the same themes. The purpose of the new book is to make inroads into the nexus of self, self-awareness and consciousness by examining self-referential structures in areas as diverse as art and mathematics. Hofstadter is the man for the job. His treatment of issues is approachable and personal, you might even say subjective. His discussion is never over technical and his prose never over-bearing. He stays close to the surface of real life at all times, even as he discusses matters of the highest level of abstraction, and his book is full of fresh and rich real-life examples that give texture and authenticity to the discussion." TLS If you enjoy such brain-bending questions and are willing to struggle with some deep mathematical ideas along the way, then you'll certainly enjoy this book... (I)f this book works its magic on you, you will no longer want to ask "why am I inside this body and not a different one?" Because you'll know what it means to be just a strange loop." BBC Focus Magazine "Nearly thirty years after his best-selling book Godel, Escher, Bach, cognitive scientist and polymath Douglas Hofstadter has returned to his extraordinary theory of self." New Scientist"

Hofstadter-who won a Pulitzer for his 1979 book, G?del, 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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