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Meditation 617
I Am A Strange Loop: A Review

I Am A Strange Loop - Douglas Hofstader, Basic Books 2007

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Two of my favourite books are by Douglas Hofstader. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid is a real tour de force with digressions into logic, mathematics, science, artificial intelligence, recursion, self-reference; all adding up to an investigation into a theory of the mind. His Le Ton Beau De Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language is an astonishing meditation on translation and on poetry. Again, he is considering how the mind works.These are both huge books, over 700 pages. Both are well worth reading.

I bought his latest work "I Am A Strange Loop" because it was by Hofstader, and because it deals with consciousness, which has been the focus of several discussions on this site. Here the author asks "What do we mean when we say 'I'?" His answer lies in the title of the book.

Hofstader takes us through philosophy, logic, and mathematics, and again takes us to Gödel's incompleteness theorem and the world of paradox, recursion and self-reference. Ultimately, he determines that "I" am an illusion that "I" am having. The self is a paradox.

I'm not sure.

I can agree with him that our minds have evolved to create self-consciousness out of our perceptions and experiences. And that the self is entirely within the mind. Hofstader emphatically rejects dualism. But does that really make the self an illusion? An illusion perceived primarily by that self-same illusionary self.

I think fans of Hofstader will like this book. The usual digressions are there, the fascination with thinking, and how we think, the (usually bad) puns, the analogies, the dialogues, the putting of higher level mathematics (nearly) into layman's language. Also, those with an interest in (self)consciouness should find this interesting. Even though they may not agree with it, it should provide fresh insights.

As for anyone else, I would suggest Gödel, Escher, Bach, which was recently re-released in a 25th anniversary edition. I think prior exposure to Hofstader's style is needed to make his latest book accessible.