‘What is a self, and how can a self come out of inanimate matter?’
This is the riddle that drove Douglas Hofstadter to write this extraordinary book. In order to impart his original and personal view on the core mystery of human existence - our intangible sensation of ‘l’-ness - Hofstadter defines the playful yet seemingly paradoxical notion of ‘strange loop’, and explicates this idea using analogies from many disciplines.
The astonishing mathematica! discoveries of Austrian logician Kurt Cedel form the starting point of the adventure, but Hofstadter proceeds to pull in ideas from biology, psychology, artificial intelligence, physics, music and visual art as well. In a sparkling counterpoint between down-to-earth chapters and fanciful Carrollian dialogues whose form and content mirror each other in constantly surprising ways, Hofstadter makes even the most abstract of his ideas come to vivid life, using wordplay and innovative verbal structures that imitate the intricate patterns of the music of J. S. Bach and the art of M. C. Escher.
‘Every few decades an unknown author brings out a book of such depth, clarity, range, wit, beauty and originality that it is recognized at once as a major literary event.’ - Martin Gardner, Scientific American (July, 1979)
‘Extraordinary, exhilarating this splendid tour de force ... leaves you feeling you have had a first-class workout in the best mental gymnasium in town.’ - New Statesman
‘I’ve read it and reread it. Every time I come back to it, I find lots of new ideas to contemplate. The book’s deepest layer is its analysis of the differences between information and meaning, between syntax and semantics, between formal systems and the real world. With Escher’s pictures, Carrollian dialogues and Bach for good measure, who could resist it?’ - lan Stewart, New Scientist
‘A vast book and a great pleasure.’ - Frank Kermode
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