I Am a Strange Loop

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Basic Books, Aug 1, 2007 - Philosophy - 436 pages
2 Reviews
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 Hofstadter's first book-length journey into philosophy since Gödel, Escher, Bach. Compulsively readable and endlessly thought-provoking, this is a moving and profound inquiry into the nature of mind.


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I am a strange loop

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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 ... Read full review

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I highly recommend this book to anyone that has pondered this strange thing called "I". It is a beautiful work and I will treasure it as much as I did his previous "GEB". Since he works at my wife's alma mater, I still hold out slim hope that I will meet him at some point in my life.
I was surprised that in all the citations Hofstadter has in his book, there is little mention of Eastern philosophy and no mention of Alan Watts at all. I think the ideas in this work and Watts' philosophy expressed in such lectures as "Not What Should Be But What Is" have such strong resonance that it seems unlikely that "I Am a Strange Loop" was created with no knowledge of this work.
I'll indulge one quote that I find particularly comforting related to our own mortality:
"Though the primary brain [of the deceased] has been eclipsed, there is, in those that remain and who are gathered to remember and reactive the spirit of the departed, a collective corona that still glows. This is what human love means. The word "love" cannot, thus, be separated from the word "I"; the more deeply rooted the symbol for someone inside you, the greater the love, the brighter the light that remains behind".


Prologue An Affable Locking of Horns
Chapter 1 On Souls and Their Sizes
Chapter 2 This Teetering Bulb of Dread and Dream
Chapter 3 The Causal Potency of Patterns
Chapter 4 Loops Goals and Loopholes
Chapter 5 On Video Feedback
Chapter 6 Of Selves and Symbols
Chapter 7 The Epi Phenomenon
Chapter 16 Grappling with the Deepest Mystery
Chapter 17 How We Live in Each Other
Chapter 18 The Blurry Glow of Human Identity
Chapter 19 Consciousness Thinking
Chapter 20 A Courteous Crossing of Words
Chapter 21 A Brief Brush with Cartesian Egos
Chapter 22 A Tango with Zombies and Dualism
Chapter 23 Killing a Couple of Sacred Cows

Chapter 8 Embaring on a StrangeLoop Safari
Chapter 9 Pattern and Provability
Chapter 10 Godels Quintessential Strange Loop
Chapter 11 How Analogy Makes Meaning
Chapter 12 On Downward Causality
Chapter 13 The Elusive Apple of My I
Chapter 14 Strangeness in the I of the Beholder
Chapter 15 Entwinement
Chapter 24 On Magnanimity and Friendship
Epilogue The Quandary
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About the author (2007)

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 Gödel, 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.

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