Modern Philosophy

I Am A Strange Loop
by Douglas Hofstadter

Followers of Douglas Hofstadter's journey into consciousness and self will enjoy his long awaited return to these themes in I Am A Strange Loop, his most recent book on philosophy since the Pulitzer Prize winning Gödel, Escher, Bach.

Breaking new ground in his exploration of the abstract concept of "I," I Am A Strange Loop tackles a number of mysteries involved in the understanding of self and consciousness. Hofstadter expands his original and controversial views by contemplating how thought can arise out of matter, and whether a self, a soul, a consciousness, an "I", can exist as a physical property. This book asks: "What do we mean when we say 'I'?"

For each human being the concept of "I" is the defining reality of life's experience. I Am A Strange Loop examines the physical nature of thought in determining how this concept of "I" might have the ability to exert genuine power over the particles composing our brain. Comparing this phenomenon to its corollary, Hofstadter also considers whether consciousness is instead the end result of the laws of physics, that in effect control those same particles of matter which constitute our minds.

Hofstadter's compelling style awakens the reader to the proposition that a special type of feedback loop inhabits our brains, the "strange loop," a concept that forms the key to understanding selves and consciousness. He describes the particles composing our brain, beginning as a chaotic and seething soup that rises into a jungle of neurons; these neurons in turn form a network of abstractions that we call "symbols" leading up to the most central and complex symbol being the one that we conceive as "I." With "I" as the nexus of this multi-layered mass, the constituent layers are shown to continuously feed back upon one another to the extent where the layers known as "symbols" have acquired the paradoxical ability to control the physical particles of which they are made.

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About the Author

Widely respected as one of the world's great thinkers, Douglas Hofstadter is known by his contemporaries as a warm, witty, and engaging fellow. His many credentials include: Ph.D. in physics, University of Oregon, 1975; Pulitzer Prize (General Nonfiction category), 1980, American Book Award (Science Hardback category), 1980, for Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid; Guggenheim Fellow, 1980-81. Fans of Le Ton beau de Marot will be delighted to see his meticulous theories of translation put into practice in his English language translation of Alexander Pushkin's novel-in-verse: Eugene Onegin

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