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Gödel, Escher, Bach: een eeuwig gouden band

4.29  ·  Rating Details ·  32,808 Ratings  ·  1,353 Reviews
"Every few decades an unknown author brings out a boof of such depth, clarity range, wit beauty & originality that it is recognized at once as a major literary event-this is such a work."--Scientific American
List of Illustrations
Words of Thanks
Introduction: A Musico-Logical Offering
Three-Part Invention
The MU-puzzle
Two-Part Invention
Meaning & Form in Mat
Paperback, 899 pages
Published 2004 by Olympus (first published 1979)
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Roger Merritt An axiom is something that is just assumed to be true. It is not based on logic or reasoning. It is said to be self-evident. The truth of it is…moreAn axiom is something that is just assumed to be true. It is not based on logic or reasoning. It is said to be self-evident. The truth of it is supposed to be so obvious that it need not be proven. Indeed, it cannot be proven.

A theorem is an assertion of fact. It usually is not obvious. Its truth can only be proven by arguing according to a set of rules called "logic." Its truth depends on the truth of the premises, so if you can start with axioms and follow the rules and reach the assertion, then the theorem is considered "proven," and "true," and can be used as the basis for further argument to prove other theorems.(less)
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Jul 01, 2007 Daniel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like thinking about thinking about thinking.
If you open up the "20th Anniversary Edition" of GEB, you'll see that the first thing Douglas Hofstadter does in the introduction - the very first thing - is grouse that nobody seems to understand what his book is about. Not even its publishers or readers who just absolutely love it. A quick glance at the back cover will give you the same impression - even the glowing, two-sentence blurbs are hilariously vague, all of them variations on the theme of "Well, that certainly was ... something! Yes, ...more
As I work my way through this dense book, I am reminded of the Zen tale of 4 blind men and an elephant. To settle a dispute between townspeople over religion, the Zen master had 4 blind men and an elephant led in. With the men not knowing it’s an elephant, the Zen master had each feel a part of the elephant. Each blind man gave a varying but inaccurate guess of what it was he felt. In conclusion, the Zen master exclaimed that we are all like blind men. We have never seen God, but can only guess ...more
Dec 14, 2008 Manny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a nice book if you want to understand the Gödel incompleteness proof, and get an account that is both accessible and reasonably rigorous. There's a lot of other fun stuff as well, but it's the Gödel proof that's the core of the book, and if that doesn't turn you on then you aren't really going to think GEB is worth the effort.

Personally, I would say that this is one of the most amazing things ever. The more you think about it, the more bizarre it gets... there are mathematical theorems
Andrew Breslin
Jan 10, 2010 Andrew Breslin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I could not with a clear conscience recommend this book to everyone, because I'm simply not that cruel. It would be like recommending large doses of LSD to everyone: some small minority will find the experience invaluably enlightening, but for most people it's just going to melt their brain.

While you do not need to be a professional mathematician to appreciate this, you really have to like math a lot. You can't just sort of like it. You can't just differ with the masses in not hating mathematics
Oct 07, 2012 Forrest rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I were clever enough, I would write this review as a fugue. This is the formal structure that Hofstadter uses throughout Gödel, Escher, Bach. Whether the whole book is a fugue, I'm not smart enough to tell. But the fugue is used as a metaphor for layers of brain activity, thoughts, superimposed over the “hardware” of the brain, the neurons.

In fact, though I would recommend starting at the beginning of the book, I suppose one might begin anywhere and read through and back again, a'la Finnegan'
Mark Lawrence
Jan 24, 2012 Mark Lawrence rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Expand your mind! Not for the faint of heart & yet by no means dry.

Hofstadter makes some fascinating observations about emergent properties (such as intelligence) and diverts us into the extremely heavy mathematics of Godel via the self referencing systems that are Bach's fugues and Escher's 'optical illusion' style artwork.

Before too many chapters have passed though you'll be firmly in number theory land, albeit doled out as painlessly as is possible with such stuff, leavened with imagined

from Randall Munroe. Mouseover says: 'This is the reference implementation of the self-referential joke.'


I know, I know, I know. I'm just kidding myself. I'm as likely to read this as a book on string theory. (Please don't. Please don't tell me I have read a book on string theory, I'm trying to forget the whole sordid story.) But. I hope you like this.

A friend of mine established The Harvester Press in the 1970s. He did it on a wing and a prayer, he was a young teaching a
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
The reading of a book and its interpretation are determined in part by the cytoplasmic soup in which it is taken up. This reader’s soup consists of a large portion of metaphiction.

This is how Hofstadter apparently intended to structure his work: a Lewis Carroll styled dialogue between Achilles and Tortoise (and friends) introducing a subject followed by a rigorous but popularly accessible explication of that topic.

This is how I read Hofstadter’s book: as a crab canon. A crab canon, as our musi
Aug 23, 2007 Jeffrey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Conversation overheard at a diner in Upstate NY between Rabbit and Dante. They have been arguing about the existence of God. Dante has been arguing against the proposition.

Rabbit: I have been recently reading a book which helps me to counter many of your points Dante. You should take a look at it. Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter carries within it the seed of an answer to your skepticism. Hofstadter argues, using the pictures of Escher, the music of Bach and

     start here--->  Bach’s
                   B.:    Fug
                 G.E.       es&
                st!           Es
               mu              ch
              you               er
             _it                ’s_W
            ad                    or
           Re       pln.no_xar;A   |
           d.    ncometZe’sodaPchil
          ia--cY&I               les&Mr_
       -- Br                       |  Tu
      eN  _n                       ld  rt
    IsT   de                       
May 06, 2010 Xing rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely beautiful. GEB reads like a collection of sparks, produced when the mind is working at its primed, relaxed, hyper-aware and associative best. I read this over numerous nights, curled up in bed, each time feeling as if I was with a wonderful best friend, with whom I could discuss any topic or previously-unformed idea, exercise my memory indexing resources, and unabashedly release the inner infovore. Few things have allowed me to unwind, concentrate, and harness my mental energy as quic ...more
May 13, 2010 Barbara rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book told me something about intelligence - the smartest thing to do is to avoid this book's overly lengthy babblings of a self-important graduate student who is way too impressed with himself. It took this guy over 700 pages to illustrate by analogy his not-particularly novel theory which he sums up (finally) as follows:

"My belief is that the explanations of 'emergent' phenomena in our brains --for instance, ideas, hopes, images, analogies, and finally consciousness and free will--are base
Jun 17, 2008 Matt rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very disappointing, especially after recieving so much hype. I was struggling along through it in a workman like fashion, trying to follow his arguments (which to me often seemed like so much dribble and unnecessary obfuscation and nothing like a fun puzzle), when I got really stuck and so I went to the MIT website and started reading the class notes on this book. That only made me more disgusted with the book, since it turns out that the book is riddled with historical errors wher ...more
Jun 27, 2015 Annie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm going to be the only one who uses a gif in their review of GEB, aren't I? I'm definitely going to be the only one who uses a Legally Blonde gif. Fuck it.


Part 1 deals with catching the reader up to speed on formal logic, number theory, and Godel’s incompleteness theorem. It’s the more tedious part of the book, to be sure. I took formal logic in university, and in Hofstadter’s more recent book, “I Am A Strange Loop,” he gives a pretty good overview of Godel and his relevance, so this wasn’
Jun 27, 2007 Rob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: deepest of deep geeks
Deep geekery. Let's build logic from its component parts. And then after by-hand fabricating that nomenclature, we'll use it to talk about intelligence, problem-solving, heuristics, etc. building up to general intelligence (generally) and artificial intelligence (specifically). Deep, heavy, at times extremely fun. Took me five years to read it.

And so somewhat in the spirit of the text:

GEB is like this incredibly attractive, incredibly smart, incredibly funny/witty woman that you meet through a f
Khashayar Mohammadi
Me: Hmm... I wonder what I think about this book! I can't seem to make up my mind about these indecipherable theorems. I better ask the Meta-Enlightened! or as he likes to be called, ME.

-closes eyes and awaits the rise of the Meta-Enlightened among the colorful haze-

the Meta-Enlightened one: Greetings Self! you summoned me?

Me: Yes ME! I was wondering if you could help me review this book that I am reading.

the Meta-Enlightened one: With pleasure but unfortunately over here we tend to divide menta
Colin Murchie
Jun 27, 2007 Colin Murchie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
GEB is an astonishing achievement in popularizing mathematical philosophy (!), and among the few truly life-changing books I've read.

The central thesis is that under certain conditions sufficiently complex, recursive self-editing systems can develop arbitrarily complex behavior without reference to external organization - and given an author who spends his days coding AI systems, you can see where he's going.

That's dense, dense stuff, but helped by the author's charming expository style and vas
Cassandra Kay Silva
This is an absolutely phenomenal work. Let me break it down for you. Topics covered: DNA and RNA replication, Artificial Intelligence, Zen Buddism, Eschers artwork, Computer programming, Bachs fugues, a whole host of literary paradoxes and critical thinking exercises wow fun! Now let me tell you what all of this great information rests in, the framework of mathematics housed by Godels own theorems and proof. Yikes! Luckily the author understands that not all of us think mathematically. Don't get ...more
Oct 11, 2007 Kaylee rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After an entire tome about the workings of the mind and what it means to be intelligent, you'd think the author would be more self-aware by the end of the book than to say, "indirect self-reference is my favorite topic".

No, Mr. Hofstadter, blatant self-reference is your favorite topic.

I'm notoriously bad at distancing the creation from the creator, so perhaps I was biased from the start -- reading the 20th anniversary intro was like listening to a narcissist who insists he's modest. I didn't fin
Sep 13, 2007 Ethan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's quite impenetrable, but if you can hang in there, you can learn a lot about a lot of seemingly unrelated things. I don't know why mathematicians feel like they have to write like it's 1885. Hofstadter himself encourages you to just open the book at random, read a few pages, skip around, look at the pictures, listen to some Bach, etc, and that certainly helped me get a foothold.
Mar 15, 2016 Tara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: STEM types
This book was so metal. Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, which states that all consistent axiomatic formulations of number theory include undecidable propositions, is certainly a large part of what made the book so fascinating and addictive. The issues of self-reference and self-awareness, and how they relate to both human and potential artificial intelligence, were likewise extremely compelling. But the magic is in the math.

Here is a brief summary of the Gödel in the book:


The above image knocked
Jun 22, 2007 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Synopsis: Two books, interwoven. The first is a series of comedic dialogues in which characters created by Lewis Carrol engage in friendly battles of wit and skill, or just conversations, each dialogue being modeled after music by Johann Sebastian Bach. The second is a prosaic exploration of the nature of artificial intelligence, self-reference, and free will. The two halves intertwine with eachother and refer to eachother.

This book was made with great care, and is a masterpiece. It is the most
Koen Crolla
Pretentious crap. Hofstadter is about as interesting and insightful as a 14-year-old stoner who got a hold of some of his dad's reference books. The actual content of this book could fit in under a hundred pages, but Hofstadter feels it necessary to pack on pages upon pages upon pages of barely-relevant filler, much of it apparently just to show off with the fact that he read some classical Greek poetry once.

To be fair, it is a very ambitious book, and one that could have turned out very interes
Andrej Karpathy
Oct 18, 2012 Andrej Karpathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a must read or at least must selectively skim for anyone interested in intelligence. Some of the ideas regarding intelligence and how it should be implemented are perhaps slightly outdated (you would see much more statistical reasoning if you asked experts today), which is largely absent in "old AI" approaches to intelligence.
Mar 30, 2008 Anni rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, this is not really my sort of thing at all, or at least, not at all the sort of thing I usually read. I more or less stumbled upon it by accident. But then again, maybe it is my sort of thing after all as I have been trying to be more diverse in what I read and sometimes enjoy the infuriating (I'm sure this is due to some combination of my education and my upbringing by a smartass engineer).

So here are some things I think I can say about this book:

It's dense with connections among various
May 18, 2012 Tasha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
WOW! I finished it. I think I deserve a cookie.

I'll be honest, I struggled with this book. It was a good struggle though, one I hope has improved me. I started out really enjoying playing with the number sets, but that got old after a couple of chapters. I think spending more time on this book and rereading segments would be a good idea.

The point seems to be that if a system becomes sufficiently complex to be self referential and self replicating or at least self editing, then intelligence follo
Jul 09, 2012 kaelan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
What exactly is this book about? There seems to be a fair share of confusion regarding this question. Is it about Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems?—as several reviewers on this site have suggested. Is it about computer science? Is it about minds and machines? In fact, Hofstadter spells it out quite clearly for us, describing one of the "main theses" of the book as follows:
every aspect of thinking can be viewed as a high-level description of a system which, on a low level, is governed by simple,
Steven Schmatz
Dec 05, 2016 Steven Schmatz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid should be required reading for all high school students and undergraduates interested in STEM and/or music. This is a book I wish I discovered years ago.

Content: The title "An Eternal Golden Braid" is fitting, because Hofstadter seems to seamlessly weave together advanced concepts of math, art, music, and even molecular biology. He's evidently a polymath who shares an infectious curiosity with the interplay of disparate fields of study.

The main theme
Christopher tm
Feb 26, 2012 Christopher tm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I've gone back to it again and again over the past - what - 20 years or so, and I'm pretty-sure that I still don't get it. At all. But, oh, what a beautiful and wondrous quandry to hold in one's hands and peel apart like a mysterious bejeweled artichoke of ... mystery.


Start again. It's a large book and confusing. It contains many many drawings and pictures that only serve to further one's sense of "WaitaminuiteIgottarerereadthatagain". And then, click, something ... clicks ... and you try to
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Gödel's Proof
  • The Society of Mind
  • e: the Story of a Number
  • Labyrinths of Reason: Paradox, Puzzles and the Frailty of Knowledge
  • How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method
  • The Emperor's New Mind Concerning Computers, Minds and the Laws of Physics
  • The Colossal Book of Mathematics
  • A Mathematician's Apology
  • The Annotated Turing: A Guided Tour Through Alan Turing's Historic Paper on Computability and the Turing Machine
  • Consciousness Explained
  • Journey through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics
  • Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty
  • An Imaginary Tale: The Story of the Square Root of Minus One
  • Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics
  • Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel (Great Discoveries)
  • Chaos: Making a New Science
  • The Music of the Primes: Searching to Solve the Greatest Mystery in Mathematics
  • A History of Mathematics

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Douglas Richard Hofstadter is an American academic whose research focuses on consciousness, thinking and creativity. He is best known for his book Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, first published in 1979, for which he was awarded the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction.

Hofstadter is the son of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Robert Hofstadter. Douglas grew up on the campus of St
More about Douglas R. Hofstadter...

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“Meaning lies as much
in the mind of the reader
as in the Haiku.”
“How gullible are you? Is your gullibility located in some "gullibility center" in your brain? Could a neurosurgeon reach in and perform some delicate operation to lower your gullibility, otherwise leaving you alone? If you believe this, you are pretty gullible, and should perhaps consider such an operation.” 46 likes
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