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I Am a Strange Loop

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  5,794 ratings  ·  478 reviews
What do we mean when we say "I"? Can thought arise out of matter? Can a self, a soul, a consciousness, an "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. Deep down, a human brain ...more
Hardcover, 412 pages
Published March 27th 2007 by Basic Books (AZ) (first published March 26th 2007)
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BlackOxford
Strangely Wrong

I must suggest something blasphemously arrogant: Douglas Hofstadter has it wrong. My only justification for saying such an outrageous thing is that it doesn’t matter. Folk will go on taking Hofstadter seriously in any case. Nevertheless I have a valid objection which needs to be recorded. Enough, then, of self-referentiality.

Hofstadter’s teenage intuition got him started on the idea that there are degrees of souledness in the material world. Atoms (and presumably their constituent
...more
David Katzman
Sep 22, 2008 rated it liked it
I have an interesting perspective on this title because the book I read just before it was The New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, a book grounded in Zen Buddhist philosophy. Tolle declares that the Ego (or thinking mind) is the cause of all the poisons of our civilization and the only hope for us as a species is to embrace awareness and presence and escape the thinking mind that feeds our needs for material possessions, success, achievement, domination, and so on. This book is in fact an entire ...more
Clay Kallam
Feb 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
I read Douglas Hofstadter”s “Godel, Escher, Bach” long ago – sometime in the early ‘80s, and I remember thinking “I really need to read this again. I liked this book, but there was a lot I think I missed.”

When I saw a copy of “I Am a Strange Loop” in a used-book store, and Hofstadter said in the intro it was his update of “Godel, Escher, Bach,” I figured this was my chance to rediscover the concepts in “Godel, Escher, Bach.”

Well, I did, but I can’t say I was happy with the result. Hofstadter’s
...more
Annie
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I’d like to preface the review (which is very long, but if you are vacillating on whether or not to read this book, I hope my review will help you decide to your best interests, whichever those will be. Particularly if you, like me, are decidedly not math-inclined) by saying that I’m a philosophy student. I love philosophy so much it’s disgusting. We’re dating. We moved in together after our third date. We have a wedding registry at Macy’s. So it is with nothing but complete affection that I say ...more
Leo Robertson
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
The parts I liked were great, were what literature is for, really. Intellectual musings based on personal experience. Fascinating to hear about Hofstadter going through the loss of his wife. Easier to understand than Godel, Escher, Bach, especially if you read that one first.

It is so awesome that Hofstadter is celebrated for/is allowed to/has made a career out of following the conclusions of his passions, making previously unforeseen connections. Ultimately I think it's an empty meditation, but
...more
Craig
May 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
The purpose of this book is to explain the mystery of consciousness. He admits off the top that the concept of the mind and conscious thought is quite difficult to nail down, and probably impossible to draw a distinct line upon. Is a mosquito conscious? After all, it, like us, seems to have a will to live, and responds to environmental stimuli in ways that benefit itself. If not a mosquito, is a bee conscious? A fish? A snake? A dog?

He does so by describing the mind's process of something like
...more
Zach
Feb 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
I didn’t like this book, although I agree with almost all of its assertions. Conceptually, I guess you could say, I enjoyed it, but the presentation - the language of the author, the over-long format, and the strange mixture of hard math and elementary philosophy - diminished and diluted the content to the point that it was barely worth reading. The first problem is Hofstadter’s “aww shucks” Uncle Fluffy writing style. His language is so steeped in a fireside chat mentality that the meat of his ...more
Jane
Oct 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book, on consciousness and what makes a human an "I," is methodical and exuberant, technical and personal. Reading it was a long, thoughtful journey. It's not an easy book. The workings of the human brain are described metaphorically (and not physiologically), and often those metaphors are mathematical. Sometimes, too, Hofstadter employs playful analogies to show how consciousness works, and how it doesn't work. (He is not a dualist; consciousness arises from physical laws and not from a ...more
Robert
Dec 20, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
This is merely a re-hash of Hofstadter's justly famous Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, with some ideas from Le Ton Beau de Marot thrown in but most of the fun stuff taken out; if you've read those, you don't need to read this. If you've only read GEB, then read this instead of Le Ton Beau de Marot unless you have a particular interest in the art/skill of translation.

This isn't a bad book, apart from the constant use of reference to the "dear reader", it's just redundant because of
...more
shawn
May 25, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: reviews
i am sorry to give this book one measly star. i am a huge admirer of hofstadter's work. i would fanatically recommend any of his books, which are all fantastic and required reading by this point for all intellectually-minded people interested in "putting it all together". i was therefore ecstatic that he should finally publish another book, but crushed upon reading it.

the principle point is that though he purports to have some new big answer, this book merely retraces terrain he covered decades
...more
Janie
Jul 16, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I love Hofstadter but the good parts of this book were a rehashing of GEB and The Mind's I, and the parts I struggled through were off the mark as believable cognitive philosophical theory.
Jeffrey
Jul 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
I agree. He is a strange loop. The first third of this book is the Hofstadter that I expected to read - dragging me through a layperson's guide to prime numbers, squares, the Fibonacci series, Principia Mathematica and Bertrand Russell's attempt to banish paradox from mathematics, and finally, Godel's discovery of the ultimate self reflective mathematical string which shattered Russell's dreams. This was tough going, but ultimately worth it for this non-mathematician. Along the way we learned ...more
Mishehu
Jan 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As reading experiences go, I'd rate this a 4-star book. It's highly repetitive and speculative; its digressions can annoy; it's cutesy (typical DH) in a way that can grate after a while; and it takes repeated pot shots at a towering intellect -- Bertrand Russell -- on whose shoulders the author un(sufficiently)self-acknowledgedly stands. (Goedel, DH's guiding muse, is rightly lionized in this and other DH books; Russell -- standing in for Whitehead as well -- is all but judged a moron for ...more
Kristopher
Jan 11, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: philosophy-texts
After about 200 pages of reading I still was unsure what the point was supposed to be. Hoffstadter purportedly explores the nature of self-reference and consciousness, but instead, I think, spends more time pointing out through his writing how clever he is, how feeble he considers Bertrand Russell, and how much of a fan boy he (Hoffstadter) is of Godel. It's not at all clear to me that this book has any genuine insights to offer, but that may be that it is lost on me as I find his writing style ...more
Claus
Feb 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2-stars, non-fiction
I read Hofstadter's "Gödel, Escher, Bach" many years ago and was completely taken aback by the author's brilliant style and insight.

I read Hofstadter's "Metamagical Themas" many years ago and was fascinated by the author's vast area of expertise.

I read Hofstadter's "Le Ton Beau de Marot" a few years ago and was amazed by the author's enormous knowledge.

I just finished Hofstadter's "I Am a Strange Loop" and was thoroughly disappointed.

The author uses 300+ pages to say something that could just as
...more
Joe
Dec 21, 2008 rated it it was ok
A bit redundant in prose, and just GEB lite when all is said and done. Not really recommended.
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
There really is no valid reason I could recommend this book. It would be the rare reader who is interested in this topic who hasn’t read about all the classical Philosophy of Mind thought experiments presented throughout this book, and I really would have to ask any such reader: ‘what did you learn about consciousness that you didn’t already know and is meaning about meaning really that elusive to you?”.

After Godel the firm foundation of mathematics as an absolute truth about knowledge outside
...more
Chuck McCabe
Dec 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Patient game lovers
Twenty-eight years ago, Douglas Hofstadter published a book titled "Goedel, Escher, Bach" that earned him instant academic renown and a cultlike following. A mathematician friend recommended the book to me, and I tried mightily to read it, keeping at it more because of my admiration for my friend that for the experience of reading the book. It was either too indirect, too intricately argued, or too Germanic for me to follow, and after months of off and on attempts I finally put it aside.

So why
...more
Greg
May 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
I'm writing this review as I go along because the book is long. I read GEB in college and liked it, though I suspected that his idea that consciousness is a kind of self-referential loop might not bear close scrutiny. That's why I picked up this book when I saw it.

However, my hopes have been lowered within the first few pages when Hofstadter tells the reader that some living things have bigger souls/more valuable souls than others. In particular mosquitoes don't have much of a soul that you
...more
Fred
Mar 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
I've been reading "I Am A Strange Loop" by Douglas Hofstadter. The development of his theme is slow, so I read the epilogue to find out if he was coming to anything other than where he seemed to be going. The epilogue seems to be about the same as the first few chapters.

I skipped around the book a little and found this intriguing discussion on page 322 called 'Two Daves.' He presents a mental experiment of two universes, identical in every detail except that universe Q has the stuff of
...more
Randolph
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Not as dense or rich as Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid and more focused on the "scientific" side of things without all the wonderful digressions (you have to read GEB to understand). Still Hofstadter plays enough mind games to make the going entertaining and challenging.
Basically an argument for the nature of consciousness that all but proves Descartes' proposition. But Hofstadter presents a pretty convincing argument for his theories on why I think I am I.

The one place where he
...more
David
Mar 05, 2009 rated it did not like it
On the face of it, this is an interesting book. The author draws analogies between Godel's incompleteness theorem of mathematical logic and the question of the meaning of identity and consciousness. And on the plus side, at least Hofstadter's discussion of Godel was refreshingly correct technically -- it helps having had some formal mathematical training.

But I found his numerous and lengthy discursions to be, for starters, only tangentially and vaguely associated with Godel incompleteness. In my
...more
David Gross
Apr 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommended to David by: Greg Junell
Shelves: geeky, non-fiction
I got about three-quarters of the way through and by then it seemed like Hofstadter had completely lost the plot.

He makes some bold claims about the nature of consciousness, but he doesn't use his terms and concepts rigorously enough to keep his arguments straight, and he doesn't do much work to back them up anyway.

It amounts to listening to some friend who got stoned and had an amazing idea. If that friend happens to be Douglas Hofstadter, it's probably worth your while to stick around for a
...more
Malini Sridharan
Jul 29, 2009 rated it did not like it
The meat of this book, which uses an analogy with Godel's critique of the Principia Mathematica to explain how the concept of an "I" might be an emergent phenomenon of self referential loops in the brain, is interesting. I had a lot of issues with the structure of the argument, which was too dependent on the analogy. I think there are much better ways to make this point than by talking about math. Like, I don't know, maybe talking about BIOLOGY.

The last hundred pages or so of the book annoyed
...more
David
May 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
The first half of this book goes into some depth concerning Bertrand Russell's and Whitehead's Principia Mathematica, and then the work of Kurt Godel. Hofstadter has an interesting description and point of view about this area. But the later portions of the book become steeped in philosophy, and quite frankly, became a bit boring. On the other hand, I had read his book Godel, Escher, Bach long ago, and found it to be excellent.
Pj
Jul 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
This book is the painful rantings of a man suffering a great loss. Not the brilliance I was looking forward to.
Brodie
Jul 21, 2007 rated it liked it
I enjoyed much of Hostetter's account of the ways in which a strictly biological account of cognition fails to grasp the complexities of consciousness and identities. I did find, however, his account of how identity is dispersed and externalized the be somewhat unconvincing, thought not because I disagree with the concept but with his interpretation of the concept. He tries to argue through several chapters that the decentered--"strange loopiness"--of consciousness comes about because cognition ...more
Mack Hayden
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psych, philosophy, science
This is the best science-related book I've ever read. I'm not being hyperbolic. Right from the start, Hofstadter talks about how it's far better to convey scientific and philosophical truths through analogies than through hard-and-fast data. As soon as he said that, I was so excited. It gets rid of the main problem I've always had with books like these: too much information. Instead, you get a host of parables and stories to convey his ideas (along with Gödel, Parfit, Dennett, and a host of ...more
to'c
Sep 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone fascinated by human intelligence
Dr. Hofstadter always has an intriguing and playful way to present his thinking. Even the title reflects this. "I Am a Strange Loop" should not be taken to mean "Douglas Hofstadter is a strange loop". The "I" in the title refers to the concept of the "I" in all of us. And the book does an excellent job of presenting his views on just how the "I" forms in a brain, what kind of hardware may be necessary for an "I", what kinds of "I" am out there, and on how many brains a single "I" may live.

He's
...more
Kevan
Dec 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pop-science
In one of Feynman's books he discusses the difference between deep ideas and profound ideas, Character of Physical Law perhaps.

Hofstadter is a profound thinker. Some of his explorations such as designing fonts seem just silly at first until you understand that he's exploring micro-puzzles that include deep challenges. His Fluid Analogy stuff contain good examples.

If I understand The Strange Loop properly, he's exploring the idea that consciousness if simply an illusion looking at an illusion.
...more
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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
...more
“In the end, we self-perceiving, self-inventing, locked-in mirages are little miracles of self-reference.” 53 likes
“A mirror mirroring a mirror” 39 likes
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