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The Mind’s I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  5,444 ratings  ·  120 reviews
Brilliant, shattering, mind-jolting, The Mind's I is a searching, probing cosmic journey of the mind that goes deeply into the problem of self and self-consciousness as anything written in our time. From verbalizing chimpanzees to scientific speculations involving machines with souls, from the mesmerizing, maze-like fiction of Borges to the tantalizing, dreamlike fiction o ...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published April 1st 1985 by Bantam Books (first published 1981)
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I have been conducting a long discussion about the nature of consciousness with Lotz, Robert and Wastrel in the comment thread to this review. I thought I might as well summarize my position and move the conversation to a more sensible place.

To cut to the chase, I am doubtful that the "problem of consciousness" really is such an interesting philosophical problem any more. Obviously, until you have reached a certain point in the development of human knowledge, the existence of the mental sphere -
Erik Graff
May 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Natalie Jackson
Shelves: philosophy
I was given this book as a gift from one of the most interesting persons I've ever known.

During the period before entering Loyola University Chicago and one semester into attending there I worked at a cafe/bookstore across the street from its Lake Shore Campus. It had been my hangout for years previously as the second floor location fronted the east with large windows, making the woodsy place sunny and warm. By the early eighties I was pretty well known there.

The way one met people was usually b
Joshua Stein
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy, mind
I like both Dennett and Hofstadter, but I can't say that I particularly enjoyed The Mind's Eye. It has a lot of interesting ideas, but doesn't have the time to develop them given the story-reflection format of the text. While the book includes a number of seminal pieces in philosophy of mind, as well as some great pieces of fiction, they dont' really fit together all that well stylistically or intellectually, and often Dennett and Hofstadter spend a fair amount of time justifying the inclusion o ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
collection of philosophical think pieces and science fiction stories that touch upon consciousness, the self, identity, Artificial intelligence and animal consciousness. I was delighted when I read this book in the 1990s with the imaginative ideas around the problem of consciousness. Upon reading twenty or so years later I am still struck by how the stories and puzzles presented are still with us. I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing but I think it does a good job of expanding ima ...more
Aug 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mind-and-brain
A collection of essays and short stories from scientists, philosophers, and fiction authors, all dealing with concepts related to the self and self-consciousness. Each work is followed by commentary from either Dennett or Hofstadter.

I imagine this book is an absolutely fantastic introduction to these sorts of ideas and had I read it earlier in my life it'd probably have a 5 star rating. Still, the familiarity of the ideas discussed didn't lessen my enjoyment of the book, especially as the book
Chris Shank
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
We all laugh at the thought that a machine may one day develop artificial intelligence, or that human consciousness could reside in a remotely controlled body while its brain is back in the lab, or that one’s mental processes could be stored in a book to be accessed by the manual computation of future readers; but embedded in these simple vignettes are deeply unsettling challenges to the way we view human consciousness and even the concepts of soul and self-worth. This book is a test of the endu ...more
John Jr.
Among the working assumptions with which we get through the day are those that tell us we have a self, that its decisions are or at least can be freely willed rather than determined, that our intelligence as employed in language transcends what a machine can do, and that these qualities and processes are somehow connected with, embodied in, our physical being, mainly our brain. Philosophers have been questioning these assumptions for some time and proposing answers to the conundrums they provoke ...more
Maggie Roessler
Explores the nature of personal identity through some good ol fashioned concept fracture. Think you know who you are, where you are, how you are? Well what if ....

Thanks for uprooting several dualists still lurking about in me, and letting them shrivel in the glare of the one gold sun.

I liked that, while a collection intended to provoke in a variety of ways, the reflections limited the whole. None of this wishywashy isn't that so INteresting crap; rather, this is right and that is wrong, and her
Roland Volz
Feb 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book was an excellent introduction to speculative fiction divorced from the modern categories of science fiction and Tolkienesque fantasy. Daniel Dennett and Douglas Hofstadder collected stories that inspired new thoughts and ideas. This book also introduced many to non-American authors with much to offer; for instance, I was introduced to Jorge Luis Borges through this book, and he remains one of my favorite authors.
Mark Moon
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A superb collection of thought-provoking essays and short stories touching on various aspects of the philosophical side of cognitive science. Hofstadter & Dennett's commentary was always interesting to read - even when I disagreed with them (which was much more often on this year's careful reading than when I skimmed this volume a few years ago), their opposing viewpoint helped me sharpen my own ideas. ...more
Tim Petersik
May 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Hofstadter has collected a set of intriguing essays, short stories, and mini-plays, all designed to help us question our conceptions of "mind." it worked on me the first and second times I read the book. Looking forward to a third.
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
very good - but not as good a GEB :-)
Mohammad Sadegh Jazayeri
Came for the philosophy, stayed for the literature.

Every selection and piece of commentary featured in this book I would roughly place in one of two categories: (1) those that raise questions or (2) those that attempt to answer or offer refutations to other answers to those questions.
Most of the short stories, articles, and book excerpts included in the volume in addition to a good portion of the commentary by the editors fall into the former category and raise fascinating questions and dilemmas
Jan 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book is the best way to introduce Philosophy as relevant. Anyone intending to apply philosophy to life will inevitably meet the question "what use is it to me?". When we pose that question ourselves it is comparitively easy to cast around for answers when we already know ways in which it can be applied. To give someone else a response such as "it teaches us to analyse arguments" is rarely helpful. This book however contains lots of little nuggets in easy to read formats such as Lem's fairyt ...more
Robert Bagnall
Feb 28, 2014 rated it liked it
What time you read a book makes a big difference; this was my book to read when I got up an hour or so before everybody else in the house. But maybe if I had read it at some other time of day I wouldn't have such a feeling of my brain being full, that the mental sharpness that I had during my philosophy degree had, like Elvis, left the building. But maybe it's the book, not me? Whilst the mix of academic paper and sci-fi short story works (science fiction being, after all, primarily the fiction ...more
Ami Iida
Jul 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: ai, math, philosophy
This is the cognitive science.

the book contains science thoughts and SF anthology of course Borges's shot stories
and short criticisms.
the innovative anthology.

it is SF anthology and thought experiment about brain and consciousness.
Joel Bass
Aug 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who wonder what exactly they mean when they say "I"
This was a big influence on me. Good stuff.
Sep 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I recommend to anyone who is starting in AI area.
Nov 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
How conciousness is derived from neural activity - questions concerning free will and determinism - Turing machines and Ai
Brandon Woodward
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some really interesting thought experiments and stories exploring the mystery of consciousness and the mind. It aims to widen your perspective playfully rather than give straightforward arguments so it’s quite a fun read, but presents more questions than answers. Would recommend!
Mateo Simpson
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Honestly this changed my way of thinking on several levels.
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm familiar with Hofstadter's 'Gödel, Escher, Bach' (which I have yet to tackle), but this isn't so much a book written by Hotstadter entirely, but a collection of writings from various people known in the world of the philosophy of mind (Daniel Dennett being the other person that helped with the arranging of the articles in this book).

I should also preface this by saying that I've read plenty of these articles in their original journals or other compilations (IE. Nagel's 'What is it to be like
A really thought-provoking collection of essays and short stories about sentience. Each essay or story is followed by a short discussion by Hofstadter and/or Dennett. I enjoyed most of them, and even the ones I didn't particularly enjoy still added fresh perspective that I appreciated. Some great mind-benders in here.

The two stories by Stanislaw Lem, "The Seventh Sally" and "Non Serviam," are superb; I'd never read Lem before but I'm certainly going to be putting him on my reading lists. "The S
Jhora Zakaryan
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This classic anthology of cognitive science introduces articles and excerpts by some of the last century's most remarkable thinkers. From the intricate prose of J. L. Borges to the groundbreaking article of A. Turing, "The Mind's I" attacks the fundamental mind-body problem from radically different angles. Is the consciousness hardware or software? Where is the sense of "self" located spatially? Is it a feature attributed solely to cellular organic beings, or can it be maintained in other medium ...more
Jun 13, 2012 rated it liked it
I like anthologies. After each entry either Douglas or Daniel writes a reflection on how the article or stiry relates to what they want to say. As for the subject matter. You could say that this is an approach toward a monastic or naturalistic epistemology. It attempts do give an answer as to how consciousness can arise from the inter-complexity of our neural structure. It is provocative, but it lacks any real evidence as to a locution of beliefs and selfhood in a neural network. But on theory t ...more
Elliott Bignell
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Hofstadter delivers a vastly enjoyable account accessible to any intelligent non-specialist, but on this occasion requiring far less persistence than Gödel, Escher, Bach. The ground he covers encompasses some of the most traditionally intractable problems in philosophy, yet his accounts of the various thought experiments and the issues they do and do not illuminate never appear impenetrable. The book is organised into a collection of vignettes that can easily be bitten off and chewed over indepe ...more
Daniel Barenboim
May 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I gave this 4 stars because of the eye-opening points of view that are offered to the reader.
The book helps us see outside of our limited perspective. It's like you are normally walking around your daily life zoomed into YOUR life, your problems, your existence, but then this book comes along and helps you zoom out. Seeing a broader picture of the world as well as your own existence.

It might deserve less stars because of some unnecessary circling it does.
On some topics towards the middle of th
Sarah Bischoff
Pay particular attention to the preface where Hofstadter writes "Our purpose is not so much to answer the big questions directly as to jolt everyone". This book mostly suggests interesting ideas without expounding on them too deeply, and occasionally stumbles into clarity. I particularly enjoyed "Ant Fugue" by Hofstadter himself, particularly hated "Minds, Brains, and Programs" by Searle, and mildly liked the stimulating nature of all the other selections. This is a book to look at the study of ...more
Dec 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
I first read "The Mind's I" in high school and regularly reread its various essays.

Even with a quarter-century of age, it hasn't lost any of its luster. Indeed, with advances in cognitive science and neuroscience giving more empirical underpinning to at least a few of the speculations in this book, its mental value has actually increased.

Although you may not agree with the philosphical angle of each essay, you won't be able to honestly disagree without having your own cognition and philosophical
Feb 27, 2016 rated it liked it
A tour of a snapshot of cognitive science as it existed in the 1980s, still insightful. Each chapter is an excerpt from another cogsci-related book, the authors post their notes in the reflections section at the end of each chapter. Sometimes they summarize it well, sometimes they completely miss the point.
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Douglas Richard Hofstadter is an American scholar of cognitive science, physics, and comparative literature 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 physici

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