As the brain goes, so goes the mind, they say. This leads him to some very fruitful ways of looking at consciousness. Certainly there is a world of difference between the Old Master himself and a folio of his sheet music lying waiting to be played. Poetically speaking, Bach, Mozart, Shakespeare, Plato, Socrates and our loved ones can live on through us insofar as we can see the world through their eyes. Immortality by proxy may not be what most of us have in mind when we think about life after death, but it seems to me Hofstadter is on to something very profound. We are all like Scheherazade, the queen narrating the Arabian Nights, who postponed her execution by seducing the king with one fantastic tale after another.
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Sep 22, David Katzman 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 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. In fact Hofstadter believes the Ego is all there is in us. Tolle would probably say…you may be right that the Ego is a strange loop…but so what?
While Tolle occasionally does fall into new-age batshit, overall his analysis was fairly compelling to me. Everything in our brain is a symbol, including the symbol of itself. I believe he would say that the Self-symbol is a loop, and the loop is a symbol that is continually reevaluating itself and making slight adjustments to itself. We invent this Self-symbol in our minds over our lifetime as it constantly accretes bits of other symbols to it—it provides feedback on itself constantly.
I actually agree that this is possibly an accurate way to describe much of the Ego. Hofstadter agrees with Buddhism that the Self is an illusion, but he off-handedly says striving to get past the illusion as Buddhism suggests is a pointless, dead-end pursuit.
I did not find that Hofstadter compellingly demonstrates that this strange loop is the entirety of consciousness. Awareness and energy or pure presence seem to be aspects of consciousness which are outside the symbol of the Ego.
The mind is easily fooled after all so, this strange loop might certainly be an illusion. He essentially claims the self is a formula, and life is in fact mechanistic. There is no free-will because all your brain is doing is weighing pros and cons of various choices and whichever internal symbol gets the most checkmarks wins.
He starts out sounding non-deterministic but in the end came out pro-deterministic. By examining it internally, we can uncheck old boxes and check new ones. The claim that it represents the model for the self is nothing but a claim unbacked by scientific evidence. So her consciousness is not distributed, merely a symbol of her is in his mind. The key difference being that by his own definition the Self is a self-reflexive symbol but my symbol of someone else—no matter how detailed it is, no matter how intimate we were—does not provide feedback to itself.
He gives us another hypothetical case to reinforce this theory. The story of a man who jumps into what is basically a Star Trek teleporter and is then reintegrated on another planet with every memory, thought, inclination, etc. Is it the same person or a new Self? He concludes that they really both are the real man and thus consciousness can be distributed. What this story lacks is an understanding of how a unique point-of-view makes the self what it is. To me the simple answer is: To other people, these two men will appear in every way the same.
But to the individual who is teleported, the experience is not continuous. His consciousness will end and some other person identical to him in every way will be reborn, but his point-of-view of the world will be snuffed out.
He died and was replaced by a doppelganger that was convinced it was him in every way. And what about the ambiguity and indeterminacy of quantum action itself? Or maybe something completely other is true that we have never even imagined.
As well as his odd philosophy of how love of Bach makes you a bigger soul. I Am a Strange Loop is overly-wordy and jammed with a few too many analogies and painful puns, but I enjoyed the intellectual challenge.
I Am a Strange Loop