“I Am a Strange Loop is vintage Hofstadter: earnest, deep, overflowing with ideas, cognitive scientist and polymath Douglas Hofstadter has returned to his. Scott O’Reilly loops the loop with Douglas Hofstadter. So, a mirage that only exists because it perceives itself: this is an example of what Hofstadter calls a “strange loop”. He has an endearing.

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Douglas Hofstadter’s “I Am a Strange Loop” on the Self

Return to Book Page. 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 What do we mean when we say “I”? Deep down, a human brain is a chaotic seething soup of particles, on a higher level it is a jungle of neurons, and on a yet higher level it is a network of abstractions that we call “symbols. For each human being, this “I” seems to be the realest thing in the world.

But how can such a mysterious abstraction be real–or is our “I” merely a convenient fiction? Does an “I” exert genuine power over the particles in our brain, or is it helplessly pushed around by the all-powerful laws of physics?

Douglas Hofstadter’s “I Am a Strange Loop” on the Self

Hofstadter’s first book-length journey into philosophy since Godel, Escher, Bach. Compulsively readable and endlessly thought-provoking, this is the book Hofstadter’s many readers have long been waiting for. Hardcoverpages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about I Am a Strange Loopplease sign up.

Lists with This Book. Jun 05, BlackOxford rated it liked it Shelves: Strangely Wrong I must suggest something blasphemously arrogant: Douglas Hofstadter has it wrong.

Nevertheless I have a valid objection which needs to be recorded. Enough, then, of self-referentiality. Atoms and presumably their constituent parts have no souls; bacteria have very primitive, that Strangely Wrong I must suggest something blasphemously arrogant: Atoms and presumably their constituent parts have no souls; bacteria have very primitive, that is to say, very small souls; dogs have somewhat bigger souls; and human beings have much larger souls but even among those there is enormous variation and no logical upper limit to size.

This of course is not an entirely novel intuition. It was shared by Ancient Greek philosophers, pre-industrial tribal groups, perhaps some Shinto sects, and St. Thomas Aquinas among others. This idea of souledness is of course essentially a moral one. Incidentally he is also developing a theory of consciousness, which is a correlate of soul.

I Am a Strange Loop

But this is simply wrong. Straange, from the very beginning of his exceptionally discursive argument, presumes that what he is doing is constructing a metric of souledness through strangge he can estimate the size of soul or degree of consciousness possessed by an entity.

This is, of course what scientists, and engineers, and husbands who are putting up curtains usually think they are doing when they measure something, namely determining what length, breadth, volume, ma, texture, or other magnitude constitutes some entity of interest.

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The metric employed depends on the interest one has of course. The choice of which metric to employ determines not how much of something is contained in an object but where that object sits in relation to other objects on the metric. The object is a property of the metric; the metric is definitely not a property of the object.

The choice of metric is THE moral choice. The thing measured has no moral content at all – not people, not events, not inanimate objects. They are considered as moral or tall, or wide, or disgusting when we put them on the scale we have chosen. This Strange Loop is literally a moral construction, a consequence of the very metric of souledness that Hofstader chooses.

We, not just human beings but all that exists, have no soul whatsoever until someone like Hofstader, or Plato, or Thomas Aquinas comes along and sets up a criterion for assessing it. The mirage that Hofstadter writes about is that the things we measure have the characteristics that we measure. The metric he started with is the Strange Loop, hiding in plain sight, a ninja ego smirking behind his index finger with a Cheshire Cat grin.

It was created when Hofstadter said it and someone else heard it.

And so the Strange Loop exists in that very strange state we call language, being nowhere specific but lurking invisibly everywhere. This gives the Strange Loop the character of quantum uncertainty: Just like the metric of souledness, one of its many masks. View hofstadte 23 comments. Sep 22, Hofstater Katzman rated it liked it. I have an interesting perspective on this title because the book Stramge 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 ,oop awareness and presence looo escape the thinking mind that feeds our needs for material possessions, success, achievement, domination, and so on.

This book is in fact an entire logicia 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 lokp analysis was eouglas 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 strwnge 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 hoffstadter consciousness. Awareness and energy or pure presence seem to be aspects of consciousness which are outside the symbol of the Ego.

The mind vouglas 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 strangs 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 douglae 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 hoftsadter 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.

I Am a Strange Loop – Wikipedia

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.

Finally, in his conclusion, Hofstadter tries to bucket all people into two categories an annoying habit he has: 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. View all 9 comments. Feb 23, Clay Kallam rated it it was ok Shelves: I liked this book, but there was a lot I think I missed. And somewhat like Gilbert Ryle and the other black-box philosophers who believe that mental states are unimportant phenomena, and all that matters is physical behavior, Hofstadter concludes that there is no I there at all.

Instead, there are just a bunch of competing desires that he says, using one of his many analogies, compete in the brain for votes, and the one with the most votes gets to see that desire translated into action.

How does a thought or idea get transmitted from the non-corporeal plane of mental activity to the decidedly down-and-dirty mass of blood and bone that is human flesh? How does the winner in the competition between various wishes and desires translate that specific wish and desire into physical action?

What is the mechanism that bridges the gap between the world of spirit and the world of flesh? Why would evolution have allowed this strong sense of our own consciousness to use up so much of our mental energy if hofstadtwr was just a figment of our imagination?