I Am a Strange Loop, the latest tome by Douglas Hofstadter, is self-indulgent and repetitive, full of heavy-handed word play and convenient mysticism. Much of the material here was unfolded, better, some decades ago in the extraordinary Gödel, Escher, Bach. Much of the rest overlaps or echoes intermediate books of Hofstadter's. I found little to disagree with, and few surprises.

Yet Strange Loop is also heartfelt and insightful. It presents a constellation of powerful, important ideas, the most brilliant of which is Downward Causality: the notion of "high-level entities pushing low-level entities around". Maybe that doesn't sound like much! But to a micro-determinist (like me) who accepts Laws of Nature that govern the motion of every subatomic particle and every wrinkle in spacetime, it's profoundly liberating. If Gödelian feedback can let big enough entities — like minds — tweak the substrates that they're made of ... well, that opens a window to let in the breeze of Free Will, eh?

(cf. FreeWill (11 Apr 1999), BlameStorming (15 May 1999), MeanMeaners (3 Jul 1999), FreeAction (3 Apr 2000), MostImportant (16 May 2002), FreedomEvolves (3 Jul 2003), No Dogs or Philosophers Allowed (13 Oct 2003), ...)

TopicLiterature - TopicMind - TopicScience - 2007-10-06

(correlates: RunsInTheFamily, EsseQuamVideri, Hold this Thought, ...)