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This is the simple but unorthodox premise that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas Hofstadter and French psychologist Emmanuel Sander defend in their new work.
Hofstadter has been grappling with the mysteries of human thought for over 30 years. Now, with his trademark wit and special talent for making complex ideas vivid, he has partnered with Sander to put forth a highly novel perspective on cognition.
We are constantly faced with a swirling and intermingling multitude of ill-defined situations. Our brain's job is to try to make sense of this unpredictable, swarming chaos of stimuli. How does it do so? The ceaseless hail of input triggers analogies galore, helping us to pinpoint the essence of what is going on. Often this means the spontaneous evocation of words, sometimes idioms, sometimes the triggering of nameless, long-buried memories.
Why did two-year-old Camille proudly exclaim, "I undressed the banana!"? Why do people who hear a story often blurt out, "Exactly the same thing happened to me!" when it was a completely different event? What did Albert Einstein see that made him suspect that light consists of particles when a century of research had driven the final nail in the coffin of that long-dead idea?
The answer to all these questions, of course, is analogy - making - the meat and potatoes, the heart and soul, the fuel and fire, the gist and the crux, the lifeblood and the wellsprings of thought.
Analogy-making, far from happening at rare intervals, occurs at all moments, defining thinking from top to toe, from the tiniest and most fleeting thoughts to the most creative scientific insights. Like Gödel, Escher, Bach before it, Surfaces and Essences will profoundly enrich our understanding of our own minds.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Tim on 08-04-16
Lots of verbiage, few insights. Don't bother.
If you are on the fence about whether to buy this book, then skip it. Don't bother. The book contains very few insights.
If you were a fan of Gödel Escher Bach and are hoping for an equally insightful book, then look elsewhere. This book is nothing like that previous book.
I'm sold on the author's main thesis, that analogies underlie much of human thought, and that analogizing and categorization are the same process. I have no argument with that notion.
However, the author doesn't really investigate analogies or categorization very deeply, in spite of the book's length. What exactly is categorization? The authors never really investigate this question.
I'm not fan of narrator Sean Pratt. Pratt injects too much intonation and too much feeling into each sentence. Pratt wants each sentence to deliver a bit of drama. His sing-songy delivery distracts from the authors' train of reasoning, which develops over paragraphs and pages, and not in each sentence.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
By Bryan on 12-14-13
A dance on the street is worth 2 in the club.
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
I already have demanded several people get it.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Category, that guy was tricky always trying to act like he's not an analogy.
Which scene was your favorite?
The one where I had to stop listening and have an argument with an idea for ten minutes before I could continue.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
This book demands reaction, it makes you want to yell, "of course Doug, get on with it." Then you realize he's pretty accurate at predicting how you think even though he's never met you. You probably won't cry but I ended of laughing at myself a lot.
This is all about thinking and you want it to be wrong, you want to believe your thoughts are ordered and consistent. Instead you're left knowing that your thoughts are arranged as needed and in ways that contradict past and future arrangements.
Any additional comments?
If you've read his other works this one is simpler and more focused in its idea. Therefore it takes a lot more effort to understand it. The premise makes Jungian psychology seem more relevant, Mel brooks more genius, and Einstein more like an average guy.
If you think you know the definition of words like; much, and, but, grow, time or play, you should get this book.
8 of 10 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Louisa on 09-13-17
Trivial and laboured
I love Hofstadter, but this book shouldn't have been written. First chapter is good example of my problem with this book. It labours painfully and embarrassingly over an idea that I (and I imagine most people) have had, and understood completely and utterly, in the past, namely that some words have different levels of granularity and that some languages have more granularity than others. Yes, we could use different verbs for when a man *eats* to when a woman *eats* or even different words depending on what is being eaten. But we just use "eat". So what?! But there's not even a discrete set of categories and it's in fact fluid? So what! Not interesting.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
By Mark on 05-08-13
I simply cannot get on with this book
I am not sure if it is the narrator or the content but this book just drags and drags and drags on and on and on in the first few hours and has made no startling revelations to keep me on the edge of my seat waiting for the next chapter. Douglas Hofstadter seems like an interesting man but if I am going to listen for 33 hours, it needs to be way more entertaining than this. If I was doing a PhD in Analogy perhaps it would be riveting? But alas and despite being a listener with above average intelligence I am bored to death. Maybe it is fascinating later? I'll give it three stars just in case. Or perhaps this work is from a paradigm so alien in concept that my mind simply can't deal with it and I keep falling asleep listening to it. I will not be finishing the book and I am going to return it and get a credit. If I ever get insomnia...
3 of 7 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Deet on 07-08-15
An interesting topic ruined
This book starts well and I was enjoying a complex and interesting explanation of language and the development of concepts.
Unfortunately, the book contains incredibly long lists of examples for every concept, even the most obvious ones. For example, the chapter on acronyms contains a full 10 minute long (and it feels longer) list of well-known acronyms, when 3 or 4 examples would have sufficed. The narrator does his best, but there's little that can be done to make that material incredibly dull. Most chapters contain these incredibly long and monotonous lists of figures of speech, I found them totally distracting and annoying.
I honestly can't understand why these lists have been included, it really marrs what would otherwise have been an interesting listen.