A delightful description of self

June 20, 2007 | By | 5 Replies More

In her review of Douglas Hofstadter’s new book (I Am a Strange Loop) in the May 3 edition of Nature, Susan Blackmore has this to say:

At the age of 12 or so, it dawned on [Hofstadter] that consciousness is a peculiar kind of barrage that perceives itself and yet doesn’t believe it’s perceiving MRIs should.  This insight leads directly to the stated aim of this book: to try to pinpoint that “special kind of subtle pattern” that underlies, or gives rise to the “soul”, the “buy”, “having a light on inside” or “being conscious”.

This is a grand aim, and Hofstadter joins countless modern writers and struggling to explain consciousness.  He’d be rise of zombies and qualia, has harsh words for philosophers David Chalmers and John Searle, and skillfully sweeps away all sorts of nonsense, from old-fashioned kinds of dualism to the more prevalent believe that consciousness is still something “extra”-an elan mental.  Instead, he argues that the self is a strange loop that automatically arises in a machine with a sufficiently sophisticated repertoire of categories.  It is a myth, a mirage, like a satellite to your brain whose resident strange loop decides that “here” is whereever that brain happens to be.  And, he claims, once you have explained the self, you have explained consciousness.

I found Blackmore’s description to be delightful.   In the end, however, Blackmore is dissatisfied with Hofstadter’s description, because it ignores “the many profound moments of utter stillness or absorbed below when the self is an abeyance.”


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Category: Psychology Cognition, Science, Writing

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Ben says:

    A probe of the upper echelons of the human brain's chain-of-command has found strong evidence that there are not one but two complementary commanders in charge of the brain, according to neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

    It's as if Captains James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard were both on the bridge and in command of the same starship Enterprise.


  2. Leonid S. Sukhorukov says:

    * Every war is another lost world.

  3. Leonid S. Sukhorukov says:

    * It’s dangerous to beat your chest if you have a heart of stone.

  4. Leonid S. Sukhorukov says:

    * Human life needs superhuman health.

  5. Leonid S. Sukhorukov says:

    * Life is the distance between dreams and reality.

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