Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking
n a major new work from the author of Godel, Escher, Bach and I Am a Strange Loop , two leading scholars argue that analogy is the basis for all human thoughts. From this singular premise, Pulitzer-Prize winning author Doug Hofstadter and French psychologist Emmanuel Sander construct a broad argument that explains how analogies help us find order out of the chaos of the world. From the simplest forms (a single word, category, or phrase) to infinitely complex constructions (an idiom, or proverb, or algorithm) analogies are the tools our brains use to interpret and master daily life. We are faced with a swirling and intermingling multitude of ill-defined situations, none of which comes with a sharp frame delineating it, either spatially or temporally. Our brain is constantly grappling with this unpredictable chaos, always trying to make sense of what surrounds it and swarms into it. How do we make sense of this? The authors argue that these situations provoke an automatic triggering, or unconscious evocation, of certain familiar categories, which, once retrieved from dormancy, help us to organise the enormous potential of our brain. To a large extent, this means the spontaneous coming-to-mind of all sorts of words. And from the simplest of words to the most complex of idiomatic constructions, the retrieval and usage of analogies are the common thread in all of our thoughts. But where do these words come from, and how do they bubble up? What is going on when one merely thinks silently to oneself, 'a mother and her daughter'? These are the question Hofstadter and Sander grapple with. With his trademark wit and singular talent for making complex ideas both accessible and yet still provocatively challenging, Hofstadter has partnered with Sander to create a major new contribution to the study of how the mind works.
by : Douglas R. Hofstadter