Category Archives: Books

Strange Loops and Self-Writing Poems

I recently finished reading Douglas Hofstadter‘s I Am a Strange Loop and I highly recommend it. In it, Hofstadter details a theory of the soul, if you will. Both Hofstadter and I use the word soul advisedly. It is not the traditional religious/spiritual definition, but rather a concept what could also be called interiority, salf-awareness, consciousness, or I-ness. Hofstadter maintains that the sould arises from the underlying microscopic physical phenomena of the brain–once a certain threshold is crossed, the sould emerges. This threshold is what he calls a strange loop–a self-aware, self-referential, self-modifying feedback loop of cognition.

I realize I probably haven’t done a very good job of conveying what this book is about. Suffice it to say, I highly recommend it. The subject material is fascinating for anyone interested in cognition or metaphysics. The writing is also excellent and entertaining.

I want to quote part of I Am a Strange Loop as a way of getting to what I mean:

Poised midway between the unvisualizable cosmic vastness of curved spacetime and the dubious, shadowy flickerings of charged quanta, we human beings, more like rainbows and mirages than like raindrops or boulders, are unpredictable self-writing poems–wague, metaphorical, ambiguous, and sometimes exceedingly beautiful. (p. 363, I Am a Strange Loop, Douglas Hofstadter, Basic Books, New York 2007)

Here I’ve emphasized the phrase self-writing poems. I felt a particular resonance with that phrase, perhaps for obvious reasons.

Hofstadter makes one conclusion I find particularly interesting. He postulates musical taste as a sort of yardstick for measuring consciousness. He admits the idea is controversial, and I am not going to agree or disagree with using musical taste to measure one’s soul. What I want to consider is the idea of using similarities in musical tastes to convey similarities of souls/consciousnesses. What does it mean then that I have yet to meet someone with exactly the same musical tastes as I have? (Unless one of you likes jazz, grunge, and Bob Dylan and hasn’t told me 🙂 )

That’s it for now. I do apologize for not blogging for a while. Classes started recently and the blog I wanted to write (this one) was a bit deep, so there it is. Time for this poem to go self-write. 😉

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