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Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (1979)

by Douglas R. Hofstadter

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
13,390128430 (4.34)2 / 239
Douglas Hofstadter's book is concerned directly with the nature of "maps' or links between formal systems. However, according to Hofstadter, the formal system that underlies all mental activity transcends the system that supports it. If life can grow out of the formal chemical substrate of the cell, if consciousness can emerge out of a formal system of firing neurons, then so too will computers attain human intelligence. Gödel, Escher, Bach is a wonderful exploration of fascinating ideas at the heart of cognitive science: meaning, reduction, recursion, and much more… (more)
Recently added byJRobinW, aleciafoster2357, oni_138, MartynDR, DSRStudio, mist_401, private library, sendmarsh
Legacy LibrariesTerence Kemp McKenna, Iris Murdoch
  1. 111
    Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (Zaklog)
    Zaklog: Cryptonomicon strikes me as the kind of book that Hofstadter would write if he wrote fiction. Both books are complex, with discursive passages on mathematics and a positively weird sense of humor. If you enjoyed (rather than endured) the explanatory sections on cryptography and the charts of Waterhouse's love life (among other, rarely charted things) you should really like this book.… (more)
  2. 70
    Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis (tomduck, EerierIdyllMeme)
    EerierIdyllMeme: An obvious suggestion (surprised it's not here already). Both are creative and fictional riffing off of formal logic and incompleteness.
  3. 50
    Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern by Douglas R. Hofstadter (JFDR)
  4. 40
    Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel by Rebecca Goldstein (michaeljohn)
  5. 20
    A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper by John Allen Paulos (heidialice)
    heidialice: GEB is a thousand times as intense, but if you enjoyed the parts about self-referentiality it's worth a skim. Conversely, if GEB is just too much, Paulos' concise introduction to the theme is very accessible.
  6. 10
    The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution by Stuart A. Kauffman (Rom_E)
  7. 00
    The Gold Bug Variations by Richard Powers (hippietrail)
  8. 00
    Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension by Matt Parker (Lorem)
    Lorem: Things in 4D I consider a more accessible version of GEB in its breadth and how it does get to complex topics. If you enjoyed the more complicated parts of 4D, definitely look at GEB and if GEB was a little too much, 4D might remind you why math(s) are never boring… (more)
  9. 01
    Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams (EerierIdyllMeme)
    EerierIdyllMeme: A few similar themes (Bach, human cognition) come up in similar ways.
  10. 34
    A New Kind of Science by Stephen Wolfram (Anonymous user)
  11. 04
    The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (P_S_Patrick)
    P_S_Patrick: Arturo Perez-Reverte has recieved inspiration for his excellent mystery thriller from Hofstadter's Godel Escher Bach, even without some of the chapter introduciton quotes, that much is clear. He uses the bewildering Escherian theme of worlds within a world, Godels incompleteness theorum is alluded to in the monologue of one character, and Bach is discussed in relevance to the mystery too, along with a few miscellaneous paradoxes which are also slipped in, in a similar spirit in which they permeate the more complex non-fictional work. Non-fiction readers who have enjoyed GEB should be amused by the Flanders panel, and I think they should enjoy it even if they do not often dip into fiction. It would be harder to recommend GEB to fans of the Flanders Panel, due to its sheer length, but if you were intrigued by the themes in the story then it should at least be worth finding GEB in a library and dipping into it.… (more)

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Group TopicMessagesLast Message 
 Book talk: Godel, Escher, Bach38 unread / 38gregstevenstx, August 2009
 Philosophy and Theory: Group Read of Godel, Escher, Bach?9 unread / 9Arten60, July 2009

» See also 239 mentions

English (121)  Spanish (2)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (127)
Showing 1-5 of 121 (next | show all)
A very dense book that still manages to have a sense of whimsy and humor. Best absorbed in chunks and then read again at a later date. And then yet again. You will certainly have your share of "homework" to do to get the most out of GEB.

At the risk of sounding snobbish, I have to wonder how accessible GEB is to those, even readers of other books on philosophy, who do not have at least some grounding in the diverse subject matter. While Hofstadter's enthusiasm for the material is infectious, the math alone in this book can be an exercise in frustration.

Still, the intersection of complex math, music, and art is hardly unheard of. GEB is less a book that you stumble upon, and more one that is passed down to you by a mentor or friend. An heirloom, in many ways.

Full of lively discussions about patterns, language, loops, paradoxes, systems, AI, the nature of consciousness... primarily using examples of mathematician Godel, artist M.C. Escher, and composer J.S.Bach, but also dipping into greek philosophy, Zen Buddhism, computer programming, and more.

Ultimately, recommended if you enjoy just... thinking about thinking. ( )
  TheKroog | Oct 18, 2023 |
I started reading this book almost simultaneously with my application for an Artificial Intelligence master at my University. Honestly, I got a little frustrated with the one-sided approach to AI that I read about, the premise always seems to be 'artificial intelligence'=='machine learning'. So I was entirely happy during my read of this book. It gave me a playful introduction and a new look into first-order logic, a subject in which I was already pretty invested, as well as an endless supply of inspiration on which to draw in my further AI adventures. I loved this book for it and I cannot believe that no-one in my first few explorations with AI told me to stop what I was doing and read this tome first.

I did have some issues with the book. While I loved the first few dialoges and I was thoroughly impressed with the underlying themes of the dialogs, they did become somewhat stale and forced after a few of them. Also, the constant meta-ness that Hofstadter supplies is very interesting and part of what makes the book great, but at some times this also seemed a little forced and it undermined the credability of the story just a little.

Even so, writing (and reading for that matter) this book has been an amazing feat and I cannot imagine that I will not read it again some time and take even more insight away from it. This book should be mandatory reading for anyone doing something or another in the field of AI, or conciousness or anything related. ( )
1 vote bramboomen | Oct 18, 2023 |
Many interesting concepts in this book, many good stories, but I, like many of its readers, never bothered to finish it. ( )
  mykl-s | Aug 9, 2023 |
I used to take this out at the library and flip though it as a kid. I bought a copy recently and maybe someday I'll actually read it. ( )
  endolith | Mar 1, 2023 |
One of the most important books in my life. A book about the nature of sentience, but along the way about mathematics, molecular biology, Baroque music, entropy, computer science, recursive entities, logic, philosophy, art, and [b:Alice in Wonderland|13023|Alice in Wonderland|Lewis Carroll|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1391458382l/13023._SX50_.jpg|2933712]. Dense and sometimes confusing but worth the effort. Stick with this monster and it's seemingly unrelated themes. A background in said themes helps but isn't completely necessary, but don't read it until you are really ready for it.

I just realized that this is the most important nonfiction book I’ve ever read, with the holy bible being the most important fiction book I’ve ever read. ( )
1 vote Gumbywan | Jun 24, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 121 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hofstadter, Douglas R.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
尚紀, 柳瀬Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Feuersee, HermannTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
French, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Henry, JacquelineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
López Rousseau, AlejandroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Veit, BarbaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wahlén, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolff-Windegg, PhilippTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
昭弘, 野崎翻訳secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, came to power in 1740.
In its absolute barest form, Gödel's discovery involves the translation of an ancient paradox in philosophy into mathematical terms. That paradox is the so-called Epimenides paradox, or liar paradox. Epimenides was a Cretan who made one immortal statement: “All Cretans are liars.”
Whereas the Epimenides statement creates a paradox since it is neither true nor false, the Gödel sentence G is unprovable (inside P.M.) but true. The grand conclusion? That the system of Principia Mathematica is “incomplete”—there are true statements of number theory which its methods of proof are too weak to demonstrate.
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Douglas Hofstadter's book is concerned directly with the nature of "maps' or links between formal systems. However, according to Hofstadter, the formal system that underlies all mental activity transcends the system that supports it. If life can grow out of the formal chemical substrate of the cell, if consciousness can emerge out of a formal system of firing neurons, then so too will computers attain human intelligence. Gödel, Escher, Bach is a wonderful exploration of fascinating ideas at the heart of cognitive science: meaning, reduction, recursion, and much more

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Il libro che ha svelato a una immensa quantità di lettori, in tutto il mondo, gli incanti e le trappole di un’Eterna Ghirlanda Brillante i cui fili si chiamano intelligenza artificiale, macchina di Turing, teorema di Gödel. Una «fuga metaforica» nel variegato mondo che si dispiega fra la mente, il cervello e i computer.

«Ogni due o tre decenni un autore ignoto produce un libro di tale profondità, chiarezza, vastità, acume, bellezza e originalità che subito esso viene riconosciuto come un avvenimento di prima importanza: Gödel, Escher, Bach è un’opera di tal genere… La struttura di questo libro è satura di complicato contrappunto non meno di una composizione di Bach o dell’Ulisse di Joyce»

MARTIN GARDNER, «Scientific American»
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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