126: The Mind’s I by Hofstadter and Dennett

by Gerard


126: Hofstadter, Douglas R. and Daniel C. Dennett. The Mind’s I: Fantasies and Reflection on Self and Soul. New York: Basic Books, 2000. 464 pp. ISBN 0-465-03091-2.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 120: Epistemology, causation, and humankind
  • 126: The self

Neither Douglas Hofstadter nor Daniel Dennett are easy writers to read quickly. Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea and Hofstadter’s Surfaces and Essences are two of the most demanding books I’ve picked up in the recent past. Luckily, in The Mind’s I, an effort that combines both their talents, they find a way to better let their readers in. This book looks at the philosophical concept of the self—how a mind views itself—through the writings of other people. Hofstadter and Dennett use historic and imaginative accounts written by Jorge Luis Borges, Alan Turing, Richard Dawkins, and many others as points of reflection from which they can get into their intended philosophical discussions. This helps accomplish two very interesting goals: pointing the reader towards other authors they might not have known before and helping the reader through some of the more complex thought experiments surrounding the concept of the self. All throughout the book there are smatterings of philosophy, fiction, physics, and even free will. They manage to steer clear of the more tautological loops that philosophy sometimes falls in to, and in the end, arrange a very good book that makes the reader think deeply without straining themselves. An intense but intriguing read.