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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of ThinkingSurfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking by Douglas R. Hofstadter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are two or three different books in this book, but by all apparent surfaces, it is all a single, exhaustive tome on ANALOGY.

As I read it, I was struck by how vast and careful his analysis was and how I would have REALLY loved this as a teen, being fascinated by all the variances, categories, and richness of analogies. They are a source of amusement, creativity, vast and widespread accidents, a mode and end of consciousness, and an integral aspect of math and science. What is an equal sign but an analogy? And let's not forget Einstein making thought experiments that later became provable.

Analogy is in every word we use, constraining and freeing our understanding of the world as well as tumbling it into a mass of contradictions. Only logic and careful analysis can free it, but the source of all our greatest creativity comes from it.

As a kid, and perhaps unused to all the varieties of analogy and hungry for such a careful and well-thought-out stream of reasoning, I probably would have given this a full 5 stars just for is sheer chutzpah.

As an adult, I think it went on WAY TOO LONG.

Once the great and rather obvious arguments had been made, fought over, and survived the logic grinder, I was perfectly happy to throw it on the grill and garnish my the buns of my life with thrilling mustard, spicy onions, wholesome lettuce, and timely tomatoes.

I could easily see this book fueling the understanding of our cognition or developing Artificial Intelligence. I can see it becoming a monumental if a rather pedantic tribute to obviousness. But it is obvious only because we're in the heart of it.

Or rather, I might recommend this book to aliens trying to understand us humans. Or AIs from other stars trying to get a good grip on our alien psychology.

For the general lay-reader, DESPITE it being always lightly humorous and clear, I cannot recommend this... except, perhaps, in small doses while sitting on the toilet.

But am I happy I read it? Yes. I can say I'm a complete convert to the line of logic. It aligns to my own reasoning very well. But was it often boring AF? Yes. It was that, too.

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