Surfaces and Essences

  • by Douglas Hofstadter, Emmanuel Sander
  • Narrated by Sean Pratt
  • 33 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Analogy is the core of all thinking.
This is the simple but unorthodox premise that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas Hofstadter and French psychologist Emmanuel Sander defend in their new work.
Hofstadter has been grappling with the mysteries of human thought for over 30 years. Now, with his trademark wit and special talent for making complex ideas vivid, he has partnered with Sander to put forth a highly novel perspective on cognition.
We are constantly faced with a swirling and intermingling multitude of ill-defined situations. Our brain's job is to try to make sense of this unpredictable, swarming chaos of stimuli. How does it do so? The ceaseless hail of input triggers analogies galore, helping us to pinpoint the essence of what is going on. Often this means the spontaneous evocation of words, sometimes idioms, sometimes the triggering of nameless, long-buried memories.
Why did two-year-old Camille proudly exclaim, "I undressed the banana!"? Why do people who hear a story often blurt out, "Exactly the same thing happened to me!" when it was a completely different event? What did Albert Einstein see that made him suspect that light consists of particles when a century of research had driven the final nail in the coffin of that long-dead idea?
The answer to all these questions, of course, is analogy - making - the meat and potatoes, the heart and soul, the fuel and fire, the gist and the crux, the lifeblood and the wellsprings of thought.
Analogy-making, far from happening at rare intervals, occurs at all moments, defining thinking from top to toe, from the tiniest and most fleeting thoughts to the most creative scientific insights. Like Gödel, Escher, Bach before it, Surfaces and Essences will profoundly enrich our understanding of our own minds.


What the Critics Say

"I am one of those cognitive scientists who believe that analogy is a key to explaining human intelligence. This magnum opus by Douglas Hofstadter, who has reflected on the nature of analogy for decades, and Emmanuel Sander, is a milestone in our understanding of human thought, filled with insights and new ideas." Steven Pinker (Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Trivial and laboured

I love Hofstadter, but this book shouldn't have been written. First chapter is good example of my problem with this book. It labours painfully and embarrassingly over an idea that I (and I imagine most people) have had, and understood completely and utterly, in the past, namely that some words have different levels of granularity and that some languages have more granularity than others. Yes, we could use different verbs for when a man *eats* to when a woman *eats* or even different words depending on what is being eaten. But we just use "eat". So what?! But there's not even a discrete set of categories and it's in fact fluid? So what! Not interesting.
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- Louisa

I simply cannot get on with this book

I am not sure if it is the narrator or the content but this book just drags and drags and drags on and on and on in the first few hours and has made no startling revelations to keep me on the edge of my seat waiting for the next chapter. Douglas Hofstadter seems like an interesting man but if I am going to listen for 33 hours, it needs to be way more entertaining than this. If I was doing a PhD in Analogy perhaps it would be riveting? But alas and despite being a listener with above average intelligence I am bored to death. Maybe it is fascinating later? I'll give it three stars just in case. Or perhaps this work is from a paradigm so alien in concept that my mind simply can't deal with it and I keep falling asleep listening to it. I will not be finishing the book and I am going to return it and get a credit. If I ever get insomnia...
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- Mark

Book Details

  • Release Date: 25-04-2013
  • Publisher: Gildan Media, LLC