May 31, 1979
All too rarely we encounter a work that literally opens up all new worlds for us through the breadth of its learning, the beauty and creative playfulness of its style, and, above all, its ability to connect and make comprehensible widely disparate and hitherto unrelated perspectives and fields of knowledge. Gödel, Escher, Bach – already the subject of considerable prepublication excitement – is such a book. Here a brilliant young computer scientist uses dialogues, the drawings of Escher, and the music of Bach, as well as ideas drawn from such diverse fields as logic, biology, psychology, physics, and linguistics, to illuminate one of the deepest mysteries of modern scientific philosophy – our seeming inability to understand the nature of our own thought processes. This quest is intimately linked to paradoxes that go back to the Greeks, and in our own day, to the revolutionary work of the Austrian mathematician Gödel, and derives from the ability of any human language, mathematical system, computer program, or thought process to talk about itself in an an ending “mirroring” of reality.
In developing these profound ideas, which have challenged some of the greatest minds of our century, and applying them to all symbol-manipulating systems from mathematical logic and computer science to the thought processes of the human mind itself, the author writes both as an artist and is the scientist he is. Douglas Hofstadter has written a book that, like the works of Lewis Carroll, will at one and the same time enchant, entertain, and permanently enrich the reader while providing important new insights into the mechanisms underlying human thought.
Douglas R. Hofstadter is Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Indiana University.