Surfaces and Essences by Douglas Hofstadter
Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking

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It should be no surprise that our ability to use language expands and becomes more discriminating with education and experience. And on this particular point Surfaces and Essences exposes its seams and falls apart.
-NY Journal of Books

Synopsis

Is there one central mechanism upon which all human thinking rests? Cognitive scientists Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander argue that there is. At this core is our incessant proclivity to take what we perceive, to abstract it, and to find resemblances to prior experiences—in other words, our ability to make analogies.

In The Essence of Thought, Hofstadter and Sander show how analogy-making pervades our thought at all levels—indeed, that we make analogies not once a day or once an hour, but many times per second. Thus, analogy is the mechanism that, silently and hidden, chooses our words and phrases for us when we speak, frames how we understand the most banal everyday situation, guides us in unfamiliar situations, and gives rise to great acts of imagination.

We categorize because of analogies that range from simple to subtle, and thus our categories, throughout our lives, expand and grow ever more fluid. Through examples galore and lively prose peppered, needless to say, with analogies large and small, Hofstadter and Sander offer us a new way of thinking about thinking.

 

About Douglas Hofstadter

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Douglas Hofstadter is Distinguished College of Arts and Sciences Professor of Cognitive Science and Comparative Literature at Indiana University. His previous books include Gödel, Escher, Bach (which won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1980) and Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies. Emmanuel Sander is Professor of Cognitive and Developmental Psychology at the University of Paris (Saint-Denis), specializing in the study of analogy-making and categorization and their connections to education. Among his previous works is the book Analogy, from the Naïve to the Creative.
 
Published April 23, 2013 by Basic Books. 594 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Science & Math, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Surfaces and Essences
All: 2 | Positive: 0 | Negative: 2

NY Journal of Books

Below average
Reviewed by Robert Schaefer on Apr 23 2013

It should be no surprise that our ability to use language expands and becomes more discriminating with education and experience. And on this particular point Surfaces and Essences exposes its seams and falls apart.

Read Full Review of Surfaces and Essences: Analog... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by JEREMY BERNSTEIN on May 10 2013

...lacks the "cleverness" that is frequently a part of Mr. Hofstadter's writing and that can be distracting.

Read Full Review of Surfaces and Essences: Analog... | See more reviews from WSJ online

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