Book reviewsBooks/WritingNon-fiction

Book Review: Surfaces and Essences – D. Hofstadter & E. Sander

Donna Brown764 views
Fragmentary Thoughts
Pin It
About Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking (2013)
Surfaces and EssencesIs 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.

Amazon US Amazon UK Goodreads

Review: Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking

Quite an intriguing look at the conscious and subconscious use of analogy in everyday thought, communication, empathy, understanding others and their experiences, and making sense of our own experiences in order to avoid or more fully appreciate them in future.

As well-researched and interesting as the book is, I do feel it overruns, often labouring the point or providing an excessive number of examples. That said, it really does break down some aspects of thought and language quite beautifully and is therefore well worth the commitment.

Recommended for anyone with an interest in philosophy, psychology and/or language.

Verdict: 4/5

(Book source: Netgalley)

Pin It
Donna Brown
Avid reader/audiobook listener, fan of podcasts, prone to the odd Netflix binge. Mum to six crazy and incredible rescue cats. Occasional writer of short stories and poetry.

Leave a Reply