Book report: “The Mind’s I” by Hofstadter and Dennett

The nature of the thing called “I” is something I frequently ponder. It’s an important question to me as someone interested in uploading, artificial intelligence and immortality in general. For these reasons I’m always eager to tackle a philosophy book on the subject of the nature of consciousness.

This one is a collection of essays and excerpts from other works, followed by comments and analyses by Hofstadter and Dennett. Since publication, I’m given to understand that some of the essays have been soundly criticized by others in the field, but that doesn’t apply to all of them, and they still make an interesting read.

There are some insightful stabs in various directions, some nice thought experiments, and some decent arguments that minds like ours do not necessarily have to be implemented in meat.There’s also an entertaining dialog with God by Raymond Smullyan that gesticulates at my feelings on determinism versus free will, perhaps better than I can.

I didn’t really gain any deeper insight into the core question of consciousness though. What I really gained from reading this is an appreciation that philosophers tend to pick a direction of argument and run with it a ways, and collectively they’re sketching out a big circle around the problem. In other words, there’s a lot of collective tail-chasing going on.

Comments are closed.