Friday, October 05, 2012

I am a Strange Loop: (1)

I've started to read Douglas Hofstadter's  I am a Strange Loop. Hoftstadter's the author of Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, and is currently the Distinguished Professor of Gognitive Science at Indiana University (where I bet he earns a truckload of money).

I'd thought I'd blog my thoughts and digressions as I read the book. I was struck by how the first chapter, 'On Souls and their Sizes', related to a discussion we'd had in our school Philosophy Club about souls--as a group, our Philosophy Club is reading through Stephen Law's excellent The Philosophy Files.

The book begins with the notion of 'Soul Shards.'  Just as photographs of our loved ones are more than just coloured pixels, so to is Chopin's √ątudes more than just a series of black marks on paper.  Chopin's work produces powerful emotions for millions of listeners.  There is in Chopin's work a little of his soul, that is a little of his essence of what it meant to be Chopin.

This is an intriguing argument and one which I find appealing.  The notion of 'soul' here does not involve a supernatural element.  What counts as 'soul' is here bound to signs and representation. Our soul is connected to the richness and complexity of our interior life.

Hofstadter then jumps to vegetarianism. Like Hoftstadter, I never eat mammals (I haven't since 1984).  However, like Hofstadter I do eat fish and chicken and I don't feel bad about killing mosquitoes. I would, however, feel anxiety about killing a bird or a mammal and I do avoid killing whenever possible.  Why distinguish between a sandfly and a bird?  They have different levels of complex consciousness. In Hofstadter words their souls are different sizes.  Pigs are more conscious than fleas. That's why I don't eat pigs.  My cat, I am sure, has a form of interior life and has complex emotions.
tudes more than just a series of black marks on paper.  Chopin's work produces powerful emotions for millions of listeners.  There is in Chopin's work a little of his soul, that is a little of his essence of what it meant to be Chopin.

This is an intriguing argument and one which I find appealling.  The notion of 'soul' here does not involve a supernatural element.  What counts as 'soul' is here bound to signs and representation. Our soul is connected to the richness and complexity of our interior life.

Hofstadter then jumps to vegetarianism. Like Hoftstadter, I never eat mammals (I haven't since 1984).  However, like Hofstadter I do eat fish and chicken and I don't feel bad about killing mosquitoes. I would, however, feel anxiety about killing a bird or a mammal and i do avoid killing whenever possible.  Why distinguish between a sandfly and a bird?  They have different levels of complex consciousness. In Hofstadter words their souls are different sizes.  Pigs are more conscious than fleas. That's why I don't eat pigs.  My cat, I am sure, has a form of interior life and has complex emotions.



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