I'm reading "Godel, Escher, Bach", and Hofstadter's idea that consciousness emerges out of strange loops born out of experience.

Now, I know nothing about the philosophy of consciousness at all. But is this notion taken with any seriousness by philosophers?

(Admittedly, part of what I'm asking is whether someone can give me a shortcut that would allow me a way out of critically reading his views on consciousness. I'm reading the book for pleasure, and not sure that I can really take his views through the ringer.)

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    For what it's worth, I do not believe his ideas are taken seriously by neuroscientists, which is really the relevant audience.
    – Rex Kerr
    Feb 24, 2013 at 15:54
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    I'm not sure this is the most constructive/urgent way to get at this concern. "Is para-academic figure X taken seriously?" seems to demand a poll of philosophers; this reminds me of the Rand question. I'm not sure "takedowns" are helpful -- especially when masquerading as analyses of the marginality/minority of these figures. (What after all is "taken seriously" in philosophy; or rather is philosophy not itself a kind of higher or nobler levity?) At any rate, I don't like being asked to indict this or that independent writer or thinker as a failure in such and so a way.
    – Joseph Weissman
    Feb 25, 2013 at 0:35
  • I don't know, I might be over-reacting. But maybe we could try think of a less binary way to confront some of the issues around thinking and marginality and so on here?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Feb 25, 2013 at 0:35
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    @JosephWeissman: well, for sufficiently well-known thinkers (both Rand and Hofstadter are certainly well-known for example), a binary assessment of a person is really just a stand-in for a criticism of their ideas. It would be fair to ask that questions such as these be reframed to ask what criticism the philosophical establishment has to offer a given author on certain topics, or how the establishment builds upon or refers to those ideas. @MBP: I would recommend re-framing this question in this way, to ask whether academic philosophy has any criticism to offer for Hofstadter's ideas. Feb 27, 2013 at 13:48
  • I'd frame Godel, Escher & Bach as part of literature that riffs on philosophical themes in a light-hearted way as say Alice in Wonderland does (and unlike Borges who does it with scholarly gravitas). Except of course that Alice is much more readable :) Mar 4, 2013 at 0:03

2 Answers 2


Depends on what exactly one means by "philosopher". Douglas Hofstadter is a professor of cognitive science. His students have a background in computer science or philosophy. He and his students have published in peer-reviewed journals such as Cognitive Science Journal.


Not in essence, but in form - yes.

Godel: mathematics reflecting on mathematics itself.

Hegel: consciousness is thought reflecting on thought itself.

Heidegger: Being is that Being that can reflect on Being.

The essence of mathematics is different from that of consciousness; but the above remark shows that a certain perspective brings out similarities in form that hadn't been noted uptil then.

Consider - mathematics in essence is timeless; Consciousness is in time - one cannot reflect on Consciousness without also reflecting on time and in time - one thinks of Heideggers Being & Time - perhaps a better title would have been Being in Time or Time in Being; Can the two be torn apart? Considered alone? Being Alone? Time Alone? Is that not an error of abstraction? Time is an essential difference between Mathematics & Consciousness or between Mathematics & Being.

(one should note that Hegels formulation has entered popular consciousness in that human beings are uniquely self-conscious, meaning conscious of the conscious-self. Heidegger refines it).

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