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Surfaces and Essences Hardcover – 9 May 2013

3.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Basic; First Edition edition (9 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465018475
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465018475
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 20.3 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 376,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

Donald Norman, author of "Living with Complexity" and "The Design of Everyday Things"
"Doug Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander rip apart everyday understanding to reveal insights of both mind and universe. The key is to recognize that analogies and concepts are the same things, that they are ubiquitous, universal, and key to understanding human thought. Easy to read, but deep to comprehend. The result is both enjoyable and profound."

Barbara Tversky, Professor Emerita of Psychology, Stanford University, and Professor of Psychology and Education, Columbia Teachers College
""Surfaces and Essences" has much of both. And more. This book is fun! And serious. Category, analogy (and similarity) are at the core of cognition. On every page, you will find delights: you will be informed, you will be puzzled; you will agree vehemently and you will disagree just as vehemently; you will ponder. And you will return for more."


Elizabeth F. Loftus, Distinguished Professor, University of California, and author of "Eyewitness Testimony"
""Surfaces and Essences" is a mind-boggling argument for the central role that analogies play in human thought. Hofstadter and Sander's witty and profound masterpiece will leave you thinking about thinking in totally new ways."

Donald Norman, author of "Living with Complexity" and "The Design of Everyday Things"
"Doug Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander rip apart everyday understanding to reveal insights of both mind and universe. The key is to recognize that analogies and concepts are the same things, that they are ubiquitous, universal, and key to understanding human thought. Easy to read, but deep to comprehend. The result is both enjoyable and profound."

Barbara Tversky, Professor Emerita of Psychology, Stanford University, and Professor of Psychology and Education, Columbia Teachers College
""Surfaces and Essences" has much of both. And more. This book is fun! And serious. Category, analogy (and similarity) are at the core of cognition. On every page, you will find delights: you will be informed, you will be puzzled; you will agree vehemently and you will disagree just as vehemently; you will ponder. And you will return for more."


"Kirkus Reviews," starred review
"How do we know what we know? How do we know at all? With an enjoyable blend of hard science and good storytelling, Hofstadter and French psychologist Sander tackle these most elusive of philosophical matters.... [I]t's worth sticking with [Hofstadter's] long argument, full of up-to-date cognitive science and, at the end, a beguiling look at how the theory of relativity owes to analogy.... [F]irst rate popular science: difficult but rewarding."
Melanie Mitchell, Professor of Computer Science, Portland State University, and author of "Complexity: A Guided Tour"
"Hofstadter and Sander's book is a wonderful and insightful account of the role of analogy in cognition. Immensely enjoyable, with a plethora of fascinating examples and anecdotes, this book will make you understand your own thought processes in a wholly new way. It's analogy all the way down!"
Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of "How the Mind Works" and "The Stuff of Thought"
"I am one of those cognitive scientists who believe that analogy is a key to explaining human intelligence. This magnum opus by Douglas Hofstadter, who has reflected on the nature of analogy for decades, and Emmanuel Sander, is a milestone in our understanding of human thought, filled with insights and new ideas."
Gerald Holton, Professor of Physics and History of Science, Emeritus, Harvard University
"Hofstadter and Sander's book starts with two audacious goals: to show that none of us can think a minute without using a variety of analogies, and that becoming aware of this fact can help us think more clearly. Then, patiently and with humor, the authors prove their claims across the whole spectrum, from everyday conversation to scientific thought processes, even that of Einstein."
Nancy J. Nersessian, Professor of Cognitive Science, Georgia Institute of Technology, and author of "Creating Scientific Concepts"


"Nature"
"Lucid and, page for page, a delight to read.... ["Surfaces and Essences" contains] gems of insight."
"Kirkus Reviews," starred review
"How do we know what we know? How do we know at all? With an enjoyable blend of hard science and good storytelling, Hofstadter and French psychologist Sander tackle these most elusive of philosophical matters.... [I]t's worth sticking with [Hofstadter's] long argument, full of up-to-date cognitive science and, at the end, a beguiling look at how the theory of relativity owes to analogy.... First rate popular science: difficult but rewarding."
Melanie Mitchell, Professor of Computer Science, Portland State University, and author of "Complexity: A Guided Tour"
"Hofstadter and Sander's book is a wonderful and insightful account of the role of analogy in cognition. Immensely enjoyable, with a plethora of fascinating examples and anecdotes, this book will make you understand your own thought processes in a wholly new way. It's analogy all the way down!"
Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of "How the Mind Works" and "The Stuff of Thought"
"I am one of those cognitive scientists who believe that analogy is a key to explaining human intelligence. This magnum opus by Douglas Hofstadter, who has reflected on the nature of analogy for decades, and Emmanuel Sander, is a milestone in our understanding of human thought, filled with insights and new ideas."
Gerald Holton, Professor of Physics and History of Science, Emeritus, Harvard University
"Hofstadter and Sander's book starts with two audacious goals: to show that none of us can think a minute without using a variety of analogies, and that becoming aware of this fact can help us think more clearly. Then, patiently and with humor, the authors prove their claims across the whole spectrum, from everyday conversation to scientific thought processes, even that of Einstein."
Nancy J. Nerses

"Science"
""Surfaces and Essences" warrants a place alongside "Godel, Escher, Bach" and major recent treatments of human cognition. Analogy is not the endpoint of understanding, but its indispensable beginning."
"Nature"
"Lucid and, page for page, a delight to read.... ["Surfaces and Essences" contains] gems of insight."
"Wall Street Journal"
"Clear, lively, and personal."
"Globe and Mail" (Canada)
"Knowing what makes a duck a bird and what makes a plane not a bird may not seem like very profound mental feats--but Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander see such cognitive connections as part of an extraordinarily profound process.... Be prepared to become hyper-conscious of the myriad of analogies one makes every moment of every day.... The end result is a book that is ambitious and provocative."
"Booklist," starred review
"A revelatory foray into the dynamics of the mind."
"Library Journal"
"Like Hofstadter's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Godel, Escher, Bach," this work executes, from a very complex thesis, an understanding by general readers while also appealing to specialists in philosophy of mind and cognitive science."
"Kirkus Reviews," starred review
"How do we know what we know? How do we know at all? With an enjoyable blend of hard science and good storytelling, Hofstadter and French psychologist Sander tackle these most elusive of philosophical matters.... [I]t's worth sticking with [Hofstadter's] long argument, full of up-to-date cognitive science and, at the end, a beguiling look at how the theory of relativity owes to analogy.... First rate popular science: difficult but rewarding."
Melanie Mitchell, Professor of Computer Science, Portland State University, and author of "Complexity: A Guided Tour"
"Hofstadter and Sander's book is a wonderful and insightful account of the role of analogy in cognition. Immensely enjoyable, with a plethora of fascinating examples and anecdotes, this book wil

Longlisted for the 2014 PEN / E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
"Science"
""Surfaces and Essences" warrants a place alongside "Godel, Escher, Bach" and major recent treatments of human cognition. Analogy is not the endpoint of understanding, but its indispensable beginning."
"Nature"
"Lucid and, page for page, a delight to read.... ["Surfaces and Essences" contains] gems of insight."
"Wall Street Journal"
"Clear, lively, and personal."
"Globe and Mail" (Canada)
"Knowing what makes a duck a bird and what makes a plane not a bird may not seem like very profound mental feats--but Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander see such cognitive connections as part of an extraordinarily profound process.... Be prepared to become hyper-conscious of the myriad of analogies one makes every moment of every day.... The end result is a book that is ambitious and provocative."
"Booklist," starred review
"A revelatory foray into the dynamics of the mind."
"Library Journal"
"Like Hofstadter's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Godel, Escher, Bach," this work executes, from a very complex thesis, an understanding by general readers while also appealing to specialists in philosophy of mind and cognitive science."
"Kirkus Reviews," starred review
"How do we know what we know? How do we know at all? With an enjoyable blend of hard science and good storytelling, Hofstadter and French psychologist Sander tackle these most elusive of philosophical matters.... [I]t's worth sticking with [Hofstadter's] long argument, full of up-to-date cognitive science and, at the end, a beguiling look at how the theory of relativity owes to analogy.... First rate popular science: difficult but rewarding."
Melanie Mitchell, Professor of Computer Science, Portland State University, and author of "Complexity: A Guided Tour"
"Hofstadter and Sander's book is a wonderful and insightful account of the role of analogy in cognition. Immensely enjoyable, with a plethora of fascinating examples and anecdotes, this book will make you understand your own thought processes in a wholly new way. It's analogy all the way down!"
Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of "How the Mind Works" and "The Stuff of Thought"
"I am one of those cognitive scientists who believe that analogy is a key to explaining human intelligence. This magnum opus by Douglas Hofstadter, who has reflected on the nature of analogy for decades, and Emmanuel Sander, is a milestone in our understanding of human thought, filled with insights and new ideas."
Gerald Holton, Professor of Physics and History of Science, Emeritus, Harvard University
"Hofstadter and Sander's book starts with two audacious goals: to show that none of us can think a minute without using a variety of analogies, and that becoming aware of this fact can help us think more clearly. Then, patiently and with humor, the authors prove their claims across the whole spectrum, from everyday conversation to scientific thought processes, even that of Einstein."
Nancy J. Nersessian, Professor of Cognitive Science, Georgia Institute of Technology, and author of "Creating Scientific Concepts"
"Placing analogy at the core of cognition Hofstadter and Sander provide a persuasive answer to the question 'what is thought?' Analogy is the mechanism underlying the myriad instances of concept formation and categorization we perform throughout any day, whether unconscious or explicit, without which there would be no thought. They mount a compelling case through analysis of a wealth of insightful--imaginative and real--exemplars, from everyday thinking to the highest achievements of the human mind, which are sure to persuade a broad range of readers."
Elizabeth F. Loftus, Distinguished Professor, University of California, and author of "Eyewitness Testimony"
""Surfaces and Essences" is a mind-boggling argument for the central role that analogies play in human thought. Hofstadter and Sander's witty and profound masterpiece will leave you thinking about thinking in totally new ways."
Donald Norman, author of "Living with Complexity" and "The Design of Everyday Things"
"Doug Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander rip apart everyday understanding to reveal insights of both mind and universe. The key is to recognize that analogies and concepts are the same things, that they are ubiquitous, universal, and key to understanding human thought. Easy to read, but deep to comprehend. The result is both enjoyable and profound."
Barbara Tversky, Professor Emerita of Psychology, Stanford University, and Professor of Psychology and Education, Columbia Teachers College
""Surfaces and Essences" has much of both. And more. This book is fun! And serious. Category, analogy (and similarity) are at the core of cognition. On every page, you will find delights: you will be informed, you will be puzzled; you will agree vehemently and you will disagree just as vehemently; you will ponder. And you will return for more."

About the Author

Douglas Hofstadter is College Professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Emmanuel Sander is a professor of Psychology at the University of Paris.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There is obvious passion and great times exhibited by the authors in Surfaces and Essences. They were back and forth between the US and France for years over this. You can feel them sitting around the table, tossing off words, analogs, and examples and probably laughing out loud, till the wine ran out. The boys were having their fun. And it shows. The book is very sprightly. As long as they were at it, they even did a French version, presumably with the examples reversed to show how French differs from English, as opposed to how English differs from French. They kept up the pace and had great enthusiasm for the task, that clearly never lagged. It shows bounce.

Sadly, it also shows overkill. Why give an example or two when you can list fifty or a hundred? Why tell a story when you can tell five of them (all illustrating the same point)? Sometimes they reorder the examples to make a nice pyramid shape, or a sharp upside down pyramid. They worked on phrases until they contained the exact number of letters they needed for the design. Sometimes the examples just run to a whole page, separated by commas. The subheadings have a tendency to be so clever, precious and cute that they give no clue as to the content.

But the real problem is that the book is entirely horizontal, without also being linear. It does not build. It doesn't grow. It just keeps spreading outward. This means you can put the book down any time and pick it up a month later without losing anything. You can open to any page and start reading without having missed anything.

The book's premise is that categorization is effectively the same as analogy. You might think our brains sort everything into neat categories for quick recall.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wish I could say I was a big fan of Hofstadter. His Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid was one of the first real books I read and put me on the path of philosophy and computer science, his work with Dennet has been a guide throughout my study years, and his Le Ton Beau De Marot is one of the best books on translation that I know of. However, this latest tome (which at almost six hundred pages one is justified in calling it) does not live up to the standard that Hofstadter has set for himself.

The premise of this book is that analogy (metaphors) are at the core of all thinking. As is usual with Hofstadter's work, this premise is tested and demonstrated using linguistics and introspection. Giving examples of the way people communicate, and thereby often misinterpret one another, Hofstadter and Sander show that most if not all language-usage depend on the mutual understanding of analogies. Those analogies in itself are fluid, so that concept-building is an organic process which is in itself influenced by analogy.

Though interesting in itself, the book could have been at least half its size shorter, had not the authors decided to come up with example after example of the point they are trying to make at a specific place. On nearly every page we see examples of situations that are, in the end, not all the difficult to understand or recognise. And those examples are in themselves more often than not described with too much (unnecessary) detail.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is Lakoff and Johnson's "Metaphors we live by" by another name. I couldn't find anything significant that isn't in the original work. Check out the original: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Metaphors-We-Live-George-Lakoff/dp/0226468011/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398334323&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=lakojohnson+metaphors+we+live+by, which really is a life-changing read.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is outstanding in quality. It is also unique in being written simultaneously in English and French, with consequent excellent style and striking examples. The basic thesis, presented and developed in 530 pages of text, is that the mind thinks in terms of analogies, on mundane daily matters as well as the most abstract theories. Thus, in striking pages (451ff.) the authors explain how Einstein arrived in their view at his world-shaking understandings thanks to very creative analogous thinking.
An important point made by the authors is that thinking in terms of analogues is the same as thinking in terms of concepts, because seeing reality with the help of concepts and forming of new concepts are only possible by analogues. Still, this functional equivalence does not annihilate the difference between the concepts of "concepts" and of "analogues," nor some unique uses of concepts such as in pure type models. This seems not to be adequately recognized by the authors.
More serious a lacunae is lack of discussion of more basic levels of "thinking," whether conscious or not, such as values, worldviews, mental propensities and more. These are critical, also for the selection of metaphors which are accepted as most appropriate. The authors recognize apropos such deeper factors. Thus, they mention "keen intelligence" (p. 126), "great gift of ...exceptional individuals" (p. 131), "deeply creative" (p. 131), "nearly inexplicable intuition" (p. 487), and Einstein's "instinct for cosmic unity" (p. 495). But these are not discussed, leaving a very serious lacuna in the understanding of thinking.
A low point of the book is their discussion of the role of analogues in political judgment, especially decisions on war and peace (pp. 333ff.
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