HN Books @HNBooksMonth

The best books of Hacker News.

Hacker News Comments on
The Mind's I: Fantasies And Reflections On Self & Soul

Douglas R Hofstadter, Daniel C. Dennett · 4 HN comments
HN Books has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention "The Mind's I: Fantasies And Reflections On Self & Soul" by Douglas R Hofstadter, Daniel C. Dennett.
View on Amazon [↗]
HN Books may receive an affiliate commission when you make purchases on sites after clicking through links on this page.
Amazon Summary
With contributions from Jorge Luis Borges, Richard Dawkins, John Searle, and Robert Nozick, The Mind's I explores the meaning of self and consciousness through the perspectives of literature, artificial intelligence, psychology, and other disciplines. In selections that range from fiction to scientific speculations about thinking machines, artificial intelligence, and the nature of the brain, Hofstadter and Dennett present a variety of conflicting visions of the self and the soul as explored through the writings of some of the twentieth century's most renowned thinkers.
HN Books Rankings

Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this book.
Terrel Miedaner's story The Soul of the Mark III Beast (1977) republished in 'The Mind's I' describes this situation exactly.

Have a look at the "The mind's I" [1]. It is a collection of essays and other short texts on consciousness, self, AI and strange loops with added commentary by Hofstadter and Dennett.


An interesting collection of essays and short stories that investigate concepts related to your observation is, which I'm almost finished with. It has a lot of thought-provoking arguments. Edited by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennet.
Weird compared to what? I have no experience being anything other than a living, breathing human. Thomas Nagle wrote up the classic "qualia" argument you're making as "What is it like to be a Bat?" (here:, it seems persuasive: that there is a certain subjective quality to consciousness & conscious experience— it must feel like something to be a bat, or a person, or whatever? Hofstadter's and Dennett's book, The Mind's I ( is an interesting introduction to this kind of stuff, the authors have a lot of fun @ qualia's expense.
The "weirdness" (or whatever you want to call the enormous explanatory gap between our mental lives and inanimate matter) deserves an answer. It's not something to sweep under the rug as "subjective" or "unscientific" or "poorly defined".

I agree, though, Hofstadter and Dennett have done an extraordinary job of devising such an answer. There is lots more work to be done, of course.

The "weirdness" (or whatever you want to call the enormous explanatory gap between our mental lives and inanimate matter) deserves an answer. It's not something to sweep under the rug as "subjective" or "unscientific" or "poorly defined".

But what if the answer to the "weirdness" question is, in fact, that it's just an ill-formed question? What if it's just an illusion, and your brain is tricked into seeing something magical about itself where there is nothing there?

Apart from a mystical explanation, I cannot imagine any satisfying answer to the question (i.e. one that doesn't leave you feeling uneasy like Hofstadter's answer does to most people), which usually means that there's something wrong with what we're asking, not with how we're trying to answer it.

I would be satisfied with a good explanation of why the question is ill-formed, how the illusion comes about, etc.

I really don't think the question is ill-formed, though. There is a big explanatory gap. Denying that is simply dishonest. It would be like, if you don't know why a bicycle is easier to balance when it's moving, pretending that there is nothing to explain. "Oh, it's just bicycle parts."

If you're digging into Hofstadter (and if you aren't, you should be, whether or not you agree with him, almost every word he's ever written is worth reading, including the seemingly irrelevant stuff about translations), I Am A Strange Loop ( is a good read, as well.
HN Books is an independent project and is not operated by Y Combinator or
~ [email protected]
;laksdfhjdhksalkfj more things ~ Privacy Policy ~
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.