The Mind's I

The Mind's I

:"This page is about the book; for the album by Dark Tranquillity, see "The Mind's I (album) If you want to see the Star Wars novel, see Splinter of the Mind's Eye.

"The Mind's I: Fantasies and reflections on self and soul" (ISBN 0-553-34584-2) is a 1981 book composed and arranged by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett. It is a collection of essays and creations about the nature of the mind and the self, tied together with commentary by the editors.

This book is an exploration of the human mind and soul, ranging from early philosophical and fictional musings on a subject that could seemingly only be examined in the realm of thought, to works from the 20th century where the nature of the self became a viable topic for scientific study.


The book's 27 chapters are each made up of a previously published work by authors such as Jorge Luis Borges, Alan Turing, Richard Dawkins, Raymond Smullyan, John Searle, Stanisław Lem, Thomas Nagel (as well as Hofstadter and Dennett themselves), each followed up by a commentary by Hofstadter and/or Dennett. Dennett and Hofstadter both support the idea that we can learn much about human minds and souls by exploring human mentality in terms of information processing. Dennett and Hofstadter are both proponents of the idea that the wonders of human mentality can be accounted for by mechanical brain processes — which leaves nothing theoretical to prevent us from building human-like mental processes into our mechanical devices. A few views that run counter to this notion, such as John Searle's widely-known presentation of the Chinese room argument, are included in this book mainly as targets for refutation.

The book is divided into six sections, each focusing on a particular aspect of the problem of self.

Part I

Part I, "A Sense of Self", begins with two works of fiction that challenge the notions of self and identity (including the great Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges's "Borges and I"), provoking the reader to think more closely about just what is meant by "self". It closes with an essay by Harold Morowitz on the reductionist view of the mind.

Part II

Part II, entitled "Soul Searching", takes on the idea of soul — that spark which separates thinking beings from unthinking machines. Included here is Alan Turing's famous article from 1950, in which he proposes an operational test — popularly known as the "Turing test" — for machine intelligence, judged successful if a machine can use human language well enough to pass as human. No machine has yet come close to passing the Turing test, and certainly not at the time of the book's publication. (It is argued that merely behaving as if you have human-like intelligence in no way shows that you have human-like intelligence: see Turing test for history and criticisms). As it happens, the two main efforts of artificial intelligence research towards machine learning since "The Mind's I" was published (trainable neural nets and expert systems) failed to bring us any closer to true intelligence, so the elusive nature of machine intelligence presented still stands. A dialogue of Hofstadter's own picks up the idea of the Turing test and spins a thought-provoking scenario from it. Two fictional pieces by Terrel Miedaner on finding intelligence in places we wouldn't expect end the section.

Part III

The formation of mind from elements individually incapable of thought is the central theme of Part III, "From Hardware to Software". The evolution of the mind toward its current state is addressed in the first two reprinted works. Following that is a reprint of "Prelude... Ant Fugue" from Hofstadter's Pulitzer-winning book, "Gödel, Escher, Bach," in which he builds up the metaphor of the mind as anthill: each individual part with only rudimentary function, coming together to be more than the sum of its parts.

Part IV

Part IV explores its titular issue, "Mind as Program". What is the self: the mind, or the body? Can they be separated? Can the location of the consciousness be separate from one's physical location. In that case, where are you, really? Dennett's fantastical account of being separated from his brain and David Sanford's response tackle these issues. In this section the mind is considered as software: as patterns of thought and action, as separate from the physical body housing it as a piece of software is from the machine it runs on.

Part V

Part V, "Created Selves and Free Will", includes John Searle's notorious "Minds, Brains and Programs" (originally an article published in "The Behavioral and Brain Sciences", 1980), which states: "...mental processes are computational processes over formally defined elements." Searle has objections to the idea that computer programs might ever produce mind, but the idea that mentality involves computation can be traced through the history of Western philosophy where it has long been explored in the context of trying to explain human reason in terms of formal logical systems. A dramatic and famous rejection of the formal systems idea was that of Ludwig Wittgenstein, a philosopher who Dennett respects. After first embracing the idea of reducing everything to logical atoms ("Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus"), Wittgenstein later rejected the idea that human language games should be formulated as formal systems ("Philosophical Investigations"). However, many philosophers and artificial intelligence researchers remain captivated by the formal systems approach. For example, Dennett has tried to help the MIT Cog project develop formal computer programming methods towards the goal of producing human-like intelligence. In his book "Contemporary Philosophy of Mind", Georges Rey provides an example of continuing attempts to express human intelligence in machines through computational processes over formally defined elements. An alternative but minority approach has grown out of the work of people like Gerald Edelman and his student Olaf Sporns through which it is suggested that machine intelligence can most efficiently be achieved by creating autonomous robotic systems that can learn the way human children learn through interacting with their environment.

Part VI

The book closes with "The Inner Eye", a collection of short pieces on the subjective nature of experience. How can one describe what it is like to be a particular entity, without actually being it yourself? Thomas Nagel, Raymond Smullyan, Douglas Hofstadter, and Robert Nozick tackle the problem of translating the experiences of one being into terms another can understand. But can we ever know what it is like to be another self? For that matter, what can we know about what it is like to be ourselves? Hofstadter and Dennett's commentary suggest that self-knowledge is elusive, to say nothing of the experience of other minds.


*"Borges and I", Jorge Luis Borges
*"On Having No Head", D. E. Harding
*"Rediscovering the Mind", Harold Morowitz
*"Computing Machinery and Intelligence", Alan Turing
*"The Turing Test: A Coffeehouse Conversation", Douglas Hofstadter
*"The Princess Ineffabelle", Stanisław Lem
*"The Soul of Martha, A Beast", Terrel Miedaner
*"The Soul of the Mark III Beast", Terrel Miedaner
*"Spirit", Allen Wheelis
*"Selfish Genes and Selfish Memes", Richard Dawkins
*"Prelude... Ant Fugue", Douglas Hofstadter
*"The Story of a Brain", Arnold Zuboff
*"Where Am I?", Daniel Dennett
*"Where Was I?", David Hawley Sanford
*"Beyond Rejection", Justin Leiber
*"Software", Rudy Rucker
*"The Riddle of the Universe and Its Solution", Christopher Cherniak
*"The Seventh Sally or How Trurl's Own Perfection Led to No Good", Stanisław Lem
*"Non Serviam", Stanisław Lem
*"Is God a Taoist?", Raymond Smullyan
*"The Circular Ruins", Jorge Luis Borges
*"Minds, Brains, and Programs", John Searle
*"An Unfortunate Dualist", Raymond Smullyan
*"What Is It Like to Be a Bat?", Thomas Nagel
*"An Epistemological Nightmare", Raymond Smullyan
*"A Conversation With Einstein's Brain", Douglas Hofstadter
*"Fiction", Robert Nozick

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