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Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking | [Douglas Hofstadter, Emmanuel Sander]

Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking

Analogy is the core of all thinking. This is the simple but unorthodox premise that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas Hofstadter and French psychologist Emmanuel Sander defend in their new work. Hofstadter has been grappling with the mysteries of human thought for over 30 years. Now, with his trademark wit and special talent for making complex ideas vivid, he has partnered with Sander to put forth a highly novel perspective on cognition.
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Publisher's Summary

Analogy is the core of all thinking.

This is the simple but unorthodox premise that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas Hofstadter and French psychologist Emmanuel Sander defend in their new work.

Hofstadter has been grappling with the mysteries of human thought for over 30 years. Now, with his trademark wit and special talent for making complex ideas vivid, he has partnered with Sander to put forth a highly novel perspective on cognition.

We are constantly faced with a swirling and intermingling multitude of ill-defined situations. Our brain's job is to try to make sense of this unpredictable, swarming chaos of stimuli. How does it do so? The ceaseless hail of input triggers analogies galore, helping us to pinpoint the essence of what is going on. Often this means the spontaneous evocation of words, sometimes idioms, sometimes the triggering of nameless, long-buried memories.

Why did two-year-old Camille proudly exclaim, "I undressed the banana!"? Why do people who hear a story often blurt out, "Exactly the same thing happened to me!" when it was a completely different event? What did Albert Einstein see that made him suspect that light consists of particles when a century of research had driven the final nail in the coffin of that long-dead idea?

The answer to all these questions, of course, is analogy - making - the meat and potatoes, the heart and soul, the fuel and fire, the gist and the crux, the lifeblood and the wellsprings of thought.

Analogy-making, far from happening at rare intervals, occurs at all moments, defining thinking from top to toe, from the tiniest and most fleeting thoughts to the most creative scientific insights. Like Gödel, Escher, Bach before it, Surfaces and Essences will profoundly enrich our understanding of our own minds.

©2013 Basic Books (P)2013 Gildan Media LLC

What the Critics Say

"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." Steven Pinker (Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (49 )
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  •  
    Bryan 12-14-13
    Bryan 12-14-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    7
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    "A dance on the street is worth 2 in the club."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I already have demanded several people get it.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Category, that guy was tricky always trying to act like he's not an analogy.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The one where I had to stop listening and have an argument with an idea for ten minutes before I could continue.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    This book demands reaction, it makes you want to yell, "of course Doug, get on with it." Then you realize he's pretty accurate at predicting how you think even though he's never met you. You probably won't cry but I ended of laughing at myself a lot.
    This is all about thinking and you want it to be wrong, you want to believe your thoughts are ordered and consistent. Instead you're left knowing that your thoughts are arranged as needed and in ways that contradict past and future arrangements.


    Any additional comments?

    If you've read his other works this one is simpler and more focused in its idea. Therefore it takes a lot more effort to understand it. The premise makes Jungian psychology seem more relevant, Mel brooks more genius, and Einstein more like an average guy.
    If you think you know the definition of words like; much, and, but, grow, time or play, you should get this book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Garnand 11-13-13 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Doug, Doug, Doug"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Let's just say that Hofstadter is a fascinating combination of brilliant and boring. If you like the way he thinks, then it's a good book to have around to listen to here and there. He always has something interesting to say, often, though, the executive summary might be sufficient.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    Oh good, time to move on to Dennett...


    Any additional comments?

    I am giving Hofstadter a hard time, but I love his mind, he's just, well, you know, tedious...

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 07-23-13
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 07-23-13 Member Since 2001

    Letting the rest of the world go by

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not my cup of tea"

    I didn't listen to the whole book. I listened to about 9 hours of it. The book is clearly for lovers of words of which I'm not. I do like the authors overriding theme that we think by categorization through analogy. I just didn't want to sit through a countless stream of analogies and word play examples.

    Some people (especially lovers of words) will love the book. I just prefer less examples and more facts.

    (I bought this book because I absolutely loved the senior author's book, "Godel, Escher and Bach", and suspected that this word book would not be for me, but was willing to give it a try. I'm only writing this review to warn people who prefer science and mathematics type books that this book might not be suitable for you).

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Glenn Allen United States 04-04-14
    Glenn Allen United States 04-04-14

    Author, "Nameless Organizational Change."

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "'Mother occupies the chair.' So what?"
    Would you try another book from Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander and/or Sean Pratt?

    Perhaps, and by that I mean to say "no," which, as an utterance, occupies a rarefied category of one, with, of course, spelling being the only consideration. As a category of one, it is like the opposite of the Higgs-Boson particle in that, when present, nothing matters (which, as a word, "matters," has multiple meanings, including "relevancy, materials, events, Icelandic for "mother" and so on and so on.). Truthfully, I'll probably try "Strange Loop." I've given it as a gift enough times, it's high-time I got up on it myself.


    What could Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    92% fewer examples.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    A quote which, used only as one example in a long line of examples, reads "Censorship is the mother of metaphor." Loved that! Worth the $22 (monthly plan at two credits).


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Perhaps, and by that I mean to say "no," which, as an utterance, occupies a rarefied category of one, with, of course, spelling being the only consideration. As a category of one, it is like the opposite of the Higgs-Boson particle in that, when present, nothing matters (which, as a word, "matters," has multiple meanings, including "relevancy, materials, events, Icelandic for "mother" and so on and so on.).


    Any additional comments?

    The book was exceptionally well-narrated.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ted United States 11-25-13
    Ted United States 11-25-13 Member Since 2009
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    "Too many examples"
    Any additional comments?

    This book would have been better at half the length. The ideas I agree with but there are far too many tedious examples. They assume the reader is really dull and needs extensive examples to get it to sink in.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
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  • Mark
    Glastonbury, United Kingdom
    5/8/13
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    "I simply cannot get on with this book"

    I am not sure if it is the narrator or the content but this book just drags and drags and drags on and on and on in the first few hours and has made no startling revelations to keep me on the edge of my seat waiting for the next chapter. Douglas Hofstadter seems like an interesting man but if I am going to listen for 33 hours, it needs to be way more entertaining than this. If I was doing a PhD in Analogy perhaps it would be riveting? But alas and despite being a listener with above average intelligence I am bored to death. Maybe it is fascinating later? I'll give it three stars just in case. Or perhaps this work is from a paradigm so alien in concept that my mind simply can't deal with it and I keep falling asleep listening to it. I will not be finishing the book and I am going to return it and get a credit. If I ever get insomnia...

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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