Douglas Hofstadter wrote a fascinating exploration of these themes of self-reference, titled Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
. As a cognitive scientist / computer scientist / philosopher, he tries to use his intuition to address, in his words, "How it is that animate beings can come out of inanimate matter." He likens selves
to "certain special swirly, twisty, vortex-like, and meaningful
patterns that arise only in particular types of systems of meaningless symbols." Strange loops, tangled hierarchies. He writes:
"Meaning cannot be kept out of formal systems when sufficiently complex isomorphisms arise."
This connection between strange loop and consciousness is a true leap of faith. It's a personal conviction, and, through the entire book, proves itself to be the weakest point in his argumentation. The book is a work of stubborn belief. But so, perhaps is this concentration, and this essay.