RE: "Go:del, Escher, Bach" 20th-anniversary edition

Aaron Lynch (
Tue, 16 Mar 1999 09:24:32 -0600

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 16 Mar 1999 09:24:32 -0600
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: RE: "Go:del, Escher, Bach" 20th-anniversary edition
In-Reply-To: <2CDFE2C8F598D21197C800C04F911B200CAEDA@DELTA.newhouse.akzo

At 08:53 AM 3/16/99 +0100, Gatherer, D. (Derek) wrote:
>> >Poor Doug Hofstadter.
>> >Misunderstood by millions
>> >Of adoring fans.
>> >
>> >Dear Richard,
>> >
>> >If you want this to be a haiku, "millions" has to have two
>> >syllables, and I reckon it's inescapably a three-syllable
>> >job (in English or American). Now, who said pedantism is a
>> >bad thing on this list? Oh, it was me.
> >It's only two syllables: mil + yens
> I agree, but pronounced mul-yuns in a Glaswegian accent, and
>while we're on the subject of Hofstadter he does advocate Zen, if by
>advocate one means recommend as a good idea for, in this particular
>instance, approaching the issue of paradox. And why not???


This is not the sense in which I meant "advocate" in relation to GEB and
Zen. By way of clarification, here is what Hoftsadter's new preface says:

"...I then went on to to the second review, which started out with the
poetic phrase Apr=E8s les roses, les =E9pines... (After roses, thorns..."), =
which then proceeded for several pages, to my amazement, to rip GEB apart
as un pi=E8ge tr=E8s grave ("a very dangerous trap") in which the mindless
bandwagon of Zen Buddhism was eagerly jumped on, and in which a rabidly
antiscientific, beatnik-influence, hippie-like irrationality typical of
American physicists was embraced as the supreme path to enlightenment, with
the iconoclastic Zen-influenced American composer John Cage as the patron
saint of it all.

All I could do was chuckle, and throw my hands up in bewilderment at
these Tati-esque cacarmes de monsieur Houlou. Somehow, this reviewer saw me
praising Cage to the skies ("G=F6del, Escher, Cage?) and managed to read int=
my coy allusions to and minor borrowings from Zen an uncritical acceptance
thereof, which in fact is not at all my stance. As I declare a the start of
Chapter 9, I find Zen not only confusing and silly, but on a very deep
level utterly inimical to my core beliefs. However, I also find Zen's
silliness --especially when it gets _really_ silly -- quite amusing, even
refreshing, and it was simply fun for me to sprinkle a bit of Eastern spice
into my basically very Western Casserole. However, my having sprinkled
little traces of Zen here and there does not mean that I am a Zen monk in
sheep's clothing." (page P-17 to P-19)

Specifically, then, what Hofstadter does not advocate is an uncritical
acceptance of Zen.

Incidentally, writing "G=F6del" as "Go:del" is Hofstadter's own playfulness,
as taken from an emailed invitation to the (private) 20th anniversary
celebration held last week. He started writing it as "Go:del" in email long
ago, back when most email could not handle "=F6".

--Aaron Lynch

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