******* Language, Cognition, and Computation Seminar Series *******

Title                      Analogy as the Core of Cognition

Speaker                Douglas Hofstadter

Affiliation            Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition, Indiana University Bloomington

Date                     Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Time                    2:00 pm

Location              E15-070 (Bartos Theater)


Analogy is almost always conceived of by psychologists and cognitive scientists as some kind of advanced or sophisticated mental tool used in problem-solving by specialists in a given domain when all else fails. Moreover, the adjective analogical is almost always married to the noun reasoning , which clearly implies that analogical thinking is seen primarily (if not exclusively) as a special variety of reasoning (i.e., a kind of logic).

I have a radically different perception of analogy, which is that every concept in our mental repertoire (whether it comes equipped with a ready-made label, such as the word "cotton" or the stock phrase "in the nick of time", or it is unlabeled, such as "that time when my friend Robert and I had planned to meet up in the Danish fishing village and we...") comes from a large set of unconsciously made analogies stretching back to our childhood, and hence that analogy-making is what lies at the core of human thought. This view of analogy has very little to do with reasoning in any standard sense of the term. Moreover, I argue that the sequential process of thinking is driven at all times by unconscious analogy-making carried out simultaneously at various levels of abstraction. Numerous examples supporting this thesis form the crux of this seminar.


About the speaker

Douglas Hofstadter is College of Arts and Sciences Professor of Cognitive Science at Indiana University, where he directs the Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition. His book "Gödel, Escher, Bach" won the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. Aside from his research and writings in cognitive science and philosophy of mind, Hofstadter has contributed to physics and mathematics, has composed music and visual art, has done poetry translation, and has written on sexism. The fact that he studies human creativity is appropriate, as he is himself a creator in diverse fields. Hofstadter describes himself as "perpetually in search of beauty".