Analogy As The Core Of Cognition

May 2, 2010

Language… Meaning… Understanding… It’s all about higher concepts ‘globing’ together to create the aspects of cognition, via modes of analogy, that we all use in our everyday lives to impart meaning to, and thus construct, the world that we ‘know’ around us.

Here in this talk, Hofstadter pertinently demonstrates his encyclopaedic knowledge about the development of human language and how the meaning behind words manifest, as concepts develop from their base level ideas, for example “ball,” into higher levels of complexity, as new words are developed to further complement and describe these basic parental precepts – perhaps stemming from new inventions which are driven by new discoveries, from both the empirical and non empirical fields of cognition – into aspects of “roll,” “wheel,” “car,” “moving,” “hovercraft,” “floating,” “flying,” etc… In this endless game of semantic development and lexical evolution, we begin to glimpse at the inherent emptiness behind the words we all so readily use in our lives, and, thus, see how they are really nothing more than eloquent “grunts” that contain mental images of meaning that allow us Human Ape men/women to understand one another and get our ‘points’ across to each other.

In many ways this is a good point of entry for us to see and to begin to understand how words and their meanings come about… From there we can then see that mental categories begin to shape the axiomatic world in which we live. Once we can understand this, we might have a better chance to really grasp the fundamental aspects that lie behind both the Buddhist idea of “Emptiness” and Kurt Gödel’s “Incompleteness Theorems.” *

Interestingly enough… As Hofstadter discusses “word blends” and “phrase blends,” I think we can begin to see a pertinent analogy between feedback loops of all sorts i.e. language here randomly mutates into simple amalgamations of “originality,” much like “video feedback loops” create modified patterns of slightly iterated imprints of what was only just on the visual screen.

Regarding language… This evolution and development of lexical complexity stems from seemingly random conjoining of phonemes, subtle phonetic variances and little – or even crass – syntactical errors, which mostly stem from when two ideas intermingle within the mind of the speaker and are thus ejected into the conversation stream without too much consideration. This process allows a rich source of new etymological meanings to flourish and develop within – initially – small social circles of friends/colleges… Or if particularly ‘catchy,’ they might then spread across wider groups as successful “memes” via infectious minds through any form/medium of social communicability.

In many ways it is this type of evolutionary self-similarity that keeps language alive and “thinking” on its toes – always forcing it to move forwards into new realms of functionality to suite the current semantic landscapes of our ever-changing, ever-evolving social networks and scientific/technological habits. Within these linguistic and memetic structures we may even find multidimensional configurations where complex patterns modulate old ideas into modern modes of ever more complex types of understanding… Old frameworks of thinking are slowly battered into new designs, and then the two co-exist in a sort of symbiosis with one another. And ever iterating forms of lingual cunningness flow from out lips… Just as the Mandelbrot set increases in complexity the further we zoom into its boundary, so language seems to increase in complexity the further We – as human beings – progress in developing ideas, our knowledge database, our inventions and with new observations… In many way these two particular types of pattern i.e. aural language and visual fractals, run parallel to one another in similar veins of iterative novelty. One is mimicking the other… Except it is not an “exact” replica… It is merely uses the same iterative mathematical ideas to regenerate and reorganise itself with.

Here Hofstadter describes a process where two ideas are torn apart and allowed to intermingle in the speaker’s own fractal mind, thus recombining/assimilating into an endless array of sometimes intentional, but probably mostly unintentional, hip analogies. Analogies are all about self-similarity. Hence, in my mind I become some strange feedback loop, reiterating what I have already heard and seen in my life thus far, remixing, recombining and experimenting with neoteric verbal adage to describe new modicums and meanderings concerning my experiential existence… And thus, through my will alone, my “I” become a Möbius strip of etymological and memetic reform, playing with all of you – my iterated equals – in evolution and natural selection’s ancient game.

To find out more about Douglas Hofstadter, please click here.

* This exposé about the illusion of self and the delusion of most types of knowledge – in the light of the Buddhist precept of “Emptiness” and Kurt Gödel’s “Incompleteness Theorems” – is coming in a future blog…

15 Responses to “Analogy As The Core Of Cognition”

  1. Andrew Soon said

    Now why did he pick Edmonton Alberta out of all the potential places as an analogy of “not very interesting”?

  2. [...] I’m going to launch into it in a moment and possibly find a first hand scientific description/analogy of what consciousness is and how enlightenment provides clarity over the muddled Western habit of [...]

  3. [...] we even begin to call this “GOD”!? Well… If you want to equate, via modes of analogy, the Mandelbrot set to the thumb print of God, primarily because we observe these fractal like [...]

  4. [...] the Pope literally speaks the word of God, and when priests administer the mass, the bread and wine literally change into the flesh and blood of [...]

  5. [...] about ourself than any previous notion about what we really are. Certainly Dr Bruce Lipton’s analogy about us being a group of living cells which function within the confines of this body as a [...]

  6. [...] where Bill Murry’s character asks the protagonist how he got into the room, leaves me finding analogies as to how one might do anything in Life. After all, imagination is where one’s memes… [...]

  7. [...] power and beauty of simple analogies bringing into focus the brilliant aspect of self-similarity existing within this universal [...]

  8. [...] about how the ‘self’ functions within this website… For example, feedback loops, along with how analogy is the core of cognition, how the mind demonstrates that the very process that drives it is based on an engine of nonlinear [...]

  9. I love hofstadter, I think one of the books that decided my future was “goedel escher and bach”, I started doing research in AI (specialized in NLP), loved recursive programs such as the ones for playing games like tic-tac-toe, the Goedel theoreme literally changed my view of the world.

    I like to think about what metaphors are, and I think you propose here a very interesting ones regarding complexity and self-similarity. According to him metaphors and analogies are the same phenomenon.
    Language… Meaning… Understanding… It’s all about higher concepts ‘globing’ together to create the aspects of cognition, via modes of analogy, that we all use in our everyday lives to impart meaning to, and thus construct, the world that we ‘know’ around us.
    You can check also: http://singyourownlullaby.blogspot.com/2009/10/metaphor-and-mind_04.html

    I also wrote about the self, which is a subject hofstadter talks a lot about, but in relation to computers and artificial inteligence here: http://singyourownlullaby.blogspot.com/2011/03/artificial-intelligence-and-humanity-i.html, and in it’s sequel.

    Hope you are interested in it.

    Hope to hear from you soon

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for your comments.

      Glad you enjoyed Godel’s ‘Incompleteness Theorems…’ Too true… They drastically changed my world view too. :)

      Will have a read of your blogs when I return from France in a couple of weeks.

      Till then…

      Karl

  10. [...] in Douglas Hofstadter’s book, entitled “I Am A Strange Loop“), along with how analogy can be viewed as the core of cognition, plus how the mind naturally demonstrates that the very process that drives it is based on an [...]

  11. [...] reminds me of the difference between diving with a cylinder and using a rebreather. To expound this analogy so as to aptly demonstrate what I mean… When one dives with a tank, that very tank is [...]

  12. [...] reminds me of the difference between diving with a cylinder and using a rebreather. To expound this analogy so as to aptly demonstrate what I mean… When one dives with a tank, that very tank is [...]

  13. [...] understanding about life further. As Douglas Hofstadter pointed out in his cryptic lecture “Analogy As The Core Of Cognition“, I continually found my ‘self’ observing a type of affine universal [...]

  14. […] help me to live a happy and carefree life of balanced biochemical awareness – is a powerful analogy for understanding interdependence and our relationship with this planet. Without all the help of […]

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