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Extended Audio Sample Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking, by Douglas Hofstadter, Emmanuel Sander Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Douglas Hofstadter, Emmanuel Sander Narrator: Lloyd James, Sean Prat Publisher: Gildan Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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. 

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? How do we recognize an aggressive driver from a split-second glance in our rearview mirror? What in a friend’s remark triggers the offhand reply, “That’s just sour grapes”? 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 heart and soul 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A milestone in our understanding of human thought, filled with insights and new ideas.”

    Steven Pinker, New York Times bestselling author of The Stuff of Thought

  • “Lucid and, page for page, a delight to read…[Surfaces and Essences contains] gems of insight.”


  • “First rate popular science.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “A wonderful and insightful account of the role of analogy in cognition.”

    Melanie Mitchell, professor of computer science, Portland State University, and author of Complexity: A Guided Tour

  • “[The authors] mount a compelling case through analysis of a wealth of insightful—imaginative and real—exemplars, from everyday thinking to the highest achievements of the human mind, which are sure to persuade a broad range of readers.”

    Nancy J. Nersessian, professor of cognitive science, Georgia Institute of Technology, and author of Creating Scientific Concepts

  • Surfaces and Essences is a mind-boggling argument for the central role that analogies play in human thought. Hofstadter and Sander’s witty and profound masterpiece will leave you thinking about thinking in totally new ways.”

    Elizabeth F. Loftus, distinguished professor, University of California, and author of Eyewitness Testimony

  • “Enjoyable and profound.”

    Donald Norman, author of Living with Complexity and The Design of Everyday Things

  • “Hofstadter and Sander’s book starts with two audacious goals: to show that none of us can think a minute without using a variety of analogies, and that becoming aware of this fact can help us think more clearly. Then, patiently and with humor, the authors prove their claims across the whole spectrum, from everyday conversation to scientific thought processes, even that of Einstein.”

    Gerald Holton, professor emeritus of physics and history of science, Harvard University

  • “On every page, you will find delights: you will be informed, you will be puzzled; you will agree vehemently and you will disagree just as vehemently; you will ponder. And you will return for more.”

    Barbara Tversky, professor emerita of psychology, Stanford University, and professor of psychology and education, Columbia Teachers College

  • A New York Times Bestseller
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