Residential College
Interdivisional Course 216, Section 001
Gödel, Escher, Bach

Instructor: John Lawler   <>
Tuesday and Thursday, 2:30-4:00 PM
Room 24-26 Tyler, East Quad

Prerequisites: High school algebra and geometry       Credits: (3)
Waitlist: At Residential College office (763-0176)       Distribution: (Excl)
Course Homepage:

Douglas Hofstadter’s 1980 book Gödel, Escher, Bach is one of the most popular unread books in history. Subtitled "A Metaphoric Fugue on Men, Machine, and Minds in the style of Lewis Carroll", it won the Pulitzer Prize and enjoys continuing sales, but far more people have bought it than have actually read it, not to speak of understanding.

This course will discuss many of the themes that run through the book: mathematics, computing, artificial intelligence, metaphor, creativity, pattern and structure, logic and meaning, art, music, history, and consciousness. The goal will be to Improve our critical understanding of these and other topics by providing the mathematical, historical, logical, and scientific background for evaluating Hofstadter’s oeuvre. We will attempt to actually finish the book, and will read a number of collateral works on the foundations and history of logic and mathematics.

Active participation in class, and in a computer conference, are course requirements, in addition to other assignments.

Required textbooks:

Plus coursepack.

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