Monday, May 28, 2018

I AM A MAN and Gödel, Escher, Bach; An Eternal Golden Braid

This painting in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is by artist Glenn Ligon and was painted in 1988. It is labeled as "Untitled (I Am a Man)." This painting obviously reminded me of the following book:

Hofstadter, Douglas R. 1989. Gödel, Escher, Bach; An Eternal Golden Braid. Vintage.

Hofstadter's book is one of the most influential works on reality, math, symmetry, and intelligence. Here is a short explanation of the book from Wikipedia: Gödel, Escher, Bach.
By exploring common themes in the lives and works of logician Kurt Gödel, artist M. C. Escher, and composer Johann Sebastian Bach, the book expounds concepts fundamental to mathematics, symmetry, and intelligence. Through illustration and analysis, the book discusses how self-reference and formal rules allow systems to acquire meaning despite being made of "meaningless" elements. It also discusses what it means to communicate, how knowledge can be represented and stored, the methods and limitations of symbolic representation, and even the fundamental notion of "meaning" itself.
One dominant theme in the book is the philosophical and mathematical issue of self-referential statements. This painting is self-referential on more than one level. In my family, reading Gödel, Escher, Bach; An Eternal Golden Braid was highly recommended. 

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