Gödel, Escher, Bach: How Did Consciousness Happen?

If you like to think about thinking, and wonder what it means to be conscious, this is the course for you. The course is built around cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter’s astonishing book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which combines art history, music theory, and advanced mathematics—along with not a little Lewis Carroll—to present an overarching theory of how consciousness might have come about in the course of human evolution. The course selectively considers approximately 300 years of art, literature, mathematics, and music in an integrated way, exploring the overlaps between Hofstadter’s work and the Cultural History curriculum at Ross. Students also read pieces written by other neuroscientists, philosophers, musicologists, and cultural theorists. During the course, students write series of philosophical dialogues, improvisations, and essays on the major topics of the course. Each student produces a final project containing a proposal for a second book on a musician, a mathematician or scientist, and a visual artist, which they adapt into a “TED Talk.”