Trial. An intellectual composition of the world

His name is almost unknown to the scholarly community and the general public on this side of the Atlantic. His fame is undoubtedly not much greater in his own country, where one has a better chance of making oneself known by tweeting than by glossing and of being elected by smoldering the masses than by enlightening them. . But, at a time of viral globalization, the reading bacillus has such a low reproduction rate on the Old Continent that it is advisable to avoid bragging in the shade of the hangars of Amazon.

We will therefore welcome with the interest it deserves the large book signed by Douglas Hofstadter, professor of cognitive science and computer science at Indiana University, Bloomington, United States, where he directs the Center for research on concepts and cognition. Its translation into the language of Molière, signed Jacqueline Henry and Robert French, gives this Pulitzer Prize for the 1980 essay the echo it deserves in law and which, in fact, it did not fail to arouse.

It must be said that the project is of a certain scale.

First of all by the bet which is his: to unite along the same intellectual arc authors and creators as different by their origin, their time and their training as the logician and mathematician Austrian naturalized American Kurt Gödel (1906-1978 ), recognized as one of the most brilliant minds of his time for his famous but arduous uncertainty theorems and his no less famous eponymous universal statement, Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972), known for his woodcuts, his manners black and his lithographs, including his famous staircases carrying inimitable pictorial worlds, both joyful and distressing, and the German composer Jean-Sébastien Bach (1685-1750), whose works are proof if not of the existence of God, at least from the need to question the possibility of it.

What distinguishes a writer from an author

Then, by the audacity and the abundant richness of the themes of its composition, this book surprises. It opens with a sort of musical prologue in the form of a story as pleasant as it is impromptu: we find the good Jean-Sébastien at the court of King Frederick the Great of Prussia invited to improvise on a theme by the august person of the sovereign. From there, we find ourselves carried away, as in a tale by Sterne or a tale by Voltaire, in scholarly discussions which revolve around multiple axes themselves linked together by this happy “knack” that Vladimir Jankélévitch loved. to remember that it is the only thing that distinguishes a writer from an author. Everything goes there: mechanical structures, computers, artificial intelligence, but also Zeno’s paradoxes, formal systems, the distinction between Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries, recursive processes or the calculus of propositions, to name a few. stick to a few theoretical samples.

Finally, because we understand better from reading such a work what the purpose of a book can be: unlike a newspaper, although some works take literary form, the goal is not simply to inform , nor to make the reader think, which is already a lot, but to give him to travel the world to come back, like Ulysses, both the same and another. In this game of suitors, this sum hits the mark and deserves to be enthroned on our shelves.

We want to give thanks to the writer of this short article for this amazing material

Trial. An intellectual composition of the world