As the author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, his speech was playful and strangely looping, just like the book. A 20th anniversary edition of this Pulitzer Prize winner is available, which affords him the opportunity to clarify his intent and address many popular myths.
You could see his thought patterns, as he took obvious joy in conveying his ideas to us. He does not profer absolute answers, but invites us to join him in a rolling, rollicking investigation of the subject matter.
To demonstrate how concepts expand, he extended the concept of shadow: from a shadow cast by a tree in the sun, to the rain shadow from the Cascade Mountains in Oregon, to England shadowing Norway from the Gulf Stream, and finally to a “snow shadow” cast by the same tree in winter. From this he drew his tongue-in-cheek “Light-Flake Hypothesis”.
He declared that “Lexical-item choice [the words you choose when speaking] is (always) a fight” within your particular semantic space. Sometimes the struggle emerges audibly, such as when a person is deciding between two words and ends up saying something that blends the two words. He gave many examples, such as someone deciding between “vigilant” and “diligent”, and actually saying “viligent”, or the person deciding between “pull out all the stops” and “leave no stone unturned” who says “We’ll pull no stops unturned.”
He deftly brought us to Einstein’s analogy-based “Light-Quantum Hypothesis” (while studiously skirting intricate mathematical treatments), then through analogical reasoning, tied it to his previous “Light-Flake Hypothesis”, to arrive at his “Cognitive-Core Hypothesis”.
I would encourage you to go to the Discussion session that Hofstadter is leading tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. (Stanford Humanities Center, 424 Santa Teresa Street). What a great opportunity to engage a fascinating mind in banter.