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I come across this expression in this public lecture "Analogy as the Core of Cognition" by Douglas Hofstadter. (http://shc.stanford.edu/events/calendar/2006-2-6-douglas-hofstadter-analogy-as-the-core-of-cognition.html). Roughly 15-20min into the video.

When Doug made this humorous remark, laughters erupted in the room. I do not quite get the joke though. Could anyone explain the significance of Delaware here?

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The video does not play in my browser. Could you provide a bit of context, i.e. a few sentences around which where he uses this expression? –  choster Jul 13 '12 at 12:28
Hmm, you might want to just state the relevant context. Personally I don't want to watch a 20+ minute video just to be able to possibly answer a question. –  Jay Jul 13 '12 at 13:57
Also, analogies about analogies are funny. Obligatory xkcd. –  Patrick M Sep 5 at 17:04

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Delaware was the first state to ratify the US Constitution, so:

Analogy is the first state of cognition.

(edit to add a bit more info: Delaware as a whole is quite proud of this fact, and "The First State" is one of its official mottos. As an east-coaster, this tidbit sprang immediately to mind for me.)

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Awesome. I spent about 15 minutes trying to pick the pun out of that statement from a cognitive sciences standpoint and I was way off track. You got it in one. –  Marcus_33 Jul 13 '12 at 13:35
Hmm, Wayne's World sprang first to my mind. If this were the speaker's intent, it would give the meaning: Analogy is a mediocre and unremarkable literary device (which I find funny, imagining a poet putting down analogy and praising metaphor and synecdoche). Given that he's talking about cognition and thought, not language, I like your explanation better. –  Patrick M Sep 5 at 17:03

I am translating into Italian Surfaces and Essences (which contains that sentence) together with a friend of mine. Since we were not sure about its meaning, my friend asked Hofstadter: his answer was(*) "I used Delaware because it is a peripherical state, with an identity of its own, but left on the fringes. However in the French edition of the book Hofstadter and Sanders settled down for "Finisterrae", to mean a far, far away place.

Of course this does not explain the burst of laughter :-)

(*) my friend reported Hofstadter's answer in Italian, actually; it may even be that he answered in Italian...

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It is hard to say for sure, but a stereotype you hear about Delaware is that it is the "Lower Slower" state. The notion is that the southern part of the state is very rural and therefore the inhabitants are old, unsophisticated, slow-moving, etc.

I think Douglas Hofstadter is attempting to make the point about analogy (ironically using analogy) that it is very primitive or simplistic by comparison with the process of cognition.

The lecture was delivered at Stanford (in Connecticut), which is quite close to Delaware, and it is likely that the audience would be well aware of the Delaware stereotype, thus accounting for their reaction.

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