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Kant And The Platypus
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A playful collection of philosophical critiques from the internationally acclaimed and bestselling author of The Name of the Rose and The Prague Cemetery

About the Author

Umberto Eco (1932-2016) wrote fiction, literary criticism and philosophy. His first novel, The Name of the Rose, was a major international bestseller. His other works include Foucault's Pendulum, The Island of the Day Before, Baudolino, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, The Prague Cemetery and Numero Zero along with many brilliant collections of essays.

Reviews

Not a novel this time: Eco on the relation between language and experience. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Consider the platypus. With its famous molelike body carrying a beaver's tail and a duck's beak, the beast confounded the first Western scientists who studied it in 1798. Was it a mammal or a reptile? Did it lay eggs? Was it just a taxonomic hoax? The platypus eventually found its rightful place in the animal kingdom, but as Eco (Travels in Hyperreality, etc.) shows in these challenging essays, the questions it raised about language and perception still animate some sharply contested semiotic debates. Writing with his customary keenness of intellect, Eco ranges widely over metaphysical terrain, drawing on Aristotle, Heidegger and C.S. Peirce to inform his discussions. Revising aspects of Kant's philosophy in terms of cognitive studies, Eco ponders how we identify the things around us and argues that meaning in the world is ultimately contractual and negotiable. When Aztecs first saw horses ridden by Spanish conquistadors, for example, they used their previous knowledge to surmise that the invaders were riding deer. In another example, Eco investigates how we can recognize a Bach suite for solo cello, even when played by different soloists or transcribed for the recorder. Throughout, Eco gamely reconsiders his 1976 work, A Theory of Semiotics, over which many a gauntlet was testily thrown, and revisits other key moments in the history of semiotic research. This collection will certainly appeal to specialists. But Eco's ability to balance technical subject matter with broadly intelligible anecdotes and illustrations should make it valuable and pleasurable for anyone seeking a gallant introduction to the philosophy of language. (Nov.) FYI: Also in November Harvest will release Eco's Serendipities in paperback ($12, ISBN 0-15-600751-7) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

"Full of jokes, conundra and startling insights...Eco has both moved with the times and moved his discipline along... Few will come to Kant and the Platypus for a bulletin on the world of literary theory...what the general reader will find here is an extraordinary mind at play" Sunday Times "A typical Eco book in its scope and vastness of ambition. In his hands, semiotics is transformed from a specialist branch of learning into a theory of everything...readers will not fail to be stimulated" Daily Telegraph "Eco's sensitivity to the mysteries of signification supplies the irony and perceptiveness of his essays. Here, he addresses the mysteries themselves. He does it in characteristic fashion, with wit and invention; but with serious intent too... Eco deploys all his skills of anecdote and illustration, pleasurably decorating an earnest and complicated matter" Financial Times "Umberto Eco is perhaps the leading contemporary representative of the philosophy of semiotics... The discussion is consistently fertile and provocative and provides a wealth of suggestive anecdotes and illustrations" Spectator

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