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Kant and the Platypus: Essays on Language and Cognition

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Kant and the Platypus

Essays on Language and Cognition

By Professor of Semiotics Umberto Eco

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Format: Paperback, 480 pages
Other Information: black & white illustrations
How do we know a cat is a cat? And why do we call it a cat? How much of our perception of things is based on cognitive ability, and how much on linguistic resources? Here, in six remarkable essays, Umberto Eco explores in depth questions of reality, perception, and experience. Basing his ideas on common sense, Eco shares a vast wealth of literary and historical knowledge, touching on issues that affect us every day. At once philosophical and amusing, Kant and the Platypus is a tour of the world of our senses, told by a master of knowing what is real and what is not.


This book is an erudite, detailed inquiry into the philosophy of mind. Eco's concern here is the Kantian question, How is it that the manifold of sense perceptions becomes transformed by the mind into knowledge? As Eco (semiotics, Univ. of Bologna) puts the question, What would Kant have done had he come upon a platypus?-using the animal to represent something initially unrecognizable. To answer the question, Eco lets his playful, encyclopedic mind roam freely throughout these (recent) essays. The often highly abstract discussionÄlarded with expressions in Greek, German, French, and ItalianÄis interlaced with deeply inventive thought experiments and imaginative dialogs. Philosophic thinking from ancient to contemporary philosophers (with an emphasis on the thought of Charles Sanders Peirce) is weighed and evaluated. Here, Eco is continental philosopher, analytic philosopher, linguistic philosopher, semiotician, and cognitive scientist all rolled into one. Philosophers will love this; others will be mystified. Highly recommended for all academic philosophy collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/99.]ÄLeon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Lib., Washington, DC 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.

"Presented with mock solemnity and written with grace and wit, the book is a genuine work of scholarship that is also a pleasure to read.-Newsweek "Witty and stylish."-The New York Times "A book no self-respecting dreamer should be without."-The Economist

EAN: 9780156011594
ISBN: 015601159X
Publisher: Wadsworth Publishing Co Inc
Dimensions: 20.32 x 13.61 x 3.1 centimetres (0.52 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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