"Eco wittily and enchantingly develops themes often touched on in his previous works, but he delves deeper into their complex nature... this collection can be read with pleasure by those unversed in semiotic theory." —Times Literary Supplement.
Why are we deeply moved by the misfortune of Anna Karenina if we are fully aware that she is simply a fictional character who does not exist in our world?But what does it mean that fictional characters do not exist? The present article is concerned with the ontology of fictional characters. The author concludes thatsuccessful fictional characters become paramount examples of the ‘real’ human condition because they live in an incomplete world what we have cognitive access to but cannot influence (...) in any way and where no deeds can be undone. Unlike all the other semiotic objects, which are culturally subject to revisions, and perhaps only similar to mathematical entities, the fictual characters will never change and will remain the actors of what they did once and forever. (shrink)
Esperimento mentale: siete Immanuel Kant, vi trovate in Australia, e ve ne state andando a passeggio. A un tratto scorgete una strana bestiola in riva al lago. Ha gli occhi di una talpa, ma sarà grande dieci volte tanto. Ha il becco di un’anatra, ma non ha le ali; e non ha piume bensì una fitta pelliccia che la fa assomigliare semmai a una lontra. La coda poi sembra quella di un castoro; e le zampe hanno dita palmate, ma con (...) artigli. Insomma, è proprio uno strano animale (ammesso che sia un animale e non una creatura degli inferi o lo scherzo di un taxidermista) nel quale certamente non vi siete mai imbattuti e di cui sicuramente non aver mai sentito parlare. Domanda: che cosa dunque state vedendo? Siete incappati in un ornitorinco. Ma attenzione: l’esperimento richiede che vi immedesimiate in Kant, e ai tempi di Kant l’ornitorinco non era ancora stato scoperto. Per meglio dire: non era ancora stato scoperto e classificato dai naturalisti europei, che ci avrebbero impiegato quasi un altro secolo prima di trovargli un posto nell’ordine sui generis dei mammiferi ovipari. Il vecchio Immanuel non ne sapeva nulla, non ne aveva il concetto; quindi voi non potete rispondere che state vedendo un ornitorinco. State vedendo quella cosa lì e basta. Il problema è cosa significhi dire che state vedendo quella cosa dato che non avete la più pallida idea di che cosa stiate vedendo. (shrink)
"... an excellent collection... " —Journal of Language & Social Psychology An important collection of original essays by well-known scholars debating the questions of logical versus psychologically-based interpretations of language.
In the mold of his acclaimed History of Beauty , renowned cultural critic Umberto Eco’s On Ugliness is an exploration of the monstrous and the repellant in visual culture and the arts. What is the voyeuristic impulse behind our attraction to the gruesome and the horrible? Where does the magnetic appeal of the sordid and the scandalous come from? Is ugliness also in the eye of the beholder? Eco’s encyclopedic knowledge and captivating storytelling skills combine in this ingenious study of (...) the Ugly, revealing that what we often shield ourselves from and shun in everyday life is what we’re most attracted to subliminally. Topics range from Milton’s Satan to Goethe’s Mephistopheles; from witchcraft and medieval torture tactics to martyrs, hermits, and penitents; from lunar births and disemboweled corpses to mythic monsters and sideshow freaks; and from Decadentism and picturesque ugliness to the tacky, kitsch, and camp, and the aesthetics of excess and vice. With abundant examples of painting and sculpture ranging from ancient Greek amphorae to Bosch, Brueghel, and Goya among others, and with quotations from the most celebrated writers and philosophers of each age, this provocative discussion explores in-depth the concepts of evil, depravity, and darkness in art and literature. (shrink)
Per Aristotele la metafora non è un semplice ornamento del discorso ma possiede valore conoscitivo, perché consente di conoscere il simile e di cogliere concetti affini. Negli autori medievali la metafora mantiene la funzione di strumento di conoscenza?
What is beauty? What is art? What is taste and fashion? Is beauty something to be observed coolly and rationally or is it something dangerously involving? So begins Umberto Eco's intriguing journey into the aesthetics of beauty, in which he explores the ever-changing concept of the beautiful from the ancient Greeks to today. While closely examining the development of the visual arts and drawing on works of literature from each era, Eco broadens his enquiries to consider a range of concepts, (...) including the idea of love, the unattainable woman, natural inspiration versus numeric formulas, and the continuing importance of ugliness, cruelty, and even the demonic. Professor Eco takes us from classical antiquity to the present day, dispelling many preconceptions along the way and concluding that the relevance of his research is urgent because we live in an age of great reverence for beauty, "an orgy of tolerance, the total syncretism and the absolute and unstoppable polytheism of Beauty." In this, his first illustrated book, Professor Eco offers a layered approach that includes a running narrative, abundant examples of painting and sculpture, and excerpts from writers and philosophers of each age, plus comparative tables. A true road map to the idea of beauty for any reader who wishes to journey into this wonderful realm with Eco's nimble mind as guide. (shrink)
Serendipities is a careful unraveling of the fabulous and the false, a brilliant exposition of how unanticipated truths often spring from false ideas. From Leibniz's belief that the I Ching illustrated the principles of calculus to Marco Polo's mistaking a rhinoceros for a unicorn, Umberto Eco offers a dazzling tour of intellectual history, illuminating the ways in which we project the familiar onto the strange to make sense of the world. Uncovering layers of mistakes that have shaped human history, Eco (...) offers with wit and clarity such instances as Columbus's voyage to the New World, the fictions that grew around the Rosicrucians and Knights Templar, and the linguistic endeavors to recreate the language of Babel, to show how serendipities can evolve out of mistakes. With erudition, anecdotes, and scholarly rigor, this new collection of essays is sure to entertain and enlighten any reader with a passion for the curious history of languages and ideas. (shrink)