"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.
"... fascinating throughout.... the book is recreative in the highest sense." —Arthur C. Danto, The New Republic "A gem for Holmes fans and armchair detectives with a penchant for logical reflection, and Peirce scholars." —Library Journal.
In the course of the long debate on the nature and the classification of signs, from Boethius to Ockham, there are at least three lines of thought: the Stoic heritage, that influences Augustine, Abelard, Francis Bacon; the Aristotelian tradition, stemming from the commentaries on De Interpretatione; the discussion of the grammarians, from Priscian to the Modistae. Modern interpreters are frequently misled by the fact that the various authors regularly used the same terms. Such a homogeneous terminology, however, covers profound theoretical (...) differences. The aim of these essays is to show that the medieval theory of signs does not represent a unique body of semiotic notions: there are diverse and frequently alternative semiotic theories. This book thus represents an attempt to encourage further research on the still unrecognized variety of the semiotic approaches offered by the medieval philosophies of language. (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)
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)
A mesure qu'ils avancent dans leur œuvre de prospection, les sémioticiens s'aperçoivent que tout est communication, la langue bien sûr, mais aussi les images, les sons, les objets, les gestes, et que tous ces phénomènes constituent des systèmes de signes qui doivent être étudiés en ramenant chaque message aux codes qui en régissent l'émission et la compréhension. Comprendre les systèmes de signes impose toutefois d'envisager les codes comme des structures, puis de recouvrir à des structures toujours plus vastes, dans un (...) mouvement de régression vers la matrice originelle de toute communication possible, vers un prétendu Code des Codes qui devrait représenter la détermination " naturelle " précédant toute culture. Mais si la sémiotique s'engageait dans cette voie, elle ne pourrait qu'aboutir à la " source " de toute structure possible, forcément non structurée, à ce qu'Umberto Ecco appelle la structure absente. Son livre, tout en refusant ce Code des Codes, essaie de montrer que tout acte communicatif est dominé par la présence massive de codes socialement et historiquement déterminés. La sémiotique découvre ainsi dans la dialectique entre code et message les rapports entre l'univers de signes et l'univers des idéologies, qui se reflètent dans les modes communicatifs préconstitués, et elle relie le monde des choses au monde de la culture, qui formalise les choses non pas pour les reconnaître comme elles sont mais afin de les transformer. Après avoir étudié dans L'œuvre ouverte les structures des langages expérimentaux de l'art contemporain, Umberto Ecco traite ici l'ensemble des problèmes sémiotiques et ce livre constitue à la fois sa contribution à la recherche en cours et le panorama actuellement le plus vaste et le plus complet sur les préalables constitutifs à toute sémiotique et sur l'état présent du structuralisme. (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)
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)
In this short discussion of the Irish modernist writer, the author establishes a link between the mind of James Joyce and medieval theology. He shows how Joyce's fiction was suffused by his reading of St. Thomas Aquinas, Giordano Bruno and Nicola da Cusa and the book creates a dialogue between the saint, the novelist and the critic.
One is the beloved author of The Name of the Rose, a celebrated scholar, philosopher, and self-declared secularist; the other is a preeminent clergyman and a respected expert on the New Testament. In this intellectually stimulating dialogue, often adversarial but always amicable, these two great men, who stand on opposite sides of the church door, discuss some of the most controversial issues of our day, including the apocalypse, abortion, women in the clergy, and ethics. As we voyage onward into the (...) new millennium, they frame a debate about matters that have already begun to rage, always aware of the gulf between belief and nonbelief that separates them, constantly probing and challenging, but also respectful of the other’s viewpoint. For believers and nonbelievers alike, the result is both edifying and illuminating. “Their correspondence,” writes Professor Harvey Cox in his introduction, “lifts the possibility of intelligent conversation on religion to a new level.”. (shrink)