Kant And The Platypus: Essays On Language And Cognition

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9780099276951: Kant And The Platypus: Essays On Language And Cognition

How much do our perceptions of things depend on our cognitive ability, and how much on our linguistic resources? Where, and how, do these two questions meet? Umberto Eco undertakes a series of idiosyncratic and typically brilliant explorations, starting from the perceived data of common sense, from which flow an abundance of 'stories' or fables, often with animals as protagonists, to expound a clear critique of Kant, Heidegger and Peirce. And as a beast designed specifically to throw spanners in the works of cognitive theory, the duckbilled platypus naturally takes centre stage.

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Describing Umberto Eco as a writer is like describing the platypus as an animal. What do readers expect when they see the name "Umberto Eco" on a book jacket? A tricky question to answer given Eco's range and versatility: He has written books on semiotics (the study of signs), children's books, studies of the Middle Ages, books of essays on contemporary culture and, of course, novels--notably The Name of the Rose and The Island of the Day Before. So first a word of warning. Anyone familiar with Eco the novelist or essayist might well be dismayed by Kant and the Platypus, for this new book returns to his preoccupations of the 60s and 70s, to semiotics, the philosophy of language and cognitive semantics, and as such is initially daunting. The initial chapter, for example, discusses various philosophical concepts of "being". Secondly a word of encouragement. This is a wonderful engagement with issues of language, more than worth the effort, because Eco always returns to the perspective of "common sense", to the use of stories as a means of explicating even the most complex arguments.

(i) Marco Polo, on coming across a rhinoceros for the first time, described the animal as a type of unicorn (thereby describing something real in terms of something legendary).

(ii) People who encountered the platypus in the 18th century had great difficulty in deciding exactly what kind of an animal it was (It could have been classified as a reptile, a bird or a mammal).

(iii) Given a dictionary or encyclopaedia definition of a mouse, how easy would it be to identify one if we had never seen one before?

These are some of the examples that Eco uses to explore the ways in which we see and describe the world, the ways in which cultures develop definitions and taxonomies. So, if you want to know "the reasons why we can tell an elephant from an armadillo" or why mirrors do not in fact reverse images, this book will tell you. In fact, it will also tell you why you know what I am talking about when I say "this book". Got it? No? Then get it. --Burhan Tufail

Review:

"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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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 194 x 130 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. How much do our perceptions of things depend on our cognitive ability, and how much on our linguistic resources? Where, and how, do these two questions meet? Umberto Eco undertakes a series of idiosyncratic and typically brilliant explorations, starting from the perceived data of common sense, from which flow an abundance of stories or fables, often with animals as protagonists, to expound a clear critique of Kant, Heidegger and Peirce. And as a beast designed specifically to throw spanners in the works of cognitive theory, the duckbilled platypus naturally takes centre stage. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099276951

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 194 x 130 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. How much do our perceptions of things depend on our cognitive ability, and how much on our linguistic resources? Where, and how, do these two questions meet? Umberto Eco undertakes a series of idiosyncratic and typically brilliant explorations, starting from the perceived data of common sense, from which flow an abundance of stories or fables, often with animals as protagonists, to expound a clear critique of Kant, Heidegger and Peirce. And as a beast designed specifically to throw spanners in the works of cognitive theory, the duckbilled platypus naturally takes centre stage. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099276951

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Book Description Vintage, 2000. Book Condition: New. An attempt to answer the question, how much do our perceptions of things depend on our cognitive ability and how much on our linguistic resources? Eco undertakes a series of idiosyncratic explorations, starting from the perceived data of common sense, to expound a clear critique of Kant. Num Pages: 480 pages. BIC Classification: 2ADF; FA; HPCD. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 199 x 129 x 29. Weight in Grams: 340. . 2000. Paperback. . . . . Bookseller Inventory # V9780099276951

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