Musings: Kant and the Platypus: Essays on Language and Cognition by Umberto Eco

Kant and the Platypus: Essays on Language and CognitionKant and the Platypus: Essays on Language and Cognition
Umberto Eco, trans. by Alastair McEwen
Semiotics, Cognitive semantics
November 2000
Mariner Books
480 pages

Every so often, I start to fancy myself an intellectual. I’m an educated woman with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I can hang with smart folks when talking about literature and discussing symbolism, deconstruction, post-modernism, so on and so forth. If I put my mind to it, I can even have semi-coherent conversations about Lacanian and Freudian interpretations of literature. Hear me roar, I am better-read than the average bear, and I remember the bare bones of a few philosophers’ and psychoanalysts’ writings.

If ever I need to be taken down a peg, however, all I need to do is open anything non-fiction written by Umberto Eco. Even his fiction can be brain-melting (I think anyone who reads Dan Brown should give The Name of the Rose or Foucault’s Pendulum a try), though I enjoy reading his stories.

Eco’s non-fiction is written on a whole different level than that to which I am accustomed. I’ve had Kant and the Platypus on my bookshelf for a couple years now, and it something I have to repeatedly put down, then come back to later when I’ve done copious amounts of background reading. I might finish it thirty years from now, after reading and studying Kant as I never did in college and then going off on ancillary philosophical reading binges.

Maybe (maybe!) by that point I’ll be able to wrap my head around some of his essays. I love the challenge, and the growth Mr. Eco is forcing me into whenever attempt one of the essays in this collection.

If you want to think more deeply on the meaning of the meaning of “being” than you ever thought you would, Kant and the Platypus is a great way to a) learn, b) think deeply and c) humble your ego.

I’m going to go un-melt my brain and lose myself in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter world now. (Oh, look, my interests are versatile, too!)

Visit the author’s Web site.


About Jessica

Dork extraordinaire, that's me! An unhealthy knowledge of Star Trek, a love of books, a fondness for purring cats.
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2 Responses to Musings: Kant and the Platypus: Essays on Language and Cognition by Umberto Eco

  1. Gregg says:

    Eco’s fiction is on a level that is almost unmatched. I have read “The name of the rose” three times and each time like a an onion I peal back another layer.

    • Jessica says:

      The Name of the Rose is amazing. I haven’t read it in about a decade now; I need to re-read it, with translations of the Latin passages handy. Having sung his praises, though, I think his novel Baudolino proves that even a master story-teller like Eco can write a well-crafted, intricately told story that is painfully uninteresting. I had to force myself to finish it. I kept thinking it had to engage my interest at some point, and it never did.

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