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Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Author / )
I read the review of Simon Blackburn trashing the book: Eco made a few mistakes concerning the two dogmas of empiricism (he confused Davidson's work with Quine's first dogma). So I am sure many readers hesitated after a review by such a rigorous big gun thinker as Blackburn.
When I started reading the book I was taken aback by the combination of depth and the vividness of the style. Eco is sprightly and alive, something that cannot be said of many philosophers dealing with the subject of categories.
The notion of categories is not trivial: you need a simple conditional prior to identify an object; it is a simple mathematical fact. You need to know what a table is to see it in the background separated from its surroundings. You need to know what a face is so when it rotates you know it is still the same face. Computers have had a hard time with such pattern recognition. A PRIOR category is a necessity. This was Kant's intuition (the so-called "rationalism"). This is also the field of semiotics as initially conceived. Eco took it to greater levels with his notion of what I would call in scientific language a compression, a "simplifation". This leads to the major problem we face today: what if the act of compressing is arbitrary?
Not just very deep but it is a breath of fresh air to see such a philosophical discussion nondull, nondry, alive!
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.
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