How do we know that a cat is a cat? Why do we agree on calling the beast a cat? Interesting questions, but an even more intriguing question lies at the heart of all modern philosophy – how much of our perception of things depends on our cognitive ability and how much on linguistic resources? At this point semiotics becomes inextricably linked to epistemology, or cognition. In these essays, Umberto Eco explores in depth such subjects as perception, the relationship between language and experience, and iconism that he only touched on in A Theory of Semiotics. Foregoing a formal, systematic treatment, Eco engages in a series of explorations based on common sense, from which flow an abundance of illustrative fables, often with animals as protagonists. Among the characters, a position of prominence is reserved for the platypus, which appears to have been created specifically to “put the cat among the pigeons” as far as many theories of knowledge are concerned. In Kant and the Platypus, Eco shares with us a wealth of ideas at once philosophical and amusing.
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