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Umberto Eco (1932 -2016)

February 22, 2016

With time flying, as it must, with events reported instantaneously by the ubiquitous 24-hour news outlets, as they will, we are offered a microscopically-detailed view of the ripening and eventual demise of many cultural icons.  Surely this is due to a serious overabundance of cultural icons dwelling in a seriously overpopulated world, but there you have it.  Individual readers might be mourning the recent loss of their own favorite actor, writer, pop star, or real musician, but among our most cherished cultural icons, Umberto Eco occupied a very prominent position.

Umberto Eco was appointed Professor of Semiotics at the University of Bologna in 1975, having previously made a particular study of medieval aesthetics as later published in his Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages (1986).  Aside from his many collections of essays, other favorite novels by Eco include The Name of the Rose (1980), Foucault’s Pendulum (1988) and, more recently, The Prague Cemetery (2011). As an indication of his universal popularity, even Eco may have found a bit of twisted pleasure in the fact that all of the above books may be had today for one cent each.

We have quoted Umberto Eco on more than one occasion and, when it comes down to a summation of the reason we bother to publish this blog, there is absolutely nothing that can be said that Eco did not state more eloquently.

“…It would hardly be a waste of time if sometimes even the most advanced students in the cognitive sciences were to pay a visit to their ancestors. It is frequently claimed in American philosophy departments that, in order to be a philosopher, it is not necessary to revisit the history of philosophy. It is like the claim that one can become a painter without having ever seen a single work by Raphael, or a writer without having ever read the classics. Such things are theoretically possible; but the ‘primitive’ artist, condemned to an ignorance of the past, is always recognizable as such and rightly labeled as naïf. It is only when we consider past projects revealed as utopian or as failures that we are apprised of the dangers and possibilities for failure for our allegedly new projects. The study of the deeds of our ancestors is thus more than an antiquarian pastime, it is an immunological precaution.”

― Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language

While we don’t necessarily agree with all of his viewpoints, Umberto Eco captured the essence of our age and he will be missed.

“I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.”

― Umberto Eco

  1. Chris Barker permalink

    R & D,

    Absolutely brilliant. I know, seeing the movie rather than reading the book is plebian, but I loved the film version of Name of the Rose. Sean Connery did a fine job as Brother Alcuin*. He’s truly more than 007.


    *That may have been meant to be Saint Alcuin at the wrong place in history. The book was set 5 or 6 hundred years after the real St. Alcuin’s lifetime.

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