Cover: From the Tree to the Labyrinth: Historical Studies on the Sign and Interpretation, from Harvard University PressCover: From the Tree to the Labyrinth in HARDCOVER

From the Tree to the Labyrinth

Historical Studies on the Sign and Interpretation

Add to Cart

Product Details

HARDCOVER

$46.50 • £37.95 • €42.00

ISBN 9780674049185

Publication Date: 02/24/2014

Short

640 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

3 halftones, 44 line illustrations, 4 tables

World

The way we create and organize knowledge is the theme of From the Tree to the Labyrinth, a major achievement by one of the world’s foremost thinkers on language and interpretation. Umberto Eco begins by arguing that our familiar system of classification by genus and species derives from the Neo-Platonist idea of a “tree of knowledge.” He then moves to the idea of the dictionary, which—like a tree whose trunk anchors a great hierarchy of branching categories—orders knowledge into a matrix of definitions. In Eco’s view, though, the dictionary is too rigid: it turns knowledge into a closed system. A more flexible organizational scheme is the encyclopedia, which—instead of resembling a tree with finite branches—offers a labyrinth of never-ending pathways. Presenting knowledge as a network of interlinked relationships, the encyclopedia sacrifices humankind’s dream of possessing absolute knowledge, but in compensation we gain the freedom to pursue an infinity of new connections and meanings.

Moving effortlessly from analyses of Aristotle and James Joyce to the philosophical difficulties of telling dogs from cats, Eco demonstrates time and again his inimitable ability to bridge ancient, medieval, and modern modes of thought. From the Tree to the Labyrinth is a brilliant illustration of Eco’s longstanding argument that problems of interpretation can be solved only in historical context.

Recent News

From Our Blog

Jacket: Virtue Politics: Soulcraft and Statecraft in Renaissance Italy, by James Hankins, from Harvard University Press

Q&A with James Hankins, author of Virtue Politics: Soulcraft and Statecraft in Renaissance Italy

With Virtue Politics, James Hankins has delivered a bold, revisionist account of the political thought of the Italian Renaissance—from Petrarch to Machiavelli—that reveals the all-important role of character in shaping society, both in citizens and in their leaders. We spoke to him about the importance of virtue to leadership in Renaissance Italy—and its relevance to our own time.

‘manifold glories of classical Greek and Latin’

The digital Loeb Classical Library (loebclassics.com) extends the founding mission of James Loeb with an interconnected, fully searchable, perpetually growing virtual library of all that is important in Greek and Latin literature.