Thursday, December 22, 2016

Il Nom De Rosa- Name of the Rose: Let's Read (and Question)

Incredible book and movie (with Sean Connery) by Umberto Eco, an equally incredible Italian philosopher who studied semiotics. Name of the Rose explores medieval Italy during the Inquisition, as a monk serves his order by exploring a series of murders that no one wants solved...

Brace yourself for some hardcore philosophia- I pulled this from one of my old discussions at so it's the world's best way to get the most out of the book (adventure meets understanding :)

I’m not terribly far in, but a good chunk of philosophy is covered in the first few chapters. So far some cool things I’ve found (most points were found in the paper Murder and Mayhem in a Medieval Abbey: The Philosophy of the Name of the Rose -David G. Baxter):

First off the preface is a fake. Eco wrote it to situate the novel in a historical context. The fact that it is also fictional was, I felt, an excellent lead in to a book about understanding signs and significance. The very fact that it is fictional is alluded to when the author states “In short, I am full of doubts. I really don’t know why I have decided to pluck up my courage and present, as if it were authentic, the manuscript of Adso of Melk,” and again on the first page, “now repeating verbatim all I saw and heard without venturing to seek a design, as if to leave to those who will come after… signs of signs, so that the prayer of deciphering may exercised on them.” Also of note in the last quote is a reference to the idea found frequently in Apologetics that all true knowledge is a priori, not deriven from facts and deductive logic.
The theory of interpreting signs in order to acquire knowledge of things (concrete in the world) was systematized by William of Occam, who is mentioned several times in conjunction with Plato’s ideals. Plato held the opinion that all of the things of the world had an ideal form from which they derove their existence. It’s also interesting to note that Occam was decried for heresy over an interpretation of Apostilic poverty- it conflicted with the notions held by Pope John XXII as it dictated that the church and its servants should live in poverty (the only property belonging to them would belong only in the sense of being used by them). This is the subject of the conference which is called at the Abbey which is the setting of our novel.
The protagonist lends himself to a comparison with Sherlock Holmes, not the least because he is from Baskerville. This, in turn, moves to a study of deductive logic, which William freely admits he does not practice (nor does Holmes, truly).
Deductive logic is unveiling a truth by following definitions back to their source. For instance given the statements, “All men are mortal,” and “Socrates is a man,” we may understand that Socrates is a mortal. In contrast, William (of Baskerville) uses Abductive logic. The process of using signs to build a hypothesis which is then forwarded for the purpose of eliciting more signs.
There are four steps to Abductive Reasoning, which can be illustrated in following the dialogue of the first chapter with regards to the Abbot’s horse, Brunellus.
1)Overcoded Abduction- This is the observation of the everyday. The collection of all data, all symptoms and clues. Symptoms are changes that have a cause. Clues are objects left by an agent.
“[the universe] speaks not only of the ultimate things (which it does always in an obscure fashion) but also of closer things, and then it speaks quite clearly”
“…a horse’s hoofprints stood out….heading for the path on our left. Neatly spaced, those marks said that the hoof was small and round, and the gallop quite regular…not running wildly like a crazed animal… some twigs had been freshly broken off at the height of five feet… the blackberry bushes where the animal must have turned to take the path to his right…. still held some long black horsehairs…when he wants to use a horse in one of his logical examples,always calls it Brunellus…”
2)Undercoded Abduction- Constructing a coherent relationship to explain the imprints, symptoms, clues. This is then presented in order to accrue more data.
“It is obvious you are hunting for Brunellus, the abbot’s favorite horse, fifteen hands, the fastest in your stables, with a dark coat, a full tail, small round hoofs, but a very steady gait; small head, sharp ears, big eyes.”
To which the monks offer confirmation.
3)Creative Abduction- in cases where a larger picture is painted, or an initial hypothesis is found to be unsound, or additional data is encountered, the detective refines the rules/storyline.
4)Meta Abduction- the internal storyline is checked against reality.
This acknowledges the potential for the internal storyline to bear no concrete connection with the real world.
Also, in passing, I’d like to mention the use of a mentonym- “But resume your course, O my Story,” references the events as only their one part- his recounting of them. This is a common use of signs to draw an individual into a storyline which then subjugates the individual to that particular chronotope. While not precisely philosophical in nature, it was a point of interest.

Dying to get into semiotics (Get it? Murder myster...nevermind), Buy it Here

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