December 22, 2008

Library of Living Philosophers to feature Eco

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The philosophers selected for inclusion in the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Library of Living Philosophers series, published by Open Court Publishing Co., are always important in the academic world, even when they are not recognizable to the general public.

However, Randall E. Auxier, editor of the prestigious series, announced recently the selection of one philosopher with greater-than-average name recognition -- Umberto Eco.

Eco is the author of such well-known works as “Foucault’s Pendulum” and “The Name of the Rose.” The latter was also a successful film starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater. Eco’s novels often include intricate plots sprinkled with obscure but fascinating historical references and literary allusions.

As philosophical as his novels may be, Eco’s inclusion in the series is based on his enormous and important body of philosophical and academic writing. Eco is the author of more than 25 academic works of philosophy and semiotics, the study of signs. He began publishing books in 1956 when his “The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas” appeared. By the time his second book, “Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages” appeared in 1959, Eco was a recognized scholar and medievalist. Some of his more recent publications see him addressing such issues as the effects of electronic media and technology on culture and society.

Eco is a native of Alessandria, Italy. He studied medieval philosophy and literature at the University of Turin, earning his baccalaureate degree in 1954. He went on to serve as cultural editor for Radiotelevisione Italiana before taking a permanent professorship in semiotics at the University of Bologna, where he has taught for more than 35 years. His university appointments include visiting professorships, honorary doctorates and other positions at such institutions as Uppsala University (Sweden), Hebrew University (Jerusalem), Oxford University, Lomonosov University of Moscow, Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (Poland), University of Athens, University of Kent at Canterbury (England), University of Glasgow, Brown University, Loyola University in Chicago, Yale University, Columbia University, New York University, Northwestern University and many more.

For more information about Umberto Eco, see his Web site at

The book series highlights prominent scholars based on their permanent contributions to the field of philosophy. An editorial board of distinguished scholars selects each philosopher for inclusion in the series. Current series editor Auxier, philosophy professor at SIUC, noted that inclusion in the distinguished series is an honor for a philosopher. The series includes such philosophers as John Dewey, Albert Einstein, Jean-Paul Sartre, Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell.

A special feature of the series is the interaction between the philosopher and other experts in the field. In each volume, prominent scholars comment on all aspects of the philosopher’s work, assessing, criticizing and sometimes challenging the theories. The philosopher has the opportunity, then, to respond to the essays. In addition, the volumes contain an intellectual autobiography and a complete bibliography. The entire volume commonly runs to 1,000 pages and requires from six to 10 years to produce.

The Library of Living Philosophers originated in 1938 with Paul Arthur Schilpp (1897-1993) at the helm. The series came to SIUC in 1960, when University President Delyte Morris recruited Schilpp to relocate from Northwestern University. Open Court became the series publisher 48 years ago. The Library now includes more than 30 volumes. The most recent is the 2007 release of “The Philosophy of Michael Dummett.” Up next, in 2009, is “The Philosophy of Richard Rorty.” Other philosophers on the forthcoming list include Arthur Danto of Columbia University, Hilary Putnam of Harvard University and Martha C. Nussbaum of the University of Chicago.

For more information about the Library of Living Philosophers book series, visit www.opencourtbooks and follow the link under “Series.”