Il cimitero di Praga: the epistemic implication between lies and reality.
Il cimitero di Praga, Umberto Eco's latest novel deals with the historical vicissitudes of a troubled 19th century characterized by political, religious and masonic conspiracies. It contains a rather complex plot which maps out the unfolding of events in places such as Italy, France, and Germany. It begins in Turin, Italy, the birthplace of the main protagonist, Captain Simone Simonini. (1)
In Turin, Simonini's childhood is influenced by his grandfather's indoctrination and hate for the Jews, which later will clearly become part of his misdeeds as he becomes a refined conspirator and professional forger of documents. He initially conspires against some young "carbonari" or republican insurrectionists and against notary Rebaudengo (for whom he works in Turin and from whom he learned the art of forgery) at the request of cavalier Bianco, of the Sabaudian secret services. His first major conspiracy takes place during the process of unification of Italy and specifically with the "Expedition of the Thousand" to Sicily under the command of Giuseppe Garibaldi. In Sicily, Simonini plots against Ippolito Nievo, the expedition's treasurer, once more at the request of Bianco, since Nievo is in charge of secret accounting books concerning the expedition. Although Simonini is ordered to make such books disappear in a legal way, (2) he takes the imprudent initiative, with the help of some accomplices of his, to blow up the ship (l'Ercole) on which Nievo was traveling on his trip back to Turin.
As a result, Simonini also kills Nievo and all the people onboard. Following this misdeed and due to the fact that key-individuals knew of Simonini's close ties to Nievo, to avert suspicion, Bianco orders him to leave Turin for good as a precautionary measure. Simonini closes the notary office in Turin, which he had skillfully managed to take away from Rebaudengo (by means of a witty, vengeful trick), (3) receives money from Bianco, and settles in Paris. There he continues his incessant profession as a conspirator and forger for Bianco and, later, for others as well. The very first, true, political forgery Simonini produces for Bianco is the one against the Jesuits and Napoleon III. In the forged document, he mentions a Jesuit meeting that allegedly took place in the ancient Jewish Cemetery of Prague. (4) For said forgery, he finds inspiration in Eugene Sue' s The Wandering Jew, The Mysteries of the People, and in Alexandre Dumas' Joseph Balsamo. The content of the forgery is a ploy by the Church and Napoleon III, revealing their true political aims over Italy, which would prevent Italy's unification and hamper the role of the Sardinian Kingdom in the unification campaign.
The initial forgery Simonini produces for Bianco, the one against the Jesuits and Napoleon III, undergoes several revisions, which he dexterously modifies and further adapts to future forgeries on the request of various clients in exchange for significant sums of money. Upon his arrival in France, Simonini also begins to work for the French secret services with an agent called Lagrange.
The first modification of the document he originally produced for Bianco, and clearly crafted to look like a Jewish conspiracy, is the one he prepares for Jakob Brafmann, a converted Jew who works for the Czarist secret police under Colonel Dimitri. From this forgery Simonini receives 25,000.00 francs. Dimitri also tells Simonini that for the remaining half he agreed to pay him, he had to go to Germany and give a second authentic fake of the same document to Hermann Goedsche who, at the time, was working for the Prussian secret services under a certain Stieber. Prussia too, like Czarist Russia, was facing some problems with the Jews (imaginary problems rather than real).
He goes to Germany, meets Goedsche in a restaurant to close the deal, but the German agent does not give him the money as Dimitri promised him because the document had to first be examined by Stieber. Simonini is skeptical and does not want to leave the document in Goedsche's hands. However, in order to allow Stieber to evaluate its content, he grants Goedsche permission to copy it. Shortly after, Goedsche publishes his Biarritz in which he transcribes Simonini's forgery integrally. Goedsche fools Simonini. (5)
Upon his return to France, Simonini, through Abbot Dalla Piccola, tries to sell the same document to the Jesuits. So far, the plagiarism scenario is as follows: Maurice Joly copies from Eugene Sue, Simonini copies from Sue, Joly, and Dumas, and Goedsche copies from Simonini. The Jesuits are not convinced about the document's content. Through father Bergamaschi they ask Simonini to revise the same document and possibly make the Jewish Machiavellianism stand out. Also, they want him to include his grandfather's letter which he sent to the Jesuit abbot, Augustin Barruel, who is the first author to write about conspiracy theories.
Later on Simonini develops the idea that in the Cemetery of Prague he has to make believe there is more than one speech delivered by different rabbis. From this idea he develops the format for The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (it is a fictitious construct, of course, since he is the only fictitious character in the novel). In Eco's novel surfaces also the idea that the more authentic fakes were circulating and pointing in the same direction, the more credible a conspiracy theory would be. (6) Simonini produces another forgery for Juliana Glinka, granddaughter of General Orzheyevskij, both Glinka and Orzheyevskij were at the service of the Russian secret police. He eliminates some long parts from the document, adds two more pages about the messianic role of the Jews interwoven with republican ideals (a frightening ingredient for the Czar) and describes how the occult power of the world worked. Simonini's first version of the document does not convince Orzheyevskij and, thus, the latter asks Simonini to also include information related to his grandfather's letter to Barruel. A new forgery is ready to circulate in Russia in two distinct exemplars after being translated: a short one published in journals and the other as a pamphlet called Tajna Evrejstva (The Secret of the Jews). (7)
Upon the request of commander Esterhazy from the French military counterespionage, Simonini forges another document revealing information about French armaments which will lead tothe Dreyfus Affair and to the wrongful conviction for treason of Captain Alfred Dreyfus in 1894.
One last important forgery Simonini writes is yet again for the Russian secret police at the request of Rachkovskij (Rachkovskij uses Golovinskij as the interlocutor with Simonini) in which he manipulates the information contained in the document he previously prepared for Glinka and Orzheyevskij. He is asked to eliminate information on the Middle Ages, to purposely make unclear the date in which the meeting took place in the Cemetery of Prague, and to include other forgeries (of course Simonini's forgeries) that would appear to be the original documents written half a century earlier by his grandfather; documents these latter ones which Simonini senior had allegedly translated from the protocols of the rabbis' meeting in the Cemetery of Prague. (8) This is indeed a very convoluted succession of conspiracies and forgeries to the point of making the reader disoriented.
The novel is written in the form of a diary and thus presents the characteristics of an autobiographical novel. It contains three narrative voices which the author uses to achieve a refined narratological complexity between the fabula (the story) and the narrative mode. (9) Though Il cimitero di Praga weaves a complex tale in which appear countless characters, historical figures and facts, and elaborates narrative cross-references, three levels of narration, and swift changes of perspectives, it is nonetheless structurally sound and rather clear, as Eco makes an attempt to give distinctive characteristics to the three levels of narration by means of three different type-faces.
The first voice is that of the heterodiegetic narrator, the omniscent voice, the detached narrator who has full and synchronic control over the succession of events in terms of past, present, and future. (10) Typographically, the reader may recognize it because of its smaller, bold typeface. The second voice is that of the protagonist, Simonini, the homodiegetic narrator who knows and may only describe those analeptic events and those which unfold before his eyes, as they are bond to a past/present temporal duration. The analeptic events are rather difficult for Simonini to recount. Eco emphasizes this aspect by creating gaps in Simonini memory. (11) Such a homodiegetic narration presents a standard "Times New Roman" typeface. Finally, the third narrative voice is the one by which Simonini is portrayed as a split-self between himself and abbot Dalla Piccola. This level of narration is more difficult than the other two because through the strategy of the split-self there is also the implication of a double narration (who speaks?). This is a case of paradoxical contamination between two levels of narration which consists of an "intrusion by the extradiegetic narrator ... into the diegetic universe." (12) At times the narration may become ambiguous, as the strategy of not remembering and being confused is utilized, for both Simonini and Dalla Piccola. Nevertheless, on the one hand the reader may trace the homodiegetic function, and this happens when Simonini narrates the story from his point of view, that is, from the half side of Simonini. On the other hand, there is the heterodiegetic function which is engaged when Simonini becomes abbot Dalla Piccola, his alter ego. The side of abbot Dalla Piccola is an heterodiegetic narration because it is, first of all, split and detached from Simonini. Secondly, it is heterodiegetic because Dalla Piccola fills Simonini's memory gaps and tells him what he does not remember or informs him, or clarifies for him obscure parts of his past and of his identity. (13) Occasionally, Dalla Piccola's narration acquires the homodiegetic quality, in terms of the way in which his narration unfolds, but also because Dalla Piccola is the split self of Simonini and, in principle, presents indirectly a similar homodiegetic function of the non-Dalla Piccola-Simonini's side.
Finally we can say that the third level of narration contains also a double "focalization" (14) (who sees?). In the case of Simonini we are entitled to speak of an internal focalizer, (15) since the focus of his perception is on himself in the story. On the other hand, Dalla Piccola acquires the function of an external focalizer insofar as most of the times he is present in the story as an external eye attempting to fill Simonini's memory gap.
It is clear that the narrative mode (plot) in Il cimitero di Praga centers on noteworthy conspiracies, and the reasons for staging them are clearly connected with the aim of producing a dangerous enemy (not by Simonini but by those who ask him to produce forgeries) (16) in order to justify certain repressive measures motivated by political, religious, economic, and cultural advantages of key institutions, organizations, and countries. If it is clear that Il cimitero di Praga centers on remarkable conspiracies, not so clear is the epistemic implication which develops from staged lies and how the latter, in turn, shapes reality. In this paper we will endeavor to shed light on this particular facet and the unique choice of forging documents to make conspiracies real and persuasive through the skilful use of the verbal medium. Also, (and before examining such an aspect) we will briefly look at how the fruition of advantages is embedded in the realization and fulfillment of the Nietzschean "will to power" motivated and staged by conspiracies. (17)
One central aspect the reader will inescapably become aware of is the way in which hatred is dealt with in the novel. On the one hand, there is Descartes' aphorism "Cogito ergo sum" ironically distorted into "Odi ergo sum," which Eco makes Simonini enunciate about a fictitious enemy. On the other hand, hatred (for the Jews) constitutes a verbal construct which Simonini develops as a result of the anti-Semitic stories that his grandfather used to tell him when he was a little boy:
Degli ebrei so solo cio che mi ha insegnato il nonno:--Sono il popolo ateo per eccellenza, mi istruiva. Partono dal concetto che il bene deve realizzarsi qui, e non oltre la tomba. Quindi operano solo per la conquista di questo mondo.
Gli anni della mia fanciullezza sono stati intristiti dal loro fantasma. Il nonno mi descriveva quegli occhi che ti spiano, cosi falsi da farti illividire, quei sorrisi viscidi, quelle labbra da iene rialzate sui denti, quegli sguardi pesanti, infetti, abbrutiti, quelle pieghe tra naso e labbra sempre inquiete, scavate dall'odio, ... (Il cimitero, 11)
[About the Jews I only know what my grandfather taught me:--He used to teach me that they are the atheistic people par excellence. They depart from the assumption that good must be achieved here, and not in the other world. Hence, they work only for the conquest of this world.
My childhood years have been saddened by their phantom. My grandfather used to describe those spying eyes, so fake as to make you livid, those slimy smiles, those hyena-like lips raised over the teeth, those piercing glances, corrupt, brutish, those folds of the skin between the nose and the lips always restless, shaped by hate, ...]
Simonini's distorted aphorism (Odi ergo sum) represents not only Eco's playful irony mingled with cynicism, as the substitution of Cogito with Odi makes its way into the narration, but more conspicuously is Simonini's verbal hatred whose presence is rooted in his, perhaps subliminal, will to power, foreseen as a sort of dialectic propinquity between hatred, a required presence for the purpose of creating an enemy, and the actual enemy as the direct target of his verbal hatred. Yet, it is a verbal hatred aiming at creating an impeccable forgery, and not a hatred for the Jews. It is a fake feeling which the protagonist, in my view, does not feel insofar as it is not part of his lived experience, but rather carries as a sort of impulse of naive nominal essence. The protagonist's narration is devoid of its real intent. As a matter of fact, Simonini happens to hate the Jews not because he had a direct, traumatic experience with them and, thus, leading him to believe that they are evil, but simply because his grandfather used to tell him to hate them. To hate them for having a fixed scope in life, that of conquering the world, and for their racial propensity (clearly ironic as Eco skillfully describes it and for lack of better argument) rooted even in their evil anatomical features. Simonini makes a clear point of not knowing the Jews directly: "Io, gli ebrei, me li sono sognati ogni notte, per annie anni. Per fortuna non ne ho mai incontrati, tranne la puttanella del ghetto di Torino, quand'ero ragazzo (ma non ho scambiato piu di due parole), e il dottore austriaco (o tedesco, fa lo stesso)" (19) (I have dreamed about the Jews every night, for years and years. Fortunately, I never met one, except the little slut of Turin's ghetto, when I was a child, but I haven't exchanged more than two words with her, and the Austrian doctor (or German, it is the same thing)).
Since this is the case, it appears that the main reason which triggered Simonini's hatred for the Jews (and not the Jews alone, as we may clearly learn from Simonini himself) was motivated by financial needs and certainly by self gratification for intellectual dominance and from the pleasure of outsmarting others. And indeed, in the end Simonini will succeed in guaranteeing for himself financial stability and personal satisfaction as a professional conspirator and forger. (20)
Had Simonini been a respectable and a law-abiding individual, what he contributes to create would have, most certainly, never been created. His conduct shows all the characteristics of a rather pronounced Nietzschean will to power, even if for him such a marked propensity may, perhaps, not have been necessarily the outcome of a calculated plan, but only the result of an unconscious desire to prevail. Through the notion of the will to power, we are able to single out a spark of Simonini's authenticity as a person, a type of authenticity which circumvents all rules of society in order to make one's own being prevail. This, of course, requires taking risks, and eventually taking risks means also consenting to the possibility of generating irreparable consequences. Yet, according to Nietzsche, this is the only way to negate a sort of human impotence which makes people servile and subordinate to the dominant others. (Beyond Good and Evil, part 9, sec. 259) Now, an attitude such as the Nietzchean will to power illustrated above, even if taken as reasonable and persuasive as far as the ideal scenario for one's own fulfillment and self-realization, remains nonetheless and unavoidably a striking point that cannot escape ethics' scrutiny.
Ethics, which is the study of the rules governing human behavior and, thus, consisting in the search for those principles according to which one distinguishes good from evil, endeavors to find, if not the universal principles capable of producing good universally (because impossible), it nevertheless calls attention to and encourages merely responsible human acts. Here "responsible human acts" to be understood as those acts being intentionally good according to the view and purpose of the individual performing them and, therefore, attempting to avoid from the start the intent of being detrimental to others. (21) In the case of Simonini, the intent of being good and not detrimental to others is subverted, and a sort of utilitaristic/ egotistic ethics is practiced whereby the goodness of the action is neither determined by the principle of the action itself, nor by the collective acceptance of the positive action's outcome, but by the evil intent of Simonini's action aiming to achieve personal gain and cynical satisfaction:
... E bello costruire dal nulla un atto notarile, forgiare una lettera che sembra vera, elaborare una confessione compromettente, creare un documento che condurra qualcuno alia perdizione. (Il cimitero, 23)
[...It is nice to create a legal document from nothingness, to forge a letter that seems authentic, to elaborate a dangerous confession, to create a document that will ruin someone.]
Although Simonini is the only fictitious character in the novel, and the reader might be prompted to take him as such in light of all his unethical and criminal deeds, one has to realize however that social types such as Simonini do exist and are part of our social fabric. As a matter of fact, Eco's Simonini is for a great part inspired by and modeled on a German historical figure, Hermann Ottomar Friedrich Goedsche, alias Sir John Retcliffe. (22) Goedsche worked as an employee in a post office. His official employment however was only a travesty to conceal his real activity as an agent provocateur (inciting agent) for the Prussian police. Simonini's profile adheres quite closely to Goedsche's: he was well known for being a professional forger, plagiarist, conspirator, and anti-Semite. In 1849 Goedsche was caught forging evidence to have Benedict Waldeck (a left wing politician) accused for an alleged plot "to murder the King of Prussia. He was arrested, but thanks to powerful connections, Goedsche only received a mild sentence." (23) In 1868 he wrote Biarritz, a novel which deals with political/historical matters between the French Emperor Louis Napoleon III and the German-Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck. In such a novel he added a chapter "At the Jewish Cemetery in Prague" in which he described a Jewish occultist/conspiratorial scene. "Goedsche modeled this scene on the meeting (described in 1849 by Dumas in Joseph Balsamo) between Cagliostro, chief of the Unknown Superiors, and a group of other Illuminati, who plotted the Affair of the Diamond Necklace." (24) However, instead of reproducing Dumas' scene of Cagliostro and Company faithfully, "Goedsche restaged the scene using representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel, who gather to prepare the Jewish conquest of the world, which is foretold in detail by their great rabbi." (25) Moreover, in detailing the outcome of the Jewish occultist/conspiratorial meeting, Goedsche also adapted into his own work The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, a pamphlet by the French satirist Maurice Joly, in which the political calculator Machiavelli and the liberal Montesquieu debate the means by which a ruler should maintain power. (26) In Biarritz, the reader can also find clear evidence of Goedsche's strong anti-Semitism (a very important element for the Czar and the Czarist secret agents) which brought part of such a work to be "immediately translated into Russian" for the purpose of serving as the framework to The Protocols. Thus, some Czarist secret agents fabricated and printed The Protocols and made them pass for an authentic historical document. (27)
What is remarkable in Il cimitero is that it gives the reader a detailed account of how to construct a historical fake. Eco has been fascinated with conspiracy stories and forgeries for quite a long time. Indications of such a tendency may be found already in Foucault's Pendulum, and specifically in the creation of a dangerous, fake master Plan to rule the world, for which the three protagonists: Casaubon, Diotallevi, and Belbo are responsible. (28) No less evident is the manipulation of historiography in Baudolino where the main protagonist (the young-rascal Baudolino) scrapes off words from original historical documents and writes his own to make events take different turns, thus, contributing to the production of fakes. (29)
The way in which Simonini is depicted in the novel calls for a more detailed analysis regarding the figure of a liar. In the combination of all his mendacious deeds, we may distinguish three types which concur in forming the overall and composite temperament of Simonini: singular forger, singular plagiarist, and impostor. Simonini is a singular forger, and here we need to stress the adjective "singular" because if the forger is someone who produces a work by dexterously making it pass as the work belonging to a real author, in the case of Il cimitero, not only does Simonini produce a work (The Protocols) which happens to be fake, but he in addition produces the conditions to make others believe that a non-existing work exists and is true by creating a false, fictional paternity, made-believe to be authentic and attributed to the Wise Men of Zion. He is also a singular plagiarist because he purloins other people's works (Dumas, Sue, and Joly) however he does not pass them off as his works but uses them, some verbatim, others he manipulates to meet the requests and needs of his clients. Lastly, we can say that the best and most complete type which suits Simonini well is that of the impostor. In fact, an impostor according to Phyllis Greenacre, "is not only a liar, but a very special type of liar who imposes on others fabrications of his attainments." (30) In the end, the multiple, mendacious nature of Simonini succeeds because all his misdeeds are created and controlled by the verbal medium, and, the latter, in theory, is itself a form of lie.
Eco's interest in conspiracy stories and fakes is connected with key-characteristics of language and how such characteristics work toward the creation of actual reality. The epistemic function of the linguistic lie in Il cimitero can be examined on two levels: the first concerns the physical state of the text insofar as fiction is manipulated and turned into a historical (deceptive) reality; and the second concerns the metasemiotic aspect in that language intrinsically validates the linguistic lie as an active component of its signifying process with respect to substitution and postponement of the object of signification.
The access to language by means of a written text (without neglecting the oral) does not allow the reader to Find out whether the writer is telling the truth or lying, as long as the text complies with all grammatical and syntactical rules. Now, one way of realizing whether the text must be taken as "natural" or "artificial" narrative, (31) where "[n]atural narrative describes events that actually occurred [and] ... [a]rtificial narrative is supposedly represented by fiction" may usually be recognized "thanks to the 'para-text'--that is, the external messages that surround a text." (32) However, elements of paratextuality which help the reader to determine whether a text must be considered natural or artificial, are not always available and consequently the text, in the process of becoming text, allows ample freedom of conscious or unconscious manipulations. As a matter of fact artificial narrative, in some cases and in certain contexts, can be completely misleading, as was the case for the "historic incident caused in 1940 by Orson Welles's false radio broadcast about an invasion from Mars" or Giorgio Celli's "short story about a perfect crime." (33)
In the case of Il cimitero, fictional narrative is purposefully and masterfully concealed and the reader cannot but take it as natural narrative insofar as Simonini manipulates and transfers a fictional textual content (from Dumas, Sue, and Joly) into a new form of content (The Protocols presented as a real document) which, even a highly competent reader, can only take to be historically true. Thus, when dealing with a verbal text one changes the entire epistemic state of the text and the interpretive paradigm of the reader by simply manipulating its context. In The Protocols there are no paratextual signals: there is no indication of fiction anywhere; they do not begin as "Once upon a time ...," or "A novel by," etc.. Protocol 1 begins as a sort of index which itemizes a number of arguments: "Right lies Might. Freedom--an idea only. Liberalism. Gold. Faith ..." to then actually begin as: "It must be noted that men with bad instincts are more in number than the good,...." (34) What we may deduce from this example is that where the verbal medium is the message and no paratextual signals are available, and provided that the text is grammatically/syntactically accurate, there is no way of finding out whether a writer is lying or telling the truth because language is a semiotic system and a
... sign is everything which can be taken as significantly substituting for something else. This something else does not necessarily have to exist or to actually be somewhere at the moment in which a sign stands in for it. Thus semiotics is in principle the discipline studying everything which can be used in order to lie. If something cannot be used to tell a lie, conversely it cannot be used to tell the truth: it cannot in fact be used 'to tell' at all. (35)
Language signs stand in the place of the object, and they simultaneously substitute and postpone their object of signification. Semiotically, the referent of the codified correlation, which takes place between an expression level and a content level, is not the actual object but the idea of the object. Lying (36) is an intrinsic characteristic of language. For it we inadvertently believe that when we speak we refer to actual things or ideas for which signs stand, but in reality the state of things is not what it appears to be. Verbal signs engage a mechanism of referring which must be understood as elaborated ideas and images that are the product of our minds, or what we call the signified. Since the signified is removed from the actual object, any linguistic act, semiotically speaking, is a form of lie. (37) Conversely language signs, though intrinsically deceitful, have the primary purpose to represent, to reveal ("delousi") (38) something, and accordingly become carriers of meaning. With respect to such a function we can say that they produce truth insofar as they reveal something in the form of meaning. As a means of communication and in order to work well, verbal language must intrinsically and concurrently exhibit the power of lying and of telling the truth. Such a condition is necessary because it is essentially a device for the substitution and postponement of its referent. Thus lying (as much as truth-telling) if viewed as an intrinsic aspect of verbal language and taken in its epistemic sense, cannot be detached from language and partakes in all forms of communication that the medium itself produces.
The linguistic episteme can be adequately grasped if language is viewed as a semiotic entity, and provided that the paradoxical duality between lie and truth is taken into account with a clear understanding that such a paradoxical duality is rooted in language itself. Therefore language in its specificity of communicative/significative medium foresees and legitimates the paradoxical duality between lie and truth which can be understood as an essential linguistic antinomy insofar as it always requires the presence of an other. As a process, to lie or to tell the truth, even to oneself, linguistically, always requires the coexistence of a one and an other in the pursuit of meaning. As far as meaning is concerned, we must look at a historical a priori state of language, which is the presence of a linguistic sign that can never be contradicted in its state of haecceity (39) and insofar as textuality is concerned. An a priori signic condition of the text qua text is always required to adequately address the episteme of language. As a matter of fact such a signic condition is the point of departure of the episteme, without which the episteme itself would be incapacitated. According to Peirce we can distinguish four incapacities:
1. We have no power of Introspection, but all knowledge of the internal world is derived by hypothetical reasoning from our knowledge of external facts.
2. We have no power of Intuition, but every cognition is determined logically by previous cognitions.
3. We have no power of thinking without signs.
4. We have no conception of the absolute incognizable (CP, V.265)
All of which, except the fourth incapacity, can be removed by means of signs.
Now, if we imagine the text of The Protocols being existent in a state of heacceity, in order to become other it requires the predicative upshots "is" / "is not" to pin down the circumstances of being either relevant or irrelevant, true or false in the system of signification so that the reader may ultimately arrive at the "Final Intepretant." (40) But the "Final Intepretant" is also a sign whose content or object must always be taken as a cultural unit, and not as an actual referent of the sign. For it can only be grasped as a commutable and deferred object of signification. Thus, the duality of the semiosic process, a process which the text must undergo to become an other upon reaching the node of the "Final Intepretant," is a linguistic antinomy only in appearance because it maintains a duality without contradiction, and from which surfaces the impossibility to determine when one is lying or telling the truth. In fact, the language is an exceptional medium which may violate the Aristotelian principle of non-contradiction and, while violating it, remains fundamentally logical.
The principle of non-contradiction expounded by Aristotle in Metaphysics IV. 3.1005b, 19-20 is that: "It is impossible for the same thing to belong and not to belong at the same time to the same thing and in the same respect". According to this logical rule the impossibility of "being" and "not being" of something is hardly challengeable. Yet if we look at the verbal sign semiotically, we realize that it may challenge such a principle by concurrently eluding the rule of non-contradiction and retaining the ability to be logical. That is, if according to Aristotle we cannot predicate about the same object that is and is not in the same time and in the same respect, with the verbal sign this is possible. It is possible due to the dualistic nature of sign and specifically for that which concerns meaning. When we look at the content level of a sign, we soon realize that we are faced with an illusory antinomy as the referent of meaning presents an is/is not provision. For it is referent insofar as it is able to refer to something, and indeed it is so because we cannot say that meaning does not refer to anything in the sense of being a bare nothingness. If this were the case, the very function of meaning would be abolished. So, having established that the referent of meaning is because it is endowed with the ability to refer, it remains, nevertheless, incomplete and challengeable as predicate of such a referent. Thus, at the same time we must say that the referent of meaning is not because it is never a true self, it lacks its own independent individuality. We can never hold it firm (except if we view it as contingency (41)), it is very slippery and constantly changed and postponed by the semiosic process into what is an ever changing succession of interpretants or into what Eco calls unlimited semiosis. (42) Such a distinctive aspect is the basis of the dual nature of verbal sign. Nonetheless, the duality rooted in the sign's power of reference (is/is not) must be understood as a biunivocal function and not as a bipolar opposition of the semiotic system. The distinction illustrated above that verbal sign is/is not in terms of reference serves the purpose to understand its logical value within reference and to shed light on how we acquire knowledge of the world through the verbal medium. Also, if we consider the verbal medium from this point of view and according to its power of reference, we are able to become aware of the fact that it is endowed with the possibility of lying and telling the truth.
What I found remarkable in Il cimitero is how knowledge acquired through the verbal medium impacts reality, since it contains an intrinsic deceptive influence which may deliberately or inadvertently manipulate the dynamics of human relations and their outcomes. Thus, the fabricated story in Il cimitero attributing The Protocols' paternity to a fictitious author (Simonini) is an actual case in point whose purpose is to show how a fictitious text by a fictitious author made it pass as a historical document may impact reality in a calculated manner by simply existing. Whether we speak of Simonini as the fake author of The Protocols, or Goedsche or some other person of the Russians secret services or whether they "were the product of nineteenth-century France, since they are full of references to fin-de-siecle French issues" (Six Walks, 137), the relevant thing is that being a written text and meticulously assembled according to all necessary grammatical and syntactical rules, it would be difficult to tell whether it is a true text or a fake. Moreover, the impact does not stop there. Although in 1921 Philip Graves was able to trace the source of The Protocols and affirm that they were a forgery of Joly's Dialogue, and more recently Eco discovered further connections with Dumas' Joseph Balsamo and Sue's The Wondering Jew and The Mysteries of People (Six Walks, 138), there have nonetheless been people who believed them to be true. Hitler held them to be the basis of a true Jewish conspiracy for world-domination (43) which requires no explanation of what happened subsequently. In 1924 Nesta Webester, a controversial historian who promoted conspiracy theories wrote a book entitled Secret Societies and Subversive Movements. According to Eco, she was "thoroughly informed, was aware of the Time's revelations, and knew the entire history of Nilus, Rachkovsky, Goedsche, and so on." (Six Walks, 138) Regardless of what she knew about Philip Graves' revelations published in the Time, this is what she wrote:
The only opinion to which I have committed myself is that, whether genuine or not, the Protocols do represent the programme of world revolution, and that in view of their prophetic nature and of their extraordinary resemblance to the protocols of certain secret societies in the past, they were either the work of some such society or of someone profoundly versed in the lore of secret societies who was able to reproduce their ideas and phraseology. (44)
Regarding Webster's view, Eco writes: "The syllogism is impeccable: since the Protocols resemble the story I have told, they confirm it. Or: the Protocols confirm the story I have concocted from them; therefore they are true." (Six Walks, 138-39) In 2009, at the U.N. Durban Review Conference in Geneva, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave his talk on racism. From the actual transcript of his talk, one realizes that his speech is loaded with attacks and offensive remarks against the Jews. In one part he said:
There is no doubt that you are all aware of the conspiracies of some powers and Zionist circles against the goals and objectives of this conference. Unfortunately, there has been literature and statements in support of Zionism and their crimes, and it is the responsibility of honorable representatives of nations to disclose these campaigns which run counter to humanitarian values and principles. (45)
What we may deduce from such a quotation is that reverberations of The Protocols still produce adepts of a Jewish conspiracy for world-dominance simply because they have been written and regardless of the proven fact that they are a falsification of literary works of fiction. (46)
Il cimitero contains all the characteristics and significance of the historical novel in which the reader finds clearly delineated a historical consciousness, as Eco uses true historical figures to stage socio-political conflicts and historical transformations (47) (specific historical aspects about the unification of Italy, just to mention one example), as well as other major events which brought about said conflicts and transformations. Moreover, it is a useful tool which makes the reader aware of an epistemic problem flowing between fiction and life and how such a problem incapacitates human ability to distinguish the one from the other. It is certainly not the remedy for such a problem and the tragic events which can be directly linked to it. Nonetheless, it enables the reader to comprehend, in an amusing way, "the mechanisms by which fiction can shape life. At times the results can be innocent and pleasant, as when one goes to Baker Street; but at other times life can be transformed into a nightmare instead of a dream. Reflecting on these complex relationships between reader and story, fiction and life, can constitute a form of therapy against the sleep of reason, which [may often] generate monsters." (Six Walks, 139)
(1) "... [A]vevo assunto in Francia quel titolo per ricordo del nonno," (In France I adopted such a title [Captain] as keepsake from my grandfather), Umberto Eco, Il cimitero di Praga (Milano: Bompiani, 2010) 24. This and all other English translations from the novel are mine. The protagonist's grandfather, Giovan Battista Simonini, was an army officer of the Sabaudian Kingdom whom Eco modeled on a true, historical captain Simonini from Florence. Regarding this detail, see "Ebrei e complotti: conversazione tra Umberto Eco e il rabbino Di Segni," L 'Espresso, 29 October 2010, http://espresso.repubblica.it/multimedia/home/26747995.
(2) "... beninteso nell'ambito della legalita" (... of course, within the limits of legality), Il cimitero, 170.
(3) "... il notaio aveva rovinato il nonno e Simone aveva rovinato lui," (... the notary had ruined his grandfather and Simone in turn had ruined him [the notary]), Il cimitero, 115.
(4) "Quel rapporto era stato il mio primo lavoro veramente serio dove non mi limitavo a scarabocchiare un testamento a uso di un privato qualsiasi, ma costruivo un testo politicamente complesso con cui forse contribuivo alia politica del Regno di Sardegna. Mi rammentavo che ne ero proprio orgoglioso." (Such a report had been my first, reputable work in which I did not limit myself to scribble an ordinary private will, but I crafted a politically complex text by which I contributed, perhaps, to the politics of the Sardinian Kingdom. I remember I was very proud of it), Il cimitero, 126. Moreover, Simonini affirms that he chose the Cemetery of Prague for such a meeting because "... agli ebrei non avevo voluto rinunciare, eli avevo usati per l'ambientazione. Era pur sempre un modo per suggerire a Bianco qualche sospetto nei confronti dei giudei" (... I did not want to give up the idea of the Jews and I used them for the setting. It was nonetheless a way of suggesting to Bianco some suspicion against the Jews), Il cimitero, 120.
(5) "Lagrange mi aveva pur prevenuto che il furfante si era gia distinto nella falsificazione di documenti ed essere caduto cosi ingenuamente nella trappola di un falsario mi rendeva folle di rabbia." (Lagrange had even warned me that the rascal was known for falsifying documents and knowing that I had naively fallen into his trap made me very anry), Il cimitero, 265-66.
(6) "I servizi segreti di ciascun paese credono solo a cib the hanno sentito dire altrove e respingerebbero come inattendibile ogni notizia del tutto inedita" (The secret services of any country believe only that which they have heard elsewhere, and reject original news as untrustworthy), Il cimitero, 211.
(7) Il cimitero, 396.
(8) Il cimitero, 490.
(9) Instead of using the narratological pair story/plot, I followed Gerard Genette's model in Narrative Discourse Revisited, trans. Jan E. Lewin (Ithaca, New York: Cornell UP, 1988) 17, who substitutes the term plot with narrative mode.
(10) In regards to the heterodiegetic narrator, Eco complicates things by saying at the very beginning of the novel that: "... lo stesso Narratore no sa ancora chi sia il misterioso scrivente, proponendosi di apprenderlo (in una col Lettore) mentre entrambi curiosano intrusivi e seguono i segni chela penna di colui sta vergando su quelle carte." (... the Narrator himself does not yet know who the mysterious writer is and aims at discovering it (together with the Reader) while they both intrusively nose and follow the pen's signs of the one who is writing those papers), Il cimitero, 10. Perhaps, the empirical writer does not entirely know from the beginning what he or she is going to do with the autobiographical author and all the narrative voices contained in the novel, as it is Eco's style in writing fiction, but once the story is completed the primary heterodiegetic narrator does acquire the function of an omniscent eye and acts accordingly. In this instance, Eco makes his heterodiegetic narrator lie to the reader, and does so to convey a sense of realism for the narratological voices of the split-self Simonini/Dalla Piccola and to involve the reader in a more captivating way, as in the adventure novels.
(11) As a narrative strategy, Eco extensively used memory loss in his previous autobiographical novel La misteriosa fiamma della regina Loana (Milano: Bompiani, 2004).
(12) This is also what Genette identified as "metalepsis" in Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method (1972, Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1980) 234-35.
(13) "... voi di me non sapete nulla, mentre io sto accorgendomi di rocordare altre cose, e non poche, di quanto e accaduto a voi--e guarda caso--esattamente quelle di cui pare voi non riusciate a ricordarvi" (... you don't know anything about me, while I realize to remember other things, many of them, which concern you--strangely enough--those which you seem not to remember), Il cimitero, 102.
(14) Genette introduced the term "focalization" (Narrative Discourse, 189-94) in lieu of "point of view" and "perspective" in order to provide a distinctive function for the one who sees from the one who speaks. He replaced "point of view" and "perspective" because in previous usages they had been employed to denote even narrative voice, that is, to denote the one who speaks.
(15) Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics (London, New York: Methuen, 1983) 74.
(16) Instead Simonini's only great love in life, in addition to the excitement he finds in creating forgeries, is "la buona cucina: al solo pronunciare il nome del La Tour d'Argent provo come un fremito per tutto il corpo. E amore? ... La cucina mi ha sempre soddisfatto piu del sesso--forse un'impronta che mi hanno lasciato i preti." (good food: just by mentioning the name of La Tour d'Argent makes me quiver. Is it love? ... Good food has always satisfied me more than sex-perhaps a trace that priests left upon me), Il cimitero, 11, 24.
(17) Nietzsche's notion of the "will to power" is clearly illustrated in his Beyond Good and Evil, trans. Judith Norman, ed. Rolf-Peter Horstmann, Judith Norman (Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 2002), see particularly part 9, sec. 259: "... life itself is essentially a process of appropriating, injuring, overpowering the alien and the weaker, oppressing, being harsh, imposing your own form, incorporating, and at least, the very least, exploiting ... 'Exploitation' does not belong to a corrupted or imperfect, primitive society: it belongs to the essence of being alive as a fundamental organic function; it is a result of the genuine will to power, which is just the will to life.--Although this is an innovation at the level of theory,--at the level of reality, it is the primal fact of all history. Let us be honest with ourselves to this extent at least!--". Other parts in the same work where Nietzsche makes reference to the will to power are: part 1, sec. 22; part 2, sec. 36, 44; part 3, sec.51; part 5, sec.186; part 6, sec. 211; part 7, sec. 227; part 9, sec. 257. Here, Nietzche's "will to power," which may manifest itself in countless forms, positively and negatively, since it is the "will to life" of every human, is used to characterize Simonini's strong inclination for forgery. Thus, while the "will to power" is common to every human being, it becomes a moral issue in Simonini's case insofar as he literally represents the cause producing the most tragic consequences for the Jews, as de facto the real, historical forger(s) of the Protocols is/are responsible for making history take the course it did. This is, by no means, an attempt to concoct a social Nietzscheanism, but simply a way of acknowledging a type of will rooted in human nature which frequently harms others and needs to be addressed in order to understand the reason causing harmful forms of behavior.
(18) "Dicono che l'anima e solo quello che si fa, ma se odio qualcuno e mi coltivo questo rancore, vivaddio, questo significa che un dentro c'e! Come diceva il filosofo? Odi ergo sum." (It is said that the soul is only that which one does, but if I hate someone and I keep this grudge alive, long live god, this means that I do have an inner life! What did the philosopher say? I hate, therefore I am), Il cimitero, 23.
(19) Il cimitero, 12.
(20) "... Con quanto avevo lucrato dal fallimento dell'impresa Taxil potevo permettermi di tutto." (With the profit made from the failure of Taxil's enterprise I could afford anything), Il cimitero, 479.
(21) With the expression "responsible human acts" I make it, in a way, faintly con verge toward Kant's "categorical imperative" whereby the person performing the act thinks it to be good not only for herself/himself but good for everyone, which addresses approximately Kant's third maxim in Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, trans. H. J. Paton, (1948, London, New York: Routledge: 1993) 30: "Act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will a universal law of nature." For a definition of "categorical" or "apodictic" imperative see p. 27 in Paton's translation.
(22) Regarding Simonini's hate for the Jews (in addition to Biarritz) Eco perhaps found inspiration in the true, historical figure of a certain captain Simonini from Florence (the main character's grandfather) who allegedly sent a letter to abbot Augustin Barruel (1741-1820, author of the Memoires pour servir a l'Histoire du Jacobinisme, 1797) in which he alerted him of having ignored, while writing his Memoires, the significant role the Jews played in the conspiracy which brought about the French Revolution. Still on Simonini's anti-Semitism, another inspirational source for Eco might have been Edouard Adolphe Drumont (1844-1917) a French writer and newspaper editor of La Libre Parole, whose anti-Semitism was openly declared. As a "compulsive liar" (Il cimitero, 340), Simonini's character is most likely inspired by the figure of the French writer and joumalist Leo Taxil (1854-1907).
(23) Kim A. Wagner, "The Protocols of Nena Sahib: the 1857-Fantasy of Hermann Goedsche," online posting 26 January 2011
http://www.csas.ed.ac.uk/mutiny/confpapers/Wagner-paper.pdf. See also Daniel Karen's commentary on The Learned Elders of Zion, online posting 4 February 2011 http://ddickerson.igc.org/The_Protocols of the Learned_Elders of Zion.pdf, p. 4.
(24) Umberto Eco, Six Walks in the Fictional Woods (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1994) 135.
(25) Eco, Six Walks, 135.
(26) In Joly's pamphlet there is no reference to Jewish-Gentile implications. The Jewish-Gentile implications will be fabricated by Goedsche who re-adapts Joly's Dialogue "into a mythical tale of a Jewish conspiracy," (Daniel Karen's commentary, The Learned Elders of Zion, p. 4). For the source of The Protocols and forgery of Joly's Dialogue see Philip Graves, "The Source of The Protocols of Zion" published in The Time of London, August 16-18, 1921. See also Eco, Six Walks, 137. In Il cimitero, Eco gives the following account of Joly's pamphlet: "... anche il lettore piu sprovveduto si accorge ehe il libello e diretto a diffamare il nostro imperatore attribuendogli l'intenzione di neutralizzare il potere della Camera, di chiedere al popolo di far prorogare di dieci anni il potere del presidente, di trasformare la repubblica in impero ..." ("... even the most naive reader is able to realize that the pamphlet's purpose is to denigrate our emperor by attributing to him the intention of neutralizing the power of the House, to ask the people to extend the power of the president by ten years, to turn the republic into an empire..., "202).
(27) According to Cesare De Michelis, The Non-Existent Manuscript: A Study of the Protocols of the Sages of Zion (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004) 49-50, originally published in Italian as Il manoscritto inesistente: I protocolli dei savi di Sion: un apocrifo del XX secolo (Venezia, Marsilio, 1998), from Goedsche's Biarritz "was extrapolated the scene in the Jewish cemetery in Prague which, reworked, was presented as a 'document' with the title The Rabbi's Speech and published in the appendix to B (Rec ravvina k evrejekomu narodu). The publication of the Rabbi's Speech in the appendix of PSM by one of the possible authors to 'demonstrate' their authenticity excludes, in my opinion, that it had had been used in their compilation in the same sense of the 'third level.' It appears more convincing to refer to as being of the 'first level,' and thus to see it 'as the framework which the author of the PSM had used in adapting M. Joly's Dialogue' (Rollin 1991, 558)". Also, in De Michelis, The Non-Existent Manuscript, 58, note 34, "Butmi (1906a, 84) relates that the Discourse (published in Le Contemporain, July 1881, was sent to Novorossijskij Telegraf but in Russia it had already been in circulation for ten years, that is 'the Russian anti-Semites were the first to have the idea to pass off the story for an authentic copy' Cohn 1969, 16). Dudakov (1993, 142, 169-70) records that they were submerged among the others: Osman Bey 1873, Wolski 1887, Demcenko 1906, A. Kaluzskij (Druzeskij sovet evrejam [St. Petersburg 1906]), S. Rossov (Evrejskij vopros [St. Petersburg 1906], V. Protopopov, V poiskax zemli obetovannoj [Kazan' 1908])."
(28) Belbo, Diotallevi and Casaubon while working at a vanity press in Milan, a press mostly specialized in publishing books about secret societies, started to create (as a joke) a fake master plan to rule the world. As a result of that, and simply because they created such a plan, reality teaches us that in the world there are adherents to conspiracy theories who end up believing it and take it seriously. Belbo becomes the target of a real secret society that believes he possesses the map to the lost treasure of the Knights Templar. He goes to see Diotallevi at the hospital (who is dying of cancer) to ask him for help [and] eventually hoping to receive advice from him to come out of his predicament. In the last conversation they have together, his friend tells him: "'I can't decide whether what you're telling me is happening only inside your head, or whether it's happening outside. But it doesn't matter. Whether you have gone crazy or the world has makes no difference. In either case, someone has mixed and shuffled the words of the Book more than was right.' 'What do you mean?'
'We've sinned against the Word, against that which created and sustains the world. Now you are punished for it, as I am punished for it. There is no difference between you and me'," Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum, trans. William Weaver (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989) 564.
(29) "'Maybe you can do that, Master Niketas, but not the good Otto; and I'm only telling you how things went. So that holy man on the one hand was rewriting the Chronica, where the world went badly, and on the other the Gesta, where the world could only become better and better. You will say he contradicted himself. If it were only that. What I suspect is that in the first version of the Chronica the world went even worse, and so as not to contradict himself too much, as he gradually went on rewriting the Chronica, Otto became more indulgent towards us humans. This is what I caused by scraping away the first version. Maybe, if that had remained, Otto wouldn't have had the courage to write the Gesta, and since it's thanks to the Gesta that in the future they will say what Frederick did and didn't do; if I hadn't scraped away the first text, in the end Frederick wouldn't have done everything we say he did,'" Umberto Eco, Baudolino, trans. William Weaver (Orlando: Harcourt, 2003) 39.
(30) "The Impostor," The Psychoanalytic Quarterly 27.3 (1958): 359. Also, in her description of the impostor she adds that there are: "similar falsifications of ... his identity belonging to his accomplishments, a plagiarizing on a grand scale, or making claims which are grossly implausible. Imposture appears to contain the hope of getting something material, or some other worldly advantages." (359) Also, for the "typical impostor, an audience is absolutely essential. It is from the confirming reaction of his audience that the impostor gets a 'realistic' sense of self, a value greater than anything he can otherwise achieve. It is the demand for an audience in which the (false) self is reflected that causes impostures often to become of social significance. Both reality and identity seem to the impostor to be strengthened rather than diminished by the success of the fraudulence of his claims." (367)
(31) Theun van Dijk, "Action, Action Description and Narrative," Poetics 5 (1974): 287-338, cited in Eco, Six Walks, 119, and note 4 at p.148.
(32) Eco, Six Walks, 119-20. In the same context Eco also adds: "A typical paratextual signal for fictional narrative is the designation "A Novel" on the book's cover. Sometimes even the author's name can function in this way; thus nineteenth-century readers knew that a book whose title page announced it was 'by the author of Waverly' was unmistakably a piece of fiction. The most obvious textual (that is, internal) signal of fictionality is an introductory formula such as 'Once upon a time.'" (120)
(33) "Misunderstanding and even panic resulted from the fact that some listeners believed all radio news broadcasts are examples of natural narrative, whereas Welles thought he had provided listeners with a sufficient number of fictional signals. But many listeners tuned in after the broadcast had already begun; others did not understand the fictional signals and proceeded to map the content of the broadcast onto the actual world.
My friend Giorgio Celli, who is a writer and a professor of entomology, once wrote a short story about a perfect crime. Both he and I were characters in this story. Celli (the fictional character) injected a tube of toothpaste with a chemical substance that sexually attracted wasps. Eco (the fictional character) brushed his teeth with this toothpaste before going to bed, and a small amount of it remained on his lips. Swarms of sexually aroused wasps were thus attracted to his face, and their stings were fatal to poor Eco. The story was published on the third page of the Bologna Il resto del carlino. As you may or may not know, Italian newspapers, at least until several years ago, generally devoted page three to arts and letters. The article called the 'elzeviro' in the left-hand column of the page could be a review, a short essay, or even a short story. Celli's short story appeared as a literary feature entitled 'How I Murdered Umberto Eco.' The editors evidently had confidence in their basic assumption: readers know that everything printed in a newspaper must be taken seriously except for items on the literary page, which must or can be considered examples of artificial narrative.
But that morning, when I walked into the cafe near my house, I was greeted by the waiters with exceptions of joy and relief, for they thought Celli had actually murdered me. I attributed that incident to the fact that their cultural background did not equip them to recognize journalistic conventions. Later in the day, however, I happened to see the dean of my college, a highly educated man who of course knows all there is to know about the difference between text and paratext, natural and artificial narrative, and so on. He told me that, on reading the paper that morning, he had been taken aback. Though the shock had not lasted long, the appearance of that title in a newspaper--a textual framework where by definition true events are recounted--had momentarily misled him." (Eco, Six Walks, 120-21)
(34) The Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion, trans, from the Russian by Victor E. Marsden, based on the Russian ed. (1903) by Sergius A. Nilus, pp. 22-23, online posting 7 March 2011 <http://ddickerson.igc.org/The_Protocols of the Learned_Elders of Zion.pdf>. In the same translation of The Protocols, Marsden includes an excerpt from The Dearborn Independent, July 10th, 1920, calling attention to the great difficulty distinguishing the real from fiction: "Whosoever was the mind that conceived them possessed a knowledge of human nature, of history, and of statecraft which is dazzling in its brilliant completeness, and terrible in the objects to which it turns its power. It is too terribly real for fiction, too well sustained for speculation, too deep in its knowledge of the secret springs of life for forgery." (12)
(35) Umberto Eco, A Theory of Semiotics (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1979) 7.
(36) The term "lying" in this study must be understood as having intentional and non-intentional reference. Thus, as an intrinsic characteristic of language, it is primarily non-intentional.
(37) According to H. Blumenberg, "Antropologische Annaherung an die Aktualitat der Rethorik," in: H. B.: Wirklichkeiten, in denen wir leben, 104-136 (Stuttgard: ReReclam, 1981), It. trans. La realta in cui viviamo, ed. M. Cometa (Milano: Feltrinelli, 1987) 95, the relationship of human beings with reality (which in essence is established by means of the verbal medium) is indirect, descriptive, selective and, above all, metaphorical. Se also Andrea Tagliapietra, Filosofia della bugia: Figure della menzogna nella storia del pensiero occidentale (Milano: Mondatori, 2001) 59-66; K. R. Popper, Logik der Forschung, (Wien: Springer, 1934), Eng. trans., The Logic of Scientific Discovery, (New York : Basic Books, 1959), It. trans. Logica della scoperta scientifica: II carattere autocorrettivo della scienza (Torino: Einaudi, 1995) 66-84; H. Weinrich, "Metapher und Widerspruch," in Sprache in Texten (Stuttgard: Klett, 1976), It. trans. "Metafora e contraddizione," in Metafora e menzogna: La serenita dell'arte, intr. L. Ritter Santini, trans. P. Barnon et. al., 99-108 (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1976) 108; H. Weinrich, Linguistik der Luge (Heidelberg: Schneider, 1966), It. trans. "Linguistica della menzogna" in Metafora e menzogna: La serenita dell'arte, 127-85, atp. 155.
(38) Aristotle, De Interpretatione 16a, 28, in The Works of Aristotle, ed. W. D. Ross (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1928).
(39) This is a term coined by Duns Scotus (haecceitas, "haecceity" or "thisness," "here and now") referring to his theory of individuation which, later, Charles Sanders Peirce adopted, more or less, in a similar way regarding the state of an object which, in its haecceity, is never immediately known, and yet it is endowed by a positive non-qualitative mode of individuation (it corresponds to Peirce's state of Secondness which includes also Firstness, C. S. Peirce, Collected Papers 1.327 (henceforth Collected Papers cited as CP), awaiting for the laws of the excluded middle (Thirdness, CP, 1.337) to correlate the Firstness and Secondness of the object of signification. On this aspect see also Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, online posting 28 March 2011 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/duns-scotus/#Uniind; Murray G. Murphy, The Development of Peirce's Philosophy (Indianapolis: Hacker Publishing, 1993) 310-11.
In writing to Lady Welby about signs, Peirce begins his disquisition about the mode of being of ideas and their classification, without regard to their being valid or invalid. He divides all ideas into Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness. He defines Firstness as: "the mode of being of that which is such as it is, positively and without reference to anything else." (CP, VIII.329) The relevant aspects of this definition are: "that which is such as it is" and "positively". The former aspect is that the idea, in its state of Firstness, does not belong to any definable quality, but it simply is what it is in se. Moreover, Peirce adds: "you are to drop out of account that which may be attached to it in perceiving or remembering." (CP, VIII.329) In other words, Firstness is the preclassificatory state of something, and it is also defined as monadic in its logical sense because it does not have relationship with anything. The value of "positively" within such a definition is that, although no definable quality may be attached to the idea, it nevertheless contains a positive value, a value which recognizes it as being something instead of nothing. "The idea of the present instant, which, whether it exists or not, is naturally thought as a point of time in which no thought can take place or any detail be separated, is an idea of Firstness." (CP, VIII.329)
Secondness: "is the mode of being of that which is such as it is, with respect to a second but regardless of any third." (CP, VIII.329) This means that the perception or the remembering of something upon entering the state of Secondness becomes dyadic, that is, it establishes a relationship with something that is Other in the form of stimulus-and-response, cause-and-effect, action-and-reaction (CP, I.317, I.441-470, II.669-693, V.45-58). There is a transition from feeling (Firstness) to experience (Secondness) and Peirce defines the state of experience as an "effort prescinded from the idea of purpose" which "cannot exist without the experience of resistance. Effort only is effort by virtue of its being opposed; and no third element enters." (CP, VIII.330)
Finally, "Thirdness is the mode of being of that which is such as it is, in bringing a second and a third into relation to each other." (CP, VIII.329) By the third Peirce refers to "the medium or connecting bond between the absolute first and last. The beginning is first, the end second, the middle third. The end is second, the means third." (CP, I.337) Upon entering the state of Thirdness, the idea finds signification (and here the term signification must be understood according to its Latin etymological value of sign-making, signum facere, in the sense of creating meaning as a result of an expression level correlated to a content) since Thirdness is the actual medium or sign which unites the First and the Second. Logically, it is triadic insofar as it is a First bond together with a Second through the mediation of a Third. Therefore, it is only with the introduction of a Third that mediation is possible.
(40) Umberto Eco, The Role of the Reader (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1979) 192. The "Final Intepretant" is a signified result of the sign, the meaning.
(41) Contingency is used as that which has an absence of necessity or as that which is without having to be (necessarily) so.
(42) Unlimited semiosis is an expression used by Eco which refers to the type of relation in the semiotic system taking place between sign (signifier) and its interpretant (signified). He borrowed this idea from Peirce's model of intepretant according to which it (the interpretant) is endlessly commutable insofar as it is capable of referring to something else and, consequently, the interpretant itself can become a signifier for further signifieds and so on ad infinitum. However, the reader is reminded that unlimited semiosis is viewed and allowed as a system. As a process, it is not unlimited because in "the course of a semiosic process we want to know only what is relevant according to a given universe of discourse," Umberto Eco, The Limits of Interpretation (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1990) 28.
(43) Warrant for Genocide, 193. For an in-depth view of Hitler and The Protocols, see the whole chapter of Cohn's Warrant for Genocide, 169-93.
(44) Secret Societies and Subversive Movements (London, Boswell, 1924) 408-409, cited in Eco, Six Walks, 138.
(45) The words in italics in the quote are mine. For the "Full Text of President Ahmadinejad's Remarks at U.N. Conference on Racism," see the online posting 2 April 2011 http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article22462.htm.
(46) In completing our human view of reality, we may add also the possibility of preconceived impressions and attitudes that we use toward others. Eco makes such a point rather clear through his protagonist Simonini near the beginning of the novel by means of an amusing irony built upon ethnic stereotypes. He begins with the Jews and we have already had the opportunity to discuss what he thinks of them. He then talks about the Germans and among various things he says: "il piu basso livello di umanita concepibile. Un tedesco produce in media il doppio delle feci di un francese. Iperattivita della funzione intestinale a scapito di quella cerebrale, che dimostra la loro inferiorita fisiologica." (the lowest conceivable level of humanity. On average, a German produces double amount of excrements than a French. Hyperactivity of the intestinal function at the expense of the cerebral, which demonstrates their physiological inferiority, p. 12). For the French he has the following: "Nessuno e maleducato come un taverniere francese, ha l'aria di odiare i clienti (e forse e vero) e di desiderare che non ci siano (ed e falso, perche il francese e avidissimo). Ils grognent toujours. Provate a domandargli qualcosa: saispas, moi, e protrudono le labbra come se petassero." (No one is as ill-mannered as a French inn keeper. He gives the impression of hating costumers (perhaps it is true) and wishes not to have them (which is false because a French man is very greedy). Ils grognent toujours. Try to ask him something: sais pas, moi, and will protrude their lips as if they were farting, p. 15). And finally: "L'italiano e infido, bugiardo, vile, traditore, si trova piu a suo agio col pugnale che con la spada, meglio col veleno che col farmaco, viscido nelle trattative, coerente solo nel cambiar bandiera a ogni vento" (The Italian is untrustworthy, liar, coward, treacherous, he is more at ease with the dagger than with the sword, better with poison than with medicine, slippery in negotiations, coherent only in being treacherous in every situation, p. 17).
(47) See for example Gyorgy Lukacs, The Historical Novel (London: Merlin Press, 1962) and his view of Sir Walter Scott's novels.
RAFFAELE DE BENEDICTIS
Wayne State University
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|Author:||De Benedictis, Raffaele|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2011|
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