By Umberto Eco
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Extra resources for Inventing the enemy and other occasional writings
On the contrary, precisely because great literature is dominated by sweet, gentle creatures, the world of satire—which is that of the popular imagination—continually demonizes the woman, from antiquity, through the Middle Ages, and up to modern times. From antiquity, I will limit myself to one example from Martial: “You, Vetustilla, who have outlived three hundred consuls; you have but three hairs and four teeth and have the chest of a grasshopper, the legs and color of an ant. . . Only the funeral torch can penetrate this vagina” (Epigrams, book 3, no.
But although this way of indicating the evidence of the senses can be used with rain, it would be more difficult to do the same with the statement “Earth revolves around the sun” (since, if anything, the senses would tell us quite the opposite). To establish whether the statement corresponds to a particular set of circumstances, it is necessary to have interpreted the word rain and to have formed a definition of it. It needs to have been established that (a) to talk of rain it is not enough to feel drops of water falling from above (as there could be someone watering flowers on a balcony above), (b) the drops must be of a certain consistency (otherwise we would talk of mist or frost), (c) the sensation must be continuous (otherwise we would say it was trying to rain but had come to nothing), and so forth.
Are truth and experience of the Absolute then so inseparable? Confidence that something is true is fundamentally important for the survival of human beings. If we were unable to consider that what others tell us is either true or false, society would not be possible. We wouldn’t even be able to exclude the possibility that a box with ASPIRIN written on it didn’t in fact contain strychnine. A specular theory of truth is that it is adaequatio rei et intellectus, as if our mind were a mirror that, provided it works properly and is not distorted or misted, must truly reflect things as they are.