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Casati, Roberto 1961–

CASATI, Roberto 1961–

PERSONAL: Born November 9, 1961, in Milan, Italy; son of Paolo (a pharmacologist) and Antonia (a pharmacist; maiden name, Caramagna) Casati. Education: State University of Milan, B.A., 1984, Ph.D., 1992; University of Geneva, Ph.D., 1991.

ADDRESSES: Home—6 rue de l'Arbalete, 75005 Paris, France. Office—Institut Nicod, CNRS-EHESS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), 1 bis, avenue de Lowendal, 75007 Paris, France; and Centre de Recherche en Epistemologie Appliquee, Ecole Polytechnique, 1 rue Descartes, 75005 Paris, France.

CAREER: University of Neuchatel, Neuchatel, Switzerland, assistant professor, 1988–94; Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, research fellow, 1993–2002, senior researcher, 2002–. Swiss National Foundation for Scientific Research, researcher, 1988–93; Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, France, research associate at Centre de Recherche en Epistemologie Appliquee, 1993–. Faculty Member, Cognitive Science Postgraduate Program, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, 1996–. Visiting Professor, State University of New York—Buffalo, University of Arizona—Tucson, Columbia University, and University of Turin (Italy).

MEMBER: European Society of Analytic Philosophy, European Society for Philosophy and Psychology.

AWARDS, HONORS: Neumann Prize in Philosophy, Geneva University, 1990; CNRS Bronze Medal in Philosophy, 1996; Premio Fiesole Speciale for nonfiction, 2000, for La scoperta dell'ombra; Premio Castiglioncello di Filosofia, 2001, for La scoperta dell'ombra; Prix de la Science du Livre, 2003, for La découverte de l'ombre (French translation of La scoperta dell'ombra.

WRITINGS:

(Translator) G. Frege, Logische Untersuchungen/Ricerche Logiche, Guerini (Milan, Italy), 1989.

L'immagine (title means "Pictures"), La Nuova Italia (Florence, Italy), 1991.

(Translator) A. J. Ayer, Russell, Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1992.

(Editor, with Graham White) Philosophy and the Cognitive Sciences, Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society (Kirchberg am Wechsel, Austria), 1993.

(With Achille C. Varzi) Holes and Other Superficialities, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1994.

(With Jerome Dokic) La philosophie du son (title means "The Philosophy of Sound"), Chambon (Nimes, France), 1994.

(With Achille C. Varzi) Events: An Annotated Bibliography, CUEM (Milan, Italy), 1994, published as 50 Years of Events: An Annotated Bibliography, 1947–1997, Philosophy Documentation Center (Bowling Green, OH), 1997.

(Editor, with Graham White and Barry Smith) Philosophy and the Cognitive Sciences, Hoelder/Pichler/Tempsky (Vienna, Austria), 1994.

(Editor, with Achille C. Varzi) Events, Dartmouth (Brookfield, VT), 1995.

(With Achille C. Varzi) Parts and Places: The Structures of Spatial Representation, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

La scoperta dell'ombra, Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 2000, translation by Abigail Asher published as The Shadow Club: The Greatest Mystery in the Universe—Shadows—and the Thinkers Who Unlocked Their Secrets, Knopf (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to books. Contributor of articles, translations, and reviews to periodicals. Cofounder and coeditor, European Review of Philosophy, 1995.

SIDELIGHTS: Roberto Casati is an Italian philosopher whose books infuse life into abstract subjects, such as holes and shadows. Commenting on his work to CA, Casati stated that while much of his writing is "purely academic," he hoped with more mass-market titles such as Holes and Other Superficialities to "convey the feeling that even very minor and humble things, such as holes, cracks, and fissures, are worth a passionate philosophical exploration."

Parts and Places: The Structures of Spatial Representation, which Casati coauthored with Achille C. Varzi, is an example of "adventurous interdisciplinary scholarship," according to Scott Wilkerson, a reviewer for Creative Loafing. He found the authors "perversely brilliant" in their effort to challenge orthodox ideas of spatial relationships. They raise, and attempt to creatively answer, questions and problems such as the reality of holes, their relationships to the objects in which they appear, the possibilities of "filling space," or the relationship of a tabletop surface to the table itself. Franklin Mason, a contributor to Philosophical Review, was less positive about Parts and Places, however. Noting that the authors state that their intention is to construct a theory of spatial competence, "a theory that will lay bare how we conceive of space and the things that lie within it," Mason contended that this purpose is "psychological, not metaphysical," and rates it as "at best a mixed success" due to contradictions in the text. Wilkerson found the questions posed to be "delightful and problematic" and stated that the authors pursue their thoughts with "a most-sophisticated conceptual apparatus and an irreverent sense of humor." He concluded that their investigations "penetrate deeply into the texture of the known world, exposing some remarkable instabilities in our assumptions about what is real and, indeed, about what 'real' is."

Casati pursued another slippery subject in The Shadow Club: The Greatest Mystery in the Universe—Shadows—and the Thinkers Who Unlocked Their Secrets, originally published in Italian as La scoperta dell'ombra. The book had its genesis while Casati was watching a lunar eclipse, when he realized that shadows, usually thought of as concealing or hiding things, in fact have the power to reveal. He began delving into the ways in which ancient and modern philosophers, astronomers, and artists have manipulated and understood shadows. He points out that shadows are essential to vision, and that biological systems are adapted to various levels of darkness. Plato discoursed on the shadow as a tool of knowledge more than two thousand years ago, and modern astronomers also use shadows to measure and deduce the sizes of, and distances between, planets. In his book Casati seeks to break down the mystery of shadows and to reconcile their mystique with their scientific function. Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor found that "the indefinite, almost animistic personality of shadows prompts Casati to make wry asides." Though the material is complex, it is easily read, according to Marcia Franklin in Library Journal. She reported that "only a few passages" are difficult to follow, and that "the overall effect is … fun and interesting." A Kirkus Reviews reviewer remarked, "For those who cannot grasp the actual science …, Casati offers analogies and metaphors galore." And David Walton, a writer for the St. Petersburg Times, mused, "Only an Italian living in Paris could write a book like this one." It is, he concluded, "meandering, reflective, but very informative."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Casati, Roberto, and Achille C. Varzi, Parts and Places: The Structures of Spatial Representation, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 2003, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Shadow Club: The Greatest Mystery in the Universe—Shadows—and the Thinkers Who Unlocked Their Secrets, p. 1853.

Choice, September, 1994, R. H. Cormack, review of Holes and Other Superficialities, p. 136; March, 2004, J. H. Hunter, review of The Shadow Club, p. 1316.

Journal of Philosophy, November, 1996, D. M. Armstrong, review of Holes and Other Superficialities, p. 585.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2003, review of The Shadow Club, p. 786.

Library Journal, August, 2003, Marcia Franklin, review of The Shadow Club, p. 124.

Mind, October, 2000, J. E. Tiles, review of Parts and Places: The Structures of Spatial Representation, p. 856.

Nature, March 24, 1994, Thomas Banchoff, review of Holes and Other Superficialities, p. 374.

New York Times, November 18, 2000, Alexander Stille, review of Holes and Other Superficialities, p. A21.

New York Times Book Review, September 8, 2003, James Elkin, review of The Shadow Club, p. 18.

Philosophical Review, January, 1996, David Lewis and Stephanie Lewis, review of Holes and Other Superficialities, p. 77; July, 2001, Franklin Mason, review of Parts and Places, p. 479.

St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, FL), August 24, 2003, David Walton, review of The Shadow Club, p. 4D.

Science News, September 6, 2003, review of The Shadow Club, p. 159.

ONLINE

Creative Loafing, http://atlanta.creativeloafing.com/ (October 14, 2000), Scott Wilkerson, review of Parts and Places: The Structures of Spatial Representation.

Roberto Casati's Home Page, http://roberto.casati.free.fr/casati/roberto.htm (February 7, 2004).

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