The Puzzle Instinct: The Meaning of Puzzles in Human Life

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Indiana University Press, 2004 - Mathematics - 288 pages
5 Reviews

One of the most famous anagrams of all time was constructed in the Middle Ages. The unknown author contrived it as a Latin dialogue between Pilate and Jesus. Jesus' answer to Pilate's question "What is truth" is phrased as an ingenious anagram of the letters of that very question: Pilate: Quid est veritas? ("What is truth?") Jesus: Est virqui adest. ("It is the man before you.")

The origin of anagrams is shrouded in mystery. One thing is clear, however--in the ancient world, they were thought to contain hidden messages from the gods. Legend has it that even Alexander the Great (356-323 b.c.) believed in their prophetic power.
--from Chapter Two

The most obvious explanation for the popularity of puzzles is that they provide a form of constructive entertainment. But in The Puzzle Instinct Marcel Danesi contends that the fascination with puzzles throughout the ages suggests something much more profound. Puzzles serve a deeply embedded need in people to make sense of things. Emerging at the same time in human history as myth, magic, and the occult arts, the puzzle instinct, he claims, led to discoveries in mathematics and science, as well as revolutions in philosophical thought.

Puzzles fill an existential void by providing "small-scale experiences of the large-scale questions that Life poses. The puzzle instinct is, arguably, as intrinsic to human nature as is humor, language, art, music, and all the other creative faculties that distinguish humanity from all other species."

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - mschaefer - LibraryThing

Despite the title more of an attempt to give a systematic overview of puzzles with some history thrown in. The puzzles and their presentation are rarely original or insightful, worse, there are many ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - bluetyson - LibraryThing

This is an overview of the origins of the puzzle in human history, as well as a more detailed look at the various types in existence, complete with some examples. It also mentions some of the famous puzzle makers of history, and the influence of puzzles on mathematics and science and vice versa. Read full review

Contents

PIIllinſMImhtſ
143
PIIllinſGames
178
ThePllTileſſlife
208
Solutions
236

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Page 256 - GAMES, ANCIENT AND ORIENTAL, AND How TO PLAY THEM. Being the Games of the Ancient Egyptians, the Hiera Gramme of the Greeks, the Ludus Latrunculorum of the Romans, and the Oriental Games of Chess, Draughts, Backgammon, and Magic Squares.

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About the author (2004)

Marcel Danesi is Professor of Semiotics and Anthropology at the University of Toronto and Director of the Program in Semiotics and Communication Theory. His books include Increase Your Puzzle IQ and Of Cigarettes, High Heels, and Other Interesting Things: An Introduction to Semiotics. He lives in Toronto.

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