Alain wrote, about my breakdown of
what is Pythagorean and what is not in Gosselin's account:
2.2. In general, Pythagoreans look for commonalities between different natural groups of four.
Needs to be detailled : https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal ... 6/document
2.3. His argument for why each of the four suits corresponds to a particular one of the elements,
however, has nothing Pythagorean about it that I can see.
This is the most controversial point. From where did Gosselin take his correspondences?
Did he invent them? Did they seem to him as deriving from common sense? Or as I suggest :
Par contre, l ’explication qu’il offre pour justifier de ces correspondances des Eléments d’avec les Couleurs - la pesanteur ( du plus lourd “lourd”, la Terre , au moins “lourd”, le Feu) respective des Eléments hierarchisés depuis le plus stable (la Terre) jusqu’au plus léger (le Feu) pose problème.
On pressent là une ascension verticale liée à la densité des Eléments.
Ces équivalences peuvent provenir de différentes sources : l’une platonicienne [respectivement le Cube et le Tetraedre] pour la Terre et le Feu, l” autre moyenageuse sinon antique pour le Trèfle [Monde végétal] succédant au Monde minéral : Elément Terre] et étymologique pour le Coeur= Air [anima=souffle].
See my hypothesis :
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5Hg6j ... xNRk0/view
Yes, my "In general, Pythagoreans look for commonalities between different natural groups of
four" needed more detail. I should have lingered a bit longer. Thanks for catching this. What could I have meant? Let me focus on some examples. What is in common between the four directions and the four winds? Well, the four winds come from the four directions. But that is better called a relationship, not something they have in common. Maybe I should have said "Pythagoreans look for relationships between natural groups of
four". Another example: the four elements and the four seasons. What they have in common is that both can be constructed from the four qualities. Fire is hot and dry, and so is summer. And so on. In this case, we do find a relationship to something they have in common. But relationship is more fundamental.
Another example, more like Gosselin's in being modern, is Durer's painting of
the four apostles as representatives of
the four temperaments. John is youthful and red-headed, like spring and the sanguine temperament. Peter is imperturbable as a rock, phlegmatic. Mark, always associated with his solar lion, has fiery eyes, choleric. Paul is the Hellenistically trained philosopher contemptuous of
this world, melancholic. This is a Pythagorean way of
connecting groups of
But then it is clear that I was wrong in saying that there is nothing Pythagorean about Gosselin's statements about the relationship of
the four suits to the four elements. He clearly finds relationships and commonalities between the two groups of
The tiles (diamonds) that are painted on the cards signify Earth because just as Earth supports all heavy things, so tiles support the heavy things that one puts on them.
The clovers (clubs) which are painted on the cards represent Water, because the clover is a grass that grows in wet environments and is nourished by Water.
The hearts which are painted on the cards represent Air, for our hearts cannot live without air.
The pikes (spades) which are painted on the cards represent Fire, because Fire is the most penetrating of the four elements just as pikes are the most penetrating instruments of war.
What tiles and Earth have in common is that they both support heavy things. He must mean floor tiles.
What clovers and Water have in common is that they both depend on wetness. Or: clover is related to water in needing it for nourishment.
How hearts are related to air is that hearts need air. He has perhaps observed, or heard from others, that without air the heart stops beating.
How pikes are related to fire is that both are the most penetrating of
their respective group. They have that in common.
It may well be true that this set of
relationships and commonalities has no precedent among Pythagoreans. But that makes no difference. When Kepler, for example, investigated commonalities between a certain arithmetical series (I forget what, maybe 1, 2, 4, 8...) and the distances of
the orbits of
the planets from the sun, he was doing something not done by previous Pythagoreans (Kepler did think of
himself as a Pythagorean and he was investigating a Pythagorean commonality). They had not considered the Sun as at the center of
a series of
concentric circles representing planetary orbits around it. When Durer likened apostles to temperaments, this was not something done by the ancient Pythagoreans. Likewise the Pythagoreans of
ancient and medieval times had not considered playing cards in Pythagorean terms, probably because they didn't use them. But it is still a Pythagorean way of
proceeding, in that it looks for relationships between two groups of
So you are right, Alain, and I am wrong on these two points. I will have to rewrite what I wrote.
However I do not think that Gosselin is thinking in terms of
the Platonic solids. It is possible, as you say, that he is thinking of
a tetrahedron when he says that both fire and Pikes are the most penetrating. He could be imagining pushing the flat side of
a tetrahedron away from himself so as to pierce the skin of
his opponent, like a "poignard" (blade).
But how does an octohedron suggest a heart that needs air? You say in addition that air = breath = soul = heart. I understand how breath was soul for the Stoics. And if the soul is between spirit and body, so is the heart between the head and the lower organs of
appetite. Perhaps that is what you have in mind. It is possible such relationships in philosophy were in his mind. But there is no necessity, and no icosohedrons enter in.
With water, all I can find you saying is that Poseidon reigns over the water and has a trident. The relationship of
trident to clover is rather distant. Clover suggests water without any such reference.
With tiles, you point to a relationship between carreau and the Latin for quadrilateral, quadribis or something.. It seems to me that there is an even more direct relationship between carreau and the similar-sounding carré, meaning square. A square might possibly be suggested by a cube, but not necessarily. You also say that the cube is the most stable solid, like the earth. Yes, but Gosselin's relationship is that of
heaviness: not that they are both heavy, but both support heavy things.
Your appeal to the Platonic solids is more mathematical and to that extent more Pythagorean. But Gosselin's account of
the relationship of
suits to elements is much more simple-minded and just what he says, no more and no less. What I didn't realize is that that it is a Pythagorean way of
thinking, even though it doesn't re-use a typical Pythogorean set of
About Pratesi: It is not a question of
agreeing with Alain and me or with him, or something in between. He was interested in the questionw of
(a) what Gosselin had to say about the origin of
the four suits and the card game of
Trente et Un, and (b) is any of
it useful? We are interested in a different question, namely, to what extent does Gosselin give a Pythagorean explanation of
the four suits and the game of
Trente et Un? Is it just using the word "Pythagorean" or is there more to it, related to Pythagoreanism in other contexts? I can't see that Pratesi was interested in that question.