Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

Marco wrote,
Hello Mike,
I am not sure, but I think that the first cards with numbers (or "indexes") on them were produced in the US in the XIX century.

There are still no numbers on Italian playing cards:
Good point, Marco. I'm so used to numbers on the suit cards I forgot they weren't there originally [in the Latin suits, I add after reading Huck's next post]. All they needed was a particular number of suit objects on the cards. Well, it did occur to the designers of the "Tarot of Mantegna" to put numbers on their cards; it's not a game, but it is a sequence. Even before then, I expect that it was fairly common to put numbers on sequences, to facilitate recognition of the order and later reference to something with that ordinal number (e.g. page numbers, chapter numbers). I will have to look to see whether numbers were used before 1440 to indicate orders when viewing pictures (e.g. stations of the cross or some such thing). [Added later: well, here Huck's post below is helpful.] I still suspect that they were left off the tarot on purpose, and it wasn't just an oversight. People, especially mothers and children, would have noticed immediately that the game was significantly harder without numbers, unlike with the suit cards, and some would have resisted buying the deck for that reason, unless they appreciated the point of not having numbers. It wasn't long before numbers were added to some trump cards on some mass-market decks, e.g. the Rosenwald, and of course the Minchiate (which would have been very difficult to memorize, and pointless, given the randomness of the elements and zodiac signs). And why are some numbers left off there? I'd guess that it's because they were the most important "salvation" cards, and hence it was more necessary to memorize their order.

P.S. Thanks to the moderator for making this a separate thread. it gives me more of a sense that I can say more, not pertaining to the Sun card. So I added one thing to my previous post, on Dummett's position on which of the three orders was original. I now have:
In the state of his knowledge, Dummett cannot conclude which of the three orders was the original one.[Added next day: he says that it would be most natural to see the A order as first, except that the places he associates with the original tarot, Milan and Ferrara, are not A order places.]
This seems to represent Dummett's position there better than what I had originally. His actual words takes up more space than this summary.

Re: Dummett and methodology

marco wrote: Hello Mike,
I am not sure, but I think that the first cards with numbers (or "indexes") on them were produced in the US in the XIX century.
The Hofämterspiel c. 1455 has numbers.

Meister PW in c. 1500 had numbers.

Colonna cards (Rome) 17th century had numbers. I see only sword 2 and sword 3 and both are shortened to S2 and S3.
Tarot de Paris has similar marks (with numbers)

I agree, that likely not the majority of old decks had numbers for the number cards, but at least some had.


Meister PW had even Roman AND Arabic numbers.


Added later: Sola-Busca


I see a "7" at this 7 of disks (left of the feet of the eagle).


I see a "6" (near the hammer).


A "5" .... likely I find a number everywhere in this deck.

Possibly other versions of the hadn't a number ? Generally I could imagine (at least for decks of very fine quality), that numbers commonly weren't used, but could be added later either by the user or by the artist, if the buyer wished numbers.

Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

n my post about Dummett etc, I said that there was an argument on p. 415l pertaining to the CY that I didn't fully understand. I thought it might be helpful to those who don't have access to Game of Tarot to reproduce that argumetn, in case others can help me. Also I will say what it is I don't understand. I omit the beginning, which summarizes what he had said in Chapter 4 (the full discussion is pp. 77r-79l), about the Cary-Yale which he calls the Visconti di Madrone, as possibly having as many as 24 subjects, keeping the same ratio of 3:2 between this suit and the regular suits. Instead of 14 suit cards and 21 trump subjects. Dummett continues:
It is possible that the Visconti di Madrone pack [i.e. the Cary=Yale] was no more than a freak, and that what was later the standard composition of the Tarot pack was standard from the time of its first invention. But it is also possible that the Visconti di Madrone pack represents the original form of the Tarot pack, and that the 78-card pack as we know is the result of a modification adopted early in its history. If so, the standard set of twenty-one trumps must itself be the slightly mutiliated remnant of the original, and possibly, later, set. In that case, we could not expect any ordering of the standard set to make perfect sense; even if there was any particular symbolic intention underlying the original sequence of Tarot trumps, which there may not have been, we could expect fully to understand it only if we knew which subjects the original set contained and in what order they were arranged. It is unlikely we ever shall.
And that really is the end of the paragraph (a very long one) and the argument.

One thing I don't understand is why, in the event that the CY was the original, one would characterize the standard set as a "slightly mutilated" version which therefore we can never "expect fully to understand" without knowing the earlier deck's precise composition and order. First, it seems to me that the standard set would be merely a different version, largely understandable in terms of itself, including details not necessary for instant recognition, and in terms of other decks, written accounts, and the context of ideas at that time. To be sure, there might be some nuances of meaning missed by not knowing the other's order, but that's all.

Second, I cannot imagine what of any importance is lost in our understanding of the PMB by not knowing the precise subjects and order of the CY. Where could the Theological Virtues reasonably go in the CY that would affect how we saw the PMB? How would our understanding of the PMB Popess, the Pope, the Old Man, Justice, Temperance, the Hanged Man, the Star, the Moon, and the Sun be different, except in nuances. Except for the Popess and to a minor extent the Star, Moon and the Sun, these are standard subjects. The same issues arise for the Popess, if it is in the CY as in the PMB. And the luminaries, as replacement cards, would be one step removed from the CY anyway.

To be sure, it is possible that documents might be found some day that could change everything. But given present evidence, i cannot see how not knowing the missing subjects and order of the CY is much of an impediment to understanding the PMB and other seemingly standard (or close to standard) decks.

Another thing I don't understand about the passage is what Dummet is driving at. On its face, the paragraph seems to end on a note of uncertainty about understanding fully the 22 subjects in the standard sequences, an uncertainty that seems to me exaggerated, but an uncertainty nonetheless.

But is it a reductio ad absurdum, saying that if the CY was that from which the standard set derived, then we know very little about the tarot sequence, a conclusion that is obviously false? I can't see that, It's not the conclusion he reaches, and I think if he were doing a reductio he would tell us.

A second consideration: Ross and Michael would likely see an opportunity here to apply the principle of parsimony. Having combined a multitude of decks into three patterns all very close to one another in meaning and order, it would mean throwing all that up, in its simplicity and scope, in favor of what might well be just a freak occurrence. The problem is that I don't see anything in what Dummett says to suggest that that is what he is doing. He seems to prefer uncertainty to simplicity.

But of course that is my own position regarding simplicity, so I might be reading something into him. I am not the best judge.

I should explain that position more fully. First I will quote Michael for the other side of the question. (I thank him very much for quoting and responding):
Parsimony is used by everyone, even in daily life. Every time someone prefers the obvious over the far-fetched, they are employing Ockham's Razor. The fact that you don't see it is hardly surprising, as you are usually inclined to reject the obvious in favor of the more interesting but more far-fetched.
He goes on a bit longer, about me and occultism. I hope I got the essence.

Here is my reply: The alternatives aren't "obvious" vs. "far-fetched", but rather "simplest" vs. "more complex." While it is true that in daily life we usually go by what is simplest or most obvious, given the facts available to us, that is because not much is at stake, we don't have all the time in the world, and if we make a wrong assumption it can be easily corrected. Even then it is best to be aware of other alternatives besides the ones that come immediately to mind. However in many contexts these conditions don't hold. In a criminal case, a jury cannot go by the simplest explanation given the facts presented, and there is never anything else, in real life. If another scenario has a significant enough probability (depending on the type of case) by one's rough estimation, the facts don't warrant a conviction, even if it is obviously more complex. If you are afraid that criminality will thereby be encouraged, it is up to the prosecutors to do more digging, or getting better evidence with more sophisticated tools, as long as they are unbiased tools whose results will go to the jury either way

The only exception to this that I can think of is if there is not a "level playing field", e.g. the Mafia (or the police) are murdering (or jailing, beating, and otherwise intimidating) some witnesses and subtly threatening the rest. That would be a fact, too, complicating the issue, and there has to be a basis in fact for such suspicions. But in general, simplicity, given facts that leave sufficient room for doubt, is not enough.

In historical scholarship, likewise, simplicity won't settle many things. History is complex. It won't even do in science. For example, the theory of plate tectonics was for decades considered far-fetched, despite the appearance of evidence to scientists working in the Southen Hemisphere. To quote Wikipedia (
But there seemed to be no way that portions of the crust could move around. Distinguished scientists, such as Harold Jeffreys and Charles Schuchert, were outspoken critics of continental drift.
Fortunately, research continued despite the critics: new facts in new areas, with modifications and additions to the theory, ever more complex. In my view, the situation is similar in tarot history; the facts are by no means all in, not by half; some so-called "facts" aren't authenticated (e.g. the CY "Rearing Horse" Coin material, for which see my post at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=917&start=150#p13797 and Marco's at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=917&start=150#p13807); and some theories--particular expressions of one type of theory, if you prefer--are only beginning to be examined and refined.

To arrive at truth in the most efficient and just manner, we should be aware of when it's necessary to dig for more facts, and otherwise leave the matter unresolved, despite our skepticism about one alternative or another. Dummett, in the passage I quoted, appears ready to end on a note of uncertainty, even after his Herculean achievement in simplification. But perhaps, as I say, I am reading something into him.

Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

Michael Hurst wrote:
Eccentric views like the 5x14 Theory, which muddle things up based on speculation without explaining anything new, change nothing. That's fine, of course, but here's the deal, re "null hypothesis": for anyone like Lothar, who wants to rewrite the Standard Model history in a major way, Dummett's views constitute the current paradigm, conventional wisdom, default position, the foundation upon which serious historical studies are constructed. In that sense it is the null hypothesis against which any and all subsequent approaches are measured.
What a pity, that you've no evidence on your side, from which you claim, that it presents the perspective of Dummett. Well, some are dwarfs, and some feel as dwarfs on the shoulder of giants and some are dwarfs in a world without giants, so it's not necessary to interpret oneself as a dwarf (likely the world, where David killed Goliath). Let's say, in mythological terminology giants exist. Morgante for instance ....

In the situation of not enough documents (well, there are always not enough documents) about 33 years ago "Game of Tarot" was written, and all one can say, it was a good book. It triggered the interest in some serious research of the object, and that was good so. If the following 33 years hadn't brought any progress, actually Dummett's book would have been bad. There was progress, and this actually proves in some way, that Dummett's book was good.

Fairness demands to say, that also Stuart Kaplan's work has a lot of the progress merits, perhaps just, cause it were the cheaper books.

Dummett made a lot of good observations, in matters of the 2 painters of the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo he looked not careful enough.
I don't know: did Dummett ever reflect publicly on the 70-cards-note in Ferrara 1457? Well, it was on the market at least since 2003, actually earlier, at least since 1996 (Ortalli). The 70-cards-note is NOT speculation, it's just a document.

Well, Michael, you're the expert about Dummett. Did he ever note it?

And if he never made any statement about it, then what was wrong with the Tarot world of Michael Dummett? Any opinion?

Any note of Dummett about the condition, that Marcello called the Michelino deck with its 16 trumps a ludus triumphorum?

Any note about the document of 1.1.1441 ?

I think, there are no statements, but anybody could easily confess me of the opposite, just by quoting the relevant passages.


The grey parts are that, what was known in 2003, in 1980 it likely was worse than that. Each field stands for a Trionfi card note. This presents a sort of progress. It's not speculation, it are just documents.

Well, there was progress. In the long row of honorable researchers of the past Dummett deserves a honorable position, no doubt. That he was (personally) a big help in the past 10 years, I can't say. Well, he published together with McLeod in the period, surely good books about the later Tarot/Tarock development, but not much about the early time.
As we had the major focus just on the early time, we naturally have there the better overview for this theme, which doesn't mean, that we know all and everything.
Dummett didn't take up contact to the internet discussion ... likely he felt, that the chosen topics were not his field. Every researcher has the right to chose his topic. And naturally he has the right to decide about the media, in which he publishes.

So the ways didn't cross.

I could imagine, that some better communication between the world of IPCS and our internet world might have brought some win for two sides. Maybe another 10 years, and it works better.

Calling something, which you don't really understand, "eccentric view", is the privilege of your position (that you don't understand it really).
You may call something "current paradigm, conventional wisdom, default position, the foundation upon which serious historical studies are constructed" ... but let's go to the details: where did Dummett reflect the 70-cards-note?
Maybe he didn't know about it. But then one can't speak of the "current paradigm", cause this implies, that the currently available facts are known. He surely couldn't speak of the current paradigm of 2013 in 1980.

For some researchers in 2013 the "current paradigm" seems to be, that they close the eyes for new developments. One example is the work of Arnold Esch. I wrote about it ...

... totally 6 posts including one reply of Ross
... it got, after 6 posts and more than 6 weeks, 159 views (well, likely the half of the views were from my side, produced during writing the articles).

So one could fairly say, that it is ignored. I really wonder, why ...
"Eccentric views like the 5x14 Theory, which muddle things up based on speculation without explaining anything new, change nothing."
Michael Hurst:
Everybody organizes his own mental world, cause he's unavoidable the king and ruler there. If - for you - the 5x14-theory changed nothing ... well, my congratulations for your insight and your abilities as an architect of your mental structures.
Naturally I would have comparable mental freedoms, if I would desire them.

Well, cooperation and communication is a different field than that sort of personal palace building.

According my research experiences real progress is usually done, when some cooperation is reached between different perspectives of different researchers combined with some pleasant communication habits of the participants. That seems to be a point, in which your highness has occasionally some difficulties.

Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

I think by "slightly mutilated" Dummett is alluding to his suspicion, mentioned in a few places, that the Popess was originally Prudence.

Also, I think the argument that the Cary Yale was a "freak" is stronger than the argument that it was the original, since it is also expanded in the court cards. It is just an expanded, customized creation. All datings are approximate, but 1441 is pure speculation, while art historians like Bandera prefer a date at the beginning of Bembo's career, 1443-1445. But the dating isn't decisive anyway, since we know now that the game is attested in 1440, and in Florence rather than Milan, which makes the priority of Cary Yale, however dated, impossible.

Remember that the date of 1428 was - and still is occasionally - trotted out as a possibility for the Cary Yale, based on Cicognara's remarks about Filippo's marriage to Maria of Savoy. Cicognara was responsible for inventing the "marriage deck" myth. This date influenced Dummett's and others' speculations about the date of the invention of the game itself, frequently rounding it down to "circa 1425".

But given the pattern of the data, beginning in 1440, we now know that 1425 is improbably early. It should have been invented only a few years before 1440, perhaps as late as 1439.

Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

I don't believe Dummett ever mentioned the 70 card note.

There would have been no occasion for him to mention Sagramoro's 14 figure for Bianca Maria, since connecting it to Tarot is recklessly speculative.

Of course he knew about Marziano-Michelino (you really should buy the book - as I have pointed out repeatedly, it is, in some cases, cheaper to buy it now than it was in 1980). Like the gewählter or erweleter suit of Karnöffel, he considered it a pre-Tarot invention of the idea of trumps. But again, connecting it to Tarot involves speculations that he left to others.

Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

Many thanks to Huck for correcting my statement about the invention of numbered cards.

Mike, once again, I am unable to follow your way of reasoning.

You say:

A. since, when tarot was invented, playing cards normally had numbers,
B. and the trumps originally had no numbers
C. the fact that the trumps are unnumbered is anomalous.
D. You explain this anomaly as a “a deliberate choice not to put numbers on the cards, so that people would have to memorize the order. ... an argument for a didactic purpose for the game.”

It is true that if both A and B were true, C would also be true. I disagree on the fact that C would imply or suggest D, but I don't want to go into this.
When it turns out that A is false, and that, when tarot was invented, cards had no numbers on them, you don't consider giving up the points that you are emotionally attached to (C and D, in this case).

You wrote that “Dummett says it just didn't "occur" to the designers to put numbers on the card.” Still, you do not recognize that, since A is false, Dummett was right. His hypothesis makes perfect sense. It is an anachronism to expect that the trumps should originally have been numbered. Being unnumbered was normal for playing cards. There is nothing to explain.

Instead, when you find out that A is false, you replace it with a variant:

A'. Well, it did occur to the designers of the "Tarot of Mantegna" to put numbers on their cards.

Which is:
* again anachronistic (the “Mantegna” prints are later than tarot)
* unrelated (as you say, the “Tarot of Mantegna”, was not a game)
* a confutation of your own argument (since the numbered “Mantegna Tarot” likely was a “didactic” set of prints).

What is clear to me, is that you are not logically deducing conclusions (C and D) from facts (A and B). You start from the conclusions you love (C and D) and produce more or less far-fetched arguments (A, A') to support them. And you are likely unaware of the process.

In all this, you fail to answer Michael Hurst's request to clarify and document your conclusion D:
Please give us a documented example of these "didactic and mnemonic uses" you allude to.

One of the great things about Dummett, is that he did not play this kind of games. Of course, an Oxford Professor of Logic has to be rigorous. But I think it is possible to try and be reasonable and clear even without the ambition to reach his standards.

Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

Hi, Mike,
mikeh wrote:The reason I cited p. 34 is that it is there that the book talks about "hidden symbolism" as a fact about the Renaissance. That was all I cited it for.
Okay, we'll try again. That sentence, taken out of context as you prefer, reads as follows: "People of the Renaissance revelled in hidden symbolism, and the occult sciences enjoyed greater prestige in the Christian world than at any other time before or since." Taken out of context, that is grossly misleading.

I gave the context, both before and after.
mikeh wrote:As I read the passage from Wicked Pack, it doesn't come to any conclusion at all.
The argument looks like this:
1. Any occult reading must pass a severe test.
2. Given the historical facts, the test is almost certainly impossible to pass.
3. No interpretations have been proposed that are even worthy of discussion in this context.
4. ______________________.

Yes, the conclusion is left as an exercise for the reader, but it is not a very challenging exercise.
mikeh wrote:
Dummett wrote:I do not want to take a stand about the theories that have been advanced. The question is whether a theory is needed at all. I do not mean to deny that some of the subjects or some of the details of their conventional representation, may have had a symbolic significance obvious to fifteenth-century Italians, or, at least, to educated ones, that escapes us and may be revealed by patient research; that is very likely to be the case. But the question is whether the sequence as a sequence has any special symbolic meaning. I am inclined to think that it did not: to think, that is, that those who originally designed the Tarot pack were doing the equivalent, for their day, of those who later selected a sequence of animal pictures to adorn the trump cards of the new French-suited pack.
The last sentence in the above above is indeed a rather bald statement of the "null hypothesis", so to speak.
That is a statement of his iconographic unbelief. There might be a systematic meaning, but it doesn't look like it. The burden of proof is on the person who claims otherwise, and the level of proof required is high. From the point of view of anyone claiming that there is such systematic meaning, that is one version of the iconographic null hypothesis.

The first qualification to note is that most serious academic types, if they took an interest in Tarot iconography, would probably choose Moakley as the iconographic null hypothesis. It is just as respectable, it is more explanatory in several ways, it connects directly with a period-appropriate and extremely influential source work, etc. It is more interesting, offering much more to talk about, which academics love. There are some good objections to her theory, making the two about equal in plausibility among all the published contenders. Therefore, the vastly simpler story of Dummett seems the strongest position anyone has offered.

The second, much bigger caveat is that iconography is just one, relatively miniscule aspect of Tarot history. Dummett's entire coherent history of Tarot is the null hypothesis for the field. By outlining and detailing a congruent reading of all the available evidence, he created a context in which subsequent findings could be readily understood. This is the greater null hypothesis, which Ross dubbed the Standard Model of Tarot history. This is the larger context into which new facts, like Depaulis' finding re Giusto Giusti and Gizmondo's deck, or Pratesi's Florentine records, need to fit. If there are new findings which cannot be accomodated gracefully, then some part of Dummett's history will need to be replaced.

The iconographic part is my own area of interest. In terms of that larger model, however, the iconographic part is the least important and most disposable. Dummett demonstrated that Tarot's iconography was either completely irrelevant to the rest of Tarot history, or nearly so. He proved that Tarot history required no strong assumptions about Tarot iconography. For historians, iconography is incidental in that any subject matter can be, and often was substituted. (If someone wanted to do an in-depth study of appropriati, for example, the trump subjects and their hierarchy would matter.)

For occultists, this is all nonsense. The supposed hidden meaning is the essential quality of Tarot, and the fascinating part of Tarot history revolves around the Renaissance elite, secret society, alchemists, astrologers, heretics, or whoever is assumed to have created this esoteric codebook.
mikeh wrote:I meant that for Dummett what was most important, in relation to his conclusions, was the cards' use in a trick-taking game. That was his main focus in the book. That's why it's called Game of Tarot, a worthy focus, since most people didn't even know it was a game. That focus on what is needed to play the game, the feature of "instant recognition", may lead Dummett to miss things when it comes to the symbolism in the trumps deriving from other functions of the cards, inside and outside the game.
You make it sound as if he discovered some obscure detail about Tarot and focused his attention on that peculiar, minor sidelight. After all, most people didn't even know about this trivial aspect. Imagine that, some people played card games with Tarot. What an oddity!

Dummett's focus was Tarot history, broadly conceived. It doesn't matter how determinedly you insist, he did not ignore or marginalize some parts of Tarot history. Most of his history of Tarot was about the game because most of THE history of Tarot was about the game. This is the crucial part which occultists seem incapable of ever understanding -- Tarot was a card game, first and foremost.

Most of Tarot history is a history of the game, because that's primarily what Tarot was, for four centuries and throughout much of Europe. Even today there are probably more card players than fortune-tellers. It was invented as a card game. It caught on as a card game. It became very widespread, in different waves of popularity over the centuries, as a card game. It generated secondary uses and literary references because it was popular as a card game, so well known that references and allusions were nearly universally recognizable. When occult Tarot was just being invented, among a small group of French Freemasons and fortune-tellers, the card game was exploding into new areas and greater popularity than ever before. Modernized decks, double-headed, with large indices on the trump cards and arbitrary subject matter, helped make the game cool and trendy. A great many more regional variations of the game were developed. And so on.

That's real history, about a game played by millions of people across Europe.

Modern pop-culture Tarot enthusiasts can't come to grips with that fact: Tarot was a card game. That is one reason why they constantly misread Dummett, a tradition which started with Frances Yates in her review of The Game of Tarot. She could not accept that the history of Tarot is properly and primarily the history of a card game. Instead, Yates believed that occult Tarot was the only Tarot anyone might care about. Therefore, a book which devoted only two chapters to that aspect, (even if those two chapters constituted the greatest study of the subject ever undertaken), must be hiding something. She wrote, among other condescending slurs, "It seems to be the basic aim behind Professor Dummett’s fanatical pursuit of the Tarot game, in all its forms, to prove that throughout its history it was only a game, and nothing else." In fact, of course, he explained and documented exactly the opposite, the many sides of Tarot. Yates was a fool: arrogant, ignorant, and anachronistic.
mikeh wrote:It seems to me
He said, before repeating Dummett's argument and those I've made many times about meaningful context...
mikeh wrote:that it is not the subjects themselves that need explaining, but the particular combinations of conventionally symbolic details on the cards, in relation to the card as a whole and the sequence itself,
Good advice. You should put the pieces together into a meaningful whole. Try it, and show us what you come up with.
mikeh wrote:in whole or in part: e.g. the Pope's tiara on a woman in a nun's dress, the scenes on the bottom halves of the Cary Sheet Star, Moon, and Sun, the the blindfold on Cupid in the Love card, the wings on the horses of the PMB Chariot, etc., mostly related to the Milan-based cards.
Instead, you want to focus on the ephemera, isolate idiosyncratic details that are unique to one deck or another, pretend that they have great hidden meaning, worthy of endless exegesis, and start expounding on things other than Tarot.

Just like thousands of other late 20th- and 21st-century Tarot enthusiasts.
mikeh wrote:Some of these things Ross calls "decorative";
Those are the ones for which no one has made a convincing argument that they add up to any larger whole. Every time you take something out of context and spin a 3,000 word essay on topics other than Tarot, you are ignoring your own good advice above. If the historian has a choice between indulging such extravagant but pointless deconstruction and revisioning on one hand, and calling something "decorative" on the other, "decorative" is the best choice.
mikeh wrote:but in fact are conventionally symbolic, others by their natural function or appearance lend themselves to symbolic interpretation, in the way that Dante and Petrarch had demonstrated in their interpretive works.
If you find a specific convention for something in a Tarot deck, present it. The great thing about that approach is that it usually doesn't require a 2,500 word preface explaining why far-fetched interpretations are justified. Just state the convention and present some examples.
mikeh wrote:Dummett concludes (388l):
That is my opinion; but I do not want to insist on it.
Dummett seems here to be open-minded about symbolic or satirical messages. He is not using "Occam's Razor" or "parsimony" against them. He just doesn't see them.
He has stated his opinion and yes, it is based on parsimony: "The question is whether a theory is needed at all." His infinitely simpler explanation seems sufficient, and is consistent with many other games, and with the expansion of the Minchiate deck. If not parsimony, then what other argument does he have for preferring his view to Moakley's or Decker's? His implied argument appears to be 1) that their complex stories do not appear necessary because his simpler one is sufficient, and 2) that to overcome the argument from parsimony one needs are really persuasive alternative to the simpler hypothesis.

The point seems clear -- it is his opinion that his explanation is sufficient. That is parsimony. Moreover, the fact that the argument is based on parsimony is precisely why "I do not want to insist on it." It's a methodological guideline, extremely useful and generally reliable but not conclusive.
mikeh wrote:When he really thinks something is illogical, he says so. It is an open-mindedness he exhibits elsewhere in the chapter. For example, while it seems to him most logical that there have been 24 trumps in the CY, it is for him not the only possibility.
The Cary-Yale deck is a perfect example because it is a case where one view is quite obvious and very likely correct, and yet our information is so fragmentary that we cannot rule out other possibilities. Although one might imagine numerous other explanations for the deck, none of them are more plausible than the others, and none are as good as the one presented by Dummett. That is, there are no other specific possibilities which have any particular claim to our acceptance, so the conclusion he reached is the only good one.

Again, it is primarily an argument from parsimony. It is a fact that the Cary-Yale deck is (as far as we know) the greatest, most expensive deck ever made. It has larger cards, with more square inches of gold and silver leaf, and more court cards. Surviving trumps include a random subset of the standard 22, which is what we find in virtually all early decks, along with the three Pauline Virtues. Given the fact that everything about this deck seems standard except for being enhanced, the simple, obvious, and parsimonious conclusion is the one Dummett offers. The variation in trumps is just another example of the variation we see in other parts of the deck -- bigger and better, but based on a standard or "archetypal" design.

Can we invent more complicated explanations? Sure, always. But they involve fantasy about superfluous elements, while adding nothing of explanatory value. The fact that only one explanation is justified by the fragmentary evidence does not mean that, with better evidence, it might not turn out to be false. But we have the evidence we have, and it only justifies the most parsimonious explanation. Superfluous elements are superfluous.

You also seem to be equating a conclusion with an absolute certainty, at least sometimes, for rhetorical purposes. Above, you suggest that Dummett did not come to a conclusion about esoteric meanings because he did not claim absolute certainty. This is consistent with your view that some people, (and a few days ago you included Dummett in this category), categorically reject esoteric content. I don't think that I've ever read anyone make that claim, that there could not be such content, so that sounds like a strawman argument. The reasonable claim is that there is no good reason to believe in such profligate inventions, and the argument from parsimony is that they explain nothing which is not explained with simpler interpretations.

Conclusions about empirical questions are always provisional. That is a given, and should not need to be pointed out to you. That doesn't mean that one idea is as good as another, the modern "it's all good" relativism, nor does it mean that provisional conclusions aren't real conclusions. Sometimes we have less than perfect evidence but one conclusion is still overwhelmingly persuasive. ("Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.")
mikeh wrote:But he thinks that in that case we could not expect any ordering of the standard set to make perfect sense, because we wouldn't know the original trumps and order. I do not fully understand his argument, but my guess is that the reason is something he says on p. 388r:
The search for a hidden meaning may be a unicorn hunt; but, if there is a hidden meaning to be found, only a correct basis of fact will lead us to it. The hidden meaning, if any, lies in the sequential arrangement of the trump cards; and therefore, if it is to be uncovered, we must know what, originally, that arrangement was.
That may be why he makes the point as he does on p. 415. Again, I do not see why it is necessary to find some original arrangement, as long as we have an approximation of what the order was in whatever deck or document we are examining. It seems to me that, given the various uncertainties, what Dummett gets in the end is just that.
Dummett argues that sequence conveys meaning. If that is the case, then different sequences convey different meanings. If you accept that context counts, that the composition of something like the Primavera conveys meaning and that the composition of the trump cycle is the order of the cards, then his position is an obvious consequence. If someone copied the Primavera but rearranged the figures, it would not convey the same meaning, whether we can figure out what Botticelli had in mind or not.

You reject that: "as long as we have an approximation of what the order was..." Where do you draw the line? What is the difference between a bunch of random approximations and simply ignoring sequence entirely, which in other places you seem to endorse? If you have only an approximation of the word order of a typical 22-word sentence, you will probably not be able to understand its intended meaning.

Unfortunately, most Tarot enthusiasts cannot even imagine what it would mean for the particular subjects, and their specific ordering, to be meaningful. They cannot understand what Dummett's riddle of Tarot is, much less attempt to answer it. This is partly because of the "made to be randomized" fallacy, and the "it's all good" relativism, but more than that it is the fact that they never attempt such a coherent reading which would explain the design choices. They just do vague, hand-waving interpretations, so a vague idea of the proper sequence is no problem.

(There is, of course, another critique of Dummett's view here, the one I've made since the Riddle of Tarot page went up, but that's another story.)
mikeh wrote:In the state of his knowledge, Dummett cannot conclude which of the three orders was the original one. [Added next day: he says that it would be most natural to see the A order as first, except that the places he associates with the original tarot, Milan and Ferrara, are not A order places.] However (414r):
What the variations strongly suggest is that there never was any great symbolic significance to the variations in the precise order in which the trump subjects were arranged..
If there was an original coherent meaning, then that intended meaning was lost (to a greater or lesser extent) in each of the dozen+ variations. The alternative is that there never was such a precise design.
mikeh wrote:To be sure; but it seems to me worth pursuing whether Temperance means the same before and after Death (Dummett says that if there is a difference it "escapes" him (p. 400r));
Which means that Dummett also pursued the question. When you say, "but it seems to me", you make it sound as if you are doing something different than Dummett and ten thousand others. Dummett tried to make sense of it, and admitted that he failed, which is entirely different than not pursuing it.

Why do you insist on making false and insulting claims to denigrate Dummett, when you also pretend to have some respect for him, or his work? What's the point of this silly game? Just to pretend that you are superior to Dummett because, unlike him, YOU pursue a particular iconographic question?
mikeh wrote:or whether Justice has the same signification low and high, God's justice and humanity's.
The salient question is why that subject was moved to that position, i.e., what sense does it make there? Dummett explained it, so insinuating that he did not pursue the question is again, odd.

One could, of course, write a long essay about something other than Tarot, speculating and playing endless what-if games. And yes, I recognize that such indulgences are the main reason some people "study" Tarot "history". However, such overinterpretation and commentary will almost certainly add nothing to the fully-explanatory observation that Justice (one of the three Moral Virtues) and Judgment (especially as depicted with Archangel Michael) have characteristics in common. These characteristics justify the repositioning, explain the new sequence, and leave only the larger question of why each locale in Italy wanted their own Tarot deck.
mikeh wrote:What do we make of the differences in design between different decks? Dummett reiterates that the important thing is that the players be able to identify the card at a glance. Beyond that (p. 402r):
The variations in design that we can observe amongst surviving cards are to be explained in the same way as those between different orders of the trump sequences, namely as representing different patterns used by different regions.
He adds that this obviously does not apply to hand-painted decks and to non-standard decks like the Sola-Busca. Whether the variations might have to do with different symbolic approaches being applied in different places isn't something he pursues.
What does that mean, he didn't pursue "different symbolic approaches"? That he didn't spend a lot of time making up unsubstantiated fantasies about what someone, somewhere, at some time, might have meant by some minor variation in the trumps of a card game? Why would he do that when he had real historical questions to address with actual facts? There are productive lines of inquiry, and self-indulgent ones.
mikeh wrote:I see reasons for thinking that there were purposes for the tarot sequence that Dummett does not consider, i.e. didactic and mnemonic (remembering what one has learned).
Yes, you are good at repeating New Age shibboleths. We've heard this one, but what we haven't heard are the justifications for it. It is worth noting that scholars in the subject of the mnemonic arts don't mention Tarot, for the simple reason that there is no historical evidence that it was used that way. Likewise, no pluasible analysis of the trump cycle suggests that it was ever intended to be used that way. Only New Age Tarot enthusiasts make these claims, going back to the 1970s. That's called "contemporary folklore".
mikeh wrote:Dummett says it just didn't "occur" to the designers to put numbers on the card. To me it seems the first thing that would occur to someone, because there were numbers on other cards, and after all, it was a trick taking game. It seems to me more likely a deliberate choice not to put numbers on the cards, so that people would have to memorize the order. That's an argument for a didactic purpose for the game.
This is pathetic... but others have commented. I will simply note that if you did not have such contempt for Dummett, and for the history of playing cards, then you might look things up before inventing your own facts and declaring him wrong. Of course, you don't recognize that Tarot was primarily a card game, so why bother learning about card games?
mikeh wrote:Also, there is the example of other decks for trick-taking games similar in structure to that of the tarot in having a trump suit, namely, Marziano's and Boiardo's, for which we do have explicit symbolic interpretations. Dummett ignores these texts;
Dummett does not use non-Tarot decks, nor completely revised Tarot decks, to support a fantasy interpretation of standard Tarot decks. He doesn't do fantasy, so he doesn't need to manufacture justifications for fantasy. That is hardly the same thing as ignoring those decks.
mikeh wrote:Marziano and Boiardo are examples of two methods of interpretation advocated by Petrarch and Boccaccio: drawing moral lessons and making reference to specific persons (see my post at viewtopic.php?f=23&t=385&start=100#p14232, quotes from Murrin and Struck, in The Cambridge Companion to Allegory, 2010). It is reasonable to suppose that the same methods would apply, at least some of the time, to trump sequences with other subjects that were meaningful at the time.
There does not appear to be any secret code or esoteric manifesto in those decks, no hidden meanings. We know nothing about those decks which was not exoteric. We know that the groupings of gods in the 16 Heroes deck had a particular meaning because it was literally spelled out for us.

If it wasn't, could we just "figure it out"? Maybe some of us could and would. It would probably be someone who did not call it a Tarot deck and who was not blinded by folklore. But it is certain that those who prefer recycled esoteric topics, like astrology and alchemy, would reject that intended meaning even if it were discovered. It doesn't fit their New Age preconceptions. However, they could make up dozens of false interpretetations, based on whatever books they were reading at the time. After all, someone, at some time, in some place, might have interpreted the suits that way. But how is that anything other that self-indulgent bullshit?

And how do we know that the named figures in Boiardo/Viti refer to specific persons... oh yeah. Named figures. How much more exoteric can one get than Stoic themes with named subjects? So how exactly do those circumstances apply to Tarot? There is no such descriptive text, so that something as obscure to us as the themes of the bird suits in 16 Heroes is virtually certain to be lost.

What about the subject matter of Tarot being interpreted as specific people? Lots of folks have tried that. (Think of all the Pope Joan enthusiasts.) The problem is that the primary subjects in the trump cycle are plainly not specific persons but allegories and eschatological subjects. We can identify most of the allegories easily by inspection, without recourse to idiosyncratic inventions of our own preference.

On one hand we have a simple and sufficient explanatory interpretation which, given the pictures on the cards, is also a necessary explanation. The Wheel of Fortune really is a conventional motif, (whether occultists admit it or insist on Ezekiel or whatever), and as such it is a necessary explanation. That is also a sufficient explanation for the primary subject and, in most decks, the entirety of the card. Additional details, unusual or unique embellishments, may be merely decorative or may be personalized allusions to someone or something. Either way, they are incidental.

On the other hand, we may take some of those incidentals out of context, expound at great length about hidden meaning in the Renaissance and our particular topic du jour, and then claim, suggest, imply, insinuate, or otherwise indicate that the REAL meaning of Tarot, with New and Improved Profundity, is being unveiled for the first time. Dummett was not an idiot, which explains why he did not indulge these silly approaches to interpretation.
mikeh wrote:There are probably reasons why Marziano's and Boiardo's decks did not catch on and the tarot did. I speculate that the tarot sequence, because of some of its subjects and the order of the cards, was more acceptable to the Church and to people generally, who were mostly devout Christians. They found there more of the subjects that were important and familiar to them, and there was a good reason for memorizing the sequence; it gave the reasons to follow Christian teachings and virtues. That would help them in their daily lives. There were, to be sure, things in it that some preachers did not like; but the Church was used to taking a long view.
The Stoic-Christian content of the trumps was perfect for a popular game in 15th-century Roman Catholic Italy but, more importantly, Tarot was a well designed game. Consider the possibility that crappy card games failed to gain a broader audience as card games, because they were crappy card games.

Marziano and Boiardo/Viti were more sophisticated novelty decks conceived for a particular tiny audience, but they seem to have been badly designed as games. Marziano's 16 Heroes deck was made for the Visconti household and was probably, as best we can tell, not a great game. This is not surprising as it was a very early game with trumps. The very structural design of the trumps, as a kind of super court cards, was apparently never used again in any of the many thousands of card games that have been created. (Other games with trumps were probably tried in the interim, between the 16 Heroes game and Tarot, but we know nothing of that except that 10 or 15 years intervened.) The Boiardo/Viti game was also very weak. We know it a little better, and it was certainly trivial and boring.
mikeh wrote:Also, it is the very fact of not having a written program that made the tarot sequence attractive.
So says everyone who learned about Tarot from fortune-tellers and New Age neo-Jungians, who love the idea of a randomized prompt to stimulate story-telling. This is the Rorschach view of Tarot. In reality, however, Tarot was a card game. It didn't need a written program, because the subject matter didn't matter.

Your point seems to be that Tarot became hugely popular as a card game for reasons having nothing to do with it's value as a card game. Do you ever even consider the fact that that it was a card game, and a very well designed one? Over a period of centuries, both with and without those archaic trump subjects, it held its own and even spread as many other games came and went. Whatever the earliest rules were, they happened to provide a fantastic basis for both game play and for further development -- as a card game. It seems that you cannot even conceive that something other than your own personal interests could ever motivate someone else, (like a card player), and apparently your personal interests do not include playing cards.

Would caps help? TAROT WAS A CARD GAME!
mikeh wrote:Different people could reflect on the cards from different perspectives, while playing or otherwise. Some people could consider them from a variety of perspectives. This last was considered a measure of profundity.
Again, Tarot was a card game. The 16 Heroes deck and the Boiardo/Viti deck were more sophisticated in some ways, but such measures of profundity were not relevant to playing cards. This is not a theory, it is an observed fact. Tarot's greatest popularity came after the antiquated Stoic-Christian moral allegory was replaced. And that increased popularity was not because it was replaced with something much better for esoteric ruminations. It was replaced with many different, and almost all jejune, sets of subject matter and again, the subject matter didn't matter.

Tarot was a card game.
mikeh wrote:The two essays recently published by Caldwell, Depaulis, and Ponzi tend to support the idea of the tarot's didactic moralizing intent, as Michael reminds us (thanks). For me Marziano and Boiardo are at least as valuable, simply in being closer to the source.
Neither tells us anything about the standard trump cycle, so naturally they appeal to those who want to just make things up. This is pure occultism -- marginalizing the actual cards and talking about something else. Why not throw in the E-Series model book as well? It's early, and also a traditional part of esoteric misdirection, ever since Kaplan decided to put it first and foremost in his Encyclopedia. Anything but the standard trumps.
mikeh wrote:Something is lost in Piscini and Anonymous; they understand moral interpretations but not what Murrin calls "Euhemerist" ones, the application to particular historical persons ("Renaissance Allegory from Petrarch to Spencer",Cambridge Companion to Allegory p. 167f). This is particularly important in the CY, with its numerous significant heraldics. It is not excluded that the same is true of the PMB Popess, Hanged Man, and even the Old Man (all as referring to members of the Visconti or Sforza family, whatever else they meant). Earlier in the Visconti family, the small paintings in books known as illuminations served such a function, as Kirsch has demonstrated (see my early posts at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=917). As such they moralize family members and help members who receive these paintings to remember them in a certain way, and possibly serve as models for other more popular works that encourage others to see them in a similar positive light (propaganda).
So far (2013) there is zero evidence that any such topical allegory exists in any known Tarot deck. That's kind of a big deal, for fact-based analysis.

Yes, decks were decorated with personal devices, from at least 1440. Our earliest record of Tarot mentions such personalization. Yes, some of these devices were probably put on particular cards to suggest a specific association, as a kind of personally commissioned appropriati. Dummett and Moakley identified a lot of that, but no one has found anything more substantial. Moreover, none is needed. The primary subject matter of the cards tells one story, the original and always underlying story, and the secondary subject matter, whether Diogenes and Alexander or Visconti heraldry, is in every case an embellishment. They are interesting details, informative about a particular deck but inconsequential in terms of explaining the trump cycle itself.
mikeh wrote:Another method of interpretation used in the Renaissance...
Yes, there were many interesting things done in the Renaissance. And it's fun to play make-believe. However, unless it helps explain something about the cards or their history, you are simply making up more and more 21st-century stories about what someone might have thought in a culture which you don't seem to understand very well. This reveals a lot about 21st-century Tarot pseudo-history, but nothing about pre-Gebelin Tarot history.
mikeh wrote:There are a few examples--I'd call them remnants--of this method in Piscina's essay.
Those are interpretive essays, and both are rather sloppy. Unfortunately, these guys were not the most analytical exegetes. However, they get to ramble, tossing off scatterbrained, ad hoc stuff, and we call it history because they died a long time ago. When people do it today, however, it's not history... because they're doing it today.
mikeh wrote:One of the earliest things I read about the tarot was Michael's "Riddle of Tarot". I was instantly convinced of its arguments.
Co-opt and marginalize -- a standard rhetorical technique. Everyone knows Dummett... nobody disputes Dummett... he was great and all... now let's move on to the important stuff, the stuff that he ignored.
mikeh wrote:But then I read other things and saw complexities that this theory did not address, mainly, details in certain versions of the cards, corresponding other symbol-systems besides the medieval Church that would have been considered meaningful and interesting by people in the courts.
Taking idiosyncratic details out of context ("details in certain versions of the cards"), placing them in a false context ("other symbol-systems besides" the trump cycle), inventing 21st-century interpretations and claiming that someone might have thought of them earlier has no apparent historical value, and therefore no appeal to me.

We should probably be clear about goals and methods. My project has NOTHING to do with your quest to deconstruct random details from random cards from random decks and tell multiple random stories about them all, imagining what different people might have thought about them, mixing and matching and going on and on till the day you die, while exploring your favorite non-Tarot subjects all the while. That is probably a wonderful pastime, like Sudoku or jerking off, but I don't see the point of it. You seem to want to interpret things, endlessly, for the sheer pleasure of the activity rather than answering any specific historical question.
Cynthia Giles, 1992 wrote:Certainly the synthetic process is not in itself a bad thing. But it's all too easy to create seemingly rich and significant explanations of occult system by building up layers of reference and allusion - without actually having sorted the worthwhile information from the worthless, and without ever showing whether the bits and pieces really do fit together in a meaningful way.... Tarot is particularly afflicted by such "synthesism" because it can be related, by even the moderately resourceful, to practically everything under the sun.
I have a particular question in mind, specifically, Dummett's riddle of Tarot. (Hence the name of that page.) Why did someone select those subjects and arrange them in that order. Yes, I've spent a lot of time writing about the different orders and about secondary symbolism, I've offered a theory to explain why every locale had a different deck/game, and I've explored literary and iconographic parallels from ancient Greece and Rome to the present. I've offered analyses of oddball Tarot decks from Cary-Yale to Sola Busca. I've even spent a fair amount of time with other iconographic puzzles, and maybe even solved a couple, but that's all somewhat beside the point of the exercise. For me, it's about Dummett's riddle of Tarot.
mikeh wrote:However I still held that Michael's theory was right--and still do, albeit more shakily--as a common denominator among different 22 trump decks and how they were understood, a kind of "literal meaning" of the sequence, to use the metaphor of a text.
That's very close to the point of it, but not "how they were understood". That is not relevant to my question, except where we have evidence like Piscina. A 21st-century interpretation of what people might have thought is almost always worthless. A 16th-century interpretation, what someone actually did think, is valuable. But my question is always the same, an explanation for why those subjects were selected and arranged in a particular fashion. That original design, to the extent it can be discerned, informs all the subsequent decks genetically -- they echo that original design from which they derived, which is why that design is (more or less, obviously) generic to them all.
mikeh wrote:But particular details in particular decks, and particular types of symbolism held to be important in particular places, seem to me important and lead me to other considerations, going from "literal meaning" to various "allegorical meanings" in the Renaissance sense of the term (for which see my posts at viewtopic.php?f=23&t=385&start=90#p14231 and viewtopic.php?f=23&t=385&start=100; you don't have to read what I say, just the quotes from The Cambridge Companion to Allegory).
You seek permission for your interpretive fantasies, and there are endless sources of such justification. I seek to explain the trump cycle, with as little fantasy as possible, so I don't need permission.
mikeh wrote:As such, the sequence seems more like one narrative, proceeding temporally from past to future, one grand journey of the spirit, than your division into three sections allows. So I wonder whether the sharp break into three sections, as opposed to one continuous narrative, is not a result of something else rather than an original state. But I have no worked-out theory, not of an ur-tarot but of an ur-interpretation, to replace yours with.
You repeat that New Age "Fool's Journey" assumption but claim that you are not following the New Agers, just as you attempt to justify Egyptian symbolism but are not an apologist for Court de Gebelin, and you attempt to justify alchemical symbolism but are not working the same ground as Levi and the New Age neo-Jungians. How can you spend so much time as an occult apologist and yet take offence when it is pointed out?

In any case, here you have asked a question which I always love to answer, about the three sections. I'll write up a summary of that, my alternative hypothesis, again.... maybe in a day or two.
mikeh wrote:You have helped a lot, Michael, and continue to do so. Dummett is absolutely the foundation, an amazing achievement, for his very original and deep research and because it really was a game, not just a series of images used for fortune-telling, contemplation, or what have you.
Co-opt and marginalize. "This is great stuff... now let's get back to hidden meanings."

Best regards,
We are either dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, or we are just dwarfs.

Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote: Also, I think the argument that the Cary Yale was a "freak" is stronger than the argument that it was the original, since it is also expanded in the court cards. It is just an expanded, customized creation. All datings are approximate, but 1441 is pure speculation, while art historians like Bandera prefer a date at the beginning of Bembo's career, 1443-1445. But the dating isn't decisive anyway, since we know now that the game is attested in 1440, and in Florence rather than Milan, which makes the priority of Cary Yale, however dated, impossible.
Agree on the priority of the Giusti of course, but it is precisely time that is the rub here. From a reply I made elsewhere:
Giusti’s Anghiari deck of 9/1440, the 14 images painted for Bianca in Ferrara on 1/1441, the 10/1441 CY (if for Bianca/Sforza wedding) all happen in rapid succession, so I don’t think anyone can make a solid claim for too much trump diversity here, regardless of how many trumps one thinks there were – there just wasn’t enough intervening time.
viewtopic.php?f=11&t=947&p=13904&hilit= ... ing#p13904
Taking out the "highly speculative" 14 Ferrarese paintings, the time that elapsed from Giusti to the CY is 13 months (although I would posit the CY as a gift made in advance of the wedding, thus truncating the timeline even more to less than a year). You've been silent in regard to my objections to the late CY "Bona" date, but I would say we can posit a loose consensus for 1441 for the CY deck (the "null hypothesis"). The expanded number of court cards is likely a deviation from the original Florentine deck (my explanation for that here: viewtopic.php?f=11&t=841&p=13130&hilit= ... les#p13130 ) but otherwise I don’t see why there would be other major deviations…nor, most importantly, the necessary time for a rethinking of the trumps.


Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

Ross wrote,
I think by "slightly mutilated" Dummett is alluding to his suspicion, mentioned in a few places, that the Popess was originally Prudence.
Wow, I didn't know that. That's my suspicion, due to the book and the cross, as I've expressed on the "book and cross" thread. What were his reasons?

Ross wrote
All datings are approximate, but 1441 is pure speculation, while art historians like Bandera prefer a date at the beginning of Bembo's career, 1443-1445. But the dating isn't decisive anyway, since we know now that the game is attested in 1440, and in Florence rather than Milan, which makes the priority of Cary Yale, however dated, impossible.
I agree about "pure speculation"! Bandera's estimate of the CY's date, like Dummett's, is based mainly on the coin-images in the suit of Coins (Game of Tarot p. 78r). This claim is unconfirmed; see my post at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=917&start=150#p13797 and Marco's at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=917&start=150#p13807. The "rearing horse" design had been on these Visconti coins for a couple of generations, and the lettering doesn't match the actual coins. Also, Dummett said that the attribution of the cards to Bonifacia Bembo is "questioned by no one". Since 1980 the attribution of the CY to Bembo has been questioned by several, most notably Evelyn Welch, as I have discussed elsewhere. The Bembo workshop had been there a while, I think since the 1420s. Possibly the style makes it 1440s,but I don't know if that excludes 1439 or 1438. There's also the heraldics that appear to be both Visconti and Sforza, And besides the CY, there is the Brera-Brambrilla, which Dummett counts as a tarot, and which is dated by the same erroneous method of the coins. It might be older than the CY.

Ross wrote,
Also, I think the argument that the Cary Yale was a "freak" is stronger than the argument that it was the original, since it is also expanded in the court cards. It is just an expanded, customized creation.
Possibly. But I get stuck by our, or at least my, lack of knowledge. We don't know when the Cary-Yale was done. In the early years, even a deck with a trump suit was a "freak". Also, are there enough pre-1440 decks of Lombard cards around that we can say what was a "freak" suit and what was not? A while back I posted two late 15th century French images of female Knight card woodblocks, minus suit objects, from Hind's book on woodcuts. I am not arguing this last point one way or the other, just wondering if you know. I like facts. And again, there is the Brera-Brambilla, which didn't have 16 cards per suit.

Ross wrote,
But given the pattern of the data, beginning in 1440, we now know that 1425 is improbably early. It should have been invented only a few years before 1440, perhaps as late as 1439.
The current pattern of data also existed in Dummett's time. Admittedly there is more data now, but with the same lack of a level playing field where Milan is concerned, given that the Visconti castle was largely destroyed immediately after Filippo's death. In general on the current data, see my post at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=939. I have no idea what would even the playing field. So I remain in the dark.

Marco wrote,
Instead, when you find out that A is false, you replace it with a variant:
A'. Well, it did occur to the designers of the "Tarot of Mantegna" to put numbers on their cards.
Maybe I said too much about cards. My variant is actually something like this:
Numbers were customarily used as a means for keeping track of the order of items in sequences, e.g. hierarchical lists, pages of a book, etc., when people could easily mix up or forget the order of the sequence in question. Numbers were originally left off the tarot trumps, whose order could easily be mixed up. They were left off the number cards originally as well, but in that case the number could easily be seen visually in the number of suit objects. Even then, in some countries at this time, numbers were put on suit cards. Therefore it is likely numbers were left off the trumps in Italy on purpose.

That looks like a good argument to me, although I am open to the questioning of my first premise, if historical facts prove that numbers were used less often in Italy for keeping track of sequences than I imagine.

Marco wrote,
In all this, you fail to answer Michael Hurst's request to clarify and document your conclusion D:
Please give us a documented example of these "didactic and mnemonic uses" you allude to.
Piscina is an example of using the cards for didactic purposes; his interpretations are mostly moralistic, and some Platonic. Boiardo is an example for a didactic card game, which Decker calls a "tarocchi", with 22 trumps and 4 suits, probably intended to be played as a form of tarot. Dummett considers Boiardo's proposal as a tarot (Game of Tarot p. 77l):
The standard composition of the Tarot pack was plainly fixed at an early stage in its history, despite occasional experiments such as the Sola-Busca tarocchi and those of Boiardo.
However whether Boiardo should or should not be considered a tarot is irrelevant for the point at issue. Like the Sola-Busca, it is an alternate deck for playing the game of tarot and is nonetheless constructed along moralistic lines, also referring to particular persons.

Marziano is another example, a pre-tarot game, also along moralistic lines, referring to imagined deified persons.

Each of these authors follows standard Renaissance techniques of allegorical interpretation, as classified by historians of literature in The Cambridge Companion to Allegory. These techniques are also seen in visual art, including multiple interpretations of single images, often not obvious ones ("hidden" in that sense), by art historians.

In fact, however, most visual imagery didn't come with an explanation of its symbolism, and consciously so. That would unnecessarily limit the interpretations and the experience. For example, I have been reading about a sculpture at a tomb for a Cardinal done in the 1460's. The author of the chapter dealing with the art at the tomb gives four or five interpretations of the symbolism of one sculpture, a very simple one of a charioteer and his horses, in the context of other sculptures surrounding it. Then he says (Clarence Kennedy, The Tomb of the Cardinal of Portugal, p. 85):
Theologians like the Cardinal or the Bishop welcomed all possible symbolic meanings that might be read into such a scene, and would not feel it necessary that they should be consistent.
If you find that remark dubious, I can find others, I think even Umberto Eco (I'll look next time I'm at the library.) That's just what I've been reading at the moment. The tarot, especially the hand-painted decks, seems to me just another example of Renaissance art, this time done in the context of a card game, not every image full of such meanings, but enough of them, in the Milan-based tradition at least. I suspect that is a major reason why the deck, and the game, became so popular, despite competing versions.

I do not think I am committed to saying that all the tarot trumps refer to particular persons. That depends in part on the process of "mutilation" in the process of development, changing trump designs and titles, and adding or subtracting trumps--which to be sure is one of the main points at issue. There may have been no grand design covering all the trumps. Or there may.

I have read Michael's post a couple of times and will read it again; perhaps at some point something will click with me. It's hard for me to read it non-defensively. At the moment, my questions for him are mainly related to whether his own analysis does not violate his interpretation of Dummett, and why his any less than what I say. If he's going to write something addressing those issues, I'll wait.

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