Re: Dummett's Null Hypothesis and Riddle (aka, Alt. Hypothes

#2
Hi, Michael,
mjhurst wrote: Finally, as you have stated it here, your view sounds exactly like that put forward by Michael Dummett. Would you care to make any distinction between his position and yours?
I've been mumbling "null hypothesis" and "vague hierarchy" to myself for months, so, inasmuch as Dummett didn't say very much, I don't know what difference there would be between his explanation, had he cared to offer a more detailed one, and mine, which I am writing up.

He, of course, only ever called his idea of the trumps a "vague hierarchy", which I find a little more attractive than the word "null", which makes it sound completely random.
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Re: Dummett's Null Hypothesis and Riddle (aka, Alt. Hypothes

#3
Hi, Ross,
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:I've been mumbling "null hypothesis" and "vague hierarchy" to myself for months, so, inasmuch as Dummett didn't say very much, I don't know what difference there would be between his explanation, had he cared to offer a more detailed one, and mine, which I am writing up.

He, of course, only ever called his idea of the trumps a "vague hierarchy", which I find a little more attractive than the word "null", which makes it sound completely random.
As you know, "null hypothesis" is jargon for "default position" in scientific testing. It has nothing to do with the content of the hypothesis; only with its status as the position being tested and, in many cases, the accepted paradigm or conventional wisdom.

In this particular case, the null hypothesis is also the simplest useful explanation, the most factually conservative and parsimonious.

However, it most certainly does NOT imply, as many of Dummett's more dim-witted or disingenuous critics have claimed, a "theory of no meaning". He himself discussed the meaning of much of the symbolism on the cards, and he discerned the difference in subject matter between the three sections of the hierarchy. That is, the difference in what might be termed primary subject matter, as opposed to the embellishments or secondary subject matter which varied from deck to deck.

Unfortunately, he simultaneously seemed to dismiss that meaningful hierarchy.

In any case, I'm looking forward to your write-up.

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

Re: Dummett's Null Hypothesis and Riddle (aka, Alt. Hypothes

#4
Hi, Michael,

mjhurst wrote: As you know, "null hypothesis" is jargon for "default position" in scientific testing. It has nothing to do with the content of the hypothesis; only with its status as the position being tested and, in many cases, the accepted paradigm or conventional wisdom.

In this particular case, the null hypothesis is also the simplest useful explanation, the most factually conservative and parsimonious.


Sorry, I had actually forgotten that. Very nice article. Indeed, Dummett never flatly theorized that there was "no meaning", unlike bolder folks like that guy whose name I can't remember (John... Morris? somebody...) who wrote an article in the Playing Card saying exactly that.
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Re: Dummett's Null Hypothesis and Riddle (aka, Alt. Hypothes

#5
Hi, Ross,
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:
mjhurst wrote:As you know, "null hypothesis" is jargon for "default position" in scientific testing. It has nothing to do with the content of the hypothesis; only with its status as the position being tested and, in many cases, the accepted paradigm or conventional wisdom. In this particular case, the null hypothesis is also the simplest useful explanation, the most factually conservative and parsimonious.

Indeed, Dummett never flatly theorized that there was "no meaning", unlike bolder folks like that guy whose name I can't remember (John... Morris? somebody...) who wrote an article in the Playing Card saying exactly that.
Ah, yes... "The Tarot Myth", by John Berry. (The Playing Card, vol. 32, no. 6, May-June 2004.)

He was a follower of the evolutionary hypothesis, which naturally leads one to dismiss any sequential meaning. (Or vice versa.) His brief article was little more than a dismissive harumph. He does make legitimate observations, such as the fact that most of the "names" of the trump cards are "merely descriptive tags for pictures whose intended meaning was already lost", and that we can't establish a priori the design of the original deck. After cataloging various unknowns and uncertainties, he concludes: "On this ramshackle bandwagon (or wobbly Chariot) our tarot 'decipherers' have felt fit to climb! I decline to join the party.... To look for 'meaning' against such a background is surely a waste of time and effort."

Dummett was rather more charitable, at least in 1980.

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

Re: The Sun

#6
Thanks for the link to the beautiful astrology book of 1491, Marco. That is a good explanation of the wall: that it was in the background of the astrology book that the tarot artist used.

Thanks also for pointing out the part of Vitali's essay that wasn't translated, Marco. In that essay I was merely revising an existing translation, not providing a new one. I was at that point just trying to make the translations more accurate.Thanks for the translation of an important part of what remained. I will try to get back to the rest.

We have to bear in mind that this is one person's interpretation, and 1688 is clearly after the Renaissance--in fact, at a time when many, in the so-called "Catholic Reformation", were reacting against the Renaissance. He has the modern concept of "allegory", unlike that of the Renaissance and before (see my post at viewtopic.php?f=23&t=385&start=90#p14231). Still, I was happy to see that Manucci invoked Petrarch in relation to the sequence. I notice that Manucci conveniently left out Petrarch's Time, which most obviously associates to the luminaries, even though in the time and place of the Steele Sermon, that would be slightly out of place in the order--but much closer than in the interpretation of the Old Man as Time. The card that used to be the Last Judgment is here Fame, in Petrarch's worldly sense of living in people's memory. The tarot meaning, the call to Judgment, is forgotten.

Michael or Ross, I would appreciate knowing where I can read Dummett on the "null hypothesis". I need to see the context. My conception of Dummett is that he took as his subject how the images functioned in playing a trick-taking game. I would be interested in seeing in what way he applies the concept of the null hypothesis to reject other uses of the cards, even uses applied while playing the game. I am thinking of didactic and mnemonic uses not part of Christianity other than a literal reading of the Book of Revelation. So please give me a page reference, and I will try to get the source and read it.

If the null hypothesis is the same as parsimony or simplest explanation, or Occam's razor, then there are problems. I do not see History as one of the disciplines to which Occam's Razor is used--or even discussed--at least on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor. Nor do I see it applied by most art historians and literary critics when discussing how art and literature were made and seen during the Renaissance.

mjhurst wrote,
In the pervasively-occultist environment of a Tarot discussion, every feature must be hyper-interpreted, so it is difficult to let go of something. However, things like ground, sky, and a wall, may not be secret codes but merely conventional backdrops
I did not, of course, use the ground, sky, and wall as part of my analysis of why the Gemini were added to the card. Whether details there are meaningful can be discussed in relation to specific contexts. But I didn't see anything astrological there, except of course the sun. The type of book that Marco linked to seems to offer a good explanation of the wall, as part of the image copied onto the card. It also seems to support the idea that what we see on the lower half of the card is indeed derived from astrology.

I know you did not mention my post specifically. But as you say, context matters.

Also, I am not, nor have I ever been an occultist, in the sense of someone attracted to the interpretations of the tarot by Levi and those building on him. I resent being painted with that brush. I come to tarot history by way of a more general interest in the Renaissance, which started by tracing some of Shakespeare's ideas to the art and literature of Italy of the 15th-16th centuries. As to whether "hidden meanings" ("occult" in that sense) are relevant to an appreciation of Renaissance material, I think there is general agreement among scholars that they are; it is even said in Wicked Pack of Cards (p. 34). I suppose that some of what I have read about tarot was by people influenced by the occultists. Sometimes these sources, and even the occultists themselves, have ideas worth considering. I do try to read these things critically.

Re: The Sun

#7
mikeh wrote: Michael or Ross, I would appreciate knowing where I can read Dummett on the "null hypothesis". I need to see the context. My conception of Dummett is that he took as his subject how the images functioned in playing a trick-taking game. I would be interested in seeing in what way he applies the concept of the null hypothesis to reject other uses of the cards, even uses applied while playing the game. I am thinking of didactic and mnemonic uses not part of Christianity other than a literal reading of the Book of Revelation. So please give me a page reference, and I will try to get the source and read it.
Game of Tarot (Duckworth, 1980), especially chapter 20, "The Order of the Tarot Trumps".

Eve Little is selling a copy for £80, which is less than half of what you would have paid had you bought the book in 1980.
Contact her here -
http://tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=200962

I mentioned the relative bargain of the book here -
viewtopic.php?f=9&p=14030#p14030

Given that this book is the cornerstone of the amateur discipline of Tarot History, anyone who is serious about the subject should make it their first priority to find a copy and study it.
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Dummett and the Null Hypothesis

#8
Hi, Mike,

Well, okay....
Howard wrote:I would appreciate knowing where I can read Dummett on the "null hypothesis".
Obviously, he didn't call his own views the null hypothesis, or the default position, or conventional wisdom, status quo anti, existing paradigm, or anything of the sort. When he was writing The Game of Tarot, his history of Tarot was necessarily the "alternative hypothesis", a new set of conclusions which were intended to replace the existing paradigm. The null hypothesis re Tarot history and iconography in 1980, to the extent that there was any consensus at that time, involved the scattered findings and conclusions of playing-card historians, including Arthur Waite, Gertrude Moakley, and some 19th-century writers following Paul Lacroix. The playing-card historians were significantly influenced by the earlier occultists, and Waite, despite his skepticism, was also an occultist.

Calling Dummett's history the null hypothesis is a judgment for others to make, over time. It's been 33 years since his views were published and I, for one, consider his views the dominant paradigm among those few people actually interested in Tarot history.

For that small number of people, more interested in Tarot history than folklore, Dummett literally "wrote the book on the subject". After a couple decades of research, analysis, and writing, The Game of Tarot was published in 1980, and nothing since has superseded it. What Ross has called the "Standard Model" of Tarot history is basically an updated version of the history presented in that book. Until someone writes a very different but equally comprehensive and fact-based alternative, changing some of the fundamental conclusions he arrived at, Dummett's book will remain the standard for anyone interested in the history of Tarot. Unfortunately, there are very few of those people.

It was a comprehensive book -- he explored the entirety of the subject. He began with the history of playing cards and their introduction to Europe in detail. He discussed the nature of the many different forms of Tarot decks, and their iconography. He explored the most variant decks, like the Boiardo/Viti deck and Sola Busca. He discussed the spread and popularity of the game, and the fact that such popularity led to literary references and the parlor game we call appropriati. Ross mentioned Chapter 20, with several analyses which are crucial to understanding the relationships between early decks. Significantly, chapters five and six, which explored and documented the more recent and esoteric history of Tarot as an occult fascination, were greatly expanded into two separate volumes. The majority of The Game of Tarot, documenting the main history of Tarot through the centuries, was greatly expanded and updated into two separate volumes. I discussed some of this in my post a couple months after he died:

Dummett's Game of Tarot (February 3, 2012)
http://pre-gebelin.blogspot.com/2012/02 ... tarot.html

Despite subsequent findings and analysis, most of Dummett's conclusions still seem sound. He fundamentally changed the way in which serious people understand the history of Tarot. Above all else, he established that it was first and foremost a card game, one which became immensely popular.

That's my view. It does not appear to be yours, and it quite obviously isn't the opinion of the vast majority of Tarot enthusiasts. Most people who write on Tarot fora, at least the four forums I've been familiar with, have little but ignorance of and contempt for Dummett. If you visit a bookstore with several shelves of Tarot books, you are unlikely to find even one book written by someone who respects his work. Some of the more sophisticated ones make obligatory comments about his contributions, vaguely conceived, but only before going on to ignore most of his findings, condemn his judgment and alleged bias, and marginalize or reject his conclusions.

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.

In terms of iconography a somewhat similar situation exists, IMO. It is, however, only my own opinion that Dummett made multiple seminal contributions to Tarot iconography. I have written about this repeatedly going back a decade. Here is a more recent post on the subject.

Michael Dummett and Tarot Iconography (December 31, 2011)
http://pre-gebelin.blogspot.com/2011/12 ... raphy.html
Howard wrote:My conception of Dummett is that he took as his subject how the images functioned in playing a trick-taking game.
Wow -- so, in other words, you know nothing about Dummett's writings?

Mike, you seem to have no aversion to actually reading a lot of material, actually studying it, and in some cases even translating it for others. (Thanks again for this work, BTW.) You've been claiming expertise, writing and posting material about Tarot history for many years now. Despite that, you apparently can't find time to read the most important single work on the subject, the foundation for all subsequent studies. You have only a vague "conception" of what he wrote about, and that conception -- like so many of your views on Tarot -- is borrowed from New Age writers who mainly ignore Dummett or disparage him.

Doesn't that suggest a MASSIVE anti-historical bias on your part?
Howard wrote:I would be interested in seeing in what way he applies the concept of the null hypothesis to reject other uses of the cards, even uses applied while playing the game.
You might want to check out the link I provided as a first step. As pointed out above, Dummett would not and could not treat his own work as the null hypothesis. His studies created a "paradigm shift", from an earlier conventional wisdom to one based on The Game of Tarot. When he was publishing it, his view was not the null hypothesis, but the "alternative hypothesis".

(Terms like null hypothesis and paradigm shift are pretty common in areas like philosophy of science and statistics. My apologies for introducing them, and other terms like criterion of demarcation, etc., to the discussion. I have always used them, and find them are extremely useful.)

Before Dummett's work, the conventional paradigm in Tarot history involved ancient Egypt and transmission by Templars and Gypsies, fortune-telling, alchemy, astrology, Albigensians, and so on. Some playing-card historians attempted to sort out bits and pieces, but the overall view of Tarot could not be separated from the bullshit of French Freemasons and fortune-tellers in the late 18th century, and their followers in the late 19th century.

Because he sought out the facts and based his conclusions on facts, the known facts support his views. That's the great thing about starting with the evidence and drawing only conservative conclusions. That same body of evidence also refuted most of the earlier false history and false interpretations. Thus, his views became the new null hypothesis for anyone wanting to understand Tarot history.

Regarding the question of scope, which you imagine to be so narrow, he took as his subject Tarot history -- all of it. Your absurd claim, "he took as his subject how the images functioned in playing a trick-taking game", and that he would "reject other uses of the cards", would be silly coming from a typical online doofus. It has been suggested that you must be trolling, but feeding trolls is a hobby of mine, so I will gladly respond.

Dummett took as his subject Tarot history, all of it. Most of the known "other uses of the cards", such as appropriati, were in fact documented by him. He catalogued every available historical finding that others had come up with and those which he could add. That catalog of evidence remains the most complete yet assembled, despite being over three decades old. For example, when it was written, chapter six of The Game of Tarot was the best history of occult Tarot available. It was later expanded into A Wicked Pack of Cards (1996) and A History of the Occult Tarot (2002), which remain the most comprehensive and authoritative history of occult Tarot yet written. These are the foundational books on the subject of occult Tarot history, so when you claim that "he took as his subject how the images functioned in playing a trick-taking game", you seem to be claiming to know nothing of the subject.

Do you see why some might think you are trolling?

Dummett not only assembled the greatest collection of historical facts about Tarot, he specifically pursued all of the main elements of Tarot folklore. He attempted to place the earlier writers in a sound historical context, to document or debunk their claims, separating historical fact from popular fiction.
Howard wrote:I am thinking of didactic and mnemonic uses not part of Christianity as interpreted by Aquinas (i.e., for this card, interpretations in terms other than those of a literal interpretation of the Book of Revelation, which then was acknowledged by all). So please give me a page reference, and I will try to get the source and read it.
Please give us a documented example of these "didactic and mnemonic uses" you allude to. I am aware of a great many imaginary examples, from the long history of traditional occult Tarot and modern, New Age Tarot, but that was all based on fantasy. In terms of the actual history of Tarot and how the images were seen, Ross provided a summary of some pre-occultist interpretations, which Marco linked to yesterday.

Moralization versus Iconography (July 3, 2010)
viewtopic.php?f=9&t=520&start=20#p7804

The most significant examples of actual Renaissance interpretations are the two which were translated and published by Caldwell, Depaulis, and Ponzi.

Explaining the Tarot: Two Italian Renaissance Essays on the Meaning of the Tarot Pack
http://www.amazon.com/Explaining-Tarot- ... 0956237010

Here is my commentary on those actual interpretations.

Renaissance Tarot: Two XVI Italian Essays (June 25, 2010)
http://pre-gebelin.blogspot.com/2010/06 ... alian.html

But offhand, I don't know what didactic and mnemonic uses you are referring to.
Howard wrote:If the null hypothesis is the same as parsimony or simplest explanation, or Occam's razor, then there are problems.
A null hypothesis is a conclusion, while parsimony is a methodological guideline. It is inane to equate them.
Howard wrote:I do not see History as one of the disciplines to which Occam's Razor is used--or even discussed--at least on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor. Nor do I see it applied by most art historians and literary critics when discussing how art and literature were made and seen during the Renaissance.
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. You are one of the many, travelling the Wide Gate along with occultists of every sort, conspiracy theorists, proponents of all manner of folklore and urban legends, and so on. As one of the many, it is quite natural for you to reject simple and objectively supported conclusions.
Howard wrote:I am not, nor have I ever been an occultist, in the sense of someone attracted to the interpretations of the tarot by Levi and those building on him. I resent being painted with that brush.
But, you are one of those people, building on that folklore. You are directly in the group that began in the 1970s with Jungian and New Age credentials. (These associations, and especially their labels, are now often denied by the more sophisticated members. They are problematic because they sound exactly like what they are.) As an example, since you mentioned Levi, wasn't he the writer most responsible for bringing alchemy into the world of Tarot interpretations? Your own attempts to convert Stoic-Christian Tarot (the basest of exoteric materials) into esoteric alchemical gold are precisely in that tradition.

Let's look at Levi's methods rather than specific interpretations. He ignored the history of the subject. You ignore Dummett, and post absurdly misleading claims about him, which suggests that you've never actually taken the history of the subject seriously. Levi took things out of context, and offered "suggestive verbiage" to tantalize rather than explain. You take particular cards, or elements from a particular card, out of context and then imagine what that detail might have meant to someone with a particular background, etc. But you fail to explain the trumps, to answer the basic question of why these subjects and why some particular order. This sort of deconstruction and vague revisioning is what the traditional occultists did.

Playing cards, the game of Tarot, is what virtually all of the real people did with Tarot; as opposed to the imagined people in your speculations. When real people did take time to write about the meaning of the cards, well, they wrote things like those translated in Explaining the Tarot. People wrote about Tarot, but they didn't mention occult topics. People wrote about occult topics, but they didn't mention Tarot. Dummett focused on these sorts of facts. He started with facts and speculated as little as necessary to explain those facts. You focus on the gaps between the facts, starting with points of ignorance and speculating as much as necessary to tell a more interesting story. That is occultist methodology.

Look, for the record, I don't particularly want to debate you, even if you are trolling. On the one hand, you have zero interest in Tarot history other than as occult apologetics. You don't phrase it that bluntly, but that's your project. You justify your personal variations of traditional folklore by claiming that a tiny esoteric elite might have viewed Tarot cards that way. This is the slipperiest sort of pseudo-history: it is historical fiction couched in weasel words, speculation about what might have been if this and if that. On the other hand, when you are not spinning fabulous tales, you investigate and, most importantly for me, translate some genuine historical materials and some articles by Vitali. I value that a great deal.

In any case, when you call me out directly, challenge me by name and by posting falsehoods about Dummett, yeah -- I'll probably accept your invitation, at least for one or two rounds. However, after 15 years of playing tag with writers very very much like you, it's difficult not to get quickly bored with the lack of self awareness you display. One writer on this forum claimed in one post that nobody supported that Egyptian-origins stuff, (despite there being current books on it), and followed it up with her next post where she claimed that Tarot was of Egyptian origin, (because playing cards came to Europe from the Mamluks). You claim not to be an occultist, despite marginalizing the exoteric meaning of the trumps and insinuating esoteric ones, and then you offer this as a defense of occultist interpretations.
Howard wrote:As to whether "hidden meanings" ("occult" in that sense) are relevant to an appreciation of this material, I think there is general agreement among scholars that they are; it is even said in Wicked Pack of Cards (p. 34).
Since you are not willing to quote the passage which you claim as support, I will. It is worth quoting, and it begins on page 33:
WPC wrote:As already remarked, these conclusions do not rule it out that the subjects, the designs and the sequential order of the trump cards were originally endowed with some esoteric meaning. There is no questioning the symbolic character of the images on the Tarot trumps: if you represent the virtue of justice as a woman holding a sword and a pair of scales, you are making heavy use of symbolism. This is exoteric symbolism. It happens to be an instance in which the symbolism has remained familiar to us; but symbolism embodied in others of the Tarot trumps would have been equally familiar to Italians of the Renaissance. The only question open to dispute is whether there is esoteric symbolism as well: symbolism intelligible only to those instructed in astrology or other arcane subjects. It is intrinsically plausible that there should have been such symbolism in a special pack of cards invented at that time and in that milieu. People of the Renaissance reveled in hidden symbolism, and the occult sciences enjoyed greater prestige in the Christian world than at any other time before or since.

Any theory to this effect must pass a severe test, however. It must depend not on any direct evidence that can be cited, but on the intrinsic plausibility of the particular interpretation proposed, which must draw on nothing that was not available at that time and place. But it out not to be too plausible; it cannot be anything which, if present, would leap to the eye of a man of the Renaissance looking at the cards. The reason is that, if the trump sequence was designed in accordance with any esoteric symbolism, this fact was very quickly and very generally overlooked. None of the XV- and XVI-century sources so much as hints as such a thing; and the absence of such a hint from some of these sources would be very surprising if their authors had any inkling that any such symbolism was there to be found. This applies to the sermon in which Tarot, together with other card and dice games, was denounced as an invention of the devil; the preacher would not have lost such an opportunity to reinforce his point. It applies equally to Lollio's Invettiva, in which both the game and the cards are ridiculed; the poet, likewise, would not have lost so good an opportunity to ridicule the cards still further, instead of saying somewhat lamely that their inventor must have been drunk.
Now we see why you would not quote the passage: it is the opposite of agreement with your position. It is a well-reasoned and fact-based rejection of your position. They say "yes", a priori it seems possible; but they conclude "no", in light of the facts it makes no sense.

Moreover, they propose a test which -- given the historical facts -- is almost certainly impossible for any theory to pass. A theory of esoteric meaning must simultaneously be intrinsically plausible, a clear and persuasive reading of the subjects, and also be something which a typical Renaissance audience would overlook. It must be in some way overwhelmingly convincing, otherwise we have simpler, more objectively reasonable explanations, and yet the fact is that no one recognized this great esoteric design, this intended meaning of the trumps, prior to 2013.
Howard wrote:I suppose that some of what I have read about tarot was by people influenced by the occultists. Sometimes these sources, and even the occultists themselves, have ideas worth considering. I do try to read these things critically.
Virtually everything written about Tarot is influenced by the occultists. That is one reason why it is important to repeatedly contrast fact-based conclusions with the 99% of folklore-based speculation. The main exception to that esoteric influence is some of what is written about the game itself, but today there are plenty of occult apologists who include aspects of the game in their fables.

With regard to some of your other comments, if I were taking issue with something you've written I would address you and quote you, as I've done here. Yes, context counts, but some comments are general, others are specific. Many Tarot enthusiasts are passive aggressive twits who post attacks, sometimes outright character assassination, without naming or quoting their intended victims. I'm not one of them. My general comments are general, and my specific criticisms come with names and quotes.

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

Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

#9
Thanks for pointing me to a specific place in Dummett's writings, Ross. I made a scan of Dummet's Chapter 20 the last time I had the book from Interlibrary Loan. I read it several times in the past, as well as much of the book pertaining to the 15th-17th centuries. Chapters 4 and 5 are important, too. There's a lot in just chapter 20, and each time I read it I get something new out of it. I didn't re-read it before writing my last post. What I wrote was just an attempt to give you an idea of where I was bogged down in understanding you.

So thanks again. And thanks also to Michael for giving me criticisms of specific things I said. I will try to come to grips with them.

THE QUOTE FROM WICKED PACK

First I need to say something about the quote in [Wicked Pack, pp. 33-34, that I referred to in my previous post, and which Hurst graciously posted for us. I don't have an aversion to posting it. I just wanted to keep the post short People could then challenge what they wanted. Also, it's very long, and all I have of the page, without going to the library, is a scan on my computer, very time-consuming to transcribe. I am in the same situation with Game of Tarot; hopefully I will give enough of the quotes. Yes, it is always good to look at somebody's references, to see if they check out. That's why I gave the page number. If it were in a book that you and others couldn't be expected to have available to them, or if anyone asked, I would give the quote. Thanks for providing it. I will repeat it, because I want to discuss it.
As already remarked, these conclusions do not rule it out that the subjects, the designs and the sequential order of the trump cards were originally endowed with some esoteric meaning. There is no questioning the symbolic character of the images on the Tarot trumps: if you represent the virtue of justice as a woman holding a sword and a pair of scales, you are making heavy use of symbolism. This is exoteric symbolism. It happens to be an instance in which the symbolism has remained familiar to us; but symbolism embodied in others of the Tarot trumps would have been equally familiar to Italians of the Renaissance. The only question open to dispute is whether there is esoteric symbolism as well: symbolism intelligible only to those instructed in astrology or other arcane subjects. It is intrinsically plausible that there should have been such symbolism in a special pack of cards invented at that time and in that milieu. People of the Renaissance reveled in hidden symbolism, and the occult sciences enjoyed greater prestige in the Christian world than at any other time before or since.

Any theory to this effect must pass a severe test, however. It must depend not on any direct evidence that can be cited, but on the intrinsic plausibility of the particular interpretation proposed, which must draw on nothing that was not available at that time and place. But it out not to be too plausible; it cannot be anything which, if present, would leap to the eye of a man of the Renaissance looking at the cards. The reason is that, if the trump sequence was designed in accordance with any esoteric symbolism, this fact was very quickly and very generally overlooked. None of the XV- and XVI-century sources so much as hints as such a thing; and the absence of such a hint from some of these sources would be very surprising if their authors had any inkling that any such symbolism was there to be found. This applies to the sermon in which Tarot, together with other card and dice games, was denounced as an invention of the devil; the preacher would not have lost such an opportunity to reinforce his point. It applies equally to Lollio's Invettiva, in which both the game and the cards are ridiculed; the poet, likewise, would not have lost so good an opportunity to ridicule the cards still further, instead of saying somewhat lamely that their inventor must have been drunk.
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. However I do want to respond to what Michael said about it, and me:
Now we see why you would not quote the passage: it is the opposite of agreement with your position. It is a well-reasoned and fact-based rejection of your position. They say "yes", a priori it seems possible; but they conclude "no", in light of the facts it makes no sense.

Moreover, they propose a test which -- given the historical facts -- is almost certainly impossible for any theory to pass. A theory of esoteric meaning must simultaneously be intrinsically plausible, a clear and persuasive reading of the subjects, and also be something which a typical Renaissance audience would overlook. It must be in some way overwhelmingly convincing, otherwise we have simpler, more objectively reasonable explanations, and yet the fact is that no one recognized this great esoteric design, this intended meaning of the trumps, prior to 2013.
As I read the passage from Wicked Pack, it doesn't come to any conclusion at all. It is a compromise statement that all three of the authors can agree on. One co-author, Decker, as is clear from his most recent book, would have meant it as a challenge to find just such hidden symbolism (although not intending to satisfy the criteria that you propose, which are not in the passage from Wicked Pack that I can find, and not ones Decker would have agreed were valid). Even in 1980 Decker had a propensity to propound hidden symbolism, judging from Dummett's comment on p. 387 of Game of Tarot that "Mr. Ronald Decker has engaged in complicated speculations, linking the pack to the astrology of the time". In fact in The Esoteric Tarot Decker uses Lollio as an example of how the hidden meanings of the trump sequence had been lost by his time (pp. 87-88):
The Tarot survived among card players, and their traditionalism kept the imagery intact. But they knew nothing of secret symbolism. As I said, they were annoyed at the presumed nonsense.
Actually, it is not clear to me that Lollio really dislikes the tarot as much as he makes out. Dummett near the beginning of Chapter 20 cites him as straightforwardly declaring that the sequence makes no sense; later he comments that his diatribe "was obviously less than half serious" (p. 412r). If so, how can we trust that he really doesn't have any idea what the cards mean? His statement may just be a piece of rhetoric making fun of something that he actually loves and perhaps even something whose meaning he hopes people will think about. If he really started explaining what he thought the cards meant, the mood would change to one of high seriousness, even if what he thought was only something like what Michael says it was.

DUMMETT CHAPTER 20

So now to Dummett's "null hypothesis", as I find it in Game of Tarot Ch. 20. He starts (p. 387l) by observing that in the 18th century some deck designers replaced the tarot trumps with pictures of animals, rural scenes, etc. These people "obviously did not think they were depriving the pack of any essential feature". What was essential was its position in the sequence, indicated by its number. He goes on (387l):
Many people, however, have been fascinated by the figures on the trump cards of the Latin-suited Tarot pack, and have sought to uncover a hidden symbolism lost to us. They have been convinced that these figures must have a deeper meaning than appears on the surface, and, in particular, they have believed that there is a significance, not only in the individual cards, but in the precise order in which they are arranged.
He mentions the occultists in this regard, and that their speculations have been based on the Tarot de Marseille. He continues (387l):
If we are seeking the symbolic intentions of those who first designed the Tarot peck, the Tarot de Marseille is a dubious guide.
That is because the earliest pack with that order is 1557 (387r). I would add here: Even today we have no confirmation of that order before 1444, in Alciato.

He then mentions some non-occultists who have sought to decode the cards: Moakley, Seabury (who applied Dante's Divine Comedy), and Decker. He continues (387r):
I am not going to advance another such theory. 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. (Thanks,Michael, for clarifying what you meant, that it is a conclusion. I thought I'd learned in school that it was a kind of benchmark to compare results of an experiment against, so as to see whether they were significant, and so not a conclusion but a methodology. But I see on Wikipedia that there are other senses of the word than what I remembered.) It is Dummett's conclusion as regards the sequence as "originally intended", that there is no symbolic significance in the arrangement of the subjects. They are the 15th century equivalent of animal-cards, done to provide a new kind of pack with 21 cards playing a new role in the game:
...so they selected for those cards a number of subjects, most of them entirely familiar, that would naturally come to the mind of someone in a fifteenth-century Italian court. It is rather a random selection...
e.g., he says, not all seven virtues, but just three, and not all seven planets, but just the Sun, Moon, and a Star. And not other ranks, but just Pope and Emperor. He adds (388l)
But, of course, in a pack of cards what is essential is that each card may be instantly identified, so one does not want a large number of rather similar figures, especially before it occurred to anyone to put numerals on the trump cards for ease of identification.
It is this last sentence that I was remembering when I said
Michael or Ross, I would appreciate knowing where I can read Dummett on the "null hypothesis". I need to see the context. My conception of Dummett is that he took as his subject how the images functioned in playing a trick-taking game. I would be interested in seeing in what way he applies the concept of the null hypothesis to reject other uses of the cards, even uses applied while playing the game.
Yes, that was clumsily expressed (I didn't know what "trolling" was until I looked it up on the Internet; it's not very nice, not something I would waste people's time doing). 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. So I wanted to see what he said.

And beyond such a need for instant recognition (back to 388l)
most of the subjects on the Tarot trumps are completely standard ones in medieval and Renaissance art; there seems to be no need of any special hypothesis to explain them.
It seems to me 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, 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. Some of these things Ross calls "decorative"; 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.

Another argument Dummett advances is that the Minchiate has many of the same subjects, but (388l)
I do not think that anyone has suggested that there is any hidden significance in the sequence of Minchiate trumps.
Here he must mean the added trumps, not the ones it has in common with the tarot, i.e. "the four elements, the remaining virtues, the signs of the zodiac", inserted "en bloc in a convenient place". It's true that people have focused on the tarot. The Minchiate, I'd say, is a variation on the tarot; its departures indeed look random, with Prudence stuck between Hope and Faith and its bizarre ordering of elements and zodiac signs. But otherwise it corresponds to a combination of A, with differences regarding the Papal/Imperial subjects, and the CY theological virtues. The reason it isn't talked about is that the issues would be much the same as for the tarot, from which it is derived.

Dummett concludes (388l):
That is my opinion; but I do not want to insist on it. It may be that those who first designed the Tarot pack had a special purpose in mind in selecting those particular subjects and in arranging them in the order that they did: perhaps they then spelled out, to those capable of reading them, some satirical or symbolic message. If so, the capacity to read this message had been lost.
He then gives the now-familiar example in literature of Lollio making no sense of the arrangement of the cards, which for Dummett shows that there was no generally acknowledged...particular interpretation to be placed on them", i.e. the cards (p. 388r). Later in the chapter he gives examples which show none but the most obvious meanings of the trumps.

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. 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. After discussing the 24 trump idea and the idea that the CY was simply a "freak" he says (415l):
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.
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.

There follows his famous analysis of numerous decks and texts into eleven different orders (p. 386), "all differing from the Tarot de Marseille order". The eleven in turn boil down to three basic ones, A, B, and C. And with each of the three, there seems to be a consistent division into three distinct sections.

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..

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)); or whether Justice has the same signification low and high, God's justice and humanity's.

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 DUMMETT LEAVES OUT

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). 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.

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; they are merely examples of the type, program for a special sequence or deck. In Marziano, it is not just specific gods who have to be recognized, but less obvious meanings, such as "virginities", "pleasures", "wealth", and "virtue". Marziano spells out his didactic intent quite clearly in his introduction to Filippo Maria Visconti (http://trionfi.com/martiano-da-tortona- ... -16-heroum):
Consider therefore this game, most illustrious Duke, following a fourfold order, by which you may give attention to serious and important things, if you play at it. Sometimes it is pleasing to be thus diverted, and you will be delighted therein. And it is more pleasing, since through the keenness of your own acumen you dedicated several to be noted and celebrated Heroes, renowned models of virtue, whom mighty greatness made gods, as well as to ensure their remembrance by posterity. Thus by observation of them, be ready to be aroused to virtue.
Moreover, he makes it clear that it is not gods that these cards refer to, but actual human beings later deified by their people. In the case of Boiardo, it is similar: there are specific individuals, legendary or real, and specific moral lessons each card conveys (http://www.tarotpedia.com/wiki/Boiardo).

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 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.

Also, it is the very fact of not having a written program that made the tarot sequence attractive. 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.

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. 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).

Another method of interpretation used in the Renaissance was the philosophical, referring chiefly to Plato and Platonists but also Aristotle, Cicero, the Pythagoreans and other philosophers. Murrin (p.166) calls it "Platonic". The usual view among 15th century humanists, throughout the century, was that there was no contradiction between Plato and Aristotle, and Aristotle supplemented Plato in particular areas. Plato also was considered as incorporating Pythagorean teachings into his philosophy. There are also the Middle Platonists, Neoplatonists, and Christianizing Platonists (or Platonizing Christians) such as Augustine and pseudo-Dionysius. The latter was translated into Latin in Florence during the 1430s.

PLATONIST INTERPRETATIONS IN PISCINA'S ESSAY

There are a few examples--I'd call them remnants--of this method in Piscina's essay. Since in my Sun card post I applied this method to the Sun card and others of that section of the tarot (trumps 14 or 15 to 21), I want to look at what he says. The most relevant for the present thread is what he says about the Devil card, which he calls that of the "Demoni", Demons (http://www.tarotpedia.com/wiki/Piscina_Discorso_5).
But since Nature does not allow changes that are too quick, nor that one moves from one extreme to the other without the due mean, before ascending to celestial things as the extreme end of earthly things he places examples of Demons: because, as Melito said answering Socrates' question, they are sons of the Gods but are neither earthly nor celestial. It has been the opinion of many, in particular the Platonists, that the Demons are Spirits that are in the air & that they are somehow in the middle between Gods and men.
The present editor's footnote explains that Melito is a character in Plato's Apology
A reference to Plato's dialogue "The Apology of Socrates": Socrates: Now what are spirits or demigods? are they not either gods or the sons of gods? Is that true? - Meletus: Yes, that is true.
You can read this passage at http://plato.classicauthors.net/Apology/Apology3.html, at the bottom of the page.

The other part of what Piscina says, the doctrine that Demons are spirits in the air, is not in the Apology but rather the Symposium, in which Socrates tells his fellow banqueters things Diotema had told him. Diotima was "a woman who was deeply versed in this and many other fields of knowledge...it was she who taught me the philosophy of Love" (201d). About spirits, who she says are "halfway between god and man": she explained to him:
They are the envoys and interpreters that ply between heaven and earth, flying upward with our worship and our prayers, and descending with the heavenly answers and commandments, and since they are between the two estates they weld both sides together and merge them into one great whole.
I have used Michael Joyce's translation. Unfortunately the Jowett translation online is hopeless here; a fairly good if not very artful version is at http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/tex ... ion%3D202e
But this text only talks about good spirits, although the passage ends by saying "There are many spirits, and many kinds of spirits, too..." (203a). I have not seen any version of the tarot in which the demons on the card look like good ones. It is clear that Piscina has not read Plato, even in translation, but only knows what someone has said about the "demons" mentioned there.

The next card is Fire:
After the Demons, comes Fire, as the due mean between the stars, that are celestial, and mundane things: it is, as affirmed by Naturalists or Philosophers, the [20] element that is found before the Moon, the Sun and any other Star.
This is again a philosophical interpretation. Oddly, Piscina does not moralize either of these cards. "Demoni" perhaps implies "evil demons", Piscina does not say anything one way or the other. Nor does he moralize the Fire card; it is simply a natural phenomenon.

The Symposium is one of those texts that were not known until 1423, when the complete works of Plato were brought to Florence from Greece. I cannot find mention of a translation before 1440, so as to influence the earliest tarot (Bruni did one of sorts of the Alcibiades speech only, in 1435: http://books.google.com/books?id=BLgfAA ... um&f=false, p. 80). However the daemoni are mentioned in another text that was widely available in the Middle Ages, Apuleius's On the god of Socrates. After going on for pages, Apuleius (a 2nd century Middle Platonic rhetorician) says (Apuleius Rhetorical Works, p. 204):
Not to continue further with more of them;, the poets have the habit, one not far from the truth, of presenting some of this group of what one might call daemones, who love or loathe certain humans, as gods--some as bringing prosperity and elevation, others as bringing adversity and affliction...
Apuleius later talks about the different types of daemones, of which many are the souls of human beings after death. Among them (p. 207):
...the type which from its bad behavior in life, is punished by having no fixed abode, and by a kind of exile of uncertain wandering, only a mild terror for virtuous humans, but harmful to the evil--that type most people call Larvae
Another example of a Platonic interpretation is in Piscina's analysis of the Love card (http://www.tarotpedia.com/wiki/Piscina_Discorso_3)
Since Justice wins, surpasses & governs Love, that often takes men out of the way of reason, we say that here it is painted in its vulgar form because affection [14] maybe could not be represented in any better way than in the image of Cupid, because, according to the Platonists, vulgar love^ is but an unbounded Appetite, and sometimes an unreasonable desire to obtain something for which we have affection.
Here the Editor appropriately refers to Plato's Symposium, in a moralizing context. Piscina does not talk about Plato's "celestial love", which seems to me suggested if the Cupid on the card is blindfolded, as I have explained at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=974. The possible significance of the Symposium for the whole sequence (see my post at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=974&start=20#p14302) escapes him, of course, since he likely is only going by hearsay.

Piscina also explicitly makes reference to astrology.
Finally, in conclusion, we can say that the Sun is more powerful than the Moon and wins on it because it is placed in an higher sky than the Moon, which according to the Astrologers is in the lowest sky, while the Sun is in the fourth.
I am not sure that this doctrine is astrological, as opposed to part of what was called "natural philosophy", but it is significant that Piscina does consider astrology relevant to an interpretation of the cards here.

Piscina makes no reference to the Book of Revelation in his interpretation of the luminaries. However that seems to me, as I have said, another valid interpretation in terms of the conceptual frameworks of the time.

In his discussion of the World card, he makes reference to small details on the card that would not figure into those aspects of the card that allow instant recognition in a card game: notably, the four creatures in the corners as standing for the four Evangelists. Speaking of the inventor of the tarot, he says:
So, before the image of Paradise, he made a portrait of these four Evangelists, intended and signified by the four symbols, Angel, Ox, [22] Eagle and Lion, who represent those four most Famous and Holy Pillars of the sweet and infallible faith in Jesus Christ.

Admittedly it is a rare example in which small details catch his eye. He is not a subtle interpreter, as the 15th century humanists would have been--or even as subtle as Anonymous, as Michael notices in his blog.

MICHAEL'S "RIDDLE OF TAROT"

One of the earliest things I read about the tarot was Michael's "Riddle of Tarot". I was instantly convinced of its arguments. 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.

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. 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). 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.

BACK TO MY INTERPRETATION OF THE TWO PEOPLE ON THE SUN CARD

In my post on the Sun card, I dealt with the question of whether there was some reason for putting Aquarius, Cancer, and Gemini in the lower scenes of the Star, Moon, and Sun, or whether it is merely "decoration". as Ross puts it. This is a change from cards that previously did not have anything on them resembling zodiac signs. It seems to me that by the time of the Cary Sheet, with its Cancer and Aquarius-like lower halves, the cards were more established than before, so that it would be more difficult for the preachers to prohibit them due to subject-matter. Astrology was very popular in the courts, including some rulers, e.g. Ludovico Maria Sforza. It was also popular among ordinary middle-class people. Also, these cards may have been done under French occupation, under which the Papacy would have had less say. So it would add to the tarot's appeal in a mass market (which I take the woodcuts of the Cary Sheet to be for, and the Tarot de Marseille) to put in astrological symbols, where the astrological justification would be partly obvious and partly a puzzle. I have tried to give some ways of solving that puzzle.

Also, by this time Christian Neoplatonism and idea of the "prisca theologi" were widespread among humanists and the courts--if not as a belief system, as a part of the cultural heritage--more so than at the time the tarot was invented, although it was probably present in some places then, or if not, then soon after (see again viewtopic.php?f=11&t=974&start=20#p14302). It is important to base interpretations on symbol-systems current at the time. That is the nice thing about images; their interpretations can change with the times more easily than verbal narratives (although Shakespeare has proven eminently adaptable).

In terms of one text that came available in the latter 15th century, Plutarch's On the Face in the Orb of the Moon, the order of the luminaries, and in fact all of the last section of the tarot makes sense. It is the only text I know available then where the ascent of the soul, after exercising the virtues, passes through Hell (situated above the earth) on its way to Heaven, although the Latin text by his near-contemporary Apuleius, readily available, comes close. Perhaps there are others, more accessible, I don't know. I do think that Dante's Divine Comedy, allegorically interpreted, was an influence, if the tarot is considered as an ascent of the soul; in that book there is indeed a descent to Hell, although it comes before rather than after he talks about the virtues (in the Purgatorio), as well as other parallels. Thus I gave an explanation of the luminaries in terms of Dante and Plutarch.

I did this because I think that more was involved than just choosing images of the time that were familiar and easy to identify. And once we go outside considerations having to do with trick-taking, I see no reason for confining the interpretations to just one system. especially at times when the cards themselves suggest other systems, and when other texts that used similar symbols, in the eyes of certain humanists, were capturing their imaginations as allegories for the life of the soul and its ascent to God.

I find getting back to the time of the Renaissance and seeing images and texts the way the humanists saw them in the 15th century very hard. 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.

Re: Dummett and methodology

#10
mikeh wrote: WHAT DUMMETT LEAVES OUT

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). 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.
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:
https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carte_da_gioco_italiane

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