Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

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

Post by Phaeded »

Read everything Pratesi puts out. None of us can thank him enough for readily sharing the fruits of his research.

Petrarchan influences are of course valid - my "folly" comments were directed at later iterations of the tarot that had clearly already lost sight of the orginal meaning of some of the cards (and/or willfully added new layers of meanings...which lead to the likes of Gébelin)
marco wrote:I think that (given the context of the card, trumping the Devil and before Judgment) a better parallel for the Tower is an image like this:
(discussed here).
There is no Devil in any of the 15th century Tower cards. The fire or lightning proceeds from the skies, a'la Jove's bolts, exactly paralleling God's fiery destruction of Sodom.
It is God's wrath directed at erring humanity (from the path of the virtues and into vice) - occasionally humans fall from the tower, not the Devil.

The image you presented above is not a tower per se, but rather a gate into hell/hades/inferno to which Satan is being consigned by an archangel; a totally different context than the subject of the tarot card. To wit:

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

Post by mikeh »

Hi everyone. I have avoided looking at THF until today; in part I was out of town and in part working on my replies to Michael and Marco. I am ready to surface, perhaps. Since Phaeded and Marco have been discussing the meaning of the whole sequence--very interestingly, too-- I may as well give my reply to Marco first.

About Climacus: I don't yet see that the tarot has one literary model. It seems to be an original creation--or creations--but in the context of numerous narratives that had appeared before it. I cited Climacus only to show that the "ascent of the soul" isn't a 20th century idea; it goes back before Plato and was current among Platonic-minded people, at least, in the second quarter of the 15th century.

My own tentative application of the ascent of the soul to the tarot sequence is my modification of Andrea's account in several of his essays, expressed in terms of medieval Christianity but going beyond it as well. I want to emphasize that the sequence is not only an ascent of the soul. There are other stories, too. And I am thinking especially of the Milan-based tarot decks.

Starting from the position of sin (Bagat) and ignorance (Fool), one is given secular and religious guides to lead one forward, introduced in childhood. Armed with their instructions and teachings, the young person learns to temper the instincts of love and power (Chariot) with virtue, i.e. temperance and justice (or just temperance, if justice is at the end), and to withstand the buffets of fortune with fortitude (I do not insist on these precise correlations; Andrea's are different). The Old Man with his hourglass reminds us of how limited our time is in which to exercise these virtues and so ascend heavenward after death. The Hanged Man is betrayal, apparent and real, by and to the soul.

Andrea does not explain very well, in my opinion, how the Devil, who was conceived as below the earth, figures in an ascent narrative. But there were numerous depictions of demons flying about in the air in medieval frescoes, hoping to drag souls down to hell. The only question is when this happens, now or only at the Last Judgment. Piscina gives an explicitly Platonist account of this card, which he calls "Demoni" (although he does not connect it explicitly to the idea of ascent). For Platonism (e.g. the Phaedrus) as much as for the Church, the virtuous soul rises after death, without waiting for a Last Judgment, and the vicious soul is thrown into Tartarus. The virtuous but erring soul in Platonism has more incarnations, until it purifies itself of its evil. For the Church, the equivalent is Purgatory. In medieval imagery, souls struggle in the air with demons, often at the Last Judgment, but also before then, as suggested in some medieval frescoes (i.e. the 14th century so-called "Triumph of Death" in Pisa, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francesco_Traini) where living persons are shown standing or sitting oblivious to the souls, angels and demons above. At the Last Judgment, as I understand it, souls return to their bodies and are judged again.

After withstanding the demons in the air, the next step is the sphere of fire, which sends its rays downward even to the earth. Andrea writes (http://www.associazioneletarot.it/page.aspx?id=386),
In the Aristotelian cosmos, the sphere of the Earth is surrounded by a circle of "celestial fires", depicted by lightning striking a Tower.
I am not sure how the Middle Ages conceived the function of this sphere of fire. In Plutarch's (On the Apparent Face in the Orb of the Moon), it is a destructive/purifying fire. It might correspond to the mountain of Purgatory in Dante, removing the taint of evil. After that is an ascent through celestial spheres, as Andrea has suggested in his essay "The Astral Origin of the Soul": Venus (here just below the moon), the Moon, the Sun. Plutarch follows that order: Hades, earth facing Moon, heaven facing Moon, Sun. Since it is in brightness rather than distance from the earth, it also fits the temporal sequence in Revelation. For a Platonic interpretation, one has to look at the scenes below the celestial bodies, the "decoration", as Ross calls it, in terms of the imagery in Porphyry ("Cave of the Nymphs"), Plutarch ("On the Face that Appears in the Orb of the Moon"), and Macrobius ("Commentary on the Dream of Scipio"). The Angel then summons re-embodied souls to judgment and Heaven in Christianity, and to blessed oblivion and a new beginning in Plutarch.

The Tower, Star, Moon, and Sun represent events described in Revelation, but the scenes on the bottom of the Cary Sheet and Tarot de Marseille cards also describe a journey of the soul. So do the PMB final five cards: the soul following the Star, throwing off her remaining passions (Moon), newborn with the Sun, entering the New Jerusalem after Judgment.

The scene on the Cary Sheet/Tarot de Marseille Star card, as I see it, is the goddess of Love, or her priestess (Beatrice in the Divine Comedy), offering the soul the waters of forgetting and remembering described at the end of the end of the Purgatorio. Above her is the Morning Star, her star but also Christ. This is not happening in the sphere of Venus (which is above her), but in between the sphere of fire and the sphere of the Moon (Plutarch in his allegory called it the "Meads of Hades").

I don't see just one interpretation. There are details on the cards to suggest several interpretations, not forming a coherent whole. The Star card also suggests Aquarius; but I won't deal with that one here. Moreover when details change between one deck and another, so does the interpretation. From the standpoint of the ascent of the soul, I see Milan as the standard, and everything falling away from that.

Christian mystics also conceived this journey as one that can be taken imaginatively in this life. Death is not always taken literally. Petrarch interpreted it in the Aeneid as "the extinction of a passion in the soul", in Murrin's paraphrase ("Renaissance Allegory from Petrarch to Spencer", Cambridge Companion to Allegory p. 165). An instance is Dido's suicide: "shameful pleasure perishes by itself" (Murrin, p. 165f):
Petrarch's reading of these figures is traditional. Earlier commentators had read Dido's self-cremation in similar fashion. And like his predecessors Petrarch tends to systematize these figures. Both he and Boccaccio are close to a grammar of symbols. High places signify reason: the citadal of Aeolus, Limbo in the Commedia, Reason's tower in the Romance of the Rose. Darkness indicates mental and moral ignorance, and death signifies the extinction of a passion in the soul

In classical literature, both Odysseus and Aeneas visit the underworld at about this point in their stories (with Aeneas's destination, in the allegorical interpretation, as comparable to heaven). In Greek myth, numerous gods and heroes descend and return: Theseus, Dionysus, Orpheus, Hercules, extended by Apuleius to include Psyche and in a metaphorically his man-donkey Lucius, who also experiences descent and ascent in his initiation. Then the lightning-struck tower represents warnings from God to detach from earthly things, purifying in that sense, as well as sufferings brought as purifying trials. In Dante's life (not dissimilar from Filelfo's), if we consider his active life as pre-Death, he serves Florence and is shamed by it (and betrayed by it), even condemned to death, after which a journey to hell and purgatory is part of the contemplative life that follows, expressed in the Inferno and Purgatorio (the Tower can be in either, with the scene at the bottom of the Star card as the top of Purgatory, above which are the celestial bodies), after which come, in his vision, the planets and higher spheres (represented by the Moon and Sun, the rest symbolized by the smaller stars on the Star card).

Seeing the sequence as the soul's ascent also makes sense with fewer than 22 cards--in fact, as few as 12 (if we exclude Prudence). As I see it, the poems of Petrarch's Trionfi are also temporal markers of the ascent, conceived (as in Plato's allegory of the cave) as the casting off of one illusion after another. That story is also an alternation of bad with good (Love, Death, Time being bad), a kind of psychomachia, which in itself is a kind of ascent narrative. The virtues can then be interspersed with Petrarch's six as part of what is needed to overcome the bad. I imagine the cardinal virtues in the middle and the theological virtues near the end. We see these 13 subjects in the CY, to which may have been added the Wheel of Fortune (extant in the Brera-Brambilla, its sister deck) and the Emperor and Empress. The Emperor and the Empress, besides being secular authorities, could represent the players, male and female. They are also a logical extension of the court cards, trumping the Kings. Besides the CY with 16 (or more), there might have been decks with 13 trumps, as in the 13 added cards of Ferrara 1422, or 14, as in the 14 figures of Jan.1 1441, and the 1457 seventy card decks of Ferrara.

These numbers, to be sure, need not represent anything related to the tarot trumps; I am only saying how they can be accommodated to an ascent narrative. I am not also not saying that they reflect an original structure. It is one structure, perhaps original and perhaps not, but part of a conception at some point, a frame that allows us to see more complex decks as deformed versions of this one--perhaps deformed in part even at the beginning. Thus Chastity becomes the triumphal warrior, and Prudence the Popess. The Old Man loses his Petrarchan role of defeating Fame and reminds us of the fleetingness of life. Time is instead the luminaries, the Star as the day, the Moon as the month, and the Sun as the year (or, if just one card, the Sun as the hour of the sun-dial, the day of the sun's course, and the year of the seasons). Temporally these three can then also be seen as three markers of the Apocalypse.

In decks with three luminaries, the theological virtues are not present; the luminaries are easier to recognize, perhaps. The Pope is added, to complement the Emperor, and given a Popess, thereby making two hierarchies at the beginning of the deck, secular and religious. It is part of a child's basic experience, the given of his social situation, which he must recognize if he is to proceed in life. At the same time there are people who are not in these hierarchies, the Fool and the Bagat. These are also part of the child's world, negative examples. So the first five are Childhood. After that, Love is the beginning of a new phase, adulthood. This continues through death. It is where one exercises the moral virtues, so as to defeat death.

After the Death card, the allegory becomes more obscure, as we have no direct models for this part of the life of the soul. The Devil and Tower cards are particularly so, unless put in a certain framework, as I have described. It may be that they were added after the other cards, going from 20 to 22 as this addition occurred to someone.

The allegory at the beginning of the sequence also can be seen more obscurely, pertaining to the soul before birth. In its descent from the Divine (the Fool), it is given its birth-situation by Providence (the Bagat), and the wisdom to deal with it by Wisdom (the Popess). We could then say that the Empress and Emperor represent mother and father, and the Pope the means by which, after birth, to recollect the wisdom given before birth. Decker has tried to fit all of the first 7 cards (Bagat through Love) into a Neoplatonic pre-birth scenario, with assignments more obscure than I can see in the cards. I am not going as far as he does.

The above of course is a summary, hopefully with much obscurity still remaining. It would be better as a poem, but I am no poet.

I am looking forward to Phaeded's 3x7 analysis.
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Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

Post by mikeh »

OK, here I go again. I find discussing these meta-theoretical issues very hard. I know some don't, but I do. I do find it valuable, because so many times on this forum people don't disagree on the facts, but on what they make of the facts. If I have expressed myself infelicitously, please bear with me.
mjhurst wrote:,
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.
First, I do not understand how the context affects the truth or falsity of the sentence that I cited, or its connotations, or the use I made of it. I was not quoting it to say that the authors therefore found hidden meanings in the tarot. I referred to it as a generally agreed-upon fact about the Renaissance, that ""People of the Renaissance revelled in hidden symbolism" etc. What is misleading about that, taken out of the context of the paragraph? It is perfectly normal for paragraphs to start with agreed upon facts that nonetheless do not imply the conclusions they draw later. I was just referring to the agreed upon fact.

Second, since Decker was one of the authors, and he disagrees with your conclusion, as well as premises 2 and 3, I do not think they are implied by the paragraph, at least in the intention of one of its authors. It's a compromise statement.
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.
It is a fact about null hypotheses that the burden of proof is on the person wishing to disagree with it. I question whether the language of "null hypothesis" is appropriate here.

It is a feature of null hypotheses that they assert that there is no correlation between two sets of scientific observations, that any correlations observed occur as a matter of chance. For example, let us suppose it is maintained that there is a significant correlation between smoking and lung cancer. The problem is that some people who haven't been smokers, and haven't been around second-hand smoke, also get lung cancer. So it has to be established that the incidence related to smoking is greater than the incidence of lung cancer otherwise, statistically speaking.

I do not see where Dummett's so-called "null hypothesis" (which he doesn't call by that term) is enough like such a null hypothesis to say the burden of proof is on the other person. Dummett says that most of the iconography is irrelevant; all that is relevant is enough to make the card's place in the sequence instantly recognizable to a player. But for something to be a "null hypothesis", we have to be able to compare data pertaining to all iconography on the card to data relating to just the minimum. For the Sun card, that would be data including the children on the card vs. data not including these children. But what data is that? If the time was now, and we could do consumer surveys, we could ask purchasers what influenced them to choose the deck with the children, etc., as opposed to others for playing the same game with features other than the sun at the top of the card. There is Boiardo's deck, for exmple. We might have to make up decks that suited our experiment, and see if they chose it, and then ask them why. We would have to design our study so that factors such as the order in which the decks were presented, the occupations of the players, the preferences of the questioner, etc., were eliminated through randomization and double blinds.

However we are not doing anything like that. So please tell me how you make observations to test Dummet's "null hypothesis"? Such language doesn't make sense outside a context for statistical testing in the Renaissance, controlling for occupation, age, place of residence, etc.
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.
It's not nonsense. The "hidden" (i.e. non-obvious) meaning is a development out of the obvious meaning, just as in an allegory the allegorical meaning is a function of the literal meaning. The question of tarot origins does revolve around a Renaissance elite, in the sense that the subjects are ones "that would naturally come to the mind of someone at a fifteenth century court", as Dummett puts it (Game of Tarot p. 388l).
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!
I'm sorry if you read it that way. I didn't mean to say it was an obscure detail.

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.
That's the point at issue: what is Tarot History? You are simply repeating your conclusion.
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.
I can't tell if you are accusing me of any of this or not. Is it guilt by association again? I say over and over that it was a card game, first and foremost. That is where the sequence occurs. Perhaps I don't emphasize it enough. I will try. I dealt myself a hand using the CY cards. I will comment on it later. I don't know what the rules were, or I'd say more about the game. I suspect there is hidden allegorical meaning in the manner of play and scoring. For example, the "excuse" rule is an allegory of Christ, that he sacrifices himself for others, that they may live. And the importance given to the last five and the first five in the scoring shows them to be the leading powers above and below.
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.
Whether they are ephemera is the point at issue. Dummett says, provisionally, that everything not needed for immediate recognition of the card is irrelevant. If so, the tarot designer would have put what is needed on the last inch or so of the right or left margin, because that's how players hold their cards, with just the margin showing, for immediate recognition. But no, the designer puts "ephemera" there!
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.
Well, "convincing" is a matter of argument, of course. I think they add up to a larger whole--the journey of the soul, or some such thing. You are not convinced. Other people aren't convinced. Well, i'll keep trying.

Even the "decorative" needs to be explained. Why two boys on the Tarot de Marseille Sun card and not something else? Why a lady with a distaff on the BAR Sun card? These are images from Greek myths, not just advertisements for local products. Such features are a factor in people's choosing the deck and in what they do with it. For one thing, symbolic art was in fashion, and the more obscure the better, as long as it didn't seem just random. In the context of the game, erudite players could talk about the symbolism as they were playing. That might impress other players to hire them as tutors or consultants. It also might distract their opponents from thinking through their strategy

The pictures on the sides of cassoni are decorative, yet they have a symbolic meaning worthy of explanation, e.g. in terms of Petrarch's poem. The particular gods with particular months at the Schifanoia is decoration; but Warburg successfully accounted for the pairings by reference to Manilius's Astronomica. And so on. If people were accustomed to there being an unobvious (a better word than "hidden") rationale in the combinations of motifs, surely they would do so as well in the case of artistic looking playing cards. To dismiss the parts not required for immediate recognition seems to me to require special justification, not the other way around.
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.
He is saying that no theory, i.e. explanation, is needed, not that his explanation is the simplest. That's not the same thing. He wishes to offer no theory, not the simplest theory. To be sure, no theory is simpler than any theory. But it's a different principle, one deriving from what he sees as the use of the cards.
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 was 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.
I do not understand why the 24 card theory of the CY (and Brera-Brambilla?) is more plausible than a 16 card theory. All Dummett says is that following the same principle of 3:2, we get 24 trumps. What I do not see is why there should be this principle, or any principle. One deck has 16 trumps, others have 22. No principle is needed governing both. I don't know if that's parsimony, but it seems simple enough. I am open to other possibilities.
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.
I do not see Dummett making such an argument, except for the "principle of 3:2". But I see no reason why the principle of "everything is enhanced", if that's what it is, should apply to the number of cards. If cards are bigger, and there are more cards per suit, that makes them harder to hold in one's hand, a good reason to have smaller number of trumps.

And as far as the physical deck that is preserved, when I deal myself even 20 of these absurdly large and elaborate cards--the facsimiles, I mean--I start wondering whether they were made for playing a game at all, as opposed to being viewed as art, like the "tarot of Mantegna". The trumps and courts have punch holes on top, while the number cards, at least some of them, don't. If the holes were put there in making the cards, they would have all had them. But that is not to say there wasn't a smaller version that was used for play, less "enhanced" and less awkward.
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.
I don't think we can judge which is the simpler explanation outside the larger context of how the deck, 22 as well as the CY's 24 or 16 or whatever, came to be. And that in turn can only be judged in the larger context of how good, well constructed new games come to be, and in terms of how good inventions generally come to be, and how works of art on paper came to be (we can't exclude that, for the CY).

In this way the question of tarot origins is like the question of how maggots come to develop out of mud. The simplest explanation, isolating the question from everything else, is spontaneous generation, which is hardly an explanation at all. The only possibility of an explanation for maggots is within the larger context of how insects, animals, and living things generally are generated gene. Then perhaps one will think to try experiments with mud that is isolated from mature egg-laying flies, and invent a microscope to discover how maggots come to be out of mud. One has to talk about many things other than what one is interested in to know how to look at what one is interested in.

Do inventions such as the 22 card tarot come to be all at once or step by step, improvement after improvement? If good games usually develop all at once rather than step by step, then yes, the simpler is more logical. But if not, then it is simpler, i.e. more consistent with the coming to be of new good games, to go with the more usual pattern. Or maybe it should be, what is the pattern for new inventions in general? We can't simply take the simplest hypothesis tout court, as though it can be separated from such a context. The simplest thing is always that it occurred spontaneously all at once.

I am skeptical about getting any general principles from the history of inventions that could be fruitfully applied here, other than that there are no general principles. So I have to go to the history of art. That is why I focus on the context, artistic and political and every other context, of the time and before, in aristocratic circles. Since we don't know much at all about the tarot then, we have to go by what else was in the culture then.
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.
That is not what I said. What I meant was that for him his view, although it makes the most sense to him, is not something he's going to use as a sledge hammer to beat people up with, as though they are lunatics.
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.")
I don't believe "it's all good" at all. Arguments need to be given, facts marshalled. That's what I find so interesting about Decker's new book. He has the same general orientation that I do, but I disagree with him on many things. Is it just that I have read different books, or is there something more substantial? I think the latter, but I also have to read more books and see them from his perspective. And become more sophisticated methodologically.
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.
Well, we can often understand it well enough, if we know what 6 words are at the beginning, in roughly what order, and what 7 words are at the end, in roughly what order, give or take one or two. (Yes, Dummett's division into three groups is quite valuable.) If not, we look to the surrounding context, and the culture of the times. If someone had rearranged the three graces in the Primavera so that one was on the right margin of the painting, we could tell easily enough that it was out of place. If not, we make our best guess. I don't have to have a place to "draw the line", here any more than I would in going from 22 word sentences I could reconstruct to ones I couldn't.
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.)
When you say "since", do you mean "after"? If so please give a reference so I can read it.
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.
By "pursuit" I mean more than just noting the differences and asking the question. Explanations have been proffered, surely by 1980, for why Temperance was put on the other side of Death, e.g. that it represented the Eucharist, which allows one to rise above death. But he doesn't pursue the issue; if he thinks it's stupid to do so, he doesn't say that. In the case of Justice, although he does say what he thinks its sense is in the high position, he doesn't say that it was moved there, as he can't say what the original order was. Perhaps I have misunderstood or missed something obvious. I did not mean to be insulting. It seems to me perfectly reasonable not to know which was original. But I would have liked to see some discussion of which was original, Justice low or Justice high. In a discussion of which order of trumps is "original", such questions seem to me worth pursuing--or pursuing further, if you wish. Perhaps you have pursued this issue yourself, since you speak of "repositioning" a couple of sentences later (see quote below). I assume you think Justice low was original, since you speak of its being depicted along with Judgment as the "repositioning".
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.
I'd say there are different symbolic approaches within the context of the times. The only "self-indulgent" ones I can think of are those that aren't substantiated as being used in some way at that particular time and place. Otherwise you are just prejudging.
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".
Memory systems were rather important then, for memorizing speeches, etc. Tarot was a game that required a good memory. Giardano Bruno makes this point in his play Il Candelaio (http://www.associazioneletarot.it/page. ... 23&lng=ENG). An innkeeper suggests to another character that they play tarot. The character refuses, saying
A questo maldetto gioco non posso vincere, per che ho una pessima memoria.
(At this cursed game I cannot win, because I have a terrible memory.)
If memory systems could have been applied to such games, I have no doubt that they were. It would give a card-player a great advantage, which he could exploit against an opponent as easily as a prestidigitator could exploit his ability to move shells around in a dexterous and confusing manner. I certainly expect that such applications were not written down. Magicians' secrets were not written down either. It was too valuable. I regard this as an unexplored area rather than a non-existent one.

Another function of the cards is as symbolic art pieces, like the sequence of scenes in a fresco or frieze. Another is to display one's erudition to those assembled, for the purpose of perhaps getting hired as a tutor or consultant, or distracting one's opponent
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?
Well, yes, I'm pathetic sometimes. I should have looked it up. It's not contempt for Dummett; it's an oversight. I try to get my facts straight; everyone deserves that much respect. But sometimes I miss something. In this case, while suit- cards in Germany sometimes did have numbers on them, those that were used in the early tarot decks didn't, being in Italy. And I still think the basic point I was making was correct.
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.
I didn't say he ignored these 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.
I was using them as examples of didactic interpretations, that's all.
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?
How someone might have seen the cards, from a particular point of view that was prevalent at the time, is the application of that point of view to the cards and as such is valuable. There aren't "dozens" of such applications anyway. I doubt if there are more than one dozen. Also, I don't pick interpretations based on whatever I happen to be reading at the time. I choose the books to read based on the time, place, and themes of the cards.
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.
Without the program that Boiardo provides, the referents of the cards would be far from obvious, although the moral lesson might be more easily read and remembered. In that sense Boiardo's poem, in naming the people, provides a euhemerist interpretation for the scenes. You don't have the poem in front of you when you play.
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.
Pope Joan is not simply a matter of preference. There is a historical basis, just as much as for the eschatological.

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.
In the area of interpretation, as opposed to explanation, parsimony has no place in the interpretation of Renaissance art objects. Multiple meanings were the rule rather than the exception, as almost every writer on the subject agrees (even Umberto Eco, as I read him, although of course I might be missing the obvious unstated point). Even decoration, as art, often had multiple interpretations. In fact, what is art, except decoration?

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.
Why "Stoic-Christian" and not "Platonic-Christian"? From what I read, Platonism was the dominant classical philosophy in the second quarter of the 15th century? Platonism in its Middle Platonist and Neoplatonist expression had much the same content as Stoicismm--Platonism had it first--but a different metaphysics and psychology. As far as I can tell the Platonist metaphysic and psychology was more compatible with Christianity than Stoicism.
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.
Reading your post on that subject (http://pre-gebelin.blogspot.com/2007/12 ... enary.html), I see that you say:
Whether or not Boiardo intended anything of the sort, Viti addresses his essay to a lady of the court of Urbino and “expresses the hope that his patroness will order such a pack to be made”. (The Game of Tarot, 420.)
In other words, you don't know what Boiardo intended. He may have conceived it as simply an alternative deck for playing the regular game of tarot, which Viti has simplified for his patron.

I notice also in this essay that, in light of the content of many decks commissioned for the nobility--"Gods, pagan heroes, figures from the Roman Republic, and the like", you say
If Tarot had originated as a deck commissioned by the nobility, then the standard deck would almost certainly have reflected such sophisticated humanist content.
The implication I take away is that you think the deck did not originate as a commission by the nobility. Is that something you want to say? I have already quoted the sentence in which he considers the context that of a "court"; I recall that Dummett said somewhere in Ch. 4 or 20 that it was invented for the aristocracy. That it has the subjects it has does not mean it wasn't originally done for the aristocracy.
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.
What I said (not what you say) is something that was said in the Renaissance as well, e.g. by Alberti in "Rings".
his 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.
Alberti is a perfectly respectable Renaissance art theorist, essayist, playwright, architect, and designer of medals. His writings were very influential in shaping how people did and looked at art. It is not randomized prompts, or Rorschach. It is more like Petrarch's method of interpretation, applied to images. Art historians have written much about the essay.
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!
Well, I don't know what the rules were, so I can't say very much. Also, I don't know if they were the same after 1440 as before. Part of the boom in popularity might have been because of rule changes. But other decks, like Boiardo's or the Sola-Busca, could also be used to play that game, or decks with many other motifs. They somehow weren't popular.
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.
I am trying to go from the unknown to the known. There is as much basis in fact as for any other works of art. On the one hand, you say their being works of art is irrelevant, on the other hand you frequently use other works of art as a basis for interpreting particular cards. You want it both ways, while denying the same to me, on the grounds that yours are obvious and mine are not. But if they were done for the aristocracy, there is no reason to think that in some ways the meanings were not obvious. Among other things, the aristocracy needed to think it was smarter than ordinary people.
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.
]If there's something relevant I don't understand about Renaissance culture, please explain. I want to learn. There is much I don't know about Renaissance culture.
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.
I offered them not for their insights into the true purpose of the cards, but as examples of how the cards were seen, as more than a game whose subjects were irrelevant.
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.
To a degree, my interpretations are for the sheer pleasure of making them. I think that humanists and their followers would have found similar discourses entertaining as well, and hopefully didactic as well. But the interpretations I offer are always in reference to a specific historical context and specific texts or series of images. That's the historical framework.
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.
How would you put it then, rather than "how they were understood"? Here I am not objecting, just trying to understand your position.
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.
Do you have any other argument besides "obviousness"? That's the point at issue. It seems to me that if the cards were designed for the courts, they would have had non-obvious meanings, to show how superior the aristocracy was to ordinary people.

In reply to a point in your later post that since many of my interpretations have to do with later contexts (i.e. the Ferrara court in the early 16th century, or alchemy of the 15th-17th centuries) they are irrelevant for tarot history: when the subject is tarot of the first half of the 15th century, I deal with the courtly milieus of that time; when the subject is tarot later, I deal with milieus of that time. Explanation only enters in when there is something new, and even then it is hard to say what leads to what, as opposed to a shared perspective.
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.
I am not an expert on Renaissance interpretation, so I rely on others for guidelines.

Well, that's enough for now. I dealt with some of your later remarks in my post to Marco. I have read your post many times, Michael, thank you. Maybe something will rub off on me.
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Methodology: identifying allusions and source-texts

Post by mikeh »

MJ Hurst wrote
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.
In a book that Phaeded recommended (not in relation to this thread, let me assure everyone), Kallendorf's The other Virgil, 2007, I saw at the end a very well written summary of the method he was using to explicate texts, primarily texts of the Renaissance. It seems to me to be of sufficient generality to apply to some degree even to the tarot, for explicating tarot sequences in terms of source-texts and source-images, in the specific sense in which a tarot image or group of images might be seen as intentionally alluding to a previous source.

I will quote most of one paragraph of Kallendorf here, which I hope will be sufficiently intelligible to stand alone. What I am leaving out, among other things, is the first 222 pages of the book, in which he uses the method to great advantage explicating Filelfo's Sforziad, another obscure work called The Columbiad, Shakespeare's The Tempest, Milton's Paradise Lost, and an obscure work from the French Revolution--all in terms of Virgil's Aeneid. Also, the previous paragraph stressed the primacy of the reader, as opposed to the author, in determining meaning. Kallendorf cites with approval a statement by another Latinist, Charles Martindale (Redeeming the Text, 1993, p. 3)
that "meaning is always constructed at the point of reception" (12) and to privilege the role of the reader in defining the meaning of allusions.
In the footnote he also refers us to Stephen Hinds, Allusion and Intertext, 1998, pp. 47-51.

In the paragraph from which I am quoting, he distinguishes between two readers of a text, one an author in his time alluding to the text in his own work and the other the critic in our own time, reading both the author's text and the one he is alluding to:
The alluding author begins the process by reading an earlier text, then working out an interpretation of that text. As he or she begins writing, the new text unfolds in dialogue with the old one, in such a way that the potential meaning of one or more words resonates against their original usage in another text, where they meant something that is seen as relevant again. The critic, the second reader, works backwards and recreates this process as he or she is able to understand it, reading the second text and coming to a preliminary idea about what it means, thus noticing a relationship to an earlier text that the author could have known, then going back and forth between the two to reconstruct the author's reading of the first text on the basis of the allusions and what they appear to reveal. Schematically the process might be represented like this:

text1 (T1) - [reading of author (R-A)] - text2 (T2) - reading of critic (R-C)

I have placed R-A in brackets to indicate that it is normally a reconstruction of a reading that is not available in the same way as R-C is. The critic will have his or her own reading of T1 that may be independent of T2, and certainly was so before the allusion was noticed, but the recreation of R-A also generates a reading of T1 through the filter of T2.
So T1 might be the Aeneid, and T2 the Sforziad. R-A is Filelfo's reading of the Aeneid, as constructed by the critic from T2. R-C is the critic's reading of T2, primarily, but also of T1.

In an actual case there will be many T1s alluded to by A in T2. and also many texts contemporary with T2 informing the reading of that text by C. Kallendorf is just giving the basics.

What I especially like about this account is the fluid nature of the author's text in relation to the one he is alluding to. It is not a copy, but a new application of its structure and characterizations which also might depart from then-conventional interpretations of the source. All of this is to be discovered by the 21st century critic, comparing the text with the possible source. I wish to emphasize the word "possible" here, of course. Not only that, but all the interpretation is in 21st century terms. That is no more anomalous than, for example, a 21st century account of an ancient archeological site.

In my case T1 might be Plato's Phaedrus, and T2 the PMB middle section. R-A might be an early 15th century reading of the Phaedrus, as I, C, have reconstructed it, and R-C my reading of the PMB middle section, both of which I already had a preliminary conception before seeing the allusion. There are also other Plato texts that inform my and the 15th century's readings of T1, and prior images--chariots, virtues, fortune, time, love--which inform T2 as I reconstruct it, as well as contemporary images and texts. (See viewtopic.php?f=11&t=974&start=10#p14255 and following posts for a working out of this example.)

What constrains the readings, Kallendorf says, is a particular hermeneutic community in which C is situated, i.e. in the 21st century, "as a member of an interpretive community that fosters some hermeneutic options for given texts and discourages, even blocks off, others." Also,
Certainty at any stage is therefore impossible, and some allusions identified in R-C must be considered possible allusions only, subject to re-evaluation by different interpretive communities.
In addition, some allusions are local and serve "primarily to enrich verbal texture", but
the most richly rewarding allusive contact will be systematic, of a number of references that contribute substantially to meaning.
So not just the Chariot card, but the other cards in the same section, and in fact the sequence as a whole, taken in relation to the same text or related ones, as well as other images related to the ones we started with.

I would add here something I think Kallendorf does not discuss in this paragraph: another factor is the hermeneutic community in which the author himself lived, and the restrictions or lack of them on the kinds of interpretations he or she would expect from his or her audience. Critics are finding, through attention to Dante's, Boccaccio's, and Petrarch's interpretive writings, many commonalities between then and now not shared by the intervening 300 years (i.e. 1660-1960, roughly). It is in this context that comments on the tarot at the time, such as they are, are relevant, as well as on other works, including those on interpretation itself. These are one factor among others; and the more widely respected the interpreter, in a given milieu, the more relevant the comments.

An essential part of the process of recovery is that the text that the allusion is to, be one that the alluding author could reasonably have known. So for the Phaedrus I have to show, as I have (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=974&start=10#p14259), that it was available in the time and place of the CY and PMB. Another case, relevant for my reading of the last section of the tarot in Milan starting at least with the Cary Sheet, is Plutarch's On the Face that Appears in the Orb of the Moon. I have to show that text has to have been available there at the time of the Cary Sheet. Since the Cary Sheet tarot depends on previous tarots, it would simplify things if that text was available earlier, too. That text is part of Plutarch's Moralia. At least parts of the Moralia were available in the West before 1430. But was Face. Looking at the only essay in English that I can find on the subject, G. R. Manton's "The Manuscript Tradition of Plutarch Moralia 70-7", I see that essays 70-77, of which Face is number 73, was not part of most pre-15th century Plutarch manuscripts, but only of two early ones, a 14th century one in Greece and a 15th century one, I cannot tell where done.

However Robin (Filelfo in Milan, 1991) makes it clear that the Moralia was one of Filelfo's most cherished works (p. 124), copied out in his own hand (p. 251: Laur. 80.20), evidently while he was in Greece (until 1427). She does not say that it is the complete Moralia. So I looked to see if there are any signs of that text or ones near it in the corpus in Filelfo's work. Other of Filelfo's works have recently been translated. The 2013 translation of his 1440s {i[Commentationes Florentinae de exilio[/i] (Florentine Commentaries on Exile), in note 88, p. 452, cites Moralia995b-c as Filelfo's source for a particular anecdote. Since Face ends on 945, and the work as a whole on 999, that citation is evidence that his Moralia contained the last group of essays, including On the Face that Appears in the Orb of the Moon. However that particular essay, "On the Eating of Flesh", is not one of 70-77. Yet like 70-77, it is one of 18 not in the Lamprias Catalogue, the translator tells us (Loeb vol. XII, p. 539).

Unfortunately the writings in English seem to assume that the reader is familiar with the extensive German research on the subject prior to 1930, none of which I can seem to find.

I might also get some information from essays on Filelfo's library in Greek. Here Aristide Calderini is the authority. "Richerche intorno alla biblioteca e cultura greca di Francesco Filelfo," in Studi italiani di Filologia Classica 20 (1913): 204-424. But I have no idea how to get that, either.

I can also try myself to find references to Face in 15th century Italian writings. Looking at Filelfo, I notice only one thing: in 1473, in an essay that contains much repetition of earlier material, according to Robin, he fails to assert the immortality of individual souls (Filelfo in Milan p. 156). This is a doctrine of Plutarch in Face; but I don't know how many other Platonists said the same.

I hope that this post clarified something about the method I am trying to use.
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Ur-tarots and manuscript reconstructions

Post by mikeh »

MJ Hurst wrote (immediately after what I cited at the beginning of my previous post),
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.
This deserves thinking about. How would we know whether that was true, that there was an original design that informs all the subsequent decks genetically"?

OK, I will try thinking in terms of an original design, an ur-tarot.

The model that comes to my mind first is that of reconstructing an ancient author's "original text" from the various surviving manuscripts of it, none of which are original. When scribes copy a manuscript, they make errors. They may also rearrange the material in various ways, leave out pages, etc. So scholars develop a tree of manuscript descent, one from another, collating the "daughter" manuscripts to arrive at a "mother" one (these are my terms) and so on , with that mother now a daughter, etc. They also postulate manuscripts in the chain for which have not survived and for which there is no record.

Here is an example, a manuscript tree for the Theologumena Arithmeticae, done by Victorius de Falco for his 1922 edition of the c. 4th century work. I posted it at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=613#p8936
This is actually a simple one, very linear. A more complex tree is this (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_criticism):
Another consideration: sometimes it's not copyists making mistakes, but authors themselves, or later editors, making changes. In the days before copyright, playwrights didn't publish their plays; and even the actors weren't allowed to take whole scripts home, just the parts they needed. So different bit actors would write scripts based on what they remembered. Later scholars would reconstruct the whole play from those scripts. In Shakespeare's case there was a final version in the Folio edition. But sometimes the versions published earlier had more interesting variants on lines; it was as though the Folio toned everything down. So the most interesting version would become "standard" and the variants noted at the bottom of the page. Also, the Folio might omit passages that were in the versions published earlier. So these would be added.

In at least one case, Hamlet, the variations were quite large. Combining the versions made for an overlong play that was repetitive in parts. Directors, with the assistance of specialists called "dramaturgs", picked and chose. Then it was decided that it wasn't one "original" from which different performances and versions had been selected, but two different versions of the play. So the latest Arden edition has two versions of Hamlet, with notes connecting them to yet a third version, probably earlier but too fragmentary and primitive to count on its own.

And we know that in practice plays get improved with repeated performance. Consider the relationship of a movie to the original screenplay. In practice much gets rewritten, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. When there is a genius like Mel Brooks in charge (e.g. Blazing Saddles), it is mostly for the better.

Then there are the focus groups and producers, whose reactions influence the final cut. So we have the "theatrical release" and the "director's cut". When I saw Apocalypse Now in the theater, I thought there was only only one source-text, Conrad's Heart of Darkness. When I saw it on DVD, it was clear that there had always been two, including the Odyssey. There are also North American and European versions. When I saw the German film "The Reader" on DVD, it made no sense dramatically to me. Only when I watched the "deleted scenes" and inserted them mentally into the film did it come together. This is a film with two versions, European and North American. Perhaps someone in the US edited that version to emphasize a parallel with American prison guards in Iraq; or mindless focus groups took control. On the other hand, when I saw the American VCR version of "Z", it seems to have deleted all the references to the CIA that I remembered from watching it in the theater--no mean achievement, since the CIA's involvement was the main point of the film, I had thought.

So what do we have in the tarot, different versions of the same sequence, none of which can be called "original" in the sense of a template, or a series of versions where later ones may be more "perfect" than earlier ones, or worse, or adjusted for different purposes and contexts? You can see the problem: "original" is a loaded word. It just means "first" but then it gets the additional meaning of "archetype". Is that justified?

Even in manuscripts both degeneration and improvement operate for the same text. Different manuscripts of the Bible are collated to construct one original text; the others are "deformed". But that reconstructed text itself seems to scholars to be the product of the editing of previous texts. Some passages show up in more than one place in the Gospels. That could be because they are based on the same actual events, or more likely, due to the similarity of wording, because they derive in part from the same source, so-called "Q".
Also, there sometimes seem to be deliberate changes made to a previous non-standard text now lost--insertions, modifications, deletions. The study of such changes is part of "historical criticism," also known as "higher criticism".

So what is going on in the different pre-de Gebelin versions of the tarot?

I will have a go of applying "historical criticism" to tarot. Mind you, I am a rank amateur and what I know comes only from the above plus whatever I remember from reading analyses of manuscript histories at various times in the past, especially about apocryphal Christian texts, and what is in English by Francois Bovon.

Dummett derives his three groups from seeing what is in common to all the various early orders of the tarot. That is one part of manuscript analysis, as in the case of constructing the standard Bible; but typically philologists emphasize the determination of lines of transmission, at least from my cursory reading of them. It seems to me that Dummett's three groups represent three different lines of transmission. They need to be refined. Here it seems to me to make sense to pay attention to how the cards look as well as their order. Certain designs are transmitted as well as certain orders. We also might also pay attention to the words given for the titles, as they seem to be passed down occasionally, too.

Here an up to date reference is the thread mmfilesi originated, "The Order of the Trumps", viewtopic.php?f=11&t=552.

So I turn first to A. Here is Dummett's chart:
We know that the Siciliano was introduced by a particular governor in 1662 (2005 Dummett article at http://i-p-c-s.org/journal/33-3.pdf, a link given by Michael on ATF). He was from the area around Rome, but served two years as governor of Milan immediately before becoming governor of Sicily. Ignoring a couple of anomalies introduced after he died, the deck seems to be modeled on the Roman Minchiate. But I see similarities in design between the depiction of the Milanese Bagat of that time and the Sicilian one (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=937&p=14192&hilit=Sicilian#p14192). So there is likely some some influence from Milan. That deck counts as a "daughter" of Roman Minchiate, but with some "blood" from Milan. For purposes of determining an original order, it can be ignored.

Now let us look at the C order. Marco put most of them in a chart, download/file.php?id=873, at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=552&start=10#p10961. Here it is:
The only one missing is Catelin Geoffroy 1558, which is incomplete but is in Dummett. What there is, is the same as the Noblet: the standard first five, then 7Chariot, 9Hermit, 12 Hanged Man, 13Death, 14Temperance, 16Tower, 20Angel.(Dummett's C: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-lFAy3bKySz0/U ... .16+PM.png)

In the C order it is hard to say whether Alciati or Geoffroy represents the "mother" of the order (if any of them do). The other early ones seem to me "daughters". That is to say, we can generate all the rest in one step from Alciato or Geoffroy, but not from Susio or the others. The Italian ones are all so close together in time that it is not safe to distinguish earlier from later from estimates of the datings.

Looking at A orders, Charles VI seems to typify one (assuming its Bagat is unnumbered), and the Rosenwald the other. Their main difference is the order of the virtues: Charles VI has Temperance-Fortitude-Justice and Rosenwald, Temperance-Justice-Fortitude. Both are probably early 16th century sometime, as is the Bolognese, which is like the Charles VI except that it inserts the three virtues after, instead of before, the Chariot, and of course for having four "papi". I assume that the Charles VI had a Popess and an unnumbered Bagat, like some other A decks. I cannot choose among them.

Then there is the question of whether one of the three orders A, B, C, is derivative from the other two. I suspect that B is derivative from A. For one thing, some of the Ferrara cards look like the Florence cards. Probably the d'Este deck was made in Florence, as I think Ross argued somewhere. Another consideration is that in "historical criticism", hard readings are considered earlier than easy ones, on the basis that scribes unconsciously rationalize what they have in front of them, based on their own understanding. Regional card designers would probably have a similar urge to put forward a sequence that made sense to them, rationalizing in their terms. Putting the Popess next to the Pope is more rational than putting her next to the Bagat, hence more likely to be later. Here is Dummet's B, if you need it: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-1EdTAS9Qo6E/U ... .56+PM.png

Putting Justice high seems to me just as rational as putting it low. A scribe could say "Hey, Justice is the Lord's" (confusing it with vengeance), and put it high. Or he could say, "Justice should be with the other virtues" and put it low.

That's the problem with using this criterion, I think. If the tarot was originally its most rational, then A is the earliest. If the tarot was improved over time, then B or C makes the most sense at the beginning. I go with the most irrational being first, because things get rationalized easier than they get irrationalized. That's not only a principle of manuscript reconstruction. New inventions, not modifications of old things, get improved before they degenerate, just like New Testaments. At first, they want important people to sponsor and market their wares, so they improve them; once they've got that, they can afford to get sloppy and rake in the profits. Even a genius often doesn't start from scratch. He takes a mediocre screenplay with a good idea (Mel Brooks), or a poorly told story with a good plot (Shakespeare), and, after a lot of tries we don't see, turns it into pure poetry. The degeneration comes later. But there are plenty of exceptions. And while we assume conservatism in the mode of play, we don't really know how well these regional differences, like manuscripts, encapsulate frozen moments in time, or where they are in the arc.

C seems to me the least rational-appearing of the three, because not only is its placement of the virtues more scattered than A's, where they are all in a row, but its placement of the Popess is less rational, too. Moreover, putting Temperance, which has to do with the regulation of bodily appetites, above Death, after which there are no more "conditions of life", doesn't make as much sense as putting it just below, as ta means of forestalling Death. Putting it above Death might well have been a change in the order once Death had been standardized, elsewhere, at number 13. Or at the beginning, it didn't matter which side of Death it was.

C's order of the virtues is also more closely tied to past precedent among philosophers and theologians than A's or B's. The most popular order of virtues is that of C, found in St. Bernard of Clairvaux (http://www.archive.org/stream/bernardde ... t_djvu.txt, pp. 28-30), Aquinas (in the order they are discussed: http://books.google.com/books/about/The ... Z_6YTs0MIC), Plato (in the soul, Republic 441-442), Augustine (City of God), Cicero (De Inventione), Aristotle (Rhetoric), and Maccabees (last four at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardinal_virtues). But Augustine (De moribus eccl., per Wikipedia) lists them in one of the A ways, that of the Charles VI, repeated in B. I find the second A order of virtues in Cicero De Oficiis XV (http://www.constitution.org/rom/de_officiis.htm) and Ambrose (Wikipedia). Aquinas in his discussion of the Cardinal Virtues uses the order Justice, Temperance, Fortitude, which is not in any of A, B, C; Plato has that order for the virtues in the state (Wikipedia). (Let me emphasize that I am not speaking of any hidden meaning to the virtues here, just the matter of historical precedents.)

It remains very difficult to say which of the orders is first, owing to our not knowing whether the tarot became more rational-looking over time or less rational, and even what counts as more or less rational. Is it more rational to have the virtues all in a row, or to space them out every third card? In the case of a manuscript, it seems to me that a scribe would be less likely to separate in an orderly way (as in C) things that he sees as similar that in his source are grouped together (A), than he would be to group together (A) these same things originally apart (C), because it would take more attention to put virtues every third card (C) than it would to group things together (A) that he saw as similar. Whether that would apply to cards, I don't know.

Also, given that there is still a fair amount of time separating the recorded orders from documented tarot decks, there might have been a "mother" that is not exactly like any of the "daughters" (or "granddaughters" ) i.e. not A, B, or C. It might, for example, be exactly the same as Alciato or Geoffrey except that Temperance precedes Death. All I am saying is that the original order might not have been exactly like A, B, or C--if only because of the time element. That seems reason enough.

My conclusion so far is that it is still very difficult to say which of the orders came first, but that the evidence slightly favors something approximating C, because it shows the least amount of rationalization and its order of the virtues corresponds best to historical precedent. (To be sure, someone who thinks that the inventor had the most rational order the first time, and didn't remember, or care about, an order of virtues, will say the opposite.)

Now let me turn to the groups. The main problem here is that comparison is only possible when there are two or more orders. Since one of them came first, any definition of groups comes from the designer of the second order. He or she rearranged the cards within what he perceived as groups; perhaps that was based on the stories he thought they had been drawn from by the first designer, or perhaps not. The stories used by the second order's designer may or may not have been in the mind of the designer of the first sequence. The second sequence is an interpretation of the first. Whether he was faithful to the first is another question. At least he was closer to his source than we are. But there were also political pressures he had to bow to, and the cards were for a different patron or market. Then comes the third designer, with his or her own considerations. But we can at least give it a try, to see what they might have come up with.

Comparing Alciato or Geoffroy (C) with the Rosenwald and the Charles VI (A), if you exclude the virtues there really isn't any difference except at the very end. Chariot is next after Love, and it would seem that Old Man is next to Wheel, one side or the other. If we add B to this comparison, the only difference is that sometimes Love and Chariot change places, and the Popess changes position within the first five (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-1EdTAS9Qo6E/U ... .56+PM.png). If so, there could be four groups, either 6-5-6-5 (a 1975 story of Decker's) or 6-5-5-6 (one way of seeing Ross's story; see below). Or there could be other ways of having 3 groups besides Dummett's, i.e. 7-7-7 with the Fool not in the order (in Decker's new book, among others); or 6-10-6 (Ross's story, see viewtopic.php?f=11&t=974&p=14409#p14412; the same group occurs in a 2004 trionfi.com model displayed three posts after Ross's, with a different story); or 5-11-5, excluding the Fool (minor atouts and major atouts forming the end groups). Or two groups, each of 11 (a Kabbalist story, down and up the Tree from the En Sof, or a Pythagorean one, through the Decad twice plus one, and a zero). There could also be one group of 22 (as I gave earlier in this thread). Or all of the above.

It seems to me that one way of getting groups out of comparing the orders (in addition to Dummett's) is that the groups are defined, more or less, by the positions of the virtues, that a story about virtues fits here, perhaps one about their interactions with "conditions of life", including those mentioned in the 1456 French poem that Marco quoted recently (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=974#p14226, which I expect derives from Bocaccio's Amorosa Visione). Temperance is the card that does it, as it is just above Love in A and just below Devil in C. The cards in between are in the same group, if the groups are to contain the same cards in A and C. So that is the most logical place for someone to have seen a division into groups.

But Love belongs in the middle group; it is a different kind of animal than the cards before it. A B order designer recognized that by putting Temperance before Love, making it the low card of the group (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-1EdTAS9Qo6E/U ... .56+PM.png). Which group Devil belongs to is not clear, because visiting him is an immediate consequence of failure to act virtuously. If the story is Dummett tells it, of "conditions of life", then he goes into the third group. If it is Ross's story of "Fate", then the second group.

We can ignore the position of Justice in B. It is a special case. Someone saw it as important to emphasize God's Justice at the end. Good for them. In B, we just look at where the other virtues are.

This grouping is solely in relation to the designers of the later orders, an interpretation made after the original already existed. So the various combinations I suggested for the original groups still apply. It is just that the second designer chose one of them.

Another qualification is that since all the orders are from the early 16th century at best, earlier information, such as the report of 14 figures in Ferrara 1-1-1441, the Cary-Yale cards, and the 70-card decks of Ferrara 1457 enters in, inconclusively pointing to a different composition of the trumps than the one we know. As I have said in an earlier post, a 22 trump origin may not be the simplest hypothesis, relevant to other information available to us. It is like saying that in Aristotle's time the simplest hypothesis for the appearance of maggots in mud was spontaneous generation. It wasn't, considering what was known about the generation of similar things, i.e. other animals, and the facts that could be gathered. What do we know about the generation of things like tarot? We don't even have a clear idea of what "like" is in this case. Boiardo was just using, and alluding to, the tarot structure in writing a poem.

Various ur-tarots, and groups within ur-tarots, are projections onto a card game of the various stories that individual theorists today prefer--which is not to say that they are merely subjective, as arguments are given for and against. A restriction, and that a flexible one, is that preference be given to stories that were actually told in the Renaissance. That is one reason for thinking that the virtues unify the middle section: the philosophers and theologians discussed them in a format that went from one to another in succession, a format that could fit them into a Petrarchan/Boccaccian-type sequence of conditions suffered.

For the first group, all I can (unoriginally) think of, as I've elaborated on "The first six trumps" thread, is that it is a simplification of that in Petrarch's De Remediis (perhaps including its opening illumination, as in one c. 1400 Milan manuscript that Hurst (http://pre-gebelin.blogspot.it/2007/11/ ... cards.html) displays: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-MSKksvWOpRQ/T ... mediis.jpg).

For the third group there are various possibilities. And just as there may be sub-stories within the middle group, all of these stories may be sub-stories of one large story. If the principle of "form criticism" applies--organization by distinct narratives--it may do so very loosely, because these stories are not on the tarot's face, and vary in their obviousness, just as in the images of Coppola's Apocalypse Now, the world of Conrad's Heart of Darkness is more apparent, I think, than that of Homer's Odyssey, and neither likely occurred to many who enjoyed the film as about a controversial war that had only recently ended.
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Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

Post by marco »

Phaeded wrote:
marco wrote:I think that (given the context of the card, trumping the Devil and before Judgment) a better parallel for the Tower is an image like this:
(discussed here).
There is no Devil in any of the 15th century Tower cards.
Hello Phaeded,
I have noticed that there is no Devil in the Tower card. I find the image I proposed interesting exactly because it puts together two consecutive trumps in a single image. I find images that link trumps very useful, because they can help understand why two particulars cards are close to each other in the sequence.
For instance, I find lMichael's images including both the Fool and the Bagat useful in understanding how the two are related.
Phaeded wrote: The fire or lightning proceeds from the skies, a'la Jove's bolts, exactly paralleling God's fiery destruction of Sodom.
It is God's wrath directed at erring humanity (from the path of the virtues and into vice) - occasionally humans fall from the tower, not the Devil.
The destruction and purification of the world by fire is one of the central themes of the Book of Revelation, for example when describing the fall of Babylon (Rev 18). The Getty Apocalypse (1260 ca) presents a nice illustration of this.
St. John wrote:Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. … Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.
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Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

Post by Huck »

marco wrote: Hello Phaeded,
I have noticed that there is no Devil in the Tower card.
well, we have no devil card either - for 15th century (beside its appearance in the Karnöffel poem from Mysner it's anyway missing then).

For 16th we had this "mouth of hell" card, as it appears in the Tarot de Paris. A combination of Tower and devil ... at least "somehow".
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Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

Post by Phaeded »

Huck wrote:
marco wrote: Hello Phaeded,
I have noticed that there is no Devil in the Tower card.
well, we have no devil card either - for 15th century (beside its appearance in the Karnöffel poem from Mysner it's anyway missing then).

For 16th we had this "mouth of hell" card, as it appears in the Tarot de Paris. A combination of Tower and devil ... at least "somehow".
I think it is obvious the the PMB had a devil (Kaplan, Dummett, etc. all assume it) and that it was removed/destroyed for religious reasons (just like the Pope and Papess were removed for the less offensive Moors). And these devils - likely the oldest to have survived - are only some 30-60 years after the PMB; there is no tower or mouth of hell:

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

Post by marco »

Phaeded wrote: I think it is obvious the the PMB had a devil (Kaplan, Dummett, etc. all assume it) and that it was removed/destroyed for religious reasons (just like the Pope and Papess were removed for the less offensive Moors).
Hello Phaeded,
are you attributing to Dummett the idea that the Devil and the Tower were intentionally removed from the deck? I don't find this idea "obvious".
Right now, I cannot check what Dummett wrote, but in my opinion the two trumps are missing for the same reason why the Three of Swords and the Knight of Coins are missing: they were simply lost.
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Re: Dummett and methodology [was Re: The Sun]

Post by Phaeded »

marco wrote:
Phaeded wrote: I think it is obvious the the PMB had a devil (Kaplan, Dummett, etc. all assume it) and that it was removed/destroyed for religious reasons (just like the Pope and Papess were removed for the less offensive Moors).
Hello Phaeded,
are you attributing to Dummett the idea that the Devil and the Tower were intentionally removed from the deck? I don't find this idea "obvious".
Right now, I cannot check what Dummett wrote, but in my opinion the two trumps are missing for the same reason why the Three of Swords and the Knight of Coins are missing: they were simply lost.
To clarify: What is obvious is that the devil and tower trumps were present in the PMB; that is mentioned by both Kaplan and Dummet. The tower would have simply been lost at some point, just like any other number of cards. The persistence of the missing devil is a special case however...

Not sure if either Kaplan or Dummet make this connection, but the rationale behind removing the Pope/Papess would have been similar to that of why the Devil is missing from all of the handpainted decks - the Church. In the ensuing fortune of those decks some pious or paranoid person (probably with good reason during any number of heretical inquisitions) removed the devil. Bologna was firmly in the orbit of the Papal States when the later decks with the Moors came out - that sufficiently explains the absence of the papess/pope in those decks (especially as that university's forte' was theology).

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