Re: How do we advance?...

#12
mjhurst wrote: In most fields of inquiry, scientific or historical, it seems possible to advance from one generation to the next, but in Tarot it seems that the same ideas from the 1780s, the late 1900s, and the New Age movement of the 60s and 70s, just keep getting recycled over and over.
An excellent point.

I think one reason is: Tarot history is not a discipline. Disciplines have gatekeepers, qualifications to stay in, commonly-agreed standards, the whole megillah. Disciplines have refereed journals!

Tarot history is not a field in the discipline of history. Why would it be worth studying in the DISCIPLINE of History? It's "hobbyist" history. Tarot history is not even a subfield. It's too particular and peculiar.

Whatever one thinks of Tarot history, its only gatekeepers are volunteers. Correct misconceptions sweetly, or squawk and slaver, but still the audience is just us.

Now, about us. We have schooling in history or not; we are conscientious self-taught students or not, but I say (standing proudly as Exhibit A): We all share a degree of crackpottery.

Otherwise why tarot?

Re: How do we advance?...

#13
debra wrote: We all share a degree of crackpottery.

Otherwise why tarot?
Very well put, Debra.





How do we advance? I dunno, maybe we can all chip in and make a cool mosaic out of all of this crackpottery.
"...he wanted to illustrate with his figures many Moral teachings, and under some difficulty, to bite into bad and dangerous customs, & show how today many Actions are done without goodness and honesty, and are accomplished in ways that are contrary to duty and rightfulness."

Re: How do we advance?...

#16
mjhurst wrote: A huge amount of Tarot history has been done, and to move forward absolutely requires knowing what has already been discovered. More than anything else, a trip to the library to read Dummett is THE prerequisite for discussing Tarot history. Different people come up with different reading lists, but here is one I posted about a year ago.

A Short List
http://pre-gebelin.blogspot.com/2008/04/short-list.html
As Michael so eloquently said, to advance you need to get a firm footing. That means a basis in the facts.

For Tarot history in particular, I'd add a few more titles to Michael's already excellent essential reading and reference list. All of them are books that all researchers keep going back to again and again, not only for the opinions of their authors and the bibliography, but also for the pictures. All of them are still currently available, and in checking today I find that you can have the entire collection for around US $500, or €350 minimum, and US $750 or €590 maximum.

This is a price many people are willing to pay for a weekend seminar or a course in something, and much less than most vacations cost, so I think for getting all of the continuing standard and essential references for Tarot history, it is a bargain.

Gertrude Moakley, The Tarot Cards Painted by Bonifacio Bembo for the Visconti-Sforza Family (New York Public Library, 1966) - starting at 34 euros.
http://www.bookfinder.com/search/?autho ... t=sr&ac=qr

Stuart Kaplan, The Encyclopedia of Tarot (volumes I and II are the most important for earlier Tarot history) - starting at about 25 euros a volume.
http://www.bookfinder.com/search/?autho ... t=sr&ac=qr

Michael Dummett, The Game of Tarot (Duckworth, 1980) - starting at 123 euros.
http://www.bookfinder.com/search/?ac=sl ... %2520tarot

Thierry Depaulis, editor, Tarot: jeu et magie (BnF, 1984) - starting at 21 euros.
http://www.bookfinder.com/search/?autho ... t=sr&ac=qr

Giordano Berti and Andrea Vitali, editors, Le Carte di Corte. I Tarocchi. Gioco e Magia alla Corte degli Estensi. (Ferrara, 1987) - starting at 70 euros.
http://www.bookfinder.com/search/?autho ... t=sr&ac=qr

Ronald Decker, Thierry Depaulis and Michael Dummett, A Wicked Pack of Cards (Duckworth, 1996) - starting at 33 euros.
http://www.bookfinder.com/search/?ac=sl ... %2520tarot

Ronald Decker and Michael Dummett, A History of the Occult Tarot (Duckworth, 2002 (rpt. 2008) - starting at 14 euros.
http://www.bookfinder.com/search/?autho ... t=sr&ac=qr

Most of it is in English - surprised? No reason to be, because Michael Dummett is the most prolific and influential author of tarot history.

These books will give you 90 per cent of everything you need to know about Tarot history from its beginnings until the 1970s. Most of us have been around for the rest of it.

The other 10 percent is in periodicals and more obscure books, and keeps growing, but with these 8 or 9 books you will be able, if you read, reread, and absorb their content, to know most of what is known and be able to research further based on their bibliographies, and just by keeping up with recent publications.

Even if you don't read French or Italian, these books are valuable for the day when you DO, as you will if you are serious, learn enough of the languages to use them, as well as for the pictures.

I don't have anything to add to Michael's superb list of iconographical essential reading in English.

Ross
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Re: How do we advance?...

#18
Hi Enrique,

Great questions, that raise still others...
EnriqueEnriquez wrote: Is there a difference between seeking to understand something and seeking to proof something? Which one are we pursuing?
I'm not sure I understand the distinction you're trying to make, but I'll just react to my impression of the proposed difference between understanding and proof - in HISTORY.

It's not often, maybe it's not even possible, to prove something in history like you can in physical science. All you can do is offer proofs, which for historians just means evidence, for the scenario one is proposing.
(edited to add: I suppose that "scenario" IS the historian's "understanding")

Proofs are offered to bolster an argument. The evidence exists, but whether it is used in an argument or not determines if it is a proof for this or that argument.

Usually it's not very hard, at least for more recent times, since whatever evidence there is, or proofs there are, tell the story pretty clearly. In the case of tarot history, all of the earliest evidence for tarot is in northern Italy, it starts in 1442 and grows outward from then. There is an abundance of it. Other later and foreign sources point to Italy as the origin of tarot.

So a very basic argument would be "Tarot was invented in Italy before 1442". The proofs offered in support of this argument are the evidence. Since nothing contradicts it, and none of the few dozen experts who've contributed to the study disagree, there is no reason to think anything other than that it is a "proven" argument.

BUT - that is only the beginning of how to understand the invention. I presume by "understand" you mean "the meaning" of Tarot. To get to this, we need to know the facts, so we can work out towards the unknown "whys".
How do we move forward?
By following up on the leads of what is known, to what is unknown. It may lead to a discovery of hitherto unknown evidence, or it may be a new theoretical perspective that just rearranges what is known, and that in turn leads to more discoveries (like the Copernican model that changed astronomy... well, everything).

Our understanding grows as we put it into a meaningful relationship with the time and place of its origin (or whenever we are looking at it), even if we don't have an explicit understanding. In other words, the search for context is never futile, it is always enriching (because understanding in history depends upon things like wisdom and insight).
What makes a hunch worth pursuing?
I think any hunch is worth pursuing, but there is a learning curve involved. As you get more specialized and expert, your hunches will get more precisely testable. You quickly learn what will be a waste of time, and what might be a promising avenue.

I guess the point is that you have to make your hunches testable, and you have to be willing to go as far as necessary to test them.
What needs to happen for us to know that the time for dropping a hunch as come?
I would say that if all your conceptual models for the hunch to be valid fail - the evidence that should be there fails to show up, even in attenuated or indirect form - then it is time to give up.

Usually this takes a few minutes of thinking or just looking up a few references, but sometimes it takes excursions to the library, discussion with experts, and long and deep thought on the problem.

Some hunches don't leave after years of study, but you must always be open to the opportunity (if ever possible) of testing them. Everybody has these long-held hunches, unproven ideas - that is what gives scholarship its color.
When is it really justified to go beyond the simpler explanations? Why?
I think Michael answered this beautifully. I also think that different theories, based on the same evidence, begin to propose different questions that then require sometimes different explanations - often equally simple, but answering the different theoretical perspective that has arisen.

Why is it justified to go beyond simpler explanations? When those explanations are not really as simple or sufficiently explanatory as they appear - i.e. they raise too many other questions. Also, of course, when new evidence appears that can't be explained without another model/explanation.
How many times is worthy to go back and revisit those things on which there is some consensus? Why?
I think it's worth it to revisit the consensus constantly, if just to make sure your memory for the facts isn't failing.

From a pedagogical perspective, it is worth it to continually repeat the most basic facts and consensus opinions everywhere and every time you can - just like a teacher does with every new class - just so that those facts sink into and mould new minds. The teacher learns the best way to present the maximum of information in the most streamlined and profound way possible, and students who pay attention actually advance because they have a firm foundation upon which to build when they come to ask really new questions.

Ross
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Re: How do we advance?...

#19
debra wrote: Tarot history is not a discipline. Disciplines have gatekeepers, qualifications to stay in, commonly-agreed standards, the whole megillah. Disciplines have refereed journals!
Indeed. This is why it is incumbent upon those who would be tarot historians to discipline themselves. They can discipline themselves by doing what would be normal in a recognized discipline:

Study everything written on the topic, including learning the other languages of the primary and secondary sources.

Meet, talk to, and submit to the judgment of the recognized "gatekeepers."

Earn their respect by showing knowledge and publishing ("staying in").

The commonly-agreed standards should be clear from the study of the sources, but you can bring in your own expertise (or even perspective), as long as your mastery of the relevant literature is clear.

There are no refereed journals in Tarot history, but I can affirm that the editor of The Playing Card, and the IPCS Chairman, Thierry Depaulis, read everything that is published there and turn down many unqualified papers. TPC is therefore a trustworthy source for playing card, and tarot, history.

Most authors of tarot history publish in other, refereed, journals though, whether dealing with history per se or art history in particular.

In other words, if it is important to you, you can become a de facto "Tarot Historian", just as Michael Dummett,Thierry Depaulis, Ronald Decker, Alberto Milano, Gherardo Ortalli, Cristina Olsen (wherever she is) and others recognized by them are. This involves more than just tarot though - you have to know about playing cards too. You can't do tarot without playing cards.
Tarot history is not a field in the discipline of history. Why would it be worth studying in the DISCIPLINE of History? It's "hobbyist" history. Tarot history is not even a subfield. It's too particular and peculiar.
That might be your opinion, but tarot history is not just about playing cards, it is a cultural phenomenon. It's no more peculiar than studying the history and culture of Chess. There is also no "Chessology" department or field (that I know of). The closest thing that might be existent already is "Ludology" - the study of games in society (not the same as "game theory", which is a scientific discipline).
Whatever one thinks of Tarot history, its only gatekeepers are volunteers. Correct misconceptions sweetly, or squawk and slaver, but still the audience is just us.
The really qualified audience is very small, but also very demanding. It is not "just us", if by "us" you mean the internet audience. The real audience includes those who research tarot history as part of other disciplines and read your papers as a source. Internet forums and pages are also turning up in printed books, so, if you are careful and establish a reputation here, your research is making its way onto the mainstream library shelf.
Now, about us. We have schooling in history or not; we are conscientious self-taught students or not, but I say (standing proudly as Exhibit A): We all share a degree of crackpottery.
Of course! But that is not what I meant by "crackpot" in this thread. I said as much in the first post here.
Otherwise why tarot?
You don't have to BE a crackpot to study tarot history, or even tarot for some other reason. Michael Dummett is no crackpot.

I admit that I started out as a tarot crackpot, but I got fixed, largely because I had the training in historical methodology, and the habits it brings, to be able to recognize bad historical thinking. It took about a year and a half.

But your question is valid - "why tarot?".

Two things, I guess - the sociology (for lack of a better word) of the tarot phenomenon, in the wider context of mythical games, interests me.

Secondly, the depth of the sources still to be published or properly published and discussed - these could easily make for a doctoral dissertation.

Ross
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Re: How do we advance?...

#20
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote: For Tarot history in particular, I'd add a few more titles to Michael's already excellent essential reading and reference list. All of them are books that all researchers keep going back to again and again, not only for the opinions of their authors and the bibliography, but also for the pictures. All of them are still currently available, and in checking today I find that you can have the entire collection for around US $500, or €350 minimum, and US $750 or €590 maximum.
BTW - if anyone buys any (or especially all) of the books I and Michael listed, I would LOVE to hear about it.

I would relish the feeling that I had contributed something to the study of tarot history - that another mind might be at work in the field of discovery.

And besides, all of the books are worthy of being brought up as topics of discussion.

Ross
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