Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote: mjhurst wrote:
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:I am failing to see how my explanation is not sufficient.
As an explanation, it is not very explanatory. Yes, it might be correct, but if so then the inventor didn't do a very good job.
But what if that were the job he assigned
If he said to himself, "don't sweat the details; it's just a game"? In that case, Dummett's analysis is correct. As I have said, again and again, year after year, including in the sentence you just quoted.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:Who are you to say it's "not very good"?
Someone who prefers good work to sloppy work. Well executed designs are both conceptually and aesthetically preferable, at least to some people. Sure, there is a prosaic charm to something poorly done, and most of the history of Tarot has that kind of folk art quality. But it's not very good.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:The evidence is that it was very good - it became a popular game....
Yep. It was a popular game.
On the other hand, no two people have ever explained the trump cycle the same way, and the earliest cardmakers created different orderings, with somewhat altered subjects, in every locale. The obvious conclusion is that the vast majority of cardplayers don't care about that, which I've also pointed out. It was not popular because of the trump cycle but because of the game play.
This is why the modern obsession with "what a typical Renaissance cardplayer would see in the cards is a distraction from the question of intended meaning. Cardplayers just played the game. When they expanded the trumps into Minchiate, as Dummett pointed out, there was no narrative or intelligible hierarchy. They just threw in a bunch of stuff, as he said, right below the highest five cards. When modern decks were developed, they proved beyond any doubt or question that the subjects on the trumps don't matter as long as you have some means of knowing their ordering.
So the design was not, in any detailed sense, intelligible to typical cardplayers or even cardmakers. The latter, however, did maintain some of the structural design and this is crucial for any attempt to objectively solve Dummett's riddle. The subjects within the three sections were maintained by all of those revisionists. More often than not, the grouping of pairs and trios within those sections was also maintained. If context counts, if the sequence conveys meaning, then these groupings are evidence for the iconographer.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:...so popular that even when people fiddled with the order of the trumps, they kept the same subjects. By my standards, it was a very good job. Everywhere it went, the same subjects, the same number, even the same threefold structure observed. The intended audience seems to have "got it". It was a remarkably stable model.
As a game, yes. I am one of the few people online who has defended that fact against all the phantom decks and evolutionary hypotheses, year after year. There was a relatively
standardized form either from the beginning or from very shortly thereafter. Novelty decks and variations, like Minchiate, came later. However, Tarot was also remarkably varied within that standard design. There were many of those IPCS "standard patterns", different versions of the "same" archetypal decks.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:I could turn your statement around - by your standards, if the detailed and very specific narrative were his intention, then the design failed in its purpose.
Absolutely. Which I've also said, repeatedly. In this thread. But again, it is a relative failure, in some areas, accompanied by some notable success in other areas and by the wild success of the game itself.
- Detailed programme understood in detail? Fail.
Detailed programme preserved in toto? Fail.
Detailed programme preserved in parts? Success, more often than not.
Popularity of the game? Tremendous success.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:That's not a very good job. If it were even understood, it was not appreciated anywhere in its original environment, and people just destroyed the beautifully intricate architecture. The designer would look around, hold his head in his hands, shaking it and shouting "You've ruined it, you fools!"
Nobody ever noticed the story you see in the sequence, or at least felt the need to comment on it. He failed - both to make the order compelling, or to give people the story.
Absolutely. Given the rapid spread of Tarot, these changes probably occurred within his lifetime, and he probably laughed or lamented his failure. (See Heraclitus and Democritus.) I've made that point repeatedly as well. He succeeded in making a great game, successful probably far beyond his goals or imagination. He failed to create a generally intelligible programme. Yes and yes.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:By my standards, he was astonishingly successful - a stable model and number of specific subjects of three groups, over a long time, with the small variations still conforming to the basic structure. By your standards, even a single block out of place, and it all falls apart. And it fell apart everywhere, even at home among the intended audience, except where they happened to make the Tarot de Marseille.
But you insist on confusing the game with the trump cycle. One of the points I have tried, obviously in vain, to hammer home is that they are different. You are making the most fundamental error of the occultists, assuming that the trump cycle is crucially important. I've NEVER made that blunder.
My personal interests, centered around the meaning of Tarot, are historically trivial. That's why Dummett felt so comfortable ignoring the iconography -- it makes little difference to the history, even though it is the main concern of Tarot folklore. So when things were changed in the sequence it made ZERO difference for the game and its popularity. However, if there was a coherent design, and if it was too complex, subtle, or otherwise sophisticated for most people to bother with, then fiddling with the sequence would almost certainly break that design, every time. And it does seem that the Tarot de Marseille pattern is the most susceptible to a detailed analysis. This is what I posted ten years ago:
Riddle of Tarot wrote:Although Tarot retained a meaningful design in all of the patterns described above, it is only in the original pattern that the extreme sophistication of the work is seen. No examples of this original pattern, or its direct descendants, have survived from the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries. Very few decks of any early pattern survived, (except for the hand-painted examples, which were in various ways atypical), and the fifteenth-century Italians were quite creative in revising the original design. Fortunately, however, the French apparently didn’t care much about the allegorical content, and were largely content to copy the same designs over and over for centuries. Certainly variations crept in, and some intentional redesigns took place, but some versions continued to show precise copying of their earlier models, and I believe that at least one line of descent remained very similar to a design brought from Milan circa 1500. Such a Milanese design, I believe, was the original, and its descendant survived with virtually all of the original’s complexity and beauty intact.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:
You try to have it both ways. They were arranged logically, but not so that you can actually spell out any overall logic. Just a little logic here and a little logic there, sort of. Maybe that's correct, but I think there's more.
Okay, I'll take the "maybe that's correct".
Gosh, thanks. You should
accept that -- I've said it over and over and over for years... for as long as I've been talking about Dummett's views. Pretending otherwise and repeating my own arguments from parsimony, as you have been doing in this thread, is attacking a strawman.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:And I do have it "both ways". This is what explains the various orders, people changing the logic, but only a little here or a little there. Why do you think there is more?
Yes, as I have always argued, the derivative orderings are not systematically coherent. Therefore, when we're talking about such a detailed programme we are not talking about the derivative orderings and, to reiterate for the hundredth time, even if the Ur Tarot did have such a schematic design, there is no guarantee that such a deck survived. We can only look at the surviving designs. (As a methodological aside, phantom decks and "rectified" orderings are fun, but they have no value historically.)
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:
As I've argued emphatically for well over a decade, that is a good position. You do remember having read that a few dozen times, right? The whole "null hypothesis" thing? Sometimes it seems as if we've just met. I'm saying the exact same thing about your presentation as I have about Dummett's -- great parsimony, maybe correct, but lousy explanatory power. That's the trade-off. The only way to overcome that parsimonious position is to offer a more detailed explanation which is sufficiently plausible. No one has done that yet, making the null hypothesis the winner, and still champion.
That's a good summary of the issue, and a good statement of the task you've set yourself.
But there still seems to be something to talk about... what is it that is left unexplained by the parsimonious explanation? The reason for the precise
order of each card, which means picking an "original arrangement", and trying to get inside the head of the inventor.
Eh, maybe... depends on what you mean, and given this thread, I'm guessing that you mean something I would not agree with. As always, over the years, my approach does NOT involve picking an original arrangement, and I have emphatically rejected that part of Dummett's argument. My approach involves looking at ALL arrangements, which is pretty much the exact opposite of what you and Dummett say. In terms of intentio auctoris
, ever since I learned about Eco's distinction I have embraced it, and made the focus the intentio operis
. Yes, it helps to think about the inventor: what thinking could have motivated these choices? The focus, however, must remain on the choices made, the known facts of subject matter and sequence. If we can explain the work, then we have shown what the inventor might
have been thinking, but that is secondary.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:This means, at a minimum and as a start, talking about the necessary "background information" - contemporary culture, conventions, trends, etc. - that the designer and his audience took for granted.
Eh, maybe. Depends on what you mean. You seem to be saying, find a theory then fit the trumps to it. Rather than starting with things other than Tarot, I would advise starting with Tarot. The problem which has derailed so many would-be exegetes is starting with their favorite elements of period culture. Inevitably they find something cool, whether it is alchemy or heresy or Petrarch's Trionfi
, and twist the trumps to fit. Starting with period culture rather than the trumps usually leads to a "sloppy copy" theory, and we have plenty of those already.
Tarot was a unique work of art, as were so many others. Yes, some works are part of an established tradition, but if Tarot were one of those then it seems extremely likely that someone would have found that source work by now. (If you find it, I'll love to see it; but until then we need to focus on Tarot.)
Of course, it would help to be a medievalist or art historian, but that is not the place to start
if your interest is Tarot iconography. I would say that if you want to take up the challenge in a serious way, then begin with Dummett and Moakley. This will help guide other readings. Learn something about iconography, both the methodological parts and interpretations of other works. See how this sort of thing has been developed by those who specialized in it. Yes, along the way you should also learn about the culture of Italy in the 14th and 15th centuries, as well as the larger Western Christian world of art and literature, but that background information is not the place to start. (Specifically, I would strongly recommend Willard Farnham's book, The Medieval Heritage of Elizabethan Tragedy
, as the best introduction to the cultural background of the trump cycle.) Then you can start looking at the cards yourself, knowing something about Tarot and the best published interpretation, and knowing something about how such things have been done by the uber-competent.
Earlier in the thread, you were making an emphatic methodological point, which I didn't quite get. Here I will make one: We need to explain the facts in question, and those are the pictures on the cards and their ordering. That is where an historical analysis must begin. Yes, the cultural background is necessary, and it is another iterative process: internal and external. Internal design and external cognates both provide contextual information. But if we don't start with the trumps and keep the main focus on the trumps then we have no hope of contributing more than the countless others who have focused on things other than Tarot.
You ask what is left unexplained? Most of the choice of trump subjects and their ordering. If the Three Worlds trope is sufficient explanation for the details, then every work which entails the Three Worlds trope should have the same details, the 22 subjects as Tarot. This is so obvious that it is difficult to believe you don't get it. You claim that many works display this, and it is sufficient to explain the detail. In fact, each work tends toward the unique, and the Three Worlds aspect explains only a tiny, albeit important, part of any design. The Devil is in the details. Many of these can be seen easily, others are more obscure. Fortunately, Tarot's designer included a lot more structural elements than just the Three Worlds. These are visible, these are confirmed by the variations in ordering which tend to preserve the structure more often than not, and these enable us to improve, fine-tune, and confirm our readings.
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote: mjhurst wrote:
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:Our disagreements (Michael) seem to come back to what I said a few posts ago, that you assume the sequence was designed to be read as a stand alone work (and that therefore only a strict, card-by-card allegorical programme can acceptably explain it), while I think its context as a game is essential to understanding it, and to not overreading it.
Your current fascination with this false argument baffles me. First, understanding the iconographic composition has nothing to do with whether it was used in a game or not. There is just no sensible connection, unless the trumps incorporated the suit signs in some fashion, or something like that. If they did, then that aspect would obviously need to be taken into account. Yes, it can be read as a stand-alone work. Why not?
Because it forces you to try to interpret... Trying to understand the sequence outside of its ludic context therefore imposes false limits and is liable, or rather guaranteed, to mislead the interpreter.
I'll answer this, even though your subsequent post seems to imply that you have now recanted this view. I hope that is the case, because this is nonsense.
Nothing is forced, nothing is imposed. You are the one attempting to define the trump cycle in such a manner so as to beg the question. You define "ludic" as somehow, in some way you refuse to explain, as not permitting a coherent programme. In contrast, I'm simply permitting that as a possibility, and looking for it. It seems like the most natural way to create a game, but nothing is assumed, forced, guaranteed, imposed, except by you and your insistence that a game cannot
include a well designed allegory.
You don't seem to understand that the vast majority of works of art, even many cyclic works, do NOT have the kind of detailed schematic/diagrammatic design I'm suggesting. Nothing forces such an interpretation. Moreover, IMO all but one of the Tarot decks also fail to exhibit such a design. If you were even close to being correct, then my methodology would have forced/imposed/demanded/guaranteed or otherwise produced such a meaning for most, if not all decks. In fact, a priori
, there was no reason to think that such a design could be found in any deck.
I would ask why don't you explain that argument rather than merely repeating it, except that in this passage you seem to have had a change of mind:
Of course there is no reason why it could not have been a very precise story as well as a game. My conclusion is that it was not a precise story, and that having such a precise story in mind is not necessary to explain the designer's choices of subjects or their arrangement.
You now say "of course", but that is what I have been arguing for, for all these years. It doesn't force or impose anything to simply accept the obvious, that the meaning of the trumps is different than their purpose. Any set of trumps could be used to serve the needs of the game, as proven by various decks.
We are either dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, or we are just dwarfs.