Logic – What Alice In Wonderland Says & Means
My theory is that the logician Lewis Carroll (1832 – 1898), who taught logic before and after he wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), Through The Looking Glass (1871) and The Hunting of the Snark (1876), was having fun in his fictional fantasies with serious forms of logic, the ancient lessons of Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE) and the modern forms of Carroll’s contemporaries such as John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873), George Boole (1815 – 1864) and Augustus De Morgan (1806 – 1871). Carroll followed with his The Game of Logic (1886) and Symbolic Logic (1897) to further teach these and other logical forms while mocking our all-too-human forms of life with illustrative, entertaining examples. I believe Carroll wrote Wonderland, the Looking-Glass and the Snark as stories children enjoy and remember that also illustrate and teach children forms of logic, whether or not they or we are aware of the lessons. First I will outline my theory of how forms of logic fit Carroll’s fictions, and then I will show in detail how the forms fit Wonderland quite remarkably. In the two lectures that follow I will show how the same forms fit with Through the Looking-Glass and The Hunting of the Snark.
Aristotle is often called the father of logic, the study of how words work and how we use them to reason, and his works on logic were collected into a larger work called the Organon (the Tool or Instrument). There are three ideas of Aristotle which I believe Carroll used to structure the plot of events in Alice’s two adventures, the ten logical categories, the four forms of proposition, and balance between extremes, the central idea of Aristotle’s first book on logic, his second book on logic, and his book on ethics (the Nicomachean Ethics). The philosopher Duns Scotus (1266 – 1308) wrote a commentary on Aristotle’s Categories, and both Scotus and William of Ockham (1285 – 1347), the two famous logicians of early Oxford, wrote commentaries on Aristotle’s On Interpretation and taught logic at Oxford five centuries before Carroll did.
In his Categories, Aristotle lists and explains ten types of truth, ten sorts of things that can be stated in words and argued about any particular thing: substance, quantity, quality, relations, space, time, position, state, action and passion. Aristotle begins discussing the highest and primary of the ten, substance, truth and being itself, and proceeds, only somewhat in his own stated order, to illustrate many but not all of the ten, leaving the last few, including lowly passion, largely unillustrated, saying we can easily find examples for ourselves of these in life. If we turn Aristotle’s own list of ten categories backwards, starting from the lowest rather than the highest, like a passionate younger sister looking upwards to an elder with a finely woven story or text, or like a text backwards in a looking-glass mirror, we have: passion, action, state, position, time, space, relations, quality, quantity, and substance. This inverted list fits the order of events and characters Alice encounters in both of her adventures, with the two books mirroring each other, chapter by chapter, so well that it is well worth exploring.
|1: Passion||White Rabbit & Golden Key||Black Kitten & Looking Glass|
|2: Action||Mouse & Pool of Tears||Flowers, Red Queen|
|3: State||Dodo, Caucus Race||Train, Gnat, Fawn|
|4: Position||White Rabbit’s House, Puppy||Tweedle Dum & Dee, Crow|
|5: Time/Space||Caterpillar (Time)||White Queen (Time) & Sheep (Space)|
|6: Relations||Duchess (Relations) Cheshire Cat (Space)||Humpty Dumpty (Relations)|
|7: Quality||March Hare, Mad Hatter||Haigha, Hatta, Lion & Unicorn|
|8: Quantity||Queen of Hearts, Croquet||Red Knight, White Knight|
|9: Substance||Kind Duchess, Gryphon, Mock Turtle||Red & White Queens, Frog & Banquet|
|10: Substance||Lobster Quadrangle||Red Queen|
|11: Substance||King of Hearts, Trial||Black Kitten|
|12: End||Alice & Ending||Alice & Ending|
The first chapter of each of Alice’s adventures is about passion, with the White Rabbit and the Black Kitten. The second chapter is about action, with the swimming Mouse and the running Red Queen. The third chapter is about state, with the Dodo’s caucus race and the Gnat on the public train. The fourth chapter is about position, with Alice taking a position in the White Rabbit’s house and between Tweedle Dum and Dee while she’s in the Red King’s dream.
The fifth and sixth chapters of each work are about time, space and relations interwoven together such that the fifth chapter of each book is about time, with the Caterpillar of Wonderland and the White Queen of the Looking-Glass, the sixth chapter is about relations, with the Duchess and Humpty Dumpty, and space, the Cheshire Cat and the White Sheep, does not have its own chapter, its own space as space itself. Rather, in each book, space shares space with others, with relations in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat in the House of the Duchess, and with time in the Looking-Glass, with the White Queen turning into the Sheep.
The seventh chapter of each work is about quality, with the under-qualified Tea Party and the over-performing Lion & Unicorn, and with the Mad Hatter and Hare in both. The eighth chapter is about quantity, with the playing cards of the Queen of Hearts and endless inventions of the White Knight. The remaining chapters of each work are about substance, or lack thereof, with the insubstantial lies of the Mock Turtle leading to the King of Heart’s Trial over tarts, and the test about sums leading to the Queens’ Banquet. I now use Wonderland to teach the order of Aristotle’s categories and my students say it works as a mnemonic device, one Carroll possibly intended to leave to us for use.
UNDER CONSTRUCTION BELOW!
What Wonderland Says & Means
AND, OR and NOT, the Boolean operators with differences of inclusion and exclusion between them, gathering and dividing as Mill would say, form the positions and plot of both Alice books. In the first book of Wonderland, Alice works her way from an inclusive AND, the White Rabbit, past the inclusive OR of the caterpillar, the exclusive OR of the Cheshire Cat, to the NOT of the Queen of Hearts, who chops off heads. The symbol for NOT looks a bit like an ax next to a capital letter, a symbol for a group much like a regal head who stands for many people. Alice says it is all a pack of cards, meaningless manipulation of symbols and pieces regardless of truth, and disrupts her imaginary dream.
In the second book of the Looking Glass, Alice works her way from the Red Queen, another NOT like the red Queen of Hearts, past the White Queen, a childlike inclusive AND, timid like the White Rabbit, to the end of the board where Alice is the OR, who must inclusively and exclusively choose between inclusive AND, the White Queen on her right, and exclusive NOT, the Red Queen on her left. The Queens test Alice and find she can’t inclusively add or exclusively divide in the ways they like, they take her to a banquet where food turns into people and people into food, and Alice hates it and turns the table over, upsetting her second dream. Wonderland works from childlike AND past OR to adult NOT, from inclusion to exclusion, and the Looking Glass works from adult NOT past childlike AND to bring the childlike-adult balance of OR, both inclusive and exclusive.
One July afternoon Carroll and his friend Reverend Duckworth took Alice and her sisters boating down the river near Oxford Bridge and the girls demanded a story, so Carroll began making up a complicated tale about Alice to amuse them. For the rest of his life he refused to answer questions about the Alice books or be interviewed as their author, and he said years later, “I can distinctly remember, now as I write, how, in a desperate attempt to strike out some new line of fairy-lore, I had sent my heroine straight down a rabbit-hole, to begin with, without the least idea of what was to happen afterwards…” When Duckworth asked midstream if the story was planned, Carroll told him, “I’m inventing as we go along.”
Alice begged him to write it down, which he did sitting up nearly the whole night, but he told the sisters more of the tale over several occasions, and then expanded and rewrote it for three years before the final published book pleased him and the few who read it. It was originally titled Alice’s Adventures Underground, but several titles were considered and Wonderland was chosen, which etymologically mirrors the original under-ground. Carroll added the House of the Duchess House, Cheshire Cat and the Mad Tea Party, all in the middle of the tale with central questions about answers, rules, and morals about morals in reworking the story.
In the Disney classic animated movie, Alice is being instructed by her sister in boring lessons, but the original text opens with Alice’s sister reading and Alice having nothing to do, which means her sister is reading to herself, though this isn’t said, and Alice is bored, looks at her sister’s book over her sister’s shoulder, and wonders how her sister can read a text without pictures. She falls asleep, which isn’t said either but we learn when she wakes in the end. Some have called the genre of main characters entering fantasy dreams they don’t know are dreams after a bump on the head, or falling asleep, or going insane Dead and Dreaming, and Wonderland is a popular early example. The top in the movie Inception leaves this hanging.
Alice sees the White Rabbit, who is upset, says he is late to himself, and scurries off. Alice can’t pay attention to a text without pictures, just as the mouse she soon meets tells a dry tale, with details that are uninteresting, words without emotion. Alice’s sister is exclusive, reading a text to herself, and Alice is inclusive, and delighted that a rabbit is wearing a waistcoat and watch and is worried he is late, which is absurd. A rabbit is a beast, according to Aristotle, devoid of reason, so just as Wittgenstein says we wouldn’t expect a dog to expect his human specifically on Thursday, Alice doesn’t expect a rabbit to check a watch and worry he is late for an appointment, or even talk to himself, in English or rabbit language, as that would be reason, verbal logic exclusive to humans, just as a watch is a device only humans can use.
The White Rabbit is like an addition problem, an AND, Alice and her older sister, inclusive of different elements, the two sisters, and exclusive, specialized and late to a specific event at a precise time. Alice was bored that her sister was reading to herself, and now Alice charges after the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole, with no thought as to how she would get out again, like a wildly inclusive child, mirroring the absurdly inclusive combination of a rabbit with a waistcoat, and unlike her sister, who is carefully considering a specialized text. Alice dreams she follows the absurdly complex White Rabbit as she can’t follow her sister in reading a boring specialized text that gathers a very narrow sort of element. A child needs emotions, pictures, words and many things to stay interested in a story. Also, unlike Alice the rabbit is wide awake.
Alice falls down a deep well past pictures, maps, and shelves full of jars, and Alice takes a jar off a shelf labeled Orange Marmalade that is disappointingly empty, just as our mental concept of marmalade has no marmalade but inductively gathers all particular pools of marmalade together, and the form of a syllogism can be valid whether or not any of its content is true or it is all imaginary and empty. For Avicenna, the jar for horses is as much a jar as the jar for unicorns. Alice wonders as she falls about antipathies, and if they are upsidedown on the other side of the earth and walk on their hands, like living in a dream. Alice thinks of Dinah her cat, asks herself if cats eat bats, and then if bats eat cats, and since she can’t answer either question she considers the two equivalent, as the two are contradictory but entirely empty. She then dreams that she is walking hand in hand with Dinah, a dream within a dream.
Alice falls into a hall with a three-legged glass table, much like a three-pronged Aristotelian syllogism, an invisible form that is also transparent. On the table is a golden key, like a perfect answer, and after searching the room and many locked doors twice-round Alice finds a small door to the loveliest garden that the key unlocks but Alice is too large to get through. She hopes to find something that can shrink her, and she does on the table next to the key that wasn’t there before that says Drink me. Alice checks the bottle to see if it reads Poison, as she’s read several stories with clear morals about children who drink bottles marked Poison, even though she’s a bit dense if she thinks it could be marked both Drink me and Poison and we could trust the labels or whomever wrote them.
When Alice shrinks she fears going out like a candle, and thinks of what a candle flame would look like after being blown out. We can see what isn’t there, as the White King admires Alice for doing in the next book, and unicorns that aren’t there look like unicorns that are there, but they’re not. Wittgenstein said we imagine a red rose in the dark as both pitch black and red, and this is like imagining something that isn’t there, or what the world is like when we aren’t here anymore. There is an existential hint of death Alice imagines and she has forgotten the key, so she is the right small size to enter the Garden of Eden but the ideal key that would let her into a world like that more than she can merely glimpse is out of her reach and seems to be at the end of reason and logic itself on a syllogistic table.
Alice starts crying and scolds herself, and we’re told this curious child is fond of pretending to be two people, once cheating in a game of croquet she was playing against herself and talking to herself all the time. The White Rabbit, who is like Alice and her sister, two people, talks to himself and his watch at the start, and at the end of both stories Alice is between queens who are playing two sides of a chessboard and talking between themselves about Alice as if she isn’t there. Alice finds a box marked Eat Me full of currants, Corinthian raisins, like Corinthian columns, like the three legs of the syllogistic table. She holds her hand to the top of her head to see if she is growing, which won’t work as she is the same height relative to herself with no external standard to check herself against, so she eats the whole cake, growing well past the glass table and filling the entire room. She wonders if she should send presents to her feet at Christmas, which won’t work as she is the same as her feet, and there is no external reward.
She realizes she is too large now, fully grown, such that she can only look into the garden through the keyhole with one of her eyes, and she cries again, with both extremes sad. The White Rabbit drops his fan and gloves, as Victorians thought it proper to formally cover themselves up but then fan themselves so they wouldn’t pass out. Alice wonders who she is, and if she is someone else, reasoning that she is not Ada because of her hair, and not Mabel as she doesn’t know things. Neither outer appearance nor inner ideas constitute identity according to Locke and other British empiricists, so both are absurd. Alice tests her knowledge, saying the capital of London is Paris, the capital of Paris is Rome, then realizes this is foolish, like the morals of the morals of the Duchess are foolish, as there is no capital of the capital and no rule of all rules, no complete form behind all the moves of life and logic.
Alice recites her first rhyme, which comes out strange and lethal about a crocodile and consumption of little fishes, a parody of a well-known poem about a busy worker bee gathering honey who escapes Satan’s clutches. Tradition says work hard and get ahead, out of reach of the predator, and Alice darkly mirrors this with a contradictory moral about the big eating the small, who grow but can’t escape. Alice says that she will not join the real world and come up out of the rabbit hole and Wonderland unless they tell her she is someone she wants to be, or she changes into someone else that she wants to be, but then bursts into tears from loneliness. She isn’t happy with others, but she isn’t happy by herself either.
She finds that the fan shrinks her, and she falls into a sea of her tears, and she is swept out of her syllogistic dilemma by sadness. Just as the King and Queen of Hearts rule Wonderland, it isn’t Alice’s syllogistic reasoning, but her emotions that take her away from her problem, and later after the Tea Party her ability to balance growing and shrinking, adult and child, rabbit and Hatter, opposite perspectives through experience that solves the glass table problem. Unfortunately, the garden is hardly Eden, but a shifting game ruled by a homicidal queen. Alice meets a swimming mouse that she fears is a walrus or hippo, and then gushes to the mouse about her cat several times until the mouse swims away from her, as Alice still has problems with perspective and understanding her cat is both lovely and deadly depending on whether or not we are large or small. Drink and fan cool and shrink Alice, and food and gloves warm and expand Alice, as if what is cool is little and unimportant and what is hot is big and important, and at the end of Wonderland Alice grows into a giant and destroys the whole house of cards, larger than everything in her dream.
Alice follows the fleeing mouse to shore where a party of birds sits and the mouse dries them off with a boring story. When the mouse says the Archbishop of Canterbury found it advisable the Duck interrupts, possibly Duckworth, and asks what it means, the Mouse says the Duck knows perfectly well what it means, as he knows how to use the word even though none of us know what it refers to yet in the Mouse’s story, and the Duck says usually for him it is a frog or a worm, but wonders what the archbishop found, which likely is neither.
The Dodo suggests they dry themselves off with a meaningless political caucus race that goes round in circles with no clear winners, and Alice hands out a piece of candy to each bird. The large birds can’t taste it, and the small birds choke on it. The Mouse leaves offended, a mama crab tells her daughter that there is a lesson here: Never lose your temper. The young crab loses her temper at her mom and follows the example of the mouse rather than learn the lesson and follow mom. Later the Caterpillar tells Alice Keep your temper and she loses it like the young crab. Alice brings up her cat again, sending the party in all directions, with the magpie and canary making polite excuses, formalities that are untrue.
The White Rabbit shows up, muttering to himself that the Duchess will get him executed as surely as ferrets are ferrets. Ferrets kill rabbits, death is as certain as anything, and death is death itself as far as we know, as well as execution. He sees Alice and assumes she is Mary Ann, his servant with a common servant’s name, orders her to fetch his gloves and fan, and Alice obeys as if she is who he thinks and says she is. He asks for his perspective small and large from her, and she immediately loses hers, taking Mary Ann’s place and wondering she would obey her cat if it ordered her around.
The White Rabbit has both perspectives and roles, master of Mary Ann and servant to the Duchess and Queen. The Duchess is mean to Alice in her own home, but nice to Alice in the Queen’s garden and fears the Queen. Situation and position determine function and role, but not entirely, as many characters have both positions and functions, just as Alice gains the ability to choose through the course of both adventures. Alice was brought up to be strict with servants, and was still so later as an adult. Carroll was on the side of the college servants in matters of wages and working hours and visited them when they were sick, but he also could be impossibly exacting in his demands when he was not given exactly what he specified, compassionate and authoritative, broad and high both.
This is like the Duchess, who is angry on her own turf but timid in the garden of the Queen. The chain of command seems to be Alice, White Rabbit, Duchess, Queen Alice says the Rabbit will learn who I am, but after I first obey. One is what one does for authority, not a peer with a personality to be acknowledged. Alice fears the real Mary Ann kicking her out of the house, out of her own role. Alice wonders if Dinah, her pet, will order her to run errands next, a reversal of roles, but says that Dinah wouldn’t be allowed into the house if she took their role as master, just as Alice won’t be allowed into the house by Mary Ann, taking her role as servant. Alice then finds a bottle and drinks it, tired of being tiny. Is Alice turning to drink, tired of being a servant just as she starts?
Alice finds another bottle in the White Rabbit’s house and grows to fill it entirely, so in this case the drink makes her larger, but so she can fill the lowly rabbit’s place. Alice says it is more pleasant at home where she stays the same size and does not change, but then that she enjoys the adventure of different things, like her sister’s dry text and the absurd White Rabbit. She says that there is no room to grow any more and it is sad to remain forever young, dominated by lessons and authorities. Later, the Mock Turtle tells her that lessons lessen with time. Alice then changes perspectives again, and says she won’t have to learn lessons if she fills the whole house. She has a two sided conversation with herself, as on the one hand she can’t develop if she doesn’t learn, but she doesn’t want to learn lessons from others.
The White Rabbit orders Bill the Lizard, lowest servant on the totem pole, to go down the chimney, and Alice says she wouldn’t want to be in his place, either lowest or in the chimney, and she kicks him up and out of the house. Bill says, “Up I goes!” like a common servant. They throw pebbles at her, like insults, which turn into cakes that make Alice smaller, brought down a peg, which helps her unfortunately painful development. Alice escapes into the woods and says she wants to become the right size and get into the garden, finding her proper place in the world that she truly wants. A giant puppy terrifies her as she now has the perspective of the Mouse that she gained through serving the White Rabbit. She throws a stick, the dog happily runs after it, and Alice escapes, but loves the cute dog in spite of her size.
She meets the Caterpillar, a creature who transforms and gives her the power to take small and large sizes. Smoking a hookah like a Hindu or Sufi mystic from the East, he asks her, Who are you?, and Alice says she doesn’t know as she changes so much. The Caterpillar, like an instructor examining a student, asks questions but gives almost no answers, like an inclusive OR, which could be one, or the other, or both, but not neither. Alice is someone, but no exclusive thing makes her one particular person in itself.
The Caterpillar demands Alice recite You Are Old Father William, a moralistic poem about wisely thinking of the future, like the busy bee, but in Alice’s dark parody William stands on his head and says he can digest anything as he was a lawyer who argued each case for years with his wife. The Caterpillar says Alice is wrong from beginning to end, a harsh judgement from such a serious, linear creature, but he gives her no particular criticism, leaving Alice bewildered. The Caterpillar gives Alice both sides of the mushroom he sits on so she can take any position. A caterpillar is a series of segments, neither a cat nor a pillar much, but more like a chain that can take a variety of positions, linear or otherwise.
Alice grows very tall and upsets the Pigeon who is guarding her nest and accuses her of being some kind of serpent after learning that Alice eats eggs. Alice can move her long neck like a serpent, or a caterpillar, and she defies the Pigeon’s syllogistic reasoning, which is valid but false. Alice shrinks down to the right size and finds the house of the Duchess, who is an abusive mother beating her baby, unlike the protective Pigeon saving her eggs from Alice. The Fish and Frog Footmen, the Fish from the large sea of the Queen and the Frog from the small pond of the Duchess, get their formal wigs tangled together as the Fish gives the Frog the Duchess’ invitation to play a game of croquet together. The Frog tells Alice he can’t let her into the Duchess’ house as he is on the same side as her and they can’t hear her inside, as both are lowly, Alice now smaller.
Alice opens the door for herself and finds herself in a kitchen filled with sneezing and pepper. She sees the Cheshire Cat grinning, and asks the Duchess why. The Duchess says the cat is from Cheshire, which doesn’t answer the question at all, but Carroll was born in Cheshire County himself. Legend has it that cats from Cheshire would sit and wait for the boats to come in with a grin on their face, waiting for the rats to come ashore for cheese. The Duchess calls her baby a pig, an insult Alice thinks is meant for her. The Cook throws everything in reach at the Duchess, and the Duchess calls for Alice’s head to be cut off, but nothing happens. The Duchess sings a song about how she beats her baby because his cries are only meant to annoy her. The Duchess doesn’t feel for her child, and she only sees his pain as her displeasure.
Alice takes the baby and rescues it from the house, but then the baby becomes a pig and Alice puts him down and he wanders off. The Pigeon was over-protective, the Duchess was abusive, but Alice is neglectful, and in a typical fairy tale like Carroll collected this could easily kill the pig and baby both. Alice doesn’t see that she has taken the Duchess’ place once she has left her house, seeing the baby as a pig and not worrying about his safety in the slightest. The Cheshire Cat appears sitting on a branch nearby, and grins knowingly at Alice, seeing her take both perspectives exclusively as an exclusive OR that sees both dueling sides and how Alice is taking a position against her previous position. When he asks her what happened to the baby and Alice tells him, he says he thought as much.
Alice asks the Cat where she should go, the Cat asks her where she would like to go, Alice says somewhere, in particular, and Cat says then she can go any direction, as everywhere is somewhere in particular, each exclusive place. Alice asks about particular people, and the Cat says the Hare is one way, the Hatter the other, and both are mad. Alice says she doesn’t want to be around mad people, and the can said that can’t be helped, as we are all mad here. Like Maurice, Carroll’s friend, the Cat explains that each exclusive perspective is sane to itself but insane to those opposite, as a dog growls when angry and wags its tail when happy but a cat growls when it is happy and wags its tail when it is angry, each insane to the other. Alice says she says cats purr and the Cat, an expert at this, says Call it whatever you like, as formal titles and names are interchangeable labels. The Cheshire Cat disappears slowly at Alice’s request, as his quick changes make her giddy, so he leaves his grin for last, and Alice says now she has seen a grin without a cat, the inner meaning without the outer form. Like Alice, we can feel the meaning even if the forms flip back and forth quickly between exclusive positions.
Alice finds the Hare and Hatter having tea together under a tree in front of the hatter’s house, with the childlike Hare, similar to the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter, who is insane in spite of his formal head covering. Mad tea parties were held in insane asylums so that inmates could learn to behave in the world, and just as with little girls the tea party is an empty formality, with empty cups and no tea. The Cheshire Cat was right, as either way Alice went she would have ended up at the same insane party. The two resemble Alice and her sister, the White Rabbit and Queen of Hearts, and the White and Red Queens of the Looking Glass, with the heart and mind, child and adult, opposed to each other and Alice alike. Both rest their elbows on the sleeping Dormouse’s head, on either sides of the dream, like the Queens on both sides of Alice in the end of the second story.
When they see Alice, they shout NO ROOM, excluding her before she can say a word. Alice says there is plenty of room and sits down in one of the many empty seats with them. Later we learn that the two have been changing places round the table with no thought to what happens afterwards. The Hare offers her wine but then says there isn’t any, which Alice says is rude. The Hare points out that Alice was rude first for sitting down uninvited, so the Hare followed suit, changing places around with Alice and mirroring her without thinking of what will result. Alice protests there is more than enough space, and the Hatter says she needs a haircut, as there is more than enough of that too. The Hatter is very much a logician, like Carroll, and cutting things down so they are straight and less hairy is what logicians do.
Alice tells the Hatter he should learn the lesson not to say personal things, as it is rude, and the Hatter asks her an unsolvable riddle, Why is a raven like a writing desk? Alice is rude, the two are rude to Alice in return, Alice says there is a rule they should learn, but doesn’t think she needs to follow the same lesson, and the Hatter replies with an unsolvable riddle, much as Carroll says logic seems unsolvable. Raven and writing desk both sound like they start with R, but due to impractical formalities writing begins with a silent W. After both books were long published, someone wrote to Carroll and offered a solution to the riddle Carroll invented as unsolvable: Both produce a few notes, though they are very flat.
Alice likes riddles, though she didn’t like the puzzling conversation it resembles, and she says she believes she can guess, which Wittgenstein would call nonsensical, as if we can guess we don’t need to go through the motions of believing it as a second reinforcing step. The Hare asks her if she means she can think she can find out the answer, adding additional absurd steps. Alice agrees with his reformulation of her intention, and the Hare tells her she should say what she means, as if Alice really meant what he said rather than what she did even though it sounded like he was offering her a clarifying equivalent expression. Alice says she means what she says, or says what she means, and the two are the same thing.
The hatted human logician steps in and insists that the two are not equivalent at all, denying Alice’s substitution as the Hare did hers, and he explains as a logician would why A is B is not the same thing as B is A. If the two are identical then the two are the same, but if As are Bs this is opposite Bs are As and not the same at all. If there is one thing Alice says and means, saying and meaning both, she is right, but if Alice says things that can have many meanings or means things that can be said many ways, then the things Alice says and the things she means are not identical sets at all. The Hatter doesn’t explain it this way, but gives Alice an example, I see what I eat isn’t the same thing as I eat what I see. The Hare follows with another example, I like what I get isn’t the same as I get what I like. The Dormouse offers another, I breathe when I sleep isn’t the same as I sleep when I breathe, but the Hatter again interrupts and says that the two are the same for the Dormouse, as the Dormouse is always both breathing and sleeping.
The Hatter pulls out his watch, which is broken even though the Hare used the best butter to fix it. The Hatter tells Alice that his watch doesn’t tell the minute or hour, as those stay the same for him, but it does tell the day and it is two days off, which means the Tea Party lives time inside-out, with the particular position staying the same, but the exclusive day changing, much like several people being rude to each other, stuck in the same mood, but in different exclusive positions, as arguing individuals. It is also like trying to fix a watch with good butter, as the particular thing is good but doesn’t make the larger situation better, as what is good in one position isn’t good in another, as the party has already taught Alice.
The Hatter tells Alice that if she only learns to talk to time, she can be in any exclusive position whenever she likes, with the larger universal process absurdly taking particular positions. The Dormouse tells a nonsensical story with sick sisters living in a molasses well that doesn’t make any sense to Alice, as the sisters are in an absurd position that doesn’t connect with a larger picture at all, so Alice leaves the Tea Party as Hare and Hatter try to stuff the Dormouse into the teapot and contain him between them. Victorian children sometimes kept dormice in teapots as pets.
Just as Alice says she has never been to a stupider party she find a door in a tree that leads back to the hall with the glass table, and she now has the tools to solve the puzzle and get into the Queen of Hearts’ garden. In the end of both stories, Alice similarly declares everything stupid before rising up and breaking out of her dream. As she grows, she begins pushing back against those who don’t make sense to her, like adults sadly do, so she is ready for croquet with the Queen.
Alice meets playing cards who are painting white roses red. The other cards process in with the White Rabbit nervously smiling at everyone inclusively. The painting cards fall on their faces, and the Queen asks Alice who she is and who the cards are. As the cards are face down, and the Queen’s cards, not Alice’s, she tells the Queen that they are none of her business, as if she wouldn’t look at someone else’s hand, or servant, face down. The Queen screams, OFF WITH HER HEAD!, and Alice says this is Nonsense. Alice is dreaming, so her head is already off somewhere else, but also here in the garden. The King of Hearts timidly, like the White Rabbit, suggests Alice is only a child, so the Queen quietly moves to consider her cards. It is said that Mrs. Liddell was the one with the power, with Dean Liddell meekly following suit. Carroll’s work is full of bossy women who get their way, including Alice.
Alice is invited to play croquet. White Rabbit timidly says it is a nice day to Alice, because now she is above his station and he possibly doesn’t recognize her, just as he misjudged her to be his servant before. The game of croquet begins, played with animals as equipment, hedgehogs and flamingos, and nobody seems to follow any rules. Alice has trouble straightening out her flamingo and keeping her hedgehog rolled up, fighting her like the Cook did the Duchess. The Queen wanders around ordering executions for anyone she doesn’t like. Alice says, “They’re dreadfully fond of beheading people here: the great wonder is, that there is anyone left alive!” This is an interesting summary of British history involving royalty.
Alice wants to leave but the Cheshire Cat’s head appears and offends the King. Alice recalls the saying, A cat may look at a king, that those who have nothing to lose are unafraid. The Queen orders the Cat beheaded, and the King and executioner argue over whether a head can be beheaded. The executioner says if it doesn’t have a body, like symbols and forms without content, then it can’t be beheaded, but the King says if it has a head, if it is symbolized, then it can be beheaded, with the symbols taken away from the content legitimately. The Queen says everyone will die if the issue isn’t resolved. Unfortunately, everyone will die, but only because they are mortal, as Aristotle says of Socrates, whether or not the issue is resolved, but given Carroll’s views on logic, it doesn’t look good.
The Duchess, like the White Rabbit, is now nice to Alice, and Alice moralizes that pepper is what makes people angry, a rule that is quite overly-universal. Like Aristotle’s discussion of the humors, Alice thinks that vinegar makes people sour and sugar makes people sweet, and wishes others knew these simple rules. The Duchess says that Alice is thinking, and thus not talking, and there is a moral to that she can’t remember. Alice says that it may not have a moral, an underlying lesson or rule to learn, and the Duchess says that everything has a hidden moral, much as Alice just claimed to find. The Duchess says that the moral of that is that love makes the world go round. Alice reminds her that earlier she said it goes by everybody minding their own business, attending to their own self-interest, and the Duchess says that it is much the same thing, and that the moral of that is take care of the sense and the sounds take care of themselves.
The Duchess draws a foolish moral about birds and mustard both biting, and being alike in flocking together, overgeneralizing in a positive way now, as she negatively did about her pig-baby before. Alice points out that mustard isn’t a bird, the Duchess agrees with everything Alice says, drawing a moral that if I win, you lose, surrendering to Alice’s particular critical judgement and then universalizing it. Alice changes her mind about mustard, and the Duchess agrees again, drawing the moral that we should be what we seem. Alice says she doesn’t understand, and the Duchess proudly says she could say much more, and says it is her gift to Alice. The Duchess oddly seems to be ruling over Alice like the Queen, but as her equal, placing useless universal moralizing over them both, which is kinder than a death sentence.
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