Thought Itself

The History of Philosophy, Logic & The Mind with Eric Gerlach


Through the Looking Glass

Aristotle’s Categories & The Hunting of the Snark

I have been developing my theory that Aristotle’s categories fits the order of characters and events of Wonderland and The Looking-Glass.  In the process, I realized that The Hunting of the Snark has ten characters with no individual names but whose jobs start with B, and that each could fit with Aristotle’s ten categories, types of being, as well.  If Carroll used Aristotle’s categories to plot out Alice’s adventures, it is not unlikely that the Snark works like a logic puzzle.  In his Game of Logic, Carroll similarly listed buns, babies, beetles and battledores (an early badminton racket) as examples of things, also known as beings.  In Carroll’s introduction he says his work shows he is incapable of nonsense, and this brief but instructive poem includes precise arithmetic truth and natural history, both which apply to Aristotle’s categories.

Edward Guiliano pointed out that the Bellman looks like Father Time and carries a school bell for lessons.  The best candidates for each  of Aristotle’s categories are: the Bellman is time, the Boots is place, the Maker of Bonnets and Hoods is position, birth and death, the Barrister who dreams of the pig’s trial is relations, the Broker who values the goods is quality, the Billiard-Maker who chalks his own nose is action, the Banker is state, the Beaver who knits lace is passion, the Butcher who carves things up, dresses formally for the fight and teaches the Beaver addition is quantity, and the Baker who leaves everything on the beach, wears many layers, bakes brides cake, doesn’t lie, forgets his specific name and fades away, vanishing without a trace in the end is substance.

Euclid, Carroll & Political Satire

lewis-carroll-in-numberlandI have been researching the work of Lewis Carroll, and just now found a remarkable piece of Carroll’s wit in Robin Wilson’s book Lewis Carroll in Numberland (2008).  Carroll, a professor of mathematics and logic at Oxford, was very familiar with Euclid’s Elements, the classic Greek text on geometry which was used to sharpen the minds of students in Victorian England.

Euclid’s first three postulates are:

Euclid1) Let it be granted, that a line may be drawn from any point to any other point.

2) That a line may be lengthened to any extent.

3) That a circle may be drawn about any point, and at any distance from that point.

Carroll, mocking the politics of parliamentary elections, produced these three:

Lewis Carroll1) Let it be granted, that a speaker may digress from any point to any other point.

2) That a finite argument may be lengthened to any extent.

3) That a controversy may be raised about any question, and at any distance from that question.

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