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CELTIC-L  February 2008

CELTIC-L February 2008

Subject:

Re: More on Celtic A & B

From:

John Hooker <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Tue, 26 Feb 2008 19:24:51 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (142 lines)

Hi Bruce,

Yes, you have understood my argument very well -- even to the point of seeing the
importance of subjects that I have mentioned only briefly, such as Foucault.

My view, as you put it, was inspired by trying to make sense of the iconography of
the Gundestrup cauldron. Whether anyone agrees or disagrees on my subsequent dating
and place of manufacture, most reasoned interpretations say that it combines
Dionysian and Orphic iconography with Celtic iconography and that it was made by
Thracians for Celts. Beyond that, the reason that it contains Dionysian and Orphic
imagery has been stated to be because the artisans who made it were Thracian, and
Thrace is place where such beliefs existed.

This seemed to be a very unsatisfactory reason to me because I cannot imagine that
the Thracians felt obliged to convert the Celts to their way of thinking and even if
they did, there would be no guarantee that the Celts would have said "That's not
what we wanted" and they might have driven their point home -- quite literally, with
their swords! Besides, if the Thracians had wanted to convert the Celts, they would
have done something along the lines of the public demonstrations of the Dionysian or
Orphic rites that were intended to get converts, and not some of the other things
that were gradually revealed after such an initiation. Thye would have been bound to
keep some of this to themselves and it would be natural for their Celtic patrons to
ask some things about the iconography that the artists would then be forbidden to
explain. This, too, could have led to swordplay.

It is also a rthaer modern development in art, where the innermost thoughts and
experiences of the artist are expressed in their work and those innermost thoughts
are quite acceptable to the buyers of such art. In previous times, the artist was
expected to produce what the patron wanted and the artist's own expression could be
included, and was appreciated, providing that this agreement was not violated.

So I was left with the idea that what was being transmitted was already understood
to a very great measure by those to whom it was being transmitted. That the Thracian
artists included Celtic iconography and that iconography was very particular to
certain regions in Gaul, could only mean that some sort of collaboration had taken
place in the planning of the design. If the Celts in question had not already
assimilated something of the mystery cults, then they would have vetoed its
inclusion, and because the Thracians were obviously quite capable of producing
something that only contained Celtic imagery, then there would be no need to have to
include the iconography of the mysteries. Following upon that, I saw that the
various forms of La Tène decoration contained imagery that also expressed something
of the underlying meanings of the Mysteries' philosophy.

For the two types of imagery to be present in a single work suggested to me that the
Celtic and the Greek mysteries ideas to have already been compatible to a great
measure and whatt we are seeing is a syncretism.

Now, perhaps this might be argued, but that argument would be expected to have to
contain an alternative hypothesis that could explain what I was seeing, but would
give it other causes. It would be inadequate to merely say, "I don't belive that"
without offering some reasons as to why and also offering an alternative hypothesis.
This is the way things progress. No one can rest comfortable in the thought that
their ideas will completely stand the test of time and we all expect that our ideas
will be replaced or modified, at least in part, in the future, with other ideas that
are the result of new evidence.

I can also appreciate how things can get much larger than one thinks at the outset
of a project. When I started to look at Coriosolite coins, my idea was, simply, to
place them in chronological order. It all got much bigger than that!

Cheers,

John

> Now that's what I call clear! Yes the issue of classification, in any
> discipline (academic or otherwise) is necessarily subjective.  It is a
> creation of a subject, either individual or collective.  Classifications
> serve the interests of the classifiers, not those things classified.  There
> is no single privileged classification of any objects, indeed the notion of
> an object is itself subjective in this sense.  Now it seems clear that
> John's purpose is the classification of a certain sort of objects, in the
> first place of coins.
> It is also now clear, at least to me, that "Celtic A" is a very broad
> classification, all Celtic speakers. "Celtic B" is not really a separate
> group of people, it now seems at least to me.  All people whose work leads
> John to classify them  as "Celtic B" are also people who are included in
> Celtic A.  Ultimately the Celtic B represents what I would like to call a
> "view."  It uses particular kinds of metaphors.  What the metaphors "mean"
> is, of course, a difficult philosophical as well as "scientific" question
> (of course the "meaning" of all language is subject to the same issues).
> The point of the classification, its purpose, seems to be to call attention
> to a particular set of what I would call "ideas" that are presumably
> "represented" (some philosopher, can't remember who at the moment pointed
> out that this is "re-presentation") in certain artifacts.
> As I now see it John's point is to argue that a set of artifacts re-present
> a set of ways of thinking. He further thinks that these ways of thinking owe
> much more to a particular set of Greek (among others) ways of thinking,
> which he calls "mystery cults" than has usually been realized. Now whether
> or not this is true clearly involves some objective issues, issues about the
> nature of objects.  I feel no capacity to judge these issues on my own.  My
> own knowledge is mostly of texts of political philosophy, including ancient
> Greek texts.  Surely one can recognize, for example, that Plato was aware of
> some set of ideas that relate to "mystery cults."  Whether the ideas
> classified in this manner existed is about objects, "facts" if you will.
> The point of the classification scheme is to suggest that these objects
> somehow express a set of ideas or representations that are similar to
> others, especially those associated with Dionysias.  This is not precisely a
> subjective question.  The issues, mostly well discussed already by Ray, that
> arise in this context have to do with a lot of varied factual patterns.
> Though much of this is "subjective" in the sense that it deals with "our"
> intentions in drawing the classifications, or accepting them once they have
> been drawn, we can reasonably assess the issues with a number of factual
> findings. "Influence" is notoriously difficult to assess for a lot reasons.
> But one can clearly at least come up with negative claims about influences.
> If one could show that there was never any intellectual contact between
> Greeks and Celts (obviously not true and surely the most important part of
> his claim is that these contacts have not been fully realized for a number
> of reasons that he spells out) than John would be wrong, without regard to
> the purposes of his classifications.  Whether a classification "makes sense"
> determines its usefulness.  Whether the classifier alleges factual matters
> that are not borne out by the evidence is another question all together.
>
> This is, as John seems to try to point out in a number of ways (including
> the important references to Foucault) the way knowledge, including "science"
> works.
> Forgive the long-winded reaction.  But I want to express how important this
> conversation can be even to someone like myself with little linguistic or
> archeological training. I have learned a great deal, including the fact that
> I need to look more closely at artistic representations, than I have done so
> far in trying to recreate a kind of "Celtic" view of politics.  What my
> study over the last ten years or so has shown me is that this is a much more
> complex task than I thought.  I wrote a chapter of a text about the logic of
> political explanation, one about Plato, one about Aristotle, one about
> Augustine and then thought that, with a little bit of study, I could try a
> chapter about the "barbarian" point of view, what I call the "paradigm" of
> politics that marked the views of at least some non Greek and non-Roman
> peoples.  It only took a little while to realize that my task was much
> larger than I thought.  This led me first to note that there were lot of
> kinds of "barbarians."  So I thought, "well, at least for the period prior
> to the Roman conquest of Gaul I can concentrate on "the Celts."  Then I
> found all this doubt about whether there really were any. Well, certainly
> there were people in Gaul that were conquered.  Based on a lot of different
> sources, I became convinced that early Irish stories could help me.  But
> then the question arose as to whether these were really "Celtic" at all.
> How do these stories relate, if at all, to the culture of pre-Roman "Celts"?
> John has helped me realize here that the point is what I am trying to do
> with my own classifications.  So I'll ponder this for another ten years or
> so.
> Bruce

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