We may trace the origins of the idea of the Good in the Western mythological-religious, biblical tradition back to the archetypal scene of the ethical melodrama played out in the Garden of Eden. Mankind, we are told, succumbed to the serpent-symbolized seduction of projecting dialectic judgments, thereby initiating a cascade of dualities, as between male and female, God and Man, Good and Evil--although any distinction whatever would have served as an instance of the incipient cleaving of the scientific mindset. And that is how the First Couple qualified themselves for expulsion from Paradise.

The story of the Fall of Man, in which this fruit from the Tree of Knowledge renders Eve and Adam self- aware, supplies a favorite theme for Western art history: from the Early Christian mosaics at San Marco in Venice to the bronze doors of Bishop Bernward for the great Romanesque church of St. Michael's at Hildesheim, or from the rare vision of Hieronymus Bosch on the triptych covers of the Garden of Earthly Delights at the Prado, Masaccio's walls of the Brancacci Chapel, the wings of the Ghent Altar by the brothers Van Eyck, and Albrecht Dürer's portrait of Adam and Eve, to Michelangelo's ceiling of the Capella Sistina in the Vatican. These artistic conventions illustrate the mundane process by which eternal knowledge, awareness of the divine self, is transformed into the guilty gestures with which the First Couple prudishly shield their newly-realized nakedness. The Garden scene, paradoxically, proved popular with artists who worked in a climate of repressive Christian moralizing precisely because it gave them an excellent rationale for drawing nudes in the first place.

Marcel Duchamp displayed a paradisical grace when he appeared in the role of Adam, with Brogna Perlmutter as Eve, in a brief tableau, "probably in a single evening performance of the review Ciné Sketch" by Francis Picabia. This may have been on Christmas Eve, 1924, at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées during the short run of the ballet Relâche, by Picabia and Erik Satie, produced by the Swedish Ballet. Duchamp also appeared with Man Ray and Picabia in Entr'acte, a film by René Clair, that was shown during the intermission of the ballet. A charming still photo shows Duchamp and Perlmutter imitating the poses of Adam and Eve as they appear in Lucas Cranach's sixteenth-century painting in Munich. This image recurs in Duchamp's own work as the first in a series of nine etchings executed in December, 1967. The graphic work is titled Morceaux choisis d'après Cranach et "Relâche" (Selected Details After Cranach and "Relâche"). Duchamp could have seen the original work when he visited Munich and began work on the Bride (August, 1912), radically changing then his own theoretical and practical approach to painting.

Abandoning my association with Cubism and having exhausted my interest in kinetic painting, I found myself turning towards a form of expression completely divorced from straight realism. This is not the realistic interpretation of a bride but my concept of a bride expressed by the juxtaposition of mechanical elements and visceral forms. My stay in Munich was the scene of my complete liberation, when I established the plan of a large-size work which would occupy me for a long time on account of all sorts of new technical problems to be worked out. This painting [the Bride] belongs to a series of studies I made for the Large Glass...[which] I began three years later in New York. Replacing the free hand by a very precise technique, I embarked on an adventure which was no more tributary of already existing schools.

[ D'Harnoncourt and McShine, p. 263, Cat. 83; for Relâche see p. 18. ]


Duchamp's claims about the independent spirit of this adventure, if taken to refer to the local and temporal context, accurately describe a period and process of deep significance for the history of modern art. The medium of painting, having been walled-in by the limited vision of "existing schools" (traditions influential in 1912), was about to be born (again) into the Real world, to "Fall" from the timeless world of retinal impressions and illusions into a new order of discriminating, measured existence: art once again "at the service of the mind," in Duchamp's own famous phrase.

Art history supposes that representations of the Fall of Man in the style of Lucas Cranach's "wriggly nakedness" (H. W. Janson's phrase) derive from the more classical approach to the nude by Albrecht Dürer. But the great German artist of the Renaissance, working before Cranach in the sixteenth century, did not draw his figures from life; rather he constructed them according to a scheme of numerical proportions as exemplars of ideal Beauty. Dürer's theoretical and didactic treatment of the Grand Quadripartite theme may be read in the details of his engraving, the Fall of Man from 1504. A renowned humanist scholar, the late Professor Erwin Panofsky, while noting that "the Eve in particular is closer to Cranach's helical nudes than any other figure ever devised by Dürer," described Dürer's 1504 engraving that

has always been deservedly famous for the splendor of a technique that does equal justice to the warm glow of human skin, to the chilly slipperiness of a snake, to the metallic undulations of locks and tresses, to the smooth, shaggy, downy of bristly quality of animals' coats, to the twilight of a primeval forest....In addition, Drer's contemporaries would have observed certain iconographic features which easily escape the modern beholder. They would have shared his delight in paralleling the tense relation between Adam and Eve to that between a mouse and a cat crouching to spring, and they would have appreciated the symbolism of what most of us would be apt to dismiss as "picturesque accessories." They would have understood that the mountain ash, to which Adam still holds, signifies the Tree of Life and that the same contrast exists between it and the forbidden fig tree as between the wise and benevolent parrot and the diabolical serpent; and the selection of the animals in the foreground would have reminded them of a widespread scholastic doctrine which connects the Fall of Man with the theory of the "four humors" or "temperaments."

According to this doctrine, which had been formulated in the twelfth century, the original nature of man was not yet qualified and corrupted by the predominance of any one of those mysterious fluids to which we still allude when we use such expressions as "sanguine," "phlegmatic," "choleric," and "melancholic." Before Adam had bitten the apple, man's constitution was perfectly balanced ("had man remained in Paradise he would not have noxious fluids in his body," to quote St. Hildegarde of Bingen), and he was therefore both immortal and sinless. It was believed that only the destruction of this original equilibrium made the human organism subject to illness and death and the human soul succeptible to vices--despair and avarice being engendered by black gall, pride and wrath by choler, gluttony and sloth by phlegm, and lechery by the blood. The animals, however, were mortal and vicious from the outset. They were by nature either melancholic or choleric or phlegmatic or sanguine--provided that the sanguine temperament, always considered more desirable than the others, was not identified with perfect equilibrium. For in this case no sanguine animal could be admitted to exist, and it was assumed that man, originally sanguine pure and simple, had become more or less severely contaminated by the three other "humors" when biting the apple.

An educated observer of the sixteenth century, therefore, would have easily recognized the four species of animal in Dürer's engraving as representatives of the "four humors" and their moral connotations, the elk denoting melancholic gloom, the rabbit sanguine sensuality, the cat choleric cruelty, and the ox phlegmatic sluggishness.

[ Erwin Panofsky, The Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer, Princeton University Press (1955), p. 120 and pp. 84-84, figure 117. ]

Professor Panofsky conducted a graduate seminar at Princeton University in 1960, in which he devoted primary attention to some artists for whom he had always expressed great love, such as Roger van der Weyden and, especially, Albrecht Dürer. One of the iconographic details in Dürer's engraving--its meaning then still mysterious to the venerable humanist--was the figure of the goat perched on a lofty (sublime? Alpine?) rock outcropping in the extreme upper right-hand corner of the print. There is a saying among the Tibetans that you can't teach a man anything before he is forty; Professor Panofsky, himself, was fond of saying that you couldn't think like a humanist until you were at least sixty--and in another breath, that art histor-ans in particular have to know everything. Aspera non spernit!

The same four constitutional types represented by the symbolic animals in 1504 appear later in one of Dürer's artistic testaments, the great panels representing the "Four Apostles," completed and given to the City of Nuremberg in 1526. We know they are to be associated with the theory of the "four humors" because of inscriptions, and from other irrefutable documentation.

It has been said that a great master would not have used four holy men merely as an excuse for painting the Four Temperaments. But what Dürer did was just the opposite: he used the theory of the four temperaments, whose fundamental importance for him and his age need no longer be stressed, for the characterization of four holy men and, by implication, of four basic forms of religious experience. The fifteenth century had not scrupled to arrange the representative of the four humors around the face of God, thereby characterizing them as the four-fold aspect of the image Divine. Dürer succeeded in lending artistic expression to what the poor illuminator had merely intimated by an emblematic symbol.

We know enough about the physical and psychological criteria of the four humors and about their association with the four seasons, the four times of day and the four ages of man to tell which temperament "belongs" to each of our figures....

Now the theory of the four humors implied, not only a differentiation of physical and psychological qualities but also a hierarchy of values; and it appears that the figures dominant from a compositional point of view are also the representatives of the "noblest" temperaments. As we know, the sanguine disposition of St. John was always considered as the most balanced and desirable one; it represented, according to some, the happy condition of man before the Fall.

[ Panofsky, Dürer, pp. 234-235, but see pp. 230 ff., figs. 294, 295. Strictly speaking, St. John was an Evangelist, but not an Apostle. Transformations in the identity of the four men, and the corresponding implications for our understanding of the dynamic religious history of the Reformation at that time, are discussed at length by Professor Panofsky both in this text on Drer and elsewhere. ]

Just as in the monumental panel paintings, Professor Panofsky may convince us, Dürer's concern in the engraving was much more than

to show his skill in burin work and his knowledge of "natural philosophy...." The Fall of Man is intentionally a model of human beauty. Drer wished to present to a Northern public two classic specimens of the nude human body, as perfect as possible in both proportions and pose.

[ Panofsky, Dürer, p. 85.]


If Beauty were truly--as the saying goes--only skin-deep, then it could be demonstrated easily, like the consequences of an algebra. It would be easy because relatively superficial, although these surface relationships can be quite complex. But by "the Beautiful" we often mean something more essential, echoing Plato's to kalon, or Beauty as one of the eternal Ideas, one of the innermost qualities of Being.

The etymology of the English word BEAUTY leads back to the Latin beare ("to make BLESSED") and bellus ("handsome," "pretty," "fine"), both from an Indo-European root deu(3), "to DO." From that same root, by the way, comes the Latin bonus, which gives us many words meaning "good." The word GOOD lexically derives from the root ghedh, meaning to UNITE, to JOIN, to fit TOGETHER, which is semantically close to YOGA. It's GOOD to get TOGETHER. And the sense of "fitting together" also resides in the deep meaning of the word ART which comes from the Indo-European root ar and, as we have seen, yields cognates at HARMONY, ORDER, ARMY, and ARITHMETIC. Yet most would agree that we cannot fathom the nature of the Beautiful merely by hearing how its name has been called by various tongues in different times, whether in the TO KALON of Plato, or as repeated in Ezra Pound's poetics, or in the concept of bello among the late Gothic masons of Lombardy.

The documents concerning a long-running dispute over completing the construction of the Cathedral at Milan show that early fifteenth-century ideas of bello ("beauty") referred principally to matters of taste, in contrast with the concept of lodevole (the "praiseworthy").

Praiseworthy and beautiful are...two utterly different criteria. Beauty has reference to Milanese taste, about which there could obviously be a disagreement...but praise [-worthy]--to put it briefly--relates to the secret of the lodges, to maconerie, thus, to the mensurability on the building site....Something can be beautiful [in Milan, anyway, in 1401] without being praiseworthy, that is, well adapted to practical building.

The secret of the lodges does not relate to "beauty" itself but to the exact measurements of that which at the time was beautiful.

[ Paul Frankl, The Gothic, pp. 81, 70. ]

The "praiseworthy," then--which was NOT merely a matter of taste--derived from the secret, geometrical rules directly asociated with the practice of the craft of stone masonry, which was presumably transmitted in an unbroken tradition: through the seventh-century Lombard guilds, or before them the third-century masons of San Marino (who refused work at the Emperor Diocletian's palace at Split, and defiantly crossed the Adriatic to set up their own--Modern Europe's first--republic), from the Roman collegia, from the even further removed antiquity of Greece, and before that from Egypt back, at least, to the Third Dynasty of King Zoser and the architect Imhotep.

One seldom gets second chances when making cuts in hard stone. The practice of masonry required not only the development of technique and skill learned during apprenticeship, but also mastering the theoretical knowledge of geometry essential for laying out and designing the work. Once learned by human beings--and the basic formal relationships of the "Pythagorean theorem" have been found on Babylonian cuneiform tablets-- this "higher," secret knowledge was unlikely to have been squandered utterly, although its practice might become frequently sloppy, degenerate, or imperfectly understood. One could always carp about "How straight is straight?" Still, a straight edge and a cleanly-cut corner are not functions of political or religious opinion, but objective perceptions. When this method together with the mathematical secrets of the craft were abstracted from their concrete expression in stone, their real intellectual force began to be felt. The study of certain operations with traditional geometrical figures--such as halving or doubling the square (in Plato's Meno), and the equilateral triangle which "functions as the fundamental figure of world creation in his Timaeus," or the system of quadrature and the Pythagorean triangle as presented one after the other in Vitruvius--enabled Gothic architects to transfer design sketches to "true size" without using a standard measure. This was the principal practical secret of the great German masonic lodges of the Gothic period.

[ See, Frankl, The Gothic, p. 139, paraphrased here. ]

The Fall of Constantinople on Tuesday evening, May 29, 1453 is usually taken to mark the advent of gunpowder in the West. Its subsequent appreciation by military planners literally undermined the tactical importance of masonry as a leading technology of warfare. With the new power of explosives, sappers could, with relative ease, breach the city walls and castle battlements that had characterized defensive strategies since before Troy, since before even the concept of masonry itself, before Jericho's walls of the seventh millennium BC, since thornbushes ringed the campsite to ward off marauding carnivores. The appearance of the true gun is difficult to date, but in 1327 a bombard was illustrated in a European manuscript, now in the Bodleian Library at Oxford: Walter de Milamete's De Nobilitatibus, Sapientis et Pruden-iis Regum (On the Majesty, Wisdom and Prudence of Kings), in which

a figure in gingerly applying a red-hot rod to the touch hole of a vase-shaped cannon, out of the muzzle of which appears an arrow.

[ Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation, Volume V "Chemistry and Chemical Technology," with the collaboration of Ho Ping-Y, Lu Gwei-Djen, and Wang Ling, Part 7 "Military Technology; The Gunpowder Epic," Cambridge (1986), p. 284 f. The manuscript actually contains two illustrations of bombards, with both shown shooting arrows. ]

By the fifteenth century cannon were blasting masonry from a privileged position at the forefront of military thinking, although significant advances in design were not realized until the mid-seventeenth century. And it took the disastrous failure of the Maginot Line in World War I before France finally absorbed this particular lesson about relying on defenses based upon static masonry. In China there had been a long and complex history of developing the technology of field artillery. A "fire lance" was in use by the mid-tenth century as documented by a silk banner from one of the Buddhist cave-temples at Tunhuang in Kansu, and now in the Muse Guimet, Paris:

The scene depicts the temptation of a Buddha by the hosts of Mara the Tempter, many of whose demons are in military uniform and carry weapons, all aiming to distract him from his meditation. One of them, wearing a head-dress of three serpents, is directing a fire-lance (huo-chhiang) at the seated figure, holding it with both hands and watching that flames shoot out horizontally. This is the earliest representation we have of a weapon which had enormous repercussions between +950 and +1650.

[ Needham, Science and Civilisation, Volume V, Part 7, pp. 8, 220 ff.]

In the seventeenth century, comparisons were being made about the development of gunpowder and cannon in the West in relation to the traditions of China.

But there are none of those cunning missiles which subvert cities, overthrow walls, and repel enemies from ramparts, used by Europeans, which were not made long before by the Chinese, even though they preferred the arts of peace in which they were supreme.

[Isaac Vosius, De Origine et Progressu Pulveris Bellici apud Europaeos or Chapter 15 in his Variarum Observationem Liber (1685), pp. 86 ff., cited in Needham, Science and Civilisation, Volume V, Part 7, p. 56. ]

By the early eighteenth century, some thinkers had begun to grasp clearly the profound effects of these technological innovations:

It were indeed to be wished that our art had been less ingenious in contriving means destructive to mankind; we mean those instru-ments of war, which were unknown to the ancients, and have made such havoc among the moderns. But as men have always been bent on seeking each other's destruction by continual wars...the chief support of war, must, after money, be now sought in chemistry....

The effect is, that the art of war has...turned entirely on this one chemical invention [gunpowder]; so that the feeble boy may now kill the stoutest hero: Nor is there anything, how vast and solid soever, can withstand it. [The use of gunpowder has] quite alter'd the whole art of fighting; making such changes in the manner of fortification, that places formerly held impreg-nable, now want defenders. In effect, the power of gunpowder is still more to be fear'd....God grant that mortal men may not be so ingenious at their own cost, as to pervert a profitable science any longer to such horrible uses. For this reason I forbear to mention several other matters far more horrible and destructive, that any of those above rehearsed.

[ Hermann Boerhaave, Elementa Chemiae, Volume I (1732), pp. 99 ff. in the English translation of Peter Shaw, A New Method of Chemistry; including the History, Theory, and Practice of the Art, Volume I, Longman, London (1741, 1753), pp. 189 ff. cited in Needham, Science and Civilisation, Volume V, Part 7, p. 56 f. ]

The more general development, involving the "freeing" of theoretical principles of masonry (in particular the discipline of geometry) and the migration of stone-cutting secrets from the lineage of craft and guild instruction to the curriculum of public education, came about not only because gunpowder weakened the leverage of masonry's significance in warfare, but also because--during the same period of time, but especially around the middle of the fifteenth century--printers were obliged to apply the knowledge formerly linked to cutting stone (precise measure, carefully-drawn lines, and accurately-constructed angles) in the practice of their new craft. Although computer typesetting and desktop publishing are currently revolutionizing the industry, printers' guilds have exercised extremely powerful control over the real knowledge actually required to produce either a broadsheet or a book. Print technology also created a revolutionary means for revealing and disseminating what had once been the highest secrets of geometry in particular and, more generally, information about mathematics, medicine, and the sciences, while self-referentially stimulating reading, writing, teaching and scholarship. Following the so-called Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, and especially in Britain beginning with plans for rebuilding London after the great fire of 1666, this intellectual history has been bound inextricably with that of Masonic lore, or "Speculative Freemasonry."

All Masonic history is vague and that from before the reorganization of the craft in the early 18th century is doubly so, because it has to be gleaned from later writings that were deliberately distorted to create a mythological development. Nevertheless, a certain amount can be agreed....[E]ven before this change...the Freemasons had a special attachment to Egypt.

The Christian encyclopaedist and historian Isidore of Seville's Originum sive Etymologiarum, written in the 620s, contained Herodotos' and Diodoros' statements that geometry had been invented by the Egyptians to measure land after the disappearance of boundary markers in the Nile Flood. For Isidore geometry was only one of the seven arts, but for masons it was certainly important as it was equated with masonry itself. Then again, several medieval Masonic manuscripts refer to Euclid's having founded masonry in Egypt for the Egyptian lords. Before dismissing this quaint story it should be remembered that Euclid seems to have lived all his life in Egypt.

[ Martin Bernal, Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, Volume I: The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey (1987), p. 173. In turn, Bernal cites B. Lumpkin, "Mathematics and Engineering in the Nile Valley," Journal of African Civilizations, Vol. 6, No. 2 (1984).]

Ever since Hellenistic times, the Beautiful--in the physical sense as forma--was included in the schema that associated the four "natural excellencies" (nobility, strength, beauty and wealth) with the four virtues (justice, fortitude, temperance and prudence). The medieval curriculum included, as the Trivium, a study of logic, oratorical eloquence termed "rhetoric" (when that word had better connotations than have survived today), and grammar (derived from the conventions of speech, and serving the primary purpose of mutual intelligibility). Taken with the Quadrivium (arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy), these disciplines comprised the Seven Liberal Arts. Beauty could be that which delighted the soul, expressed in and through these academic endeavors--for the Latin ars meant a "branch of learning" and not "art" in the modern sense of the word. The medieval meaning of art, however, comes very close to the way in which Duchamp, with his extreme intellectuality, insisted upon creative freedom, whatever the economic consequences. For the artes liberales were: the studies whose purpose was not to make money. They are called "liberal" because they are worthy of a free man. Hence, painting, sculpture, and other manual arts (artes mechanichae) are excluded [and remained so until the quattrocento in Florence], while music, as a mathematical subject, had a stable place in the circle of the liberal arts.

[ Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, translated from the German by Willard R. Trask, {Bollingen Series XXXVI} Pantheon Books, New York (1953), p. 37. ]


When addressing the subject of the Beautiful at all, Marcel Duchamp, in his work and writings, seems to undermine it either as a problem of canned taste or as one of inspired spontaneity. Duchamp's lack of patience with matters of taste is well known. A memorable interview with James Johnson Sweeney, produced the following exchange:

MD: You see the danger is to "lead yourself" into a form of taste, even the taste of the Chocolate Grinder--

JJS: Taste then for you is repetition of anything that has been accepted; is that what you mean?

MD: Exactly; it is a habit. Repeat the same thing long enough and it becomes taste. If you interrupt your work, I mean after you have done it, then it becomes, it stays a thing in itself; but if it is repeated a number of times then it becomes taste.

JJS: And good taste is repetition that is approved by society and bad taste is the same repetition which is not approved; is that what you mean?

MD: Yes, good or bad is of no importance because it is always good for some people and bad for others. Quality is not important, it is always taste.

[ Sanouillet, Salt Seller, p. 133 f. ]

The issue was raised by the ancient dictum: De gustibus non disputandum est, rendered variously as "There's no disputing taste," "Concerning taste there is no point in carrying on a discussion," or "...there's nothing written." A disputatio in the medieval Latin tradition, and probably in antiquity as well, did not mean something written, but instead implied oral conversation, only later coming to describe formal debate. The word has two Latin roots: dis = "separately," and the verb putare = "to clean," "to prune," or "to settle an account," hence to think or discuss. For most people, it might seem idle to pursue a discussion if the participants are intent solely upon advancing their own opinions in the teeth of facts or without observing the protocols of common reason. On the other hand, one could maintain that facts can be demonstrated or proven, and thus should be beyond dispute, while the only really worthwhile subject for discussion is the matter of one's opinions, which is to say, tastes.

The words "taste" and "touch" both derive lexically from the same Indo-European root, tag = "to touch" (along with "tax" and "integer"). Even more closely interrelated, physiologically if not lexically, are the senses of smell and taste. Smell is a powerful key to sexual attraction, as the monumental commercial success of the perfume industry attests. Today the natural sensitivity of our noses is under virtually constant assault by intermingling aromas from Aqua Velva and Aqua Net, pools of Polo, gallons of Giorgio, and buckets of Brut. Notwithstanding the pervasive reek of garlic on the public's breath, clouds of noxious diesel fumes from falsely innocent yellow school busses and the endemic airborne sulphurous smog that envelops every city in the Western world--and most of them in the Mystic East as well--more intimate environments now exude the expensive, if (to some noses) mephitic vapors of Obsession, Opium, and Poison. It may sometimes seem as though we are drowning in Lakes of Este Lauder, Seas of Charley or Shalimar, and Oceans of Old Spice.

In a subtler way, Marcel Duchamp seemed to be well aware of the possibilities for refined olfactory perception-- perhaps, in part, as a parody of the French tradition in the snobbish appreciation of wines. One of his notes on inframince specfies:

[ Duchamp, Notes, No. 11 (verso). In the French original, Duchamp's term within the parentheses is infra mince / olfactif. ]

This text was reproduced in a slightly different form, composed with a variety of type fonts, as the back cover for the famous issue of View magazine which has the smoking wine bottle and the Milky Way on the front. The wine bottle's etiquette, or label, is a page from Duchamp's own Livret Militaire or military service record. Arturo Schwarz associates this project with Belle Haleine (1921), which title is a pun on Beautiful Breath / Beautiful Helen, again coupling the sense of smell with the idea of the Beautiful. Schwarz sees the smoke, or gas escaping from the bottle, as the Bachelor, and the Milky Way as the Bride, both symbolically associated with the two marrying odors:

Nothing, indeed, could be more immaterial than this marriage (which takes place in the ethereal void of space) of the Bride's fragrance and the Bachelor's tobacco-laden breath....

[ Schwarz, Complete Works, Cat. 322, p. 519 f., where both covers are reproduced and analyzed in detail. A note in the magazine by Peter Lindamood explicitly disclaims the interpretation of wine snobbery. See the special Duchamp issue of View 5, no. 1 (March 1945). See also, Sanouillet, Salt Seller, p. 194. ]

The key to our finer, subtler appreciation of flavors in food is smell, rather than taste, per se. Our brain processes information about smell with the olfactory lobes, which are located at a very interesting place: at the basic juncture of the cortical hemispheres. This signals the historical and evolutionary importance of smell in the development of higher consciousness. When the sense of smell is dysfunctional--such as when we have a cold--one is not able to taste food. In cases of a zinc deficiency (and brass without zinc would be simply copper!) the sense of smell can be seriously impaired, and eating becomes quite dangerous, since one is not able to detect the usual warnings presented by spoiled food.

The physiological fundamentals of the sense of taste have been well studied. As it turns out, there are understood to be just four basic tastes, perceived as the consequence of mouth chemistry and lingui-local geography. These are usually characterized as sweet (sensed especially on the tip of the tongue), bitter (at the back of the tongue), sour (in the middle), and salt (along the sides). Water (or some liquid) also must be present for fully sensing taste, but the rest of what we take for flavors, so say experts in the West, are combinations of these basic tastes with functions of smell. However, in the province of Szechwan, with some of the finest regional Chinese cuisine, tradition says there are not four, but eight basic tastes. This mandala adds pungent (ginger), aromatic (saffron or jasmine), piquant (chili pepper), and astringent (persimmon skin). So, are there four tastes, or eight--or is this another case of nuts and bolts?

We may simplify the issue by choosing one of those tastes to explore in its particular relationship to Duchamp. There can be little doubt which taste is most appropriate: surely, Duchamp is the Salty One. His puns use salty language, and Duchamp was renowned for his salty sensibilities: verbal, visual, and venereal. His later work fairly jumps with salacious innuendo, such as in the cunningly titled pieces, Please Touch (1947), Female Fig Leaf (1950) and Objet-Dard (1951). But all the documentation really needed to make this point was supplied in 1958 with the publication of Marchand du Sel, Michel Sanouillet's heroic attempt "to collect and publish all of Duchamp's written work." The editors chose to translate the joke as "Salt Seller" for the title of the revised and updated English translation published in 1971. A marchand du sel in French is a salt merchant; and obviously, this title also supplies a spoonerism for "Marcel Duchamp."

[ Michel Sanouillet, Marchand du Sel, Le Terrain Vague, Paris (1958). See the "Preface" to Salt Seller: The Writings of Marcel Duchamp (Marchand du Sel), edited by Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson, Oxford University Press, New York (1973), p. v.]

Ordinary table salt, sodium chloride, forms a cubic, 6-sided crystal. The connection between salt and sexual energy in the alchemical tradition reflects a nearly perfect chemical balance exhibited in the compound by two otherwise highly reactive elements: intensely caustic sodium and powerfully acidic chlorine. This reinforces the way salt serves as an emblem of the conjunction-in-opposition of Eros and Thanatos (Love and Death), much as the two elements in neutral table salt, sodium and chlorine are, if separated (as in a salt-fired kiln), so extremely toxic. In mythological symbolism, salt is sometimes used to represent a part of the human psyche associated with the archetype of Kronos or Saturn who is said to rule in the kitchen because of the concern with precise measurements. Note, however, the casual indications of many recipes, which--with an imprecision acknowledging personal tastes--call simply for "a pinch of salt."

Without salt we would surely die. For, as everyone should know, salt is an essential ingredient in the daily diet, perpetuating within us a corporeal memory of the primordial ocean. Here lies an important lesson for inland peoples, such as the Huichols in the deserts of northern Mexico or the Tibetans of the Himalayas. Among the stock items at Karma Dzong, Chögyam Trungpa's retreat in the Rocky Mountains, cylindrical boxes of salt were chosen with a brand name that also carried the punning injunctive reminder: Carey [Carry!] Salt.

Even though a saline solution is the primary carrier-medium of blood in our veins, of course, that does not mean we can live by salt alone. We need--and desire--many different things to maintain life; and the values we express by tastes and preferences constantly vary, whether the ends are described as religious, scientific, ethical, or aesthetic--no matter to what purposive activity or appetitive function of consciousness they might relate. But these tastes and goals are sometimes contradictory and often display patterns of circularity. Experimenters in animal psychology report that a hundred or so male rats deprived of sex and food will all prefer food to sex, sex to avoidance of shock, and that to food. Warren S. McCulloch has shown that it is easy to find similar circularities among preferences expressed by humans, and that there is no hierarchy of dominance in tastes, because values are not magnitudes of any one kind.

The notion of value arose from the number of things of one kind bartered for another kind. To rationalize these transactions, traders used some weight of precious metal. The number of the two kinds of things bartered was inversely proportional to the unit weights of precious metal for each item. The common measure of value was the unit weight, and their value was the price in terms of this common measure. Eudoxus generalized the notion of ratio, and Plato sought a common measure of other than marketable things. Hence the "good," the "beautiful," and the "true." Every psychologist, and every psychiatrist, who has studied motivation has wanted a general scale of values. He has wanted to know how much sexual pleasure was equal to escaping a given severity of pain, or how much work would be done for these ends. We have tried and failed to make a single scale of values for all motives. Many ends severally necessary to life are dimensionall dissimilar. Their dominance is frequently circular. The wants of particular men for particular things and the ways they get them lack generality and enjoy no quantitative order. To turn preferences into ratios and proportions, we seek some common measure of value. But such words stand for no one thing that any man has ever wanted. Again, the separation of theory from practice left every school free to ignore the conduct of life and the nature of desire in setting up its own notion of the "good" as a common measure of all values--a vain superstition whose only remedy is to watch the desirous in his quest and, in the moment of choice, find out what is going on around him and within him.

[McCulloch, "Finality and Form in Nervous Activity," Embodiments of Mind, pp. 269, 257. See also "A Heterarchy of Values Determined by the Topology of Nervous Nets," p. 43. ]

Early in his career, McCulloch conducted research on questions of taste with an elegant experiment designed to collect data about aesthetic values "examining by paired comparison three rectangles divided into 2, 3, and 5 equal rectangles." To his consternation--initially anyway--respondents indicated a circularity in their preferences:

the first was consistently preferred to the second, the second to the third, and the third to the first....I discarded the data as inconsistent, whereas it bespoke consistency of a kind I had not dreamed of. We inherit from Plato a vain superstition called "the common measure of all values." These are not magnitudes of any single kind, but divers ends of divers circuits so interconnected as to secure dominance which, like as not, is circular. Economic arguments from curves of indifference and attempts to set up one scale for the strength of drives for food, water, sex, and whatnot are fantastic ways to beget a gratuitous headache.

[ McCulloch, "Machines That Think and Want," Embodiments of Mind, p. 311; for McCulloch's description of his experiment, see p. 196. ]

Circularities of preference cannot be called hierarchies, whether they are in aesthetics, economics or conditioned reflexology, or, for that matter, even if we are talking about the tastes and choices people make in matters of political or religious beliefs. Rather, the formal relationship expressed by circularities must be described as a heterarchy. We are thus led to dismiss the common but mistaken supposition that preferences, choices, tastes and any other similar ends or goals "can be arranged in a hierarchy of value, increasing ab infimo malo ad summum bonum."

[ McCulloch, "Toward Some Circuitry of Ethical Robots or An Observa-tional Science of the Genesis of Social Evaluation in the Mind-like Behavior of Artifacts," Embodiments of Mind, p. 196. ]

Professor McCulloch's words about hierarchies and heterarchies bear significant weight, in part because he was an extremely influential physician, scientist, teacher and philosopher. In the opinion of many, his contributions to revolutionary modes of cybernetic thinking in the computer age were comparable with those of his colleagues John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener. The intrinsic significance and power of McCulloch's ideas is illustrated by the rigor with which they serve to map social and behavioral functions to the finer structures of physiology. In turn, his analyses of neural nets can be mapped to even deeper formal orders represented by switching circuits and their underlying mathematical models. If values were to admit of a summum bonum for tastes, then a linear, hierarchical ordering would be possible, and we could map such tastes or preferences as a series of concentric circles onto a plane surface. But if instead--as seems to be the case--values are heterarchical, they require a diallel (or "crossover") for mapping onto an otherwise plane surface. Alternatively, the simplest surface on which such a relationship can be mapped without such a diallel is a torus: that shape formed both by our own physical body (taking into account the alimentary canal) and by the ball of twine in With Hidden Noise.

All reflexes are dromes, activities of feed-back mechanisms, and consequently their function includes all purposive activity....The term "hierarchy" in this context has two implications; each drome determines some aim, goal or end, and no two dromes determine exactly the same end. Because organisms live for these ends, they are appreciated by them neither as means to other ends nor as conduct forced upon them, but rather as having that kind of power or importance which culminated in the notion of the sacred or holy--this is the religious implication of "hierarchy" as applied to values. The second implication, arising from the sacerdotal structure of the church, is that the many ends are ordered by the right of each to inhibit all inferiors.

[ McCulloch, "A Heterarchy of Values Determined by the Topology of Nervous Nets," Embodiments of Mind, p. 40 f. ]


Just one instance of circular preference, however, would provide a sufficient basis for the categorial denial of theories of value that assume a common scale. For, as Professor McCulloch reminds us "We were not made that way." Nevertheless, there have appeared historically many institutional structures and management systems ostensibly based on theories manifesting all the rigidities characteristic of hierar-chicies. Whether these be mechanical constructions, living organisms, or abstract structures, they are recognized as cybernetically primitive when failing to provide for sufficient incorporation of feedback to modify-- and to optimize--behavior. Should the contextual situation change, opportunities to adapt are thus forfeited, and possibly chances for survival as well.

Hierarchies certainly have their use; and when the criterion of efficiency is employed, as in evaluating the internal workings of a system, such structure and function may often be appropriate. When, however, the concerns of economies are extended to include a larger concept of the household, hierarchical orders may reveal more of their real costs, necessitating some reevaluation. That is why military dictatorships typically tout efficiency, control, and other values associated with binding, constraint or repression. The exploitation of so-called "natural resources" is similar: it seems very "efficient" (within narrow focus and in the short run) to clear-cut the rainforest or to overfish the ocean: as though there were an unlimited, source of supply. But none of the exploiters ever talk about what it might cost to reconstitute an acre of rainforest, whether tropical or temperate: they don't know, and no one knows, so the whole issue of "circularity" for sustainable resources is simply ignored. No one talks about restocking the ocean with fish; such an idea seems absurd, so it is ignored, and drift-netting persists. Strip-mining for coal continues on Black Mesa, a sacred mountain for the Hopi and their Anazazi ancestors. None of the gold miners put anything back; nor did they clean up their messes, such as toxic mercury in the tailings. So what are the real costs of all that gold, say, in terms of the biological and aesthetic scars on the face of the land, and the health costs for all generations living downstream from the mines? Some oil companies have recently begun public relations campaigns featuring superficial, reconstructive, cosmetic landscaping at drilling sites. We are beginning to sense some of the real costs of pollution when fossil fuels are consumed, but through all the years of California's recent drought few people realize that petroleum refineries in the East Bay were the major local consumers of water, but pikers in comparison with heavily-subsidized corporate agribusiness with its pesticide-leeching irrigation of cotton and water-gulping alfalfa feed for beef cattle.

Although examples of such exploitation and dominance abound in history as in nature, continuing to proliferate in our modern world, Professor McCulloch instructively relates his examples of hierarchy to ideas of religion. There is little doubt that religious history has many examples of this relationship; but we must ask how religion has, today, come to reflect the crabbed and doctrinaire qualities associted with the idea of hierarchies in the social and spiritual domains. This may be seen by exploring historical roots of the term RELIGION itself, particularly as it emerged in the Latin West two millennia ago. Even though it lists no vulgar four-letter words, the American Heritage Dictionary surely includes HELL and DAMN; the tome derives RELIGION from the Latin religio, glossed as a "bond between man and the gods," perhaps (as the editors suggest with caution) from religare "to bind back": re-, "back" + ligare, "to bind, fasten," from the Indo-European root leig(1), which also has the basic meaning of "to bind."

Well-preserved representations of animal sacrifices, such as the Minoan fresco on the sarcophagus from Agia Triada, of around 1400 BC, show the limbs of a bull "bound back" and placed on the altar ready to be sacrificed. From grisly Minoan archaeological remains at Anemospilia (the Cave of the Winds) near Arkhanes on the island of Crete, dating from around 1700 BC, but discovered only in 1979, we know that human sacrifices were similarly bound. Perhaps these were intended as apotropic magic to avert the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in that part of the Aegean Sea, that have become--along with the much later one of Vesuvius which entombed Pompeii and Herculaneum in 71 AD--among the most famous in antiquity. In any case, the binding of the sacrificial victim was the same as that for the Minoan bull.

[ See, Roland Hampe and Erika Simon, The Birth of Greek Art: From the Mycenaean to the Archaic Period, Oxford University Press, New York (1981), pl. 56. The Agia Triada sarcophagus is now in the Museum at Iraklion, Crete. On Anemospilia, see Yannis Sakellarakis and Efi Sapouna-Sakellarakis, "Drama of Death in a Minoan Temple," National Geographic, Volume 159, No. 2 (February, 1981), pp. 205 ff. ]

Richard Broxton Onians has emphasized the importance of binding, particularly for religious concepts, in his remarkable study, The Origins of European Thought. He understands the Roman concept of religio, with Livy, as relating to the "mystic binding" of an obligation to the gods, but one from which each individual had to loosen himself or his house. The bonds themselves go back to the Greek peirata or rope-ends which were thought of as circumscribing limitations--and the encircling ring was apparently also the original sense of telos, the word commonly used to refer to ends or goals.

[ Onians, The Origins of European Thought..., pp. 310 ff. and 439 f. ]

The Early Christian Church Father Saint Augustine, writing in the fifth century AD, also derived RELIGION from religare, "to bind back,"

and supposed it implied a pious obligation to obey divine law; and this is the sense in which religion has been understood ever since. Augustine's guess, like Cicero's (though Cicero came nearer the truth), did not take into account the length of the first syllable of religio in Lucretius's early De Rerum Natura, or the alternative spelling relligio. Relligio can be formed only from the phrase rem legere, "to chose, or pick, the right thing," and religion for the primitive Greeks and Romans was not obedience to laws but a means of protecting the tribe against evil by active counter-measures of good.

[ Graves, The White Goddess, p. 477 f. ]

Cicero had derived RELIGION from the verb relegere, "to read duly" as in studying divine lore. In the early period of a Roman sacred monarchy, the lictores, or "choosers," were twelve priestly companions of the king who performed the relictio, or "careful reading" of omens and auguries, as well as the selectio of the royal clothing, weapons, food and bedding. With the advent of the Republic, the lictores became guards of honor to the Consuls, who inherited the executive powers of kingship, and hence connected popularly with religare and the idea of binding as enforcement of the law.

Originally there had been no Twelve Tables, nor any other Roman code of laws; there had only been oral tradition, based on instinctive good principles and particular magical announcements. ...It must be explained that the word lex, "law," began with the sense of a "chosen word," or magical pronouncement, and that, like lictor, it was later given a false derivation from ligare. Law in Rome grew out of religion: occasional pronouncements developed proverbial force and became legal principles. But as soon as religion in its primitive sense is interpreted as social obligation and defined by tabulated laws--as soon as Apollo the Organizer, God of Science, usurps the power of his Mother the Goddess of inspired truth, wisdom and poetry, and tries to bind her devotees by laws--inspired magic goes, and what remains [instead of right choice based on instinctive good principle] is theology, ecclesiastical ritual, and negatively ethical behaviour.

[ Graves, The White Goddess, p. 479; the preceding paragraph glosses Graves' interpretation of p. 478 f. ]

The difficulties--or, perhaps the impossibilities--of being able to identify a hierarchy of values in domains such as aesthetics, which relate the issue of taste to our understanding of the Beautiful, should not prevent us from further seeking to identify and articulate useful--or, perhaps critical--ideas of the "common good." In this sense, we must take notice of a great tendency to misapply scientific criteria, or to use quasi-scientific methodology where the desire to evoke rigor appealing to mathematical models is inappropriate, even though heterarchical processes may also admit of precise formulation. This point has been made with powerful logic and persuasive common sense for the discipline of economics and the domain of social policy in such radical and constructive studies as that by Hermann Daly:

Our point is not that a science of "pure" economics is impossible or undesirable. Our point is that economics as a discipline does not present itself in that light with sufficient care.... Too often economics has shaped its anthropology and its theories with an eye to "analytical convenience" rather than empirical warrant. As a result, policy decisions are determined by mathematical theorems whose virtue is their deductive fruitfulness rather than their connection to the real world. The abstraction has gone too far, and the practitioners of the discipline are too little aware of it. The fallacy of misplaced concreteness is too pervasive.

[ Herman E. Daly and John B. Cobb, Jr., For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy Toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future, Beacon Press, Boston (1989), p. 95 f. ]

The crux of the issue about which ancient writers differed among themselves--the supposed etymology of RELIGION--lies in deciding from which of two Indo-European roots the word might derive. The poet and unorthodox scholar Robert Graves may be correct about the true derivation of lictor from legere and the subsequent transformation of the term as Roman political and religious institutions changed. The Latin word legere, "to choose" derives from the Indo-European root leg, "to collect" with derivatives meaning "to speak," and which the American Heritage Dictionary also identifies as the source of our word LAW. We have already come across other cognates deriving from this root leg, most of which retain an obvious--or at least an implicit--dimension of freedom. Through extended senses of the Latin legere, as in the verbs "to choose, gather, pluck, read" it can be recognized in the word group: COIL, COLLECT, ELECT, ELEGANT, SELECT, INTELLIGENT, LECTURE, LEGEND, SACRILIGE and SORTILEGE. From the same root, through the Latin lex, "law," derive LEGAL, LEGITIMATE, LOYAL and PRIVILEGE. And through the Greek logos, "speech, reason, logic," we get PROLOGUE, LOGARITHM, SYLLOGISM, LOGIC and words with the ending -OLOGY.

On the other hand--contradicting the implied degree of freedom--we find cognates deriving from the alternate root, leig, "to bind," which are: LIABLE, LEIN, OBLIGE, COLLEGIATE, LEGION, RALLY, ALLY and RELY. For whatever it's worth, the word groups related etymologically to the two distinct Indo-European roots suggest startlingly different associations for the concept of RELIGION. Despite the historical bias of mainstream orthodox religion in the West to establish institutions based on rigouous hierarchies, there have been counter-examples of notable "heretical heterarchies": since the early communistic sects like the Essenes, among the later communally sharing Albigenses, in the democratic Arianism of Celtic Christianity, or the unbounded love and compassion for all being radiated by Saint Francis of Assissi.