Lewis Carroll on Representation and Map-Making

We confront the problem of representation every minute of every day. What consitutes a useful map? What kind of a map do we have inside our heads to help us navigate the world? Do we navigate with an "objective" birds-eye non-perspective view inside our heads? Or do we navigate by landmarks and signs?To what extent do we use the world itself as a map of itself? To what extent do we construct our own version of the world? Answers to these questions are relevant to the practical and philosophical question of how do we, as humans, represent the world inside our heads? How smart and rational are we really? How much of our lives are controlled by our conscious plans? How much of our lives are controlled by unconscious mechanisms? How much of our insight bubbles up from beneath our intellect or from outside? Does our conscious mind take credit for unconscious processes? Is consciousness an epiphenomenon, something that says, "I knew that" when in fact it didn't?

Lewis Carroll, mathematician and philosopher, author of Alice in Wonderland, penned two cartographers' dilemmas:

Mein Herr on making maps:

From Sylvie and Bruno Concluded by Lewis Carroll, first published in 1893.

"That's another thing we've learned from your Nation," said Mein Herr, "map-making. But we've carried it much further than you. What do you consider the largest map that would be really useful?"

"About six inches to the mile."

""Only six inches!"exclaimed Mein Herr. "We very soon got to six yards to the mile. Then we tried a hundred yards to the mile. And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!"

"Have you used it much?" I enquired.

"It has never been spread out, yet," said Mein Herr: "the farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.

Lewis Carroll - The Complete Illustrated Works. Gramercy Books, New York (1982). Page 727.

The Bellman's Map:

The Bellman's Map, from The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll
- Rendering by Sharon Daniel

Lewis Carroll - The Complete Illustrated Works. Gramercy Books, New York (1982). Page xxx.