The Evangelical Rhetoric of Ramon Llull: Lay Learning and Piety in the Christian West around 1300

The Evangelical Rhetoric of Ramon Llull: Lay Learning and Piety in the Christian West around 1300

The Evangelical Rhetoric of Ramon Llull: Lay Learning and Piety in the Christian West around 1300

The Evangelical Rhetoric of Ramon Llull: Lay Learning and Piety in the Christian West around 1300

Synopsis

Ramon Llull (1232-1316), born on Majorca, was one of the most remarkable lay intellectuals of the thirteenth century. He devoted much of his life to promoting missions among unbelievers, the reform of Western Christian society, and personal spiritual perfection. He wrote over 200 philosophical and theological works in Catalan, Latin, and Arabic. Many of these expound on his "Great Universal Art of Finding Truth," an idiosyncratic dialectical system that he thought capable of proving Catholic beliefs to non-believers. This study offers the first full-length analysis of his theories about rhetoric and preaching, which were central to his evangelizing activities. It explains how Llull attempted to synthesize commonplace advice about courtly speech and techniques of popular sermons into a single program for secular and sacred eloquence that would necessarily promote love of God and neighbor. Llull's work is a remarkable testimony to the diffusion of clerical culture among educated lay-people of his era, and to their enthusiasm for applying that knowledge in pursuit of learning and piety. This book should find a place on the shelf of every scholar of medieval history, religion, and rhetoric.

Excerpt

Viewed from a modern perspective, the universe of signs that Ramon Llull describes seems naively anthropocentric: he attributes to every entity a value relevant only to human beings. Llull's universe is not only anthropocentric but also intensely logocentric: each entity's value consists chiefly in its contribution to the human soul's experience of truth. That experience is the central concern of all Llull's projects for evangelism, moral reform, and spiritual perfection. Consequently, his writings devote more attention to questions of epistemology and psychology than to almost all other philosophical topics. Both logically and practically, his concern for the soul's experience of truth precedes his interest in the arts of eloquence. Hence, the artful exercise of language is always a means to an end for Llull. of course, we might say the same for Augustine or Cicero, insofar as they regard eloquence not as an end in itself, but as an instrument for persuading, instructing, and delighting. Llull could probably accept these broad classical objectives of eloquence and even the methods employed to achieve them, but he would understand them strictly according to his own general principles of epistemology and psychology. Like most aspects of Llull's work, his theories of knowledge and mind await comprehensive study. This chapter surveys those ideas most relevant to understanding his accounts of rhetoric and preaching. First it reviews the fundamental doctrines that organize his epistemology and psychology: the division of the soul into three levels, explanation of cognition as participated resemblance, notions of intellection as interpretation, and emphasis on the disparity between speech and thought. Then it analyzes examples from the Libre de contemplació, the Rethorica nova, the Liber de praedicatione, and Llull's proposals regarding speech as a sixth sense, in order to show how those doctrines inform his treatment of language. This analysis helps explain why the arts of eloquence -- and all other arts, for that matter -- possess so little autonomy in Llull's system. His Great Art assumes a model of thought and language that rigorously subordinates all other arts for investigating or communicating knowledge to the one goal of grasping divine truth.

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