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

By Mark D. Johnston | Go to book overview

1
Ramon Llull's Art of Arts

Llull's Vita tells us how his original vow to serve God involved a vehement desire to compose the "best book in the world against the errors of the infidels." A subsequent inspiration, which the Vita attributes to divine revelation, transformed that simple goal into a much more ambitious project, the Great Universal Art of Finding Truth (par. 6, 14). Llull devoted the rest of his career to perfecting the methods of this idiosyncratic symbolico-dialectical system of argument. He recorded the phases of its development in several redactions of the Great Art itself, as well as in scores of other works applying its system to specialized topics of inquiry. A complete account of this massive project remains unwritten. The following summary offers a necessarily simplified explanation, designed chiefly to help my readers understand how the methods of the Great Art inform Llull's accounts of the arts of eloquence.

Ramon Llull's Great Universal Art of Finding Truth synthesizes a vast range of techniques for private meditation, scriptural exegesis, and apologetic argument into a single system for "discovering" how all knowledge and being reveals divine truth. 1 The general method of this system is comparison or analogy. The Great Art is "universal" and "finds truth" only in so far as it is capable of likening anything known to the Divine Word, which Llull regards as the exemplar of all wisdom. The foundations of Llull's Great Art are nine Divine Dignities or attributes, which are the Absolute Principles of all being and knowledge. Nine additional Relative Principles explain the operation of the Absolute Principles at nine levels of existence called Subjects. In addition, nine heuristic questions called Rules help guide inquiry regarding the Principles and Subjects. The most famous feature of the Great Art is its use of nine letters from the alphabet -- B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, and K -- to symbolize the Absolute Principles, Relative Principles, Subjects, Rules, and other sets of nine categories devised by Llull in order to treat particular fields of knowledge (see table 1). The letter A usually serves to indicate the coincidence of all the Absolute Principles in the Godhead. This Lullian Alphabet gives the Great Art its apparently symbolic character.

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Note on References and Quotations xi
  • Contents *
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Ramon Llull's Art of Arts 12
  • 2 - Lannguage as Being 34
  • 3 - Language in Mind 48
  • 4 - Invention 70
  • 5 - Beauty in Language 83
  • 6 - Beauty Through Resemblance 100
  • 7 - Order 117
  • 8 - Propriety in Speaking 130
  • 9 - Virtue in Speaking 140
  • 10 - Llull's Sermons 157
  • Conclusion 180
  • Notes 190
  • Works Cited 220
  • Index 261
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