Llull and The Hundred Forms

If you read Llull's Ars Brevis, which is the best way to get familiar with his philosophy and theology and thus his manner of evangelizing Jews and Muslims, you find a fascinating section in Part X, Section 12, called The Hundred Forms, where he basically lays out certain definitions and relations so that the rest of his epistemological system can function correctly.

Llull is fascinating because he does not start, like Descartes, with doubting everything, nor does he start with just reason, but he starts with a moral universe and a real God, but not, ab initio, with a Christian God. The beginning point for his philosophy, or really his 'art', is virtue and the glory of God. This is how he can use his art to reason with Muslims and Jews and even Monophysites.

While he does not claim that his art proves from reason alone the Trinity, he does claim that it proves the Trinity is reasonable--a key flaw he saw in his days among others who were evangelizing Muslims.

His first step is to build common ground. Anyway, here are some sections from the Hundred Forms:

2. Essence is the form abstracted from and sustained in being.

12. Form is the essence with which the agent acts in matter.

50. Monstrosity is the deviation of natural motion.

64. Grace is a primary form, placed in the person receiving it without any merit on his part.

80. Theology is the science that speaks of God.

81. Philosophy is the subject by means of which the intellect concentrates on all the sciences.


Samuel said…
While he does not claim that his art proves from reason alone the Trinity, he does claim that it proves the Trinity is reasonable--a key flaw he saw
in his days among others who were evangelizing Muslims.

I've been reading Martin Gardner's Science: Good, Bad, and Bogus, Chapter 3 "The Ars Magna of Ramon Lull." There, he says that in Llull's Book of Contemplation he tries to prove by "necessary reason" all the major truths of Christianity, not just that they are reasonable.

I don't know what it means to 'prove something is reasonable.' It is possible for an assertion and its negation to be both reasonable and probable. If it means carrying a degree of probability, then its negation carries a probability as well (so long as we are uncertain of either assertion). The view that God is not Triune is reasonable also, other things being equal. (Of course, setting aside our belief in the Trinity, for discussion's sake.)

In today's modern world, I'm afraid one would need newer methods than those Llull used in the 1200's. Perhaps back then they were effective to a degree, but today I would not think that an intelligent Muslim would be easily persuaded by a Llullian spinning of the wheels. The Muslims stoned Llull to death after he antagonized them with his persistent preaching that Islam is false!

In the 100 forms he's basically laying down his own dictionary of basic terms. Many of the terms have reasonable meanings, though I wouldn't say all or most, as in the examples below. Also, in many instances he defines his forms in terms of other undefined forms (or phrases)---and sometimes even gives circular definitions (e.g. #3, #5, #46, etc). Being a mathematician myself, I will comment on the more mathematical Llullian forms.

43. A line is a length made of many continuous points, with two points as its extremes.

The first part is only partly accurate. A line need not have two endpoints (that would be a 'line segment'), as a line can be endless (such as the x-axis in the Euclidean plane). His definition of line seems to allow curves since there is no mention that his 'line' needs to be 'straight' (such as a path with the smallest distance between two given points in a plane surface). E.g., the arc of a semi-circle, for example, consists of many continuous points (with two endpoints)---so that it satisfies his definition of 'line.'

46. A circle is a figure contained in a circular line.

That one is a circular definition: defining a circle in terms of itself. He didn't define what a "circular line" is. (It's not among the 100 forms.)

81. Philosophy is a subject through which the intellect reaches out to all sciences.

That's a nice viewpoint and which I would say is still valid today, though much of philosophy has concentrated on issues that are beyond the sciences, but which could be greatly influenced by the sciences (such as thru revolutionary theories like relativity, quantum theory, cosmology, genetics, space science, evolution, the Big Bang, etc).

82. Geometry is an art invented for measuring lines, angles and figures.

Still true, but much more than for measuring lines and angles, and today much more diverse since at Llull's time they only knew of Euclidean geometry (the other new geometries not having yet been invented).

83. Astronomy is the art with which astronomers know the virtues and movements effected by Heaven in things below.

This one smacks of astrology. Today's astronomy is way different and richer field than it was in the 1200's. He speak of 'below' probably because of the 'dome' view of the universe they believed back then.

84. Arithmetic is an art invented for counting many units.

Still true. Though today's Arithmetic has grown to much more than counting. The field of Number Theory has grown enormously in the last century and has interacted with many other fields. It's applications to cryptography and coding have been powerful in safeguarding encrypted data (and their transmission), including complex methods of encryption and decryption.

87. Logic is the art with which logicians find the natural conjunction between the subject and the predicate.

That sounds like grammar. Today's logic and logicians are quite different. We also look at disjunction, negation, implications, universal and existential quantifiers, and other such logical operators. A basic logical system is that of First-order Predicate Logic (found in nearly any standard text on logic).
Abu Daoud said…
Hi Samuel,

Good to find someone willing to discuss Llull!

RE Spinning Wheels: yes, he has those, in his various versions of his art, but in the Book of the Gentile he does not, though he is in fact using his art as an evangelistic tool.

Necessary reason, or reasonableness. I have opted for moderation, as I think he is successful in proving that Trinity is indeed reasonable, which is I think a significant accomplishment. Llull himself probably would have said that he had proved it by necessary reason.

RE The 100 forms and how some of his definitions are "circular", Bonner addresses the issue, and Llull himself did as well, and held on to them. Far from circularity it tells us something about his anthropology: that love is known not because it has some form or essence, but it is known when we see it in the person or thing that is loving. There is a great deal of significance to unpack in this kind of definition.

Llull wouldn't be helpful today in arguing with Muslims? Well, check out the Book of the Gentile and make that judgment for yourself. Hiss starting point with the dignities of God rather than the Bible is, I think, useful and can indeed be effective.
Samuel said…
Hi Abu Daoud, thanks, I'm willing to learn new things, and thanks to you I learned something about Llull (whom I didn't pay much attention to before). I just think that today we can't really use medievil methods in our modern setting (unless perhaps used with people who are still in the medievil mindset).

Llull's works may be interesting theology and apologetics but to the degree that it purports to be 'science' it is more pseudo-science (hence my reservations). So I would not think it is advisable (at least for myself) to use such methods to convert Muslims---unless you're just focused on the theology (and not generating sentences by spinning wheels). Perhaps also today's apologetic methods have advanced in view of the greater challenges that Christians have had to deal with.

I still don't know what you mean by 'proving' something is reasonable, other than to make arguments that show that it is reasonable. (For me, 'prove' is a strong word, but perhaps you mean it in a different way.) Perhaps you can share one such argument to illustrate what is meant. In any case, I would not agree with saying that we have 'necessary reason' or 'proof' of the Trinity---without recourse to the New Testament---since I think faith plays a big part in 'seeing' the Trinity. I would say faith plays a bigger part than reason in such matters, while Llull seems to depend on reason more heavily. I do commend Llull for his efforts to win over Muslims, but feel that today's world is quite different and Llullian methods won't get by very far. (Not in North America or Europe anyway, except thru those people who have a fetish for the occult and paranormal.)

What you said about how 'love' is known, I fully agree. It is an example of a form that is best described or understood by experience. It may not be possible to give it precise mathematical-like meaning, but is nevertheless a meaningful human notion. What we note, however, is that Llull's forms are not all defined in this way---some of his forms are not defined 'circularly' (i.e., in terms of themselves). That's what I was trying to say.

Llull wouldn't be helpful today in arguing with Muslims? Well, check out the Book of the Gentile and make that judgment for yourself.

Do you know examples of intelligent modern-day Muslims who converted to Christianity as a result of reading Llull's Book of the Gentile? If so, it would be good to know how many. Someone on this blog said that more Muslims are converted to Christianity thru visions they had of Christ. This sounds to me to be more authentic and convincing.

His starting point with the dignities of God rather than the Bible is, I think, useful and can indeed be effective.

That's a smart place to start because he and his Muslim listeners can begin with what they agree on about God, and proceed from there.

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