ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

355. Philosophical Teaching. -- Being some years older than Duns Scotus, Lully did not fall under the latter's influence. He pursued his own course. The original element in his philosophy consists in the elaboration of a theosophical system and the planning of the "Ars Magna".{1}

Lully is the sworn enemy of Averroïsm. In his Declaratio per modum Dialogi contra aliquorum philosophorum et eorum sequacium opiniones -- also entitled Liber contra Errores Boëtii et Sigerii -- he takes up in his own order the 219 propositions condemned by the decree of 1277. Against the Averroïst theory of the two truths, Lully sets up a theosophic conception of the relations between philosophy and theology: the whole content of faith being reasonable, reason can and ought to demonstrate everything, even mysteries (cf. 158). There is no dividing line between the rational and the supra-rational, between natural truth and revealed truth. To convert the Mahometans, there is no need to prove that their beliefs are false, but merely to demonstrate that Catholicism is true. Herein exclusively lies the function of philosophy. Lully thus perverts the scholastic system of relations between philosophy and theology; and, furthermore, he confounds the latter with apologetics. To the error of Averroïsm he opposes the opposite error. It is indeed true that the fundamental principle of Lullism just mentioned, is somewhat balanced and supplemented by this other principle: that faith is a preliminary condition required for all intellectual knowledge whatsoever. Faith is not an end in itself; it is but a preparatory disposition by virtue of which reason is enabled to deduce a priori all truth, natural and supernatural. It grows in intensity with increase of knowledge; to use the philosopher's favourite figure, it is like the oil which ever mounts with the water, but never mingles with it. Lully follows out the applications of his principles in various works (Liber de Quatuordecim Articulis; Disputatio Fidelis et Infidelis; Liber Magnus Contemplationis) and undertakes to demonstrate Catholic dogma in all its details.

For the purpose of carrying out a detailed, deductive exposition of all truth, Lully claimed to have discovered a logical method which he called the Ars Magna, Scientia Generalis -- a method which, in the mind of its author, was to complete the ordinary methodological teaching of scholasticism. This latter he regarded as an ascensus setting out from sense-observation and rising to a knowledge of suprasensible realities. It must be completed by a descensus of the understanding, a deductive movement of thought. The Ars Magna was thus a sort of reasoning machine, consisting of general tables of ideas or termini, which, apparently, one would need only to combine according to a prescribed method in order to find the solution of any question whatsoever.

At first, these ideas were all referred either to God (figure A) or to the soul (figure S), and each of these figures was subdivided into a certain number of heads of ideas (e.g., the attributes of God; the faculties of the soul) capable of being combined according to certain "topical" terms, contained in a tabula instrumentalis (figure T). Combinations of letters stood for combinations of ideas, and Lully expressed them by means of synoptic tables and geometrical figures. Later on, the Ars Magna became more complicated; it embodied schemata for theology, philosophy, law and medicine. The manipulation of its letters and figures was supposed not merely to furnish technical aids to memory, but to yield new positive knowledge. In this the Ars Magna differs essentially from the analytico-synthetic method of scholasticism which guides us in the, pursuit of knowledge, but has no pretensions to create knowledge. In philosophy, a pure deductive method is of course a pure chimera. Lully was hunting after the philosopher's stone for science, just as many others in the Middle Ages were hunting after the philosopher's stone for the metals.

{1} We pass over his mystical works here.

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