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The phases of the Art

Ramon repeated that the Art had been given to him as an act of the divine will in the form of a methodological and formal intuition of universal scope. The constant wish successfully to communicate the Art to the most varied public made him see the need repeatedly to re-elaborate it, first in the direction of a growing enrichment, and later in that of a didactic stylisation. Here is the chronological evolution of the phases of the Lullian Art:

  1. Pre-Art phase (1271-1274). Prior to the systematisation of the Art, Ramon worked on the Compendium logicae Algazelis and the Book of Contemplation, a monumental work containing most of the fundamental elements of Llull’s thought.
  2. First phase of the Art (1274-1289). The Ars compendiosa inveniendi veritatem established the Figures and Alphabets of Ramon’s method for the first time: it was the central work of the ‘first cycle’ of this phase. In the ‘second cycle’ Llull re-elaborated his system around the Ars demonstrativa (1283). The Art of the first phase is also known as ‘quaternary’ because certain series of principles were presented as multiples of four (groups of up to 16 principles).
  3. Second phase of the Art (1290-1308). The Ars inventiva veritatis set the principles at 18 and presented them in two series of nine (the lower sub-multiple of these figures inspired the designation of ‘ternary phase’). Llull consolidated this new project by means of the Taula general (1294) and the Tree of Science (1295-1296) as well as, later, the Ars generalis ultima (1305-1308) and the Ars brevis (1308).
  4. Post-Art phase (1308-1315). Llull focused his attention on the formulation of a ‘new’ logic, expressed in a series of polemical works, above all during his stay in Paris between 1309-1311. After having some of his projects accepted by the Council of Vienne, he carried on producing works in Majorca, Sicily and Tunis.

The changes in terminology and in structure of the system enable one better to understand Llull’s texts by placing them in relation to the version of the Art which corresponded to them, and enable one to specify the date of certain works lacking explicit chronological indicators.

The above characterisation of the phases of the Art was the contribution of Anthony Bonner, based upon the earlier studies of Tomás and Joaquín Carreras Artau, Frances Yates, and Robert Pring-Mill. See his Obres selectes de Ramon Llull, 2 Vols. (Palma de Mallorca: Editorial Moll, 1989), which give the Catalan version of the Selected Works of Ramon Llull, 2 Vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985).
Josep Maria Ruiz Simon explains the structural changes in Llull’s system of thought in the movement from the Arts of the first phase to those of the second, in “De la naturalesa com a mescla a l’art de mesclar (sobre la fonamentació cosmològica de les arts lul·lianes)”, Randa, 19 (1986), pp. 69-99.