Monday, February 14, 2011

More from Moshe Idel

Idel pointed out that the Ars Combinatoria tradition came into Europe through Ramon Lull, a fascinating 13th c. Franciscan. There's some interesting material on him on the Web for those who want a quick look. He was a contemplative and mathematician. He learned Arabic, determined to convert the Muslims. He made a three-part wheel to show theological argument and refutation; evidently this grew out of his work with the Ars Combinatoria as there is a sketch of a similar wheel used to combine letters. Astute readers will already have leapt to the idea that this wheel made up of three concentric wheels was an early antecedent of computers. He also wrote The Book of the Lover and the Beloved which is one of the great contemplative texts.

According to Idel, the Ars Combinatoria thread emerges in the Renaissance: works on the Ars Combinatoria were found in Pico della Mirandola's library, and in northern Europe it was also known to Reuchlin and then to Leibnitz. In France the thread winds down to the modern day through Mallarmé to Derrida and the Italian Eco.

Although the Ars Combinatoria seems to have been originally designed to move the mind beyond the limiits of a semantic way of thinking, it had a ripple effect through the mathematical world.

A far cry from the so-called kabbalah of Madonna and her ilk!


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