Petrus Ramus

Petrus Ramus

Petrus Ramus, or Pierre de la Ramée (1515 – August 26, 1572), French humanist, logician, and educational reformer, was born at the village of Cuts in Picardy, a member of a noble but impoverished family: his father was a farmer and his grandfather father a charcoal-burner. He was killed during the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.


Having gained admission at age twelve, in a menial capacity, to the Collège de Navarre, he worked with his hands by day, offering himself as a servant to other more affluent students, and carried on his studies at night. The reaction against scholasticism was still in full tide; it was the transition time between the old and the new, when the eager and forward-looking spirits had first of all to do battle with scholastic Aristotelianism. Ramus outdid his predecessors in the impetuosity of his revolt. On the occasion of taking his degree (1536) he allegedly took as his thesis "Quaecumque ab Aristotele dicta essent, commentitia esse", which Walter J. Ong paraphrases as follows: "All the things that Aristotle has said are inconsistent because they are poorly systematized and can be called to mind only by the use of arbitrary mnemonic devices" (see Ong's "Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue: From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason", 1958: 46-47). According to Ong (36-37), this kind of spectacular thesis was extremely routine at the time. Even so, Ong raises serious questions as to whether Ramus actually ever delivered this thesis (36-41). Nonetheless, the central issue is that Ramus' anti-Aristotelianism arose out of a concern for "pedagogy": in short, the languishing period of Aristotelian commentary of the high Middle Ages (announced with Albertus Magnus and most commonly associated with St. Thomas Aquinas) had left Aristotelian philosophy in a confused and disordered state. Ramus sought to infuse order and simplicity into philosophical "scholastic" education by reinvigorating a sense of dialectic as the overriding logical and methodological basis for the various disciplines. He subsequently published in 1543 the "Aristotelicae Animadversiones" and "Dialecticae Partitiones", the former a criticism on the old logic and the latter a new textbook of the science. What are substantially fresh editions of the "Partitiones" appeared in 1547 as "Institutiones Dialecticae", and in 1548 as "Scholae Dialecticae"; his "Dialectique" (1555), a French version of his system, is the earliest work on the subject in the French language.

Meanwhile Ramus, as graduate of the university, had opened courses of lectures; but his audacities drew upon him the hostility of the conservative party in philosophy and theology. He was accused, by Jacques Charpentier professor of medicine, of undermining the foundations of philosophy and religion, and the matter was brought before the "parlement" of Paris, and finally before Francis I. By him it was referred to a commission of five, who found Ramus guilty of having "acted rashly, arrogantly and impudently," and interdicted his lectures (1544). He withdrew from Paris, but soon afterwards returned, the decree against him being canceled by Henry II through the influence of the cardinal of Lorraine.

In 1551 Henry II appointed him a regius professor at the university but he preferred to call himself a professor of philosophy and eloquence at the Collège de France, where for a considerable time he lectured before audiences numbering as many as 2,000. He published fifty works in his lifetime and nine appeared after his death. In 1561, however, the enmity against him was fanned into flame by his adoption of Protestantism. He had to flee from Paris; and, though he found an asylum in the palace of Fontainebleau, his house was pillaged and his library burned in his absence. He resumed his chair after this for a time, but in 1568 the position of affairs was again so threatening that he found it advisable to ask permission to travel. Returning to France he fell a victim to his opponents in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre (1572).


The logic of Ramus enjoyed a great celebrity for a time, and there existed a school of Ramists boasting numerous adherents in France, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. As late as 1626 Francis Burgersdyk divides the logicians of his day into the Aristotelians, the Ramists and the Semi-Ramists, who endeavoured, like Rudolf Goclenius (the Older) of Marburg and Amandus Polanus of Basel, to mediate between the contending parties. Ramus's works appear among the logical textbooks of the Scottish universities, and he was not without his followers in England in the 17th century. There is even a little treatise from the hand of John Milton, published two years before his death, called "Artis Logicae Plenior Institutio ad Petri Rami Methodum concinnata". Milton's "Logic" has been ably translated by Walter J. Ong and Charles J. Ermatinger in Yale's "Complete Prose Works of John Milton" (1982, 8: 206-408), with a magnificent introduction by Ong (144-205).

It cannot be said, however, that Ramus's innovations mark any epoch in the history of logic. His rhetorical leaning is seen in the definition of logic as the "ars disserendi"; he maintains that the rules of logic may be better learned from observation of the way in which Cicero persuaded his hearers than from a study of the "Organon". The distinction between natural and artificial logic, i.e., between the implicit logic of daily speech and the same logic made explicit in a system, passed over into the logical handbooks. Logic falls, according to Ramus, into two parts—invention (treating of the notion and definition) and judgment (comprising the judgment proper, syllogism and method). This division gave rise to the jocular designation of judgment or mother-wit as the "secunda Petri". He is, perhaps, most suggestive in his emendations of the syllogism. He admits only the first three figures, as in the original Aristotelian scheme, and in his later works he also attacks the validity of the third figure, following in this the precedent of Laurentius Valla. Ramus also set the modern fashion of deducing the figures from the position of the middle term in the premises, instead of basing them, as Aristotle does, upon the different relation of the middle to the so-called major and minor term. On the whole, however, there is little ground for his pretentious claim to supersede Aristotle by a new and independent system. After studying Ramus's work extensively, Ong concluded that the results of his "methodizing" of the arts "are the amateurish works of a desperate man who is not a thinker but merely an erudite pedagogue" ("The Barbarian Within", 1962: 79-80).


*"Aristotelicae Animadversiones" (1543)
*"Brutinae questiones" (1547)
*"Rhetoricae distinctiones in Quintilianum" (1549)
*"Dialectique" (reprinted and modified in 1550 and 1556)
*"Arithmétique" (1555)
*"De moribus veterum Gallorum" (Paris, 1559; second edition, Basel, 1572)
*"De militia C.J. Cæsaris"
*" _fr. Advertissement sur la réformation de l'université de Paris", au Roy, Paris, (1562)
*"Commentariorum de religione christiana" (Frankfurt, 1576)
*Three grammars: " _la. Grammatica latina" (1548), "Grammatica Graeca" (1560), " _fr. Grammaire Française" (1562)
*" _la. Scolae physicae, metaphysicae, mathematicae" (1565, 1566, 1578)


*Desmaze, Charles. "Petrus Ramus, professeur au Collège de France, sa vie, ses ecrits, sa mort" (Paris, 1864).
*Freedman, Joseph S. "Philosophy and the Arts in Central Europe, 1500-1700: Teaching and Texts at Schools and Universities" (Ashgate, 1999).
*Graves, Frank Pierrepont. "Peter Ramus and the Educational Reformation of the Sixteenth Century" (Macmillan, 1912).
*Høffding, Harald. "History of Modern Philosophy" (English translation, 1900), vol. i.185.
*Lobstein, Paul. "Petrus Ramus als Theolog" (Strassburg, 1878).
*Miller, Perry. "The New England Mind" (Harvard University Press, 1939).
*Milton, John. "A Fuller Course in the Art of Logic Conformed to the Method of Peter Ramus" (London, 1672). Ed. and trans. Walter J. Ong and Charles J. Ermatinger. "Complete Prose Works of John Milton: Volume 8." Ed. Maurice Kelley. New Haven: Yale UP, 1982. p. 206-407.
*Ong, Walter J. "Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue: From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason" (Harvard University Press, 1958; reissued with a new foreword by Adrian Johns, University of Chicago Press, 2004. [] ISBN 0-226-62976-7).
**—. "Ramus and Talon Inventory" (Harvard University Press, 1958).
*Owen, John. "The Skeptics of the French Renaissance" (London, 1893).
*Pranti, K. "Uber P. Ramus" in "Munchener Sitzungs berichte" (1878).
*Saisset, Émile. "Les précurseurs de Descartes" (Paris, 1862).
*Sharratt, Peter. "The Present State of Studies on Ramus," "Studi francesi" 47-48 (1972) 201-13.
**—. "Recent Work on Peter Ramus (1970–1986)," "Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric" 5 (1987): 7-58.
**—. "Ramus 2000," "Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric" 18 (2000): 399-455.
*Voigt. "Uber den Ramismus der Universität Leipzig" (Leipzig, 1888).
*Waddington-Kastus. "De Petri Rami vita, scriptis, philosophia" (Paris, 1848).



ee also

*Ramism (available in the and editions of Wikipedia)

External links

* [ 'Ramism' entry in "The Dictionary of the History of Ideas"]
* [ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry]
* [ Catholic Encyclopedia entry]

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