Monday, February 20, 2006

A Smidgen of Lacan on Television

The following notes are from "Intro to Names-of-the-Father Lectue" by Jacque Lacan. The lecture can be found in Television pp. 81-95.

The names-of-the-Father are built upon Lacan's previous lecture on anxiety. He describes anxiety as an affect of the subject (subject that speaks and is determined through an effect of the signifier). A subject is affected by the desire of the Other. It is what is not decisive, it is not without an object, and its object (petit a) is the cause of desire.

On page 84 Lacan mentions Kierkegaard and his styling of Hegel's system as "The System." I was hoping for a bit more from Lacan regarding Kierkegaard, but the brief mention is all there was said. Lacan mentions that desire is everywhere separate from fulfillment (86). I assume that desire is terminates into satisfaction in the act of fulfillment, and no longer exists as desire any longer.

The Other is not the subject who speaks from the place of the Other or through the voice of the Other. The Other poses the problem of the subject prior to the question (88). It is hard to know whether the Other as Lacan conceives of it is something metaphysical or existential or something else entirely. It is clearly not the subject in any way, though the subject is not unrelated to the Other (and perhaps Lacan would say that the subject is dependent upon the Other for its existence).

The father is an animal (considered from his mythical reality) from before the advent of the incest taboo, before law, before marriage and kinship, and before culture (88). Lacan appears simply to be taking evolution seriously in this consideration. Perhaps it would not be wrong to say that, for Lacan, before man-the-animal became human-the-father, before laws were, primordial humanity was.

There are three themes that Lacan points out as essential: Erotic Bliss, Desire, and the Object. Law and Desire are in a singular balance, born together and joined by necessity in the law of incest -- the erotic bliss of the father is primordial to law and desire. Mysticism plunges toward the bliss of God -- that trace remains in Christian mysticism whose insistence of God's desire functions as a pivot (89). God is something one encounters in the real, inaccessible, indicated by what doesn't deceive--anxiety. Interestingly, in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Bible, the translation of the Name (the tetragrammaton, which traditionally Jews refuse to speak aloud) is "I am the one who is." Lacan indicates that Greek tradition of philosophy would read God as the "I" and Being as the "is" thereby equating God with Being (as the arche) (90).

Lacan's comments on the Akedah are brief, but interesting. He notes that the angel who retrains Abraham from sacrificing Isaac is their in the name of El Shadday [sic]. The human sacrifice is interrupted in later times of Israelite history by an Angel or a prophet of the Name who comes and speaks in the Name (91-92).

Lacan takes a very anthropomorphic view of El Shadday, saying that he is not almighty, but that He is the one who chooses, who promises -- through covenant transmissible through barachah (blessing) of the father alone -- and who is the One who makes one wait (92). Lacan mentions the interpretations of the 11th century Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac (Rashi) of Troyes, who called Isaac the son with two fathers (93). Rashi also followed a particular Rabbinic traditions that saw the ram as an elohim, the primeval ram who was there at the creation (94). The sacrifice of the ram is that of biological origin -- pagans exalt the realization of erotic bliss, but Hebrews gave special value to the gap that separates desire and fulfillment, as represented by the law of circumcision.

The above comprises the major statements of Lacan concerning the Akedah, Kierkegaard, and Rabbinic interpretation.

Renaissance Rhetoric of Ramus Part 4: Diffusion of Ramism

The following post is the final installment of my comprised notes written on Walter Ong's book "Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue"

The previous three entries have discussed the major issues of Ramism, the intellectual and historical backgrounds of Ramism, and Ramism itself. The only remaining entry, and a very short one, is concerned with the spread of Ramism across time and space.

Ramism spread especially well in Germany and the Rhineland during the period spanning 1580-1620. Though it arrived in England and the British Isles, it did not share the same avid popularity as it did in Germany. The mental sensibilities that characterize it did make their way into the world of the British Isles and England however. Ramist influence on logic also occurred in some degree. Much of the reason for the isolation of Ramism in some countries was due to the fact that Catholic countries would not allow the works of the protestant Ramus to be circulated (295-306).

Many of the historical developments that helped with the spread of Ramism actually preceded by many years. The creation of the alphabet that ushered in a new spatial orientation of mental thought was furthered by the invention of the printing press, which advanced beyond the effects of manuscript reliance of the Medieval period that had begun to reduce the role of oratory. The advancement of spatial, quantifying mental orientation and the development of diagrammatic logic prepared the way for print-ready cognitive developments and were in part popularized due to the changing necessities brought on by print technology. The Humanism that followed the Medieval Scholasticism was inextricably linked to print technology both in its use of it and more importantly in the parallels of their processes. Printing methods were very much like the intellectual methods being developed, practiced, and advanced by Agricola and Ramus. The effects of print technology also led to further depersonalization of rhetors/writers (306-314).

The development of spatial models came at the expense of Aristotelian predicates and classifications and led to the ubiquitous methods of quantification. The assimilation of categories into topoi (place, or loci) that resulted from topical logic also spread through Ramism. Lastly, the increased use of spatial charts and models furthered the transition from a world of sound to a world of sight.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Renaissance Rhetoric of Ramus Part 3: Ramism

The following post is a continuation of my comprised notes written on Walter Ong's book "Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue"


Dialectic, Method, and Rhetoric

Ong begins with a summary of the influences upon Ramus and Ramism of the Renaissance period (171):

1) Peter of Spain and his highly quantified logic
2) Agricola's place logic
3) Arts Scholasticism
4) Didacticism of the university atmosphere
5) Pedagogical machinery of Humanism
6) Habituation of mental activity (creating mental habits)


Ramism's standard of quality discourse was essentially that which represented an example of dialectic or logic (175-176). Dialectic is the ability to discourse as well as the power of discoursing, which is laid out in Ramus' Teaching in Dialectic. For Ramus, dialectic could lead to conclusions of absolute certainty (176-178). Thus, discourse is subjected to the understanding of dialectic. Ong notes that discourse is a primary term within intellectual history:

Disserendi [discourse] is a critical term which controls the whole field of mental activity from classical times through the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. (178)

For Ramus, natural dialectic contrasted with the art of dialectic, the former being functional whereas the latter was superb by means of its nature as a habituation or acquired skill. Ramus' teleological goal is action and knowledge in the pedagogical vein. Ramus reduced the arts to visual tables and charts of things, including dialectic. Veritas [truth] was the content of an art (or thing) held by nature or its container--no real metaphysical import was attached to the term itself. It was as if in the process of mapping out the field of the mind or any other subject the objects which were placed in the containers did not fill them (i.e. with understanding) but provided "useful" labels in the ongoing process of producing a consistent and copious pedagogical program (178-190).

Ramus' Dialectic was divided into two parts (a pattern of division that runs throughout Ramus' works): Invention and Judgment. Invention, for Ramus, is concerned with resolving explicitly formulated questions, is syllogistic in structure (as opposed to predicative), and is primarily concerned with seeking out the middle term of the syllogism through examination of topics (places, loci) as arguments in themselves (rather than as starting point or "seats" of arguments). Judgment, for Ramus, is concerned with the arrangement of inventional conclusions and is conflated with memory. The shift from the term "judgment" to the term "arrangement" (dispositio) further emphasized the prima facie style and understanding of judgment (including in these are the visual analogies of comparison that get employed). Judgment was divided into three steps, the last of which dropped out of Ramus' later work entirely:

1) Syllogism (with induction, example, and enthymeme)
2) Collections of Arguments (method)
3) Religion

Syllogisms included simple (categorical) and composite (all others), the latter of which arose from the former. Simple syllogisms were of two types: minor premise, argument (middle term), major premise; and dichotomized brackets. The three types of syllogistic reasoning (induction, example, and enthymeme) were all viewed by Ramus as truncated forms that suppressed one of the terms in the syllogism (be it minor premise, major premise, or middle term). The Aristotelian understanding, according to Ong, was far different:

1) Induction involved arguing a principle without examining all actual cases.
2) Enthymeme invovled arguing from a probable premise to reach a probable conclusion.
3) Example invovled arguing from a universal probable truth

The second part of judgment, arrangement of arguments, involved the collection and refinement of the conclusions through definition and division--a process which purported to arrive at the proper linkage (arrangement) of arguments. Axioms are relatively absent from this method, but rather the two activities of definition and division represented the "glue" to "hold" arguments together. Dialectic in this stage becomes a mapping of knowledge that sets out (lays bare) the "field" whereby one has "room" to "see" the things of the mind. In the third step of judgment, the religious, the method goes so far as to arrive at the mapped field of God's mind (178-190).

The understanding of dialectic as use or exercise was divided into three activities:

1) Interpretation (interpretatio)
2) Writing (scriptio)
3) Speaking (dictic)

Reading the poets, orators, philosophers, and all arts and writing was conditioned for the purpose of and in service to dialectic. The approach to any textual interpretation was twofold: "What is the question?" and "What is the argument?" Within this hermeneutic, ambiguity is a bane, a vice, because the question and argument are mapped out syllogistically as per Ramist dialectic method. Within Ramist interpretation, there are three steps of judgment:

1) With arguments in place, one examines the position of the middle term for weakness in structure
2) Defining the collection of arguments' end and causes (division)
3) Mystification that will also later drop from Ramism.

The steps of interpretation are very like the steps of judgment in dialectic itself. The ubiquitous nature of dialectic method for all subjects and objects is remarkable. The end goal of such interpretation for the student is memorization (facilitated through the simple structure and arrangement) which was the only real understanding that occurs. Such mapping of the mind and of knowledge is the end goal of Ramist dialectic method (190-195).

One of Ramus' critiques of Aristotle was that Aristotle did not provide a classification of the arts that make up all of philosophy -- a classification that Ramus estimates as the starting point of all philosophy. Out of this critique, Ramus turns to Cicero and technology -- what was originally a systematic treatment of grammar becomes the art of arranging the contents of the curriculum in proper fashion under Ramus' deviations (197-198).

Ramus' meticulous dichotomizing, unlike Plato and the majority of Neo-Platonist divisions, does not engage in any attempts to theoretically examine or support his two-fold divisions; nor were they derived from theoretical exploration. Ramus' work was born out of pedagogical exigence and appeal, evidenced by subsequent editions of Ramus' work spreading his dichotomization by subject, art, and ultimately all reality (199-202).

The corpuscular mental model arranged knowledge in clusters of spatial relation (genera), which were also clustered together in larger groupings (clusters of clusters) that represented all intellectual operations. For Ramus, the genus/species dyad was always understood equivalently to the whole/part dyad (i.e. never common/proper) (203-204). All teaching proceeded from genus to species so that definition became the starting point followed b division into "specific" parts, though no principle of division appears to guide the method save perhaps the principle of division itself (204-205).

Ramus also had several misunderstandings and misrepresentations of Plato. There appears to be an ignorance of the noumenal realm; a reduction of Platonic ideas to the most simple species of a thing; and an adoption of a transcendent knowledge, but one further separated from Plato than even Aristotle was (whom Ramus accuses of just such a misrepresentation) (205-207). In truth, Ramus' divisions are more Aristotelian than they are Platonic and his method is only adequate for distinguishing elements without concluding on any final resolution of how those elements are to be understood (207-208). Nominalist/Realist issues were passed over in favor of topics more "suitable" for teaching youth (208-209). Ramus's work ignores propositional and judgmental modes of argument and takes terms themselves as fixed validities. Thus, "man" is a true term and "non-man" is a false term, though when placed in a propositional statement they cannot always maintain a fixed validity because terms are neutral. Consider the example:
"Ass is a man" is invalid and "man" constitutes a false predicate of "ass is", though for Ramus the term "man" is supposed to always be a true term (209-210).

Another consequence of Ramist dialectic is the subsumption and dismissal of the four parts of oration: exordium, narratio, confirmatio, and peroratio. The four parts are included in the 2nd step of judgment, where they become examples of the method of definition and division. Further, rhetorical commonplaces are changed into dialectic arguments (210-212). Decorum and the three styles of rhetorical style (plain, middle, high) are also subsumed and effectively discarded by Ramist dialectic method. Decorum's relation to adaptation and ethos are seen as superfluous to the complete and pristine spatial diagrams produced through dialectic. Amplification and memory (storing and recall of examples, circumstances, paraphrases, etc.
for the purpose of enlarging a theme) are marginalized or reduced to simple recall of the classifications mapped out by the Ramist method (212-213).

There were two major critical responses to Ramus' dialectic method. Gouveia argued that Plato's dialectic (from which Ramus says he draws from) was not an art of disputation at all, but a prince of the arts and sciences. He also recognizes that Cicero (whom Ramus also uses) praises Aristotle on invention and judgment (which received some of Ramus' most harsh criticisms of Aristotle). The Gouveia model of Aristotelian dialectic was unlike Ramus:

[T]hat part of the art of discoursing which provides us with the arguments with which we can dispute either side of a question with a certain probability." (216)

He also criticized Ramus' notion of natural dialectic, which he saw as a fake concept since dialectic is necessarily an art applied to mental reasoning. Gouveia noted the difference in Galen's method of dialectic: with the end in sight one is to break it down by its means and teaching can define and divide or it can proceed by composition and progression (215-220). The other major critique of Ramus came from Charpentier. He noted that Aristotle's dialectic was concerned with discussion/debate and not with scientific reasoning. He distinguished three aspects of reasoning in Aristotle:

1) Analytic: logic of strict scientific proof
2) Dialectic: opinion and general aspects of reality
3) Metaphysics: perfect knowledge of 1st principles

Charpentier does agree with Ramus that art is a kind of explanation or teaching (220-223). The final edition of Ramus' dialects ended up dropping the 3rd step of judgment, as well as the preoccupations with definition and division. Judgment is still conceived of as arrangement, either of enunciation or of syllogism and method (223-224).


The understanding of the "method" was still germinating in the 16th century. As a term it was not used or understood as we use it now, but rather discussion about method was a discussion about routine and efficiency -- thinking and discourse were the routine. In Aristotle, method had to do with the pursuit of knowledge or of an investigation or the mode of prosecuting such an inquiry. The emphasis was on logical procedure. In Socratic tradition, method was fused with dialogue and dialectic. Medicine was where method developed most prominently in Classical Greece where a more personalized, rhetorically informed orientation existed. The emphasis in the classical period on method as a procedure of logical orientation directed toward knowledge shifts its focus to curriculum organization and pedagogical procedure by the Medieval period (225-230).

Ramus' own turn toward method developed out of the realm of rhetoric rather than logic or science. He draws from Hermogenes through the reading of Johann Sturm. Hermogenes discussion of the pattern of rhetorical irresistibility contains nothing of Aristotle's use of method. The medievals of the 15th and 16th centuries that pick up Hermogenes identify methods with language rather than with science or abstract thought (230-232).

Sturm's method (drawn upon heavily by Ramus) appeared in a dialogue on one of Cicero's rhetorical treatises. Method, for Sturm, is a "short cut" or teaching procedure. The are three parts of method in discovering an art:

1) through simple things to art
2) through art to simple things
3) division of definitions into parts

The last of these parts Sturm identifies with Plato and Socrates and was used in medicine during his own time. Sturm's categories come from Galen, but his terms are derived from rhetoric rather than medicine or logic. He relies on medical examples but supposes a broader scope for method than medicine alone (232-236).

Another influence on Ramist method comes from Melanchthon's observations on method. He saw method as a way by means of reason, but a way that is primarily a habit of a science or art which seems to clearly arrange confused matters. Melanchthon's method dealt with categories, but not as predicates (as in Aristotle). Instead, they are treated as receptacles, like Agricola's loci. In both Melanchthon and Agricola there is a concern for local motion: the former is drawing out content from its container whereas the latter is putting content into its container. Melanchthon's method proceeds by way of questions related to topical considerations (236-239).

Aristotle's own method of arriving at scientific knowledge is the following:
1) Start with the knowledge of causes -- why things are so
2) Examine sense data through inductive reasoning to arrive at principles that can explain the data
3) From the principles posed, one works back down through the data deductively.

Ong notes that for Aristotle: "Syllogistic reasoning is less a way or a substitute for discovery than a sequel of and complement to it." (242) Yet in Ramus, syllogistic reasoning was less about scientific demonstration of knowledge arrived at through induction, deduction and logical rigor but it was rather about a didactic method for conveying (arranging) accepted conclusions (240-245).

Ramus' own method is the tool by which one arrived at knowledge that is properly arranged. He relied heavily upon spatial metaphors in the arrangement of intellectual "atoms." Method is also a curriculum subject which can be extended to apply to any treatise on any matter -- thus the requirements of method applied (mutatis mutandis) to the teaching of any discipline. Ramus' terminology surrounding method is confusing and often misplaced with no intelligible reasoning for certain uses (e.g. the term "axiom" for method) (245-252).

Ramus derides poetry, oratory, and history because they do not follow his prescribed method of arranging bits of knowledge. Probabilistic reasoning (classic enthymeme) fade altogether in Ramus in favor of spatio-linear organization. The spatio-linear organization did not allow for regressive steps however (i.e. middle to first), which hampered it severely (252-254).

There is also a reduction of all priorities in thought to the absolute priority of nature itself -- the order of knowledge will always correspond to the order of nature (254-257). Ramus' method closely connected to the notion of structure and he mistakenly assumed that induction and deduction were reciprocal intellectual processes of the same psychological nature (257-258).

The three laws of method that were restricted originally in Aristotle (and later in Johann Caeserius' principles of demonstration) to scientific demonstration were universally applied by Ramus. They appear below, with their alternate labels:

1) de omni -- law of universal application
alt.---law of necessary truth
alt.---law of universal necessity
2) per se -- law of essential application
alt.---law of homogeneity
alt.---law of justice
alt.---law of necessary relationship
3) de universali -- law of total application
alt.---law of wisdom
alt.---law of necessary association

In Aristotle, the 1st law requires the subject to be treated in its full extension; the 2nd law requires the predicate to be referred to the subject essentially; the 3rd law requires the predicate not to be extended beyond where the subject is extended (258-262).

In Ramus, the 1st law requires that any art must admit no restriction or exception in being extended; the 2nd law requires that in an art all statements must "join" things necessarily related; the 3rd law requires all statements in an art to be converted into simple logic -- i.e. definitions constitute all statements. For Ong, the entire substance of Ramist arts are represented in the unsupported diagrammatic division and definition of things into spatial relationships (258-262).

Ramist art and method, so severely entrenched in topical logic, leads to understandings that are confusing and relatively useless as knowledge: e.g. disposition is the grouping of arguments and method is the grouping of groups. Grammar is treated geometrically rather than aurally (as symbols rather than as phonemes) (262-263). In practice, the activity of textual analysis is a way of operating on a text didactically -- for pedagogical use or exercise. Genesis is the reverse of analysis -- rather than deriving didactic arrangement out of a text, one is now didactically constructing a text from imitation (synthesis) (263-267).

To sum up Ramist method then:

Everything is arrangement through perfect method as perfect art, through perfect method as perfect discourse, through perfect method as perfect method. The method is art is discourse is arrangement. With Ramism we have the arrival of the scientific approach to literature and a newly developed hermeneutic, as a fully developed approach to textual analysis (267-269)


Ramist rhetoric only preserves two of the traditional five canons: elocution and pronunciation (style and delivery). The other three are subsumed by dialectic. Invention and disposition (or judgment, also called arrangement) are included in dialectic, while memory is subsumed in the second step of dialectical judgment (270-271).

Ramist rhetoric initially follows from Quintillian: eloquence is the power of expressing oneself well. However, Ramus divides rhetoric into three stages or steps, as in dialectic:

1) Nature, or origin: thought, reason, discretion (as in dialectic), and embellishment
2) Art, or method of teaching: style and delivery
3) Exercise, or teaching applied: interpretation and imitation

The lack of focus on delivery occurs because of its refusal to fit neatly and exclusively into the diagrammatical forms of the written word. In addition, style is reduced entirely to tropes and figures. Interpretation and imitation are dropped in later treatments of rhetoric (271-274).

The five canons in Greek and Roman culture were taught in the vernacular language whereas in Medieval and Renaissance cultures they were taught in Latin, which caused them to become secondary to the necessity of learning a non-vernacular language (Latin). Rhetoric courses because courses in Latin as opposed to a more general education in the five canons. Rhetoric-as-style-and-delivery was taught prior to dialectic-as-invention-and-judgment (and memory), which constituted a reversal of the order in which they were taught in classical Greece and Rome (275-277).

Ramist rhetoric is almost entirely reduced to ornamentation. Classical ornamentation in Cicero and Quintillian understood the terms in connection with oral sound: an ornament of rhetoric is also styled as praise, honor, or light of words and sound. It was personalist in focus. The personalist approach to objects is present in the 16th and 17th centuries where the radical distinctions between the internal and external world had not yet arisen and been sedimented as in the modern era (277-279). However, Ramist rhetoric puts ornamentation in more visual terms, arranging spatial and diagrammatical explanations and using spatial metaphors--praise and honor are lost terms in Ramist rhetoric (279-281).

For the ancients, rhetoric and dialectic polarized toward sound and sight respectively:

1) Rhetoric: resonance and auditory
2) Dialectic: silence, abstract, diagrammatic

They are artistically different tonally, but they are not distinct in any other way definable (i.e. topically, categorically, etc.). By specializing the world rhetoric and dialectic had to be made rigidly distinct, since extended items in space cannot occupy the same space (as people experience it superficially). This distinction becomes defined, in Ramism, as Solon's Law: clear lines of distinction to separate things into singular spaces or places (279-281).

Rhetoric and Poetic are not widely separated until Ramism either. Rhetoric and Poetry both dealt with the probable:

1) Rhetoric: probability and probable conclusions
2) Poetic: feigned conclusions and semblance of conclusions or of truth

Ramist poetry was quantitative and diagrammatic, solidifying poetry quantitatively into rhythm (length of lines) and meter (kind of feet). Renaissance scholasticism relegated all linguistic training to "low-level" preparation for higher level non-literary curriculum (281-283).

Ramist "plain style" represents a non-rhetorical style and rhetoric is considered dissimulation reserved for recalcitrant audiences (283-284). The rhetoric of Ramus did not prescribe itself to the world through open advocacy so much as it was adopted for its ability to lay forth an entire mental field and approach to cognition. Ramist rhetoric neglected sentence (theme), amplification, and decorum as well. As Ong puts it:

Ramism assimilated logic to imagery and imagery to logic by reducing intelligence itself, more or less unconsciously, in term of rather exclusively visual, spatial analogies. (286)
Ramist rhetoric influenced poetic thought of its adopters through a turn from dialogic modes of expression to more contemplative, didactic, and metaphysical modes (284-286). Ong again notes:

By its very structure, Ramist rhetoric asserts to all who are able to sense its implications that there is no way to discovery or to understanding through voice, and ultimately seems to deny that the process of person-to-person communication play any necessary role in intellectual life. (288)
The nature of Judgment (orally and aurally undeniable) was transmogrified into spatial arrangement (method = syllogism) -- world of sound to world of space -- by way of visual analogies.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Renaissance Rhetoric of Ramus Part 2: Backgrounds

The following post is a continuation of my comprised notes written on Walter Ong's book "Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue"

Background: Setting the Context

Medieval Scholasticism and Renaissance Humanism
Medieval logic is suggestive of modern logic in its attention to detail, technical language, concern for real or apparent impossibilities (insolubilia, impossibilia, sophismata), and its innocence of empistemological commitments (53-54). Renaissance logic is more concerned with epistemological and psychological issues and less concern for Medieval "properties" (syncategorimatic terms--all, each, every--and supposition, ampliation, and restriction).
There was a general assumption that Aristotle's logic (through its Medieval additions) was essentially flawless (54).

The works of Peter of Spain became the most influential Medieval tradition on logic, which was directed more toward medicine than theology and related more toward natural science and psychology (55-56). The major work of Peter of Spain is Summulae Logicales which implicitly conflated logic and dialectic:

"Dialectic is the art of arts and the science of sciences, possessing all the way to the principles of all curriculum subjects." (56)

It was Peter of Spain, not Bonaventure or Aquinas (who were theologians) who drew the ire and criticism of Renaissance humanists. Despite their criticisms, the influence of Peter of Spain is striking, especially in his topic and probable logics, which are drawn from Aristotle and Boethius. These works continue to blur dialectic and logic by considering dialectic as an instrument of scientific certainty or of probability, or of both (59-63). Aristotle clearly marked of dialectic as dealing with the realm of the probable, leaving a more certain logic to the realm of scientific demonstration.

Peter of Spain rereads Boethius' misreading of Aristotle's enthymeme, which was simply that it began from probable ground of argument and arrived at a probable conclusion. Boethius took the enthymeme as an implicit, but understood proposition (i.e. truncated syllogism), which led Peter of Spain to take it as a probable argument that led to a certain conclusion.

There is also a greater influence on quantification in Peter of Spain than was ever in Aristotle. Peter's suppositional theory of logic treats terms as substances themselves (unlike modern logic) though it still retained predication (which Ramus will largely reject) (65-72).

Ong also does a brief excursus in this section on the affects of the printing press on logical models, especially focusing on the spatializing of representation and the geometrization of logic that developed more out of the Medieval period than out of the classical period. However, Medieval and Ramist logicians ignored Aristotelian use of variables (letters of the alphabet for e.g.) and the algebraic possibilities for logic (which developed later), favoring geometric structures and approaches more keenly (74-83).

The pedagogical bent of the Renaissance had roots in Medieval practice as well. Murner's redevelopment of Peter's logic for teaching children is an example. Ong states that the work did much to obscure and defeat what it sought to instruct -- it used symbolism for memorization purposes (not even ideographs, but simply pictures to supplement as visual memory), but did little or nothing toward teaching understanding of the concepts. The simplification-for-recall rather than simplification-for-understanding approach led up into the developments of Ramism, which sought to put words into simple geometric patterns (with little theoretical support for the divisions) . Murner's diagrams are still relatively tied to a storytelling sensibility and to sound (i.e. the telling of a story) whereas Ramist diagrams were simply spatial representations or maps with nor oral or aural connection (83-91).

In the movement from Medieval Scholasticism to Renaissance Humanism, the logic of Peter of Spain was generally replaced, or read through, the work Rudolph Agricola. It was through Agricola that Ramus' logic came and Agricola's logic represented a shift from Aristotelian logic to Ciceronian logic (through the Stoic tradition). The work on dialectic was Agricola's major contribution: Dialectical Invention in Three Books (92-95).

In Agricola there is evidence of the shift from scientific soundness to pedagogical exigencies as well as the emphasis on typographical representations (96-98). The layout of Agricola's Dialectical Invention is as follows (98-101):

Book 1: Loci or Commonplaces

Book 2: I. Dialectical Use: question as matter
II. Division of Oration
A. Teaching
1. Narratio
2. Confirmio
B. Moving
1. Exordium
2. Peroratio
III. Argumentation: Syllogism
A. Major Premise (MP): expositio (Agricola's own term)
B. Minor Premise (mp): assumptio (drawn from Cicero, et al.)
C. Conclusion (C): conclusio (from Aristotle)

Book 3: "Effect" or Emotional Appeal
I. Expansion and Condensation
II. Facility/Copie or Imagination
III. Arrangement, Order, Parts
IV. Application and Dialectic

Of these, Book 3 constitutes the greatest departure from Peter of Spain and represents the further conflation of Rhetoric and Dialectic.

Though Thomism has been much discussed in the subsequent histories, his works were much less widespread during his own time because theology was a relatively specialized area of academic study that was only pursued after an initial Masters was attained by a student. Thomistic divisions of logic are as follows (101):

1. Logic of Scientific Demonstration (formal logic)
2. Logic of Probability in Debate (dialectic)
3. Logic of Probability in Practical Decisions (rhetoric)
4. Logic of Less Probable "As-If"Concerns (poetic)
5. Logic of Bogus Probability (sophistic)

Aquinas more nearly preserves the Aristotelian divisions with some of the minor adjustments that come through later readers and commentators. Agricola's limitation of the loci to dialectic with no consideration of their place in rhetoric is a major departure from Aristotelian divisions. In this decision scientific demonstration and rhetoric/poetic logic are subsumed into a dialectic that is either less than scientifically certain (Agricola) or more than rhetorically exigent (Ramus).
Rhetoric is reduced or confined to ornamentation and all the goals of speech (which also becomes essentially and primarily didactic in nature and intents) are subordinated to the dialectic (which are really pedagogical) motive and aim (101-104).

Agricola's emphasis on topoi or loci lead to a neglect of Aristotelian categories. Aristotelian topoi included: definition, genus, species, wholes, parts, adjacents, relatives, comparisons, opposites, and witnesses--and these were to be visited or consulted for any speech occasion or subject. Aristotelian categories are less concrete (i.e. particular) than the topics, but are concerned with universals in terms of their attribution to some object:

Category: relation vs. Topoi: related items
Category: likeness vs. Topoi: like items/things

The ignorance of these distinctions leads to complications in Ramus; the seeds of which are firmly planted in Agricola. His expansion of the limited scope and objectives of the topoi to constitute application upon all knowledge (that is, a universal application of the topoi rather than their particular application) leads directly into Ramus' topical logic and dialectic that becomes the paradigm of all thought processes. Ironically, the exaltation of the topoi makes logic and dialectic a subset of rhetoric (as Aristotle taught it) at the same time as they are being passed off as a pristine dialectic (104-112).

Ong once again comments upon the differences between Aristotle and later commentators in terms of the oral/aural vs. visual/spatial differences. For Ong, Aristotelian pre-printing press logics are concerned with enunciation and less interested in spatial formulations whereas post-printing press logics grow weary of enunciation and seek a more "pure" and static visual representation. Ong writes:

"A word is more than a sign of something, even of an intelligible something such as a concept. It is a cry, a voice, something which comes from the interior of a person, who as a person can never be "explained," and which somehow manifests this interior." (110)

Ong discusses and interesting distinction between the cognitive processes of invention and judgment in dialectic. The former is analogous with highly visual and spatial components (hence, why Ramus and others focus on it primarily) and the latter is more Hebraic, judicial, and aural in nature (hence, why Ramus and others have difficulty working it out in their method) (112-116). Evidence of the spatializing of intellectual organization is seen in the analogies used to discuss the topoi, or loci. The use of "woods" or "forest" and later "field," "boxes," or "containers" reflects the typographically conditions shift to mental spatial images rather than aurally connected notions (117-121). Out of the spatial shift resultant from the technology of print came an increased emphasis on linguistic structure (i.e. concerns for print layout) and spatial tables with a resultant loss of acceptance for ambiguity (a necessary component of oral and aural realms) (126-130).

As alluded to in my earlier comments about Aquinas, arts scholasticism was more prominent and influential than theology or metaphysics during the Medieval and Renaissance. Philosophy and Theology were split into two distinct disciplines of teaching, the former being disallowed to teach the latter. Theologians also tended to be less schooled and unskilled in formal logic while Philosophy was relatively uncommitted to theological matters. Nominalism or terminism in Philosophy and its connection to highly quantified formal logic contrasted with Theology and its greater connection to rhetoric and metaphysics (132-136).

In Ramus' context, the Trivium (Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic) and the Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, Music) had lost their savor as pedagogical arrangements of conveying knowledge to the youthful students. Also, Latin was the primary language of study, leaving Greek as a lesser known and Hebrew as a rarity. (136-139) The fact that youth were the primary target audience of the curriculum led to the use of simplified logic driven primarily pedagogical motives. (139-140). One of the reasons Ong points to as a cause for the avoidance of theology and metaphysics mentioned above is the authoritarian control asserted by the desire for unified doctrine. For an arts scholastic to step on the toes of a theology master could result in serious repercussions, and thus a sense of distance was maintained between the two disciplines (140-142). When metaphysics was approached by arts scholastics it was done so in narrow terms of physical interest--the workings of the mind, senses, and physical objects--as opposed to the more traditionally metaphysical questions of interest (142-145). Ramus is aligned along this trajectory of Arts Scholasticism that comes through Agricolan topical logic (145-146).

To review, the characteristics of Arts Scholasticism can be summarized generally as:
1. physical/quantitative in nature
2. physical/spatial in cognitive understanding
3. nominalist/terminist in terms of theology
4. unconcerned with epistemological commitments or questions

Ong periodically discusses terms of importance in Ramist thought (recall commentitia). One of the words he discusses is scholae, which reflects the fusion in Ramism of philosophy and pedagogy. Scholae were both the lectures that were delivered and the classroom in which they were delivered. True "scholasticism" thus meant "classroomism" in its Ramist context. Scholastic philosophy was thus classroom philosophy, wherein the process of thinking was subsumed in the process of teaching--a didacticism that emphasized application over contemplation. Again, Ong points to the source of influence as splitting at the aural/spatial dimensions--knowledge based on disputation and teaching (oral/aural) toward knowledge based in visual and diagrammatical representations (spatial/silent) (149-151).

There is also a bifurcation of teaching roles that Ong points out. The personal, interactive, dialogic role of the teacher was augmented (and perhaps largely altered?) by the addition of a corporate, apersonal, abstract role of the teacher that resulted from the growing understanding of knowledge as a commodity that was transmissible and verifiable in quantitative terms (151-152). The bifurcation saw dialectic abstracted from its original dialogic context and made to represent the entire pedagogical apparatus. Renaissance humanism also altered its practical exercises away from oral disputations toward written exercises (152-156).

Terminology was also rather indistinguishable during Medieval Scholasticism and up through Renaissance Humanism. Certain terms were interrelated shifted according to the predominant guidance of teaching (doctrina). The terms included teaching (doctrina), learning (disciplina), method (methodus), art (ars), science (scientia), and nature (natura). An example of the interrelation can be seen in the conflation of teaching as a science (a kind of proof or proving) and in Peter of Spain's synonymous use of art and science (156-158).

Out of these considerations emerge the realization that logic was not understood as the governor of thought (intellectual processes related to their object) but as the governor of (didactically motivated) communication (the verbalized relationship of thought to the object in the presence of another individual) (158-160).

Like Peter of Spain and others, Ramus conflated terms, for example, art and teaching, method and teaching, to the point where dialectic itself was understood as both something to be taught and the teaching (method) of teaching (art). Discourse or speech becomes something essentially didactic (160-163).

These influences and currents are the context into which Ramus is educated and develops as a thinker, teacher, and theorist.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Renaissance Rhetoric of Ramus Part 1: Issues

The following post is comprised of my notes written on Walter Ong's book "Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue"

Issues: What's Going on anyway?

Ramus was a 16th century academic who had an acute concern for logic with a distaste for symbolism, but who was eminently concerned with language (4). Ramism is a kind of logic, or dialectic (the two were essentially synonymous for Ramus), but it is unlike the more rigorous ones the precede it during the Medieval period (which were more concerned with scientific rigor and complexity) (7). Ramism was decried by strict logicians on this count. Ramism, as Ong likes to put it, is a set of mental habits, a conditioning of the mind toward a certain disposition or orientation toward the world and toward thought itself (7-8). Ramus' popularity was not universal, but his influence was ubiquitous throughout Europe, though in varying degrees. His name became synonymous with Rhetoric (9).

One of the issues that Ong will trace throughout his book is the fact that Latin was the predominant language of the academy, rather than the vernacular languages of any particular country (i.e. German in Germany, English in England, French in France, Italian in Italy, etc.) (10-11). Latin dominated the academy on all educational levels and subject as the primary language of discourse through the 16th, 17th, and up into the 18th century (10-11). It was only during the 18th century that vernacular languages began seeing frequent use in academia (12). Interestingly, Ramism was at the forefront of the vernacular movement in England, France, the Netherlands, and Germany, despite the fact that most of his own works were read in Latin only.

The intellectual heritage that Ramus inherited considered Rhetoric, Dialectic, and Logic to be synonymous in practice, even if distinctions were attempted in theoretical treatments (21). Medieval rhetoric, which was practical in orientation and motivation, was being replaced in the humanist tradition by a more elaborate art, in order to teach Latin expression as a literary or stylistic instrument (21). The connection between Rhetoric and probable argument, as well as the connection between Rhetoric and Dialectic, was gradually replaced by a very narrow and largely ornamental rhetoric. The art of Dialectic subsumed classical understanding of Rhetoric, but did away with probabilistic argument altogether.

There was also a movement in the humanist tradition toward an organizing principle of pedagogy. The exigencies of teaching young boys whose mental development was unprepared for the problems and issues of mature fields of study led to the reorientation of teaching material (22-23). The mantra of "is it true?" was replaced by the mantra of "is it teachable."

Ramus' own work represented a singular challenge to Aristotelian philosophy and method (23). Ong continually charges Ramus with misunderstanding Aristotle, and even owing Aristotle much debt for much of his own work. The later chapters explain in detail where Ramus' orientation and approach to Aristotle lead him to misunderstand and reformulate his philosophical observations.

Ong separates Ramus' career into four periods:
1. Rhetorical (largely Ciceronian)
2. Dialectic/Methodical
3. Dialectic on Mathematics
4. Religion

One of the key issues that recurs throughout Ramism is its desire to be as free from Rhetoric (which it deems mere ornamentation) as possible.

Ramus' self-proclaimed reforms were centered on logic for use of erudition, with a special focus on reforming Aristotle's Organon (41). One of Ramus' novelties was his application of logic throughout all curriculum levels, a result of the Renaissance influences rather than Medieval ones (41). Ramus' views on Aristotle are largely filtered through later commentators. Ong traces his intellectual heritage thus (from p. 42):

1) Dialectic in Cicero
2) Dialectic in Quintillian
3) Agricola's Dialectic in Humanities (particularly influential)
4) Galen
5) Hippocrates
6) Aristotle--with extreme dislike
7) Plato--esp. the dialogues
8) Aristotle--viewed as deceptive
9) Aristotle--relies upon the matter and form distinguishing categories heavily

Ramus is not first, not is he alone in his conflation of Aristotelian dialectic (logic that deals with terminating probabilities) and scientific logic (geometrical reasoning that deals with certainties), for the Medieval tradition was first to mark them as one form (44).

Ong marks out Ramus' use of the word commentitia as characteristic of his understanding from 1543 onward (45). He used the word in various references to Aristotle to mean inconsistency, arbitrary usage, irrelevant material, and poorly systematized description. Of these, perhaps the last is most informative of Ramus' mental sensibility. Systematization through dichotomies and diagrams come to epitomize the visual representations of his mental adjudications of knowledge (though he would not consider it making a judgment at all) (45-47).

In addition to his rejection of Aristotle's approach to knowledge and teaching, Ramus' history of dialectic ignores much of the Roman and all of the Medieval periods, arguing that the classics had a "true dialectic" which his age had revived (47-48). While Ramus prizes Socratic and Platonic dialectic, his own dialectical method will reveal itself to be radically distinct from either. Ramus was also critical of the Italians, giving little credit to their influence during his own period (48). He was particularly antagonistic toward their emphasis on rhetorical eloquence (Ramus prized dialectical logic, though he himself was an eloquent speaker). The tension that exists in Ramism is largely a tension between the traditions of logic and rhetoric (49).