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.

No comments: