I’ve been watching the Israeli TV show “Shtisel.” Like “Downton Abbey” and other shows, “Shtisel” is made up of innumerable romantic relationships. When you watch “Downton Abbey,” you learn something about English aristocrats around 1910. When you watch “Shtisel,” you learn something about orthodox Jews today.
You learn, for example, that orthodox Jews have a reverence for life that prevents them from killing even a mouse (they catch mice in a trap that doesn’t injure the mouse). Like Quakers, they disapprove of armed force, and don’t serve in the army.
They also reverence holy books; when a Torah scroll is beyond repair, they don’t put it in the garbage, they bury it, as they would bury a beloved relative. They say a prayer before eating or drinking.
Of course, orthodox Jews don’t always live up to their high ideals; one of the themes of “Shtisel” are the many ways in which the characters cheat — watching ordinary TV, changing money on the black market, lying to their family, etc. They rarely engage in physical intimacy, even with a spouse, even when they’re going away for six months, or returning after a six-month trip; they’re more puritanical than Puritans.
Among orthodox Jews, the community seems to dominate the individual. When Akiva breaks off his engagement because it doesn’t feel right, his father and brother are scarcely able to leave the house because they’re so humiliated. One might say that orthodox Jews respect everything but the individual soul, everything but the wayward impulses of the individual.
Nowadays there’s a marked difference between the orthodox Jew and the non-orthodox Jew. A few generations ago, however, the non-orthodox Jew may have been more observant, more “orthodox.” Gertrude Himmelfarb died recently at 97, and I read some articles about her and by her. She said,
|There was a tradition among Jewish families, and mine was a rather observant Jewish family... that when a book of the Bible or the prayer book fell on the floor, you kissed it when you picked it up in order to preserve its kind of purity.... That respect for the book transferred itself to secular books as well.1|
I recommend “Shtisel.” It’s well done, the music is good, etc.
Life has no permanent meaning/value, and there’s no one to give it such value. On the other hand, how could anyone conclusively prove that life doesn’t have meaning/value? We should assert the value of life each moment, by our attitudes, choices, actions. We should keep the ball in the air. Perhaps our chief moral obligation is to believe in life, to view the glass as half full rather than half empty. Life needs us, life depends on us.
Philosophers have often attempted to justify the ways of God, to explain why a benevolent and omnipotent God would permit suffering and evil, would permit bad things to happen to good people. The justification of God’s ways is sometimes called “theodicy.” For those of us who no longer believe in God, no longer believe in a God who creates the world and rules the world, it’s no longer necessary to justify the ways of God. We can skip this job.
But we have a new job: to justify life, to justify the world, in the absence of a creating/ruling God. We need to justify life, while acknowledging that suffering is unavoidable, that evil is embedded in human nature, and that there’s no “master plan” behind the world. (I attempted such a justification, such an “atheodicy,” in a piece called “The End.”) Justifying life may be one of the chief tasks of philosophers in the future.
What would an “atheodicy” look like? How might future philosophers justify life? They might emphasize art, as Nietzsche did, they might argue that art makes life palatable, attractive (Nietzsche said, “Life would be a mistake without music”). Or they might emphasize work, as Freud did, they might argue that if we have work to do, work that we find meaningful or enjoyable, then life becomes palatable to us. Or they might emphasize community/family/relationships, they might argue that relationships are a source of both pleasure and obligation. Or they might emphasize nature, they might argue that contact with nature is calming, therapeutic. Or they might emphasize reducing stress through yoga, meditation, etc.
Justifying life isn’t easy. Many people feel that the pains of existence are as numerous as the pleasures. If they feel that the pleasures are more numerous, they would probably say that it’s a close question, a 51-49 question. And if they have a setback — a health setback, or a relationship setback, or a financial setback — then the numbers change, then it becomes a 49-51 question, or a 40-60 question, the pains appear to outnumber the pleasures.
The number of people who commit suicide is rising, and the number of people who contemplate suicide is rising. People who are suicidal often try to take others with them; at the root of a shooting spree is usually a suicidal person; the shooter usually ends by shooting himself. So we need a justification of life, an “atheodicy,” a world-picture that helps us to cope with suffering.
When John Winthrop arrived in Boston in 1630, a debate was raging in Europe between Organics and Mechanics. Organics saw the universe as an organic whole, they saw connections, they took a synthetic view. Mechanics saw the universe as separate objects, they took an analytic view; they were fond of mathematical equations, not occult connections. Which side were the Puritans on?
The Puritans were champions of Petrus Ramus, the French logician who tried to overthrow Aristotelian logic. Organics and Mechanics had competing views of how the world worked; they had little truck with logic or theology. The Puritans tried to develop a system of logic and theology. In the field of logic, their chief adversaries were the Aristotelians; in the field of theology, their chief adversaries were the Anglicans and the Catholics. Insofar as they were interested in logic and theology, the Puritans didn’t take sides in the Organic/Mechanic dispute.
But the Puritans weren’t interested only in logic and theology. The Puritans were in sympathy with the Organics/Hermetics; the Puritans saw the world as an inter-connected whole, “linked analogies” rather than separate objects. In general, religion sees wholeness, while science sees separateness.2
The Puritans saw the world thus:
In the beginning was God. Then God conceived of the world, made a blueprint for the world. Then God created the world; the world reflects God’s blueprint. Then man studied the world, observed the objects created by God. Then man saw God shining through the objects, man learned the blueprint by studying the objects. By learning the blueprint, man comes to God Himself.
So we start with God, and end with God. We make a circle from God to God (a deo ad deum). The world is a unity because it’s created by God and governed by God. Knowledge is a unity because all the disciplines fit together, and all the disciplines lead back to the Creator; each discipline deals with a different aspect of the Creation. An encyclopedia is theology because all knowledge reflects the objects, and the objects reflect God. The seven Liberal Arts are “a circle of seven sections of which the center is God.”3
Since Puritans and Hermetics viewed the world as a reflection of God’s blueprint, they were fond of the mirror metaphor. “The creature is a speculum [mirror]. Art is the image of eternal wisdom.”4 Alexander Richardson used the book metaphor: “the world and the creatures therein are like a book wherein God’s wisdom is written.”5 By studying the objects, we learn about their Author. The Puritans also used the veil metaphor, since they thought we could see God through the objects, like looking at things through a veil: “The visible world is but a veil or a screen between the intellect and the true and perfect ideas.”6
The Puritan/Hermetic worldview resembles Plato’s theory of ideas. For the Puritans, as for Plato, “reality is super-sensuous, the visible universe is a copy of the ideal, and beauty or truth emerge not out of things themselves but from the light that shines through their opaqueness.”7 The Puritans were followers of Petrus Ramus, and “there was a strong current of Platonism, however subterranean, in the logic of Ramus.”8 Miller says that Platonism was all the rage in the sixteenth century. “It was fitting and proper that Sir Philip Sidney, the earnest partisan of [Ramus’] Dialecticae, should also voice in The Defence of Poesie one of the classic expositions of the Platonic theory of the poet.”9
Miller says that logic was very important to Puritans. When John Eliot translated the Bible into a NativeAmerican language, he also translated a treatise on logic, so the natives would be able, not just to read the Bible, but to analyze it, too.10 At Harvard, scripture was read with morning and evening prayers, and the scripture-reading was accompanied by logical analysis.11 Much of the Puritan creed wasn’t actually in the Bible; rather, it was logically deduced from the Bible.12 In 1869, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a novel about early New England, Oldtown Folks. She wrote, “If there is a golden calf worshipped in our sanctified New England, its name is Logic; and my good friend the parson burns incense before it.”13
This passion for logic was also found in Europe.
|Keckermann declared truly at the end of the sixteenth century that no other era in the world’s history had been so devoted to logic, produced more books, or studied it more assiduously.... Alsted hailed it as the queen of the mind, the light of intelligence, the norm of judgment, the laboratory of truth, the panacea of memory, without which no man could become lawyer, physician, or philosopher.14|
Why this passion for logic? Perhaps logic was a valuable weapon in the disputes between Catholics and Protestants, and the disputes between different Protestant sects. Perhaps logic was a hot topic because it was in flux; the logic of Aristotle was being challenged by Ramus.
Academia has always been fond of logic because it fits nicely on a blackboard. Real philosophers usually keep a distance from logic. Montaigne, for example, had no interest in logic. “It is a great pity,” Montaigne wrote, “that philosophy is now... a vain and chimerical name, a thing of no use or value.... The cause, I think, lies in these quibblings which have blocked the approach to it.”15 Bacon complained that the Ramists focused on process rather than substance, method rather than reality: “Men of this sort,” Bacon wrote, “torture things with their laws of method.... When the seeds and kernels of science are springing forth, they gather so many dry and empty husks.”16
I’ve always avoided logic, but when I learned about the logic of Charles Sanders Peirce, I found it interesting, I thought it would be useful in my disputes with Stratfordians. I also find the logic of Ramus interesting, as a chapter in intellectual history, and also for the light it throws on contemporary thought.
When Ramus was born in 1515, Aristotelian logic dominated European universities. Perhaps it wasn’t “pure Aristotle,” perhaps Aristotle’s logic had been warped over the centuries. It had gradually become a briar-patch of terms and categories, predicables and predicaments, with no use or practical value.
|Their logic had neither rhyme nor reason [Miller writes], even from the very first lessons in which they confronted the student with a series of abstruse and disconnected terms and required him to memorize them. No reason for these terms was ever offered, no philosophical justification for their number or arrangement, and so the student never suspected that a rationale for the structure of logic could possibly exist. He was given a miscellaneous aggregation of disparate concepts, none of which had any integral connection with any other, and trained to flourish them in forensic disputations, to dazzle his opponents and to give no thought to practical applications.17|
A professor’s dream, a student’s nightmare. The time was ripe for reform, and Ramus was the reformer. “In 1556 Ramus issued at Paris a compact manual of fifty pages, Dialecticae Libri Duo [Two Books of Dialectic], the crucial statement of his teaching and, measured in terms of immediate influence upon the times, one of the three or four outstanding books of the age.”18 Ramus swept away all the predicables and predicaments of the Aristotelians, and made a fresh start, describing each branch of knowledge with a tree-like scheme.
|Ramus contended that this method was not merely simple and clear, but objectively true, that the content of every science falls of itself into dichotomies, that all disciplines can be diagrammed in a chart of successive foliations. The Ramist logic [was] a classification by dichotomies.... Its emphasis was always on laying things out in series.19|
Ramus made things simpler and easier for students. He also breathed life into logic by combining it with rhetoric, and using poets and orators for illustration. “Ramus joined together the study of eloquence and logic.... He was equally at home in dialectic or rhetoric and taught his system as well in the one discipline as in the other.”20
In an earlier issue, I wrote, “Socrates’ method of arguing is unconvincing. As one person in our group said, ‘he can argue for anything. He can argue that black is white, and that red is blue.’” Socrates uses syllogisms, and syllogisms are often unconvincing. In daily life, people almost never use syllogisms. I almost never use them in my writings.
Ramus preferred self-evident axioms to syllogisms.
|The stuff of judgment is not the syllogism but the axiom; the aim of an orator or preacher is a succession of sentences, not a display of deductions.... The logic of Ramus hoped to put an end to the interminable making of syllogisms that flourished in the schools.21|
Ramus didn’t avoid the syllogism altogether; rather, he tried to use it only on rare occasions, he tried to “reduce its ancient pretensions.”22
Ramus wasn’t a skeptic — far from it. He felt that the fruit of Truth was abundant, low to the ground, and easily gathered. “The whole Ramist system assumed... that most axioms will show on their face whether they are true or false.”23 In general, Ramists were Realists, while Aristotelians were Nominalists; Ramists believed that thought/logic equals reality itself, while Aristotelians believed that logic is only in the mind.24 By learning the various arts/sciences, Ramists believed, a student “may understand almost everything in creation.”25
Puritans were confident that they possessed Eternal Truth; this confidence grew out of the Ramist confidence that logic corresponded with reality. “The laws of God found in the Bible were hypostatized by the logic of Ramus into never-failing realities, as endurable as facts, and from that assurance Puritanism got its strength and its confidence.”26
The Puritans came to Massachusetts brimming with confidence, ready to create a New World. Is it any wonder that they made their mark, not just on New England, but on the whole country? Their confidence stemmed, not just from Ramist logic, but from the soup-to-nuts philosophy that was built upon Ramist logic:
|More important than the Ramist logic itself in the intellectual history of the colonies is the fact that when the logic came to New England these men had already constructed upon it a fully articulated philosophy, an epistemology, and a systematic body of knowledge.27|
Truth is objective, according to Ramists, and man can reach truth. I agree with this view, though I would argue that intuition is a better guide to truth than logic. “The problem for the Ramist... was not patient inquiry but rapid survey.”28 Rapid survey is my stock-in-trade.
Ramists believed that logic was embedded in the fabric of the universe, it was part of “the natural processes of the mind and... the natural order of the universe.”29 Logic was more than method, “its implications were essentially metaphysical.”30
I’m reminded of Hegel’s dialectic, which was both a system of logic and a theory of reality. The word “dialectic” means discourse/debate. An assertion naturally brings forth a counter-assertion; as Montaigne said, conversation is contradiction, or as Hegel put it, a thesis brings forth an antithesis. I’ve argued that the death-instinct reaches an extreme, then the pendulum swings back to the life-instinct; decadence brings forth renaissance. My theory of history is akin to Hegel’s logic, Hegel’s dialectic. So I’m inclined to agree with the Ramist view that logic is embedded in the fabric of the universe.31
Catholic doctrine and Aristotelian logic had developed together, and fit each other. On the other hand, the logic of Ramus was embraced by Protestants. “In England the [Ramist] teaching prospered along with Puritanism, with which, by the beginning of the seventeenth century, it became almost synonymous.”32 Puritanism flourished at Cambridge University, and Ramist logic also flourished there. On the other hand, Oxford was an Anglican stronghold, and Oxford opposed Ramism.33 “The New Englanders’ devotion to [Ramist logic] was a consequence of its already having been firmly allied with reformed doctrine.”33B
Ramus himself became a Protestant in 1561. Since powerful Catholics were against him, he left France, and traveled along the Rhine. “Delegations of Ramists, coming forth to hail him as he approached each university town, were set upon by bands of Aristotelians; broken pates and lengthening disputations marked his progress.”34 For more than a century, the logic of Ramus was “the most fiercely contested of educational issues.”35
Just how fierce the dispute was became apparent in 1572, when one of Ramus’ colleagues at the university had him killed. Ramus’ death was part of the anti-Protestant violence known as the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.
Protestants and Ramists weren’t content with contemplation, they wanted knowledge that could be applied. “The arts were invented in order to be used.”36 As Max Weber argued, Protestants subscribed to a “work ethic.” Miller says, “Protestantism in its Calvinistic form encouraged the shift of emphasis in theology and philosophy from contemplation to action, from beatitude to utility.”37
Ramus is now largely forgotten; I had never heard of him until recently. “There is a crying need,” Miller writes, “for a full study of Ramus and his influence.”38 This need was met by one of Miller’s students, Walter Ong, author of Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue (1958).39
The influence of Ramus lasted from about 1550 to 1700. At Harvard, Ramus was popular from the founding of the college in 1636 until around 1700. “The first sign of a change,” Miller writes, was in 1689, when William Brattle introduced “the principles of Descartes.”40 Another NewEngland scholar, Samuel Johnson, abandoned the old system in 1715, opting instead for “the logic of John Locke.”41 Brattle still mixed Ramus with new ideas, but Johnson seems to have abandoned Ramus more completely.
The influence of Ramus is evident in Harvard’s motto Veritas (Truth). Ramists were fond of saying, “Let Plato be your friend, and Aristotle, but more let your friend be Truth.”42 Ramus had extracted this slogan from Aristotle, then used it against the Aristotelians. “It would not be strange... if the [Harvard] seal should bear the one word which Ramists used most insistently and most confidently.... By the founders [of Harvard] Veritas could have been taken only in the Ramist sense.”43
Ramism was debated in Europe, accepted in New England. Miller speaks of, “the system disputed so furiously in the universities of Europe and taught so serenely at Harvard and Yale.”44 In New England, Ramism reigned supreme.
|2.||In an earlier issue, I quoted Viola Sachs, who said that the Puritans were interested in “Christian hermeticism, heretical writings, Gnosticism, and neoplatonic thought.... The Invisible is but the reversed image of the visible.” This reminds us of the Hermetic maxim, “As above, so below.” I also quoted Sacvan Bercovitch, who said that the Puritans “conceived of reality... as a system of linked analogies.” Each little object, according to the Puritans, was part of the grand plan. The universe was “magnificent and organic.”(p. 180) back|
|3.||Miller, quoting a Harvard thesis from 1670. See Miller’s The New England Mind: the Seventeenth Century, Ch. 6, pp. 160, 161 back|
|4.||Miller, p. 164
Melville, who was influenced by Puritans/Hermetics, may have actually used a mirror when writing Moby Dick. He tells us, “While composing a little treatise on Eternity, I had the curiosity to place a mirror before me.”
Miller says the Puritan/Hermetic worldview also influenced Jonathan Edwards, and the symbolism of Hawthorne and Emerson. “The beauties of nature,” said Edwards, “are really emanations or shadows of the excellency of the Son of God.”(p. 162)
As far as I know, Miller doesn’t discuss the Hermetic School per se. Perhaps Miller didn’t understand the Hermetic School; Miller didn’t have the benefit of Frances Yates’ work on Hermetism, which was written after Miller died. Bercovitch, who wrote after Miller and after Yates, seems to have a better grasp of Hermetism than Miller had.
About eight years ago, I discussed Edward Edinger’s Jungian study of Moby Dick. In a chapter called Linked Analogies, “Edinger says that Melville presents the natural world, and man’s everyday pursuits, as symbols of deeper truths. Edinger quotes Ahab’s remark, ‘O Nature, and O soul of man! how far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies! not the smallest atom stirs or lives on matter, but has its cunning duplicate in mind.’ Edinger says that Melville’s long descriptions of whaling have a significance that’s more than practical. He notes that Emerson also subscribed to the idea of ‘linked analogies’: ‘Every natural fact,’ Emerson wrote, ‘is a symbol of some spiritual fact.’ Edinger calls this ‘the theory of correspondences.’” back
|5.||Miller, p. 162. Since the author of nature is wise and good, surely the world must be good, too. “Whatever is, is positively good.”(p. 168) back|
|6.||Miller, p. 179 back|
|7.||p. 177 back|
|8.||p. 178. I agree with Plato that we have innate ideas, we have intuitions that are born with us, that don’t come from experience or sensation. On the other hand, I’m not attracted to Plato’s theory that there’s a realm of ideas behind the realm of things.
The Aristotelians maintained that sensation was “the first teacher,” they rejected the notion of innate ideas.(p. 159) The British empiricists, beginning with Locke, seem to have sided with Aristotle against Plato. back
|9.||p. 178. Miller says, “Many young men responded to [Ramist logic] as the herald of a new day. Sir Philip Sidney... discussed it with his friends and wrote its figures into the Arcadia; Marlowe dramatized the death of Ramus in The Massacre at Paris in terms which make clear his intimate knowledge of the doctrine.”
Ramus, being a Protestant, was killed in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (1572), in which many Protestants lost their lives. This massacre is the subject of Marlowe’s Massacre at Paris. One of the last Ramist publications in England was John Milton’s summary, published in 1672; this summary was probably made around 1630, when Milton was a young student. back
|10.||p. 114 back|
|11.||p. 115 back|
|12.||p. 115. New Englanders were confident that they could draw the consequences of Scripture truths. As John Norton said, “The greatest part of Scripture truth is revealed in Scripture consequences. Yea, many fundamental truths are not held forth in express terms, but by manifest consequence.”(pp. 203, 204) The doctrine of the Trinity, for example, wasn’t expressly stated in the Bible; rather, it was a “logical consequence.”(p. 514) The Puritans seemed to think that they could improve the Bible; “in the Bible, doctrines are not yet ‘digested into a methodical system, but it is to be gathered from thence.’”(p. 189) back|
|13.||Quoted in Miller, p. 115. “The fundamental fact concerning the intellectual life of New Englanders,” Miller writes, “is that they ranged themselves definitely under the banner of the Ramists. The Peripatetic system [i.e., the Aristotelian system] was indeed read at Harvard, but the Ramist was believed, and it exercised the decisive role in shaping New England thought. It is not too much to say that, while Augustine and Calvin have been widely recognized as the sources of Puritanism, upon New England Puritans the logic of Petrus Ramus exerted fully as great an influence as did either of the theologians.”(p. 116) back|
|14.||p. 113. Logic/dialectic was viewed as a template for other disciplines. “Dialectic is of all arts the most general.”(p. 128) Logic/dialectic set forth the methods and principles of other disciplines. Puritans abandoned metaphysics altogether, replacing it with “encyclopedia” or “technologia” (“technologia” meant the system of the arts).(p. 161) Puritans declared, “There is no metaphysics distinct from other disciplines.”(p. 161) William Ames proposed discarding ethics as well as metaphysics; whatever ethical principles we need, Ames argued, can be found in the Bible.(p. 188) “Cotton Mather deplored the ‘employing of so much time upon Ethics in our colleges’ for a ‘vile piece of paganism.’”(p. 196)
Encyclopedia isn’t an aggregation of separate facts, but rather all the arts and sciences united in an organic whole. The arts can be viewed as links in a chain, or sections of a circle. Richardson spoke of “that orb, and circle of the arts” (orbis ille & circulus artium).(pp. 160, 161) The arts and sciences are united since they all come from God, who is “the alpha and omega of the arts.”(p. 164) The arts mirror the divine mind, their methodical arrangement reflects God’s method. back
|15.||Montaigne, Essays, “On the Education of Children” back|
|16.||p. 127 back|
|17.||p. 123 back|
|18.||p. 116. Miller speaks of “[Ramus’] conviction that the logic of the schools was based upon a misunderstanding of Aristotle himself, and so declared in his bombshell of a thesis, ‘All that has been said from Aristotle is forged [Quaecumque ab Aristotele dicta essent commentitia esse].’”(p. 123) back|
|19.||pp. 127, 125. Ramus simplified terminology by calling everything an “argument.” “By the term ‘argument’ Ramus intended any word by which things are understood or represented in speech, any concept, any counter employed in thinking. It could be a noun like ‘cause,’ an adjective like ‘similar,’ a figure of relationship like ‘opposition,’ an abstraction like ‘truth’ or ‘virtue,’ a definition of a thing, or the thing itself.”(p. 124)
Arguments were the building-blocks of thought. “Procedure according to the Ramist logic was always the same: first we invent individual arguments; second, we dispose one with another to form an axiom; third, if in doubt, we dispose one axiom with another in a syllogism to get a conclusion; fourth, we set our conclusions in order and so make a discourse, a sermon, a poem, or an oration.”(p. 132) The student could reverse this process — begin with a sermon, and work back to the axioms and arguments. Building a sermon/discourse was called “genesis,” taking it apart was called “analysis.” back
|20.||p. 145. Ramus’ sidekick, Omer Talon, specialized in rhetoric. back|
|21.||p. 133, 134. According to the Ramists, “All arts should consist of plain and manifest axioms, and the answers to the questions posed in logic — What is it? What parts has it? Where is it? What qualities does it have? — should always be unitary sentences. An axiom was ‘such a truth as is worthy credit without any discourse.’”(p. 134)
But how could axioms deal with the mysteries of Christianity? Keckermann argued that the Ramist system was “a threat to theology [because] by trusting to the immediate perceptions and the instantaneous recognitions of a corrupt mind, by asserting doctrine in the form of axioms, it made impossible any defense of the mysteries of religion, the Trinity, or the double nature of Christ.”(p. 152, quoting Miller, paraphrasing Keckermann) back
|22.||p. 133. I also find the disjunctive syllogism unconvincing. An example of a disjunctive syllogism is the Christian argument, “Jesus was either a madman or the son of God. He wasn’t a madman. Ergo he was the Son of God.” I find this unpersuasive. back|
|23.||p. 135. Ramism “never probed half so far into the abyss of doubt as did Descartes.”(p. 144) back|
|24.||p. 146. Miller speaks of, “the dogmatic realism implicit in [Ramus’] Dialecticae.” According to Ramists, “logic does take hold on reality.... Universals are objectively real.”(p. 147) For Protestants, one important universal was the Church. Congregationalists argued that the Church was real, though it was made up of countless independent churches/congregations, “though the church as such was not embodied in a material form.”(p. 147)
There was an affinity between Congregationalism and Ramism. “Many of the Presbyterians persisted in using Aristotelian methods.”(p. 120) Ramus himself argued that “the power to elect pastors and pronounce censures should reside in individual congregations.”(p. 120) back
|25.||p. 179 back|
|26.||p. 148. For Ramists, “the argument was the thing, or the name of the thing, or the mental conception of the thing, all at once.”(p. 149) Unlike Kant, Ramists saw no difference between our idea of the thing, and the “thing-in-itself.” back|
|27.||p. 155. The confidence of the Puritans may explain their lasting influence, may explain how they influenced writers like Melville and Hawthorne. The Puritan philosophy was comprehensive, its adherents were sincere and enthusiastic, it was a potent force in the American intellectual world. What other philosophy could compete with it? back|
|28.||p. 151 back|
|29.||p. 144 back|
|30.||p. 144 back|
|31.||But did Ramus use his logic to offer insights into the working of the universe? Did he have any understanding of occult connections? Did he have any insights comparable to Hegel’s dialectic? Does he deepen our understanding of reality, or just give us methodical arrangement?
Some examples of the dialectic in history: Parmenides said that Being is unchanging/eternal, Heraclitus countered by saying that everything is in flux. Realist literature, such as Zola’s novels, stayed close to reality, then Symbolism arose (Mallarmé, etc.), and went in the opposite direction. Abstract Art depicted colors and shapes, then Pop Art depicted objects from everyday life. Proust said, “The critics of each generation confine themselves to maintaining the direct opposite of the truths admitted by their predecessors.” back
|32.||p. 117 back|
|33.||p. 118 back|
|33B.||p. 203 back|
|34.||pp. 116, 117 back|
|35.||p. 116. “[Ramus’] long career was unrelenting warfare, of a ferocity hardly conceivable today, over questions of method and terminology.”(p. 116) back|
|36.||p. 173 back|
|37.||p. 173 back|
|38.||Appendix A, p. 493 back|
|39.||Ong’s work on Ramus deals with “the contrast between the visual and the oral.” Ong speaks of “the spatialization of thought.” Perhaps Ong associated Ramus with the visual, the spatial, and print culture. One of Ong’s teachers, Marshall McLuhan, “drew upon his former student’s perspective on Ramism to write his own pivotal work, The Gutenberg Galaxy.” back|
|40.||p. 121 back|
|41.||p. 176 back|
|42.||p. 152. Aristotle had said, “Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas” (Plato is my friend, but truth is a closer friend). back|
|43.||p. 152. New England Ramists were fond of the Ramist commentators Alexander Richardson and William Ames. So the chain of influence was Ramus ==> Richardson ==> Ames ==> New Englanders. All the thinkers in this chain invented numerous terms; “to the Renaissance mind,” Miller writes, “satisfactory explanation consisted in giving satisfying names.”(p. 169) Learning logic meant learning terms.
Miller describes Richardson as “a strangely obscure figure... an original, daring, and immensely influential thinker”; Miller speaks of Richardson’s “mastery of prose style.”(p. 160)
The most gifted NewEngland thinker, according to Miller, was Jonathan Edwards. “The theology of Edwards is generally taken as the supreme achievement of the New England mind, and so it is, considered philosophically and artistically.”(pp. 176, 177) back
|44.||p. 141 back|