Ramus, Petrus

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Ramus, Petrus

Petrus Ramus (pē´trəs rā´məs), or Pierre de La Ramée (pyĕr rämā´), 1515–72, French humanist and philosopher. Attempting to break through Aristotelian and scholastic traditions, Ramus wrote a number of works that became influential, among them Dialecticae Institutiones (1543) and Aristotelicae Animadversiones (1543). In consequence, his teaching position was threatened, but in 1551, through the efforts of Cardinal de Lorraine, Ramus was established in a chair of rhetoric and philosophy at the Collège de France. In the religious wars of the period Ramus attached himself to the reformers and fled (1568) to Germany. He returned to Paris in 1570 and was killed in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. Ramist logic, although faulted by modern thinkers, was exceedingly influential in the 16th and early 17th cent., holding sway in Protestant lands—Switzerland, Scotland, and much of Germany. From its English stronghold at Cambridge it markedly affected Francis Bacon, John Milton, and others. The emphasis of Ramist logic on clarity, precision, and testing and on definite boundaries between subjects can be said to have encouraged the scientific spirit.

See studies by N. E. Nelson (1947) and W. J. Ong (1958, repr. 1974); W. S. Howell, Logic and Rhetoric in England, 1500–1700 (1956, repr. 1961).

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