Descartes and the Resilience of Rhetoric: Varieties of Cartesian Rhetorical Theory

By Thomas M. Carr Jr. | Go to book overview

6
Lamy's Science of Persuasion Vivacity and the Inclinations

There is nothing that cannot be persuaded when one knows how to use men's inclinations properly.

Il n'y a rien qu'on ne puisse persuader quand on sait bien se servir des inclinations des hommes.

Lamy, L'Art de parler

Rhetorical theory is not the center of interest for any of the thinkers considered so far. However, in Bernard Lamy we find a writer with a considerable reputation as a Cartesian militant whose most famous work, the Art de parler, is an attempt to recast the whole range of questions normally treated by rhetoricians in light of the new philosophy.1 Indeed, his teaching career was interrupted by charges that he had introduced Descartes' teachings into his classes, and he was considered a friend and disciple of his fellow Oratorian two years his senior. Malebranche, who is reported to have read Lamy's text in manuscript form and encouraged its publication.2 The first editions of his rhetoric appeared in late 1675, at approximately the same time that Male- branche was publishing the second part of La Recherche.

In spite of Malebranche's imprimatur,3 some of the most insightful commentators on Lamy have found in his rhetoric just the opposite of the values Malebranche is considered to represent. Michel Charles declares Lamy's work "a rhetoric of passion" where emotion is the "final and essential instrument of persuasion."4Ulrich Ricken describes Lamy's defense of the passions

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