Pierre de la Ramée

Pierre de la Ramée (Latin: Petrus Ramus; * 1515; † 27 August 1572) was one of the most important philosophers of the 16th century. Although he came from a poor background, he had the opportunity to study in Paris. He opposed Aristotelian-Scholastic philosophy early on by orienting his logic towards rhetoric and practice. Jacques Charpentier, a professor of medicine, accused him of undermining the foundations of philosophy and religion. Therefore, Ramée was forbidden to teach any more in 1544. The ban was lifted three years later thanks to the intercession of Cardinal Louis de Lorraine-Guise. Ramée sometimes had up to 2,000 students in his lectures. In 1561 he converted to Calvinism, which caused him to lose the Cardinal’s support and he could not continue teaching. In 1568 he left France, which he did not enter again until three years later.1
Ramée’s teachings not only influenced the Puritans, but spread throughout Europe and are considered the basis for Baconism as well as Cartesianism. Incidentally, Ramée did not die at the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre. He hid and returned to his accommodation three days later, where he was stabbed to death. The Huguenots suspected Jacques Charpentier.

The Massacre at Paris

He only appears in [Scene 9]. Both the corrupted text and the content make this passage problematic. In the middle of the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, the Duke of Guise discusses the validity of Aristotelian logic with Ramée. According to most commentators, the entire scene is unnecessary and strange.2 Even if the actual text could be reconstructed, the content of the debate or its relevance to today’s audience would remain largely incomprehensible. In the 16th century it was quite different. To do this, one must first bear in mind that until well into the modern era, Aristotle was considered the unchallenged authority in almost all scientific matters. (Even Galileo Galilei repeatedly got into trouble for contradicting his teachings). Ramee’s teaching was discussed throughout Europe. Corpus Christ’s College, Cambridge, was considered a centre of Ramism from 1570.3 Marlowe’s second-year dialectic professor was a follower of Ramée, as was William Perkins, the most influential preacher at Cambridge. Ramee’s teaching was so controversial that riots broke out as late as the beginning of the 17th century when a Ramist at King’s College defended the new method against Aristotle. For Marlowe’s audience, then, the confrontation between Guise and Ramée was very topical. In the play, Ramée dies during the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, but Guise has him killed not because of his faith, but because of his scientific opposition to Aristotle.4

In [Scene 11] Marlowe indirectly refers to Ramée again. Two soldiers discuss what to do with Coligny’s body, advocating medical theories and a syllogistic method of the Middle Ages that were questioned in the 16th century, and not only by Pierre de la Ramée.5

Simon, Joan. 1979. Education and Society in Tudor England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Waddington, Charles. 1855. Ramus (Pierre de La Ramée) Sa Vie, Ses Écrits Et Ses Opinions. Paris: C. Meyrueis.

  1. Waddington (1855)↩︎
  2. Galloway (1953)↩︎
  3. Simon (1979)↩︎
  4. Feola (1998)↩︎
  5. Feola (1998)↩︎

Aktualisiert am 24.05.2024

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