Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Taking It Seriously

with 2 comments

So, I’ve been a little backed up over the last few days.  I’m still reading the Perry Miller, and I’ve run across a reference to something I find completely–I don’t know.

Consider Petrus Ramus, which is the Latinized named of a French scholar who lived and worked throughout Europe in the sixteenth century.

His first claim to fame was that he completely re-systematized Aristotle’s Logic, saying that up to that point scholars had gotten it all wrong, and were therefore teaching something that made no sense. 

This claim got  him a lot of friends and a lot of enemies, to the point where he had to be sneaked in and out of cities to escape enraged crowds who wanted to see him dead.

This was bad enough when he was still a Catholic, but when he became a Protestant, all Hell broke loose–possibly literally.

And on the 23rd of August in 1572, he was caught up in the “St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre,” and murdered by Catholic forces along with a great many other French Hugenots.\

He was, according to the stories told about him later in New England, first thrown out a window.  When he hit the stoned courtyard, his guts erupted out of his stomach, and they trailed him as he was dragged to the river to be first beheaded and then drowned, or maybe drowned and then beheaded.

The stories get a little elaborate over time.  Also a little confused.

To the New England Puritans, Petrus Ramus was a martyr, and one of them–I forget who, at the moment–produced an abridged translation of his famous work on logic to…give to the Indians.

It’s heartening to know that there was a time when men took the intellectual life seriously, as a matter of life or death.

Either that, or they were idiots beyond the ability of moral human to understand.

I’ve got to go teach a night class.

And the SCOTUS hands down the health care law decision on Thursday.

This ought to be interesting.

Written by janeh

June 26th, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses to 'Taking It Seriously'

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  1. You know, taking the life of the seriously and being idiots beyond the ability of moral humanity to understand are not incompatible things. And I don’t say that to denigrate the life of the mind: most of the people I know who are crazy are crazy about important things–religion, politics and economics, generally, and I think most of the sane people would agree that these are critical matters. It’s the lack of perspective and the inability to see other points of view that sets the fanatic apart rather than his subject.

    It is no bad thing to want Aristotle to be properly understood. It is the mark of a fanatic to think he’s refuted a philosophy by tossing the philosopher out a window–and perhaps the mark of an idiot to be preparing philsophical pamphlets for a stone age and verbal culture. Everything in its proper time and place.

    And of course we still take the life of the mind seriously. That’s why we have censorship, book-burnings and speech codes–and why certain speakers are banned from certain campuses. If no one cared, we wouldn’t bother.


    26 Jun 12 at 7:43 pm

  2. Sounds as if Ramus was doing the equivalence of denying evolution, relativity and climate change.

    We no longer throw them out of windows, we just don’t let them teach.


    27 Jun 12 at 8:10 pm

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