Form Arguments in Rhetoric against Quintilian: Peter Ramus

Posted: September 3rd, 2013





Form Arguments in Rhetoric against Quintilian: Peter Ramus

            In this paper, Ramus comes to argue against teachings of Quintilian concerning rhetoric, which he says is confusing. At the beginning paragraph, Ramus mentions that the purpose of the paper was to argue against Quintilian’s teachings, which much borrowed form teachings and definitions of rhetoric of Aristotle and Cicero (Bizzell and Bruce 1). He says their definition of rhetoric was quite confusing since it suggested so many definitions and divisions. In addition, he says that Quintilian added to many arts in it, which rhetoric is not. His definitions, describe rhetoric as only an art of delivery and style, while invention, memory and order are more appropriately defined under dialect.

His argument in removing of the three pillars of rhetoric is that they better fit in dialects, which I agree with. The three pillars, invention, memory and arrangement or orders are more concerned with arriving at a conclusion through arguments that can be in form of questions and answers. Dialects will help a person in arguing a particular side to a proposition, which brings out creativity. On the other hand, rhetoric is more of a style of persuasion by a person who is speaking. Therefore, this requires using a style that appeals and skills of delivering the message, through separation of the three pillars and their classification as dialects, and by coming up with two arts rather than one art with many subdivisions reduced confusion. In addition, it is easier to study rhetoric than it was prior to this.

With the separation of the five pillars into two, Ramus is able to come up with two arts, rhetoric and dialect. When it comes to the first three pillars, invention, arrangement and memory, they are classified as dialects, which are based on reason. Ramus is arguing that dialect, made up of invention, arrangement and memory revolved around the gift of reason that every man has (Bizzell and Bruce 6). On the other hand, speech is the other gift a man has, where rhetoric falls. Therefore, dialect is based on the reasoning of and arrangements of a subject, while rhetoric is supposed to show ornamentation of a speech, and show quality delivery. The five pillars are divided according to what they appeal to, where invention, arrangement and memory appeal to reasoning of a human being, while style and delivery appeal to how the act of speech is done to impart reason into other people. It can therefore be viewed that rhetoric will be used to deliver a speech to others, while dialect is the reasons behind the speech. With this distinction and clarification, I do agree with Ramus concerning the five pillars.

Ramus also argues that dialogue is more of a dialectical art, considering there is no debate or argument without a reason, which is the basis of dialect. In addition, dialogue also incorporates rhetoric that is used for delivering more weight to a point. Dialect and rhetoric go hand in hand in speeches, dialogues and debates since all have a reason, and a style of delivering the reason is made, which makes up rhetoric. Therefore, there cannot be dialecticians and rhetoricians; rather, they are arts that go hand in hand to facilitate each other (Bizzell and Bruce 21).

Ramus comes in again to argue against the definition of an orator made by Quintilian. Quintilian describes a leader as a person with perfection in all the virtues and branches of knowledge. Oratory skills are not about knowing everything as Quintilian thinks, rather, it is being perfect in that one field, and using both dialects and rhetoric to convince people. An orator is more of a person who can use these arts well in his or her field of specialization.  In addition, I agree with Ramus that dialect and rhetoric are not virtues, since virtues means good morals (Bizzell and Bruce 7). Even people who are without morals have rhetoric and dialectic skills that they use. Therefore, an art is not a moral; hence, dialect and rhetoric are not morals.



Work cited

Bizzell, Patricia and Herzberg, Bruce. The rhetorical tradition: Readings from classical times to the present. 2nd edition. Boston: Bedford/St. 2001. Print.

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