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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > R > Peter Ramus

Peter Ramus

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Humanist and logician, b. at Cuth in Picardy, 1515; d. in Paris, 1572. In spite of many difficulties, including poverty and the loss of both his parents at an early age, he succeeded in obtaining a good education, and graduated at the University of Paris in 1536 as Master of Arts. The thesis which he defended "Quæcumque ab Aristotele dicta sunt, commentitia sunt" ("All Aristotle's doctrines are false") indicates the direction of his thoughts even at that time. He was an outspoken and uncompromising opponent of the Aristotelean philosophy which was at that time the authoritative philosophy in every European centre of learning. His two principal works, "Aristotelicæ Animadversiones" and "Dialecticæ Institutiones", both of which were written in elegant humanistic Latin and published in Paris in 1543, brought him into still sharper conflict with the official world of scholarship. The books were condemned by the University of Paris, an act which was made the subject of debate in the French Parliament, until Francis I interposed by appointing a committee to listen to a disputation between Ramus and his principal opponent, Anthony of Govea. The majority of the committee decided against Ramus, and condemned him as "rash, arrogant and impudent". This decision was confirmed by the king. In 1547, after the accession of Henry II, and owing to the protection of the Cardinal of Lorraine, Ramus was accorded greater liberty, and succeeded in obtaining a position as teacher, or "royal lecturer", at the College of Navarre. In 1562, he renounced Catholicism and became a Calvinist. In the massacre of St. Bartholomew, in 1572, he was singled out by his enemies and put to death with every circumstance of cruelty and brutality. Ramus was a writer of more than ordinary brilliancy and effectiveness. He sought out the weak points in the method of teaching logic then in vogue, and directed his attack against them with the ability, and indeed, very much in the manner, of the celebrated Italian Humanist, Vives. He objected especially to what he called the sterility of the logic then currently taught, and pleaded for a reform of the science along lines of broader human interest. In his positive teaching, that is to say, in the logic which he wished to substitute for the Aristotelean, he was not very successful. In a general way, he may be said to have advocated a closer union between rhetoric and logic, between the art of exposition and the art of argumentation. Among his following, the "Ramists", as they were called, were the Englishman, William Temple, and the Germans, Sturm, Freige, and Fabricius. In the official academic world he met with opposition not only at the University of Paris but also at Wittenberg, Helmstadt, and elsewhere. His opponents were called Anti-Ramists. For a time, his campaign against Aristotle had the effect of rallying to his views the Anti-Aristoteleans of every country in Europe. His influence, however, did not last long, although some writers find evidences of it as late as 1662 in the famous "Port Royal Logic".


WADDINGTON, De Petri Rami vita (Paris, 1848 and 1855); STÖCKL, Geschichte der Phil. des Mittelalters, III (Mainz, 1866, 296 sqq.

About this page

APA citation. Turner, W. (1911). Peter Ramus. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Turner, William. "Peter Ramus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Gerald Rossi.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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