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Peter Ramus, the famous French philosopher, is said to have influenced three major English poets: Sir Philip Sidney, Christopher Marlowe and John Milton. Milton wrote a large text-book of Ramean logic. Marlowe made Ramus appear on the stage of his play entitled The Massacre at Paris. Sidney did not mention in his work, though he must have seen Ramus face to face,
Probably it will take a long time for a revolutionary thinker like Ramus to influence foreign literature. It can be easily supposed that Sidney must have had a letter of introduction written by his mentor John Dee to Ramus. However, he was one too deeply immersed in traditional thought to have been influenced by this new logician. On the contrary, Marlowe correctly accepted Ramus's message, the essential points of which are two: the simplification of logic by dichotomy and the distinction between artificial and inartificial arguments. Marlowe makes Guise say in The Massacre at Paris that on account of these two points, Ramus sh
ould be killed.
Cambridge University began to import Ramean logic while Ramus was still alive. Christ's College to which Milton belonged was a bulwark of Ramism in the earlier l7th century. Therefore it is natural that Milton should have compiled a text book of Ramean logic with which he wished to teach his nephews. Milton published this work, which had been written about 30 years earlier, two years before his death. Considering the depth of Milton's regard for Ramus, I have always thought that Milton's verse would be saturated with Ramean logic, and I hope to illustrate how this is so during the presentation of my paper,
In the 17ィイD1thィエD1 century Ramean logic was favourably accepted as a practical weapon by Puritan priests and lawyers on the pulpit and in court. The dichotomy of 'either/or' which forms the basis of this logic of persuasion had a strong power, which is, moreover, made manifest by Satan when he successfully tempts Eve to eat of the forbidden tree (P.L. 9.679-732). The best example of artificial vs. inartificial arguments is found in opening five lines of the first book of Paradise Lost.
At the same time, we can re-read Milton in relation with Robert Fiudd who belonged to the old-fashioned intellectual world, According to Denis Saurat and Frances Yates, cabalism led Milton to the doctrine of creatio ex deo. But a recent study of the Old Testament indicates that creatio ex nihilo is a doctrine which was made by the second-century church fathers. Less