This paper attempts to draw correlations between the rhetoric of Ramus, Bacon, and some of the cultural issues our nation faces today. Science has come to dominate public policy discourse and the governing of our nation. Decisions are being made that affect the lives of all Americans. These decisions are often made based on scientific inquiry derived from the knowledge of corruptible men, and often, flawed scientific studies. Science itself, has become Godless as those pushing its theories seem to be defining truth on their own terms while ignoring the moral and ethical implications of doing so. This paper does not attempt to make the claim that the rhetoric of Ramus or Bacon is responsible for anything, only that ideas have consequences and that there are interesting correlations. Taking the writing to learn approach, this writer focused on what captured his interest, noting the similarities between the rhetoric, modern sciences like psychology, and philosophies like humanism.
We are living in an interesting time. A time where one could argue the consequences of ideas are catching up to us. America ̶ once thought of as a Christian nation is spiraling out of control in a cesspool of twisted logic that has turned society on its head, and people not knowing which direction to turn. A belief that our nation is founded on racist principles, that man is an animal and that gender is a fluid concept has taken over scientific inquiry. The results are disastrous as riots, violence and general feeling the nation is losing its principles is becoming the new normal. How did we get to this point?
Francis Bacon argued that developing a reliance on man’s reasoning could have consequences (Bizzell & Herzberg, 737). In a system he developed called the Idol System (Bizzell & Herzberg, 737), he focused on the consequences of false ideas that result from relying on man’s understanding, and the classifications of philosophical systems of thought. While he warns that man’s reasoning can lead to warped views of reality, his development of such systems seems to rely on his own ideas opposed to God’s wisdom. Peter Ramus seemed to believe that men had an inherent ability to reason (Bizzell & Herzberg, 675) and vehemently opposed Quintilian’s assertion that a moral, philosophical outlook was necessary in developing rhetorical discourse (Bizzell & Herzberg, 678). Ramus allegedly, according to Bizzell & Herzberg (676), was attracted to Protestant Christianity as it emphasized a personal relationship with Christ. This, however, contradicts the assertion that he denies the need of a moral doctrine in rhetoric.
To what degree has the ideas of men in pursuit of their own reason contributed to the problems we face today? Are we living in the consequence of rejecting God’s wisdom in favor of man’s own understanding based on his own pursuits of knowledge and science?
Rhetoric of Science
Rhetoric can be defined as a means of developing reasoned arguments, through the written word, for the purpose of persuading others to accept a certain viewpoint (Libguides.berry.edu). The art of rhetoric was once thought to be a study of culture ̶ a reflection of society and human nature (Gaonkar, 1993). Later, rhetoric turned towards the interpretation of scientific texts and development of arguments that pushed the development of scientific theories forward (Gaonkar, 1993). Many have tried to establish the art of rhetoric as a standard for grammar and the study of language however, it failed to take root (Gaonkar, 1993). Rhetoric instead became institutionalized and found itself no longer useful in the study of culture, but as Gaonkar (1993), says, better suited for the training of bureaucratic statesman (259). Rhetoric, in its contemporary sense is now more concerned with what ancient rhetoricians referred to as Rhetorica Docens (Gaonkar, 1993). It could be argued that this is when rhetoric turned towards the justification of scientific arguments and ideas. The art of persuading others to one’s ideas as defined by Libguides.berry.edu. “Practical reasoning, figurative language, compositional structures and strategies, psychology of audience and sociology of opinion” (Gaonkar, 1993) became the main concern. This became known as more of a clinical/ interpretative rather than a practical approach to the study of rhetoric (Gaonkar, 1993).
There is an undeniable connection between rhetoric and scientific inquiry which has come to be referred to as the rhetoric of science (Gaonkar, 1993). This rhetoric generally explores topics such as the effectiveness of scientific discourse on decision making and public policy, how accessible scientific knowledge is, and how studies from the natural and social sciences are often times translated within the premises of each other’s purviews (Gaonkar, 1993).
Writing in “The Rhetorical Turn: Invention and Persuasion in the Conduct of Inquiry” Tullio Maranhao suggests that once rhetoric lost its connection to philosophy, logic, and poetics it became nothing more than a supplementary way of appealing to what people wanted to hear, opposed to a method of pursuing truth. Maranhao argues that the “the triumph of science” (118) caused the traditional rhetoric to be disregarded, and eventually to be viewed as unethical. Science itself, is largely Godless and people have come to trust science more so than they trust God (Lindsey, 2005, p. 11). Science has given birth to theories like Darwinism and has placed human behavior under the microscope to be studied like an animal instead of a free-thinking human being. Maranhao also notes that the advent of psychoanalysis, which began with Freud’s theories on human behavior is partially responsible for the destruction of religion because of its close association with medicine. Placing trust in science and rejecting God has also led to the dehumanization of man, and theories like Communism which justifies the mass elimination of people who do not fit into what science can describe as ideal human beings. To what extent has rhetoric contributed to modern day science? That would almost be impossible to determine; however, there are some important connections that can be made.
In another article on the rhetoric of science, a correlation is drawn between rhetoric and its relationship to truth by drawing on the conflicting ideas of Socrates and Plato. Plato argued that there two types of persuasion (Crick, 2014), one that persuades without any knowledge to back up the argument, and one that can prove a point through the providing of facts (Crick, 2014). Socrates on the other hand seemed to hold the view that rhetoric was manipulative in the sense that it only had the ability to, as Crick (2014) says, persuade people on subjects they know nothing about. Like science for example. In the book Starring the Text: The Place of Rhetoric in Science Studies, Allan Gross says that the idea of rhetoric being useful in explaining science rests on the idea that science is the only way of knowing. While on one hand he acknowledges that science is best explained through rhetorical processes, he suggests on the other that classical rhetoric is an empty vacuum lacking any real intellectual prowess (Crick, 2014). This suggests that he believes man defines truth in his own terms. The ultimate goal of Gross, according to Crick (2014), was to assign the qualities of classical rhetoric such as pathos, ethos and logos to the rhetoric of science so as to give scientific argument, once only based on speculative opinion, the weight of truth.
Peter Ramus was a rhetorician who had a long-lasting influence on science. He was believed to be a reformer in scientific thinking as many viewed his methods as a challenge to traditional scholasticism (Bizzell & Herzberg, 675). According to Bizzell & Herzberg (675), he believed men did not need a classical education, or a moral, philosophical foundation (678) to reason. The ability to reason, Ramus argued was an innate human characteristic (675). It was much better, according to Ramus, to learn how to reason and to then “set off on one’s own pursuit of knowledge” (Bizzell & Herzberg, 675). This resulted, according to Bizzell & Herzberg (675) in a watered-down rhetoric focused mostly on style and delivery and lacking any philosophical or moral qualities (Bizzell & Herzberg, 675). This coincides with Goankar’s explanation of rhetoric described above where practical reasoning and sociology of opinion became the focus (Gaonkar, 1993). While Bizzell & Herzberg claim Ramus was attracted to protestant Christianity as it focused on a personal relationship with Christ, his rhetorical methods have little to do with religion and revolve around discovering knowledge of self and, institutionalizing a “Renaissance, humanist course of study in the liberal arts” (Triche & McKnight, 2006).
According to Triche and McKnight (2006) Ramus’s methodologies are responsible for much of the modern way education presents problem solving, and for the accepted methods of organizing and presenting instructional materials. Ramus’s dialectal method, however, was a little confusing. Citing the book, The Influence of Petrus Ramus: Studies in sixteenth and seventeenth century philosophy and sciences, Hamilton (2003) notes that Ramus was often looked upon in a negative way because he broke away from an Aristotelian way of thinking. Aristotelian logic formed the base of humanist thinking before Ramus because it revolved around “argumentation, reasoning, logic and truth” (Hamilton, 2003). Bizzell & Herzberg (675) also acknowledge that Ramus shunned Aristotle’s work in pursuit of his own reasoning. Again, Ramus believed there was no need for a moral, philosophical foundation in the development of effective rhetoric (Bizzell & Herzberg 675).
Lack of moral clarity in Ramus’s dialectical method, and the rejection of a system of logic that pursues truth has had its consequences. For instance, Triche & McKnight describe Ramus’s theory of dialect by saying that “Ramus asserted dialectic (logic) provided the necessary laws for defining what should and should not be included in a particular art or science.” What logic is Ramus referring to? This is an example of Ramus pursuing his own knowledge and understanding because it lacks any solid foundation. It assumes that truth is a relative concept and left to the whim of man to define. Science itself, is supposed to lay groundwork for discovering truth. When man decides what elements to leave out or what to add, truth becomes diluted.
Ramus’s influence on humanism, and his philosophies on dialect are evident in modern humanism as well. Modern humanists are largely atheistic and believe as Ramus did, that man’s achievements are due to his own innate wisdom and abilities to create, not what they would refer to as an imaginary God. Humanists admit that the truths they cling to arise from their imperfect methods of discovery and that their moral and political philosophies are influenced by such truths (Edwards, 1984). Furthermore, Edwords (1984) says that the moral and political implications of humanist thought are “subject to the continual revision in light of both the fallible and tentative nature of our knowledge and constant shifts in social conditions.” This could be compared to Ramus’s description of dialect. It suggests a fluid, relative nature of truth based on man’s assertions and not, a universal standard of morality.
The implications of this type of thinking are numerous and evident in today’s world. Science, based on man’s fallible knowledge and rejection of God, tells us that gender is a fluid concept, for example, and that it can be expressed at will by those who may be suffering from gender confusion. Applying the humanist concept of “continual revision in light of both the tentative and fallible nature of our knowledge,” this type of thinking is leading many to believe that men can identify as women and compete in women’s sports, as women.
Rejection of sound moral doctrine based on God’s word opposed to man’s reasoning has also led to theories like Critical Race Theory which asserts that all white men are inherently racist. This is based on a revisionist history seen through the lens of those practicing critical theory itself. Critical Theory is a doctrine of men, who relying on their own reasoning sought to change the society in which they live through criticizing popular culture (Bohman, 2019). Bohman claims that critical theory seeks to free men from enslavement, but because its precepts are Marxist in origin (Bohman, 2019), the definition of enslavement has many interpretations. Marx sought to destroy capitalism and viewed it as a system that exploited people, not one that lifted them from poverty. Marx’s rhetoric led to the rise of communism because it denied God’s truth of human nature.
The problem with doctrines like Critical Theory, and the idea that people can randomly choose their own gender is that they deny God’s truth; they are based on personal perceptions and opinions ̶ the reasoning of men who were in pursuit of their own knowledge. The results have been disastrous. Our nation is facing many controversies because a segment of the population believes it is oppressed based on the rhetoric of those who define history on their own terms, not truth. The traditional view of family, marriage, men, and women is also destroyed because people have been infused with Godless science based on men’s ideas that gender is fluid and can be chosen on a whim based on feelings.
Goankar (1993), noted how the Rhetoric of Science affected the discourse of the natural and social sciences. Ironically, and this goes back to the description of Ramus’s dialectic described by Triche and McKnight (2006), there is evidence of severe bias in scientific journals which according to Simundic (2013), “creates false impression in the literature and may cause long-term consequences to the entire scientific community.” Simundic (2013) also writes that it is not uncommon, particularly in scientific journals, for evidence to be left out, or articles to be left unpublished, if they do not support the findings the study sought to obtain in the first place.
It would be difficult, if not impossible to prove that Ramus’s ideas on reason, and his rejection of moral philosophy in rhetoric had a direct influence on the doctrines discussed and even science today. It is known however that he was considered a reformer by those who also rejected the traditional views of the time. His explanation of dialect suggests that men define truth and decide for themselves what logic should or should not be included in the pursuit of scientific inquiry. His rejection of Aristotelian logic, which is based in the pursuit of truth as it is, not man’s own interpretation of it, and his insistence that man can reason without an absolute morality, can in theory be connected to the modern views of humanism which also posits the idea that men can reason without God and that truth is a relative, fluid concept. The rejection of truth as an absolute is leading to many problems in society today.
Francis Bacon, according to Bizzell and Herzberg (737), had a long-lasting influence on psychology. This is interesting in the sense that Bacon also argued against developing a reliance on the doctrines of men suggesting, as discussed in the previous section, and that there are consequences for doing so (Bizzell & Herzberg, 737). This would also suggest that Bacon believed in the existence of an absolute truth however, his influence on psychology and the rhetoric he developed contradicts this because psychology, just as humanism and critical theory, is a doctrine of man that largely rejects the truth of God.
One of Bacons contributions to rhetoric according to Bizzell and Herzberg (737) was what he referred to as the Idol system. This system focused on the consequences of false ideas and argued that men’s perception of reality is distorted by systems of logic which rely on their own reasoning (Bizzell and Herzberg 737). This is where Bacon’s ideas had the long-lasting influence on psychology mentioned by Bizzell and Herzberg (737). Ironically, it is very contradicting because the Idol system is a doctrine of Bacon’s making which is not based on a universally accepted notion of Biblical morality, but Bacons own ideas and his insistence that men had become too “slavishly submissive to Aristotelian logic,” which he argued was creating madness in the minds of men (Weeks, 2019). Bacon, according to Weeks (2019) believed that all men were insane until purged of, and this is based on the above quote, classical and traditional thought which enslaved them. This is also a common belief in psychology. Many theorists base their beliefs on the idea that man has no soul, which can be traced to Darwinism, which is another doctrine of man’s own making. Weeks (2019) suggests that Bacon knew people would only accept his theories of the mind if they understood how serious the problem was. Again, we are talking about his theories on the human mind, not a Biblical truth of human nature.
Bacon’s theory of idols is broken down into four categories: inquiry and invention, judgment, memory, and delivery (Bizzell and Herzberg 737). Weeks (2019), describes inquiry and invention as imagination. Bacon, Weeks argued, believed that imagination was the root of all human error. He believed that the human mind altered reality by confusing the nature of things as they are with the nature of the individual (Weeks, 2019). The grand deception of the senses was a term Bacon used to describe the idea that men had a habit of relating their senses and experiences to only to their own limited sense of reality, that their senses represented the true measure of things, not a universal standard (weeks, 2019). Bacon’s theory is very confusing and contradictory in the sense that on one hand, he argues that all human actions, thought memory, imagination and even the ability to reason (Weeks 2019), were the result of a “material vital spirit” (Weeks, 2019). Is he using the word spirit in the same sense that Christian doctrine would? That is difficult to determine. It could be more related to the idea that men’s behavior is governed not by free choice but by evolutionary processes. Bacon argued, according to Weeks (2019) that “nothing really exists in nature besides individual bodies, carrying out pure, individual acts according to law.” According to what law? If nothing exists in nature, he cannot be referring to natural law which is an extension of God’s creation. This belief is more in line with B.F. Skinner’s view on human behavior, which of course is derived from Darwinism. Skinner argued that human behavior was not controlled by our free wills, but by evolutionary instincts ̶
“In what we may call the pre-scientific view (and the word is not necessarily pejorative) a person’s behavior is at least to some extent his own achievement. He is free to deliberate, decide, and act, possibly in original ways, and he is to be given credit for his successes and blamed for his failures. In the scientific view (and the word is not necessarily honorific) a person’s behavior is determined by a genetic endowment traceable to the evolutionary history of the species and by the environmental circumstances to which as an individual he has been exposed. Neither view can be proved, but it is in the nature of scientific inquiry that the evidence should shift in favor of the second. As we learn more about the effects of the environment, we have less reason to attribute any part of human behavior to an autonomous controlling agent. And the second view shows a marked advantage when we begin to do something about behavior. Autonomous man is not easily changed: in fact, to the extent that he is autonomous, he is by definition not changeable at all. But the environment can be changed, and we are learning how to change it. The measures we use are those of physical and biological technology, but we use them in special ways to affect behavior.” (Skinner, 1971, p.101)
The view that Bacon’s theories somehow contributed to Darwinist thought, or the development of Skinners beliefs about behaviorism is not unique to this writer. Macdonald (2008), also argued that Bacon influenced the study of human behavior and in fact, his study revolved around the idea of learning how to “predict and control human behavior” (Macdonald, 2008). Macdonald makes a direct correlation between Bacons beliefs in empiricism and the idea that psychology is a natural science based on “observation and experiment” (Macdonald, 2008), and its findings are largely objective, meaning they are open for interpretation. This concept has many implications. For example, humans are indeed motivated by certain stimuli to behave in a certain way. Skinner as mentioned earlier, would be inclined to believe that a person’s behavior is not the result of free thinking, but forced by environmental circumstances stemming from our evolutionary history. People arguing from a religious perspective on the other hand would argue that people are responsible for their actions, not their environment. The implications are larger still as blaming behavior on the environment allows people to make excuses and not be held accountable.
Macdonald (2008) also cites Skinners theories as being directly relatable to Bacon. Psychology also attempts to predict and control human behavior through stimulus response mechanisms. According to Macdonald (2008) Skinner said that human beings should not be viewed as doers or originators of action because our behavior is controlled by whatever stimulus is motivating us to act. Finally, Macdonald (2008) also cites Skinner as being motivated, or inspired by Bacons work drawing a direct correlation from Bacons rhetoric to the Godless views held by behaviorists who have in their power, the ability to influence policy and politics based on their understandings of human behavior.
While Bacon believed there was an objective truth in the world (Bizzell and Herzberg 737) this is different from the idea of absolute truth; it leaves truth up for interpretation of those studying it. To his credit he argued against the idea of relying too much upon “narrow empiricism” (Bizzell and Herzberg 737), which meant an individual’s senses constituted reality. Unfortunately, this cannot really be help up to any scrutiny because Bacons system of idols, while designed to warn of the consequences of the relying on human understanding was also a system of false logic. Nowhere in it was the idea of truth being based on Biblical morality. God to Bacon was a god who created a mystery (Macdonald, 2008) where only few could decipher the great wonder when in fact, truth is self-evident and God, accessible to all.
Darwin’s theory of evolution, which posits the idea that men are no more significant than any other animal is, as author of the book “The Rhetorical Turn: Invention and Persuasion in the Conduct of Inquiry” Herbert Simons explains, a product based not on a standardized system of logic, but on the rhetorical logic of the day. Is this another example of man deciding what should or should not be included in scientific inquiry, as Ramus described in his dialect? Darwin’s theory of evolution, according to Bergman (2001) was viewed by Marx, Stalin, Lenin, and other atheistic dictators as a replacement of the Biblical story of Genesis as man’s origins. It was Darwin’s work, according to James Perloff, which enabled Marx to give communism a scientific justification. Marx’s view of class struggle is based on Darwin’s evolutionary idea of survival of the fittest. Ironically, the modern debate revolving around racism can also be tied to Darwin’s theory of evolution. According to The Citizens Commission on Human Rights, the modern view of racism can be traced back to a man named Francis Galton, who was a half cousin of Charles Darwin and a subscriber to his theory of evolution. Galton, believing in the survival of the fittest mentality, thought of Africans as being inferior and being incapable of living independently because they lacked free will. This is the result of evolutionary thinking which is taught in America’s public schools.
Locke and Classical Rhetoric
John Locke argued that natural religion is something that is not easily misunderstood (Bizzell & Herzberg, 825) and that men should be careful to observe God’s natural laws (Bizzell & Herzberg, 825). What did he mean by this? Traditionally, there has been no rhetorical method for interpreting Biblical texts (Joosten, 2016). Not surprisingly Joosten (2016), points out the fact that perhaps the most effective method that could be helpful would be that of classical rhetoric. Classical rhetoric is almost the exact opposite of that of Ramus and Bacon. It is clear and easy to decipher. Classical rhetoric follows a commonsense approach to persuasive speech by starting with an introduction, a narration of facts, a demonstration of what justifies the facts being discussed, and a conclusion (Joosten, 2016). It is simple and easy to follow.
The classical authors—Aristotle, Quintilian, Cicero, and many others—understood that the crucial concerns of a speech lie not within the discourse, but without it, in reality. Thus, classical rhetoric develops the notion of ‘ethos’: the capacity of orators to project of themselves the image of someone who is wise, just, and likeable; it develops the notion of ‘pathos’: the capacity to awaken the feelings of the audience and to harness them to the persuasive enterprise. (Joosten, 2016)
Ramus rejected the works of Quintilian on the grounds that moral arguments were not needed in pursuit of knowledge and that man should pursue not the classical rhetoric, but his own understanding. While classical rhetoric addresses the same ideas of persuading an audience, what matters most is not what is said in the argument but what the consequences will be (Joosten, 2016). This is clearly not the case with Ramus or Bacon, or other rhetoricians for that matter. There main concern seems to be gaining recognition for their contributions and changing the discourse to reflect their viewpoints. To dominate the world of rhetoric not necessarily search for truth. That is just this writer’s humble opinion. It is hard to deny however, that a turn away from classical rhetoric, which was based on something deeper than an individual’s own interpretation, has had dire consequences.
Both Bacon and Ramus had lasting influences on science and psychology. Ramus, because he was considered a reformer whose dialect almost allowed the rejection of an absolute truth in favor of choosing on our own accord what constituted concepts of reality. It was man’s own reasoning and logic which dictated what ideas should be used in scientific inquiry, not truth. Bacon, while seemingly more grounded in his insistence that man be careful to become reliant on human understanding did the exact opposite through the creation of his idol systems. This opened the door, theoretically, according to Macdonald (2008), for behaviorists like B.F. Skinner to justify their attempts to predict and control human behavior. The rejection of truth as an absolute and the lack of Biblical morality in the rhetoric of science has led, arguably, to atrocious atrocities committed by men who were able to offer scientific rationale for the elimination of millions of human beings. Darwin’s theory of evolution, which is Godless in its origins, led to the creation of atheistic communism and Nazism rationalizing that men, because they were only animals, had no special significance and that their behavior could be molded to fit the views of those who rejected God and accepted science. Are these philosophies consequences of rejecting Aristotelian logic, or even a Biblical based morality?
This writer was motivated to write this paper because of correlations he saw pertaining to the concepts of Darwinism, behaviorism, and authoritarianism which he is already interested in, and the rhetoric of Bacon and Ramus. It stood to reason that their rhetoric eventually led to the rejection of the classical sense of morality and classical thinking that there would be connections between these rhetoricians and the Godless science which seems to govern our world today. The rhetoric of science posits the idea that rhetoric itself became a method of reinterpreting scientific texts and not of studying and understanding human culture, as Gaonkar (1993) suggests. There is a sharp contrast between the classical rhetoric of Aristotle, Ramus and Bacon. This contrast can be described as the difference between one that seeks to understand truth, and one that seeks to create truth. Ramus and Bacon have rejected classical rhetoric in favor of pursuing their own knowledge. The classical systems of logic have been described by those seeking to solidify science as absolute truth as being vacuous in intellectualism. Theoretically, it could not only be argued that the rejection of Aristotelian logic, or morality in discourse led to the rise of Godless theories like Darwinism and communism. It could be argued in theory that suggesting the classical rhetoric, which Joosten (2016) suggested was best suited for interpreting the Bible from a rhetorical standpoint, is leading to the godlessness we see in science today.
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