Early Renaissance (1300-1450)/High Renaissance (1450-1600)

The Renaissance, according to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

What was the Renaissance about?

1) Constant action (conflict) against the group in favor of the individual.

A rebirth of the classical spirit: focused on man (rather than institutions and/or movements) Conflict between invaders and locals; between the Papacy and the Empire, the Papacy and the Eastern Church leaders, Kings and Pontiffs (personal battles), between families who practiced rule through nepotism. These led to the need for DIPLOMACY. Cultured, learned, eloquent men were needed as illiteracy was still more the rule than the exception.

2) Resurgence of general interest in "profane" literature.

A wide stream of thinkers, writers including language scholars, lawyers, philosophers, and historians. Nearly all veer from medieval and scholastic dialectics toward classical rhetoric. -glorified the pure Latin of Cicero; abhorred the everyday Latin of the middle ages -glorified the tradition of "wisdom with eloquence" and "the good man speaking well" -looked down on rational syllogisms; preferred attractive probabilities -wanted to get philosophy out of the monasteries and into the everyday life of those intellectuals carrying it out. This led to a loosening of Church control over thought. -generally, more artistically than scientifically focused--recall that science was still tightly held by the Church. -put intensive stress on philology: the study of writing/language which put them in touch with the word. -junction of word and thing such that social reality is constructed by language use.

3) Lots of controversies: chief among them whether humanism should be divinely motivated and directed, or focused on things of this life (studia humanitatis).

The rhetorical bent took on the latter form., primarily. Was rhetoric a way of life, or merely a historically bound study? (we revisit that question today)

4) A number of important writers in the period.

Let us not forget, each major European country had its own "Renaissance," some hundreds of years apart. We think of Italy first and England last. Further, not only do the "dark/middle ages" end on one end, but the "age of new science" begins on the other such that it is a volatile period.

Early Renaissance (1300-1450)

Variety continued as to rhetorical foci. Translations, compilations, commentaries, original rhetorics were available: sources for rhetorical scholarship were inconsistent. Classic texts were recovered in this period: Aristotle's Rhetoric, Quintilian's Institutio, Cicero's De Oratore, Brutus, Orator, translations of Plato's Gorgias and Phaedrus. Correction of some of the lucuna; correction of the proper context, given a better whole (i.e., Cicero though 7 works rather than just De Inventione and Ad Herenium. Aristotle's Rhetoric itself, rather than just fragments)

Non-rhetoricians also contributed rhetorical insights.

For example: Dante (d. 1321)

demonstrated rhetorical principles in his various arguments and discussions throughout his writing.

Petrarca (1304-1374)

founder of Italian Humanism poetry as the proper manner of expression for important matters. voiced opposition to Scholasticism and called for humanization of liberal arts studies. Some misunderstood this as a call for radical Ciceronianism.

Coluccio Salutati (1331-1406)

advocated the juridical mode with the liberal arts as keys true wisdom is most associated with sensible and resolute activity in matters of the state. practical history and experience take precedence over theory extensive writer of letters

Lorenzo Valla (1407-1457)

Logic as the handmaiden of rhetoric. thought and speech, form and content inseparable joined. things are only accessible by means of the word which unlocks the world for man. To have a command of language is to have a certain power over reality, insofar as each language is a kind of interpretation or design of the world. To learn a new language is to make acquaintance with a new world. Valla joined that with a call for rhetoric over dialectical; re-introduces the spirit of criticism (critical evaluation of texts rather than mere "inspired" interpretation).

High Renaissance (1450-1600)

Ciceronian, Eclectic, Classic rhetorics

Ciceronian Most working rhetoricians in the period produced in the Ciceronian tradition.

Eclectic Tried to pull together the contributions of the ancients, which tended to balance the activity.

Erasmus (1469-1536)

Some additions to Erasmus from Bizzell and Herzberg From Thomas O. Sloane: that The Praise of Folly illustrates the importance of rhetoric. Eramus/Folly identifies with Greek sophists and contraries (dissoi logoi). That human knowledge is fallibile and not at all self-evident. That since every issue has at least two sides, one must argue for the most probable. Failing that, one surrenders to folly--historically determined constraints and personal circumstances. For most folks, the fallability of human knowledge requires accepting social conventions, common beliefs, as the necessary delusions for collective life. For others, at exceptional times, awareness of this fallibility leads to rejection of conventional wisdom in favor of a quest for spiritual transcendence.

From Copia

Many men who strive for eloquence end up being silly and offensive. Both compression of language and amplification are virtues--especially when wielded by the man who can rightly work out the status of the case (key features), and embellish the proper aspects. Richness of expression and Richeness of subject matter Variety, as in the richness of nature, distinguishes. "Just as the eyes fasten themselves on some new spectacle, the mind is always looking around for some fresh object of interest." Appropriate speech; elegant speech. Style is to thought as are clothes to the body. and the practice of giving variety to expression is exactly like changing clothes. The garment should be clean, it should fit, and it should not be wrongly made up. A citizen of the world; set the pattern for rhetorical education in English schools.

De Ratione Studi and De Duplici Copia Verborum ac Rerum (1512)

advocated imitation and emulation of classic eloquence A general continuation of the Ciceronian treatment as refined by Augustine. De Ratione Studii: improve one's writing through practice. Erasmus attacked blind Ciceronianism. He treated this time as one of intellectual and physical conflict in which rhetorical diplomacy was essential. Classicism Direct promulgations of the classics (5 canon, 3 types, civil affairs) Translations of the classics, esp. Aristotle's Rhetoric


7 books, heavily Aristotelian treatment. Invention in 6 books, elocutio in only one. (Yet to be fully translated into English)

Interests of Platonists in this period

Mario Nizolio (1488-1567)

severe rejection of theoretical philosophy. sides with Isocrates, Gorgias, Cicero, and Quintilian The Jesuit educational movement (c. 1550 +) Ratio Studiorum (1556) grammar, rhetoric, philosophy, humanities with rhetoric in the central position. Conferred academic distinctions based on control over the power of the word. "The ratio studiorum governed all secondary and university education, especially in Catholic countries, till well into the 19th century. Only toward the second half of the 19th century is rhetoric replaced by the instruction of a more Cartesian and natural science oriented ideal of knowledge." (57)

Peter Ramus (1515-1572)

Relegated rhetoric to the study of style and delivery. Gave over invention and disposition to dialectics. Luther and the reformation in 1517: break down of Church authority as part and parcel of moves away from authority and ironically, subjectivity. Period marks the rise of the individual and attempts toward scientific objectivity. Fulfills the promise of the renaissance yet participates another decline for rhetoric as Church involvement therein pits rhetoric somewhat against new science and secularism. Additions on Ramus from Arguments against Q

1) Illustrates his central principle: that materials belonging to one domain cannot be a part of an other. Here, he argues that the good man speaking well cannot be the artistic ideal because goodness is of moral philosophy, not of speaking well.

2) He defines Reason and speech; putting reason into dialectic (including, therein, invention and arrangement); grammar and rhetoric into the latter-- leaving only style and delivery to the latter.

3) 10 topics for dialectical invention

4) syllogistic arrangement: univerals to particulars.

back to lecture note index