In this article, the first reflecting Ong's Ph.D. work, Ong asserts that while there are many Latin editions of Rhetorica by Omer Talon (Peter Ramus' collaborator), there is only one recognized English translation of it, so the discovery of an English rhetoric textbook series, published in five editions between 1584 and 1681 and which include adaptations of Rhetorica, is very important.  This discovery is especially important because the last of the editions is attributed to Thomas Hobbes rather than Talon, a mistake that leads Ong to ask the question:  Was Hobbes a Ramist?

Before Ong answers this question, however, he traces the attribution of Talon's work to Hobbes, which begins with a book published in 1651, A Compendium of the Art of Logick and Rhetorick . . . .  In this book, three pieces appeared:  The Two Books of Peter Ramus His Dialectica, a reprint of Ramus' Latin Dialectica; A Brief of the Art of Rhetoric [of] Aristotle, which was the work of Hobbes (at least the Latin original was); and The Art of Rhetorick Plainly Set Forth . . . , which is said to be anonymous.  The third piece is, in fact, a reprint of Dudley Fenner's English adaptation of Talon's Rhetorica, but in a 1681 edition of a book The Art of Rhetoric, in which The Art of Rhetorick Plainly Set Forth . . .  appears with two other pieces (The Whole Art of Rhetorick by Hobbes and A Dialogue between a Phylosopher and a Student of the Common-Laws of England, authorship not identified by Ong), Fenner's adaptation is attributed to Hobbes because the editor assumed that both A Brief of the Art of Rhetoric [of] Aristotle and The Art of Rhetorick Plainly Set Forth . . .  in the 1651 Compendium were by Hobbes.

After tracing this line of development, Ong addresses the question:  Was Hobbes at least Ramist enough to have his work confused with Fenner's (who was Ramist in his thinking)?  To answer this question, Ong returns to A Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique, the Latin original that we know was written by Hobbes.  In this work, Ong believes, Hobbes does reveal himself to be Ramist "at heart," committed to the idea that all human activities could be tied to logic rather than the Aristotleian idea that some human activities escape logic.  First, Hobbes adopts Ramus' definition of an enthymeme while claiming to summarize Aristotle (whose definition of an enthymeme was very different).  Then, he adopts the Ramist idea of "method."  And finally, the fact that Hobbes writes a "brief" in the first place reveals the Ramist tendency to make difficult discourse easier for readers.

Attributing the work of Fenner and the ideas of Talon to Hobbes, Ong concludes, is not "accidental," for the mindset of Hobbes encouraged such a mistake.
 

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