Date of Award

5-1-2010

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Stikkers, Kenneth

Abstract

Petrus Ramus was one of the most influential philosophers of the 1500s. His attempted reform of pedagogy, which was exemplified in his dialectic and rhetoric, not only changed the way people generations after taught and thought, but also demonstrated the scholastic reforms occurring in his lifetime. Ramus' influence is evident through the amount of controversy it sparked, the amount of scholarship devoted to Ramus, and, most importantly, the spread of Ramism from Europe to New England, finding its home in the New England Puritans. Through the passing of time, Puritan notions have not entirely been subsumed and have recently reappeared in American political discourse. American Exceptionalism, traceable to the Puritans, has emerged in the words of conservative American politicians such as Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin. Has American identity, imbued with Puritan ideas, also been infected with a subtle Ramism? A study of political and theological reactions to 9/11--a reflection of the Puritan "provoking evils" --and political speeches appealing to the fabled "city upon a hill" not only show the continuance of American Exceptionalism but also demonstrate Ramist logic at work. The identification of America as "exceptional," and the support of this idea as provided by the aforementioned reactions and speeches, exhibit a belief in the ontological relationship between signs and exceptionalism. By investigating Ramism, Ramist influence upon the Puritans, and the theology and logic of Jonathan Edwards, along with recent American political discourse, one can still see not only the Puritan traces in recent American identity, but also the Ramist roots twining through it all.

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