Rem tene verba sequentur

  • Cato the Elder: "rem tene, verba sequentur"- when you have the subject, words will follow. (Jordan 80) 
  • Horace: "verbaque provisam rem non invita sequentur" - Once supply the thought, and words will follow as swift as soon as sought. (Horace, Ars 311 in Quintilian Inst. 1.5.2).
  • Dionysius of Halicarnassus: "toutou de aition, oti ou tois onomasi douleuei ta pragmata par' auto, tois de pragmasin akolouthei ta onomata- The that he does not make his subject the slave of his words, but makes the words conform to the subject. (Lys. 1)
  • Quintilian: "Omnis autem oratio constat aut ex iis quae significantur aut ex iis quae significant, id est rebus et verbis" - Every speech however consists at once of that which is expressed and that which expresses, that is to say of matter and words (Instituto III, v, 1, p. 397)
  • Moreover, "orationem porro omnem constare rebus et verbis: in rebus intuendam inventionem, in verbis elocutionem, in utraque conlocationem, quae memoria complecteretur? actio commendaret." - ... every speech is composed of matter and words, and that as regards matter we must study invention, as regards words, style, and as regards both, arrangement, all of which it is the task of memory to retain and delivery to render attractive. (Inst. viii, Pr.6, 179ff)
  • Quintilian also warns: "For, as a rule, the best words are essentially suggested by the subject matter and are discovered by their own intrinsic light...And if we have to spend all our life in the laborious effort to discover words which will at once be brilliant, appropriate and lucid, and to arrange them with exact precision, we lose all the fruit of our studies" (Institutio, VIII. Pr. 21, 26)
  • There's two key parts in crafting a discourse, inventio (finding the elements of an argument) and dispositio (arrangement). Quintilian explains that: "...sic in dicendo quamlibet abundans rerum copia cumulum tantum habeat atque congestum, nisi illas eadem dispositio in ordinem digestas atque inter se commissas devinxerit" - speaking, however abundant the matter may be, it will merely form a confused heap unless arrangement be employed to reduce it to order and to give it connexion and firmness of structure. (Institutio, VII, Pr., vol 3. p. 3). 
    • Thus dispositio transforms the confused heap of argumentative loose elements into a persuasive and flowing whole. 
    • REM TENE = inventio, VERBA SEQUENTVR = dispositio
  • "To Ramus, dialectic was the theory of subject matter (i.e. rem) and form in communication, rhetoric the theory of stylistic (i.e. verba) and oral presentation." Howell 165.
  • Parenthesis: Luther said: Res et verba Philippus; verba sine re Erasmus; res sine verbis Lutherus: nec res, nec verba Carolostadius; Table talk DCCCII
  • Crousaz, "It is the thoughts themselves that are the basis of eloquence... It is the manner of thinking that creates beauty of style. It is a gross error to  make it depend either entirely or principally upon the expressions and turns. Whether you would instruct or move, these effects are owing to the things that the words signify, not to the words themselves. Art of Thinking, II 364-365, in Howell, Eighteen Century Logic, 324.
  • Collingwood said: 
    • "Here lies the difference between the desultory and casual thinking of our unscientific consciousness and the orderly and systematic thinking we call science. In unscientific thinking our thoughts are coagulated into knots and tangles; we fish up a thought out of our minds like anchor foul of its own cable, hanging upside-down and draped in seaweed with shellfish sticking to it, and dump the whole thing on deck quite pleased with ourselves for having got it up at all. Thinking scientifically means disentangling all this mess, and reducing a knot of thoughts in which everything sticks together anyhow to a system or series of thoughts in which thinking the thoughts is at the same time thinking the connexions between them. Logicians have paid a great deal of attention to some kinds of connexion between thoughts, but to other kinds not so much." An Essay on Metaphysics, 22
  • As a footnote, Vitruvius tells that symmetry: "is the appropriate agreement [conveniens consensus] of the elements of the work itself, a correspondence [responsus], in any given part, of the separate parts to the entire figure as a whole. Just as in the human body there is a symmetric quality of eurhythmies [symmetros es eurythmiae qualitas] expressed in terms of the cubit, foot, palm, digit, and other small units, so it is in perfect works. (de Architectura, i, ii, 4). "The precepts of symmetries".
  • And to summarize, as Lito Vitale argued when asked about the proper way of playing the piano: si vos no tenés nada que decir, por mas técnica que tengas, es como que estás a medio camino. See interview here (min 12:05).

See Calboli, G. (1995), Quintilian and Horace, Scholia ns 4, 79-100

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