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Having finally gotten a basic handle on the sorts of things rés can mean, I find myself stymied by ratió. I've understood it as meaning essentially "process of (logical) thinking," and that tends to work, though what it means more specifically in any given circumstance still evades me far more often than I'd like.

But then I see Cicero's In Catilinam II.V.9, which begins

Atque, ut ejus díversa studia in dissimilí ratióne perspicere possitis. . . .

which I would translate, if I were sacrificing style to exactitude of meaning,

But, that you might be able to see clearly his various enthusiasms by a different thought process. . . .

Cicero then goes on to offer two metaphors: that of a gladiator inclined to crime and that of a worthless, good-for-nothing actor.

My inclination here would be to think that ratio referred to the method Cicero was using to describe Catiline's associates—a Latin version of "let me say it in another way."

The translations that I've seen, however, seem to take a different approach. Michael Grant's (which to be sure often goes for elegance and style over meaning) is

And note well the diversity of his interests, the wide range of his activities.

Gould and Whiteley, in their student commentary, offer for dissimilí ratióne

in a very different sphere.

Yonge translates the clause

And, that you may understand the diversity of his pursuits and the variety of his designs. . . .

In all of these, the translators seem to be taking ratió as referring to Catiline's actions or habits. And I'm having a lot of trouble understanding ratió as "activities," "sphere," or even "designs." This last comes closest to my understanding of ratió, but it's still pretty far from it.

Can somebody help me out? What am I missing?

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In this context I see studium as endeavor, activity or interest. I understand in dissimili ratione perspicere as "to see in a different way". Therefore I offer these translations:

Atque ut eius diversa studia in dissimili ratione perspicere possitis…
And so that you could examine his diverse interests in a different way…
And to offer you a way to see his various endeavors from another angle…

Notice that I took in dissimili ratione to modify perspicere. If you read that as modifying diversa studia, the picture changes, but that sounds less natural to me — although the translators you cite seem to have chosen this reading.

(Read the whole sentence in context here.)

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  • Thank you! If I understand you correctly, you're siding more with me than with the translations—the difference between the two positions being that you and I take the subject of the implied ratiócinárí to be Cicero's audience, and the translations I quote take it to be Catiline. This would certainly do less violence to my understanding of the basic meaning of ratió. – Joel Derfner May 9 '16 at 10:14
  • @JoelDerfner, that is indeed the case. I can't wrap my head around the ratio belonging to Catilina instead of Cicero's audience. If ratio referred to Catilina's studia, I would expect it to be in plural. The translations seem irrational to me if you permit the pun. – Joonas Ilmavirta May 9 '16 at 12:11
  • I permit it, though reluctantly. – Joel Derfner May 9 '16 at 14:44
  • Scholastic Latin uses ratio in many ways: for instance, omnia appetimus sub ratione boni means something like "we desire all things insofar as we see them as good." – brianpck May 9 '16 at 15:05
  • @brianpck, interesting. I would probably have misinterpreted that. Do you know if such use of ratio originates in antiquity? That sounds a bit wrong to my classically trained ear. – Joonas Ilmavirta May 9 '16 at 15:08

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