By Kenneth Burke
As critic, Kenneth Burke's preoccupations have been firstly only esthetic and literary; yet after Counter-Statement (1931), he started to discriminate a "rhetorical" or persuasive part in literature, and thereupon turned a thinker of language and human conduct.
In A Grammar of Motives (1945) and A Rhetoric of Motives (1950), Burke's belief of "symbolic action" comes into its personal: all human activities--linguisitc or extra-linguistic--are modes of symbolizing; guy is outlined because the symbol-using (and -misusing) animal. The critic's task turns into one of many examining human symbolizing anyplace he reveals it, with the purpose of illuminating human motivation. therefore the achieve of the literary critic now extends to the social and ethical.
A Grammar of Motives is a "methodical meditation" on such complicated linguistic kinds as performs, tales, poems, theologies, metaphysical structures, political philosophies, constitutions. A Rhetoric of Motives expands the sphere to human methods of persuasion and identity. Persuasion, as Burke sees it, "ranges from the bluntest quest of virtue, as in revenues merchandising or propaganda, via courtship, social etiquette, schooling, and the sermon, to a 'pure' shape that delights within the means of charm for itself by myself, with no ulterior goal. And identity levels from the flesh presser who, addressing an viewers of farmers, says, 'I was once a farm boy myself,' during the mysteries of social prestige, to the mystic's religious identity with the resources of all being."
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And Aristotle refers with approval to Gorgias' notion that one should counter an opponent's jest with earnest and his earnest with jest. T o persuade under such conditions, truth is J at best a secondary device. Hence, rhetoric is properly said to be ) grounded in opinion. But we think that the relation between "truth" and the kind of opinion with which rhetoric operates is often misunderstood. And the classical texts do not seem to bring out the point we have in mind, namel y : The kind o£ opinion with which rhetoric deals, in its role of inducement to action, is not opinion as contrasted tvith truth.
And he says that it is concerned primarily with the present. Even at the height of Greek rhetoric, its range included: funeral orations; tributes to some public character (or diatribes against such figures); patriotic addresses lauding one's city or one's countrymen; playful, often punning encomiums on animals and things (or playful invectives against them) . Perhaps the sturdiest modern variant of epideictic rhetoric is in "human interest" stories depicting the sacrificial life of war heroes in war times, or Soviet works (including propaganda motion pictures) that celebrate the accomplishments of individuals and groups who triumph over adversity in carrying out the government's plans for exploitation of the nation's resources.
So, there is no chance o£ our keeping apart the meanings o£persuasion,identification ("consubstantiality") and communication (the nature of rhetoric as "addressed"). But, in given instances, one or another o£ these elements may serve best for extending a line o£ analysis in some particular direction. ,, And finally: The use of symbols, by one symbol-using entity to induce action in another (persuasion properly addressed) is in essence not magical but realistic. However, the resources of identification whereby a sense o£ consubstantiality is symbolically establislied between beings o£ unequal status may extend far into the realm o£ the idealistic.
A Rhetoric of Motives by Kenneth Burke