[KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part Whatever
cbcox at ilstu.edu
Sun Nov 9 14:04:22 EST 2014
It's been quite a few decades since I last reread the Grammar & the Philosophy of Literary Form; longer since I reread the Rhetoric. Hence I may be fuzzy on this.
But I think Stan Lindsay's arguments below are in consonance with those passages in Burke that reference "the human barnyard"; Burke's hope for a somewhat peaceful world rested precisely on promoting conversation in which the participants reached _not_ agreement but rather correct understanding of each other's positions. Moreover, Burke's emphasis on identity as the goal of rhetoric might have been his bow to a tradition which he had rejected, that of historical materialism. (In any case, his experience was with a flawed rendition of that tradition.) He had read The German Ideology but not the Grundrisse, so never wrestled with the perspective captured in "The anatomy of man is a clue to the anatomy of the ape." That is, one has to read history backwards to understand it. No examination of the anatomy of the ape could ever discover in it the potential for the development of homo sapiens. There are other tropes for grasping this: "Doing history backwards"; "the present as history"; "Marxists have no crystal ball"; "Not our thing to write recipes for the cook shop of the future"; "Now that my ladder's gone I must lie down where all all the ladders start"; "Look at it that way, what glory, it all coheres" (the last Ezra Pound's translation of the Women of Trchis). A cacophony of voices telling us we can't be arrogant in predicting the future: that is, arrogant in drawing lines from the present into the contingency of the future.
A Roman Catholic friend argues (from Aquinas and the Dominican Herbert McCabe that one starts from the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" _Real_ atheism, he suggests, likes in seeing this as a non-troubling question. I guess I'm a real atheist, because it doesn't grab me. In any case, that is a long way from making everything depend on a Sacred Text.
From: kb-bounces at kbjournal.org [mailto:kb-bounces at kbjournal.org] On Behalf Of Stan Lindsay
Sent: Sunday, November 09, 2014 12:43 AM
To: Gregory Desilet; Cerling, Lee
Cc: kb at kbjournal.org
Subject: Re: [KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part Whatever
I guess Burke is correct that "a way of seeing is a way of not seeing." I feel, Greg, that you are determined to miss my point (not see) while you are in the process of arguing against some "straw man" that you have created. Assuming that this is unintentional on your part, I will try yet another way of saying it. You state:
"The difference between the two faiths of science and religion, for example, is the difference between faiths in contrasting modes of evidence—the evidence of an experience that can be repeated (the scientific test) and the evidence of tradition, sacred texts, and transcendent personal experience (sometimes called direct divine communication or DDC). Both forms of evidence require faith in a process and it becomes a question of which process one finds more persuasive as a mode of evidence."
Having already argued against the validity of the "transcendent personal experience (sometimes called direct divine communication or DDC)" approach to interpreting texts, I am not sure what more I can say about that subject to make my position clearer. That approach opens the door to psychotic entelechy. This is a bad thing. Yet, you seem to want to continue fighting against this straw man that you have created. That horse is dead. Why beat it further?
Burke's entire methodology of bringing enlightenment to texts would be trashed, if you have your way. There is no way that ANY text (whether considered sacred or secular) could be tested in a purely scientific (repeating, using experimentation) sense. Yet, cluster-agon analysis, symbol-system analysis (using "objective citation"), entelechial analysis, pentadic analysis, etc. are what Burke would bring to a text. Burke asks that we "use all that is there to use." If Burke's approach to studying a text is not a valid approach to producing a more enlightened understanding of a text, then why are we discussing this matter on a Burke listserve? What makes your pronouncement of what Aristotle means by "faith" so authoritarian? Who died and made you the arbiter of what faith is? When I use the term "faith" to identify the objective of rhetoric, I mean "pistis" as Aristotle uses the term, not as you use it. Burke calls his method of criticizing texts "a statistical method." It is strikingly in agreement with many of the ways of criticizing biblical texts long employed (for over 100 years) by members of the Society of Biblical Literature, a premier scholastic society comprised, as I have mentioned repeatedly, of atheists, theists, and agnostics of innumerable stripes. You seem to dismiss that most venerable society, in your "straw man" argument, as a group of theologians who are bent on authoritarian rulings. Where do you even get that? Do you even know anything about the SBL? If you did, you would understand what I meant, early-on, about your tendency to paint with too broad a brush. Even in this discussion, you have encountered Ed, Lee, Clarke, Bob, Carrol, and myself discussing texts from "different" perspectives. Each of us have substantial nuanced differences from each other. None of us would necessarily be out of place in a session at the Society of Biblical Literature (although I am not suggesting that all or any would even care to be at such a session). Even Burke, himself, was a contributor to the companion scholarly society of SBL, the American Academy of Religion. So, why would you lump all students of biblical texts in a single category, such as those who determine meaning based on "the evidence of tradition, sacred texts, and transcendent personal experience (sometimes called direct divine communication or DDC)."
Sorry to be so blunt, but I think it is necessary to move past this straw man, if any progress is to be made. As Carrol suggests, I doubt that any of us will ever persuade others of our positions. We dogs are too old to learn new tricks. The progress I hope for is not persuasion, but perhaps greater understanding of other perspectives.
Dr. Stan A. Lindsay, Ph.D.
College of Applied Studies
Florida State University
slindsay at pc.fsu.edu
From: Gregory Desilet <info at gregorydesilet.com>
To: "Cerling, Lee" <cerling at marshall.usc.edu>
Cc: "kb at kbjournal.org" <kb at kbjournal.org>
Sent: Friday, November 7, 2014 3:30 PM
Subject: Re: [KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part Whatever
Thanks to Lee and Stan for additional comments. Both make interesting and challenging points. But I think the response to both is implicit in what they say about the phenomenon of interpretation that in fact takes place in religious circles and theological discussions. To quote Lee, “. . . the history of the Catholic Church is a history of argument about what the Word of God, and other things such as Tradition, actually say.” Here the revealing words are “actually say.” The assumption is that divinely inspired texts have an “actual” or univocal meaning, that God does not speak ambiguously.
Rhetorical scholars have seen the persuasive reasoning for seeing the nature of texts as such that they can and should be read in multiple ways. And here Stan is correct to say this need not imply one interpretation is as good as another. But it should be understood to mean there are two or more interpretations capable of being well supported (though not necessarily equal in everyone’s eyes). Theologians argue about the meaning of a divinely inspired text because they assume it has “a” proper, authoritative meaning to the exclusion of other meanings. On the other hand, secular literary critics may point to a text, a short poem for example, disclose how it may well have multiple meanings (some perhaps even contradictory), and then be content to leave it at that. Theologians, in my experience, are rarely if ever content to leave a religious text undecidable. They seek and argue for an authoritative interpretation and in doing so prop up the authoritarian ethos of religion. Examples to the contrary do not so much defeat my argument as expose the ongoing process of the secularization of religion—a process so slow yet penetrating that congregations of the future will likely wake up one day and find their sacred texts have been moved from the “religion” to the “philosophy” shelf in bookstores and libraries (should these latter institutions survive long enough for this future).
Regarding Stan’s reference to my use of the phrase “what we know about”—this is a good point. And I agree that “faith” is a key term to examine here. Even Sam Harris—he of the book titled “The End of Faith”—must have “faith” in the power of reason and the methodology of science. The difference between the two faiths of science and religion, for example, is the difference between faiths in contrasting modes of evidence—the evidence of an experience that can be repeated (the scientific test) and the evidence of tradition, sacred texts, and transcendent personal experience (sometimes called direct divine communication or DDC). Both forms of evidence require faith in a process and it becomes a question of which process one finds more persuasive as a mode of evidence.
These lines of analysis lead to further layers of distinctions—which take us down many related byways. What Lee proposes—an NCA panel for 2015—is an interesting suggestion. For me, though, it would be difficult to do because I have so many competing projects and a very limited travel budget. Nevertheless, Lee, if you want to draft a question or questions or an outline of the substantive issue of such a panel, we could all take a look and discuss it further.
KB mailing list
KB at kbjournal.org
More information about the KB