[KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part Whatever

Edward C Appel edwardcappel at frontier.com
Mon Nov 10 14:37:15 EST 2014

Just a short reply to Greg's most recent post:

One, I wasn't in the least "bored" or "alienated" reading it.

Two, criticism of Burke, or a creative reinterpretation of his work, is vouchsafed as appropriate for the Burke Society in general, and surely for this listserve in particular, not just a slavish adherence to either the "early" Burke or the "later" Burke.

Third, I tend to view the concerns of the "later" Burke (as per "logology") to be inplicit in the concerns of the "earlier" Burke (e.g., "dramatism"), more so than quite a few of Burke's most esteemed interpreters.  But I, too, detect, along with Greg, a more "postmodern" Burke in P&C than in, say, the piece in the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences and some even later statements.  As for which of those two apparently disparate approaches to language I prefer, I think we need to blend them in some sense: Burke as "quasi-Postmodern" in a way, emphasizing both the distortions of, and the dramatizing superimpsitions placed on, the "reality" that language symbolically "acts" upon, and the "recalcitrance" that fitfully, perhaps eventually, brings those superimpositions into some kind of useful, "serviceable," "adequate," "curative" line.

Fourth, I do think that in "post-Enlightenment" Western culture, science does come pretty heavily to bear on our "interpretation" of texts, not just on our "interpretation" of "reality," which, Burke-wise as well as Kant-wise, does not seem directly accessible to us.

A "blessing" on all who have ventured into the parlor for this vigorous chat.



On Mon, 11/10/14, Gregory Desilet <info at gregorydesilet.com> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part Whatever
 To: "Stan Lindsay" <slindsa at yahoo.com>
 Cc: "kb at kbjournal.org" <kb at kbjournal.org>
 Date: Monday, November 10, 2014, 1:06 PM
 Stan—I have
 to confess your last post genuinely surprised me. I did not
 at all realize you
 were so irritated with what I’ve been saying. And I was
 also a little surprised
 by your tone. I enjoy this KB forum because I see it as a
 kind of intellectual
 playground for the exchange of ideas and the airing of lines
 of thought in
 order to see how they fare in a community of other minds
 interested in
 exploring similar topics. I see us all as friends here and I
 don’t take myself
 or anyone else seriously enough in this “playground” to
 get too worked up about
 any responses. So, Stan, if you feel I’m out of line in
 how I’m reading you,
 feel free to just say: “Hey, Greg, time out. I think
 you’ve misread me here and
 there and that’s causing some problems in how you are
 going forward” instead of
 saying something like: “Who died and made you the arbiter
 of what faith is?”
 That’s a little off-putting and overly serious in tone for
 a playground like
 this—unless, of course, you are just poking fun at me, in
 which case in this
 written medium it would help for you to put a smiley face
 after that sentence. Also,
 it can be difficult when someone takes me to the woodshed,
 but especially so
 when it’s done based on bad misreadings of what I’ve
 said. But, no harm done. I
 don’t take offense easily and I continue to admire and
 respect you and your
 work as I have in the past. So I don’t go forward here to
 be nasty but rather
 because it would be rude and perhaps arrogant of me to say
 you have misread me
 badly and then not point out how. So here goes.Example
 You say: “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
 (repeating, using experimentation) sense.”As for
 Burke’s “bringing enlightenment to texts”—more on
 that later. I had to puzzle
 over the next sentence for some time before making some
 sense of it. Here’s
 what sense I make of it (let me know if I’m wrong): When I
 say, “The difference
 between the two faiths of science and religion” etc. you
 read me to be saying
 something about scientific approaches vs. religious
 approaches to WRITTEN TEXTS.
 Apparently you think I’m suggesting scientific testing and
 would be the preferable approach to texts.If
 other than you has read me this way, I would be very
 surprised. My comment
 about the “faiths” of science and religion was
 distinctly made in the context
 of Sam Harris’ book and his use of the term “faith”
 where I was suggesting even
 science (which Harris distinguishes from faith) was based on
 a kind of
 faith—faith in a particular mode of gathering evidence. So
 I was speaking of
 two different modes of evidence for understanding LIFE AND
 WORLD not two
 different modes of evidence for reading WRITTEN TEXTS. There
 is no suggestion
 here of interpreting written texts by way of the
 “testing,” as you put it, of
 scientific experimentation. The point of my comment
 concerned the notion of
 “faith,” not the process of interpreting
 of “faith,” Example #2: You say, “When
 I use the term "faith" to identify the objective
 of rhetoric, I mean ‘pistis' as
 Aristotle uses the term, not as you use
 know what, in anything I said, makes you think I was
 responding to your mention
 of Aristotle’s use of the term as “pistis.” I was
 keying off of your use of the
 term when you said this: “I personally critique Burke's
 interpretation of scripture, Aristotle, etc.  That does
 not mean that I am
 right and Burke is wrong, but, based on my argumentation, I
 have ‘faith’ that
 I'm right.”In the
 context of your statement here, I don’t think it
 unreasonable of me to assume a
 meaning for your use of the word “faith” compatible with
 how I use the term (in
 example #1 above). The sentence previous to the one cited in
 example #2 is
 where you say, “Who died and made you the arbiter of what
 faith is?” I can’t,
 for the life of me, understand why you would read me as
 attempting to impose my
 use of the term “faith” on you. I was primarily keying
 on Harris’ use of the
 term, as is clear from the context of my comment. But I also
 did not see any
 alarming inconsistency in how you were using the term in the
 passage where you
 say, “I have ‘faith’ that I’m right.” I’m just
 really puzzled about how you
 could possibly read me in any way that would cause you to
 get so worked up about
 what I say here.Example
 You say, referring to me: “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).’”I the
 place, I obviously do NOT lump all students of biblical
 texts in the same
 category. I have been very careful to distinguish those who
 interpret the Bible
 as a non-divinely inspired text from those who interpret it
 as a divinely
 inspired text. As you even point out, there are members of
 the SBL who are
 atheists who do NOT regard the Bible as the written word of
 God. My line of
 argument depends on understanding this distinction because
 what I’ve said in
 this thread about sacred texts relates to understanding
 sacred texts as divine
 communication. In fact, at one point some ways back in this
 thread I defined my
 use of “sacred text” for purposes of this thread to
 include ONLY texts approached
 in such a way that they are regarded by those who champion
 them as divine
 communication. I realize there are many broader uses of the
 word “sacred” but
 for purposes of discussion in this thread I have used the
 word more narrowly.Furthermore,
 regarding the process of determining meaning you mention, I
 can’t imagine how
 meanings in any sacred text (in the sense I use the term),
 the Bible for
 example, could be derived from any sources other than 1)
 “tradition” (which
 includes historical context and what other people say about
 the text), 2) the
 text itself, and 3) personal experience of a visionary or
 transcendent nature. What
 other sources of data are there? EVERY interpreter of the
 Bible has only one or
 more of these sources for “determining meaning”
 regarding the Bible.I
 that you, Stan, do not view DDCs as acceptable means of
 gathering meaning (or
 whatever). But I am not directing my argument at you or at
 members of SBL. I
 have directed my argument only at THAT GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO
 DIVINE COMMUNICATION. That set of people may be an empty set. It may contain
 ten people. It may contain millions (as I would guess). But
 my argument does
 not depend on this set having any real members. In that
 sense, it cannot possibly
 qualify as a “straw man.” For purposes of argument, it
 is a hypothetical
 category and applies only to those who would indeed fit the
 category, whether
 in real life that amounts to zero or millions. And this
 brings us to the next
 You say, “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?”Which
 are you speaking of here??? I’ve already mentioned that I
 see a big difference
 between early Burke and late Burke with regard to how Burke
 views the nature of
 language and the processes of interpretation. For example,
 there is the Burke
 of P&C who appears to make a case for how all
 language-using is
 fundamentally metaphorical. Then there is a later Burke who
 seems to believe in
 a sharp distinction between the literal and the metaphoric
 and between fact and
 interpretation (the “Fact, Inference, Proof”
 essay).As for
 Burke’s various methods for analyzing a text, I doubt very
 much he would regard
 any of these methods as capable of guaranteeing a “more
 understanding of a text.” They are tools in the toolbox
 and will help yield
 different perspectives on a text but whether any of these
 tools used separately
 or all together produce a more “enlightened”
 understanding is likely a matter
 more one of “faith” than “validity.” And my
 “faith” concerning notions about
 language and interpretation still rests more with the early
 Burke than the late
 Burke, which is something I also mentioned earlier in this
 thread to provide a
 sense of what I mean when I say things like “what we
 (Burkophiles) know about
 language.”As for
 entire question in #4 above, I don’t understand why it
 would be in the least
 off-topic to discuss on a Burke listserve the possibility
 that “Burke’s
 approach to studying a text is not a valid approach to
 producing a more
 enlightened understanding of a text.” What better place to
 do so? Only that is
 NOT what I’m doing.As for
 I am doing, I jumped into this thread (which began with
 Ed’s discussion of the
 work of Deacon) by citing Burke on the connection he makes
 between religion and
 fascism in “The Rhetoric of Hitler’s
 Battle”—attempting to make sense of what
 he’s getting at in that passage. And that’s a topic
 I’ve puzzled over for many
 years and the topic I thought we were on most centrally and
 I think it’s very
 appropriate for a Burke listserve.I’ll
 this now, hoping not to have bored everyone or alienated
 anyone—including Stan. Greg
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