[KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part Whatever

Stan Lindsay slindsa at yahoo.com
Mon Nov 10 15:24:46 EST 2014


I look back at what I wrote and agree that it had the wrong tone for this forum.   I apologize--especially for the sarcastic "Who died and made you" comment.  As you suggest, I should have inserted a smiley face.  I think your latest post helps me understand better what you were attempting to say.  I still wish we could agree that there are many more subcategories of interpreters of sacred texts than "those who interpret the Bible as a non-divinely inspired text [and] those who interpret it as a divinely inspired text."  Certainly, that divide exists.  I just wanted to make internal distinctions among those who interpret the Bible as a divinely inspired text, rather than have everyone in that category painted with a broad brush. I hope I can better express my point in less antagonistic-sounding language.  I have to admit that I began following your conversation with Ed at a later date.  I was drawn in by your (correct, I think) argument that, removing
 the sense of divine inspiration from the texts moves them into the category of "philosophy" rather than religion.  That said, I agree also with Ed that those who see a God element in the texts are still religious.  I guess I just had the feeling that the tone of your argument hoped to dismiss everyone on the "religious" side of the divide by equating them all with those who held authoritarian interpretations of scripture.  I thought I saw in your tone an attempt to delegitimize sacred texts and move them all into a category that could only be interpreted as literature (open to unlimited interpretations).   I thought I caught a glimpse of the same tone when you saw a similar divide between scientific and religious "faith."  My use of Aristotle's definition of faith was designed to clarify that I was NOT using the term faith as term devoid of argumentation and rhetoric.  I was using it as Aristotle uses it--to point to ethos, pathos, and logos as proofs. 
 There remains a difference between holding that the text is "authoritative" and holding that "one's interpretation" of the text is authoritative.  I knowingly use a "post-Aristotelian" view of ethos when I say that Christians grant ethos to the text.  Burkeans also grant ethos to Burke's texts, but not to the same degree, perhaps.  After considering Burke's substantial logos, and realizing that we may still misinterpret some of his positions, we find ourselves, at times, simply stating Burke's doctrines as he expressed them--expecting our audience to accept the doctrines because they come from Burke.  Although many Christians are quite adept at logos--even making arguments such as the one cited by Carrol ["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.] Nevertheless, Christians, in a manner similar to what Burkeans do, find themselves, at times, simply stating biblical doctrines as the Bible expressed them (except, usually in translation)--expecting their audience to accept the doctrines because they come from the sacred text.

An additional point I would like to make in this post is that in argumentation, "presumptions" matter.  A defendant in a criminal trial is given the "presumption" of innocence.  Perhaps, this is a better indicator of how religious people view their sacred texts--as "presumed" innocent until proven guilty (or as "presumed" trustworthy until proven unreliable).

Dr. Stan A. Lindsay, Ph.D. 
Teaching Professor 
Professional Communication 
College of Applied Studies 
Florida State University 
slindsay at pc.fsu.edu


From: Gregory Desilet <info at gregorydesilet.com>
To: Stan Lindsay <slindsa at yahoo.com> 
Cc: "Cerling, Lee" <cerling at marshall.usc.edu>; "kb at kbjournal.org" <kb at kbjournal.org> 
Sent: Monday, November 10, 2014 1:06 PM
Subject: Re: [KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part Whatever

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 #1:
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 scientific
(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 experimentation
would be the preferable approach to texts.
If anyone
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 texts.
Speaking 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 it.”
I don’t
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 #3:
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 first
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.
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 realize
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 BELIEVES A TEXT TO BE
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
Example #4:
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 Burke
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 enlightened
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
As for the
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 what
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 end
this now, hoping not to have bored everyone or alienated anyone—including Stan.


More information about the KB mailing list