[KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part Whatever

Edward C Appel edwardcappel at frontier.com
Fri Oct 31 11:22:25 EDT 2014

Lee, Stan, Greg, and Carrol,

Great contributions all around.  I take to heart Lee's point that we create the "sacredness" of texts to various degrees.  Most of us are not yet ready to "die" for Burke's treasure trove of pronouncements, but we will, triennially, travel a thousand miles in votive service to its enduring worth.

I also like Stan's point about how the assumed "limitless" gets embodied in the necessarily "limitedness" that characterizes any particular language, of necessity in need of the "discount."

Greg's point about "philosophy" reminds me of the identifying properties of Paul Tillich, when he taught at Union 
Seminary in New York (or was it when he was at Harvard?): Professor of Philosophical Theology.

On "psychotic entelechy" transcendentalized: Thirty-five years ago, Jim Chesebro spoke of the church's "profound use of the negative."  I mention several of those negatively-induced "perfections" in Evangelical Protestantism in the Primer (on Falwell in Chapter 10)  Let me here cite an additional "perfection" extant today even in relatively "comedic" Mainline Protestantism, as well as in still-more-entelechialized Catholicism.  I speak of the "til death do us part" proviso in the marriage vow.  (When I broached this issue with Daughter Beth, a Presbyterian preacher who has performed many marriages in her ministry, she corrected me with, "as long as you both shall live."  There's no difference, I admonished.)  The church requires this categorical promise before the altar of God from even teenagers and early-20-somethings.  For cryin' out loud, the human brain isn't even fully developed until age 25, and then it takes a couple of years more until somebody
 begins to get a good handle on who he or she actually is.  Just think through the implications of "as long as you both shall live."  What is the church saying, other than it's more righteous to blow your brains out than divorce the person you married at a  tender age?

I could go on in respect to this profound proscription, but I sense I may have already offended some subscribers to this list.

Again, peace be with you, however pale and evanescent.


On Thu, 10/30/14, Cerling, Lee <cerling at marshall.usc.edu> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part Whatever
 To: "Gregory Desilet" <info at gregorydesilet.com>
 Cc: "Ed Appel" <edwardcappel at frontier.com>, "kb at kbjournal.org" <kb at kbjournal.org>
 Date: Thursday, October 30, 2014, 11:55 PM
 Hi, all--
 I have lurked on this list for
 a long time without contributing, and I think maybe none of
 you know me except Clarke Rountree, who was my colleague at
 Iowa back in the day.  But this has been an intriguing
 discussion, and I would like to offer some friendly
 resistance to the flow of argument, to see how the argument
 plays out.  Whether it is a Burkean resistance or not, I
 don't know; you all know Burke much better than me, and
 you can judge.
 That said, I
 want to gently probe the concept of "sacred" texts
 as it has developed in this thread. It seems to me that a
 "sacred" text is a text that has won or earned
 "sacredness" by virtue of its constitutive
 power--that is, it functions as "sacred" to the
 extent that some community is self-consciously shaped and
 formed by it.  So "inspiration" or source of
 inspiration is not the key inflection point, but
 accreditation by a community.  In this view,
 "sacredness" is a matter of degree, and a text is
 more or less sacred depending on the degree to which some
 living community (or communities) are in some definable
 sense "constituted" by it.  By that standard, the
 Bible is an exceptionally sacred text in that innumerable
 communities past and present have been constituted by it;
 the Declaration of Independence is also sacred, but less
 so.  And the writings of Kenneth Burke are only very weakly
 sacred, in that this small community is very loosely formed
 by it; but not in the sense of its members being willing
 (for example) to suffer death for it, as is the case with
 more strongly sacred texts, such as the Declaration of
 Independence or the Bible or the Koran.  
 And in this way of thinking,
 texts can lose their sacredness:  this has certainly been
 the pattern in Christianity, where the Bible may become less
 and less normative to successive generations, until it is
 effectively "desacralized"--no longer normative
 for a given community; no longer constitutive of that
 community.  (I am thinking of the movement from Puritanism
 to Unitarianism).  So for that community, it is no longer
 sacred; whereas for another Christian community (say, the
 Amish) its sacredness may be re-affirmed and even
 strengthened over time.  
 My point is this:  I do think that texts which
 are significantly constitutive in nature, texts to which
 human beings have committed themselves, and especially those
 texts for which human beings have voluntarily undergone
 torture and death, are entitled to a special kind of respect
 and reverence in the academy and elsewhere.  
 That said, I agree with what I
 take Greg to be saying below, that no text, regardless of
 its sacred status, is thereby exempt from criticism.  And
 in fact, precisely because of the extraordinary power that
 these sacred texts exercise over human beings, it may well
 behoove us to give them much more than an ordinary amount of
 critical attention.  (That is certainly what Augustine does
 in the first half of City of God--lavish devastating
 critical attention on the primary pagan sacred texts of his
 And one last
 caveat:  I do think that criticism of a (sacred) text
 should focus less on "what it contains" than on
 "how it has been read."  So that I am not
 persuaded (at least, not yet) that the New Testament is
 anti-semitic; I am persuaded, however, that a strong and
 long and honored tradition of reading the New Testament,
 from Chrysostom to Luther (and beyond, in both directions)
 was deeply and repugnantly anti-semitic.  And in my view,
 at least, it is not the New Testament texts themselves that
 are to be censured, but that tradition of reading the
 All for now.  My
 apologies if this line of thought is too much at odds with
 the tenor of what has been a most interesting exchange.
 Best regards,
 Lee Cerling
 Sent from my
 > On Oct 30, 2014, at
 2:44 PM, Gregory Desilet <info at gregorydesilet.com>
 > Yes, Ed,
 “metaphysical philosophy” isn’t a bad option, though
 it might be confused with “spiritual
 metaphysics”—which has been co-opted by New Age
 philosophy, where at “metaphysical bookstores” you will
 find all manner of occult and parapsychological writings
 (such as “Seth Speaks” etc.). As for those you reference
 as “untraditional mainline Protestants” and the
 potential problem of their belief in God, I don’t see a
 problem there in placing their approach in the philosophy
 category, since many philosophers also express a belief in
 God—sans any kind of sacred text. Though perhaps those in
 this group could be in a sub-category called
 “philosophical theism.” 
 > At any rate, the important thing from my
 point of view is advocating the notion that “all texts are
 created equal” just as all persons are created equal. And,
 just as this does not entail that all persons are of equal
 influence, it does not entail that all texts are of equal
 influence. The primary thing is that no text be seen as
 inherently superior and unquestionable by virtue of a divine
 birthright or source. The merit of every text ought to be
 weighed by what it contains rather than by who wrote or
 inspired it. Currently across the world there are far too
 many people who believe in the inherent superiority of
 certain texts, regardless of what they actually say, and in
 many cases not even reading or fully understanding what is
 said in them. This is a state of affairs every
 communication, language, and rhetorical scholar should
 > Greg 
 >> On Oct 30, 2014,
 at 9:55 AM, Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com>
 OK, Greg, howabout if we call the blanched, etiolated
 Christianity of the very liberal side of the Mainline
 Protestant Church "metaphysical philosophy"? 
 Burke calls metaphysical philosophy "coy
 theology."  Maybe we can find a measure of common
 ground with that linguistic accommodation.
 >> The only
 problem there is, such untraditional Mainline Protestants
 openly profess belief in a Power that can rightfully be
 called "God."  They're not particularly
 "coy" about their theistic bent.
 >> I'll
 mull over your demurrers some more and maybe get back.
 >> '
 >> What I
 want mainly to do here is address Stan's term
 "psychotic entelechy."  I like it.  Maybe owing
 more to my dour, "morbid" Scaninavian personality,
 I've long since thought that Burke's dramatism, and
 what I've observed going on around me, had best be
 described as half insane.  I.e., the "glory" and
 the "sickness" of the "symbol-using
 animal" (Burke), the "symbolizing animal"
 (Condit), or the "symbolic species" (Deacon) can
 legitimately be described as half amazingly wonderful and
 half bonkers.  I'm talking about the "normal"
 human race.  People give evidence of being nuts whether
 that "entelechy" is being immanentized or
 >> Whithout going into detail, how long
 do you think it will take this rapidly expanding species of
 animal life to despoil this planet's ecosystems
 irreparably, render this "Garden of Eden" half a
 wasteland, devoid of so very, very much of its rich
 biodiversity, and who knows what else?  Humans, in their
 entelechial quest for more and more "properties,"
 both tangible and symbolic, evince, in the large, no thought
 of the vast expanses of geologic time and their import.  In
 a mere ten thousand years since  the end of the last ice
 age and beginnings of urban living, homo sapiens
 (there's a joke for you) has already altered that brief
 Holocene Epoch into what earth scientists are now saying
 should be labeled the "Anthropocene," things are
 already getting that bad.  What are the chances of a
 turn-around?  What are things likely to look like in
 another mere one million eight-hundred-thousand years, the
 brief span so far of this, the eleventh period of the
 >> Phanerozoic Eon, the Quaternary?
 >> '
 >> Listen
 to Fox News, read the Wall Street Journal, watch China built
 another goal-driven power plant each week, read letters to
 your local newspaper or posts by the vox populi on the
 internet, pay even cursory attention to the campaign
 rhetoric now reaching a crescendo, and weep.  I see next to
 no chance, until things get so bad we're suffocating in
 our own effluvia.
 >> On the transcendental craziness, more
 later, if I can screw up the courage to risk offending some
 subcribers to  this list.  You know, the "free
 "Psychotic entelechy"?  Well, I guess.
 >> Ed
 >> Ed
 >> -----
 >> On Thu, 10/30/14, Gregory Desilet
 <info at gregorydesilet.com>
 Subject: Re: [KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part
 >> To: "Ed Appel"
 <edwardcappel at frontier.com>
 >> Cc: "Stan Lindsay" <slindsa at yahoo.com>,
 "kb at kbjournal.org"
 <kb at kbjournal.org>
 >> Date: Thursday, October 30, 2014, 3:40
 >> Many good points have been made by
 >> several
 persons, so there is much to respond to and if I do not
 >> touch on someone’s
 >> point here that will be because of my
 limits as a mere human
 >> and not
 because I
 >> view a particular point
 as not meriting a response. Turning
 to Ed’s comments
 >> first, he points
 out that his definition of “religion”
 >> is different from mine.
 >> But I think this kind of response gets
 off on the wrong foot
 >> with regard
 to the
 >> thrust of what I’m
 attempting to say. Granted, it is
 perfectly sensible and
 >> legitimate
 in a discussion of religion to say, “this is
 >> what I mean by
 >> religion.” But when Ed says “Greg
 means something
 >> different,” I
 believe more
 >> than that is going on.
 True, we can each have our different
 >> definitions of
 >> religion and go our separate ways, but
 what I’m attempting
 >> to do is
 >> (persuade) others that the
 term “religion” ought not to
 >> be
 applied in certain
 >> ways due to the
 circumstance that it thereby loses much of
 >> its usefulness as a
 >> term. For example, if we call every
 bright light in the sky
 >> a
 “star,” that’s
 >> okay but there
 is benefit to be gained by refining our
 >> distinctions to separate
 >> out stars, planets, comets, galaxies,
 etc.Ed has seemingly accepted my
 challenge to distinguish
 >> religions
 that abandon the sacred text notion from
 >> philosophical study and
 >> inquiry by offering the following:I
 regard its [religion’s] primary
 reference as
 >> characteristic of one
 who believes in an Originary Power we
 >> can rightfully call
 >> "God."  For me, as a
 Burkean, I would reductively
 >> define
 >> Power as the "Great
 Potential."In other words, divinity or God
 >> becomes the
 “Great Potential.” All such reasoning is well and
 >> but what becomes of the
 >> status of what have been called
 religious texts by way of
 >> such a
 view of
 >> religion? Are these texts
 in some way the “voice” of the
 “Great Potential”? Or
 >> as Stan
 says, are they wholly inspired, substantially
 >> inspired, or only
 >> partially inspired by the Great
 Potential? And what makes
 >> these
 religious texts
 >> substantially
 different from other texts such as those
 >> written by Plato, Aristotle,
 >> Descartes, Spinoza, etc? Are not these
 latter texts also
 >> inspired by the
 >> Potential”? In fact, is
 not EVERYTHING inspired by the
 “Great Potential”?When we humans sever, cloud, or
 >> muddy the link
 >> between a text and a divine source of
 that text, we in
 >> effect place that
 >> alongside all other texts
 composed by human hands. Who is to
 say, for example,
 >> that Oscar
 Wilde’s “De Profundis” is not as much or
 >> more divinely inspired than
 >> any text of the Bible—if the
 divinity is regarded as the
 “Great Potential”? The
 >> problem
 is that deciding if texts are religious in nature
 >> and in inspiration
 >> becomes a very arbitrary issue. From
 within this view, we
 >> may as well
 call every such text “religious” or
 >> every such text “secular” because
 there is no longer a
 >> distinction
 between the two
 >> that can be
 convincingly defended. At least I am not
 >> convinced and I hope I
 >> have convinced others not to be
 convinced.As soon as we no longer have a very
 >> direct and
 clear link to a divine source (a higher being),
 >> decisively in some
 >> texts and not in others, we have a
 situation where every
 >> text
 discussing the
 >> nature of “life”
 effectively reduces to the category of
 >> philosophy. Some of
 >> these texts may be valued more than
 others by particular
 >> individuals
 but none
 >> of these texts any longer
 have a source or origin
 unquestionably superior to
 >> any
 other. The benefits of each text must be constantly
 >> ARGUED and not assumed.
 >> This attitude toward texts makes a big
 difference in how
 >> texts are
 >> and in how they are
 valued. I believe the use of the term
 >> “philosophy” to
 >> describe such texts and associated
 practices is better than
 “religious” because
 >> it reduces
 the chances for conveying an authoritarian
 >> quality in the text—the
 >> quality traditionally associated with
 so-called religious
 >> texts.
 >> Greg
 > KB mailing list
 > KB at kbjournal.org
 > http://kbjournal.org/mailman/listinfo/kb_kbjournal.org

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