[KB] Burke, Rhetoric of Neutrality

Stan Lindsay slindsa at yahoo.com
Fri Apr 17 13:27:07 EDT 2015

I'm not sure whether any of the following references will help, but they are from my Burke Concordance (SayPress.com):  
Neutralization:  OSS 94, 104; PC 193; PLF 149, 165; RM 96-97;   The Expanded Kenneth Burke Concordance--Copyright ©2014 by Stan A. Lindsay

TERMINOLOGY                                         RM 15, 19-20, 32, 34, 41, 45, 61 (Marxist)*, 76, 96-97 (neutral)*, 
Weighted(language/words):  ATH 106; CS 93, (see alsolexicon rhetorica); OSS69, 90, 94, 105; PC liii-liv, 162 (= not neutral), 167, 177-178, 189 ff(Benthem’s triplicate vocab.), 211, 220; PLF 67*, 143, 149, 166, 343; RM93-96; RR 112; SS 100; TBL 15, 32, 134;

 Martyrdom:  ATH 85 (purified);CWO 19, 111, 210; GM 265*, 271; H&E back matter; Lindsay, Revelation 16,22, 36, 38, 70, 85, 87, 90, 111, 114-115, 120, 130, 139-141, 146, 148, 150,154, 156-158, 161, 164, 171, 173, 177; PC 35 (neutral), 74 (neutral), 158(can’t tell if he’s neutral or not), 246 (neg.); OSS9, 130; PLF 53 (purified), 254 (as pleading); RM 12*, 222-223; RR 63; SS 87; TBL 14, 90; 

Dr. Stan A. Lindsay, Ph.D.
Teaching Professor
Professional Communication
College of Applied Studies
Florida State University
slindsay at pc.fsu.edu
      From: Pierre Smolarski <pierre.smolarski at fh-bielefeld.de>
 To: kb at kbjournal.org 
 Sent: Friday, April 17, 2015 1:01 PM
 Subject: Re: [KB] Burke, Rhetoric of Neutrality
Dear Greg,

sorry I didn't express myself good enough: Of course there is no such thing as neutrality. pure neutrality would be unperceivable or at least totally boring. But of course there is the phenomenon, or better: the effect of neutrality. To call a house a house seems to be very neutral. Scienctific maps look as if they where neutral, etc. So do you mean by saying "there cannot be a rhetoric of neutrality" that there cannot be a strategical, rhetoical use of neutrality (as effect)? That there cannot be an attempt to create images or find words that will (in the eye/ear of the audience) have an effect of neutrality? Being a mediator, for example, is only possible if both side trust in your neutrality. Being a successful mediator so means, to create an atmosphere of neutrality. This creation would imply (I guess) some strategies: How to appear as neutral as I can? This understanding of neutrality does not contradict the idea of terminsitic screens. Moreover: Maybe neutrality has its own terministic screen?

Burke is - by discussing Bentham in his Rhetoric of Motives - talking about neutrality: There he points out: "Where inducement to action is concerned, a genuinely neutral vocabulary would defeat its own ends: for there is no act in it. It would give full instructions for conditioning - but it could not say to what one should condition." Thats a great and right statement so far it reaches. But how far is that? Asking a designer of timetables and plans for train-stations, he said: "We just deliver (neutral) information for the persons, who want to travel by train. We give them what they should know." Nearly the same answer you can get from almost every information-designer. But is information neutral? For Burke, there is no 'should' in neutrality and therefore no direction, no act. In the answer of the designer you see: there is a 'should' even in the claim of neutrality. It is the Information you should know! At least the product (timetable, plan, map, whatever) has to persuade of its own value. 

My kind of thinking is maybe to confus and to of course not elaborated enough, yet. That's exactly the reason for me to contact you. A 'rhetroic of neurality' should be an enquiry about the strategies used to create an atmosphere of neutrality in specific contexts. Even if neutrality does not exist, it can be a powerful motive, or not?

Best Regards,

Am 17.04.15 16:53 schrieb Gregory Desilet  <info at gregorydesilet.com>:
It strikes me that Burke would be a theorist providing the paradigm rationale for why there cannot be a “rhetoric of neutrality.” Burke shows why every use of language is necessarily partisan. See his essay “Terministic Screens.” 


On Apr 16, 2015, at 5:58 PM, Pierre Smolarski <pierre.smolarski at fh-bielefeld.de> wrote:

> Dear Burkeans,
> while writing my PhD Thesis on 'Rhetoric of Design', I'm now at the point discussing rhetorical dimensions in information-desgin (especially in map-design, timetables at busstops, etc.) Long story short: This chapter is (or should be) embedded in a 'Rhetoric of Neutrality'. My question is: Is Burke writing somewhere about this topic?
> The simple baseline goes that:
> neutrum = neither of both
> Since rhetoric is based on 'one of both' (metaphorically: 'both' means the possibility of choice, the Agon; 'one' means the attitude, the partisanship, the aim of persuasion) it is contrary to the neutral 'neither of both'. Neutrality negates the rhetorical usefulness and/or meaningfulness of the Agon. Not in the way of 'neither of both, but a third' (this wouldn't break the logic of the agon), but in the way 'neither of both as third' (this might be the kind of neutrality of switzerland) This kind of neutrality is obviously. It is the disputatious position of having no position. (The use- and meaningfulness of the rhetorical agon is only negated on the first level. On the meta-level, concerning the motives of neutrality, there are still rhetorical strategies at work.)
> From there we come to other forms of neutrality:  the (sorry or my english) 'one of one' (going with terms like: the truth, the causal, the logical necessary, the natural, the antipersuasive (close to the sense of Kierkegaard) and, maybe: denotation) The neutrality is here not obvious, everything seems to be as it is: It is what it is. So is it. (Thats maybe the point, where scientific maps claim there objectivity and neutrality)
> Another form of neutrality might be the 'both of both' (going with terms like: mediation, diplomatic, etc.) 
> Mayber everything is confusing: So my question is just: Is there any rhetorical theory of neutrality? (Kinross is not very helpful)
> Thank you much and greatings from Bern in Switzerland
> Pierre Smolarski 
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