A Rhetoric of Motives by Kenneth Burke

By Kenneth Burke

As critic, Kenneth Burke's preoccupations have been in the beginning only esthetic and literary; yet after Counter-Statement (1931), he started to discriminate a "rhetorical" or persuasive part in literature, and thereupon grew to become a thinker of language and human conduct.
In A Grammar of Motives (1945) and A Rhetoric of Motives (1950), Burke's perception of "symbolic action" comes into its personal: all human activities--linguisitc or extra-linguistic--are modes of symbolizing; guy is outlined because the symbol-using (and -misusing) animal. The critic's activity turns into one of many studying human symbolizing anyplace he unearths it, with the purpose of illuminating human motivation. therefore the achieve of the literary critic now extends to the social and ethical.
A Grammar of Motives is a "methodical meditation" on such complicated linguistic types as performs, tales, poems, theologies, metaphysical platforms, political philosophies, constitutions. A Rhetoric of Motives expands the sphere to human methods of persuasion and id. Persuasion, as Burke sees it, "ranges from the bluntest quest of virtue, as in revenues merchandising or propaganda, via courtship, social etiquette, schooling, and the sermon, to a 'pure' shape that delights within the means of attraction for itself on my own, with out ulterior objective. And identity levels from the baby-kisser who, addressing an viewers of farmers, says, 'I used to be a farm boy myself,' during the mysteries of social prestige, to the mystic's religious id with the assets of all being."

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Some other terms of this sort are: recalling what an adversary advocated in one situation when recommending a policy for a new situation ("you wanted it then, you should want it now"); using definitions to advantage (Socrates using his previous mention of his dairnonion as evidence that he was not an atheist); dividing up an assertion ("there were three motives for the offense; two were impossible, not even the accusers have asserted the third"); tendentious selection of results (since a cause may have both good and bad effects, one can play up whichever set favors his position); exaggeration (the accused can weaken the strength o£ the accusation against him by himself overstating it) ;the use o£ signs (arguing that the man is a thief because he is disreputable); and so on.

But ideally the dialogue seeks to attain a higher order of truth, as the speakers, in competing with one another, cooperate towards an end transcending their individual positions. " But note that, in the Platonic scheme, such dialectic enterprise starts from opinion. The Socratic "midwifery" (maieutic) was thus designed to discover truth, by beginning with opinion and subjecting it to systematic criticism. Also, the process was purely verbal; hence in Aristotle's view it would be an art, not a science, since each science has its own particular extraverbal subject matter.

The competitive and public ingredient in persuasion makes it particularly urgent that the rhetoric work at the leve1 of opinion. Thus, in a situation where an appeal to prejudice might be more effective than an appeal to reason, the rhetorician who would have his cause prevail may need to use such means, regardless of his preferences. Cicero says that one should answer argument with argument and emotional appeal by a stirring o£ the opposite emotions (goading to hate where the opponent had established good will, and countering compassion by incitement to envy).

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