Press Release: February 20, 2017
What is at the essence of the U.S. political divide in 2017?
As a literary theorist and philosopher, Kenneth Burke (May 5th 1897 - November 19th 1993) was fascinated with the function of symbols and language as means of persuasion between humans within every day interactions.
Burke believed that our natural division or “disassociation” due to our separateness of physical bodies and therefore differential viewpoints caused us to seek “identification” and therefore “consubstantiation” with others through shared symbolic meaning.
However Burke also realized that any particular words or “jargon” which we employ in attempting to persuade like-minded people may also unwittingly serve to alienate others whom have likewise developed a specialized “grammar” - as Burke called it - of their own thus creating a sort of “terministic screen” which “reflects,” “selects,” and “deflects,” particular elements of reality within a certain “grammar of motives.”
Burke believed that the rhetoric of any given symbol-user/s (communicant/s) could be analyzed as symbolic action (as per his dramatistic pentad) by analyzing relationships between his pentadic elements (act, scene, agent, agency, & purpose, and later attitude), and that one could thereby determine a hierarchy of motives contained therein.
According to Burke, the most basic or fundamental motive is the “container” while lessor motives are the things “contained.” Burke believed that in understanding the most basic and fundamental motives contained between opposing viewpoints, we could ascertain a more reasoned approach to “identification,” i.e., shared substance.
A thorough analysis of the U.S. political divide 2017 according to Burkeian philosophy would seem to leave much on the table according to our own “trained incapacitance” as though partisan ideology were the container of all else as opposed to fundamental knowledge, law, or philosophy.
According to Burke, the essence of meaning is to be found within the symbols we use to communicate. If anything is of significance to humanity beyond partisan ideology, we owe it to ourselves to actively seek a larger “container.”
JR Miller is an independent-minded student of life, a renaissance man, and a connoisseur of socially critical expression in pursuit of the good.
His new book: Uncommon Sense: A Theory of Human Purpose explores the nature of meaning through the lens of semiotics and the implications in human motive according to our ultimate purpose.
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