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Kenneth Burke Identification

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Nathan Crick

on 10 October 2018

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Transcript of Kenneth Burke Identification

Kenneth Burke (1897-1993)
Identification in Milton
Who is John Milton?
Who is Sampson?
Burke begins with an analysis of John Milton's poem,
Sampson Agonistes
The poem features a number of "identifications'
"Simple" identifications
Based on the logic of analogy, that two things are essentially "like" one another
John Milton
(blind, old, defeated hero)
(the vanquished but noble faction)
(the conquering but ignoble faction)
"Complex" identifications
Based on placing something within a wider scope of "ideal" and ultimate significance
(killing oneself also destroys one's enemy)
(to kill others is to express love of God)
(physical death gives birth to spiritual faith)
Complex identifications are "entelichial."
What is Entelechy?
Entelechy is an Aristotelian idea by which we name a thing's nature according to the fruition, maturing, or ideal fulfillment proper to its kind (i.e. a "political animal"). It presumed an idealist view of substance.
The ambiguity of substance
That we are all discrete individuals possessing our own unique "substance," and yet we can identify with other beings as if we shared the same substance
The state of sharing (or feeling to share) the same ("con-") substance, but only through the identification of shared properties. For instance, the same lineage, name, emotions, spirit, body, food, habitat, language, position, fate, or origin.
What is the "substance" of Identification?
Materialist View
Idealist View
The present, visible material essence of a thing (i.e. "atoms")
The ultimate, transcendental, formal essence of a kind (i.e. a "circle")
Rhetorical View
The properties that we attribute, through language, to an individual or type and that determine how we
something, including ourselves (i.e. "a born athlete")
"Rhetorical Entelechy" is thus to persuade others to identify a thing--and behave toward it accordingly--not by what it physically is in the present but what it will become when it actualizes, or brings to fruition, its ideal its substance.
What is the Rhetoric of Identification?
Rhetoric deals with the possibilities of classification in its partisan aspects; it considers the ways in which individual are at odds with one another, or become identified with groups more or less at odds with one another....It creates a way of acting-together based on common sensation, concepts, images, and attitudes. (181).
: To argue that we are at odds because we do not share the same substance, properties, interests.
: To establish a common interest by arguing that different groups possesses shared "essential" properties
This is the rhetoric of strife, enmity, faction
This is the rhetoric of love, unity, and cooperation
The paradox of Identification
: We often create the broadest unity and most effective cooperation when united in opposition to a common enemy--i.e., "war"
Ad bellum purificandum
: "Toward the purification of war." This is the ideal of harnessing the unifying character of war without the need for actual war--the use of language and reason to establish common interests without the recourse to violent strife
What is Identification?
To define the essential properties of a thing.
What does this have to do with rhetoric?
We act on the basis of our identifications.
All "transformations" are changes in a thing's identification--even if it includes the killing or slaying of a whole or a part of that thing in order to bring it to fruition
Principle of Persuasion
: We act mostly because of who we are--or think we are.
Burke's Definition of Rhetoric
Underlying Premise
: Rhetoric is rooted in an essential function of language itself--which to act as a symbolic means of inducing cooperating in beings that by nature respond to symbols.
: In a state of pure identification or pure strife, rhetoric would be both impossible and unecessary. Only because cooperation is possible (in a state of division) does rhetoric come into existence.
RHETORIC must lead us through:
The Scramble
Wrangle of the Market Place
Flurries and Flareups of the Human Barnyard
The Give and Take
The wavering line of pressure and counter-pressue
The Logomachy
The onus of ownership
The Wars of Nerves
The War
Substance originally meant the underlying "essence" or "substrate" of a thing on which "properties" adhered. Properties like color, height, texture might change, but the "substance" of a thing would be unchanged.
Paradox of substance
In practice we only know a thing's substance by identifying its properties and what surrounds or it associated with a thing. That is, we know its inside by its outside.
Consubstantiality both brings together and separates us from others
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