By Kenneth Burke
As critic, Kenneth Burke's preoccupations have been before everything basically 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 notion 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 task turns into one of many reading human symbolizing at any place he unearths it, with the purpose of illuminating human motivation. hence the succeed in of the literary critic now extends to the social and ethical.
A Grammar of Motives is a "methodical meditation" on such advanced linguistic kinds as performs, tales, poems, theologies, metaphysical structures, political philosophies, constitutions. A Rhetoric of Motives expands the sector to human methods of persuasion and identity. Persuasion, as Burke sees it, "ranges from the bluntest quest of virtue, as in revenues promoting or propaganda, via courtship, social etiquette, schooling, and the sermon, to a 'pure' shape that delights within the means of charm for itself on my own, with no ulterior objective. And id 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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Toil and personal danger are good subjects, since the mark of an outstanding citizen is "virtue profitable to others" (virtus fructuosa diis). Aristotle probably assigned this third kind to the present because, having defined the others with reference to the future (the deliberative concern with expedients) and the past (the forensic concern with the justice or injustice of things already done), by elimination he needed a kind aiming primarily at the present. Then he goes on to say that "epideictic" or demonstrative speakers, in their concern with praise and blame (the honorable and dishonorable) also frequently recall the past or look to the future-which would seem to take back al1 that had been given.
But actually, many o£ the "opinions" upon which persuasion relies fa11 outside the test of truth in the strictly scientific, T-F, yes-or-no sense. Thus, if a given audience has a strong opinion that a certain kind of conduct is admirable, the orator can commend a person by using signs that identify him with such conduct. "Opinion" in this ethical sense clearly falls on the bias across the matter of "truth" in the strictly scientific sense. O£ course, a speaker may be true or false in identifying a person by some particular sign of virtuous conduct.
Thus Aristotle, who looks upon rhetoric as a medium that "proves opposites," gives what amounts to a handbook on a manly art of self-defense. He describes the holds and the counter-holds, the blows and the ways of blocking them, for every means o£ persuasion the corresponding means of dissuasion, for every proof the disproof, for every praise the vituperation that matches it. While in general the truer and better cause has the advantage, he observes, no cause can be adequately defended without ski11 in the tricks of the trade.
A Rhetoric of Motives by Kenneth Burke