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Language as Symbolic Action

"Even if any given terminology is a reflection of reality, by its very nature as a terminology it must be a selection of reality; and to this extent is must also function as a deflection of reality". - Kenneth Burke, Language as Symbolic Action, p. 45.

Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives

However, if you take the Platonic form at face value, analyze it simply interms of dialectical structure, you find there an ultimate order whereby ideas would transcend sensory images, and mythic images would in turn transcend ideas. (Burke, AROM, p. 203)


“If, in the opinion of a given audience, a certain kind of conduct is admirable, then a speaker might persuade the audience by using ideas and images that identify his cause with that kind of conduct” – Kenneth Burke ROM P.55

Grammar of Motives II

“I refer to metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony. And my primary concern with them here will be not with their purely figurative usage, but with their role in the discovery and description of “the truth”. - Kenneth Burke GOM 503

Grammar of Motives

“Random or unsystematic statements about motives could be considered as fragments of philosophy.” (Burke xvi)

The Philosophy of Literary Form

“I fear that metaphysics, gentlemen, is a living lie. What does the metaphysician do? He begins, like any artist, with himself and his corresponding set of values. Then he figures out what the world ought to be such and such if these values are to be imbued with universal validity.”

Burke in Greenwich Village

Kenneth Burke in Greenwich Village Conversing with the Moderns, 1915-1931. Jack Selzer. Madison, Wiscomsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1st edition. 1996. 284 Pages. ISBN: 978-0299151843. $18.08 (Amazon Prime).

Philosophy of Literary Form

“I do not contend that the mode of analysis here proposed is automatically free of subjective interpretation. I do contend that an discussable dictionary is avoided (as were one to have a set of absolute meanings for every kind of symbol and to simply “translate” a book from its exoteric idiom into the corresponding esoteric one) (Burke, Philosophy of Literary Form, 89). “

Magic and Rationalization

In the magical rationalization, the verbal and mimetic devices whereby men induce one another to respond in sympathy were transferred to the field of inanimate operations – and in keeping with the logic of this attitude, the operations themselves were taken to be animatedly motivated (just as we tend to reverse the process and apply the inanimate metaphor in our attempt to coerce biologic operations). (Burke 216)

Sacrifice as Motive

Now the important thing about individual sacrifice as a motive is that it movies us into the areas of the collective.
(Burke 3)
Direction American Number


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