Burke’s Permanence and Change

Kenneth Burke
Permanence and Change
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory
Notes from class

•    Reinsert ethical into natural
o    Bring these back together
•    Perspectivalism: frog’s perspective→lab use
o    ≠Enlightenment—truth and illusion
•    What’s Burke’s invention?
o    Rhetorical practices
o    Rhetoric’s revenge on philosophy
o    Talked about poststructuralism before poststructuralists did (one-up’ed em)
o    What kind of gesture if Burke making?
•    Dialectical materialism → biological materialism
•    What’s permanent and what changes in the body?
•    Blurs lines between reality and rhetoric
•    As Nietzsche tries to show the cleaving, Burke is rejoining the body and mind
o    Nietzsche: Exercising, physical response, returning in a bad way
o    Burke: recalcitrance, bow the body has become ‘bad’
•    How the body’s re-intervened
•    Rotman: invention of mind ≠ brain
•    Even Sophistic rhetoric speaks of affect
•    Maffesoli: cyclical time
o    Same thing happening—loop
o    Live forever but it’s the same
•    Nietzsche: Eternal return
o    A challenge—could you live your life if it’s lived this way forever?
o    The more attractive way of this is to change things abruptly
•    Plato→Badiou: all waiting for something
o    A teleological similarity
•    The Sophists→Deleuze: aren’t waiting for anything
•    Interpret interpretations
•    Natural v. constructed and socialized
•    Morality as fiction? Interpret without identity?
•    Fictions and how we name the world
o    This process is inherent in how we name
•    Getting around fiction
o    Necessary fiction, but not pathological
o    Different kind of fiction
•    Still some hope of transcendence
o    Everything is subject is in the subjective
o    Asubjective: so, not entirely interested in subjective
o    Haven’t lost anything—no longer individualistic
•    Subjectivity: judgement
o    Another subjectivity can be produced
•    Can we live together as subjects?
•    Subject in the moment
o    Use—computer desk example
•    Telescopes past, present, and future
o    Social cycle
•    Machinery—concommitant extensions
o    Biological v. Machinic
•    Matters of value with technology
•    Relation between ethical and obligation
•    Burke v. Hegel
•    Ethics: phenomenology rather than philosophy
o    All you have is representations?
•    Is Burke really interested in this question?
o    “The good life”—where ethics should lead us to
•    Ethics: move beyond judgment
•    Openness to different perspectives
•    Normal and pathological
•    Pretend to be something we’re not
o    Deceptive but ethical
o    The only way to produce an ethical effect through an unethical means
•    Lakoff: What’s at stake when we turn toward the body?
•    Going to the body for truth, rather than positing the truth in the body
•    What’s permanent: we’re human
o    What changes: how we interpret
•    Prison house of the body
•    Reorientation: truth is contingent
•    Accepting new orientations
•    Deleuze: Representation—haven’t we suffered enough?
•    Turn language around as it was turn on you
o    Affective response
•    Biological conditioning
o    How can you retrain your affective ways of responding to things?
•    Finding a way to be happy about something that used to make one miserable
o    Is this an ethical choice?
•    Retrain response: masochism
o    Demand, in control, communal response
•    Connolly: the concept of becoming
o    Return thought to the body
•    Non-nostalgic interaction
•    The ethical action
o    If people think differently, this creates an ethical change
•    Cultivation and self cultivation
o    The ethical work
o    Technologies of the self
•    Foucault: how people become subjects when it’s out of your control
•    People used to cultivated their own subjectivities
•    Different modes of interacting
Critical moments in the text
Xv: “Words are not merely ‘signs’; they are names whose ‘attachment’ to events, objects, persons, institutions, status groups, classes, and indeed any great or small collectivity, soon tends to determine what we do in regard to the bearer of the name.”
7: Trained incapacity: where one’s training would work against them (i.e. chickens running for feeding bell only to be led to the slaughter house); past working against the present experience
22: “Reality is what things will to do us or for us”
49: “Any performance is discussible either from the standpoint of what it attains or what it misses.  Comprehensiveness can be discussed as superficiality, intensiveness as stricture, tolerance as uncertainty—and the poor pedestrian abilities of a fish are clearly explainable in terms of his excellence as a swimmer.  A way of seeing is also a way of not seeing—a focus upon object A involves a neglect of object B.”
73: “A linkage emotionally appropriate becomes rationally inappropriate.”
90: “This are historical perspectives, which Spengler acquires by taking a word usually applied to one setting and transferring its use to another setting.  It is a ‘perspective by incongruity,’ since he established it by violating the ‘properties’ of the word in its previous linkages.”
97: “The great danger of analogy is that a similarity is taken as evidence of an identity.”
133: “Why is it so necessary that the patient be told the nature and origin of his disorder? Does one truly cast out devils by naming them? The notion of perspective by incongruity would suggest that one casts out devils by misnaming them.  It is not the name in itself that does the work, but the conversion downward implicit in such naming.”
139: Active forgetting = suppression : Freud
163: “We replace the metaphor of progress with the metaphor of a norm, the notion that at the bottom the aims and genius of man have remained fundamentally the same, that temporal events may cause him to stray far from his sources but that he repeatedly struggles to restore, under new particularities, the same basic patterns of the ‘good life.’”
181: “Could discovery be but rediscovery?”
213: pathetic fallacy
235: “Man lives by purpose—and purpose is basically preference.  Hence, where we have an even choice between conversion downwards and conversion upwards, who would feel logically obliged to select the direction which implied the destruction of human society?”
250: “Action is fundamentally ethical because it involves preferences.”
From 7007 response:
Noted in the afterword, the “investment in analogy is central” to Kenneth Burke’s Permanence and Change (324).  The above statement, therefore, functions as the most concise summarization of this text, since the notion of something alluding to something else is precisely what Burke’s discussions of language and the symbolic lend to the text as a whole.  To borrow directly from Burke, this ‘linking’ between what something is and what something is named becomes somewhat blurry, as illustrated early on with the examples of the tests performed by Watson, Pavlov, and Gestalt (i.e. fear, incited by the banging of a steel bar, was linked to rabbits, and eventually spread to all objects rabbit-related).  While reading Burke, I realized that “linking” is quite homogeneous to my personal research, and I would like to take some space here to discus how I might be able to utilize these Burkean concepts in relation to performance and gender studies.


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August 2008
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