A Grammar of Motives
by Kenneth Burke
University of California Press, 1945

"What is involved when we say what people are doing and why they are doing it? An answer to that question is the subject of this book. The book is concerned with the basic forms of thought which, in accordance with the nature of the world as all men necessarily experience it, are exemplified in the attributing of motives" (xv).

--Kenneth Burke on A Grammar of Motives

A Grammar of Motives (GM) was first published in 1945. The key event influencing GM was WWII, 1939-1945. In GM, Burke discusses philosophy and "Dramatism," his systematic method for understanding human behavior. The key terms used for understanding human nature are scene, agent, agency, purpose, and act. A pessimistic tone shadows Burke’s work as he describes how events influence human beings’ search toward a better life. Generally, Burke stated that GM was meant to "increase our awareness (my own and others’) of the ways in which motives move us and deceive us, if we are not to goad one another endlessly to the cult of powers that can bring no genuine humaneness to the world."

Who’s Who: The philosophers discussed by Burke

Berkeley, George (1685-1753): An Irish philosopher who moved to Newport, RI in 1728 and was a leading advocate of idealism. Berkeley was known as the champion of "common sense. "Berkeley argued that the notion of material substance could not be sustained, but that immaterial substances, human minds and God were crucial to our account of reality."

Hegel, George Wilhelm Friedrich (1770-1831): German idealist philosopher; originally trained as a theologian. "Hegel wrote that only mind (Geist) is real."

Hegel developed a complicated system of philosophy, which proposed that truth is attained through a continuing dialectic. His method comprised a dialectical triad: thesis, antithesis, and synthesis for reaching a higher unity.

Hobbes, Thomas (1588-1679): English philosopher whose theory that absolutism in government is essential to prevent anarchy because the natural interests--selfishness and war--of human beings is inevitable. Called the father of modern analytic philosophy.

Hume, David (1711-1776): Scottish philosopher. Extreme empiricist and skeptic.

Kant, Immanuel (1724-1804). German philosopher and scientist. Kant was a critical idealist. Born in Konigsberg in East Prussia.

Of interest: Inscribed on Kant's tombstone: "Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above me, and the moral within me.’"

Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm (1646-1716): A German rationalist philosopher. Also, scientist, mathematician, historian, and diplomat. A diplomat by profession, Leibniz "applied the techniques of diplomacy to bring about peace and harmony in the world of philosophy.

Marx, Karl (1818-1883). German revolutionary, social and economic theorist, and philosopher. Heavily influenced by Hegelian philosophy, Marx wrote on many disciplines such as philosophy, history, economics, social and political theory. May be best known for moral critique of capitalism. Co-authored with Friedrich Engels The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital. Of interest: Marx’s personal creed. "Criticism of religion is the foundation of all criticism."

Santayana, George (1863-1952): Spanish-born, but American philosopher, poet, writer, and critic. Although he remained a Spanish citizen, he relocated with his parents to the USA at age 9 and became a Harvard professor. He wanted to be recognized and remembered as an American philosopher. He contributed to American philosophy and developed "Critical Realism," which "holds that what is directly present is an essence which characterizes the known object." This intuited essence induces a behavioral response toward the object. Thus, if one is "perceiving something correctly, then the essence intuited somehow applies to the physical thing on which his/her behavioural response is directed," creating a real correspondence.

Spinoza, Baruch (or Benedict): (1632-1677) Dutch Jewish philosopher. Born into a family of merchants. Burke was excommunicated from the Jewish community for not renouncing his unorthodox view, for example, ‘God and nature’. Spinoza "conceived Jesus as at most the last of the great Jewish prophets." Some believed Spinoza would "lead a mass conversion of the Jews to Christianity." Spinoza’s views led to intense criticism of the moral messages of the Bible. He believed that the teachings were important, but "its implied science and metaphysics can stand only as imaginative adjuncts for teaching ethics to the multitude." So, while he believed the moral lessons of the Bible were important, the supernatural powers of miracles were not probable. Spinoza’s political philosophy and theory was highly influenced by Hobbes.

"Spinoza’s account of the material world was thoroughly Cartesian. He believed that all physical phenomena are determined by unchanging universal laws, and that all physical laws depend ultimately on laws of motion. He denied the possibility of a vacuum, and of atoms, and he held, like Descartes, that what common sense takes to be individual physical objects as in reality only conventional individuated modes of an extended continuum, which Spinoza called the Attribute of Extension." (Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz, G.M. Ross & R. Francks, Blackwell, 509-529).

Key terms:

Introduction: The Five Key Terms of Dramatism
Burke identifies the five key terms of dramatism (pentad): Act, Scene, Agent, Agency, and Purpose as an explanation for motive. Act describes what took place; scene discusses the background of the act (the situation). Agent indicates what person or kind of person that performed the act, and agency describes the "mean or instruments" used (xv). Finally, purpose indicates the reason for the act. Burke explains that he created this dramatically-based framework as "…a Grammar of motives…concern(ed) with the terms alone, without reference to the ways in which their potentialities have been or can be utilized in actual statements about motives" (xvi). He concludes the Introduction by stating his primary purpose. "We hope to make clear the ways in which dialectical and metaphysical issues necessarily figure in the subject of motivation. Our speculations, as we interpret them, should show that the subject of motivation is a philosophic one, not ultimately to be solved in terms of empirical science" (xxiii).

A Grammar of Motives Part One

Chapter I: Container and Thing Contained

The Scene—Act Ratio
Burke begins by describing the scene as the "container" and the act as the "thing contained." He suggests that the scene provides, within itself, the necessary components or setting for the act; he states, "It is a principle of drama that the nature of acts and agents should be consistent with the nature of the scene" (3). Burke uses three examples of plays to illustrate his point, including Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People (discussed at length), O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Burke notes in An Enemy of the People, "the semi-public, semi-intimate setting reflects perfectly the quality of Dr. Stockmann’s appeal" (5). In Mourning Become Electra, the closed blinds are indicative of Lavinia’s mental state, and, in Hamlet, Horatio suggests that "the sheer natural surroundings might be enough to provide a man with a motive for an act as desperate and absolute as suicide" (6). Burke notes that Thomas Hardy’s novels, Virgil’s characters, scientific theories, and geopolitics all also provide evidence for the natural scene as motivation for an act.


Burke suggests, "scene is to act as implicit is to explicit," and he states, "Stage-set contains, simultaneously, implicitly, all that the narrative is to draw out as a sequence, explicitly" (7). Burke admits this scene-act relationship becomes obscured when the interdependence and overlap of the scene and act are considered. To clarify, he explains how the interaction between two characters could serve as catalysts for the act and, thus, modify the scene. He states, "Our terms [stage and act] lending themselves to both merger and division, we are here trying to divide two of them while recognizing their possibilities of merger."

The Scene—Agent Ratio
Burke continues his container-thing contained metaphor with agent and scene, or person and place. Burke provides several examples of the scene-agent ratio, including Carlyle’s Heroes and Hero-Worship, Wordsworth’s sonnet, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and Seurat’s paintings. In Heroes and Hero-Worship, he exemplifies "the correlation between the quality of the country and the quality of its inhabitants." In the Wordsworth example, Burke tells us that the scene is supernatural and, thus, the child [the agent] possesses a divine-like quality. Likewise, Swift portrays the Laputans as living on an island that floats in space, or "up in the air." Finally, Burke notes how Seurat’s "human figures seem on the point of dissolving into their backgrounds" (9). Burke ends this section by explaining how the logic of the scene-agent ratio has embarrassed the naturalistic novelist. To explain, he explains that the naturalistic novelistic creates a scene of bad working conditions to show how this "brutalizing situation" hurts an impoverished indigenous people; however, since their characters are seen as "brutal," ironically, the audience may see them as not worth saving. Hence, the naturalistic novelist fails to achieve the humanistic end because they neglected to follow the scene-agent ratio.

Further Instances of These Ratios
Burke continues to explain the scent-act and scene-agency metaphors in this section. He mentions that they can "reverse application," where the "scene-act ratio either call for acts in keeping with scenes or scenes in keeping with acts" (9). To explain, Burke goes back to some previously-cited examples. In Mourning Becomes Electra, Burke states, "When Lavinia instructs Seth to nail fast the shutters and throw out the flowers, by her command (an act) she brings it about that the scene corresponds to her state of mind"; later, the scene seems to automatically move her "like a pure automaton moved by the sheer disposition of material factors" (9-10). In An Enemy of the People, Burke illustrates that Dr. Stockmann’s agency, or state of mind, was reflected by the torn clothing, broken windows, and disorganized study (the scene). In Gulliver’s Travels, when Swift wishes show the imbalanced nature of the Laputans, he uses the agent’s characteristics to create the scene. Swifts states, "’Their heads were all inclined, either to the right or to the left; one of their eyes turned inward, and the other directly up to the zenith’" (10-11). In a final example, Burke discusses a committee meeting, where one member separated herself physically from the group and picked up her coat and laid it on her arm; after waiting for a dramatic pause in the discussion, she "announced with regret that she would have to resign from the committee" (11). She very clearly set the stage for her act.

Ubiquity of the Ratios
Burke discusses the ubiquitous nature of the ratios. However, he warns about "the many guises which the five terms may assume in various casuistries" (11). Scenes involve anything from "society" to 12:20 p.m. to the Elizabethan period to John Locke’s expression "the scene of ideas." Even the term, ground, is scenic; for example, "’On what grounds did he do this?’ is translated: ‘What kind of scene did he say it, that called for such an act’" (12). Burke cites Marx, Roosevelt, and Coleridge other examples of ratios. Burke distinguishes between action and mere motion. He states, "Dramatically, the basic unit of action would be defined as the human body in conscious or purposive motion" (14).

Range of All the Ratios
There five terms in the pentad, which allows for ten different ratios, i.e., scene-act, scene-agent, scene-agency, scene-purpose, act-purpose, act-agent, act-agency, agent-purpose, agent-agency, and agency-purpose. Burke states, "Only the scene-act and scene-agent ratios fit with complete comfort in this chapter on the relation between container and contained. The act-agent ration tugs at its edges" (20). Burke uses this section to delineate the act-agent ratio. He begins by distinguishing act from agent. He mentions, "The agent does not contain the act, though its results might be said to pre-exist virtually within him. And the act does not synecdochically share in the agent, though certain ways of acting may be said to induce corresponding moods or traits of character" (16). He then distinguishes scene-act from act-agency by "situating the motives of an act in the agent" (17). Burke uses the motivations of democracy to shows the differences between the two ratios. In the scene-act ratio, the situation favors type of government, e.g., democracy, dictatorship, etc.; whereas, in the act-agent ration, the democratic act comes from an agent who remains democratic even when the situation dictates otherwise. Burke also mentions, "The ratios may often be interpreted as principles of selectivity rather than as thoroughly causal relationships" (18). He also admits the "circular possibility in the terms" where a scenes calls for "a certain kind of act," which makes for a corresponding "kind of agent," "thereby likening agent to scene" (19). Burke calls attention to the concept of total acts, "amount to radical change in the very structure of the Universe" (20). Burke concludes this section by suggesting that attitude could be a sixth item in the pentad.

Chapter II: Antinomies of Definition

Paradox of Substance
Burke describes substance as "the most philosophic member of this family" [Stance] (21). He then explains the two parts of the paradox of substance as defined by John Locke. First, though Webster’s Dictionary defines substance as "the most important element in any existence," Burke explains, with the help of Locke, that "etymologically substance is a scenic word. Literally, a person’s or a thing’s sub-stance would be something that stands beneath or supports a person or thing" (22). Yet, over time, the original etymological meaning of words becomes lost, and we, instead, attach a simple, symbolic meaning to the word, as evidenced in the word substance. In the second part of the paradox, Burke explains that "the word substance [is] used to designate what a thing is, [yet it] derives from a word designating something that a thing is not" (23) That means "though used to designate something within the thing, intrinsic to it, the word etymologically refers to something outside the thing, extrinsic to it" (23).

Contextual Definition

Burke explains, "To tell what a thing is, you place it in terms of something else…to define, or determine a thing, is to mark its boundaries, hence to use terms that possess, implicitly at least, contextual reference" (24). He suggests that when we consider someone as a man of substance, we "have in mind not only his personal characteristics," but also a number of extrinsic factors. Burke cites Spinoza for defining the contextual paradox. Spinoza holds that "all definition is negation, which is another way of saying that, to define a thing in terms of its context, we must define it in terms of what it is not" (25).

Familial Definition

Burke tells us that context is "derived from the substance of the parents or family" (26). Familial definition is formed from a biological sense. "And the Aristotelian genus is originally not a logical, but a biological concept" (26). Within the dramatic framework, Burke determined three questions to delineate the familial definition: "Does the tribe give birth to its members, or does the tribe exist in its members, or is the tribe merely a name for the sum of its members?" (27). That is, to determine existence as "before the thing, in the thing, or after the thing" (27). Burke concludes this section by mentioning that both contextual and familial definitions are necessary. He states,

"In sum, contextual definition stresses placement, ancestral definition stresses derivation. But in any sustained discussion of motives, the two become interwoven" (28).

Survey of Terms for Substance

Dialectic Substance

Dialectic substance is "the overall category of dramatism, which treats of human motives in terms of verbal action" (33). Burke explains that this definition is not meant to confine human motives to verbal action, but rather "the dramatistic analysis of motives has its point of departure in the subject of verbal action (in thought, speech, and document)" (33). To illustrate, Burke points to how a poem shifts the imagery of its metaphor to allow us to see the subject from different viewpoints, which then helps us to "see something in terms of some other" (33). Burke discusses the dialectical opposition; he states, "The most thoroughgoing dialectical opposition, however, centers in that key pair: Being and Not-Being" (34). Burke continues, "The process of transcendence may, of course, be reversed. Then the ultimate abstract Oneness is taken as a source, a "first"; and the steps leading up to it are interpreted as stages emanating from it. Or terms that are contextual to each other (such as Being and Not-Being, Action and Rest, Mechanism and Purpose, The One and the Many) can be treated as familially related (as were Being to be derived from Not-Being, Action from Rest, Mechanism from Purpose, the Many from the One)" (34-35).

The Paradox of Purity

Burke explains the paradox of purity or paradox of the absolute. We derive our existence from a God who is a "super-person, pure, and absolute, since God as a super-person would be impersonal—and the impersonal would be synonymous with the negation of personal. Hence, Pure Personality would be the same as No Personality: and the derivation of the personal principle from God as pure person would amount to its derivation from an impersonal principle" (35). Burke illustrates this point through Kandinsky, Rosenberg, and Tyler. For example, Kandinsky commented, "on the subject of Schonberg’s esthetic," that "to the uninitiated, the inner beauty of music must seem like ugliness" (36). The paradox occurs when the collective motivation fails to become pure motive "when matched against some individual locus of motivation" (37). For example, "A soldier may be nationally motivated to kill the enemies of his country, whereas individually he is motivated by a horror of killing his own enemies. Or conversely, as a patriot he may act by the motive of sacrifice in behalf of his country, but as an individual he may want to profit" (37).

The Dialectic of Tragedy

Burke explains, "Stated broadly the dialectical (agonistic) approach to knowledge is through the act of assertion, whereby one "suffers" the kind of knowledge that is the reciprocal of his act" (38).

When facing tragedy, the agent "calls forth a counter-assertion" and transcends to where "intrinsic and extrinsic motivations" merge (38). Burke then distinguishes between tragic destiny and sheer victimization. "It is deplorable, but not tragic, simply to be a victim of circumstance…Sheer victimization is not an assertion—and it naturally makes not for vision but for frustration. The victimizing circumstances, or accidents, seem arbitrary and exorbitant, even silly" (39). This is not the case with tragic destiny. To explain "the motivation of the act," Burke states, "But to consider an act in terms of its grounds is to consider it in terms of what it is not, namely, in terms of motives that, in acting upon the active, would make it a passive, We could state the paradox

another way by saying that the concept of activation implies a kind of passive-behind-the-passive; for an agent who is "motivated by his passions" would be "moved by his being-movedness", or "acted upon by his state of being acted upon"' (40).

Actus and Status

Burke believes that act and state (or actus and status) are "at the very center of dialectical motivation" (41). He discusses how something transforms from an act to a state. Burke uses hero and heroism as an example. He suggests that a soldier hero does heroic things, and "heroism resides in his acts" (42). And still, heroism resides in his status as a soldier. Thus, "this movement from actus to status involves class substance," whereby each act has "corresponding properties" and over time these properties develop "corresponding differences of status" (42).

Universal Motives as Substance

Burke tells us,

"All gods are "substances", and as such are names for motives or combinations of motives. Polytheistic divinities, besides their personalistic aspects, often represent decidedly geometric, or scenic, kinds of motivation. Indeed, we may even think of local divinities as theological prototypes of contemporary environmentalist, or geographic motives...However, such concepts of motivation are usually developed to the point where their original reference is obscured, being replaced by motivational concepts peculiar to a specialized priesthood and to the needs of class domination" (43-4).

Thus, as in substance, their original reference is lost. Burkes use industrial capitalization as an example for how a romantic religious motive transforms in a monetary motive, "wage slavery" (45). Burke explains, "Translated dramatically: the sheer work in a factory would not be an act. It would be little more than motion. And this motion becomes actus only when the workers’ status is understood in terms of socialist organization" (45). He concludes this section with this quote: "For no continuity of social act is possible without a corresponding social status and the many different kinds of act required in an industrial state, with its high degree of specialization, make for corresponding classification of status" (46).

Intrinsic and Extrinsic

Burke mentions, as a rule of thumb, "…whenever we find a distinction between the internal and the external, the intrinsic and the extrinsic, the within and the without (as with Korzybski’s distinction between happenings "inside the skin" and happenings "outside the skin"), we can expect to encounter the paradoxes of substance" (47). As an example, Burke looks to a gerontologist who reported the use of chemicals to "stimulate artificially those powers of intrinsic resistance to disease with which man is born’" (47). The intrinsic resistance leads one to believe that the motive lies within the body as an agent; however, "the use of chemical means to stimulate this internal motive would involve the transformation of this intrinsic motive to an extrinsic motive" (47). Therein lies the paradox of substance. Burke also mentions that it is a mistake to equate the intrinsic with the unique. He exemplifies these by looking to poetry, where he explains that it is fallacious to assume that every line of a poet’s work is his unique contribution in contrast to other poets. "We cannot define by differentia alone; the differentiated also has significant attributes as members of its class" (48). The intrinsic and extrinsic motivations must be viewed both inside and outside of themselves.


The Rhetoric of Substance

In this section, Burke calls the "ambiguity of substance" a "major resource of rhetoric" (51). That is, sometimes though it is more accurate to state what is not true, is makes more sense to state what is true. For example, Burke explains, "‘…The state of affairs is such-and-such," instead of having to say, "The state of affairs is not such-and-such’" (52). Burke seems to believe that considering things in themselves, yet having the flexibility of seeing them contextually, is a source of great rhetorical power.

Two Kinds of Departure

This section serves as an example of what Burke was trying to explain in the last section. Since the five key terms "can be considered as principles" and they overlap each other, "the ambiguity of substance makes it possible to use terms as points of departure in two senses" (53). First, "we may speak in the name of God because we speak in the name of God," and, second, "because we speak in the name of God, we may be to develop modes of thought that lead away from supernaturalism, since absolute conviction about religion might serve as ground for a study of nature" (53). Burke continues, ">From such ambiguity is derived that irony of historical development whereby the very strength in affirming of a given term may the better enable men to make a world that departs from it" (54). Burke provides an example that seems to use naturalism and technology to affirm the unnatural properties of technology may help lead us away from it.

The Centrality of Substance

Burke ends the chapter by discussing the central meaning of substance, or the important theme in this chapter. He seems to suggest that "men’s linguistic behavior here reflects real paradoxes in the nature of the world itself" and the antinomies would be resolved only if men were able "to create an entire universe" (56). "The transformations which we here study as a Grammar are not illusions, but citable realities." "…Even when the nature of the world are abstractly metaphysical, statements about the nature of the these statements can be…empirical" (58).


Chapter III: Scope and Reduction

The Representative Anecdote

To explain why he selected the dramatic framework, he turns to the concept of a "representative anecdote" to prove that the framework is "suited to the subject matter which it is designed to calculate" (59). "Men seek for vocabularies that are reflections of reality. To this end, they must develop vocabularies that are selections of reality. And any selection of reality must, in certain circumstances, function as a deflection of reality" (59). He explains that the framework (calculus) must be "supple and complex enough to be representative of the subject matter it is designed to calculate. It must have scope. Yet it must also possess simplicity, in that it is broadly a reduction of the subject matter" (60). Since it fulfills all these requirements, drama provides an appropriate means, or calculus.

The Way of Creation

Burke tells us, "Dramatistically considered, there is a tremendous difference between the Creation and the process of Evolution as motivational summations. One sums up in terms of action, the other in terms of motion" (63). Both represent ontological statements about being. Burke seems to suggest that we consider Creation as a non-temporal event, or principle.

He states, "In sum: we are discussing the Creation not as a temporal event, but as the logical prototype of an act. Indeed, even if one believed it literally, one would hardly be justified in treating it as a temporal event, since it was itself the positing of time; it was the act that set up the conditions of temporal development; hence a terminology that reduced it to terms of time would lack sufficient scope" (64).


Act as Locus of Motives

In this section, Burke explains Creation as a total act. "We are saying that, to study the nature of the term, act, one must select a prototype, or paradigm of action. This prototype we find in the conception of a perfect or total act, such as the act of the Creation" (66). Burke continues his explanation, "Examining this concept [Creation as a total act], we find that it is "magic", for it produces something out of nothing. False magic is a quasi-scientific ideal that would suspend the laws of motion, as in the attempt to coerce natural forces by purely ritualistic means. "True" magic is an aspect not of motion but of action (66). Burke also states, "…It is not the purpose of our Dramatism to abide strictly by any one system of philosophic terms that happens to exemplify the dramatist pattern. Rather, it is our purpose to show that the explicit and systematic use of the dramatist pentad is best designed to bring out the strategic moments of motivational theory" (67). He continues, "Accordingly, at this point, we are more concerned to illustrate the Grammatical scruples than to select one particular casuistry as our choice among them. Philosophies again and again have got their point of departure precisely by treating as a distinction in kind what other philosophies have treated as a distinction in degree, or v.v." (67-8).

The Grounds of Creation

Burke states, "The Creation, as the ground or scene of human acts, provides the basic conditions utilized by human agents in the motions by which they act…it represents the ultimate source of motives" (69). However, Burke explains the "dramatistic embarrassment" is that "the concept of God as an agent doesn’t quite satisfy the dramatistic necessities, for an agent, like an act, must be placed in some scene" (70). Burke satisfies this problem by suggesting, "We may treat the matter summarily by saying that he is super-scene, super-act, and super-act all in one" (71).

Pantheism and Ontology

Burke still seems to struggles with "The Creation" and ontology as well as God and nature in the dramatistic sense. He defines Pantheism with the help of Webster’s Dictionary, as "the doctrine that the universe, taken or conceived of as a whole, is God; the doctrine that there is no God but the combined forces and laws which are manifested in the existing universe" (72). He states, "The Creation is not exactly an historical process, since it is not just in time and motion, but must be outside to the extent that it is the establishment or inauguration of time and motion" (73). Burke notes principles as a solution. "Principles are firsts, but they are absolute firsts, not the kind of firsts that require a temporal succession as we go from a first to a second. They just are. They have logical, rather than temporal, priority" (73).

Grammatical Steps to Naturalism

Burke names freedom and necessity as the two primary generalizations that are the ultimates of motivation. "Consideration in terms of the Creation leads to "necessity" when, in accordance with the logic of geometric substance, all the parts of nature are treated as necessarily related to one another in their necessary relationship to the whole. For "necessity" names the extrinsic conditions that determine a motion and must be taken into account when one is planning an action. And consideration in terms of the Creator leads to "freedom" when, in accordance with the logic of tribal substance, men "substantially" derive freedom (or self-movement) from God as its ancestral source. This double genesis allows for free will and determinism simultaneously, rather than requiring a flat choice between them" (74-75). Burke explains that, though in religious terms nature is created through an act of God, "Dramatistically, motion involves action, but action is more than motion. Hence theologically and/or dramatistically, nature (in the sense of God's Creation) is to nature (in the sense of naturalistic science) as action is to motion, since God's Creation is an enactment , whereas nature as conceived in terms of naturalistic science is a sheer concatenation of motions" (76). Burke continue, "But inasmuch as the theological ration between God (Creator) and Nature (Creation) is the same as the dramatistic ration between action and motion, the pantheistic equating of God and Nature would be paralleled by the equating of action and motion. And since action is a personal principle while motion is an impersonal principle, the pantheistic equation leads into the naturalistic position which reduces personalistic concepts to depersonalized terms" (76-77).


Burke uses circumference to help him with the scope of the pentad. "When "defining by location", one may place the object of one's definition in contexts of varying scope. And our remarks on the scene-act ratio, for instance, suggest that the choice of circumference for the scene in terms of which a given act is to be located will have a corresponding effect upon the interpretation of the act itself." (77). "And implicit in the terms chosen, there are "circumferences" of varying scope. Motivationally, they involve such relationships as are revealed in the analysis of the scene-act and scene-agent ratios whereby the quality of the context in which a subject is placed will affect the quality of the subject placed in that context" (77-8). Still reasoning the dramatistic approach is representative, Burke states, "…they were not merely traits of human beings, but extended to the outer circumference of the ultimate ground. Hence, by the logic of the scene-act ratio, they were taken as basic to the constitution of human motives, and could be deduced from the nature of God as an objective, extrinsic principle defining the nature of human acts. But when the circumference was narrowed to naturalistic limits, the Creator was left out or account, and only the Creation remained (remained not as an "act", however, but as a concatenation of motions)" (79).

Monographic in Terms of Placement

Burke suggests that writers have a monographic way of selection in relation to circumference. "Though we have stressed the contrast between theology and behaviorism because it so readily illustrates the "circumferential logic" (that is, the effect of scope in a given terminology of motives), we should note that a writer's vocabulary is usually set somewhere between these two extremes. His aims are usually less thoroughgoing, more "monographic", as with the selection of some "thesis"' (85-6). Burke describes this approach, dramatically, as "spotlight where the rest of the stage is left dark" where "concepts become poorer in contents or intension in proportion as their extension increases, so that the content zero must correspond to the extension infinity"' (87). Burke continues with the dramatistic metaphor, "This matter of circumference is imbedded in the very nature of terms, and men are continually performing new acts, in that they are continually making judgments as to the scope of the context which they implicitly or explicitly impute in their interpretations of motives. To select a set of terms is, by the same token, to select a circumference" (90).

Monetary Reduction

Burke discusses how industrialism narrowed circumference by turning to monetary and financial aspects. Under a false heading of opportunity, money becomes a self-serving, manipulative locus of motive.

Kinds of Reduction

Burke state, "In a sense, every circumference, no matter how far-reaching its reference, is a reduction" (96). As example, the world is reduced into words, and groups, by on their properties, are generalized into classes in order to call them "a single entity"; experiences are reduced to categories. Burke uses the concept of Occam’s Razor, "the law of parsimony," to narrow his scope.

Complexity of a Simple Motive

Even though things become reduced, Burke tells us that we should never take anything "at its face value" (101). The so-called simple motive is problematic because "they are not wholes, but parts, so that their intrinsic nature depends upon their role in a larger organism" (101). "It is always a matter of casuistry to decide whether you will treat the modification of a principle as an "extension of" the principle or a deviation from it" (104). "Such reduction to a simplicity being technical reduction (sic) to a summarizing title or God term, when we confront a simplicity we must forthwith ask ourselves what complexities are subsumed beneath it" (105). "It can exist not actually, but only "in principle," substantially" (105). Because of this complexity of motives, Burke urges us to carefully evaluate symbols (108).


Money as a Substitute for God

Burke seems to suggest that money provides a few for "great numbers of people to avoid many of the harsher realities. For one need simply pay to insensitive things done by others instead of doing them oneself...Think of how many people eat meat, and how few work in slaughterhouses" (111). "Monetary symbolism is the simple, the god-term, in terms of which all this great complexity attains a unity transcending distinctions of climate, class, nation, cultural traditions, etc." (110). "…money endangers religion in that money can serve as universal symbol, the unitary ground of all action. Burke draws a dichotomy between religious humanism and secular humanitarianism of science and money.

The Nature of Monetary Reality

Burke calls money "not a mere agency in our civilization, but a rationalizing ground of action" (113). He likens money with power and suggests that capitalism as the culprit. "This symbiosis of money and technology has made a double genesis possible in the imputing of motives, as the thinker may attribute to capitalism the aspects of our civilization he dislikes and to technology the aspects in which he places his hopes, or vice versa. Since both money and technology are objective powers existing in history, we might properly expect them to manifest the ambivalence of such powers" (116). Burke refers to this monetary reality as "monetary psychosis." Burke notes that industrial leads to the creation of larger cities, which causes agents to "think of rule in the pure financial terms of The City" (117).

Love, Knowledge, and Authority

Burke explains this section by stating, "All terminological reductions, when they gain sufficient adherence to form a cultural trend, should probably be ascribed to the stimulating effect which some order of power exerted upon the human imagination during the eras when men first came to recognize and appreciate and develop the resources of a particular power" (117). Burke suggests there is a triad of power: love, knowledge, and authority. "Love, Knowledge, Authority: three basic ideals, variously embodied in structures of power, and all liable to such transformations as make of them a mockery" (124). Burke concludes this first part by stating, "As translated into the terms of social organizations, they [love, knowledge, authority] are necessarily somewhat at odds. But in moments of exaltation, ideally, we may think of them as a trinity, standing to one another in a relation of mutual reinforcement" (124).

A Grammar of Motives Part Two

SCENE (127-170)

Burke provides an explanation of how the emphasis of specific philosophic schools interact with each pentad term. Each of the five pentad terms correspond with a different philosophic school:

  1. Scene à Materialism
  2. Agent à Idealism
  3. Agency à Pragmatism
  1. Purpose à Mysticism
  2. Act à Realism

In addition to materialism, idealism, pragmatism, mysticism, and realism Burke also discusses how nominalism and rationalism interact with the pentad.

The Featuring of the Terms (127-131)

"This section is to consider seven primary philosophic languages in terms of the pentad, used as a generating principle that should enable us to ‘anticipate’ these different idioms. In treating the various schools as languages, we may define their substantial relationship to one another by deriving them from a common terminological ancestor" (p.127).

The featuring of scene and materialism: Materialism is "The name given to a family of doctrines concerning the nature of the world which give to matter a primary position and accord to mind (or spirit) a secondary, dependent reality or even none at all." In Hobbes words, "all that exists is body, all that occurs motion" (p.131).

This is the idea that only matter and its characteristics or properties exist.

The featuring of agent and idealism: "The view that mind and spiritual values are fundamental in the world as a whole."

This is the idea that only our minds and thoughts exist; ideas and knowledge exist before material objects.

The featuring of agency and pragmatism: A philosophical movement that "is best understood as, in part, a critical rejection of much of traditional academic philosophy and, in part, a concern to establish certain positive aims." This is best expressed in the maxim, "according to which the meaning of a concept is determined by the experiential or practical consequences of its application."

This is the idea that the truth of our beliefs is only a matter of its (our beliefs) usefulness.

Of special interest: Pragmatism was "the most influential philosophy in America in the first quarter of the twentieth century."

The featuring of purpose and mysticism: Burke notes that "Mysticism," according to the Baldwin dictionary, "embraces ‘those forms of speculative and religious thought which profess to attain on immediate apprehension of the divine essence or the ultimate ground of existence’" (p.287).

Mysticism may be thought of as a form of religious experience as well as a doctrine. Mystics believe that God or realities that are beyond our perceptual or intellectual understanding can be encountered through religious, or non- ordinary types of experiences.

The featuring of act and realism: "The view that material objects exist externally to us and independently of our sense experience."

This idea is in direct opposition to idealism.

Nominalism and Rationalism indirectly apply to all the pentad terms as well as cross over the different philosophical schools.


This term is a rejection of realism. Nominalists believe that "categories into which people or things are sorted do not reflect any natural, objective order in reality."

According to Burke, nominalism "applies to all the other six schools insofar as each of them can have either a collectivistic or an individualistic (‘nominalist’) emphasis" (p.129).

Burke states that "according to the Baldwin dictionary, nominalism is ‘the doctrine that universals have no objective existence or validity.’ In its extreme form, nominalism holds that universals ‘are only names’" (p. 248).


This is the idea that we acquire knowledge through a process of reasoning.

According to Burke, rationalism "applies to all in the sense that it is the perfection, or logical conclusion" (p.129).

Burke provides three meanings for rationalism courtesy of the Baldwin dictionary. First, "that everything in religion is to be rationally explained or else rejected." Second,"that reason is an independent source of knowledge and has a ‘higher authority’ than sense-perception." Third, "that ‘certain elementary concepts are to be sought,’and ‘all remaining content of philosophy is to be derived, in a deductive way, from these fundamental notions’" (p. 311).

Scene in General (131-132)

Burke opens with various definitions of materialism to show "why one gets a materialistic philosophy by the featuring of our term, scene" (p.131).

According to Baldwin’s dictionary, materialism is a "metaphysical theory which regards all facts of the universe as sufficiently explained by the assumption of body or matter, conceived as extended, impenetrable, eternally existent, and susceptible of movement or change of relative position" (p.131).

Hobbes’ definition of materialism: "All that exists is body, all that occurs motion" (p.131).

Burke notes that with these definitions of materialism "the circumference of scene is so narrowed as to involve the reduction of action to motion" (p.131).

Hobbes (132-137)

Burke shows how Hobbes’ philosophy of materialism works with scene, and elaborates on the distinctions between "action" and "motion." For Burke, action is moral, or at least has an ethical component.

Burke on Hobbes:

"Thoughts succeed one another because they are ‘motions within us,’ and motions lead into one another" (p.133).

"Besides sense, and thoughts. . .the mind of man has no other motion" (p.133)

"The reduction of reason itself to motion" (134).

Burke states that Hobbsian "materialism, or reduction to motion, is a treatment of personal motivations in terms of the scenic" (p.134).

"The reduction of the will itself to terms of a scene mechanically determined" (p.134).

"When one talks of the will, one is necessarily in the field of the moral; and the field of the moral is, by definition, the field of action" (p.136).

Burke cautions "that Hobbes, by carrying his theories of mechanism into the moral realm, is necessarily treading upon domains more directly governed by our terms act and agent" (p.136).

"The moral category . . . is essentially dramatic" (p.137).

Spinoza (137-146)

Burke states that "Spinoza’s naturalistic Ethics is central" from a materialistic perspective and equates Spinoza’s "God equal Nature" with the "scene-act ratio" (p.137). For Burke, Spinoza’s Determinism is meant literally.

Burke on Spinoza:

"God equals Nature. . . translated as ‘action equals motion" (p.137).

"God as a scenic word for action by recalling again the scholastic formula for God as the ground of all possibility" (p.138).

"Spinozistic naturalism . . . from the dramatistic point of view characterizes to perfection the great watershed moment in Western thought when men were narrowing the scope of their terminologies" (p.138).

"Dramatistically this narrowing meant the shift from a poetic or moralistic vocabulary of action and passion to a scientific or mechanistic vocabulary of motion" (p. 138).

Spinoza/Burke on God:

By "defining God or Substance as the self-caused. . . .God-and- Nature in the totality has, from the purely grammatical point of view, an active and a passive meaning rolled into one" (p.140).

"If one thinks simply of the cause and the caused, . . . of the two the term ‘cause’ would contain connotations of action and freedom, while caused’ would contain the connotations of passivity and constraint" (p.141).

"Non-Spinozinistically. . .the relation of part to whole is always necessary, but the necessary can take either ‘benign’ or malign’ forms" (p.141).

"God" is ‘cause of the caused’…. Which centers around:

"If the ‘God is made to equal everything the ‘cause and the ‘caused’ are all

necessarily’ ground up together, and God’s ‘freedom’ as cause is one with his necessary relation to the caused." "Hence. . .the equating of freedom and necessity" (p.142).

"If God is everything, he both is free to be what he is and must be what he is. He is free since there is no other cause to constrain him, but my reason of his very freedom he must necessarily be himself (p.142).

"To be free, the act must be absolutely unmotivated" (p. 142).

Burke introduces modifications to the scene ratio—scene:act; scene:agent; and scene:purpose.


"Determination": "A thing is determined insofar as it is limited by the boundaries of other things, determined by whatever outside itself marks its terminations" (p.143).

"It is essentially scenic or contextual. . . .From the terministic point of view, his [Spinoza] word for ‘God’ might well be translated ‘total context’" (p.143).

Spinoza: "all determination is negation" (p.143).

"Each thing will seek to preserve its nature as long as it can, and will succeed until it is destroyed by factors beyond its control" (p.144).


"This concept of the conatus performs the function regularly covered by our term agent. . . .the equivalent of a motivational locus" (p.144).

Individual things would go on forever in their capacity as parts of the whole, but they are restricted in their capacity as parts of the whole" (p.145).


Spinoza reduces "individual human purpose to purely necessitarian terms: for he treats human ends, or final causes, simply as necessary human desires. This formulation. . .leads. . .into the pragmatist interpretation of purpose in terms of agency, the recognition of ends being in pragmatism but a means for man’s social and biological adjustment to his needs" (p.145).

Alignment of Terms in Spinoza (146-152)

Burke feels compelled to comment on Spinoza’s "relation to the Cartesian dualism, as shown in the distinction between thought and extension" (p.146).

Spinoza’s "reconversion of Descartes’ dualism into a monism of one Substance looks central" (pp.146-147). . . .but in its actual proportions his Ethics. . .is as much a theology as it is an instance of naturalism; and herein resides its dramatistic stress upon problems of action and passion, rather than the scientist stress upon knower and known" (p.147).

Burke argues that approaching "Spinoza’s philosophy from the. . .dramatist point of view" rather than "the scientist point of view" (p.147). "If you start trying to trace the alignments in Spinoza’s philosophy from the scientist point of view, rather than from the dramatist point of view, thus starting from the mind-body pair rather than the action-passion pair, you will find yourself quickly involved in confusion. . . .The mind . . . is more passive in proportion as it possesses inadequate ideas, and more active in proportion as it possesses adequate ideas. There is in us exactly as much mental activity as there is bodily activity, and exactly as much mental passivity as bodily passivity. . . .Consequently there can be no alignment of terms constructed by derivation from the quasi-scientific Cartesian pair (thought and extension). But the alignment constructed about the "pre-scientific" (of ‘extra-scientific’) pair, the alignment sought in accordance with dramatistic admonitions, is almost pat" (p.147).

Burke concludes by explaining "how the scenic emphasis is maintained" by Spinoza. Burke considers various passages, notions, and quotes by Spinoza from Ethics. Spinoza states: "The more we understand particular things, the more we understand God" (150). "Spinoza’s notion of ‘intuitive knowledge’" (p.150). "Spinoza distinguished three kinds of knowledge": (1) Imagination, (2) Reason, and (3) Intuition. "Spinoza says that God is ‘naturally prior’" (p.151).

Darwin (152-158)

Burke considers Darwin "to show both the scenic logic and the threats to its symmetry in this system which, at first glance, is almost perfectly materialistic" (p.158). "At first glance, one finds the doctrines of Darwin a fairly simple instance of the scenic principle" (p.153). However, "many of the key terms in Darwin lend themselves readily to appeal by ambiguities of the pathetic fallacy" (p.153). In "trying to specify the exact nature of" Darwin’s Grammar, Burke finds that "In reducing all phenomena to terms of motion, biology is as unambiguously scenic as physics. But as soon as it encounters the subject of self-movement, it makes claims upon the areas covered by our term agent" (p.157). At this point, Burke introduces a "solution" for the situation: "the biologist’s word, ‘organism,’ is Grammatically the equivalent of ‘agent-minus’" (p.157). Burke concludes that "a diehard scenist might save the day for total materialism by contending that even two daisies living side by side may be living under different ‘external conditions’. . . .[and that] the scenic strategy may be applied even within the organism itself. . . .That is, the whole organism can be treated as ‘environment’ for any of its parts (p.158).

The Two Great Hellenistic Materialisms (159-160)

Burke considers how elements of materialistic philosophies, Epicureanism and and Stoicism, endow "the scene with properties of agent" (p.159).

On Epicureanism

Burke discusses the term or concept of swerve as a way of understanding existence or "‘acts of God’ in terms of sheer motion" (p.160). Swerve is the "accidental" collision of "atomic seeds" that "cause the endless evolution and destruction of worlds, things, and beings" (p.160). This is in direct opposition to the Stoic principle of the "action of divine purpose in the creation of the world" (p.159). This concept allows Burke to conclude that the ‘swerving atoms’ provide "a scenic derivation for human freedom, thereby maintaining the symmetry of the scene-act and scene-agent ratios" (p.160).

On Stoicism

Burke suggests that a "moral utilitarianism" emerges from the Stoic principle of "Nature as divine plan" due to the "purposive factor" (p.161). For Burke,"the agency-purpose ratio is the same as the integral Grammatical relation between means and ends; and the Stoic teleology clearly shows how this ratio provides a bridge ‘from Providence to pragmatism’" (p.161). Burke concludes that "we see the Stoic philosopher in the process of coming upon the function of agency, but still expressing the position primarily in terms of the starting point, purpose ("Providence")" (161).

Rhetorical and Symbolic Levels (161-170)

Burke provides "a few observations" of how Epicureanism and Stoicism might be examined "in of terms Rhetoric and Symbolic" levels (161). He presents six points "in the form of mere hypotheses, problems, or undemonstrated propositions:" "Note the evidence of . . . cross-purposes in Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura." The "poem. . .begins with a magnificent invocation to Venus, as the all-mother. . . . The theme develops from that of the divine fertility. . .but it ends when the theme has taken an a sinister quality." Burke states: "something seems to have gone wrong with the direction of this poem, at least as regards the philosophic ends of solace" (p.162). For Burke, agency-purpose implies means-ends.

Burke suggests that on closer examination "on the Symbolic plane" that "unresolved guilt may perhaps reside in this attack upon religions that believe in the punishments of heaven" (pp.162-163). "In the case of Lucretius. . .the possibilities of a secret ‘Epicurean guilt’ seem particularly strong." Moreover, "there seems to be some clash between the philosophic identity and the poetic one. . ." Burke suggests that "It is just possible that the unresolved guilt in this poem has given rise to a remarkable pun": "we need worry no more about doom after death than we worried, before our birth" (p. 164).

Burke then moves to the struggles of Stoicism. Burke questions the "sudden outbursts of impatience" in the Meditations of Aurelius. "Grammatically, the furthest we need go is this: the distinction between the finer rational matter of which mind is composed and the coarser matter of which body is composed may be heightened into a contrast." And suggests that "to account for the sudden bursts of fury against the body as resulting, on the Symbolic plane, from the fact that Stoic acceptance was aimed at the transubstantiation of the excremental, in attempting to proclaim even the repugnant aspects for the world as essentially divine" (pp. 165-166). "Stoicism, of course, covers quite a range of Stoics. And the Stoicism of Epictetus, the manumitted slave, differs greatly in its tone from that of Marcus Aurelius, the ruler of an empire" (p.166).

"I think that the Reichian doctrine could be applied to this ruler [Aurelius] who was, from the moral point of view, as thoroughly subject, and a worker, as an artisan could be." Burke recalls the theory of Wilhelm Reich as "a theory that sex repression protects capitalism by serving as a device to dispirit the working classes so that their assertiveness and aggressiveness are inhibited." And, concludes that "I believe I could subscribe to the Reichian theory" (pp.168-169).


Burke provides a series of definitions of "idealism" that highlight motivational "properties belonging to the term, agent," such as "ego," "self," "consciousness, "spirit" (p.171). This narrowing process allows Burke to equate the philosophy of idealism with agent.


Using the concept of an "‘ideal’ justice," Burke shows how economics influences individuals in the construction of social laws, thus, rendering these "ideal" material documents as "fiction" (pp.173-175).


Burke describes how idealism and materialism merge or intersect as a result of the influence of money and technology. Burke calls this "idealistic unification." For example, in order to "protect private wealth" when "inequalities of money" develop, wealthy groups and/or individuals request or influence the development of new "‘ideals’ (embodied in ‘laws’)" (pp.175-177).


Burke examines the idealistic philosophy of George Berkeley to show "why idealism is to be considered as a featuring of the term agent" (pp.177-181). Berkeley questions "the possibility of ‘abstract ideas.’" For example, he maintains "that one cannot conceive of a triangle in the abstract, but must have a picture. . .of some visible or tangible triangle.. . .so similarly with abstract ideas such as extension, color, animal, body" (p.177). Berkeley reduces "all sensory experience to ideas" (p.178). Berkeley argues for a "creative emphasis in idealism. . .called ‘the idea’" (p.179). "‘Ideas’ are ["inactive"] ‘unthinking’ things, since they are the things that the agent thinks" (p.179). "God. . .is Berkeley’s equivalent for the ultimate scene, scene as translated into terms of agent. What we experience as ‘things’ are ‘ideas’ which do not cease to be when we cease to think of them, since they are maintained in the mind of God" (p.181).


The skeptic Hume questions the concept of causality. In the sphere of metaphysics, Hume narrows the study of "ideas" in terms of "sensations." Burke observes and summarizes Hume’s philosophical approach through an inspection of Hume’s work Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding. (pp.181-184) Hume categorized ‘all the perceptions of the mind into two classes’: "thoughts or ideas," and "impressions" (p.182). "Hume derives ideas from purely sensory impressions" (p.182). "Hume observes that our idea of cause and effect ‘is not. . .attained by reasonings a priori, but arises entirely from experience" (p.182). "If we were to come into the world with fully developed powers of reason, yet without experiences of fact, we should not know what to anticipate" (p.183). ‘All inferences from experience. . .are effects of custom, not of reasoning’ (p.183).

Burke states: "In Hume’s skepticism the great dramatist cluster of terms. . .is beginning to fall apart." However, Hume was "correct in contending that there is no purely empirical evidence for concepts like causality, power, necessary connection" (p.183).

Leibniz (184-185)

Burke justifies Leibniz’s philosophic views "under the head of agent." Burke introduces Leibniz’s system of monads. "Leibnizian universe was a world of individuals ("monads"). . . .His ‘monads’ were atom-agents, each developing its own inner potentialities, its own particular range of growth" (p.184). In this sense Leibniz saw individuals as striving for or in search of perfection.

The Leibnizian concept of "pre-established harmony." Although individuals work in unity, they are also distinct and work independently. In this sense there is a harmonious relationship or balance between matter and "monads." "God so adjusted the monads to one another that their development would have the same effect as if they were all mutually constraining or influencing one another" (p.184).

Burke links Kant and Hume aspects of idealism with Leibniz. "The scientist emphasis is emergent in Leibniz." "And in Hume Kant encountered the development of idealism in direct response to scientism." "Idealism here had stressed psychology to the point where it came upon a ‘problem of knowledge,’ leading us to doubt the possibilities of ‘necessary’ truth as regards the world of facts" (p.185).

Kant (185-192)

Burke acknowledges that "the complexities of Kant’s philosophy" create some difficulties; specifically, providing enough information for those with limited background on Kant while simultaneously trying not to "irritate those who do know Kant’s philosophy already" (p.185). Working within a "dramatist Grammar" Burke constructs a "Kantian system to show that ‘experience derives from the nature of consciousness" (p.191). Burke provides a vocabulary and aspects of Kant’s philosophy. "Medium" equates to "Agent" (p.187).

Burke distinguishes Kant’s categories of the mind in relation to the Grammar: "We shall begin with this dividing our universal agent into two aspects. The ‘passive’ we shall assign to the sensibility. Abiding by the grammar of the word ‘data’ (the given), we shall view the senses as passive, since they receive representations of objects. If only as a grammatical reflex, we shall next look for an "active." And we find it in the understanding" (pp.187-188). Kant calls the representations of sense, "intuitions." "The ‘passive’ we shall assign to the sensibility. Abiding by the grammar of the word ‘data’ (the given), we shall view the senses as passive, since they receive representations of objects" (p.188). The "active" is found "in the understanding, which is active in that it performs the act of unification" (p.188).

"And the locating of . . . conditions in the agent as medium Kant calls ‘transcendental’" (p.189). "There is nothing but an inevitable is, a description of conditions as they necessarily are for human experience, so that Kant calls them ‘constitutive,’ which we could translate ‘scenic, with circumference narrowed to the scope of motion’" (p.191). "It is not materialism, since the scene itself is said to derive its character form a function of the term agent. And at this stage it is not supernaturalism, since the agent from which the nature of the scene is derived is not a divine super-agent but a kind of universalized human (we might call it a human mind in general)" (p.191).

Moral Transcendence in Kant (192-198)

"Ideas of reason:" "If ideas are active, the logic of the scene-act ration would require that they be derived from a different scene than the combined empirical-transcendental structure called the ‘constitutive’" (p.192). "We have phenomena (appearances, objects as we encounter them in everyday experience) and noumena (the undefined somethings that must lie behind appearances, hence cannot be sensed, but can be considered mentally)." Burke suggests that "such a step from conditioned to the unconditioned, or from things in relation to things-in-themselves" is "in brief, from necessity to freedom" (p.196). "The transcendental realm is the realm that gives things the nature they seem to have in the empirical realm" (p.193). "Science compels us to admit that things-in-themselves can’t be known" (p.195).

"The sources of morality thus lie beyond the reach of the terms proper to the physical sciences (which is but another way o saying that, in this terminology, action cannot be reduced to motion)" (p.195). According to Burke, Kant takes "the action out of the scene" (p.195).

Idealism after Kant (198-200)

Burke continues with Kant, then introduces the work of Johann Fichte (1762-1814), a Germen philosoher and post-Kantian idealist. "If the phenomenal is the realm of relationships, and the noumenal is the realm of things-in-themselves (i.e., without relationships), just how could there be a bond between the two realms? Otherwise put: If the noumenal is the realm of freedom and the phenomenal is the realm of necessity, is the connection between the two realms ‘free’ or ‘necessary’? Kant compromised on a weasel word, saying that the noumenal ‘influences’ the phenomenal" (p.198). "Fichte grounded his system wholly in agent, maintaining that the Kantian thing-in-itself was not necessary" (p.198).

Marxism (pp.200-202)

Burke discusses how "Marxian dialectical materialism grows out of idealism" (p.200). He states that Marxists are "dialectical materialists" and equates it with the Grammar agent term "idealistic materialist" (p.200). Burke justifies his point because "Marx and Engels were ‘neo-Hegelians’ before setting up their philosophic branch as a separate establishment" (p.201). Thus, Burke suggests that by tracing "key [Marxist] terms from an heraldic source in scene. . .there must be some quality of agenthood permeating the scene itself." Burke introduces the reader to the Communist Manifesto (p.202).

Hegel (202-204)

Burke explains Hegel’s theoretical view of history as a phenomena, a "development of Spirit" that realizes itself in "self-consciousness," "Freedom," and "Reason" (pp.202-203). This "Spirit" goes through a series of stages structured with "inherent contradictions" that influence its development; namely, growth and decay (p. 203). Burke connects the development of Hegel’s "Spirit" to agent. "Individual men do not air to further the ends of World History. They aim passionately to attain their own private ends, as determined by their own special interests. . . .’Secular pursuits are a spiritual occupation’" (203).

Communist Manifesto (204-209)

Burke looks at the tension of between the "scene-agent ration" within the Communist Manifesto, a "materialist doctrine that is to be the vessel antithetic to dialectical idealism" (p.204). "The Manifesto uses the scene-agent ratio materialistically when asserting that ‘every change in the conditions’ of man’s material existence is accompanied by a change in ‘man’s ideas, views, and conceptions, in one word, man’s consciousness’" (205-206). Burke suggests that Marxism can be viewed through the "act" Grammar frame: "From the standpoint of our Grammar, the whole philosophy is essentially ethical rather than scientist, in that its entire logic is centered about an act, a social or political act, the act of revolution" (209).

A Dramatist Grammar for Marxism (209-214)

Burke uses a dramatistic Grammar to "characterize the Marxist doctrine" (212); specifically, the featuring of "act." "The name for the leading post-revolutionary esthetic movement [in Russia] was ‘Socialist realism’—and we take this itself to be evidence of a tendency towards the featuring of act" (210). "So far as our dramatistic terminology is concerned, the Marxist philosophy began by grounding agent in scene, but by reason of its poignant concern with the ethical, it requires the systematic featuring of act. On the Symbolic level, it does feature act implicitly but intensely, in having so dramatic a pattern. On the Rhetorical level, its scientist and anti-scholastic vocabulary is needed for purposes of political dynamism (for the use of an ethical terminology would fail to differentiate the doctrine sufficiently from non-secular ways of salvation). But if, as an experiment, you try a systematic development of terms generated from act, the entire system falls into place" (210).

Santayana (214-223)

Burke compares Marx to Santayana in order to show how Santayana vacillates between idealism and materialism. Yet despite "the pragmatist influence upon his[Santayana’s] doctrines. . .he. . .submerges the pragmatist strain beneath strongly dramatistic patterns" (p.218). Burke begins with a summation: "All told, throughout these pages we have been considering five major aspects of science:

(1) high development of technological specialization

(2) involvement with rationale of money (accountancy)

(3) progressive departure from natural conditions, usually saluted in the name of ‘naturalism’"

(4) reduction of scenic circumference to empirical limits (the reason why the technological powers that take us farthest from natural conditions have been called ‘naturalistic’)

  1. stress upon the ‘problem of knowledge’ as the point of departure forphilosophic speculation" (pp.214-215).

Burke explains how Santayana’s "doctrine of essence" restricts "the idealist problem of knowledge," and thus, enables Burke to equate the Grammar term agent with "essences" (p.216).

Santayana’s doctrine of essence: "we see what we see. . . .There is not ‘illusion’ in appearances’" (p.216).

Santayana calls the perceiving of appearances "’intuition’. . . .[and]the appearances themselves he calls ‘essences’" (p.216).

Burke sums up Santayana’s distinction between essence and existence with a child’s observation: "There is an Easter bunny, but he isn’t real" (p.219). Therefore, the Easter bunny "is an essence that does not exist" (p.219). "The essences are a realm of eternal ‘possibilities,’ only a small fraction of which are ever embodied in natural existence" (p.220). Burke concludes with a criticism of scientism: "[Santayana’s] estheticizing of essence is, in its own way, as pronounced a step away from the familial substance as it the trend of science. But whereas science takes this step by renouncing dramatist terms, Santayana retains them" (p.223).

Imagination (223-226)

Burke begins by stating that: "In the course of showing how and why idealism is identical with the featuring of the term agent, we have incidentally shown how deeply ‘scientism’ has permeated modern thought" (p.223). Burke proffers: "One is well advised to look for scientist stress in any terminology that has its start in modern idealism. . . .For our modern views of the imagination come to us via the idealist Coleridge from the idealist Kant—and we have already seen the strong scientist bias in the Kantian doctrines" (p.223).

Burke then analyzes an essay by Wallace Stevens to show how "the key term ‘imagination’ . . .figures in a theory of poetry that is basically scientist" (p.225).

ACT (227-274)

"Aristotle and Aquinas" (pp.227-232)

Aristotle’s six elements of tragedy and Aquinas's insights on Aristotle’s "four causes" (p.228) may have engendered Burke’s pentad. Burke begins with an argument that "scholastic realism" is an "action" (p.227). Burke shows the "dramatist nature of both Aristotle and Aquinas" by connecting "Aquinas's comments on Aristotle's four causes" with the terms of the pentad (p.228).

(1) "material" cause with scene

(2) "efficient" cause with agent

  1. "final" cause with purpose
  2. "formal" cause with act which overlaps with agency

Burke then aligns Aristotle’s "six elements of tragedy" with the Grammar (p.231):

(1) Plot to act

(2) Character to agent

(3) Thought to purpose

(4) Spectacle to scene

(5) and (6) Melody and Diction to agency

The "Pathetic Fallacy" (232-235)

Burke describes how the "pathetic fallacy" is an extension of the motion-action ambiguity" (p.232). (Also, see PC p. 213.) Burke provides a definition of the "pathetic fallacy" in its "pure form" (p.233). Burke establishes a link between motion and scientism, and action and dramatism. For Burke, "the realm of motion is now par excellence the realm of instruments. No instrument can record or gauge anything in the realm of action ("ideas"), except insofar as the subject-matter can be reduced to the realm of motion (p.234). Burke cautions the critic that if a "vocabulary midway between ‘mind’ and ‘body’. . . .seems to be found. . .be on the look-out for the covert workings of the action-motion ambiguity (pp.234-235).

"Incipient" and "Delayed" Action (235-247)

Using selected literary works of I.A. Richard, George Herbert Mead, and Alfred Korzybski, Burke explores their concepts of "incipient" and "delayed action."

On I. A. Richards:

Burke states: "The symbolic representation of some object or event in art to feel such emotions as would be associated with the actual object or event, while at the same time we make allowance for it as a fiction" (p.236). Burke notes: "the concept of incipient acts is ambiguous. As an attitude can be the substitute for an act, it can likewise be the first step towards an act" (p.236).

On George Herbert Mead:

Mead alters the view of "incipient" from "the sphere of social relations": attitudes are ‘the beginnings of acts’" (p.236). Burke states that Mead’s "concern is primarily with the incipient as the introductory rather than with the incipient as the substitutive" (p.236). Mead’s definition of "attitude of the other": According to Burke, "When we arouse in ourselves the attitudes that language serves to arouse in others" (p.236). This action ("attitude") is not motion, but action. Burke states that action "is equated with the internal motivations of an organism which, confronting reality from its own special point of view or biological interests, encounters ‘resistance’ in the external world" (p.237). As such, the individual "becomes aware of himself in terms of them (or generally, in terms of the ‘other’). And his attitudes, being shaped by their attitudes as reflected in him, modify his ways of action" (p.237).

On Alfred Korzybski:

Burke states that "Korzybski’s concern is primarily with the criticism of man’s major social instrument, language" and that Korzybski largely agrees with Mead’s perspective, but would encourage the "delayed response" (p.238). Korzybski’s technique recommends that an individual interpose a "moment of delay" between the "Stimulus and the Response" in order to control meaning (p.239). According to Burke, Korzybski’s doctrine of the delayed action, as based on the ‘consciousness of abstracting,’ involves the fact that any term for an object puts the object in a class of similar objects" (p.240). Burke points out that Korzybski’s technique falls short with regard to the "analysis of poetic forms": "For ‘semantics’ is essentially scientist, an approach to language in terms of knowledge, whereas poetic forms are kinds of action" (p.240). Burke summarizes Korzybski’s technique for delaying action and motion as a "body" and "mind" or "mental" and "physiological" training (p.242).

Burke summarizes the perspectives of Richards, Mead, and Korzybski: "All told, the attitude or incipient act is a region of ambiguous possibilities." "The notion of the attitude as an incipient or delayed action would seem to be a special application of the concept of ‘potentiality.’" "The realm of the incipient, or attitudinal, is the realm of ‘symbolic action’ par excellence; for symbolic action has the same ambiguous potentialities of action" (pp.242-243).

Realist Family and Nominalist Aggregate (247-252)

Burke looks at the distinctions between nominalism and realism. "From the standpoint of dramatistic generation," Burke states that"Korzybski’s method . . . is characteristically scientist and nominalist" (p.248). "In its extreme form, nominalism holds that universals ‘are only names.’" "The realist Grammar works the other way round: It begins with a tribal [clan] concept, and treats individuals as participants" (p.248). "Realism treats individuals as members of a group, whereas nominalism treats groups as aggregates of individuals" (p.248). "On the Grammatical level, traditional realism favors the term, act" (p.249). "Rationality is a way"; more specifically, a "a kind of action" (p. 250). "Thus, rationality, as the ‘essence’ of man, is tribal, formal, and an act" (p. 250).

Further Remarks on Act and Potency (252-262)

Burke states that this section is "simply as a review, from the dramatist standpoint, of grammatical principles involved in the attributing of motives" (p.252). Outlined below are some of his musings:

  1. "All such scientist approaches. . . .provide us with incongruous perspectives that enable us to see mankind from many angles" (p.252).
  2. "Modern science asks how acts are motivated; but Aristotelian science tells how motions are activated" (p.252).
  3. "Plato equated the divine with the abstract, apparently because both transcend the realm of the senses. Hence, nearly everything that this greatest of dialecticians says of ‘heaven’ can be profitably read as a statement about language" (p.253).
  4. "Plato used dialectic as a method leading towards the discovery of truth. The dialectic was a means; the truth (knowledge of the Good) was its end" (p.253).
  5. "The Aristotelian concept of the pure act as the final cause of all motion possesses possibilities of reversal. The motions toward it might be interpreted as motions derived from it" (p.254).
  6. On Aristotle’s introduction of "principle" in his theory of entelechy: "Everything that comes into existence moves towards an end. This end is the principle of its existence; and it comes into existence for the sake of this end" (p.261).
  7. Definition of ration: "a ration is a formula indicating a transition from one term to another. Such a relation necessarily possesses the ambiguities of the potential, in that the second term is a medium different from the first" (p.262).

Psychology of Action (262-274)

Burke states: "In brief, all psychologies can, without violence to their subject matter, be approached dramatistically, as vocabularies concerned with the kinds and conditions of actin and passion" (p.272). Burke revisits Spinoza and applies the terms "action" and "passion" to various "writer[s] of imaginative literature" (p. 262-264). Burke states that "when considering the vocabulary of that essentially liberal psychology, psychoanalysis, we look for the common underlying Grammar by classing ‘frustration,’ ‘fixation,’ ‘complex,’ and the like as species of passion; and ‘adjustment,’ or ‘normality’ as equivalents of action" (p.269). "From the standpoint of the Grammatical voices," Burke questions "whether the active and passive are enough, or whether we may also require a middle voice in our Grammar of motives" (p.273).


"The Philosophy of Means" (275-281)

Burke analyzes the meaning of "Pragmatism." He considers the Baldwin dictionary as well as philosophers such as Dewey, William James, Aristotle. Burke concludes: "There must be as many ‘pragmatisms" as there are philosophies" (p.275).

Burke links pragmatism with agency. "According to James, the pragmatist evaluates a doctrine by its ‘consequences,’ by what it is ‘good for,’ by the ‘the difference it will make to you and me,’ or by its ‘functions,’ or by asking whether it ‘works satisfactorily’. . . .(that is, its function as a means in satisfying desires)" (p.277). "Agency has not yet become the ancestral term, but is seen in terms of universal purpose" (p.277). The "concept of biologic functioning": "the bodily organs are means toward ends; each insofar as it is functioning properly, carries out the kind of ‘purpose’ for which it is designed. . . .Insofar as the instrumentations of biological adjustment are stressed, we have the pragmatist stress upon agency, while allowing for such a level of ‘action’ as we noted in Santayana’s concept of ‘animal faith’" (p.279). However, Burke notes: "Though our laboratory instruments may transcend human purpose, they exist only as the result of human purpose" (p.281).

The Range of Pragmatism (281-287)

Burke traces the development of the historical context of "the concept of ‘conditions’" from the "highly generalized" to "particularization" (p.281). "Pragmatist history enters. . .with the concept of the ‘documentary’ as the historiographers ideal" (p.282). James was in "a conflict of dramatist and positivist ideals, as revealed in the notion truth" (p.282). "James pragmatism. . .stands midway between the ethical or dramatist sense of act and the positivist-scientist reduction of the act to terms of sheer events. . . .And this midway position is fittingly manifested in terms of agency" (p.283). Therefore, "this concept of agency contains. . .the ambiguity of . . .two verifications: (1) The verification of an act by an act, as believing is the test of belief: (2) the verification of an act-less scenic statement by an act framed in accordance with the scenic statement, as one can test a map by following it in the charting of one’s course" (p.283).

On the Symbolic level, Burke equates woman--the maternal figure or the erotic figure—with Agency (pp.283-284). "Instruments are ‘essentially’ human. . . .But as regards the functioning of Agency on the Symbolic level we are advised to be on the look-out for a personal principle of another order. . .a realm of personal utility in the person of the mother" (p.283). "As regards the Grammatical relation between Agency and Purpose: when translated into sexual terms, it presents an opportunity, on the symbolic level, for involvement in the relation between the maternal woman and the erotic woman" (p.284).

"Since the requirements of such science [applied] favor the elimination of Purpose, or final cause, the means-ends relation provokes a shift to the term nearest of kin, which can supply the functions of purpose even when the term is formally omitted as a locus of motives" (p.286). "Once Agency has been brought to the fore, the other terms readily accommodate themselves to its rule" (p. 287).

Ends (287-291)

Burke equates "Mysticism with the featuring of our term, Purpose" (p.287). Sociologically: "although individual mystics may arise at any period of history, mystical philosophies appeal as a general social manifestation in times of great skepticism or confusion about the nature of human purpose" (p.288). "Something for Itself’s Sake": "the pattern that attains its highest level of generality in the ‘pure’ motive of money" (p.289). The "doctrines of Art for Art’s Sake would seem to fluctuate between the Pragmatic and the Mystical. . . .[T]he Art for Art’s Sake formula would embody the grammatical form: Agency its own Purpose" (p.289). "Mysticism and Materialism become indistinguishable. Both involve a narrowing of motivational circumference" (p.291).

Modifications of Purpose (292-311)

"Purpose in Aristotle"

"As against the Mystic absolutism, perhaps the most realistic synonym for purpose is the Aristotelian ‘happiness’ (eudaimonia)" (p.292).

"Platonist and Neo-Platonist Purpose"

The "equating of ‘good’ and ‘purpose’ comes nearer to mysticism in Plato, since he likewise equates the Good with the One" (p.293).

"Physiology of Mysticism"

Burke emphasizes a point he made "in Permanence and Change, speculating on the purely physiological responses involved in the mystic trance" (p.294).

"Purposiveness in the Negative"

Informed by Bergson’s perspective on the negative, Burke makes a "dramatistic revision" and establishes: "That the negative of negative theology is another variant of our term, Purpose" (p.297).

"Unity and the Reflexive"

"As for the experience of mystic unity: note that communion is a unification. Such a feeling of unity implies the transcending of a disunity. Thus, in considering the psychology of mysticism, we find ourselves trying to chart a fluctuant situation in which merger and division keep changing places [reflexive]" (p.297).

"Mysticism and Idealism: The Self"

"As we go from Purpose to Unity, and from Unity to Self, we see how Mysticism and Idealism reinforce each other. For Self is, of course, directly under the sign of Agent" (p.299).

"Images and the ‘Demonic Trinity’"

Burke seems to be arguing that there is a "correlation between symbolic action and actual motion" (p.302). He suggests that this happens "in somewhat transcendent terms" between "social and moralistic imagery" (p.301). Symbolic action is the process of "self-purification" (p.301) and actual motion is the process of human biological functioning; namely, the genital, urinary, and intestinal tracts.


"Images may lead to mystical transcendence of the person in generalizing the concept of role to the point where the realistic or dramatistic notion of people in situations retreats behind the pure lyric of imagistic succession" (p.300).

"Demonic Trinity"

The uniting of "the three principles of the erotic, urinary, and excremental" (p.302). Although these biological functions cannot be stopped, Burke seems to be saying that they could be controlled.

"The substantial nature of imagery may often produce an unintended burlesque of substance, in drawing upon the ambiguities of the cloacal. . . .[The] images from the cloacal sources are basic to the ‘thinking of the body’; and we may expect their privy nature to complicate the capitalist rationale of private property" (pp.301-302).

"Silence and the Hunt"

"Another purely biological motive involved in mysticism derives from the fact that at the very centre of mobility is the purpose of the hunt" (p.303). "Mystic silence has its roots in the purposive" (p.303).

"The Mystic ‘Moment’"

"And so it is with the dialectical principle of the Upward Way. Beginning with the particulars of the world, and with whatever principle of meaning they are already felt to possess, it proceeds by stages until some level of generalization is reached that one did not originally envisage, whereupon the particulars of the world itself look different, as seen in terms of this ‘higher vision’" (p.306).

"Mysticism of Means"

Burke suggests there is a similar relationship or "pattern of thought" between "pragmatist" and "mysticism" and "purpose." "[T]he over-stress upon purpose leads readily into an overly pointed consideration of all policies in terms of means and ends alone. That is, the terms scene, act, and agent fall away as we talk simply of purposes and the agencies proper to those purposes" (p.309).

Rationalism and the Verbal Medium (311-317)

Burke provides dictionary "meanings for rationalism" and suggest that they "contain the same methodological stress" (p.311). "In its stress upon method, rationalism stands as a forerunner to pragmatism" (p.312). Burke connects "pragmatism" with "empiricism": "Pragmatism, like empiricism" (p.312). Then goes on to state that "from the dialectical point of view. . .there is nothing ‘anti-rationalist’ in the empiricist position" (p.313).

Means and Ends of This Grammar (317-320)

Burke provides his insights, cautionary aphorisms, and what might be labeled "words of wisdom" about the study of language, communication, and human relations.

The five pentad terms are "‘transcendental’ rather than formal in being categories which human thought necessarily exemplifies. . . .[They are] ‘forms of talk about experience. For our concern is primarily with the analysis of language rather than with the analysis of ‘reality’" (p.317). A "linguistic instrument" is necessary to "view human relations. . . .if men are to temper the absurd ambitions that have their source in faulty terminologies"(p.317). Lest the evil forces of capitalism take over! In addition, an "attitude and a method of wider scope" are also needed. "The attitude itself would be grounded in the systematic development of the methods. The method would involve the explicit study of language as the ‘critical moment’ at which human motives take form." The attitude would recognize "that the school of ideas is divisible into both a gymnastic of ideas and a clinic of ideas" (p.318). (note the health metaphor.) A Grammar of Motives "is constructed on the belief that, whereas an attitude of humanistic contemplation is in itself more important by far than any method, only by method could it be given the body necessary for its existence even as an attitude. . . .[T]he study of linguistic action is but beginning" (p.319). "By the use of dialectical resources, we shape the versions of human motives that have so greatly much to do with our individual actions and our relations to one another" (p.320).

A Grammar of Motives Part Three

Chapter One:  The Dialectic of Constitutions

(This chapter is composed of thirty-seven entries, varying in length from less than a page to roughly three pages.)

Necessity for Representative Case

Section three “is to deal with matters of substance and enactment as they apply to Constitutions” (323).  This will include:  “the bearing of these principles...upon judicial tactics;” tracing “the relation between Constitutional principles and the patterns of litigation; and relating “the grammar of Constitutional wishes...to the rhetoric of political manifestoes and promises” (323).

According to Burke, “our analytic instruments must be shaped in conformity with representative idealist anecdotes...And a Constitution would be an ‘idealistic anecdote’ in that its structure is an enactment of human wills” (323).

Citing an early draft of an introduction to this section, Burke presents his reasoning for selecting a Constitution for his anecdote:  “an idiom should be developed by forming itself about some anecdote summational in character, some anecdote wherein human relations grandly converge” (324).  According to Burke, a Constitution fits these criteria.  He asks “what social philosophy could be more through in its patriotism?” (325) before alerting us that he needs to discuss further the considerations made while an selecting anecdote in order to “cast more light on the motivational grammar” (325):  a discussion that will last for roughly a dozen pages.

The Two Circles

“Two circles” refers to relation between consciousness and matter as one similar to the relation of a larger and smaller concentric circles, which is Burke’s way of complicating “metonymic anecdotes” that would conceive of consciousness as having a parallel, corresponding physical state” (325).  Concentric circles, he argues, “could  be treated as being either in appositon or  in opposition (as either consistent or compensatory counterparts)” (325).  He adds that an anecdote “must be a part for the whole rather than a reduction to the physical (326).

Terminal as Anecdote

Burke (who refers to himself in the royal plural), explains his rejection of the railway terminal as a metonymic anecdote.  He rejects the idea for its connotation of terms (which he relates to an attempt to graph a person walking, which produced a “dismal” representation or “reduction” of walking) and for it’s inability to “include dialectical complexities,” which would necessitate disregarding the “interwovenness of traditions, needs, and expectancies that could no be located in the idiom of our chosen anecdote”(327).

Representativeness of Total War

Having rejected metonymic reductions, Burke attempts to find ”some representative public enactment, to which all members of a given social body  variously but commonly subscribe” (328).  After discussing examples “synecdochically” representative examples pertaining to more “primitive communities,” Burke decides that “due to the dispersion of technological and commercial enterprise, the act that comes closest to the totality of tribal festivals and the agape is the act of war” (328).  This too is rejected as “Modern war in general”  would be “more of a confusion  that a form” and because to select war as an anecdote would be to “(proclaim) war as the essence of human relations” (329).  At the close of this section he says that war and “the militarist core in all historic converse” seems a likely candidate for discussion as even when the country was not engaged militarily there was a class war that left “thousands of prisoner held in concentration camps” (330).

The Constitution and the Admonitory

Burke differentiates between war as constitutive and admonitory anecdote.  He warns that “Where war is used as a constitutive anecdote, the characteristic pattern of thinking would be...’The Universe is substantially war’” (330).  He goes on to discuss this “survival form the recipe of original sin” and the difficulty of determining whether it is constitutive or admonitory, followed by the by objecting to its use if its admonitory as:  1) an anecdote about what one may become is hardly the most direct way of discussing what one is and 2) it would make an unlikely “deterrent” (331). He derides (Darwinism/Evolutionist) “doctrines of ‘progress’” as having “(ushered) in precisely the gloom they thought they were ushering out” (331). 

Peace:  Constitutive or Directive?

In this piece, Burke argues that peace, while “reasonable enough as a directive” is, “in the ordinary brands of pacifism...a general direction towards which one should incline when plotting a course;” it is “too futuristic” (332), and “not a statement about what substantially is” (333).

Futurism:  Religious and Secular

(In what is possibly a discussion of the avante-garde-era Futurist movement) Burke contrasts religious futurism and secular futurism:  “Whereas both would merge present and future, religious futurism does so by reducing the future to the present, whereas secular futurism reduces the present to the future” (334).  We have all, he says, become “investors” (that is, future-oriented) “capable only of glimpsing a philosophy of Being” (334).  Burke continues with what might be an “optimistic” discussion of the “dwindling” of investment opportunities and its implications for futurism as an idiom (335).

Position Epitomized

Burke asserts that we must “see around the edges of our customary perspective” (335) in order to understand “motivational assumptions” and in order to combat the rise of National-Socialism or racism that comes with the frustration of future investment (336).  After recapping his points thus far, he concludes that “the world as we know it, the world of history, cannot be described in its particularities by an idiom of peace” (337).  As ”Men’s conception of motive...is integrally related to their conception of substance” (337), our concern must be with “problems of constitutionality” (338).  Therefore, “the survival of the Constitutional titles or clauses through radical reconstructions of the national situation will give us testimony about the nature of unity and division that serves pretty much as the over-all category for everything, and certainly for human relations” (338).

Imagistic and Conceptual Summaries

After commenting on the form of Part III, and the explanatory work that he has done up to this point, Burke writes that in Richard Wright’s Native Son, there were “ two kinds of epitomizing...one imagistic and the other conceptual,” which pursues through a discussion of the form of this novel, and the order in which the author professes to have written it.

Five Basic Terms as Beginnings
Here Burke sums up the process of (re)writing the introductory pieces and how the pentad came to take its position in this exercise.  He will now proceed to discuss Constitutions (340).

Meanings of “Constitution”

Burke lays out the “ordinary dictionary usages” of “Constitution” as evidence that this is “a word that has to do with matters of substance and motives” and that it “covers all five terms of our pentad,” though he will be dealing with the “legal applications of the word” (341). 

Law, according to Burke, is both “the commodification of custom “ and the “a device for the transformation of customs” (342).  He uses this as an occasion to chide the implementation of innovations “in the name of tradition” by the wealthy.

“A constitution,” according to Burke, “is a substance- and as such, it is a set of motives” (342), used to “(proclaim) a common substance” (343).  He draws comparison between constitution and religious texts and political platforms (this followed by a critique of Mr. (Herbert) Read’s term “anarcho-syndicalism.”

Technical Immunity of “Anarchism” as Ideal

Burke begins a critique of Read’s work that will run through page 349 (with sporadic mention afterwards).  He begins by noting that Read claimed immunity for his “vision” as not testable by “practicality.”  Burke says that no ideal is testable as such, as “ideals are by definition something that you don’t attain; they are merely directions in which you aim” (344).  Anarchy, “like Christ’s vision” is “the vision of a world in which contradictions merge”…a state of absolute continuity approached through a state absolute discontinuity” and as such testable only through “the test of moral grandeur and stylistic felicity” (345).

”Anarcho-Syndacalism” – the Ideal Organized

Burke the relationship between the terms “Anarcho” and “Syndacalism” from Read’s work: “Anarcho” being related to the “ideal,” the “Sermon on the Mount ,” and “soul”; “Syndicalism being related to the “worldly,” “the epistolary,” “the body” (345-6).  In short, he is making explicit the fairly obvious oxymoronic character of the term.

The Anarcho-Syndacalist “Constitution”

Burke reads Read as presenting “a dialectic of Being vs. Having-Become” (346) in his assertion that “form, pattern, and order…are the attributes of death” (346).  Burke considers Read’s most important dialectics/binaries to be “relation between ‘poetry’ and ‘business and … between ‘imagination’ and ‘reason’” (347).   He quotes Read at length to establish that, in Read’s work, poetry and business are represented as “in opposition” or conflict while reason and imagination are seen “seen as in equilibrium” (348-9).  There are such balances and conflicts between clauses in constitutions as well, particularly in their application (349). 

A New Constitution for Laissez faire

Burke now focuses on H. B. Parkes’s Marxism:  An Autopsy.  This brief entry addresses Parkes’s use of the terms “negative” and “positive” laissez-faire (positive including things “property rights of every worker in his job” ) (350).  Though Parkes would be a reformer, Burke finds that he tries to “preserve the same substance” as well as name (350).

A Spectrum of Terms Between “Freedom” and “Capitalism”

In order to more effectively dismantle Parkes, Burke addresses the following terms, which fall into a “spectrum” or continuum of sorts:
*Freedom:  “the ‘God’ term, which Burke points out can be freedom from “dictatorial or monopolistic interference (351).
*Humanism:  “The human is the area of the “substantially” free” (351).
*laissez-faire:  At first a curious placement, Burke seems to say that this terms position comes from the ambiguity of whose “hands” are to be “off” (352).
*free market:  Burke uses the powerful term “slave market” to drive home the “imposition” involved in the “free market” (352-3)
*price system (money):  which helps make the “free market” become “second nature” (353)
*industrialism & capitalism:  “Applied science”

Strategic Choice of Circumference for “Freedom”

By comparison, Parkes, according to Burke, did not establish a definition of freedom based in the historical or theological (354).  For Burke, free market is a misnomer as long as that freedom does not apply to workers.

Money as “God-Term”

“God terms” are the “ultimate motivation, or substance, of a Constitutional frame” and money would be the “God term” that forces peoples to migrate in search of work  (355).  Burke cites Marx’s emphasis on knowledge and alleges that slaves are the most free, for they are aware of their restraints (356).  He reasons that this is why Parkes is compelled to attack Marxism.

”Principles” and “Reform”

Burke nicely points out the inconsistency of laissez-faire in practice when he cites Reads argument that the government should manipulate the money market and/or interest rates to create conditions favorable to industry (356-7).  For Burke, this is not reformation, but transformation, and the abandonment of laissez-faire motivation (357).

Constitutions and the Opponent
“constitutions are agonistic instruments,” Burke writes.  They exist to establish motive between potentially conflicting parties.  Constitutions are an attempt to “base a statement as to what should be upon a statement as to what is”  an attempt to create both substance and statement (358).  Returning the conversation to Parkes, Burke argues that Parkes vacillates between principles and practice to suit the needs of his argument..  In his closing comments on Read and Parkes, Burke concludes that neither, then, offer much clarity upon close inspection (360).

Constitutions – Addressed by Agents to Agents

“(A) Constitution, as a substance propounds certain desires, commands, or wishes.  It is idealistic, as we use the term, in that such attributes are the properties of the term agent” (360).    We fail to see constitutions as idealist because “the persons to whom the clauses are addressed must necessarily change with the course of history.” As a result of this vagueness, we forget that commands are addressed (unlike Mosaic commands in the second person) (361).


In addition to being seen as Agent., a constitution can be seen as Scenic as well.  As the environment (in the broadest sense) changes, so too must the (partial) scene presented by the constitution (362).  The environment in which the US constitution was created contributed to a capitalist document that sought to limit the power of its government (362)

Shifts in the Locus of the “Representative”

As the “representative class” shifted from nobility to a broader public, the application of the constitution did as well .  Burke suggests “that a document, arising at a given period in history, should not be treated…simply as though its ‘principles’ were something eternal, for eternal things do not have a beginning, and these did” (365). 

The Generalizing of Wishes

A principle, once generalized to a great enough degree, “can be considered eternal or universal” (365).  The “Golden Rule” is an example of such a general principle, and the idea of liberty, being just as broad, can be interpreted just as loosely in a constitution (366-7).

Limits and Powers of a Constitution

Through the example of a hypothetical Ideal Constitution for Students, which would grant them rights unattainable or superfluous guarantees, Burke argues that “a human Constitution is an act of supererogation (good beyond that required).  The US Constitution, a Constitution “for small businesses” has undergone a change of scene in which the Constitution “abolishes itself” (367).  Burke argues that the New Deal era directive of “private economic security” was established with a capitalist motive (367-8).  This is an example of the manner in which the motives of constitutions define the terms in which men “evaluate their public acts” (368).

Constitutional Tactics of Coleridge’s “Pantisocracy” Project

Coleridge differentiated between “impulse” (acting “spontaneously”) and “motive” (calculated; such as in “[writing] a poem for money” (368).  His work shifts between a view of motive as “the more restricted idiom, but concentric with the wider idiom of impulse” and antagonistic relationship between the two (368-9).    With the Pantisocracy project (“an early Utopian enterprise”) he proposed that the answer to this antagonism is a virtuous society sans private property.  Burke criticizes Coleridge's “hope for spontaneous virtue and the total act” (370), and ends: “by such crass simplifications, people are emptied rather than filled…” (371).

Constitutions but Partially Representative

Returning to constitutions, Burke argues that “if the total act cannot be attained in a partial world” there is little hope for it “in a document attesting to a public act” (371).  The act of creating a new country/constitution was not unanimous, and it was “an act of division” that established a concern with “rights of minorities” that monopoly power jeopardizes (372).  This condition should create “a stronger incentive of the great majority of the people to conceive of their interests collectively” (373). 

Principles of the Conflict among Principles

Burke “would equate ‘principles’ with terms having a volitional element… ‘Principles’ in this sense are a decreeing of substance, hence a decreeing of motives” (373).  “A constitution is but a partial act” and as the acts to which it applies involve “motives that lie partially within and partially beyond the factors named in the Constitution” he considers “principles” to refer “to the judicial standards” developed from the Constitution. (373).  Thus, “There are principles in the sense of wishes, and there are principles in the sense of interrelationships and among the wishes” (374).

Constitution Makes Extra-Constitutionality Mandatory

Burke reminds us that “Constitution” is “a word for ‘substance’ or ‘ground’ which imposes the quality of its motivation upon all acts enacted within its circumference.”  When constitutions contain contradictions courts must engage in “a new act, an act of arbitration” (376), and in short extra-Constitutionality becomes mandatory (377).  “A written Constitution…is a calculus of motives…a terminology, or set or coordinates, for the analysis of motives” and must “_enforce_ a great measure of intellectual tolerance and extra-constitutional speculation” (377).  Not surprisingly, the tolerance of a “business Constitution” is somewhat conflicted.

Some Degrees of Constitutionality in Every Law

As a “law that frustrates one wish in the Constitution will, by the same token, gratify another” (378),
“it is obvious that if the Court selects but one principle by which to test the legislative measure in question… it has simply not confronted the issue” (379).  Precedent allows the court to take extra-Constitutional factors into consideration, “but in appearance such decisions were purely internal to the traditions of Constitutional law” (379).  Burke posits that as the “scene” is changing so rapidly, precedent might serve society best in reverse (379-80).

”Essentializing” and “Proportional” Strategies of Interpretation

“The essentializing strategy would be that of selecting one clause or other in the Constitution, and judging a measure by reference to it.  The proportional strategy would require a more complex procedure, as the Court would test the measure by reference to all the wishes in the Constitution…to state explicitly a doctrine of proportions” (380).  Courts must act to create a hierarchy of constitutional wishes (380).  Burke discusses this first in terms of elections and Federal powers during the New Deal period, and his discussion leads him to the conclusion that “any one of the Constitution principles would lead to an absurd state of affairs, if enforced independently of all the other principles that modify it” (384). 

Marshall’s Argument for Right of Judicial Review

Burke begins with a critique of Chief Justice Marshall’s decision  establishing the right of review as being in conflict with his “strategies of Interpretation,” primarily with the need for a strategy of proportionality.  He contrasts this to Marshall’s precedent of deciding on the “implications” of the constitution (386-7).

Constitutional Unity and Political Diversity

 Burke discusses the changing and the constant qualities of “our capitalist Constitution:” changing in that it is both scene and act; constant in that “its essential character (is) as an enactment of human wills” (388).   He cites “states of ‘emergency’” as evidence of framers’ awareness that “a human constitution…could not be total” (389).  It is continually being reevaluated in accordance with “the particularities of the scene” (389).  He briefly contrasts bloc and coalition governments, paying particular attention to the role of lobbyists and their “pure babel (sic) of fractional and factional motivations” (390).

Role of the President

Presidents, according to Burke, “(seek) to act as the happy resultant of these many contradictory motives” (391).  He (sic) must “must find for himself and his party a ‘substance’ or ‘constitution,’ of varying duration” (391).  Using FDR as an example, he further argues that a president must have “strong opposing groups with which to work” as “if the material situation itself contains vast conflicts of interests, he must keep all the corresponding voices vocal” while maintaining “some over-all motive, or situation” for all parties (392).

Political Rhetoric as Secular Prayer

This brief section begins with a hypothetical (2nd person) president using style to either temper the reception of “a measure that would strongly alienate some highly influential class” or exaggerate an unpopular moderate position.  This would not be “a misuse of language,” according to Burke, and to call it hypocrisy “would be totally misleading: it would be not judicious, but litigious” (393).  He argues that FDR’s popular programs that were presented as “collectivism” were “more like the extension of individualism into new areas” (394).

War and Collective* Nature of Sacrifice (*table of contents reads “Collectivistic”)

Continuing his discussion of collectivism and individualism, Burke argues that “A genuine change from individualism to collectivism as a motive would” involve…a shift in the locus and definition of wealth” (394).  Through examples such as the Empire State Bldg. (in contrast to a public dam in Russia) and baseball, Burke asserts that there is collectivistic spirit here, aside from “privately owned businesses which but have the mask of public institutions” (395).  The only area, according to Burke, in which the press does not compare public institutions with “private models…is the military,” and that only in regards to “the recruiting of a fighting force” (395).  This press warned against public expenditures for all except military contractors.  Although the public and non-war industry were briefly expected to sacrifice consumer goods during the war, the peacetime worker “possessed a dual role.  As a wage-earner he was feared” and as a consumer he was “an object of almost abject courtship’ (396).  War time economies, then, create a paradox, where the culture of individualism must sell workers on a concept of “sacrifice,” which Roosevelt “dropped” for fear of the “collectivist slogans of the New Deal era” and the “collectivist quality of a war situation” complementing one another (398). 

The Dialectics of Federation

The essay is, for the most part, a reaction to “The Idea of a Federation,” by Denis de Rougemont (published 1941).  De Rougemont suggests a “federalist philosophy” which Burke addressed in terms of “unity and diversity” (399).  While de Rougemont presents a federation of nation-states as a “marriage,” Burke chastises his work for positing a marriage “not bound together in a community of economic interests” and therefor “antagonistic” (399).  In reference to a more agreeable passage on “the union and autonomy of the parts that are united” by a federation, Burke notes his own previous scholarship, which framed in terms of a discussion of Coleridge, who “knew that there must be a concept of ‘one’ behind a concept of ‘many,’ or a concept of ‘many’ behind a concept of ‘one’” (400).

Chapter Two:  Dialectic in General
(This chapter is composed of ten entries.)

The Transformation of Terms

The section introduces Burke’s working definitions of “dialectic:”  “By Dialectics in the most general sense we mean the employment of the possibilities of linguistic transformation.  Or we may mean the study of such possibilities” (402).  Burke offers no less than ten additional definitions of dialectic, all of which “are variants or special applications of the functions we shall consider under our three headings” (403).  These headings are:

(1) Merger and division. (There may be a state of merger, or a state of division, or developments from either state to the other.)
(2) The Three Major Pairs:  action-passion, mind-body, being-nothing.
(3) Transcendence.  (Transcendence likewise may be either a state or a development…
(p. 402)

Merger and Division

Burke introduces “merger” and “division” through the works and comments of Socrates, Kant, and Eric T. Bell.  For Socrates, Merger is “the comprehension of scattered particulars in one idea” and “on the principle of division, he says that the dialectician must learn to carve an idea at the joints, ‘not breaking any part as a bad carver might’” (403).  Kant has similar comments of “unity” and “specification,” but he also “(introduces) a third principle that partakes somewhat of both the others.”  This is “continuity” (404).  Burke assures us that a third principle is needed and suggests that “The paradox of substance contains something of all three principles” (405). 

Dialectic of the Scapegoat

Burke presents the scapegoat as “a very clear example of the three principles,” in that “we have here: (1) an original state of merger…(2) a principle of division, in that the elements shared in common being ritualistically alienated; (3) a new principle of merger, this time in the unification of those whose purified identity is defined in dialectical opposition to the sacrificial offering” (406).  The “Hitlerite cult of Anti-Semitism” is examined as an example of the scapegoating process.

Per Genus et Differntiam

Division is stressed  “in theories of literary criticism that would attribute  the excellence of a work to the respect in which that work is unique,” unlike “The Scotist stress upon the principle of thisness (haiccetas), the particular way of the individual thing,” which he sees as representative of that “third stage in characterizations” (409).    Likewise, “the principle of merger…is overstressed when our reduction to generalization causes us to overlook specifications” (400).  He seems to find both of these excesses reductionist, and he is particularly critical of seeing “man in terms of money and technology” (410).

More Variants of Merger and Division
Here, Burke further explores the “unity-multeity dialectic” in Otto Neurath’s Foundations of the Social Sciences,  Coleridge’s Theory of Life, and Henri Bergson’s Creative Evolution (410-412).  He expands his discussion of  “the merger and division principles” (412) to include “polarity,” “synthesis,” “succession,” and “substitution” of terms (413).  He then explores “identity” in othello (413-4) and “the strategic importance of the shifts between the principles of merger and division” through a card trick (415-6) among others (an important point from p. 415:  “in sum, one’s initial act in choosing “where to draw the line” by choosing terms that merge or terms that divide has an anticipatory effect upon one’s conclusion.”)  He finds danger in considering God through strictly “univocal” or equivocal” terms (416-7), points out the dialectical nature of “any systems of classification” (417), and discusses “Nazi expansionism” as reinforced by German “symbolic autonomy” that focused on “distinctness” while the French stressed “the universal aspects of human motivation” (418).

The Mind-Body, Being-Nothing, and Action-Passion Pairs

The (above) pairs “generalize the first major steps usually taken towards the localizing of identity” and “will be found to figure in any statement which embodies the principles of merger and division specifically” (418-19).  Burke addresses the importance of the three pairs:  The mind-body pair make “physicalist or idealist reductions… readily available;” “The being-nothing pair has its most relevant form in the essence existence pair, may take the form of a distinction between the becoming and the having-become… and the formed is equated with the fossilized, as a state of having become;” and “the action-passion pair…gives us the resources of actus and status” (to me, this is somewhat unclear but is likely best informed by Burke’s statement that “acts become scenic in that enactments survive as constitutions”) (419-20).

The Socratic Transcendence

 Burke precedes a critique of Benjamin Jowett’s commentaries on Plato by reiterating that “ a distinction can become a contrast…when some part formerly treated synecdochically, as representative of the whole, becomes divisive with reference o the whole off which it was a part “ (as with the nobility’s changing status in shift from feudalism to “the society of trade”) (420). Where Jowett saw discontinuity, Burke sees transcendence:  A Platonic dialogue is rather a process of transformation whereby the position at the end transcends the position at the start,” which can “eventually be seen in terms of the new motivation encountered en route” (422).  Burke discusses Plato’s dialogues, and Platonic love in particular, in relation to Socrates’s homosexuality.  Through the death of Socrates , “Plato was enabled to reconstruct a tribal emphasis idealistically atop the enlightened bread-down of the tribal culture.  The steps from the phaedrus to the Republic to the Laws from a dialectic series in themselves” (427).  Burke goes on to discuss mathematics as a dialectic attractive to Plato.

The Temporizing of Essence

Burke explores the equating of the temporal and the essential  and the manner in which “the ways of transcendence, in aiming at the discovery of essential motives, may often take the historicist form of symbolic regression” (430).  He notes that Neurath recommends replacing “cause-effect phraseology” with “growing-out-of’ phraseology,” which Burke would further modify by suggesting we think in terms of essence when considering works such as Freud’s Totem and Taboo, as Freud’s framing of “the primal horde” as a historical state is too easily discredited by Anthropology (431), when what Freud needed was the “essence” of the concept.  In pages 433-439, Burke further addresses “the workings of the time-essence ambiguity” through a discussion of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt (and again, briefly, in the work Proust on p. 439).  “Time-essence ambiguity,” in short, allows rhetors to couch their positions in temporal terms that would alienated fewer than would an absolutist position. The further implication of this is that “The search for one constant interest underlying a faction’s shifts of policy… is thus seen to be an attempt at the discernment of an essential motive beneath the particular appearances of many temporized motives” (440).    

Dissolution of Drama

This section begins with  a welcomed discussion of the progression of concepts in the book, in terms of the argument for “dramatism,” which this work has apparently, at this point, “dissolved” (440):  “The ‘dramatistic’ itself must have as its context a grounding in the ‘non-dramatist’” and, at some point, “the dramatist perspective, defined in terms of its contextual opposite, must ‘abolish itself’ in the very act of its enunciation” (441); all of which creates a tension that must be maintained. 

Here Burke also lists the “four ways in which drama is dissolved:  “by the turn from dramatic act to lyric state;” “by terminologies that reduced action to motion;” “by philosophies of ‘dramatism;’” and “by philosophies of ‘super-drama.”  “Super-drama” being “the way whereby a monotheistic god, in being treated as a ‘super-person,” becomes ‘impersonal (sic),’” as in the case of “scholastic theology (preparing) the way for the secular terminologies of science” (441).

A Neo-Liberal Ideal

Burke’s final comments regarding this book are summed up in heady fashion.  His “primary purpose has been to express towards language an attitude embodied in a method.  This attitude is one of linguistic skepticism” (441) which, “in being quizzical, supplies the surest ground for the discernment and appreciation of linguistic resources” (443).  He locates A Grammar in relation to A Rhetoric and his proposed Symbolic:

“All told, in this project directed ‘towards the purification of war,’ the Grammar should assist to this end through encouraging tolerance by speculation…The Rhetoric, which would study the ‘competitive use of the cooperative,’ would be designed to help us take delight in the Human Barnyard…And the Symbolic, studying the implicit equations which have so much to do with the shaping of our acts, should enable us to see our own lives as a kind of rough first draft that lends itself at least somewhat to revision, as we hope at least to temper the extreme rawness of our ambitions, once we become aware of the ways in which we are the victims of our own and one another’s magic” (442).

This, in an attempt to “confront  the global situation with an attitude neither local nor imperialistic” (442-3) through a “neo-liberal, speculative attitude” of “Neo-Stoicism” (443).

Addendum for the Present Addition

This brief note introduces some notable modifications to Grammar, including:

“Attitude:” A sixth element to be added to the pentad that addresses more directly “the manner” or “how” (443).

A differentiation of “the ratios by the order of the terms” (for example, “scene-act” or “act-scene” to denote which element effects the other) (443).

Burke also notes “that all the ratios are essentially analogies.  That is, by a “scene-act ratio” we mean that the nature of the act is implicit, or analogously present, in the nature of the scene, etc” (444).


Note:  in a footnote on p. 246, Burke writes that at least two of these articles were originally to be included in the main body of A Grammar of Motives.

A. Symbolic Action in a Poem by Keats

In this sixteen-page appendix, Burke analyzes Keats’s “’Ode on a Grecian Urn’ as a  viaticum that leads, by a series of transformations, into the oracle, ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’…’dramatistically,’ in terms of symbolic action” (447).  He treats the poem as an “act” (447) and considers “our knowledge of the poems’ place as an enactment in a particular cultural scene (450).  In addition to such historical and societal factors, Burke considers, particularly in the second stanza, “correlations between poem and poet” (451):  “From what we know of Keat’s illness, with the peculiar inclination to erotic imaginings that accompany its fever…we can glimpse a particular bodily motive expanding and intensifying the lyric state in Keat’s case” (452).  However, unlike “materialists” (463) Burke will use this observation as merely another stage in the development of the poem. This process is succinctly reviewed on pages 461-62, in which Burke traces the progression of the mental action and passionate state to the “transcendent act” and the declaration of “the unity of poetry and science” (462).

B. The Problem of the Intrinsic (as reflected in the Neo-Aristotelian School)

Twenty pages, written in response to three essays by R. S. Crane, Norman Maclean, and Elder Olson and “originally published in The University Review).  The first section offers an interesting biography of the study of the “principles…said to reside in the division of the (poetic) work into its parts, and in the relation of these parts to one another and to the whole” (466).  He discuss this study of the “intrinsic qualities” of a poem in the work of Aristotle, who, according to Burke, considered beings not strictly in the individual sense (as apparently the Neo-Aristotelian’s would have it), but “located an individual thing’s principle of being in its identity as a member of a tribe” (genos) (467).  He then argues that Spinoza’s treatment of Aristotle as introducing the need to treat being contextually (see 468).  Having problemitized the Neo-Aristotelian’s definition of Aristotelian method, Burke critiques their works over the course of pages 470-80 before further commenting on the superior utility of dramatism and his preference for considering poetry as “act” not “object.” 

C. Motives and Motifs in the Poetry of Marianne Moore

This essay addresses Moore’s What Are Years and Selected Poems.   According to Burke, her poems “characteristically establish” a “relation between external and internal, or visible and invisible, or background and personality” (485).  Burke addresses the use of the “symbolism,” “imagism,” and “objectivism” to describe her work, and argues for a careful application of “objectivism,” though warns that it is applicable “only by taking away the epithet in part.  For .. after you have read several of her poems, you begin to discern a strict principle of selection motivating her appraisals” (488).  He argues that her motivation is “appreciation” (489) and her work lyric (491).  He attempts to answer Moore’s question, “what are years?” in order to “get some comprehensive glimpse of the ways in which the one pervasive quality of motivation is modified and ramified” (495).  The chapter continues with a variety of appreciations for Moore’s work.
D.  The Four Master Tropes

The tropes in question are “metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony,” or, in their “’literal’ or ‘realistic’ applications:”  perspective, reduction, representation, and dialectic, respectively (503).  Burke is concerned with “their role in the discovery and description of ‘the truth’” (503).  “Metaphor,” Burke writes, “is a device for seeing something in terms of something else”  (503).  Here, Burke makes reference to his arguments from Permanence and Change.  Metonymy conveys “some incorporeal or intangible state in terms of the corporeal or tangible (506), though in “poetic realism” it is not nearly so reductionist as is “scientific realism” (506), as the poet’s use of metonymy is “as a terminological reduction” and “the scientific behaviorist offers his reduction as a ‘real’ reduction” (507).  Burke’s discussion of synecdoche leads to the assertion that “ A terminology of conceptual analysis…must be constructed in conformity with a representative anecdote—whereas anecdotes ‘scientifically’ selected from reductive purposes are not representative (510).  After equating “dialectic” and “dramatic” (511-516, which includes a discussion of irony in The Waste Land), Burke presents an “over-all ironic formula” represented as “what goes forth as A returns as non-A.  This is the basic pattern that places the essence of drama and dialectic in the irony of the ‘peripety,’ the strategic moment of reversal” (517). 


"The Strategy of Kenneth Burke" by Charles Morris

In Rueckert, Wm.H. (Ed.). (1969). Critical responses to Kenneth Burke: 1924-1966. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Morris, using seemingly neutral and distant language, neither entirely praises nor condemns Burke’s work. "It’s the same Burke with the same quest and the same strategy, as baffling, as inconclusive, as penetrating, as rewarding as ever." He describes A Grammar of Motives as a "job of criticism" and that Burke’s "strategy is the criticism of linguistic resources."

Morris’s most intense comments challenge Burke’s dialectical and philosophical leanings:

A Grammar of Motives forces us to assume a succession of points of view from which human motivation has been described, and then dissolves each perspective by showing its partiality in terms of other perspectives. We find ourselves engaged in a dramatic dialectic in which philosophers, political theorists, economists, poets, theologians, and psychologist all have their say, and each mode of saying is shown to need correction by each other mode.

. . .Burke’s hope is surely that in the process of assuming a multiplicity of perspectives toward man something "substantial" will result. Whether this is so is not so clear.

Morris charges that Burke "remains primarily at the level of critic." Moreover, although Burke’s work is a "brilliant exploration of our modes of expression. . .[it] is made in terms of one mode of expression, that of criticism." In other words, according to Morris, Burke is no philosopher.

Some Recent Burke Scholarship and Corresponding Reviews:

1.  Unending Conversations: New Writings By and About Kenneth Burke. Edited by Greig Henderson and David Gratis Williams. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2001; pp. 272. $50.00; paper $20.00.

Reviewed by Bryan Crable in Argumentation and Advocacy, Spring 2002 v38 i4 p273(4) and Paulo Campos in Rhetorica, Summer 2001 v19 i3 p342.

This work draws together unpublished Burke manuscripts and Burke scholarship, which, according to Williams, is “composed of papers from the 1996 Kenneth Burke Society convention.”  The book is divided into three sections:  the first of includes unpublished “selections from Burke's unfinished aesthetic theory” (Crable); the second is devoted to Burke scholarship; the third is notable for addressing both Burke’s biography and his theology or the role of religion in his life’s work.

2.  Selzer, Jack. Kenneth Burke in Greenwich Village: Conversing with the Moderns, 1915-1931. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1996. xx, 284 pp. $50.00/$19.95.

Reviewed by Cynthia Miecznikowski Sheard in ANQ, Spring 1999 v12 i2 p64.

Miecznikowski Sheard praises this work as a combination of cultural context and anecdote that locates Burke in his relation to his “scene” as an early twentieth-century intellectual in New York.  The reviewer describes this work as a departure from “works concentrating on Burke's contributions to perennial conversations about language and culture”  and gives the impression that there is much here to be learned about Burke’s motive.

3.   Wess, Robert. Kenneth Burke: Rhetoric, Subjectivity, Postmodernism.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Pp. xi+262.

Reviewed by Paul Jay in Modern Philology, Feb 1999 v96 i3 p417(1) .

This work brings Burke back from the modern (see above) to the postmodern and addresses Burkean concepts and arguments in relation to more recent authors, including the most well-known post-structuralists.  The book addresses seven major Burke works, including a fifty-page chapter on A Grammar of Motives  and “the rhetorical constitution of the subject” (from the chapter subtitle).  Reviewer Paul Jay points out that this is a very densely-written book with a style, and therefore stylistic challenges, akin to Burke’s.  Jay praises it for its arguments on how Burke’s “work on rhetoric contributes to a postmodern theory of the subject.”

4.  Wolin, Ross. The Rhetorical Imagination of Kenneth Burke. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2001; pp. xiii + 256. $34.95.
Reviewed by Robert Wade Kenny in Argumentation and Advocacy, Summer 2002 v39 i1 p83(3) .

According to Kenny, this work presents summaries of selected Burke works, including A Grammar of Rhetoric, and he cites Wolin as having intended it to be an introductory work.  In Kenny’s opinion, Wolin detracts from Burke’s work in trying to summarize it, misunderstanding Burke’s beliefs regarding authorial authority, and ignoring “Burke's notion of socioanagogic criticism.”  Kenny’s review does praise this work for its treatment of previous Burke criticism.

Prepared by Dianne Blake, Aimee Whiteside, Brian Okstad, and Peter Gregg