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"In his book Language as Symbolic Action (1966), Burke defined humankind as a "symbol using animal" (p. 3). This definition of man, he argued, means that "reality" has actually "been built up for us through nothing but our symbol system" (p. 5). Without our encyclopedias, atlases, and other assorted reference guides, we would know little about the world that lies beyond our immediate sense experience. What we call "reality," Burke stated, is actually a "clutter of symbols about the past combined with whatever things we know mainly through maps, magazines, newspapers, and the like about the present . . . a construct of our symbol systems" (p. 5). College students wandering from class to class, from English literature to sociology to biology to calculus, encounter a new reality each time they enter a classroom; the courses listed in a university's catalogue "are in effect but so many different terminologies" (p. 5). It stands to reason then that people who consider themselves to be Christian, and who internalize that religion's symbol system, inhabit a reality that is different from the one of practicing Buddhists, or Jews, or Muslims. The same would hold true for people who believe in the tenets of free market capitalism or socialism, Freudian psychoanalysis or Jungian depth psychology, as well as mysticism or materialism. Each belief system has its own vocabulary to describe how the world works and what things mean, thus presenting its adherents with a specific reality."

Kenneth Burke - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 9th, 2012 01:19 am (UTC)
Not quite sure what your point is, Bobby. That everybody sees reality differently, like a Republican sees reality one way and a Democrat sees reality another way? Is one more valid than the other or less valid than the other? Are all to be dismissed? Yes, of course, we all see things differently and speak the language we have acquired from multiple sources. Happy Easter, Bobby.
Apr. 9th, 2012 02:22 am (UTC)
Happy Easter, Jeff.

I'm not sure i have a point. I was looking at a live journal the other day of some Communications Prof in Texas and he was teaching a class on Burke and that made me remember him and how much i appreciated his insights.

Burke, i think, would certainly not exclude himself from his "definition," so i take this idea as recommendation for tolerance. If there is a point of view that is more valid than any other, it probably isn't mine; yet i hold on to my opinions so i must imagine they are better than others. To me, this view is the materialistic obverse side of the via negativa. If i were not striving for a spiritual perspective, this would be the point of view i would probably end up with or stuck with.

When i am in the world i share with others, i only share it to a small extent. I not only see things differently, i create and have created for me an entire universe made of the bits and pieces of information and misinformation that i pick up from a variety of sources and somehow put together into a view that represents my "world." "Science," "logic," and "reason" are among the tools i try to use to construct this this "world," but i should not fool myself into believing i am looking at THE world, no matter how many people share my point of view.
Apr. 9th, 2012 03:36 am (UTC)
i'll drink to that!
Apr. 9th, 2012 03:20 pm (UTC)
Apr. 9th, 2012 04:51 pm (UTC)
Yes, i do like it,
Thank you, Elaine.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )



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