The U.S. Political Divide: 2017

What is at the essence of the U.S. political divide in 2017?

As a literary theorist and philosopher, Kenneth Burke (May 5th 1897 – November 19th 1993) was fascinated with the function of symbols and language as means of persuasion between humans within every day interactions.

Burke believed that our natural division or “disassociation” due to our separateness of physical bodies and therefore differential viewpoints caused us to seek “identification” and therefore “consubstantiation” with others through shared symbolic meaning.

However Burke also realized that any particular words or jargon which we employ in attempting to persuade like-minded people may also unwittingly serve to alienate others whom have likewise developed a specialized “grammar” – as Burke called it – of their own thus creating a sort of “terministic screen” which “reflects,” “selects,” and “deflects,” particular elements of reality within a certain “grammar of motives.”

Burke believed that the rhetoric of any given symbol-user/s (communicant/s) could be analyzed as symbolic action (as per his dramatistic pentad) by analyzing relationships between his pentadic elements (act, scene, agent, agency, & purpose, and later attitude), and that one could thereby determine a hierarchy of motives contained therein.

According to Burke, the most basic or fundamental motive is the “container” while lessor motives are the things “contained.” Burke believed that in understanding the most basic and fundamental motives contained between opposing viewpoints, we could ascertain a more reasoned approach to “identification,” i.e., shared substance.

The current state of the U.S. political divide 2017 according to Burkeian philosophy leaves much on the table according to our own “trained incapacitance” as though partisan ideology were the container of all else as opposed to fundamental knowledge, law, or philosophy.

According to Burke, the essence of meaning is to be found within the symbols we use to communicate. If anything is of significance to humanity beyond partisan ideology, we owe it to ourselves to actively seek the larger “container.”

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An Hierarchy of Significances

If things are significant (of consequence) there must be some organizational hierarchy thereof.

The art of rhetoric is the art of persuasion within the paradigm of significances. Hawkers, vendors, and advertisers, seek to arrest our attention in favor of their goods and or services (for their own best interests).

Within a given instance of rhetorical persuasion, erectile disfunction may become more significant than life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness for all.

In any given moment we may choose to satiate the needs of the self over others (allocate our life’s energies and consciousness in favor of the self as opposed to the greater good).

In any given moment – as long as we are all subject to other things and conditions – there must necessarily exist need for aid and relief somewhere in the world.

In as much as we cannot (due to subjectivity), nor will not (due to the exigency of the self), conform to an hierarchy of motives which are necessarily embedded within the structure of social reality (due to symbolic language), we are predominantly motivated by power-over relationships (survival of the fittest).

Symbolic language allows us to construct reality in any manner we choose. Whether we choose survival of the fittest, or life, liberty, and happiness for all, defines the nature of the human will.

We create an ideological hierarchy of motives and pay homage to them (as per the Emperor’s new cloths), i.e., ‘all [men] are created equal,’ as a scapegoat-mechanism for our existential motives.