I certainly agree with both Hawhee and Fitzgerald that it's time to push Burke's RHETORIC OF RELIGION more into the mainstream, not just for its insight into the forms of language (it's surely gotten its share of attention, within Burke studies, on that score), but also for its shrewd commentary on the imperatives of human nature. At the panel on Burke and education at NCA last month, Robert Wess raised the question of why there's so much religiosity in the air right now. The woman sitting next to him on the plane (I think it was) reading her Bible, among other mainifestations of Christian faith to cross his path, apparently filled him with wonder and trepidation. Where's all this presumptive fanaticism---the gist of Bob's inquiry---coming from in this enlightened day and age? I responded with Burke's definition of logology---the systematic study of theological terms for the light they may throw on the forms of language---with its implicit assertion that theological concepts and beliefs will surely be with us always, even unto the end of the age.
I should have gone further with that thought, however. It's Burke's philosophy that can explain the recrudescence of Fundamentalism in our time, not any positivism, empiricism, or scientism. From a scientistic standpoint, red-state revulsion at rampant sexuality and secularism in our popular culture is inexplicable. To a modernist, maybe even postmodernist, mindset, liberal preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick's naive prediction of 75 years ago would make eminent sense: Someday everybody's going to think like me. The dictates of the hortatory negative and its perfectionist residues will be rescinded. Under the irresistible weight of scientific demystifications, religion, except in its etiolated mainstream forms, will wither.
In my view, Scott-Coe brilliantly brings these issues to the fore once again. She makes Burke's inherently theological system (well, Chesebro called it a System in the title of HIS book) stand out clearly, figure/ground, in apt comparison with Augustine and counterpositioning with Ramus. Was Burke a theologian, and if so, what kind? Scott-Coe offers some neat stuff in partial answer to that query. (A definitive answer is not in the offing to that, as well as many other, questions about Burke and his philosophy.)
I hope to get to some of this neat stuff in later posts. If I can find them in my deep files, I might share, also, a couple of Burke's epistolary answers to my claim that he was, in fact, a theologain of a kind.
Poet, then actor, then theologian---aren't those the metaphors Burke proposed, in serial progression, for the symbol-using animal?
If you dare, tell me that's not so.