David Erland Isaksen, University College of Southeast Norway
Kenneth Burke scholars differ on what the meaning of Burke's concept of consummation is and how it relates to perfection and entelechy. This article argues that consummation is a third creative motive (transcending self-expression and communication) that requires a rigorous vocabulary in order to be an active motivational force.
In “A Rhetoric of Form: The Early Burke and Reader-Response Criticism,” Greig Henderson writes that we can divide Kenneth Burke’s scholarly project based on three creative motives which were at the center of his attention: self-expression, communication, and consummation (Henderson 127). Kenneth Burke himself discusses these three stages in his 1967 afterword to Counter-Statement, titled “Curriculum Criticum”: “The step from the opening chapter . . . to the next essay . . . clearly indicates a turn from the stress upon self-expression to a stress upon communication. And all that follows can be properly treated as the tracking down of the implications inherent in this turn. In later works I have added an explicit concern with the kind of consummation that is inherent in this very process of ‘tracking down the implications of a nomenclature’” (223-4). In other words, the transition from the first to the second chapter of Counter-Statement shows us Kenneth Burke shifting his focus from self-expression to communication, and the rest of the book tries to come to terms with (or track down) what it means to consider a text and its aesthetic qualities in terms of communication rather than self-expression. According to Burke, these findings were already implicit in the turn to communication, and he spends most of the book making them explicit. Later, he looked at the process he went through to track down the implications of this turn and “the kind of consummation” inherent in that process. By “the kind of consummation” I believe he is referring to the kind of drive, motivation, or urge he had, to find and flesh out the implications of this turn. Although Kenneth Burke never abandons self-expression or communication, we could make a rough outline of this scholarly progression based on these three creative motives, with the pre Counter-Statement era (1915-1931) concerned with self-expression, the 1930s and war years (1931-1945) concerned with communication, and the vast bulk of Burke’s later work (1945-1993) concerned with, or at least including a concern with, consummation. Of course, neither of the three motives are absent in his later work, so the best description of this progression may be as a shifts in emphasis rather than complete turns. 1
Even though consummation occupies a very central place in Kenneth Burke’s critical terminology, Burke himself mentions it by name very rarely. We find it mentioned twice in A Grammar of Motives, once in the essays that were meant to be a part of A Symbolic of Motives, twice in Rhetoric of Religion, four times in Language as Symbolic Action, and once in the essays collected in On Human Nature: A Gathering While Everything Everything Flows, 1967-1984. Yet the principle is discussed and illustrated at length in the manuscript Poetics, Dramatistically Considered (parts of which have been published in Unending Conversations) and it is referred to many times without him using that specific name. For example, William H. Rueckert writes in the preface to On Human Nature that the drive to take a vocabulary to the end of the line, which I argue is consummation, was Kenneth Burke’s major concern in his final years. Kenneth Burke himself refers to this drive as “consummation” on page 244 of the collection, but throughout the other essays he gives a description of the drive without using the word consummation. The drive is discussed in detail on pages 73-78 and is a recurring theme throughout the entire collection. 2
A survey of secondary scholarship and recent dissertations on related terms highlights the disagreement concerning this concept among some scholars and the complete absence of the term among others. Considering the density of Burke’s scholarship, it may not be surprising that this term has not been more developed and used in secondary scholarship than it has. Many scholars use terms like entelechy and perfection to discuss what Burke describes as consummation in the sources mentioned above. Others claim that Burke’s use of the term was similar to or the same as that of George Herbert Meade and John Dewey, or connect it with his concept of catharsis.
However, based on Burke’s writing, I claim that consummation is substantially different from entelechy and perfection. Whereas entelechy and perfection describe general tendencies and motivations, consummation is explicitly a linguistic phenomenon since it is the explicit drive to “track down the implications of a terminology.” Burke explains it with the example of an artist who starts with a desire for self-expression, develops this expression through a public medium for communication, and as a part of that process "encounters possibilities purely internal to the medium” that the artist then feels driven to complete or develop into reality “regardless of either self-expression or communication” (“Watchful” 48). As such, consummation describes a specific stage in the development of a terminology where the dialectic of self-expression and communication has developed a vocabulary with a momentum and life of its own. 3
Consummation in Secondary Scholarship
As mentioned above, few Burke scholars treat consummation individually as a significant term, often grouping or conflating it with entelechy or perfection. For example, in Kenneth Burke: Rhetoric, Subjectivity, Postmodernism, Robert Wess claims that “consummation” is basically a synonym for culmination, entelechy, and perfection, and that “sometimes even the same examples are used to illustrate entelechy in one context and another term in a different context” (246). However, Wess does not claim that consummation means exactly the same as the other terms, but rather that they are a part of the same “cluster of terms and examples” (246) 4. Of these terms, Wess chooses to discuss primarily entelechy and perfection and does not clarify any further how consummation is related to these. It may be indicative of similar thinking that in Kenneth Burke in the 21st Century, an edited collection of papers from the Kenneth Burke Society, there is not a single mention of consummation; however, there are frequent mentions of entelechy as a central principle. The way entelechy is described in this collection often sounds similar to how Burke describes consummation. For example, Star Muir writes that entelechy means “the tracking down of implications within a particular vocabulary” and that “Entelechy is illustrated, for Burke, in the scientific ‘perfection’ of the vocabularies of genetic manipulation” (36). Here, it seems that Muir conflates the principles of entelechy and consummation.5
There is a similar tendency to conflate perfection and entelechy or use them together without distinguishing clearly between them. In “Perfection and the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Teleology, and Motives,” Barry Brummett uses Burke’s concept of perfection to analyze why the atomic bomb is “such a powerfully motivating symbol” (88). He writes that the concept of perfection “is based on Aristotle’s idea of entelechy” (85) and describes a motive to extend and complete a vocabulary as “perfectionist,” implying that it is related to the drive for perfection. Brummett does not explain the specific relationship between the perfectionist motive, entelechy, and perfection, but the general impression is again that these terms are related, but do not mean exactly the same thing. In “Reassessing Truman, the Bomb, and Revisionism: The Burlesque Frame and Entelechy in the Decision to Use Atomic Weapons Against Japan,” Bryan Hubbard writes that entelechy is “the drive towards perfection,” so entelechy is the drive and perfection is the aim or end of the drive. This drive, he writes, “results from our ability to use symbols to envision the extreme ends of behavior” (360). Consummation is not mentioned by Brummett or Hubbard, which may indicate that they accept consummation as simply a synonym for entelechy.
Other scholars have briefly discussed the concept of consummation, but usually in a way that is peripheral to their main argument. In the introduction to Unending Conversations, for instance, Greig Henderson and David Cratis Williams write that Burke “shows how the motives of self-expression, communication, and consummation interanimate each other” (xi), but then do not write about exactly how Burke shows this. Henderson recognizes it briefly as a central motive in Kenneth Burke’s scholarship, but concerns himself more with the communicative aspects of Burke’s aesthetic theory (127). Similarly, Donald L. Jennerman briefly discusses consummation in “Burke’s Poetics of Catharsis.” He claims Burke developed consummation from his concept of “internal catharsis,” where a work is purified by being completed just as the fear and pity of the audience are purified by experiencing a tragic play. He states that this internal catharsis contains an “entelechial motive” and is “primarily an intellectual or aesthetic catharsis rather than emotional, it pertains less to pity and fear than to consternation and pleasure” (Jennerman 45). Yet, because his focus is on comparing the social and the individual aspects of Burke’s concept of catharsis, he does not discuss how this motive is developed and sustained. Cary Nelson discusses Burke’s more radical claims about language’s power to determine human action in “Writing as the Accomplice of Language: Kenneth Burke and Poststructuralism,” and includes a brief mention of consummation as the natural result of language and an “unconscious” that is desirous to complete terminologies (162). All these authors give some interesting insights, but do not give us any in-depth treatment of the concept.
Finally, there is a group of Burke scholars who connect consummation to the aesthetic theory of John Dewey and see it as the conclusion or result of a completed aesthetic process. In “Communication in Society,” Hugh Dalziel Duncan claims that the concept “consummation” has essentially the same meaning in the writings of Burke, Meade, and Dewey, and that it refers to a moment of finality at the end of an aesthetic process (417). Duncan sees consummation as a result rather than as a creative motive, which seems to go against Burke’s own description of where consummation fits in his critical vocabulary. In “A Dramatistic Theory of the Rhetoric of Movements,” Leland Griffin describes consummation as a stage in the life of a social movement and, therefore, talks about “consummation rhetoric” as containing specific traits. His description of rhetoric in the consummation stage is quite detailed and pulls together many of Burke’s thoughts on consummation, although he also sees consummation as a result rather than a motive.
These two main approaches to consummation, viewing it as a synonym for entelechy and perfection or relating it to Dewey’s aesthetic theory, seem to both be in use in modern publications on Burke. In his dissertation, “The Burkean Entelechy and the Apocalypse of John,” and in Implicit Rhetoric: Kenneth Burke’s Extension of Aristotle’s Concept of Entelechy, published in 1998, Stan A. Lindsay posits entelechy as Kenneth Burke’s most transcendent and most important term, and he analyzes the Revelation of John and the Branch Davidians at Waco to illustrate the mechanism of entelechy. In these two treatises, Lindsay mentions consummation only a few times, primarily as a synonym for the completion or fulfillment of an aesthetic process. In Kenneth Burke and the Conversation after Philosophy, published in 1999, Timothy V. Crusius sees consummation as being the fourth function of language. The first three are language as rhetoric, language as a “chart function” of realistic ambition, and language as self-expression (the dream function). Crusius writes, “After his initial treatment of symbolic action . . . Burke became interested in a fourth function of language, which he called ‘consummation’ that is, thoroughness, or the desire for ‘perfection,’ the drive to unfold to the last implication the meanings inherent in a given vocabulary” (73). However, he never distinguishes clearly between consummation, perfection, and entelechy. He talks about perfection as “a symbol-driven motive” and speaks of entelechy as a principle that leads to a “terministic compulsion” (170), which seems to conflate the concepts.
Most recently, Gregory Clark deals with consummation in Civic Jazz: American Music and Kenneth Burke on the Art of Getting Along. Of the two previously mentioned approaches, his treatment of consummation most closely mirrors the Dewey tradition. Clark sees consummation as a part of an aesthetic, communicative process where “separate identities dissolve into one, losing the differences that divide them in a felt experience of profound unity” (46). Thus, consummation is an aesthetic result, an “arrival at a destination where in our interactions no adjustment is needed for us to understand each other” (46). Clark believes that this is a state humans do not reach often, but that, as an experience, it maintains an aspiration and works as an ideal we are drawn towards (46, 134)6. I would argue that he is correct in his description of some of the social consequences of consummation, although his emphasis on the Dewey tradition does not give a very complete picture of how consummation is generated and sustained in terminologies.
Consummation in Kenneth Burke’s Theory
As is the case with many Burkean terms, consummation is perhaps best understood as a specific, defined link in a cluster of terms or a limb on a tree with significant contact points and areas of overlap with other terms and concepts. This does not mean that each individual concept lacks a meaning of its own, but it rather shows how Burke liked to think of things and how he tried to explain them. Burke describes his approach in A Rhetoric of Motives as follows: “Let us try again. (A direct hit is not likely here. The best one can do is to try different approaches towards the same center, whenever the opportunity offers)” (137). The result is often a myriad of explanations and terms to describe similar phenomena, and yet each different pathway touches on different aspects and different mechanisms. Though terms may be related, they are usually not interchangeable. In order to explain the relationship between consummation, entelechy, and perfection, I will first focus on consummation as an individual concept and then show how it operates with other terms in Burke’s critical vocabulary. The two main approaches Burke tried to get at consummation were the two texts “The Criticism of Criticism” and “Watchful of Hermetics to Be Strong in Hermeneutics.” In addition to these, there are brief references to consummation scattered throughout Burke’s last two essay collections, Language as Symbolic Action and On Human Nature, which seem to share a common concern for the relationship between consummation and agency. I believe these constitute a third approach to consummation. My treatment of consummation will follow these three approaches.
First Approach: “The Criticism of Criticism”
In “The Criticism of Criticism,” published in the autumn of 1955, Burke compares consummation with two philosophical and theological systems to explain the term.7 First, he compares his triad of self-expression, communication, and consummation with Saint Anselm’s triad of faith, understanding, and vision, calling his own three terms the “secular, aesthetic analogues” of Saint Anselm’s three theological stages: Faith equals self-expression, understanding equals communication, and vision equals consummation (245).8 In a secular, aesthetic sense then, consummation becomes analogous to the religious “vision” described by Saint Anselm. Although the terms are not exactly equivalent, we may reason that what Burke says about faith, understanding, and vision in this article will also hold true for or have a correlation with self-expression, communication, and consummation.
We learn from Burke that vision “transcends the ergotizing 9 ways of the understanding” (238) and is a kind of synthesis of both faith and understanding (239). The first (faith), is characterized by “energy” and “momentum” (242), and it is an “initiating intuitive power” (242). Intellectus (understanding) is a kind of intellectual frame that then strikes the imagination and can feed a “contemplation (or ‘vision’)” (243). For Saint Anselm, faith meant an active love of God that needed to then gain a deeper knowledge (understanding) of God. He writes in "Cur Deus Homo," “to my mind it appears a neglect if, after we are established in the faith, we do not seek to understand what we believe” (II). Faith is emotional, intuitive, almost instinctive,10 whereas understanding gives this emotional energy direction and structure. In “The Criticism of Criticism,” Burke criticizes R. P. Blackmur for seeing these two concepts as a dyad, with faith being able to question the intellect (understanding) and the intellect being able to curb faith. Burke claims that the goal for Saint Anselm was not that these should balance one another, but rather that the two together would transcend each other and lead to a vision or contemplation of God (238). A vision in this sense is a fusion of perfect faith and perfect understanding. More than merely seeing something, it is being able to grasp the essence of God, both intellectually and emotionally. It is in the vision or contemplation of God that intelligent nature finds its happiness or fulfillment (Anselm XVI).
To explain the analogous aesthetic triad, Burke writes that self-expression is the origin of art, with spontaneous utterances such as “outcries, oaths, interjection,” which are matured by translation into communication. Comparable to faith and understanding, self-expression is the initiating intuitive desire with energy and momentum, and communication is the matured realization of that desire. Just as with Saint Anselm’s triad, the two terms work towards a third: “the work of art moves towards the transcending of both self-expression and communication” (245). The way he describes the development towards this third stage is that an artist is motivated by self-expression, and then uses a public medium to transform it into a kind of communication, “but in the course of perfecting his work, he encounters possibilities purely internal to the medium; and he may exploit these possibilities ‘to the end of the line,’ regardless of either self-expression or communication” (245). Burke’s example is James Joyce’s later work, which he developed from a standpoint “of its ultimate possibilities” (245) even at the expense of clear communication. In so doing, Joyce answers a call (expresses himself), but the product is consummatory “in a way that could not be adequately confined to either of the first two stages, but would have something of both in being beyond both” (245). The artist is expressing and communicating, but he or she is also a discoverer on a journey or someone trying to complete a puzzle with the pieces available. The medium itself, meaning the language the artist uses or has developed for self-expression and communication, contains an inherent vision that the artist may pursue for its own sake.
In Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, Michael Polanyi gives us some examples of how people in scientific disciplines move from communication to consummation. Drawing on Saint Anselm’s theological triad, Polanyi tries to explain what motivates scientists to pursue their research in terms of a scientific vision. He claims that a scientist is “an intelligence which dwells wholly within an articulate structure of its own creation” (195). The structure may be “a theory,” “mathematical discovery,” or “a symphony,” but the principle is the same (195). It is only when the scientists surrender to the framework that they can gain a scientific vision. An astronomer reflects on the “theoretic vision” and experiences the “intellectual powers” of an astronomic theory, and a mathematician “loses himself in the contemplation” of the greatness of mathematics (195) in order neither to “observe or handle them, but to live in them” (196). The vision gained by scientific discovery is comparable to what he has termed the religious “ecstatic vision”:
Scientific discovery . . . bursts the bonds of disciplined thought in an intense if transient moment of heuristic vision. And while it is thus breaking out, the mind is for the moment directly experiencing its content rather than controlling it by the use of any pre-established modes of interpretation: it is overwhelmed by its own passionate activity. (196)
Polanyi sees intellectual passions, such as a desire for order, as the first step toward this vision. These passions then lead humans to articulate and construct frameworks that “handle experience on our behalf” (196), which are then again demolished as they are replaced by “more rigorous and comprehensive” frameworks until this process “culminates in the scientist.” The scientist has now acquired an articulate structure that can give her access to such a scientific vision, and this vision gives the scientist further direction and motivation. In this respect, Polanyi claims that science is just like art. Art “exerts to the utmost the artist’s powers of invention and discrimination merely for the purpose of satisfying the standards of appreciation which the artist has set for himself” (195), making artistic vision a self-sustaining motive. Here is a paradox that Polanyi claims is ‘inherent in all intellectual passions’: The human exerts itself to follow the dictates of a framework it has set up by itself. In Polanyi’s version of the triad, faith is intellectual passion, understanding can be a scientific theory, and the vision refers not to God but to intellectual power and beauty, which Polanyi claims are indicative of truth (135). The scientist gains this vision by what Polanyi describes as surrendering, yielding to, or contemplating the articulate structure he or she dwells within. This seems to describe a kind of aesthetic appreciation of the order or logical symmetry of an articulate structure, such as the way Bertrand Russell describes the study of mathematics: “Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty. . . . The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as poetry” (Russell 31). Polanyi’s example shows us that Saint Anselm’s triad is recognized as a driver of human motives in secular as well as religious contexts.
After writing about Saint Anselm, Burke gives a second analogy to explain his triad of creative motives: the three-term system of cognition in Baruch Spinoza’s Ethics.11 The three terms are “(1) opinio, or imaginatio; (2) ratio;” and “(3) scientia intuitiva” (244). Spinoza writes of opinio or imaginatio that, “from the fact of having read or heard certain words we remember things and form certain ideas concerning them, similar to those through which we imagine things” (Spinoza). The connection with Burke’s self-expression is not completely clear, although one may say that to imagine or have an opinion displays a kind of faith in individual perception. Self-expression is the expression of individual imagination or opinion.
Of ratio he writes that it is “the fact that we have notions common to all men, and adequate ideas of the properties of things” (Spinoza). The common notions make it possible to check our initial perceptions and discuss them with others. To communicate is to make use of common notions to make others understand what we are trying to express. This may be how this step is related to Saint Anselm’s “understanding”: ratio is the level of thinking where we move beyond individual perception or faith and try to make it comprehensible and understandable to others also. The common notions and adequate ideas of, for example, the existence and proportions of things make this kind of communication possible.
Spinoza explains the third level, scientia intuitiva, as follows: “there is, as I will hereafter show, a third kind of knowledge, which we will call intuition. This kind of knowledge proceeds from an adequate idea of the absolute essence of certain attributes of God to the adequate knowledge of the essence of things” (Spinoza). There is some debate as to what Spinoza meant by this third term. The main idea seems to be that we can gain some kind of absolute understanding of or crucial insight into the Creator of all things, and as a result, we see things differently and are able to gain new knowledge. By seeing or understanding the One who is the essence of all things, we gain a derivative understanding about how the rest of the world must be.
Burke’s aesthetic analogue to God is the God-term, and his description of the perspective we gain through the God-term sounds similar to Spinoza’s scientia intuitiva: “Whereas before we were among varied worldly uses looking towards a single purpose, we are now in the realm of supernatural purpose looking down upon worldly multiplicity and seeing in it more strongly the new starting point at which we have arrived” (“Notes on ‘Nature’”). Anselm’s vision, Spinoza’s scientia intuitiva, and Burke’s consummation all name a totality, a grasp of life’s essence and diversity. By knowing God we also come to know all the things that God has created, and by grasping the God-term of a vocabulary we understand how the other words function in relation to it and each other. From these connections, consummation seems to be the grasping or creation of an essence, which then transforms all of our motivational vocabularies in its image.
Second Approach: “Watchful of Hermetics to Be Strong in Hermeneutics”
The second approach gives more details as to the origin of consummation as a creative motive and its relationship to Burke’s theory of form. During this approach, Burke also connects consummation to the great practical and political problems that occur as a result of scientific developments, such as the development of thermonuclear bombs. “Watchful of Hermetics to be Strong in Hermeneutics” is a selection of the unpublished manuscript Burke wrote called Poetics, Dramatistically Considered. The manuscript is an extended treatment of Aristotle’s Poetics and how Aristotle’s theory relates to Burke’s theory of form. In the manuscript, Burke gives his longest continuous treatment of consummation.12
It becomes clear in “Watchful of Hermetics to Be Strong in Hermeneutics” that consummation requires a rigorous, well-developed vocabulary in order to be a significant force. To explain how this force is generated and sustained, I will briefly discuss Kenneth Burke’s theory of form, which he laid out in Counter-Statement, and show how consummation relates to it. For Kenneth Burke, form is the arousing and fulfilling of desires or expectations in the audience or reader (124). A story arouses and fulfills desires through a narrative, but any other text or vocabulary does the same: a textbook introduction creates expectations for what the book will discuss and how it will discuss it, a legal opinion cites laws and precedent cases that set up the usually expected conclusion, and the vocabularies of the natural sciences train us to expect mechanisms in the natural world rather than agents, and as such set up expectations for the discovery of more mechanisms.
Burke claims there are four aspects of form: progressive form (subdivided into syllogistic and qualitative progression), repetitive form, conventional form, and minor or incidental forms” (Counter-Statement 124). The kind of literary form that best explains consummation is “syllogistic progression.” 13 Burke writes that, “We call it syllogistic because, given certain things, certain things must follow, the premises forcing the conclusion” (Counter-Statement 124). This aspect of form is created and maintained by structures of language that direct desires and expectations towards certain developments. The first act of the play sets up the conflict and the conflict sets up the resolution. For Burke, the same applies to any text or group vocabulary. Any definition of the world at the same time sets the stage for the drama of benevolent and malevolent forces, or the thou shalt and thou shalt not (Religion 279). 14 (I shall hereafter group all genres that use language under the general term vocabularies, since Burke claims every text makes its own vocabulary in the sense that it will give terms different nuances of meaning than those you will find in a normal dictionary (Philosophy 35)). Form thus creates a structure of requirements and directives that make both the endings in stories and the developments in group vocabularies somewhat predictable. Burke writes, “If the beginning of a work is viewed as setting up potentialities which are fulfilled at later stages in the work, in this sense the beginning can be thought of as matter that is subsequently actualized. The beginning, we might say, has ‘the makings’ of the ending” (“Watchful” 45). In the same way, one may say that the seeds for a vision or consummation are evident already in the first intellectual understanding or framing of the faith or self-expression.
I will now proceed to discuss Burke’s explanation of consummation in “Watchful of Hermetics to be Strong in Hermeneutics”. Syllogistic progression makes it possible for a vocabulary to take on a life of its own, in the way Burke indicates. The aesthetic principle that supports this autonomy is the requirement for consistency: “The principle of unity implies the fulfilling of expectations, for if a work violated expectations it would not be considered consistent” (47). The requirement of consistency may seem like a feeble motivation until one considers the great moral, scientific, and mathematical systems in the world that rely primarily upon consistency for legitimacy. 15 Burke writes that “consummation, obtained by exploiting the possibilities of a symbol-system as such, without primary regard for either self-expression or communication, may be better explained in terms of self-consistency than expectation, though the two imply each other” (49).
Burke’s general description of form is “the arousing and fulfilling of desires” or expectations (Counter-Statement 124), but when a writer or an audience is following a structure of expectations that has already been set up, one merely has to be consistent to achieve or experience literary form. As Burke writes, the two imply each other, and yet one can be primary while the other is secondary. It may be helpful to think of a continuum where expectation and self-consistency are at each end. At the beginning, a vocabulary starts arousing and fulfilling expectations, with self-consistency playing a relatively minor role simply because there is very little material for the new developments to be consistent with. As this text or vocabulary develops, the readers or participants have soon learned “the rules” well enough that they can anticipate the next developments even without having been given specific clues. At this level, self-consistency becomes the more dominant principle. On the far end of this continuum one may find systems such as mathematics or formal logic, where self-consistency becomes the primary and almost exclusive expectation for learned practitioners. Consummation, it seems, can only be an active principle in a vocabulary or system that has developed enough rules to require it to be self-consistent in order to maintain the aesthetic principle of unity.
Once a vocabulary or symbol-system has reached this level, it tends to “become a guiding principle in itself” (Counter-Statement 157) and can “appeal independently of its functional uses” (Counter-Statement 145). In “Watchful,” Burke warns that, “This formal principle of consummatory self-consistency is important when we consider technological developments as the possible manifestation of ‘aesthetic’ motives rather than as instruments of sheer pragmatic utility” (49). This is where consummation goes beyond being simply aesthetic theory. Kenneth Burke argues that this aesthetic principle of consummation, this desire for consistency, can lead a person or group of people to desire results that are devastating to humanity in general in order to satisfy an aesthetic craving. Thus, he claims, “In this regard, the various scientific specialists are to be viewed as carrying out the implications of their terminologies, and thereby seeking technological consummation for its own sake, however deceptively their efforts might be justified” (49).
One historical example of this motive could be the reaction of the young scientists at Los Alamos when the 1949 GAC report 16 advised against development of the hydrogen bomb. In The Legacy of Hiroshima, Edward Teller and Allen Brown write:
It [the GAC report] seemed to restrict the Los Alamos scientists to minor improvements in the old field of fission. But many of the scientists, especially the younger men, found it difficult to control an adventurous spirit urging them to get into the newer field of thermonuclear reactions. The GAC report seemed to state the conflict rather bluntly: As long as you people work very hard and diligently to make a better atomic bomb, you are doing a fine job; but if you succeed in making real progress toward another kind of nuclear explosion, you are doing something immoral. To this, the scientists reacted psychologically. They got mad. And their attention was turned toward the thermonuclear bomb, not away from it. (45; emphasis added)
Teller and Brown later credit this “scientific anger” with helping to propel the USA towards development of the hydrogen bomb (45). Remarkably absent from Teller’s description of their reaction is any kind of discussion of politics or morals related to the hydrogen bomb. The motivating factor among the young scientists seems to have been success and “real progress” in the “newer field of thermonuclear reactions” or, as Burke would say, seeking technological consummation for its own sake.
The specific example Burke gives of such motives is very likely a direct response to a text written by Edward Teller. In 1957, when Teller, along with Ernest O. Lawrence, tried to convince President Eisenhower not to sign a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviet Union, their main argument was that they would be able very soon to develop “clean thermonuclear weapons” that would be of almost unlimited benefit to humankind (Magraw 32). The following year, Teller and Albert Latter wrote an article in LIFE Magazine titled “The Compelling Need for Nuclear Tests” in which the possibility of clean thermonuclear weapons again featured as a main argument. 17 It seems plausible that this is what Kenneth Burke is responding to in “Watchful of Hermetics to Be Strong in Hermeneutics.” Burke writes, “For instance, whether or not it is possible to develop ‘clean’ thermonuclear bombs, some men might well want to go on experimenting with these dismal weapons. For they have brought their calculations to the point where further experimental steps are in order, steps suggested by the present state of their terminologies” (49). 18 Studying the example of consummation Burke was referring to may help to illustrate some of the principles of consummation that he is describing.
Concerning Teller’s arguments, Magraw writes that “[a] consistent theme in the arguments for the development of the clean bomb and against a test ban was that it was positively un-American to believe that there are limits to what technology can achieve, or that one might want to impose such limits” (35). In addition to this, Teller argues that it is in a way anti-science to do so. Following Teller’s logic, there seems to be no other logical solution than continuing testing for the next 100 years. The essence of the argument is in the conclusion of the article, where Teller and Latter imply that if one opposes nuclear tests, then, by definition, one opposes science and humanity’s great endeavor to control nature:
The spectacular developments of the last centuries, in science, in technology and in our own everyday life, have been produced by a spirit of adventure, by a fearless exploration of the unknown. When we talk about nuclear tests, we have in mind not only military preparedness but also the execution of experiments which will give us more insight into the forces of nature. Such insight has led and will lead to new possibilities of controlling nature. There are many specific political and military reasons why such experiments should not be abandoned. There also exists this very general reason—the tradition of exploring the unknown. It is possible to follow this tradition without running any serious risk that radioactivity, carelessly dispersed, will interfere with human life. (Teller and Latter 72)
Teller states that all kinds of progress have been achieved by “a spirit of adventure” and “fearless exploration of the unknown,” describing primarily attitudes that he later terms “a tradition for exploring the unknown.” He then identifies this source of all progress with nuclear tests, which give us insight into and power over nature, and claims that it would be inconsistent to abandon an approach that has given us so much progress. Progress here is equated with controlling nature.
In The Legacy of Hiroshima Teller gives us a vision of how thermonuclear weapons could be used to control nature: using H-bombs to blast channels, tunnels, harbors, and coal mines (84-5); to “frack” for oil (87); to blast the Canadian tar sands and distill oil (88); to make diamonds (89); to mutate plants for our benefit (115); to cultivate the oceans by killing off species that have no value as human food (93-4); and to finally make it possible for humans to leave Earth and colonize space (125, 133, 140).
According to Burke’s reading, some of these reasons would be rationalizations to justify work on weapons of war, but Burke also believes that they, at least at times, genuinely reflect a terminology that almost compels these scientists to continue onwards in the same direction. Teller openly admits that the final goal here is not victory over the Soviet Union or even peace, but rather “increasing man’s control over nature.” 19 Teller had pursued and perfected the hydrogen bomb for over 20 years by the time he published his book. Reading his version of the history, one almost gets the impression of an addict. Teller writes that, for him, talent in science or mathematics is an addiction, a love (160) and that “the force of inner necessity” (not motivated by utility or any external circumstance) is “the greatest power on the earth” (163). It seems to be this power that drives him to pursue the hydrogen bomb in times of both war and peace, and to label people as allies or opponents based on the help or hindrance they provide towards that goal.20
In “Watchful,” Burke treats this kind of addiction or compulsion as the result of an aesthetic principle: “the ‘principle of consummatory self-consistency’ would provide an incentive, or almost a compulsion, to continue in this same direction, quite as an author who had carried a novel to near completion might not be able to rest until he had finished it” (49). Although this may be a particularly powerful drive in the case of Teller or in the field of thermonuclear reactions in general, Burke claims that this drive is common for all fields of science: “The principle is the same. Each scientific specialization has its own particular idiom, making for its particular idiocy, in line with its particular possibilities of communication” (49). Note that it is the medium of communication, in most cases a professional vocabulary, which sets the terms for the potentialities available within a scientific specialization. The rigorous vocabularies of the scientific disciplines make them conducive to the aesthetic appeal of self-consistency and hence to the creative motive of consummation. Burke calls consummation “an autonomous formal principle” (“Watchful” 49), and both Polanyi and Kuhn agree that similar aesthetic principles play a large role in the developments within the natural sciences. 21 These sciences, Burke claims, are all developing towards aims determined by their professional vocabulary rather than any shared notion of the “common good” for mankind. Burke concludes his discussion of consummation with a broader view of the effects of these autonomous formal principles in operation all around us:
A clutter of such autonomous formal principles, each aiming at its own kind of perfection, can add up to a condition of considerable disarray—and especially insofar as many of the new powers thus being developed lend themselves readily to destructive purposes while even their ‘peaceful’ uses are menacing, as with the pollution that goes with the disposal of atomic wastes. Yes, the ‘aesthetics’ of recent technological consummations can become quite ugly. (49-50)
Here Burke ironically observes how the aesthetic desires of a range of scientific specialists create a markedly aesthetically unappealing world. Their desire for beauty leads to a hideous reality. He uses the word “perfection” to describe what these consummations or “autonomous formal principles” are aiming at, but makes it clear that the autonomous formal principle is not the same as perfection. I will discuss the relationship between perfection, entelechy, and consummation in the concluding section of this paper.
So what have we learned from the second approach to consummation? Consummation is an autonomous formal principle sustained by the aesthetic requirement for self-consistency. In order for self-consistency to become the dominant motivation, one needs an extensive vocabulary that is also rigorous, meaning that it has set up a wide range of rules for self-consistency that it follows consistently. The terminologies of different scientific specializations are examples of such extensive and rigorous vocabularies, and Burke mentioned the field of thermonuclear physics as one field where the principle of consummation was a significant factor.
Third Approach: Various Texts Written 1960-1993
Kenneth Burke often found it useful to separate between action and motion, where action infers an active consciousness that makes choices, and motion does not require consciousness or choices, exemplified in such mechanisms as the body’s ability to breathe (Religion 41). So far, based on the texts written in the 1950s, Burke’s explanations of consummation seem to reduce human agency to mere motion; indeed, he writes about this period that “[e]xperimentally, I often turn the usual perspective around, and think not of us as using language but of language as using us to get itself said” (22 April 1958; Jay, Correspondence 332).22 He writes, “To a large extent, I am sure, we are simply like a telephone exchange run by an automatic dialing system. Things go in and out of us much as though we were the coordinating center that didn’t even know what was being said” (Correspondence 332). As he works further on the concept of consummation, however, he seems to moderate this view and shows consummation as a complex interaction between action and motion, and between conscious and unconscious symbol-using. This approach comes at the end of Burke’s published work in The Rhetoric of Religion (1961), Language as Symbolic Action (1966), and essays gathered in the collected edition On Human Nature: A Gathering While Everything Flows 1967-1984. This is also where he theorizes ways in which this creative motive can be diffused or at least made less harmful. I will first show the potential cures or correctives Burke suggested for consummation, and then apply this in a discussion about the extent and the possibility consummation leaves for choice or action.
In The Rhetoric of Religion, Kenneth Burke uses the Bible as an example of a vocabulary that is capable of sustaining the creative motive of consummation. The cyclical chart of terms for Order that he finds through his analysis of the Bible “sums up the ‘directionless’ way in which such a cluster of terms imply one another” (4).23 The goal of the book is to develop a critical metalinguistic vocabulary (logology) that can make us aware of such persuasive structures in other non-religious vocabularies, such as the metaphysics of empire, technologism24, and scientism (170, 302). This implies that people can learn to question the consummatory drive if they become aware of it and have a critical vocabulary they can use to analyze it (301).
In Language as Symbolic Action, Burke seems to suggest a sort of competitive check on consummation:
Whereas there seems to be no principle of control intrinsic to the ideal of carrying out any such set of possibilities to its “perfect” conclusion, and whereas all sorts of people are variously goaded to track down their particular sets of terministically directed insights, there is at least the fact that the schemes get in one another’s way, thus being to some extent checked by rivalry one with another. (19-20)
The principle seems to be that a plurality of voices or at least the lack of univocality can constrain the negative impacts of consummation. Moves towards debate, inclusion, and interdisciplinarity may help to check consummation in specialized vocabularies.25
Finally, in On Human Nature: A Gathering While Everything Flows, Kenneth Burke describes the consummatory drive as a kind of autosuggestion, and he suggests a potential cure: “Might the best protection against the dangers of autosuggestion be in the development of methods designed to maintain maximum liquidity in all symbolic exercising?” (50). Aristotle’s Rhetoric is one example he gives of tools that can help us maintain such liquidity. If consummation requires a rigorous and disciplined vocabulary, symbolic liquidity could help to loosen the chains of formal syllogistic progression that make consummation possible.26 He recounts how he himself as an author became the victim of autosuggestion and was only able to free himself from it by criticism (49), and he seems to think that the same cure could help other people in the same way. Later, he suggests satire as a method of popularizing criticism of rigorous vocabularies by taking the demand for self-consistency to an excess and thereby showing its absurdity (73).
These opportunities for correction suggest that consummation is not ineluctable, despite Crusius’s claim to the contrary (Crusius 73). Even though Burke played with turning around the concept of people using language to language using people, he never claimed that it is false that people can and do use language. Because consummation is a motive that requires a rigorous vocabulary, it is as subject to criticism and capable of correction as the vocabulary it relies on. By debate it can be dissipated, by maintaining symbolic liquidity it can be destabilized, and by logology and satire it can be analyzed, criticized, and defused. Consummation seems to only be a danger when people are not aware of it, when the vocabulary is shielded from debate, or when the proponents of the vocabulary actively choose to disregard the danger.
How, then, should we conceptualize the extent or possibility for active choice for people driven by consummation? Self-consistency is an aesthetic desire; a sense for what is appropriate or beautiful, and yet it can become a “trained incapacity” to the extent that it becomes hard for someone habituated to that kind of thinking to think differently. It may be useful to use Burke’s phrase that “The driver drives the car, but the traffic drives the driver” (Human 71). People driven by consummatory self-consistency act, think, and make conscious decisions, but they do so within a framework defined by their vocabulary. For example, rather than considering whether or not it is good or even useful to “increase man’s control over nature” in the form of thermonuclear weapons, someone who buys into Teller’s scientific vision would simply ask “how can I best increase man’s control over nature.” The scientist thinks and makes choices, but the terminology determines the range of thoughts and choices available or acceptable to him or her.
To give a specific example, in “Physics in the Contemporary World,” Robert Oppenheimer dismisses the claim that scientists are responsible to society for the results of their discoveries. Instead, he argues, “The true responsibility of a scientist, as we all know, is to the integrity and vigor of his science” (67). Oppenheimer goes on to discuss what a scientist should and should not consider: “Science is disciplined in its rejection of questions that cannot be answered” (86), by which he means any question that cannot be answered by empirical measurements or mathematical proof. A person that has adapted such a way of thinking by commitment and habituation may feel more compelled by, and less able or willing to resist, the consummatory drive for self-consistency within that vocabulary. Although Kenneth Burke describes the drive at times as a compulsion, he uses words of action to describe people following it. For example, in Language as Symbolic Action, he writes:
A given terminology contains various implications, and there is a corresponding perfectionist tendency for men to attempt to carry out those implications. Thus, each of our scientific nomenclatures suggests its own special range of possible developments, with specialists vowed to carry out these terministic possibilities to the extent of their personal ability and technical resources. (19, emphasis added)The terminology suggests potential developments, but it is people that fulfill them because of their commitments and their desires. It is possible to reject the urge for completion, just as an author can refuse to finish a book or a listener can turn off a song before it has ended.
Burke compares this terministic compulsion to an astronomer who, through calculations and observations, predicts that an asteroid will soon hit Earth and destroy all life on it. “He would . . . feel compelled to argue for the correctness of his computations, despite the ominousness of the outcome” (19), not because awareness could in any way avoid the disaster, but because it is the answer that fits. The difference is that, in bioengineering or nuclear physics, following caluclations to the end of the line is what creates the ominous outcome. The potentiality may be latent in nature, but cloning and nuclear weapons do not just materialize from potentialities in nature; people choose to uncover and develop these potentialities. When James Joyce or Beethoven follow the implications of their symbol-systems, they can choose not to complete that journey, although it may feel gratifying and right to do so (305). Burke writes that artists or speculative minds can feel like “there is no rest” once they have glimpsed certain ultimate possibilities until they have “transformed its potentialities into total actualization” (Human 73). The person who glimpses the possibilities is “called” and is under “a kind of compulsion” to pursue those possibilities (Human 74), but it is possible to avoid heeding that call.
In terms of the action/motion duality, it seems that people who have been “under the spell” of such a consummatory drive feel they are less free to act.27 The level of agency and ability to act in opposition to the consummatory drive may be highest before one commits to a specialized vocabulary of a science, academic field, ideology, or religion, although it is questionable whether humans can operate without any such terminologies. Still, there is a great difference between the rigorous vocabulary of positivistic science and the playful vocabulary of an omnivorous reader of world literature,28 and they are not equally capable of generating expectations of self-consistency.
Conclusion: Entelechy, Perfection, and Consummation
As mentioned earlier, some Burke scholars tend to see consummation, perfection, and entelechy as identical, and there are some passages in Burke’s writings that could justify such an interpretation, and I will discuss them. However, I will make the argument that consummation should be seen as a separate term with a separate meaning.
In On Human Nature, Kenneth Burke discusses his thoughts on the third creative motive (consummation), which arose from speculations in the late 1930s, and then writes: “Later I began to ask myself whether I could round out this notion of a purely formal motive (or goad, implicit in our nomenclatures) by adapting for my purposes the Aristotelian concept of entelechy” (74). He goes on to explain that whereas Aristotle applied the term to explain biology, physics, and almost every development in nature and society, Burke only applies it to symbolic action. Different verbal structures are “illustrative, in their different ways, of the entelechial principle, tracking down the implications of a position, going to the end of the line” (74). One reading of this passage could be that Burke replaces consummation with entelechy since he realizes what he is talking about is basically a symbolic version of what Aristotle discussed in his writings on biology and physics.
The essay the quote is taken from, “Why Satire, With a Plan for Writing One,” was written in 1974, which definitely sets its date after his previous discussions of consummation. Although he discusses a third creative motive in the same article, he does not use the term “consummation,” which could justify the interpretation that entelechy simply became the new consummation. In fact, I have not been able to find an article where he uses the word “consummation” after 1967, when he uses it in both “A Theory of Terminology” (Human 244) and “Curriculum Criticum,” the afterword to the 1968 edition of Counter-Statement (225).29 However, it is not as if entelechy is a new invention in the Burkean vocabulary in 1974. He used the term actively in his criticism since at least 1952 (in “A ‘Dramatistic’ View of ‘Imitation’”) at the same time as he was writing about consummation as a separate term with a separate meaning. 30
I would argue that the concepts of consummation and entelechy, though related, are not the same. Entelechy is the “rounding out” of consummation in the sense that Burke takes a specific category of creative motive and shows that it is just one example of a general tendency within all symbol-using. I would argue that consummation is a specific manifestation of the entelechial principle, but that not every manifestation of entelechy is consummation. In this sense, they operate together in a cluster where entelechy is the greater summarizing term and consummation is the more limited and restricted term.
So what exactly is entelechy? In his introduction to “Archetype and Entelechy,” Rueckert writes that Burke borrowed the term entelechy from Aristotle, applied it to literary texts, and later “he expanded its application so that it applied to all symbolic action and became one of the prime functions of language and central concepts of logology” (Human 121). Rueckert’s explanation of entelechy is that “[l]anguage, or, perhaps, just the human mind, seeks perfection, is compelled to go to the ‘end of the line’ in its many endeavours” (Human 121). If we accept Rueckert’s definition, then it seems clear that entelechy is more expansive than consummation. The passages on consummation previously referred to all seem to require an established and preferably specialized vocabulary in order for consummation to be a factor, whereas entelechy applies to all symbolic actions and is one of the prime functions of language itself. To give an analogy: If entelechy is the general tendency humans have to get sick, then consummation is a particular class of diseases that can afflict them. This does conflict with Star Muir’s definition of entelechy as “the tracking down of implications within a particular vocabulary” (21st Century 36), although I would agree that what Muir is describing is one manifestation of the entelechial motive.
So how does entelechy relate to perfection? Are they the same for Burke? In “Archetype and Entelechy,” Burke defines entelechy as “such use of symbolic resources that potentialities can be said to attain their perfect fulfillment” (Human 125), with perfect victimage being one example. Other examples are the perfect villain, the perfect fool, the Nazi version of the Jew as the perfect enemy, and the perfect Communist (Human 126). These examples of entelechy seem to show that entelechy is a general tendency to take a concept, image, or principle to its extreme. For example, labeling someone as vicious or evil and taking that to its extreme might lead anyone defined as “good” to kill or conquer that person, whereas labeling someone as mistaken would direct good people to try to correct or persuade him or her (Attitudes 41). In the same way, Burke labels Freud’s myth of “the fatherkill” as entelechial in the sense that, although it may never have really happened, it is a “perfect representative expression of the tensions he viewed as intrinsic to the family structure” (Human 127). The fatherkill is the entelechy of the Oedipus complex. It is the fruition or culmination of a struggle or tension taken to its furthest extent. Unlike the descriptions of consummation, there is no qualification that this motive requires a highly developed vocabulary or that this form operates primarily through self-consistency rather than by the arousing and fulfilling of new expectations.
In order to understand entelechy, this drive towards the perfection of a concept, image, or principle, we have to understand what Kenneth Burke means by perfection. In “Theology and Logology,” he writes that perfection is the secular or logological analogue of the “idea of God as the ens perfectissimum” (Human 177) (most perfect being or conjunction of all perfections), but that Burke’s concept of perfection does not require that the perfection be positive, only that it be the ultimate of its kind. One example is how we may impute terrible motives to our opponents until they are little less than the pure embodiment of evil (such as one sees in war propaganda). By so doing, we “perfect” the idea of our opponents until they are the most loathsome enemy we could possibly imagine. This perfection of the enemy is what Burke would call an entelechy, a manifestation of the entelechial motive taken to its ultimate form. This seems to fit well with Bryan Hubbard’s definition of entelechy as the drive towards perfection. Entelechy is the drive and perfection is the goal that inspires the drive, comparable to how, in theology, piety is a yearning for God and a perfect God is the center or locus that makes such a drive possible. Burke describes the secular grounds for this drive as a formal obligation: “Discourse can be truly discourse only by having the power to be fully itself. Such a formal obligation applies always” (Religion 289).
To summarize the relationship between the three concepts, entelechy is a general drive towards perfection. Perfection is a goal or ideal fueled by a “formal obligation” for a discourse, concept, or principle to “be fully itself” which means to actualize inherent potentialities to its fullest degree (such as “perfecting” the enemy). Consummation is one manifestation of the entelechial drive, where a vocabulary sustains a drive towards a particular kind of perfection. The perfection the consummatory terminology is driving towards is most likely symbolized by a God-term. Unlike some other manifestations of the entelechial drive (such as creating “the perfect enemy” or “the perfect bread”), consummation requires an extensive terminology to be a significant motive. Self-expression and communication must first create utterance and structure before consummation can arise as an active motive, just as faith and understanding precede vision in Saint Anselm’s theology. The terminology must also be rigorous enough to allow self-consistency to become the dominant form and give rise to this autonomous formal principle.
So what does the concept of consummation add to Burke’s corpus of critical terms? First of all, it adds precision. Instead of just describing the existence of a general principle, consummation describes a motive which only arises at a specific stage in a dialectic between self-expression and communication. It gives a clearer description of how the general entelechial principle is developed and sustained in specialized vocabularies. Second, it adds understanding of a specific mode of persuasion that may be the source of some of the greatest problems we have in the world today, and just as vision transcends the ergotizing ways of understanding, so consummation may elude many of our normal filters for detecting and analyzing arguments. This rhetoric operates through self-consistency rather than expectation, and as such it may seem inevitable or unproblematic and therefore it is not subjected to criticism. Kenneth Burke warns us of the specific dangers of consummation in specialized vocabularies and directs us to study these vocabularies carefully for implications of future developments. Finally, this is a specific manifestation of the entelechial principle which requires a terminology in order to function as a motive, and it is therefore capable of criticism and correction through the remedies suggested by Kenneth Burke.
Based on these and the previous arguments, I maintain that consummation deserves to be considered independently of entelechy and perfection as an important term in Burke’s critical vocabulary. It is my belief that Kenneth Burke intended for it to be considered in that way. But, as Burke often said, “we may settle for less.” In either case, I argue that this concept of consummation is useful for Burke scholars and rhetoricians to distinguish an important manifestation of the entelechial drive.
1. Burke refers to such a shift in a letter to Cowley written 9th of August 1945: “I may end up where I began: with Flaubert” (Jay 268). He also mentions in “Curriculum Criticum” (in 1967) that he has added an explicit concern with consummation in his later works.
2. Rueckert writes that the essays in Part One “(and others in the collection)” are warnings about taking the development of terminologies (science and technology) “to the end of the line” (4). Although this also relates to entelechy and perfection, Burke specifically describes a motive of “tracking down implications of a terminology,” which I argue is the definition of consummation, over thirty times throughout the collection.
3. Burke’s concept of self-expression is universal and not limited to artists. People can, for example, express themselves by living or acting out the occupation or social class they belong to.
4. When asked to clarify this quote, Wess wrote in an email dated 19 November 2015: “The key word in the paragraph you quote from is ‘cluster.’ Terms in a cluster are synonyms in a Burkean sense, which is a bit different from the conventional meaning of ‘synonym.’ Broadening the context, I would say that Burke was always especially interested in action undertaken for its own sake rather than as a means to something else. Over the years, he theorized such action is a number of ways that are different but that also may be ‘clustered’ together.”
5. At least, his definition and description of entelechy match that of consummation in «Curriculum Criticum» and other texts.
6. There is no necessary contradiction between Clark’s concept of the social consequences consummation can have and my explanation of the term, although his book focuses more on the positive effects and my article focuses more on the dangers consummation entails.
7. The text is a review of The Lion and the Honeycomb by R.P. Blackmur. Kenneth Burke starts by critiquing Blackmur’s criticism of rhetoric and then goes on to digress on Saint Anselm and explains consummation in terms of Saint Anselm’s triad.
8. Burke connected the terms with the symbol =, which I transcribe as “equals.”
9. To ergotize is to argue logically or sophistically. Burke seems to imply that “vision” operates on a different plane than understanding and convinces us in a different way.
10. Faith is primary for Saint Anselm and does not require understanding. As he writes, “Were I unable in any way to understand what I believe, still nothing could shake my constancy” (II).
11. He gives it as an example of a triad structure and does not explicitly link it to consummation, but considering the proximity in the passage there is good reason to think that Burke at least viewed Spinoza’s triad as indicative of his aesthetic triad.
12. According to David Cratis Williams, the section on consummation was most likely written “in part” during 1951-2 “with the remaining . . . most likely written during Burke’s stay at the Center for Advanced Study at Stanford in 1957-58” (Williams 23), so temporally it was probably written both before and after “The Criticism of Criticism.”
13. Syllogistic progression has most to do with structures of language that direct our desires in a certain way and make a certain outcome almost inevitable. Qualitative progression has more to do with moods and states of mind that feel appropriate in sequence (the calm before the storm, etc.). Repetitive form is created by consistently repeating one principle while changing the guises it appears in, making the reader to expect further revelations of the same principle. Conventional form has to do with what we could call genre conventions, where we come to a play with certain expectations of that genre. The expectation is aroused before one experiences the content. Minor forms are such as metaphor, paradox, and other smaller forms that operate in any given text, without a necessary connection to the overarching form of the text. All these aspects will at times overlap and at times conflict in a text (Counter-Statement 124-8).
14. In Rhetoric of Religion Burke writes, “And implicit in their supposedly objective versions of what is and is not, they will have concealed a set of shall’s and shall not’s which they will proceed methodically to discover” (279).
15. In positivism, math and logic only have legitimacy because they are self-consistent tautologies, and any inconsistency would immediately doom both as nonsense (Ayer 10); similarly, Perelman claims that consistency helps to give a law legitimacy among the public (Perelman 62).
16. General Advisory Committee for the United States Atomic Energy Commission.
17. Over 50 years later, the military is still no closer to this elusive goal that Teller once described as merely a couple of years away (Magraw 34).
18. As mentioned before, this text was most likely written “in part” during 1951-2 and the rest written during Burke’s stay at the Center for Advanced Study at Stanford from 1957 to 1958 (Williams 23). Considering that Burke is describing “clean thermonuclear weapons,” it has to at least be after the advent of thermonuclear weapons in 1952. In addition, Katherine Magraw writes in “Teller and the ‘Clean Bomb’ Episode” that it was first in 1957 that “clean bombs” were discussed with the president (32) and that it was not discussed much publicly until February 1958, when Edward Teller and Albert Latter advocated for them in the LIFE magazine article. Probably, Burke wrote this text in 1958, making it likely that he is responding to Edward Teller and his justification for continued nuclear tests.
19. Teller sees this as an almost automatic mechanism: «Science brings progress; progress creates power» (93).
20. Teller sees the rejection of work on the H-bomb as almost a betrayal, and details the betrayal of Oppenheimer (41), Fermi, Rabi, and others (43-4). On the other hand, Ernest Lawrence (who was in favor of the H-bomb) is given a moving eulogy as “the best defender of our cause” and one who “sacrificed his life for science and for his country” (73).
21. Kuhn and Polanyi agree that scientists are motivated by a sense for order, consistency, and beauty in both their work and in their support of paradigms or theories. See Kuhn (154-5); Polanyi (13-4). Robert Oppenheimer claims that one of the main virtues of science and scientific life is its beauty (Oppenheimer 86).
22. This was in a letter to Malcolm Cowley written from the Center for Advanced Study at Stanford. As mentioned before, this was when he was writing “Watchful,” so it is likely that these are thoughts related to consummation.
23. Burke lists a chart of religious terms that can be viewed as logically dependent on and logical consequences of the idea of order. If there is order, then there is also potential for disorder, hence there is a law and a potential to either disobey or obey it. The whole cluster of terms ranges from Heaven to Hell with all of the terms seemingly logically dependent on each other. Thus, you are never “outside” of the larger order built on the terms implicit in the idea of order. Whatever choice you make, there is a description for it and a remedy assigned to that behavior.
24. A set of beliefs built upon the assumption that “the remedy for the problems arising from technology is to be sought in the development of ever more and more technology” (Human 133).
25. Although positivism, which was envisioned as the greatest hope for interdisciplinarity and unification among the sciences, became perhaps one of the greatest promoters of univocality and stifled dissent. So interdisciplinarity does not necessarily mean a plurality of voices.
26. Because Burke does not here explain what he means by symbolic liquidity, one can only make a guess based on the context of what he says and the content of Aristotle’s Rhetoric. My guess is that he believed that cultivating “an ability, in each case, to see the available means of persuasion” (1.2.1), would help people size up a situation in a lot of different ways, thereby avoiding too narrow views of a situation or an argument.
27. Robert Wilson describes that it was as though they had been programmed to finish the bomb and Frank Oppenheimer mentions being trapped by the machinery and momentum. Both are descriptions of limited agency (Trinity)
28. Kuhn writes that broad exposure to competing and incommensurable solutions is what distinguishes a student in the humanities or social sciences from a student in the natural sciences. This makes a natural scientist less prepared to handle paradigm crises and discover a fresh approach to answering the questions of his or her field (164-5).
29. In “'Always Keep Watching for Terms': Visits with Kenneth Burke, 1989-1990," edited by William Cahill, Kenneth Burke is still referring to three creative motives. In this interview he refers to the third motive as follows: "When you get to the third stage, it’s just fulfilling, you see, you finally get—what I decided to call it is the technical equivalent of inspiration, technological inspiration. You see, you’re really inspired when your vocabulary takes over. You start using words and words finally get you going and then the thing comes to life."
30. Burke writes that, "Since circa 1955, I have felt impelled to round out theories of 'self-expression' and 'communication' with a third term, 'consummation'" and states that consummation "essentially involves matters to do with 'tracking down the possibilities implicit in a given terminology" (Language 486).
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