Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose, Third edition, by Kenneth Burke

By Kenneth Burke

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Extra info for Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose, Third edition, With new Afterword.

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Why this man should have been suspected of self-deception when using the only vocabulary of motives he had ever been taught, will remain one of the mysteries of psycho-analytic rationalization. It would seem somewhat like accusing a savage of self-deception who, never having heard of Pasteur, attempted to cure his diseases without the orientation of bacteriology. The topic of rationalization has carried us beyond orientation proper into the theory of motives. The Pavlov-Watson-Gestalt kind of approach confined itself in general to a description of the conditions under which simple responses are formed and altered.

When justice was a pivotal word in the Weltanschauung, who can say that people did not give up their lives to the cause of justice? Indeed, they could even rush forward in behalf of the word's mere syllables. And lest any reader think it extravagant of us to imagine a hypothetical civilization in which the good of future progeny might be taken as a basic motive of human conduct, we may consider a simple antithetical case, the case of China in the heyday of her ancestor‐ worship, when the psychological motives for acts, the reasons for certain kinds of sacrifice, effort, discipline, censure, and praise, were built about the up -40- holding of the ancestral dignities.

It was, for instance, quite efficacious in unburdening a people of their sins. All that was needed was a formula and ritual whereby these sins could be transferred to the back of an animal, the animal was then ferociously beaten or slain—and the feeling of relief was apparent to all. A theory that sins are transferable may not seem to us as justifiable as a theory that diseases are transferable—and it is particularly when the savages attempted to exorcise plague by the same substitution of goats for people that we tend to explain their conduct by a special process.

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