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Chiasmus as a mode of probing.

Of the Lonrd and Man

Kenneth Burke asks: "Do we simply use words, or do they not also use us?" (1)

Likewise, is man simply God's creature, an extension of Him? Isn't God also man's creature, an extension of him?

As an extension of man, God channels man's energy and retunes his psychic closure. Extension entails both enhancement and narcosis, which form integral parts of the same process.

Insofar as God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, He is simultaneously Total Consciousness, Ultimate Agent, and Total Ground. He is everything man is not, the ultimate Other outered and uttered by man himself. In the words of Burke, man's idea of God "is but a function of language"--the "perfected projection of [man's] personality. (2)

As an extension of man, God is a medium, a milieu, and a surrounding, which informs (gives form to) man's action. At a pragmatic level, He is a "social medium"--an instrument for community building and enemy making--that mediates human congregation and segregation.

The paradox is that when man communicates with Him, it may well be the case that the communication is primarily addressed to other men. The infinite sublimity of Him as the ostensible Auditor in a ritual frame allows man to redress situations of unlimited enormity in the human realm. Whereas a politician may "[kiss] women on their babies," man addresses his fellows by talking to Him. (3)

Further Examples

As terrorists exploit the media, so the media exploit terrorists.

In the wake of the Arab Spring, perhaps we should ask what democracy brings about instead of what brings about democracy.

Kenneth Burke: "Throughout the recent depression our financial Genghis Khans have managed again and again to uphold and strengthen this confusion (of 'business' and 'industry'). We must worry ourselves as to 'what is good for business', rather than ask the more fundamental question, 'What is business good for?'" (4)

Kenneth Burke: "... if there is a total causal structure, we can as justly say that the past is determined by the future as that the future is determined by the past." (5)

Kenneth Burke: "The followers of John Dewey's educational theories make a distinction between 'education as a function of society' and 'society as a function of education' ... we should say that a society is normal when education can be a function of society." (6)

Kenneth Burke: "... words are public properties, and the individual 'has a stake in' their public ownership. He cannot merely 'delegate' powers to them. It would be as true (or as over simplifyingly false) to say that they delegate their powers to him. He uses them, and they use him." (7)

Gilles Deleuze: "Not only are prisoners treated like children, but children are treated like prisoners." (8)

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: "The people is internal to the thinker because it is a 'becoming-people', just as the thinker is internal to the people as no less unlimited becoming." (9)

Paul Virilio: "The problem is not to use technology but to realize that one is used by it." (10)

Paul Virilio: "To drive is also to be driven. To drive a car is also to be driven by its properties .... Wealth is the hidden side of speed and speed the hidden side of wealth." (11)

Zhuangzi: "Thing things without being thinged by thing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]." (12)

Alan Watts: "To be free from convention is not to spurn it but not to be deceived by it. It is to be able to use it as an instrument instead of being used by it." (13)

Neil Postman: "... technology is not a neutral element in the practice of medicine: doctors do not merely use technologies but are used by them." (14)

Lewis Hyde: "[Mary] Douglas has it that dirt is the by-product of ... systematic ordering', but it's more that dirt and order are mutually dependent, for in this case the conceit can be as easily reversed: for Legba, the creation of order is a by-product of dirt." (15)

Lewis Hyde: "The Monkey of the Mind wakes us to the web of mutable signs that shapes and toys with us until we get the wit to shape and toy with it." (16)


(1.) Kenneth Burke, "Definition of Man," in Language as Symbolic Action (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1966), 6.

(2.) Kenneth Burke, The Rhetoric of Religion: Studies in Logology (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1961), 297, 304.

(3.) Kenneth Burke, "Rhetoric and Poetics," in Language as Symbolic Action (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1966), 302.

(4.) Kenneth Burke, "The Nature of Art under Capitalism," in The Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action, Second Edition (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University, 1967), 316-317.

(5.) Kenneth Burke, Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose (New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1965), 259.

(6.) Kenneth Burke, Attitudes Toward History, Second Edition (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1961), 331.

(7.) Ibid., 333.

(8.) Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, "Intellectuals and Power: A Conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze," in Donald F. Bouchard, ed., Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews by Michel Foucault (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977), 210.

(9.) Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, trans. by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 109.

(10.) Paul Virilio and Sylvere Lotringer, Pure War: Twenty-Five Years Later, trans. by Mark Polizzotti (Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2008), 92.

(11.) Ibid., 43-44.

(12.) Zhuangzi, "The Mountain Tree OD 71<)," see Geling Shang, Zhuangzi: Dancing with the World (Shanghai, People's Republic of China: Shangha Translation Publishing House, 2010), 155.

(13.) Alan W. Watts, "The Philosophy of the Tao," in The Way of Zen (New York: Vintage Books, 1957), 11.

(14.) Neil Postman, "The Ideology of Machines: Medical Technology," in Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), 105.

(15.) Lewis Hyde, "Matter Out of Place," in Trickster Makes This World: Mischief Myth, and Art (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998), 176-177.

(16.) Lewis Hyde, "Trickster Arts and Works of Artus," in Trickster Makes This World: Mischief Myth, and Art (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998), 273.
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Title Annotation:PROBES
Author:Zhang, Peter
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2012
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