Equipment for Thinking: or Why Kenneth Burke is Still Worth Reading

Studies in Philosophy and Education 34 (4):363-375 (2015)
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In a market place crowded with practical rhetoric books what educational value could a challenging work such as Kenneth Burke’s A Rhetoric of Motives possibly have? Burke knows but doesn’t use the terminology of the classical art and rather than analysing the persuasive rhetoric of well-known speeches to equip us with strategies, he weaves his way around literary texts, teasing out meanings that their authors something intended, sometimes did not. Yet, despite such difficulties, A Rhetoric of Motives is a practical rhetoric book. It is just that its process of explication teaches us to think well. This essay tries to explain Burke’s rethinking of the purpose and contents of a traditional teaching tool—the rhetorical handbook—and defends the value of literary-rhetorical reading that aims to ‘equip’ citizens to think openly



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