Kenneth Burke’s logology is a way of thinking about how to understand the use of language—what he calls “symbolic action”—and how to use language to make sense of various human practices, including interpretive acts. This is a dialectic in thought between rhetoric as language-use and interpretation as making-sense. In The Rhetoric of Religion Burke’s theotropic logology uses theology to interpret symbolic action and symbolic action to interpret theology. Burke extends to other interpretive projects this same rhetorical-hermeneutic strategy of analogically translating words from one domain into another, from one meaning into another. This strategy is one way Burke thinks with other authors and their texts. The present essay uses some of Burke’s published and unpublished work to show how he thinks with the Christian Existentialism of Nicholas Berdyaev and Fyodor Dostoevsky, especially on the topic of freedom. In his thinking with Berdyaev, Burke agrees with the Russian theo-philosopher about the importance of freedom. Indeed, the act of freedom, dramatized in Dostoevsky and described by Berdyaev, forms the very center of Burke’s theory of symbolic action, his Dramatism and ultimately his Logology. Freedom is the condition of possibility for human action as opposed to mere motion, and free will is the necessary product of the cycle of terms implicit in the idea of hierarchical order presented in Burke’s The Rhetoric of Religion.
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Mailloux, Steven. “Thinking with Christian Existentialism: Freedom in Burke’s Logology and Berdyaev’s Dostoevsky.” Literature of the Americas 9 (2020): 106-32. http://litda.ru/images/americana/Steven_Mailloux.pdf