Developing Symbols: In General (Continuation VI)
On the problem of the Great Depression, he writes a book using the symbols, permanence and change. Since these symbols can coexist, Burke uses them as ‘both/and’ symbols. This means that these symbols form a functional relation. Thus, instead of becoming a logician and using them as either/or symbols, Burke became a true economic analyst who must remove contradictions from the US economy so the economy can be filled with function relations. Both/and symbols thus allow the analyst to ramify both symbols. With the symbols, permanence and change, Burke will seek the ‘better life’ for people. He thought that this better life was possible only through symbolic action. But, as I said, the Hoover economists did not understand the nature of both/and symbolic languages and negated Burke’s effort with simple logic. But, I believe that ‘special interests’ have seized control of the US economy with logic following the assassination of Lincoln.
To understand Burke, let me return to Plato’s work. Plato says that man is born with innate ideas. These ideas are the highly permanent ideas that are imbedded in the culture in which a person is born. As a person grows, these imbedded ideas eventually become imbedded in the minds of all people in a culture. They are the certainties on which a new baby can rely. Today, these certainties are often spoken of as universals.
All certainties begin as potentials. Potentials are given to all living things by God and differ from species to species. Thus, a dog is born with the potential to bark. But, a human is born with higher potentials. One is the potential for speech. Speech is made possible only with symbols. Today, a human being is born with certainties such as speech, mechanical tools, art, mythology, religion, social systems, property, government, justice, and war. However, any of these certainties can be silenced by ignorance because all certainties are governed by the pair of both/and symbols, permanence and change. Their meanings can be ramified but can never become maximally different. Otherwise, they would become either/or symbols.
I believe that we must put Burke’s methods to work on the human problem of cooperation and communication. For instance, I believe that changing ‘world trade’ to ‘free world trade’ was too early and is causing too many problems inside a nation. A nation cannot be built with a single field of thought --- economics --- and a single symbol --- money. Further, the symbol 'free' is not a thing in itself.