I Usually Just Rant
Edappel8 at cs.com
Fri Jul 19 18:59:31 EST 2002
David's original question was, how do we define "moral clarity" rhetorically.
From a Burkean perspective, which is what this listserv is devoted to by and
large, Gary offered an apt and jarring answer: It's an oxymoron. Burke and
his philosophy are "substantially" BOTH/AND, standing as a continuing
critique of a linguistic world, Burke has more than once intimated, that is
entelechially driven to see things EITHER/OR. At a session or panel at an
ECA Rhetoric and Public Address Interest Group conference in Plymouth, Mass,
in the late '80's--Ray McKerrow is the only other person I can recall being
there--I referred to Burke as the "quintessential liberal." Embracing a view
of life that seems to me to be inherently tragic-frame, conservatives tend,
glaringly contra Burke, to see things in blacks and whites. "Moral clarity"
is one of their mantras.
A corollary to that incantation is the notion of "no moral equivalence."
We're right and the enemy is wrong, no matter how similar the end results of
our actions in terms of material mayhem and body counts. Andrea Yates has to
get the electric chair even though she is patently nuts. Poor people are
poor because of personal moral failings, not genetic or environmental
influences. Rich people, ipso facto, "made it" on pluck, not luck.
Conservatism is about "personal responsibility and moral judgment," Rich
Lowery, editor of NATIONAL REVIEW, has told us.
Name an abominable act in history that doesn't have its partly, I say partly,
counterbalancing extenuations. Hitler had only one testicle, a domineering
father and, in all likelihood, a compromised neurochemistry. Stalin was a
paranoid psychopath. Burke's essentially charitab
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