Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose

By Kenneth Burke | Go to book overview

III
SECULAR MYSTICISM IN BENTHAM

Bentham's "Table of the Springs of Action"

IT WAS in England that the Industrial Revolution first flowered—and it was here that the doctrines of Utilitarianism had their clearest formulation. We have already noted how close the secular doctrine of the greatest good for the greatest number comes to the religious doctrine of the golden

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slavery, a perspective by incongruity must arise.

At first, law is hardly more than the codification of custom. But its formulation probably occurs because the customs are ceasing to possess unquestioned authority among the group as a whole, whereas a fraction of the group would greatly profit by the continuance of the old habits. Law is thus an educative, or manipulative device. It begins as theological law, still close to its "magical" origins—but as it develops and proliferates, a new situation arises: though it was originally a mere codification of custom, it now becomes an implement for the moulding of custom. The popular resentment at lawyers, as symbolized in the play by Molière, may derive in part from the fact that their prestidigitation is fundamentally impious, manipulating the abstractions of legal fiat until the commands of law have diverged farther and farther from the commands of custom, and eventually threaten to throw custom into confusion. Law becomes incongruous, except insofar as people can alter their customs to fit the liquid, constantly shifting alterations of law.

Theological law is a kind of halfway stage, in part being

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Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Permanence and Change - An Anatomy of Purpose *
  • Contents 7
  • Part I- On Interpretation 11
  • I- Orientation 11
  • II- Motives 30
  • III- Occupational Psychosis 54
  • IV- Style 71
  • V- Magic, Religion, and Science 82
  • Part II- Perspective by Incongruity 95
  • I- The Range of Piety 95
  • II- New Meanings 106
  • III- Perspective as Metaphor 118
  • IV- Argument by Analogy 128
  • V- Secular Conversions 164
  • VI- Meaning and Regression 193
  • Conclusion 207
  • Part III- The Basis of Simplification 214
  • I- Causality and Communication 214
  • II- Permanence and Change 227
  • III- Secular Mysticism in Bentham 237
  • IV- The Ethical Confusion 247
  • V- The Search for Motives 275
  • VI- Occupation and Preoccupation 303
  • VII- The Poetry of Action 316
  • Conclusions 336
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