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Today's Speech
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Communication aesthetics
Paul N. Campbell
Queens College , CUNY
Published online: 21 May 2009.

To cite this article: Paul N. Campbell (1971) Communication aesthetics, Today's Speech, 19:3,
7-18, DOI: 10.1080/01463377109368984

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01463377109368984


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SUMMER 1971 7

In this essay I shall propose the estab- thinking; and still others (Burke, Sartre,
lishment of a new area in the field of Koestler) have taken an even more com-
Communication—the area of "Communi- prehensive view and have exposed the
cation Aesthetics." The "newness," I weaknesses of the analytic method. Since
must add at once, does not inhere in any behaviorism is one form of positivism,
of the basic concepts that follow; all of and positivism one variant of the ana-
these are clearly ideas revisited. Rather, lytic method, what unites these theorists
the proposed area is new in that familiar is their distrust of and disbelief in ana-
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constructs are combined in unusual ways. lytic thought when employed as the pri-
The proposal is based on a character- mary or the sole intellectual process.
istic of, and a need tha,t exists in, Com- I do not suggest that these voices have
munication as a discipline. It seems ap- been unheard by students of Communi-
parent that "communication" has become cation, but I do suggest that we have as
the god-term of our field, as witnessed yet built into the field no processes or
by the retitling and restructuring of investigative methods that will serve as
courses, departments, and the national safeguards against approaches that are
organization. And it seems equally clear too analytic, too objective, too imper-
that one major pull of this new ultimate sonal.12 It is my belief that the need for
term is toward empirical-experimental- just such processes constitutes the basis
behavioral methods of investigation. But for the proposed area, and it is my hope
a problem immediately confronts us, for that just such processes will constitute
such investigative methods are essenti- the area itself.
ally analytic, and that is to say that they A Conceptual Framework
are basically incomplete and unsatisfac- There are four interrelated concepts
tory. There is no question that analytic that provide a foundation for this area:
methodologies are necessary. We must 1) There in a level at which human com-
begin with such studies, and we must munication becomes a dramatic, an aes-
emphasize them. But we must go beyond thetic act, for such communication re-
them. The warnings against analytic quires the use of language (i.e., verbal,
processes per se that began with Kant nonverbal, natural, or artificial symboli-
and Cassirerl have grown in recent zation), and the language process itself is
years to a veritable chorus of voices— at bottom an aesthetic one. 2) Communi-
Langer,2 Lenneberg,3 Chomsky,4 Feigl,5 cation is an entirely active process, and
Polanyi,6 Duncan,7 Godel,8 Sartre,9 though communicative and language acts
Burke,10 Koestler,11 and many others—all are often called "symbolic," no distinc-
crying that every viable system must tion can be made between "symbolic"
make room for the knower in what is and "real" acts. 3) Language, the medium
known, all protesting that "pure" and of communication, is the defining charac-
"impersonal" approaches are distorting teristic of man, which is to say tha,t to
and self-contradictory, all pointing out be human is to possess and be possessed
the severe limitations in the analytic by language. 4) In his language acts man
method. Some of these theorists (Chom- effects a fusion of self-symbol-environ-
sky, Lenneberg) have argued against be- ment that is appropriately studied dia-
haviorism; others (Feigl, Langer) have lectically, not analytically.13
put the problem in larger terms and have
attacked the inadequacies of positivistic These four concepts are the corner-
stones of Communication Aesthetics, but

my argument in this essay concerns, not I am not talking to anyone else, for no
only these notions, but the relationships one else is present; and there is no
between them and the implications they meaningful sense in which I am talking
hold for our field. I shall contend that to myself [though intrapersonal commu-
together these ideas make up an area of nication certainly occurs in other con-
study that is of much importance. texts). Rather, I am simply talking. That
Language as Aesthetic Process "damn!" is not expressive of some inner
The concept of literature as dramatic state, but is a way of being irritated or
discourse is a familiar one.14 But we have angry. And there are, of course, a great
assumed that communicative and rhetori- many similar constitutive language acts
cal processes do not include, or include that we perform regularly. All language
in only an incidental fashion, the dra- acts that may be called characteristic of
matic process that is literature. the user are constitutive, for a charac-
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The problem involved in distinguishing teristic act is one that is not governed
between dramatic a,nd nondramatic uses by the communicative demands of the
of language is much like the rhetorical situation, but is native to, is an aspect of
problem of limiting persuasion to oral the individual. Thus, inflections, gestures,
discourse or to those situations in which limited or rich vocabularies, typically
concrete changes in behavior are sought. serene or sarcastic uses of language are
Unless persuasion is viewed as a dimen- all constitutive, though they are very
sion of language, the basic language proc- often communicative as well.
esses pertinent to sua,sory discourse are Constitutive language acts are most ap-
excluded from the realm of rhetoric. Sim- parent in the vocal and gestural play that
ilarly, so long as dramatic discourse is seems to have been the origin of lan-
viewed as occurring solely or primarily guage in the race and that many theorists
in literature, the basic language processes view a,s the precursor of language in the
that constitute the dramatic act will be individual.16 And this fundamental di-
considered the domain of literary schol- mension of language does not disappear.
ars, not of students of communication. Most of the time it is hidden beneath
My first step, then, will be to suggest deliberate communicative language proc-
that the concept of dramatic discourse be esses, but it is always present, as indi-
broadened to the point at which, like cated by the clearly noncommunicative
rhetoric, it can be considered a dimen- and constitutive nature of the dreams,
sion of language. And to accomplish this fantasies, and poetry to which we turn
it is necessary to compare the terms for restorative value.17
"communication" and "language." These constitutive language acts are
Although the communicative process is aesthetic or poetic in the broad sense,
indispensable to fully developed lan- for they involve, as Burke puts it,
guage, noncommunicative language proc-
esses exist, are employed constantly, and the sheer exercise of "symbolicity" (or "sym-
bolic action") for its own sake, purely for
are the bases from which we develop love of the art. If man is characteristically
our communicative language abilities.15 the symbol-using animal, then he should
In symbolic and in phylo- and ontoge- take pleasure in the use of his powers as a
symbolizer, just as a bird presumably likes
netic terms, the deepest levels of lan- to fly or a fish to swim.18
guage are constitutive rather than com-
municative. A constitutive language act And they seem to be aesthetic or poetic
is one that constitutes, that is a passing in the narrow sense of centering on
or permanent aspect of the language- rhythm and metaphor, for it is just those
user. If I step under a scalding shower language processes that are most mark-
in the morning, my bellowed or muttered edly noncommunicative that are most ob-
"damn!" is in no sense communicative. viously rhythmical and metaphorical—
SUMMER 1971 9

our dreams, our profanity, our passionate is not simply perception versus the lack
urgings, and our poetry. We are mistaken of perception (anaesthesia), but a manner
if we think of these elements of language of perceiving, perceiving in such a way
as merely decorative, for, as Koestler as to create the reason for the very act
says, of perception. This is indeed a broad use
of the term, but we must start there, I
rhythm and assonance, pun and rhyme are
not artificially created ornaments of speech; think, for it is precisely this notion of
the whole evidence indicates that their perception that is appropriate to consti-
origins go back to primitive—and infantile— tutive language acts. In our dreams and
forms of thought and utterance, in which
sound and meaning are magically inter- our poetry we do not simply perceive,
woven, and association by sound-affinities we perceive sharply, intensely, with a
is as legitimate as association based on other kind of sensuous concentration. And
these qualities may well be called aes-
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I believe that we must consider this thetic.

basic language process a dramatic one
for two reasons: first, it is on this level Some narrowing is possible, however.
that man creates himself as a person (by As I have already implied (and as I shall
acting against a. resisting environment) or argue directly in pages to come), the aes-
as a persona in an imaginative work (by thetic level is one of heightened or sharp-
acting against the resisting self); second, ened perception in which there is a par-
the human state is one of constant ten- tial breakdown of the shell of the self. A
sion between the constitutive and the move is made toward some larger iden-
communicative dimensions of language. tity, a step is taken toward fusion with
Both of these processes involve a, dra- an other, with a process, or with a group.
matic (almost a protagonist-antagonistic) The step, the move, is but partial, for the
quality, for both involve a conflict of self must be maintained and transcended
forces. It is in language-as-drama. that simultaneously. In that tension, in the bal-
we fight to reach beyond ourselves, to ance between the two, exists the aes-
achieve simple, direct contact with an thetic process as I use that term.
other or with the outer world. And it is
in language-as-drama that we struggle to If we recognize that, at bottom, there
step outside our own skins to become is a constitutive, a dramatic, an aesthetic
the persona of a poem or play or novel. element of language, we will understand
Thus, far from limiting dramatic dis- that no matter how obvious the commu-
course to literature, I wish to consider nicative process is in a given situation,
it as the dimension of language in which there is also a constitutive and dramatic
we create and re-create ourselves in re- process that must be considered if the
lation to the "real" world around us and situation is to be described accurately.
in which we use those imaginative or In short, we will understand that the
artistic events (originated by others or communicator is also a performer—not a
by ourselves) to become new beings or performer in the sense of being unreal
personae. or exhibitionistic, but a performer in the
And I believe that we must consider this sense of using language artistically, of
basic language process an aesthetic one. finding aesthetic pleasure in the symbolic
The term "aesthetic" is difficult to deal process. Because it is at the symbolic
with precisely or narrowly. Originally, it level at which he chooses to symbolize
meant "perceived by the senses" or "sen- in a certain way that the symbol-user is
suously perceived"; it has come to mean behaving most dramatically, that he is
"the ability to perceive beauty." But most obviously performing, we must
buried in the word is the notion of per- study and appreciate that drama, that
ceiving keenly, strongly, pleasurably; it aesthetic process.20

Communication as Symbolic-Real Action must be discarded, and all acts must be

seen as completely real and completely
Since human communication requires symbolic.
language (again, verbal, nonverbal, nat-
ural, or artificial symbolization), the idea The other word in the term is even
more of a problem. What is an "act"?
that language is "symbolic action" means
The key, I think, is to bs found in those
that communication, too, is "symbolic behaviors that we are unlikely to call
action." That statement has two impor- acts. The circulation of blood, the growth
tant implications. First, communication is of hair, knee-reflexes are hardly acts. If
an action, an active process—one in I am struck in the back of the head, my
which there are no passive elements. head will move forward, but that forward
Thus, the listeners to or receivers of mes- motion seems poorly described as an act.
sages must be seen as active participants Such behaviors are too automatic, too
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in the communicative event. This is mindless, too unintentional to qualify as

hardly a novel point of view, but our acts. The familiar distinction between
very use of language tends to discredit it. "action" and sheer "motion" requires that
"Persuasive speaking" we consider an ap- acts possess a motivational character-
propriate label, but "persuasive listening" istic.21 To say that I act is to say that,
has an odd ring to it. And yet, unless we in some sense, I am motivated to act; and
are to relegate listening to the status of that is to say that I choose to act; and
a passive, mechanistic behavior, it must that, in turn, is to say that I am free to
be fully as active, fully as persuasive as choose to act. Freedom of choice, then, is
speaking. Second, and even more impor- essential to action.22
tant, language and communication are
certainly "symbolic acts," but we are in- Because free choice cannot coexist
stantly tempted to distinguish between with absolute or deterministic systems,
acts that are "symbolic" and those that we can postulate no one-to-one relation-
are "real." ships between messages and receivers,
senders and receivers, or communicative
In the term "symbolic act," both words acts and the responses to those acts.
may prove to be troublesome. If we as- In all cases there must be levels on
sume that a "symbolic" act differs from which we freely choose to create, send,
a "real" one, we face the problem of the and interpret communications, and that
nature of symbolicity. Of course, we will means that much of our attention must
wish to say that anything that is sym- be directed to the bases on which the
bolic must in some way transcend itself, choice to act is made. Indeed, we may
must stand for something other than it- well wish to consider successful those
self. But as soon as we say that we are communicative processes that provide
prevented from simply describing verbal bases for the exercise of free choice, no
acts as "symbolic" and physical acts as matter whether that choice entails agree-
"real." I may call someone an "imbecile," ment or disagreement with the speaker or
or I may throw a rock through his win- writer.23 That would be ' a significant
dow. Throwing the rock is a real act, but change from the traditional view tha,t
it is surely symbolic of my dislike for successful communication is that which
the window's owner or, at the very least, obtains a desired result, and it would, I
of something such as my need to destroy. believe, remove many of the theoretical
On the other hand, uttering the word and practical difficulties we have en-
"imbecile" is clearly symbolic, but it is countered in the past.
also entirely real. Indeed, I may cause If we accept the idea that all acts in-
psychological harm, destroy a career, or volve freedom of choice, the ultimate
be liable to legal action, so real is such question that confronts us concerns the
an act. Thus, the symbolic-real dichotomy nature of the bases on which those
SUMMER 1971 11

choices are made. And the answer is because much of our terminology can
a fundamental part of Communication easily acquire meanings that are static,
Aesthetics. We act, we choose freely for fixed, analytic (the paradigm example is
reasons and purposes that are basically the ubiquitous sender-message-receiver
neither instrumental nor rational, but transmission model.) Second, it helps
constitutive, dramatic, and aesthetic. In make the study of communicative pro-
the process of choosing, we may, of cesses consonant with our basic knowl-
course, reason by spelling out the impli- edge of language—a vital theoretical step,
cations of alternative behaviors, but for it has been frequently noted that the
those implications become significant acquisition and use of language are in-
only when we translate them into our explicable if the postulated goal is com-
own systems of values, i.e., when we munication.25 It would seem that our
make the leap from the orderly and study of the communicative process
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practical into the realm of the subjective should rest on and be related to the basic
and the aesthetic. Further, the process of symbolic but noncommunicative process
choosing freely is by no means a con- from which the former develops.26
sistent progression from the rational to
the aesthetic; we always end with the Language as Man
evaluative, the personal, but we very Man is not. the only communicating
often begin there as well. At the outset, animal, nor is he the only symbolizing
we very often select those alternative animal. But it appears that he is the only
processes and the implications of those animal that possesses a fully developed
processes that best suit us, that most language, i.e., a symbol-system that is
deeply please us. So that it is always the both instrumental and consummatory,
aesthetic that underlies the end, or the both poetic and practical, both com-
beginning and the end, of our freedom of municative and aesthetic. Langauge, then,
choice. is man's defining characteristic. To be
human is to possess and be possessed by
language.27 And if we understand that
In our very perception of the world we the fundamental constitutive and aes-
order it so that we may exist in it more thetic language processes are not expres-
comfortably, more pleasurably. In the sive of the human condition, but are that
creation and interpretation of messages condition, it follows that man is lan-
we certainly reason, but that very process guage. As the defining characteristic,
is based on nonrational and aesthetic language dot:s not stand for some innate
factors such as rhythm, metaphor, elegant or human state; language is that state.
wording, taut argumentative design. In
the evaluation of the person who speaks To accept language as the human pro-
or writes or of the persona of an im- cess and to examine it aesthetically is to
aginative work, we surely use analysis cast some interesting problems of human
and logic, but on the deepest levels we behavior in different terms. For instance,
are at the same time dealing with the we have considered science and art as
magic of the word, the mystery of the archetypal human endeavors, for man has
shaman who has power over us, and the apparently worked on those symbolic
illusion of the actor who portrays a self fronts since the dim days of pre-history.
that expands or diminishes us.21 But there are other activities that are
quite as typical. War, murder, sacrifice
There is a twofold importance to this —these, too, have ever been part of man
cluster of ideas. First, it prevents us from the symbol-user. And while we have
setting up or sustaining points of view conventionally described man's artistic
that are implicitly mechanistic or deter- achievements as triumphs of feeling or of
ministic, and tha,t is a significant move the spirit and his scientific achievements

as triumphs of the mind or of reason, we mos. Both processes are, in fact, aesthetic
have tended to explain man's wars, hates, in nature, despite our belief that the one
prejudices, and murders as regressions to is ennobling, the other, degrading.
a sub-human level. In so doing we have Similarly, there is an aesthetic in indi-
tended to confuse the "human" and the vidual communicative acts that we may
"humane,"28 and as a result we have value negatively. The inflammatory and
rarely searched for the aesthetic bases of denunciatory communication that is so
obviously human behaviors that are de- prevalent today is aesthetically grounded
cidedly inhumane. That search may seem no less than the calmest and most serene
to involve a contradiction in terms, for appeal. The so-called "militant" who at-
"aesthetic" has often been reserved for tempts to create a threat-filled environ-
those pursuits that are beautiful or pleas- ment for those whom he sees as op-
urable in a beneficial sense. Yet if all
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pressors may do so partially because he

symbolic action is based on an aesthetic believes in the efficacy of such a com-
process, we must look for the aesthetic municative strategy, but he adopts that
dimension of war, hate, murder—of all strategy largely because he thereby in-
man's aggressive and destructive acts. creases his value in his audience's eyes
We have usually thought of say, ag- and his own. That increase in value, that
gression as a form of selfishness, as self- self-elevation is accomplished by filling
centered behavior. But it would appear the enemies' world with the same threats
that, at least for all types of group ag- that have permeated the communicator's
gression, "selfishness" is a singularly in- own life, and in its most extreme form
appropriate term. Rather, individuals this sort of communication involves the
seem to "lose" the self, to identify with symbolic rite of the kill, whereby tho
the political movement, the church, the communicator raises himself to his ene-
state, etc., in their aggressive acts. In- mies' level by symbolically destroying
deed, it has been remarked that aggres- them.31 Such acts are well termed "rites,"
sion is due to man's excessive need for for they are explicable only as dramatic,
selflessness, for identification with the as aesthetic events.
group, for fusion with the larger human
reality.29 And this need to give up the It is only by accepting the idea that all
uniqueness of the self for the strength or communication, all symbolization is on
comfort of membership in a social organi- one level an aesthetic process that we
zation is precisely what makes such phe- can avoid dividing language into those
nomena as war and racism possible. It is acts that are suitable to man, and are
only by defining ourselves as Americans, therefore explicable in terms of the hu-
capitalists, liberals, conservatives, etc., man creature, and those that are neither
that we are able to define our enemies; suitable nor explicable as human acts. It
and until we have defined them we can- is, after all, not successful communica-
not possibly hate, fear, or kill them. tion that is typical of man, but communi-
There is, of course, a communicative, a cation; it is not the distorted or undis-
rhetorical dimension to these definitional torted process of symbolization that is
maneuvers.30 But what has too often the human condition, but the process of
escaped our attention is the fact that the symbolization.
process of identification with the group,
The value of this concept lies primarily
the process of "earthing" one's feelings in
in the unifying approach that it makes
the mother church or state is remarkably
possible. If, on the deepest levels, one
similar to the aesthetic process of re-
misuses symbols for the same reason that
sponding to a work of art by transcending
one uses them, the door may be opened
the self, by identifying with a persona,
to a unified study of language and com-
by "earthing" one's feelings in the cos-
SUMMER 1971 13

The Human Dialectic: Symbolizer- be led thereby to the assumption that our
Symbolization-Symbolized experiences are objective reality. The
We must, of course, study man, com- symbolic fact is that we create beauty
munication, and the human environment and ugliness, order and disorder in the
analytically. We must begin with analysis act of experiencing.33 We do not respond
because to insist that our sole considera- passively to the world around us, but act
tion be a unified symbolic field of all on it,
reality is to make that reality unknow-
and even in observing environment, [the
able. The other side of the picture, how- human animal] modifies, dismantles, an-
ever, is equally important. To make the alyzes, and reassembles it after its own
study of communication fully meaningful fashion,u converting "noise" into "informa-
we must go beyond analysis to the state
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at which man, through his symbolic acts, As symbolizers, we do not merely adapt
effects a fusion of self-language-environ- to the environment, but adapt the en-
ment. At that stage, analysis must yield vironment to ourselves. Thus, the envi-
to dialectic. ronment is not simply the environment,
I haye already argued that there is a but is our environment. We may agree
basic sense in which man is language. that it is such-and-such, but we must also
Now I would add the idea that there is a recognize that in experiencing it we have
sense in which language is the environ- created it. Not out of metaphysical whole
ment, a sense in which language is con- cloth, but out of the contact between an
stitutive of the outer world as well as the objective out-there and the symbolic
self.33 A note of caution is at once neces- transformer that is the human mind.
sary, for in this direction lurks a per- We can make no direct contact with
nicious metaphysic. We cannot assume the objective world. If we try to do so,
that the world around us does not exist we go through one reductive process
or that it is simply and completely un- after another until the world simply dis-
knowable, for that is to reduce the uni- appears—and here is an equally perni-
verse and ourselves to a "world" of cious metaphysic. Our contacts are neces-
words or symbols that floats in a vacuum sarily indirect, necessarily symbolic; we
or in a perfect mystery. We know a great impose ourselves on what we see and
deal about our environment, but that is know. And because, in the symbolic proc-
not to say tha,t our knowledge rests on esses of his language, man constitutes
direct, objective verifiability. Rather, our himself and his world and communicates
knowledge includes a necessary and tha(t constituted inner and outer reality to
harmless metaphysic—a metaphysic that others (and to himself), it follows that we
inheres in language. must study both man and his world
Words, at least in context, are symbols, through those constitutive and communi-
but there can be no one-to-one relation- cative processes, i.e., through language.
ship between those symbols and aspects For language is the first "given"; what is
of the "real" world. Such a relationship common to all problems of knowing is
would immediately transform symbols the nature of the knower, and that nature
into signs and man into a creature who is a symbolizing, a language-using one.37
merely reported contacts between him- Necessarily, then, we will begin with
self and the objective environment. analysis and end with dialectic—a sus-
Words, then, are not symbols of objects pensive dialectic. We will study man, lan-
or events, but are symbols of our experi- guage, communication, words, world, etc.,
ences with objects or events.34 To the separately at first, but we will end by
extent that our experiences are similar, recognizing that those separate elements
we may communicate and study the proc- are incomplete, even unreal. And we will
ess of communication, but we should not search foi completion, for reality by

creating wholes. "Pencil," we will say, is cal,41 but the area of Communication
a word and symbolizes our experiences Aesthetics would extend that emphasis
with the thing pencil, but we will then to the poetic and aesthetic foundation
look at the thing through the word to see that undergirds our persuasive and com-
how "reality" has been symbolically municative acts.
shaped, we will look at the word through Philosophical and scientific discourse,
the thing to understand that particular on the other hand, we may easily and
shaping, and we will look at man the frequently avoid. Philosophical discourse
shaper through the thing shaped and the is the secondary language process be-
act of shaping to understand the nature cause it rests on poetic and rhetorical
of the shaping process.38 Such an ap- bases but precedes the other language
proach is dialectical in that it makes the form(s). It precedes them because it in-
symbol and what is symbolized depend- volves a systematic disclosure and de-
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ent on each other; and it is a suspensive scription of the pre-suppositions of those

dialectic in that all statements about man forms or of particular statements made
and the world are partial, though neces- in those forms. The depths of the sym-
sary, and find full significance only in the bolic process cannot be studied philo-
study of the process of symbolization.39 sophically, but must be explored "logo-
All this leads to a radical reordering of logically," to use Burke's term.42 There
symbolic priorities. Traditionally, we are no constitutive, metaphorical, rhythm-
have said that the major discursive forms ical, etc., presuppositions for philosophy
are poetic, rhetorical, philosophical, and to explore, and therefore philosophical
scientific,40 and in so saying we have im- discourse can be used as a method of
plied that the four are of similar or equal dealing with all processes save one—the
importance. We have considered our at- symbolic process that is language. For
tempts to describe the objective universe example, in his own works Burke makes
as scientific discourse, our efforts to de- clear the fact that he uses logology or
scribe man and his place in that universe symbology to explore philosophy, not the
as philosophical discourse, our tries at reverse.43 His famous term "dramatism"
influencing our fellows in more or less gives us the clue to the nature of the
practical ways as rhetorical discourse, reality that he explicates—not a philo-
and our searches for aesthetic rewards as sophical nor a scientific reality, but a
poetic discourse. But if it is true that human and dramatic reality that com-
symbolic acts are at bottom constitutive bines the objective, the subjective, the
and aesthetic and that, on the communi- process, the particular means employed,
cative level, such acts inevitably present and the goal.
the viewer's view of himself and his
world, the two processes that are im- Scientific discourse is the symbolic
manent dimensions of language are poetic form that deals with discrete objective
and rhetorical discourse. As we consti- realities objectively. This is the tertiary
tute ourselves and our world symbolic- language process because it, too, rests on
ally, we engage in poetic discourse, and the poetic and the rhetorical, because it
as we describe and define ourselves and can be explored philosophically, and be-
our world to others, or even to ourselves, cause it can be applied to all succeeding
we engage in the inevitable advocacy that language events. Scientific discourse often
is rhetorical discourse. These are the pri- attempts to avoid or minimize the poetic
mary symbolic processes; we cannot and rhetorical dimensions of language,
avoid them, for they exist in all language and though it may in some sense mini-
acts. The study of communication usually mize them, avoiding them is impossible.41
emphasizes those purposive or instru- In fact, its most creative users seem to
mental processes that are clearly rhetori- have recognized the fact that it is neither
possible nor desirable to avoid the aes-
SUMMER 1971 15

thetic,45 and several of them have argued exist as a major area; only in Communi-
that the very structure of science is poetic cation can the study of the aesthetic
or metaphorical.46 Scientific discourse can bases of all symbolic acts be incorporated
be examined philosophically because as a, principal and integral part of the
there are important presuppositions that field.
must be made before one can engage in
this tertiary form—chief among them, the Such a reordering of symbolic proc-
notion of a mechanistic universe.47 And esses is, as I said, radical. To define the
scientific discourse precedes those lan- field of Communication as the study of
guage forms that are identifiable by their the aesthetic and communicative sym-
content because science itself is not de- bolic processes is to assert that that field
fined by content, but is a methodology. is the foundation on which all others
rest. An extreme notion, surely. Yet it
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seems to me that it is the exploration of

Following these primary, secondary,
and tertiary processes come those lan- the aesthetic arid communicative dimen-
guage forms identifiable by their subject sions of language that must concern us.
matter—History, Psychology, Biology, etc. The importance of this concept is, as I
These are not discursive forms, but in- see it, profound, for it provides for a
tellectual disciplines. All such disciplines definitional base of extraordinary value.48
may be investigated using any one or any At the same time, I must emphasize the
combination of the three discursive proc- interpendent nature of the concepts I
esses, but there is both a relationship be- have described as the foundation of Com-
tween the discipline and the discursive munication Aesthetics. No one of them
form(s) employed primarily therein and a possesses sufficient generative power to
progression through the discursive forms warrant the sort of expansion I have ad-
that is indicated. In all disciplines, in- vocated in this essay. Together, they
cluding Communication, we will begin create an area of study, for they form an
with scientific discourse because that is organic whole. That organicity can be
the process that is needed to discover the briefly sketched thus: to symbolize is to
basic data. In some fields—Chemistry, act on the environment and/or the self;
Biology, Physics—scientific discourse will this act is a. dramatic one, for there is
be used most of the time, for it is profit- conflict here, an opposition of namer and
able to do so. In others—Psychology, So- named; yet the two are fused in the
ciology, Communication—we arrive more drama itself, in the symbolic process; and
rapidly at the point at which scientific that process immediately implies man, for
discourse per se becomes profitless. We only man can alienate himself from the
must then turn to philosophical discourse real world, yet create an aesthetic by
to discover the presuppositions on which combining the real and the symbolic; that
we had based our earlier efforts. And in aesthetic is the basis of language, and
certain fields—Communication, Art, Mu- language constitutes the ultimate dialectic
sic, Literature—we will come to the stage in which separate entities exist yet merge
at which philosophical efforts are fruit- in the over-all process, form and dis-
less, and we must then move to logologi- solve, reform arid disappear again in the
cal discourse, to symbology. But it is only drama of symbolization.
in the field of Communication that logo-
logical inquiry itself can proceed at
Why use the term "Communication
length, for in fields such as Art, Music,
Aesthetics"? Because the two words
and Literature this level of study is nar-
taken individually indicate the funda-
rowed to a certain sort of symbolic proc-
mental currents of language. More im-
ess, a certain kind of aesthetic. Only in
portant, because the term is very nearly
Communication can symbology itself
an oxymoron. There is a pull between

"communication" and "aesthetic" that re- and between symbolizer and symbolized.
fleets the tension between the symbolic PAUL N. CAMPBELL
and the real, between man and language, Queens College, CUNY

A condensed statement of this view, as held by both Kant and Cassirer, is
found in Charles W. Hendel's introduction to Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of
Symbolic Forms, Volume I: Language (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953),
especially pp. 3-11 and 57-59.
Susanne Langer, Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of
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Reason, Rite, and Art (New York: Mentor Books, 1951), Chapter I, and Feeling
and Form (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1953), Part I.
Eric H. Lenneberg, Biological Foundations of Language (New York: John Wiley
& Sons, Inc., 1967), pp. 1-4.
Noam Chomsky, "A Review of B. F. Skinner's 'Verbal Behavior', "Language,
XXXV (1959), pp. 26-58. This is perhaps Chomsky's most famous attack on be-
haviorism, but he raises the issue in many works—for example, Language and
Mind (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968), pp. 1-20.
Herbert Feigl, "The Power of Positivistic Thinking: An Essay on the Quan-
daries of Transcendence." Presidential Address delivered at the 61st Annual
Meeting of the Westrn Division of the American Philosophical Association, at
Columbus, Ohio, May 3, 1963.
Michael Polanyi, The Study of Man (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press,
Hugh Dalziel Duncan, Symbols in Society (New York: Oxford University Press,
1968), especially Part II.
Godel's argument is described briefly in William Barrett, Irrational Man (Garden
City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1958), pp. 33-36.
Jean-Paul Sartre, Search for a Method, trans., Hazel Barnes (New York: Alfred
A. Knopf, 1963), pp. xxxiv, 3, 8-14, 153, 156, and R. D. Laing and D. G. Cooper,
Reason and Violence: A Decline of Sartre's Philosophy 1950-1960 (New York:
Humanities Press, 1964), pp. 93-176.
Kenneth Burke, A Grammar of Motives, bound together with A Rhetoric of
Motives (Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1962), pp. 171-226.
Arthur Koestler, The Act of Creation (New York: The Macmillan Company,
1964), pp. 240-52, 342-43, 495-512.
Non Aristotelian rhetorical theory might have served such a purpose, but we
have placed too little stress on that approach(es) for it to function as a safeguard.
In terms of curriculum, I see the area of Communication Aesthetics as a four
course sequence: the first course dealing with the concept that literature is dramatic
discourse—texts, my own The Speaking And the 'Speakers' of Literature, Langer's
Philosophy in a New Key, and Frye's The Well-Tempered Critic; the second, an
upper division course exploring the first two concepts described in this essay—
texts, Langer's Feeling and Form, Burke's Language as Symbolic Action, and read-
ings from Barfield's Poetic Diction and Saving the Appearances; the third, a gradu-
ate course investigating the third and fourth concepts discussed in this paper—
texts, Langer's Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling, Burke's A Grammar of Motives
and A Rhetoric of Motives, and Cassirer's The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms,
SUMMER 1971 17

Volume I, Language; the fourth course a graduate seminar studying the relation-
ships between the four basic concepts—texts, Cassirer's The Philosophy of Sym-
bolic Forms, Volume 2, Mythical Thought and Volume; 3, the Phenomenology of
Knowledge, Burke's The Rhetoric of Religion and Attitudes Toward History, and
Michel Foucalt's The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences.
Don Geiger, The Sound, Sense, and Performance of Literature (Chicago: Scott,
Foresman and Company, 1963), Chapter 6.
I have argued this issue at some length in "Language as Intrapersonal and
Poetic Process," Philosophy and Rhetoric, II (Fall, 1960), pp. 200-12.
Richard Luchsinger and Godfrey E. Arnold, Voice-Speech-Language, Clinical
Communicology: Its Physiology and Pathology, trans., Godfrey E. Arnold and
Evelyn Robe Finkbeiner (Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company,
Inc., 1965), pp. 347-48.
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Koestler, pp. 454-66.
Kenneth Burke, Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and
Method (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), p. 29.
Koestler, p. 315.
Among the further notions that must be explored in relation to this first con-
cept are the similarities and differences between verbal, nonverbal, natural, and
artificial symbolization and the nature of the conflicts between the person and
the persona and the constitutive and communicative language processes.
Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological On-
tology, trans., Hazel Barnes (New York: Philosophical Library, 1956), pp. 476-77,
and Burke, A Grammar of Motives, pp. 14-15.
Maurice Natanson, "Sartre's Philosophy of Freedom," in Literature, Philosophy
and the Social Sciences: Essays in Existentialism and Phenomenology (The Hague:
1964), p. 67.
Thomas H. Olbricht, "The Self as a Philosophical Ground of Rhetoric," Penn-
sylvania Speech Annual, XXI (September, 1964), p. 33.
Koestler, p. 188; Langer, Philosophy in a New Key, pp. 134-35, and Burke,
Language as Symbolic Action, pp. 295-307.
Lenneberg, pp. 326, 330, 335; Langer, Philosophy in a New Key, pp. 99-100,
and William H. Perkins, "Language and Articulation," Voice, XV (November,
1966), pp. 33-37.
Prominent among the ideas to be examined in relation to this second concept
are the interdependence between acting on the self end acting on the environ-
ment and the similarity between the nature of a symbol, a metaphor, and language
Burke, Language as Symbolic Action, pp. 3-9; Langer, Philosophy in a New
Key, pp. 45-49.
Lionel Rubinoff, "The Pornography of Power (New York: Ballantine Books,
1968), p. 63.
Arthur Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine (New York: The Macmillan Com-
pany, 1967), pp. 233-66.
Kenneth Burke, "The Rhetoric of Hitler's 'Battle'," in The Philosophy of Liter-
ary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University
Press, 1967), pp. 191-200.
The symbolism of the rite of the kill is described by Frantz Fanon, The
Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1966), pp. 65-74, 87-117. Also
pertinent here are Robert L. Scott and Donald K. Smith, "The Rhetoric of Con-

frontation," The Quarterly Journal of Speech, LV (February, 1969), pp. 1-8, and
Michael H. Prosser, "A Rhetoric of Alienation as Reflected in the Works of
Nathaniel Hawthorne," The Quarterly Journal of Speech, LIV (February, 1968),
pp. 22-27.
The most important idea to be dealt with in relation to this third concept is
the necessity for fusion, for complete interdependence of the communicative and
aesthetic dimensions of language. "Purely" communicative or aesthetic processes
are fragmented, meaningless, even pathological.
Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, Volume I: Language (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1953), pp. 53, 85-93.
Lenneberg, pp. 332-34, 344, 355-56; Langer, Philosophy in a New Key, p. 37.
I. A. Richards, The Philosophy of Rhetoric (New York: Oxford University
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Press, 1965), p. 131.

Koestler, The Act of Creation, p. 448.
Burke, Language as Symbolic Action, p. 5 and A Grammar of Motives, p. 189,
Cassirer, pp. 53-54.
Dorothy Lee uses this example in "Lineal and Nonlineal Codifications of
Reality," in Explorations in Communication, eds., Edmund Carpenter and Marshall
McLuhan (Boston: Beacon Press, 1960), p. 137.
The clearest description of suspensive dialectic that I have seen is in the trio
of articles by Richard McKeon: "Communication, Truth and Society," Ethics,
LXVII (January, 1957), pp. 89-99, "Dialectic and Political Thought and Action,"
Ethics, LXV (October, 1954), pp. 1-33, and "Philosophy and Action," Ethics, LXII
(January, 1952), pp. 79-100.
C h a r l e s W . Morris, Signs, Language a n d Behavior ( N e w Y o r k : Prentice-Hall,
1946), Chapters 5 and 6.
The argument that communicative processes are rhetorical or persuasive is
put succinctly by David K. Berlo, The Process of Communication (New York: Holt,
Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1960), pp. 9, 233-34.
Burke, Language as Symbolic Action, p. 47.
Burke, A Grammar of Motives, pp. 21-61, 127-320.
Koestler, in The Act of Creation, p. 252, makes this comment: "The glory of
science is not in a truth 'more absolute' than the truth of Bach or Tolstoy, but
in the act of creation itself. The scientist's discoveries impose his own order on
chaos, as the composer or painter imposes his; an order that always refers to
limited aspects of reality, and is biased by the observer's frame of reference,
which differs from period to period, as a Rembrandt nude differs from a nude
by Manet."
The British physicist Paul Dirac has commented, "It is more important to
have beauty in one's equations than to have them fit experiment." Cited in Koest-
ler, The Act of Creation, p. 329.
Koestler, The Act of Creation, pp. 240-267.
Lenneberg, p. 220.
Other ideas that must be studied in relation to this fourth concept include the
differences between discursive, presentational, and artistic symbols and the sense
in which each of the three requires the other two.