Haskell, R.E. and Hauser, G. (1978). Rhetorical structure: Truth and method in Weaver's epistemology.Qu arterly Jou rnal of Sp eech , 6
4, 233 -245. Nation al Com munication A ssociation (NC A). RHETORICAL STRUCTURE:TRUTH AND METHOD IN WEAVER'S EPISTEMOLOGYRobert E. Haskell and G erard A. Hauser +
Du ring the past decade rhetoricians have paid increased attentio n to th e writings of Richard W eaver. 1
Wh ether their analyses have exp licated his rhetorical doctrines,2 extrapolated from them further insights
for contemporary rhetorical theory,3 or critiqued the merits of his views4 there is consensus on the
centrality of a cultural order based on Truth as the unifying theme to his body of thought. For
Weaver the cohesions and fragmentations of our age-indeed, or any age-are traceable to some
ultimate Truth which forms a core of attraction. If recognized, it will bind its adherents with a unity
of purpose; if obscured, culture will disintegrate through the disruptions of fragmented ends. These
are not the views of an atomic reductionist but, rather, of a rational idealist5 who,
+ Mr. Haskell holds a doctorate in Psychology and Social Relations from the Pennsylvania State
Un iversity . Mr Hauser is Associate Pro fessor of Speech C om mu nication at the Penn sylv ania State
University. They express their appreciation to Donald P . Cushm an and R ichard B. Gregg , whose
suggestio ns w ere helpfu l in the prep aration of th is pap er.
1 Cf. James B. Benjamin, "An Examination of Richard M . Weaver's Theory of Rhetoric," Thesis
Pennsylvania State 1972; Dennis R. Bohrmann, "The Uncontested Term Contested: An Analysis of
W eave r on Bu rke." Qu arte rly Jo urn al of Sp ee ch,
57 (1971), 298-305; Thomas D. Clark, "The
Philosophical Basis of Richard Weaver's View of Theoretic," Thesis Indiana 1969; Donald P.
Cushman and Gerard A. Hauser, "Weaver's View of Rhetorical Theory: Axiology and the
Adjus tmen t of Belief, Invention, and Judg em ent," Qu arterly Jo urnal of Sp eech,
59 (1973), 319-
29; Cla rk T. Irwin , Jr., "R hetoric Re mem bers: R icha rd W eaver on Mem ory and C ulture,"Today's S peech,
21, No. 2 (1973), 21-26; Richard I. Johannesen, "Richard Weaver's View of
Rhe toric and C riticism," So uthern Sp eech Journal,
32 (1966), 133-45; R icha rd L. Johannesen.
Rennard Strickland, and Ralph T. Eubanks, "Richard M. Weaver on the Nature of Rhetoric: An
Interpretation," in Language is Serm onic: Richa rd M . W eaver on the Na ture of R hetoric,
Johannesen, Strickland, and Eubanks (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1970), pp.
7-30 for a cross-section of comme nt on Weaver's theory of rhetoric.
3 Cushm an and H auser.
5 Our emphasis in this essay is on the idealist mode of thought in Weaver's writings
rather than on any particular ideology which he may have espoused. Weaver's Platonism goes
without question, and we shall refer to this influence in places. But he also was taken by theform
of Marxism because of its ideological rigor, while abstaining from its premises. It was
attractive as a logically tight system and, from that vantage point, Weaver noted its particular
reminiscent of Plato, is a proponent of metaphysical wholes discovered by imagination and reflected
in language. For Weaver we are rational and moral only insofar as we capture the Truth holistically.
Importantly, for Weaver, the Truth is grasped holistically in terms of form
. As he says inVisions of Order,
The truth most important for us to recognize in our present crisis is the principle of
integration and exclusiveness. There is for all things, as Aristotle pointed out, an entelechy,
a binding, type-determining factor, which gives to a thing its spec ific form and property of
coherence. The fact that a culture is a spiritual and imaginative creation does not mean that
it is any less bound by this pervading law ... Form is intellectual and negative; it sets
boundaries wh ich affirm in the very process of denying. The form of a cultu re is its sty le ...
It imp arts ton e to the whole of society by keeping before its members a standard of the right
and the not righ t. But this form depends upon the centripetal image of an idea of perfection
and goo dness and u pon con fidence in ruling out wha t is unlike or fortuitous.6
Curiously, however, Weaver's writings provoke objections not so much in terms of form as in the
matter in which he treats matters of "fact." From an empirical perspective there is the temptation
to dismiss his analysis as patently inaccurate, to claim that if the "facts" and examples were denied
his arguments would tumble like a jarred house of cards. Our suspicion is that Weaver would not
take this as a telling indictment; he would brush aside such objections as blind to the ideal which
informs his arguments, to the dependency of "facts" on form, and to the holism of his rhetoric.
The tension between form and fact in Weaver's thinking raises questions not only about
his theory of truth but also about the rhetorical problem of concretizing the ideal. Understanding
Weaver's theory of truth is undoubtedly a necessary condition to a valid interpretation of his
writings. Further, his insistent avowal of an absolute truth, which is humanly knowable and
toward which all humans strive, places form
at the center of Weaver's conceptions of reality,
thought, action, and culture.7 And if we take Weaver at his word, that our vision of truth will be
manifested in our public style (a form), which announces implicitly the awes of the preferable,
then it would seem to follow that a formal
analysis of his own discourse may be productive for
explicating Weaver's image of truth. Finally, such an approach may bet us beyond Weaver. He
may serve as an object lesson in resolving the rhetorical problem alluded to above. His
strategies in concretizing the ideal may help us better to understand rhetorical form.
rhetorical force. Throughout, then, the rational force of ide ologica l form in W eaver's thinking will
rem ain a focal concern
6 Richard M . Weaver, Vision s of O rder
(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press,
1964), pp. 12-13.
7 The importance of form
in Weaver's thought is pervasive. It is the form
of truth which
gives meaning to the "facts" of existence, not vice versa. It is the form
of ima ginative disc overy
which provides the possibility for transcending sheer animal existence. It is the form
language which shapes our perception of reality. It is the form
of rhetoric which leads us up or
down the hierarchic la dder im plicit in cultural idea ls. See Richard M . W eaver, Ideas Have
(Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1948), pp. 18-34; his Visions of Ord er,
21; and Richard M. Weaver, "Language is Sermonic," in Dimensions of Rhetorical Scholarship,
ed. Robert E. Bebergall (Normal: Department of Speech, Univ. of Oklahoma, 1963), pp. 49-63.
Investigation along these lines is the intention of this essay.8235
Our analysis will concentrate on Weaver's use of a rhetorical form to develop a theory of
Truth. We shall attempt to demonstrate that his theory of truth can be divided into (a) a
metaphysical or absolute theory of Truth and (b) an existential theory of truth, with the latter
flowing from the former. Our analysis will indicate that Weaver's argument is essentially
analogical and that it exploits the possibilities of analogic form in ways that are rhetorically
interesting. In this regard, we shall argue that the form of Weaver's analysis combines the
analogic elegance of mathematics with the dogmatic finality of Christian-like theism to develop
a metaphysical theory of Truth.
Elaborating of his theory of Truth, we shall maintain that it is
generated by Weaver's metaphysical dream,9 which functions as a tyrannizing image10 for him.
After we have explicated his theory, we shall demonstrate how it is systematically manifested in
his writings. We shall then relate Weaver's theory of Truth to rhetorical structure. Finally, we
shall conclude that Weaver's mode of analysis is fundamentally analogical and, further, is
indicative of a basic way of thinking significant for rhetorical theory.TRUTH: METAPHYSICAL
Weaver discusses truth on two levels: the metaphysical and the existential.
Metaphysically he depict Truth as absolute, a priori, and eternal; existentially he depicts it as
axiological and historical. The former, outside space and time, is synchronic; the latter, within
time and history, is diachronic.
According to Weaver, there is a "truth higher than, and independent of, man."
8 We are attempting to develop an implicative reading of Weaver's texts that goes
beyond a "literal" interpretation. The hermeneutic doctrine of the autonomy of the text is,
therefore, not our guiding interpretive principle. Rather we are generally following the
hermeneutic gu idelines set down by E .D. H irsch , Jr., Validity in Interpretation
(Ne w H ave n: Yale
Univ. Press, 1967). Consequently, we must keep in mind that Weaver is (a) steeped in the
classics, especially in the writings of Plato, (b) a political conservative, (c) a Christian-like
apologist (meant strictly as a neutral description), and (d) quite concerned with the function of
analogic reasoning. These characteristics provide an initial basis upon which to apprehend the
genre of his thought and, therefore, a starting point for an interpretive analysis. The implications
of this interpretive base will be come clear as we progress.
9 Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences,
p. 18, defines a "metaphysical dream" as "an
intuitive feeling about the immanent nature of reality, and this is the sanction to which both ideas
and beliefs are ultim ately refe rred for ve rificatio n. W ithout the m etaphysical dream it is
impossible to think of men living together harmoniously over an extent of time. The dream
carries with it an e valu ation, w hich is the bond of sp iritual c om munity."
10 Weaver, Visions of Ord er,
p. 11, defines a "tyrannizing image" as that which is at the
center of a culture and "w hich draws eve rythin g towa rd itse lf. This im age is th e ideal of its
exc ellen ce."
11 Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences,
p. 157. Italics added
TRUTH12 is reflected in universals, which are not generated by the senses. TRUTH is its"Primordial conception is somehow in us."
13 Hence the enumeration of particulars with not lead
to Truth. In fact, it is the universal that enables us to recognize particulars. "[T]he thing is not
says Weaver, "and the act is not just unless these conform to a conceptual ideal."
Nominalist and empiricist doctrines merely substitute "things" for Truth.15 Persons of this
persuasion are not filled with Truth, they are "puffed up with vanity over their ability to describe
precisely some minute portion of the world." 16
TRUTH, given in the universal rather than in the
particular, is made known to us deductively. It is metaphysical in nature.
Unlike Aristotle, who proposes a logical essentialism, and Locke, who proposes an
empirical essentialism, Weaver 236
is Platonic insofar as he adheres to a doctrine of essence that is made manifest through language
(rather than through laws of inference or observation) and is axiological in its implications.17
Discourse leads us to that act of discovery, the noetic experience, from which we may reason to
secure conclusions about the rest of reality. And yet language never fully expresses Truth, for
that would reduce the transcendent essence to its representative form.
Neither dialectic nor rhetoric captures Truth. While the former reveals it and the latter
amplifies it,18 both are verbal arts. In quoting Hobbes, Weaver says that words are never
counters but simply markers.19 Indeed, if Truth were realized there would be no need for
rhetoric.20 Although language must be used in our search for Truth, it is not directly
As an idealist in the Platonic/Hegelian strain, Weaver depicts Truth as residing in the
totality, in the ideal.
TRUTH does not reside in individual facts nor is it given visibility by
them. Instead we apprehend the Truth through a complex dialectical process. Hence, like
Hegel, Weaver considers the particular facts of history to be mere vulgarized reality; they are
12 The idea of absolute Truth, in a Weaverian sense, is a tautology, and yet, because
om itting th e m odifier co uld cause confusion wh en the wo rd "T ruth" begins a sentence, w e w ill
capitalize the entire word in such places.
13 Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences
, p. 157.
14 Ibid., p. 130. Italics added.
16 Ibid., p. 62. Italics added.
17 Richard M . Weaver, The Ethics of Rhetoric
(Chicago: Regnery, 1953), 3-26.
18 Cushman and Hauser, p. 328.
19 Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences,
20 Cushman and Hauser, p. 329. Cf. Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives
Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1969), pp. 271-74.
Just as the old Greek philosopher would not condescend to counting the teeth in a horse's
mouth as an empirical means of determining the precise number that forces in fact possess, since
the particular horse is only a pale similitude to the ideal horse, so is Weaver not overly
concerned with empirical facts. As Einstein once remarked, "If the facts do not fit the theory, so
much the worse for the facts."
We submit then that beneath Weaver's more obvious rhetoric, which appears to appeal to
"facts." is a "hidden" epistemological agenda: the ideal which he attempts to make manifest by
of facts. Thus, Weaver's epistemology is to his rhetoric as ground is to figure.TRUTH: EXISTENTIAL
Weaver finds existential truth in the domain of history. We encounter it specifically in
the set of cultural beliefs and sentiments that each of us holds. Somehow and in some way
universal Truth is made manifest in belief and sentiment,21 although clearly no individual's
beliefs or sentiments could themselves fully encompass universal Truth. That is, since absolute
Truth is universal, no particular mortal entity can fully and singularly possess it.
Conversely Weaver argues as if
he possessed the Truth, when, in fact, he is only
participating in it. Consequently in Weaver's writings existential truth, which is the only one he
can know experientially, becomes in effect an undogmatic dogmatism. That is to say, existential
truth as manifest in belief and sentiment functions on the everyday level as if
dialectally, not metaphysically. It leads to a higher level truth, climbing to absolute Truth; for
Weaver says that "dualism... [provides] purchase for the pull upward."22 Hence existential truth,
which is partly a product of believe in the universal, is responsible for the 237
revelation of eternal Truth. In brief, existential truth participates in eternal Truth. And it does so
Absolute Truth is reflected in and must be translated into concrete terms, otherwise
existential truth would have no markers leading to and showing its connection with universal
Truth. Data, logical argument, and examples-all imperfect vehicles-are used as mere rhetorical
devices in the aspiring to and demonstration of Truth; they are merely vulgar necessities
imperfectly pointing, as does language itself, to the Word.
According, in a world devoid of belief in universal Truth, says Weaver, "Good will alone
fails in the same way as does sentiment" to demonstrate or convince others of Truth.23 "This
means that the beginning must not be less hard-headed and sophisticated than dozens of
competing doctrines which would lure people" to their truth.24 Thus the deliberate (i.e.,
rhetorical) use of hard data and other persuasive devices are merely means to an end; they do not
prove the end (Truth) but simply demonstrate (i.e., show) it, for Truth, by definition, is universal
21 Weaver, Ideas Have Consequ ences,
22 Ibid., p. 130.
and outside of history and the world of facts.
Hence, even if the facts that Weaver uses are wrong (whatever that may mean, since
"facts" are conditioned by a given belief system), at worst it is only incidently irritating; it has no
necessary bearing on the Truth. At the very least "incorrect" examples could be cited as though
they were hypothetical examples
illustrating the Truth. And since universal Truth does not
depend on the natural world, "wrong" or "invalid" data only reflect upon the rhetor's imperfect
skill in finding those concrete instances of it.25WEAVER'S DIALECTIC
Weaver is aware that he is of a culture and within history, and therefore that his truth is
existential. He understands that he, too, is subject to his own theory so that underlying his own
system of belief and sentiment is an ideal. Finally, he recognizes that his ideal is not necessarily
the one, True ideal. Instead it is a representation of it. Consequently he has no delusions about
universal Truth coming from his mortal mouth. At best he is a rhetorical "dummy" voicing the
collective sounds of the ideal and of history.
Indeed, Truth is suprapersonal. We gain insight into it from the dialogue of the whole
humanity. Weaver quotes Karl Vossler as observing, "Everything that is spoken on this globe in
the course of ages must be thought of as a vast soliloquy spoken by the human mind, which
unfolds itself in millions of persons and characters, and comes to itself again in their reunion.26
Consequently Truth is not the product of a single speaker; it is somehow the enduring portion of
our continuing collective dialogue. Yet it transcends the dialogue itself, being reflected in
discourse. Discourse viewed holistically provides insight into its nature. But if lies 238
elsewhere than in the spoken or written word-if it transcends a mere successive juxtaposition of
syllables-then one must not read Weaver too literally as pronouncing the Truth. We must instead
look to interaction among the countless voices of history to gain insight into the transcendent
When we examine the ongoing discourse we find that absolute Truth is dialectically
connected to and revealed by the interaction of "good rhetors" i.e., those who possess strong
belief (or a belief which possesses them), which would be closer to the "truth" in the Greek
sense. But belief is at best an image of Truth; it is not in the domain of the metaphysical but of
25 For example, to say that many of Weaver's "historical facts" are in error is to reflect our
own bias rather than his. Since Weaver holds that Truth is absolute, facts have no substantial
status or bearing on the case in point. Upon being "show n" to be "factually" or "historically"
incorrect, examples merely revert to their "real" status, that of hypothetical examples. One may
claim that such examples are true, but not in the fashion of categorical statements of fact. Such
examples must be correct not in relation to any concrete "reality," but rather only to themselves
and their relation to the Truth or ideal proposition wh ich c alled them forth in the first pla ce.
(After all, in Weaver's rational idealism "reality" is a distortion, a vulgar "copy," at best, of the
truth.) See, for example, Weaver's "Concealed Rhetoric in Scientist Sociology," in Johannesen,
Strickland, and Eubanks, pp. 157-58.
26 Cited in Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences,
p. 150. Italics added.
the existential. Thus, though Weaver may be a "good rhetor," only existential truth is extant in
his text (which is, itself, part of a larger dialectal process).
TRUTH is more that what is; it is also what should be.27 Consequently "good rhetors"
must go beyond announcing the "facts" dialectally secured. They must intersect these with the
order of feeling and motion.28 Thus to reveal Truth, "good rhetors" must act as if they possessed
Truth, otherwise their beliefs will be insufficiently strong to give insight into the absolute. Thus,
while Weaver recognizes that he does not clearly apprehend ultimate Truth, he operates as if he
did. The noumenal Truths are implicit, even if not explicitly announced, in his adherence to
existential truths- to beliefs and sentiments which he holds as if Truths and which guide his
feelings and actions respective to his thoughts.
Here we have a dual perspective. According to Weaver's theory, only metaphysical truth
is absolute and non-contingent. Yet Truth is approached in the realm of the contingent nature of
our respective systems. From inside any system, the existential Truth of that system appears to
be absolute, for it is the only truth adherents to that system possess.29 From outside the system,
the existential truth is espouses appears as less than absolute because an external perspective
reveals it as but one of several alternative formulations. From outside, a system's truth is seen as
existentially conditioned. Those inside a system may come to recognize this fact, but such
recognition carries a price. The extent to which we are conscious of the mutability of our
system's view is the extent to which belief is weakened; we are alienated from the universal our
system implies. Knowing this, Weaver would never directly qualify his "vision;" such as
admission would not only signify his relative fall
from belief and fragment his universal truth by
one degree (at the least) but also would undermine the necessary process of participation in
absolute Truth.30 239
Absolute Truth, then, is in dialectical relation to existential truth. But this is obvious
27 Weaver, Visions of Ord er,
28 Ibid., p. 62.
29 Ibid., pp. 55-72; Weaver, The Ethics of Rhetoric,
30 Weaver explicitly addresses this dualism in his account of a "doctor of culture" who
"though in it, he is not wholly of it." Doctors of culture are persons who have the advantage of
seeing their culture from an external perspective while feeling its pull from an internal
perspective. The result is an apparent oxymoron of crippling objectivity that enhances a
liberating honesty of appraisal while simultaneously stigmatizing the critic in a manner that
"impedes free cultural participation." Despite Wea ver's profession that this is not an anom aly,
he is nonetheless aware of its fundamental epistemic tension, which he resolves in an
interesting way. After a period of estrangement, Weaver tells us, there is a reunion of critic and
culture more inten sified and m ore reflective because now the culture is se en as a w hole.
Cultural doctors are able to cure not because they deny the system but because they
understand it so w ell. W eaver's ow n observations about political leaders (not to m ention his
own argumentation) suggest that such "medical" rhetoric actually employs the as-if
toward epistemic truth which we have been describing. And it further suggests that on
epistemic matters Weaver was unable to become the kind of "cultural doctor" he prescribed
inso far as he functioned as a "good rhetor." W eaver, Visions of Ord er,
only from outside the experience of belief and of one's metaphysical dream. Inside the
experience, existential truth personally functions as if
it were absolute Truth. Weaver's absolute
Truth, then, belongs to his epistemology and his existential truth to his rhetoric, just as dialectic
belongs to epistemology and rhetoric to persuasion. While Weaver believes that Truth exists, he
recognizes that mortals (including himself) can never know it totally. On the other hand, Truth
is gleaned through the dialogue among good (believing) persons who propound their beliefs.
When persons propound their beliefs, the act as if
they possessed the Truth. Since Weaver is
such a person, he must act as if
he possessed the Truth in order for it to emerge from the
dialogue. From this it follows that to get at his epistemology one must leave the literal text, for
the text-like all other rhetorical appeals-presents an imperfect representation of reality.WEAVER'S METAPHYSICAL DREAMAND TYRANNIZING IMAGE
Weaver suggests that an individual's logic of belief is manifest in those premises the
individual employs most often at the crucial junctures in argumentation.31 These premises reflect
the individual's metaphysical dream. Presumably, then, Weaver's personal vision of the ideal
may be discovered by following his own directions. His own theory, naturally enough,
dialectically folds in upon and envelopes Weaver himself, creating a higher level statement
regarding the "reading" of his texts.32
If this hypothesis is accepted, then what is Weaver's metaphysical dream and tyrannizing
image and how do they affect the interpretation of his text and its meaning? We suggest that
Weaver's metaphysical dream and tyrannizing image are analogous to the notion of the Kingdom
of God as expressed in Christian doctrine; that the form
of this Christian notion is his root
metaphor, which generates not only his tory of truth but also his theory of rhetoric, axiology, and
culture.33 We further suggest that the following analysis will factually demonstrate the thesis
herein presented. We interpret the following claim by Weaver to be self-referential:
Naturally, when the speaker replies to this question he is going to express his philosophy,
or more precisely, his metaphysics. My personal reply would be that he is making the
highest order of appeal when he is basing his case on definition or the nature of the thing.
I confess that this goes back to a very primitive metaph ysics, which holds that the highest
reality is being
, not b ecomin g. It is a quasi-religious m etaphysics, if you w ill, because it
ascribes to the highest reality qualities of stasis, immutability, eternal perdurance-
qua lities that in W estern civilization are usu ally expressed in the languag e of theism .
31 Weaver, The Ethics of Rhetoric,
p. 55. Cf. Cu shm an and H auser, p. 32 3, for a
disc ussion of this po int.
32 The dialectic being discussed here is not that of opposition, though phenom enally it
appears to be, but that of the negative contained in the positive. Thus the model of the
dialectical relationship of absolute Truth and existential truth is that of the surface of a mobius
33 Looked at from a Burkean perspective, we are arguing that this form
principle of identification from which Weaver derives coherence and order for his rhetoric,
axiology, and cultural vision.
That which is perfect does not change;
that w hich has to chan ge is less perfect.34
Throughout, this passage is inspired by religious form. There are higher and lower
orders. The higher is marked by 240
perfection; the lower by imperfection. There is a core of Truth toward which all must strive. So
to strive is to be rightly ordered-to be in harmony with an essence of immutable Truth, with
being rather than becoming, with permanence over change. This formally ordered metaphysics
is the basis for Weaver's theory of truth and part of his theory of rhetoric, axiology, and view of
The pervasive influence of this form is clearly evident when one examines the broad
strokes of Weaver's argument in Ideas Have Consequences.
There the religious form of an
eternal One which orders the finite many is recurrent, ostensibly just superimposed upon his
logic. However, that appearance is deceiving. In fact the very design of Weaver's argument
there depends upon religious form. Weaver's own metaphysical dream is expressed in a religious
analogue which creates the very structure of logic. As Weaver himself says, "It must be apparent
that logic depends upon the dream, and not the dream upon it.”35
We can better appreciate how Weaver's logic is conditioned by religious form if we
condense his book into its fundamental analogies. In our introductory paragraphs we made
passing notice that Weaver's principal mode of thinking was analogical. Indeed, in numerous
places Weaver explains that, aside from its stylistic significance, he finds analogy of signal
importance in reasoning. It is precisely because analogy is related to essences and eternal Truth
that Weaver accords it such elevated status. As he says in "Language is Sermonic," "The user of
analogy is hinting at an essence which cannot at the moment be produced."36 Because it may
serve as a key to the reading of a text, analogy has particular promise for interpreting Weaver's
thinking, for unlocking the structure of (Weaver's) Truth as manifested in Weaver's system. He
hints at this structure in the following statement which we take to be paradigmatic:
I mentioned a moment earlier that this type of argument seems to be preferred by those of
a poetic or non-literal sort of mind. That fact suggests yet another possibility, which I
offer still mo re diffid ently , askin g your indulge nce if it seem s to bo rder o n the wh imsic al.
The explanation would be that the cosmos is one vast system of analogy,
so that our
profoundest intuitions of it are made in the form of comparisons. To affirm that
som ething is like som ething else is to begin to talk ab out th e unitariness of creation.
Everything is like everything else somehow, so that we have a ladder of similitude
mounting up to the final one-ness-to something like a unity in godhead.37
Keeping Weaver's emphasis on analogy in mind, we turn to Ideas Have Consequences.
that book written as a commentary on Western culture, Weaver proceeds to comment on
34 Weaver, "Language is Sermonic," p. 55. Italics added.
35 Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences
, p. 21.
36 Weaver, Language is Sermonic," p. 56.
37 Ibid. Italics added.
mindless decay and decline resulting from a general ignorance and/or neglect of anything greater
than the individual. There we find the analogy of religious form structuring the reasoning
throughout. In terms of a "Kingdom of God" model, Weaver depicts us as fallen from grace and
in need of reconciliation with a transcendent unity if we are to avoid the damning chaos implicit
in our present state of fragmentation. Within this structure, his arguments may be condensed as
Just as God is reflected in the individual, so is the universal reflected in the particular, the
whole in the part, the One in the many. Just as one must obey and submit to God's will and law,
so too must the individual obey and submit to the will and law of the community. As above, so
Just as not to participate fully in God is to fall from Grace, so, too, not to be involved
fully in one's work is to fall from harmony, to be alienated. Just as one sees God in the
particular, so does one see the ideal in each task. Just as God is to be seen in each society, so is
society reflected in each member; hence as one works for society one is working for God. Just
as "individualism" is a fall from society, so is egoism and self-absorption a fall from God, and
therefore into sin. Thus, all deviation is a fall from perfection.
Just as God is perfect form and harmony, so, too (to Weaver), is classical music. Thus is
jazz a falling from good form and harmony. In Education the fall is reflected in a lack of
discipline, a quality required in the service of God. The same is reflected in impressionistic
painting; it reflects not only lack of discipline but also lack of individuation, as does democracy
and other doctrines of equality. Such views deny authority and hierarchy.
However, while God is reflected in each person, all the mortals in the world do not add
up to God: The Whole is more than the sum of its parts. Just as the divine mind cannot be
understood by humanity but must be accepted on faith, so, too, Truth must be based on belief.
Progress, by definition, is a fall, since Truth and God are eternal. Just as one does not prove the
existence of God but only points to those things that reflect Him, so, too, one does not prove
universals, but only points to those things that reflect them, i.e., data, "facts." examples.
All these arguments reflect Weaver's analogic continuum-a one-ness, a similitude-
mounting up the ladder to a unity in the godhead. In analogic terms, or what Aristotle called the
continuous analogy, the rhetorical structure of Weaver's thought an be represented in a
continuous analogic series, the first being a master print of the others:MAJOR PREMISE ABOVE:BELOW :: GOD:MANKIND:: UNIVERSAL: PARTICULAR :: IDEAL:EACH TASK :: PERFECTION:CHANGEMINOR PREMISE
OBEDIENT HUMANITY: GOD :: INDIVIDUAL: COMMUNITY ::
WORKER : JOB :: PERFECT FORM AND HARMONY : GOD ::
CLASSICAL MUSIC : MUSIC :: DISCIPLINE:EDUCATION ::
38 The following paragraphs are a sum mary in an alogic form of W eaver's argum ents inIdeas Ha ve Co nsequences,
e.g., pp. 35-91. They are developed seriatim
from the text.
Whether and how much this hierarchical structure is consciously constructed is a question
which need not concern us here. We are interested instead in an essential structure of the
rhetorical argument present in th e text.
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