Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Kenneth Burke

American Literary Theorist and Critic

"If decisions were a choice between alternatives, decisions would become easy. Decision is the selection of alternatives."

"Dignity belongs to the conquered. "

"Men seek for vocabularies that are reflections of reality. To this end, they must develop vocabularies that are selections of reality. And any selection of reality must, in certain circumstances, function as a deflection of reality. "

"We not only interpret the character of events... we may also interpret our interpretations."

"It is deplorable, but not tragic, simply to be a victim of circumstance. Sheer victimization is not an assertion - and it naturally makes not for vision but for frustration. The victimizing circumstances, or accidents, seem arbitrary and exorbitant, even silly."

"Ecology teaches us “that the total economy of the planet cannot be guided by an efficient rationale of exploitation alone,” wrote Burke more than 70 years ago, “but that the exploiting part must eventually suffer if it too greatly disturbs the balance of the whole."

"The progress of human enlightenment can go no further than in picturing people not as vicious, but as mistaken."