Building on the ambiguities of identification and the rhetorical wrangle, Diane Davis in her book Inessential Solidarity, reminds us that for Burke, identification is settled symbolically:
According to Burke, there is no essential identity; what goes for your individual “substance” is not an essence but the incalculable totality of your complex and contradictory identifications, through which you variously (and vicariously) become able to say “I.” Like the “official” Freudian version on which it’s based, “rhetorical identification” depends on symbolic representation, on the production and intervention of meaningful figures, which Burke says are already persuasive: “whenever there is ‘meaning,’ there is ‘persuasion’” (21)However, as Davis points out, if the self is constructed through multiple identifications, not only must we be foreign to ourselves – much in the same way our unemployable friend appears to always be playing a new role with a new identity. But, paradoxically, if identification is to only come about through shared meaning, we must also know ourselves “as and through [our] representations” in relation to an other (21). Yet it is the first split that troubles Davis. Before the rhetorical wrangle of identification ever takes place, Burke has set up a prior division (and possible identification) between self and other. For Burke, Davis argues, “the division between self and other is the ‘state of nature’ that is identification’s motivating force: identification’s job is to transcend this natural state of division, and rhetoric’s job is identification” (22). Here, identification (and by default rhetoric, as well) becomes mixed up with desire. As a separate organism, the human for Burke, is individuated. Yet, as a symbol using animal, the human becomes, in Burke’s words, “homo dialecticus.”
Homo dialecticus is a split subject, both self and other, desiring to belong. For Davis, “Essentially enclosed and alienated, [Burke’s] homo dialecticus already desires to transcend this state of nature—‘[b]iologically, it is of the essence of man to desire”—and is ontologically equipped to do so via the inborn powers of his or her imagination” (23). So while Burke maintains individuality among human persons, he immediately places these already desiring individuals into a complex network of identifications and rhetorical wrangle of shared meanings. What Burke implies but avoids ever saying, as Davis sees it, is that “identification can no longer be understood as an identification of one with another, at least not at first, since it would necessarily precede the very distinction between self and other” (26). And this prior identification lends itself to a rhetoricity or “affectability or persuadability that is at work prior to and in excess of any shared meaning” (26). Does this mean, then, that there is a possibility for a nonsybmolic action?