Thursday, November 5, 2015

René Girard, last wish – Liberation

A member of the French Academy, René Girard has not yet found a place in French universities: in the immediate post-war, he emigrated to the United States, received his doctorate in history at the University of Indiana and teaches comparative literature at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (where he organized a famous symposium on “the language of criticism and human sciences” involving Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida, who discover structuralism Americans) and, until his retirement in 1995 at Stanford – where language teacher, French literature and civilization, he met Michel Serres and Jean-Pierre Dupuy

Born the day. Christmas 1923 in Avignon, student of the School of Charters, died Wednesday at Stanford, California, at the age of 91. It was a strong, tough, sometimes gruff, who dug his furrow with the energy of solitary and between thousand difficulties, as the international impact of his theories – some concepts, including that of “scapegoat” are almost fell in the common grammar of human sciences and even the common language – has never removed the harsh criticism, misunderstandings, discards, further increased by the fact that Girard, traditionalist, has refused creeds postmodern Marxists , deconstructionist, structuralist, psychoanalytic …

Driven by a deep religious faith, fine interpreter of the mystery of the Passion of Christ, he has built a considerable body of work, which unfolds from literature to anthropology, ethnology theology, psychology, sociology, philosophy of religion and philosophy tout court. The outlines of all his thoughts are already contained in his first book, Deceit and romantic truth (1961) in which, from the very innovative study of the great Western novels (Stendhal, Cervantes, Flaubert Proust, Dostoevsky …), he forges the theory of “mimetic desire” – the man wants only according to the desire of the other – who have considerable resonance as it will apply to areas outside . literature

Be wishing

Human nature at its bottom mimesis: in the sense that the actions of men are always companies because they see conducted by a “model “. The man is a being desiring excellence, which nourishes the desire of the desire of the other and thus adopts customs, fashions, ways of being, thoughts, actions adapting customs, fashions, ways of being of those that are “around” him. The difference between animal and man is not in the intelligence or anything else, but in the fact that first of appetites which the nail on instinct, while the second has desires that incite the first to observe and then to emulate. That’s what mimetic principle that guides the “movements” of individuals in society. Hence the widespread violence since the conflict appears when there is “triangle”, that is to say as soon as the desire is about an “object” that is already the object of desire of another.

Are born and envy, jealousy, hatred, revenge. Revenge stops feeding the hatred of the “rival”, and involves the entire community, thus threatening the foundations of the social order. Only the sacrifice of an innocent victim, a “difference” (real or created) differs from all others, can soothe the hatred and heal the community. This is the theory of the “scapegoat”, which made famous René Girard. By focusing attention on the most puzzling aspect of the sacred, the author of Violence and the Sacred (1972) in fact shows – can have an illustration in the film by Peter Fleischmann, Hunting Scenes from Bavaria, where a young man suspected of being homosexual, becomes the object of a veritable manhunt on the part of all the inhabitants of the village – that immolation of a sacrificial victim, evidenced in almost all religious traditions and mythological literature, used to appease the “war of all against all” of which Thomas Hobbes had made the center of his philosophy.

When a community is about to self-destruct by bowel clashes, “civil wars”, she finds a way to “save” if it finds a scapegoat (think the ‘witch hunt’ n ‘ then it is important, in all latitudes, and regardless of the “witch”), on which discharge the violence scapegoat is then assigned a sacred value, precisely because it brings peace and helps mend the social link. Often the myths and rites have obscured the innocence of the victim, but, according to Girard, the biblical revelation, culminating with the gospel accounts of the Passion of Christ, has proved the contrary, so that Christianity can not be considered as a simple “variant” of pagan myths (hence the violent criticism of Girard The Genealogy of Morals Nietzsche, design “Dionysian” celebrated by the German philosopher and assimilation between Christ and the various incarnations of the pagan god-victim).

Real Facts and events

In order Girardian, it certainly was to propose a “Another speech” anthropological, which démarquât (and should show the falsity) of those who had become dominant, thanks obviously to the work of Levi-Strauss (and, on the other hand, Freud). Not thinking at all that we can account for the “savage mind” by focusing on the myths, understood as “poetic creativity” or “narrative” disconnected from reality, René Girard’s anthropology rooted in facts and real events arrived as episodes of lynching or ritual sacrifices which the victim is then sacred but is always based, first, on absurd accusations, such as those spread the plague, to make impure food or water poisoning .

The mimetic theory and anthropology-based exclusion sacred scapegoat, are the two paradigms Girard applies to many fields of knowledge, and allow it to define a schema able hermeneutics to explain many phenomena, social, political, literary, religious. His work, in other words, aimed at building a general anthropology, rational, to a comprehensive explanation of human behavior. This is probably why it has generated so much enthusiasm and attracted so much criticism. It is impossible here not even mention all the themes he has dealt, neither the authors with whom he interacted critically. What is certain is that Rene Girard has always maintained right the helm of his ship, despite the headwinds, and at the time of contemporary hyper-specialization, had the audacity to make a “thought unit “that was the subject of a thousand comments worldwide, because really suggestive and whose ambition was to lay bare the roots of human culture. “The truth is extremely rare on this earth. There is even reason to believe that it is entirely absent. “ This has not been enough to deter René Girard to look for his entire life.

Read also : portrait of René Girard of January 4, 2003

Robert Maggiori


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