“Mimesis and the Mediation of Meaning” paper proposal

I am at work on a paper that I hope to present at the 2014 meeting of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion, which meets in Freising, Germany in July. This will look like a departure from my Plato project, but it is really not. I am trying to develop a succinct (Girardian) theory of mimetic mediation in order to communicate more precisely in my book the communal nature of philosophy and the mediation of meaning that goes on there. Essentially, the theory will touch on the origin of both language and human culture — I didn’t want to tackle anything too big! Anyway, here is the abstract I submitted to the organizers:

Proposed title: Mimesis and the Mediation of Meaning

Abstract: My paper will attempt to exploit a parallel between Rene Girard’s analysis of triangular desire and Charles S. Peirce’s semiotic investigations into the triadic basis of significance. I will show how this linkage of mimesis to semiotics provides useful resources for the theorist of Girardian anthropology. The parallel is both striking and important for developing a properly three-dimensional account of human meaning-making. I will argue that mimesis is the primal adhesive that links sign, object and interpretant into a locus of significance. Desire and meaning-making are discovered to be two versions of the same phenomenon. The heart of my paper will be an analysis and generalization of bodily posture, emphasizing its strong role in the mimetic mediation of meaning. I will outline how Girard himself emphasized the importance of gestures, particularly the acquisitive and accusatory. I will extend the generalized notion of posture to include analogously what I am calling “neural postures.” The bodily, prelinguistic roots of meaning will be applied to thinking about the origins of mimetic culture. The paper will turn to the meaning-making present in the sacrificial phenomenon as a way to make sense of Girard’s contention that the sacrificial victim is a “transcendental signifier.” Finally, I will connect this with Jean-Luc Marion’s analysis of the idol/icon distinction and how these can be distinguished in terms of mimetically-mediated postures of significance.


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