That’s the title of my paper proposal to read at the 2014 meeting of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion in Freising, Germany. (This replaces my previous proposal on Peirce and Girard, “Mimesis and the Mediation of Meaning.” I decided that the Peircean elements would be just too difficult to communicate in a 20 minute presentation.) Here’s the abstract:
TITLE: “Homonoia, Positive Mimesis and the Sharability of Desire.”
ABSTRACT: A paradoxical but central tenet of Mimetic Theory is that violence feeds more off similarity than difference. The mirroring of desire, the doubling of monstrous antagonisms, and the breakdown of cultural distinctions are all instances of sameness generating or exacerbating violence. Human survival thus seems to require the strong reinforcement of culturally enforced distinctions/degrees, whether hierarchies or purity systems or the mother of all differences, the scapegoat, to prevent a violence-inducing sameness. This is Girardian orthodoxy, that similarity engenders violence.
But the ancients considered homonoia, i.e. “likemindedness,” to be a sine qua non of political/communal order, indeed as constitutive of peace itself. After considering some passages in Plato, Aristotle and St. Paul that trumpet the anthropological/sociological importance of homonoia, my presentation will attempt to answer certain questions pertinent to Mimetic Theory:
Did Plato/Aristotle/St. Paul get it wrong vis à vis Girard’s mimetic discovery? Or, is there an important sense in which both the Girardian and ancient accounts are true? Under what conditions does likemindedness lead to the violence that Girard theorizes and how might this violence be overcome in stable communal orders (without recourse to scapegoating)?
My answers to these questions will rest on an analysis of the mimetic roots of both homonoia and the crisis of distinctions. I will argue:
• It is not the loss of distinctions that create violence per se, but a breakdown of agreement (homologia/homonoia) regarding those distinctions.
• It is not the sameness of desiderata that alone produces rivalry between mimetic actors, but also a perspectival difference in the meaning of “mine.”
• We must pursue a normative version of positive mimesis based on the inherent sharability of joint objects of desire.