Peirce and Girard and the semiotics of desire

There is a big ice storm in Georgia (where I am) and the power is out — so writing anything substantive is fairly difficult. So I can only hint for now at one of the themes of my projected paper, “Mimesis and the Mediation of Meaning,” beginning with a comparison of the central ideas of Rene Girard and Charles Sanders Peirce that I find so enticing.

Here is Rene Girard on mimetic desire: (more…)

What Girard missed in Plato

One of the pleasures of being a member in good standing of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion is that every so often I am sent a pile of books by Michigan State University Press by Girardian authors. Yesterday’s surprise included two new books by Rene Girard himself: When These Things Begin: Conversations with Michel Treguer and The One by Whom Scandal Comes. What a treat!

However, one of the chapters of the Conversations book has the title “Mimetic Desire: Shakespeare rather than Plato.” (You can picture my grimace if you’d like.) There are really only a few terse mentions of Plato in the chapter from which I will quote. Note that the book is an extended interview and “MT” is Michel Treguer and “RG” is Rene Girard: (more…)

The Phenomenon of Questioning

I am obsessed with the phenomenology of questions. What is a question? What does it mean to have a question? The answers to these questions are intimately bound up with what it means to be human. Aristotle observes in the Metaphysics that all human beings by nature desire to know and this desire to know is manifested most obviously in questioning.  Questioning is properly an existential concern, a keystone to philosophical anthropology, and the source of vitality in a mind alive.

As a way at getting at the importance of questions, I want to begin with a couple of quotations from R. G. Collingwood’s (more…)

The Mimetic Theory of Rene Girard, Part 3/3

(This is a continuation of a series of posts comprised of Part I and Part II. Reading those posts first is a necessary backdrop to Part III given here. If you would like to read all three parts in a single post, click here.)

Girard’s anthropology implies that human subjectivity is essentially de-centered. The Mimetic Theory replaces the notion of the individual as the first principle of social analysis with the radical notion (more…)

The Mimetic Theory of Rene Girard, Part 2/3

(This is a continuation of a summary description of Mimetic Theory that I began in Part I. Make sure you read that first. If you would like to read all three parts in a single post, click here.)

It is clear that mimetic rivalry is an incubator and accelerator of human violence. Mimetic forces left unchecked by external societal checks would result in contagious spasms of violence. Remember that the strong mimetic tendency in humanity is biological and preconscious rather than a product of human deliberation. Therefore the origin of any general disorder caused by the propagation of mimetic rivalry would be generally mysterious, while its effects are obvious and dangerous. The societal checks that we take for granted (police forces, manners, etc.) have a history (more…)

The Mimetic Theory of Rene Girard, Part 1/3

(This is the first of three connected posts. If you would like to read all three parts in a single post, click here.)

The Mimetic Theory of Rene Girard is a chief source of insight for me both personally and academically. Since my book project will make constant use of Girardian ideas in interpreting Plato, I think its necessary to unpack this subject a little for the uninitiated  so that what I write later can make sense. For those who are already initiated in Girardian thought, I lift up my interpretation to your critical review in gratitude and humility so that you can help me distinguish between Girard’s theory and my interpretation of the same. This will take a few posts to get through, but here is a first attempt: (more…)