ARTICLES / Artikler (All in ENGLISH)

 

Mimetic Theory and the Science of Religion

The French-American literary critic, religious scholar, anthropologist and philosopher René Girard (b.1923) is known today as one of the more influential and controversial contemporary thinkers. During the course of forty-five years he has developed an interdisciplinary cultural theory based on research in the field of literary theory, anthropology, the science of religion, philosophy, psychology and theology.


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Mimesis in the Works of Girard and Derrida

Mimesis in the works of Derrida and Girard plays a decisive role. Both see mimesis as a fundamental force in the act of forming culture. However, in the work of Girard mimesis is the force governing all human relationships and cultural life. Girard’s main hypothesis indicates a new theory on cultural origins and development: Culture is formed by mimetic desire and thereby transformed into scapegoating.


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Love in the Western World: Girard’s Imitation of De Rougemont’s Concept of Love

Few scholars have been preoccupied by mimesis, and they who have taken an interest in mimesis, have mainly regarded it as representation. In that respect Girard's theory looks astonishingly new and innovative. There have been remarkably few theologians, religious scholars, philosophers, literary critics and psychologists indulged in mimesis and desire.


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Acquisition, Rivalry and Capitalism. Understanding Marcel Mauss from a Girardian Perspective

Conflict can be seen as an initial stage of violence. In psychology, sociology and anthropology mimesis is understood, more than in philosophy and religion, as acquisitive mimesis, an acquisition which also is based upon the other. Marcel Mauss’ work, The Gift, illustrates the acquisitive basis of human societies in a most intriguing way. The strength of Mauss work (a work on how primitive societies are governed by the laws of exchange) lies in the emphasis he puts on rivalry in the act of exchange. Mauss shows that all kinds of gifts (within the societies he has researched, mainly Polynesian) are based on a system of reciprocity. This reciprocity, which governs different kinds of exchange, clearly contains acquisitive elements. The balancing of accounts can contain virtually anything. This indicates a system of mimetic reciprocity


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Comparing Plato's Understanding of Mimesis to Girard's

The literature of antiquity depicts a static world; it does not show changes as a result of everyday life. The instability (of fortune) almost always appears as fate. Erich Auerbach claims that the literature of Antiquity does not reveal the underlying conditions of what it presents; rather it alludes to this condition as fate or divine intervention. However, a certain awareness of governing principles begins to manifest itself with Plato. Thus, with Plato the reason for instability in society is rationalised and understood as mimesis.


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Proustian Desire

According to the French-American scholar René Girard, Don Quixote represents one of the first successful depictions of metaphysical desire, where reality and fantasy have become merged through the effects of desire. Precisely the same kind of desire is at stake in Proust's In Search of Lost Time. It is mimetic, it is built on deceptive appearances and it is built on the other. Like Schiller, who divides European literature into naïve and sentimental, or like Auerbach, who divides literature between Jewish and Greek,


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The Mimetic Nature of Desire

In this article I will consider the French philosopher and literary critic René Girard’s understanding of desire. Girard propagates an understanding of desire as evoked by other people’s desires. In this way desire in mimetic theory is seen as something distinct from instincts. Desire is fundamentally and exclusively human, as it is originally linked to the scapegoat mechanism. Desire is also essentially and exclusively mimetic. If desire were not mimetic it would be instinctual. Desire is inherited and learned, but it is not primarily biological as it is released by the victimage mechanism. If it was biological it would also encompass all kinds of ‘natural’ desires or needs, but Girard tends to use the word desire in a way as to distinguish it from normal biological satisfaction.


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Girard's Christology

The main problem among humans is violence. If people could solve the problem of violence, most other problems would also be solved. Mimetic theory localizes the problem in rivalistic desires. Every time imitation turns into severe rivalry between human beings, violence, either physical or psychological seems to get the upper hand. Before long the rivals will have forgotten what they were rivalling about. They have become doubles, preoccupied mostly with subverting the other. This is the human dilemma which seems absolutely insoluble - despite an ever increasing focus on the devastating effects of violence.


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A Reflection on the COV&R Conference, Amsterdam 2007

The theme of the highly successful Amsterdam conference was “Vulnerability and Tolerance,” but tended to be just as much about whether there is a clash of civilisations. The overall great success was that one managed to convey the local tragedies in Holland (the killings of Theo van Gogh and Pim Fortuyn) into a general and universal drama of scapegoating and violence of our time.


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Mimesis and World Building

If one is willing to regard Girard’s theory as related to the sociology of religion, it must surely be related initially to Peter Berger’s concept of religion as a social construction, designed by humans. In fact, Girard and Berger do not only have, loosely speaking, the same starting point (understanding religion initially as human needs); they also have several central themes in common regarding religion, despite the fact that they speak from different academic traditions. Both Berger and Girard see religion as protection from meaninglessness - despite Berger’s emphasis on religious alienation. Both thinkers deny biological determination.


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Imitation & Scapegoating. How to Understand Religion in the Work of René Girard

In my view mimesis is the force governing all human relationships and cultural life. The hypothesis that people are mimetic had been scarcely elaborated before Girard’s theory had been worked out (and it is still in the process of being worked out). And Girard's main hypothesis: culture is formed by mimetic desire and thereby transformed into scapegoating,  indicates a new theory on cultural origins and development. Before Girard's work, neither mimetic desire nor the scapegoat mechanism had been given any central position in explaining the principles governing people and culture.


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