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Forum Philosophicum

Volume 24
Thinking with René Girard

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articles
1. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 2
Paul Dumouchel Intelligence, Artificial and Otherwise
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The idea of artificial intelligence implies the existence of a form of intelligence that is “natural,” or at least not artificial. The problem is that intelligence, whether “natural” or “artificial,” is not well defined: it is hard to say what, exactly, is or constitutes intelligence. This difficulty makes it impossible to measure human intelligence against artificial intelligence on a unique scale. It does not, however, prevent us from comparing them; rather, it changes the sense and meaning of such comparisons. Comparing artificial intelligence with human intelligence could allow us to understand both forms better. This paper thus aims to compare and distinguish these two forms of intelligence, focusing on three issues: forms of embodiment, autonomy and judgment. Doing so, I argue, should enable us to have a better view of the promises and limitations of present-day artificial intelligence, along with its benefits and dangers and the place we should make for it in our culture and society.
2. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 2
Ted Peters Artificial Intelligence versus Agape Love: Spirituality in a Posthuman Age
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As Artificial Intelligence researchers attempt to emulate human intelligence and transhumanists work toward superintelligence, philosophers and theologians confront a dilemma: we must either, on the one horn, (1) abandon the view that the defining feature of humanity is rationality and propose an account of spirituality that dissociates it from reason; or, on the other horn, (2) find a way to invalidate the growing faith in a posthuman future shaped by the enhancements of Intelligence Amplification (IA) or the progress of Artificial Intelligence (AI). I grasp both horns of the dilemma and offer three recommendations. First, it is love understood as agape, not rational intelligence, which tells us how to live a godly life. Love tells us how to be truly human. Second, the transhumanist vision of a posthuman superintelligence is not only unrealistic, it portends the kind of tragedy we expect from a false messiah. Third, if as a byproduct of AI and IA research combined with H+ zeal the wellbeing of the human species and our planet is enhanced, we should be grateful.
3. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 2
Graham McAleer, Christopher M. Wojtulewicz Why Technoscience Cannot Reproduce Human Desire According to Lacanian Thomism
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Being born into a family structure—being born of a mother—is key to being human. It is, for Jacques Lacan, essential to the formation of human desire. It is also part of the structure of analogy in the Thomistic thought of Erich Przywara. AI may well increase exponentially in sophistication, and even achieve human-like qualities; but it will only ever form an imaginary mirroring of genuine human persons—an imitation that is in fact morbid and dehumanising. Taking Lacan and Przywara at a point of convergence on this topic offers important insight into human exceptionalism.
4. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 2
Inti Yanes-Fernandez David I. Dubrovsky and Merab Mamardashvili: Adam’s Second Fall and the Advent of the Cyber-Leviathan
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In his speech “The European Responsibility,” the Georgian philosopher Merab Mamardashvili summarizes his utopia of a fulfilled humanity by presenting it as an integration of two main traditions: the Graeco-Roman and Judeo-Christian ones. In contrast, David Dubrovsky launches a new perspective for present and future human evolution: the cyber-superman, i.e. the perfect merging of human mind and digital brain—or the bio-digital interface. “Intelligence” here is not just an artificial by-product of a highly organized technological structure, but the re­production of mental operations through the techno-replication of the bio-brain as material substrate: the Dubrovskyan avatar. In the present article, I focus on Dubrovsky’s and Mamardashvili’s anthropological paradigms, and their relationship to the phenomena of cyberbeing and cyberculture. I examine the phenomenon of cyberbeing as a “built-in” feature of a bio-electronic, transhuman ontology that impacts and transforms personhood into “cyborghood” in the context of an interactive digital framework of fictional transcendences, body-deconstruction and bio-technological interplays. My aim is to develop a critical approach to Dubrovsky’s cybernetic anthropology and avatar-theory, along with its meaning and implications for our world-epoch, in contrast to Mamardashvili’s ontology, which proves essentially incompatible with the moment of technological singularity—i.e. with the creation of a transhuman bio-digital avatar as envisioned and prophesized by Dubrovsky.
5. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 2
Roberto Paura A Rapture of the Nerds?: A Comparison between Transhumanist Eschatology and Christian Parousia
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Transhumanism is one of the main “ideologies of the future” that has emerged in recent decades. Its program for the enhancement of the human species during this century pursues the ultimate goal of immortality, through the creation of human brain emulations. Therefore, transhumanism offers its followers an explicit eschatology, a vision of the ultimate future of our civilization that in some cases coincides with the ultimate future of the universe, as in Frank Tipler’s Omega Point theory. The essay aims to analyze the points of comparison and opposition between transhumanist and Christian eschatologies, in particular considering the “incarnationist” view of Parousia. After an introduction concern­ing the problems posed by new scientific and cosmological theories to traditional Christian eschatology, causing the debate between “incarnationists” and “eschatologists,” the article analyzes the transhumanist idea of mind-uploading through the possibility of making emulations of the human brain and perfect simulations of the reality we live in. In the last section the problems raised by these theories are analyzed from the point of Christian theology, in particular the proposal of a transhuman species through the emulation of the body and mind of human beings. The possibility of a transhumanist eschatology in line with the incarnationist view of Parousia is refused.
6. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 2
Alcibiades Malapi-Nelson Transhumanism, Posthumanism, and the Catholic Church
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In this essay, I engage the foreseeable consequences for the future of humanity triggered by Emerging Technologies and their underpinning philosophy, transhumanism. The transhumanist stance is compared with the default view currently held in many academic institutions of higher education: posthumanism. It is maintained that the transhumanist view is less inimical to the fostering of human dignity than the posthuman one. After this is established, I suggest that the Catholic Church may find an ally in a transhumanist ethos in a two-fold manner. On the one hand, by anchoring and promoting the defense of “the human” already present in transhumanism. On the other, rethinking the effectiveness of the delivery of sacraments in a humanity heavily altered by these technologies.
7. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 2
Anna Bugajska Will Postmortal Catholics Have “The Right to Die”?: The Transhumanist and Catholic Perspectives on Death and Immortality
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The article discusses the transhumanist and Catholic perspectives on death and immortality within the speculation on the rise of a postmortal society, and asks the question if Catholics have the right to reject immortalist technologies. To address this problem, I first outline the ideas and technology leading to the rise of a postmortal society, and accept Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon as a counterfactual scenario. Further, the naturalistic and Catholic understandings of death are compared, and it is shown that despite superficial similarities, they are fundamentally different. Finally, I consider insights from the current debates on end-of-life issues, such as euthanasia and the right to die, since some of the reasons and motivations behind choosing to die will be different in the postmortal society. The analysis allows to provide a set of arguments and problems for further consideration when it comes to the rejection of immortalist technologies.
articles on other subjects
8. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 2
Piotr K. Szałek Berkeley, Expressivism, and Pragmatism
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There is a long-standing dispute among scholars concerning Berkeley’s supposed commitment to an emotivist theory of meaning as the very first (and an early modern) instance of non-cognitivism. According to this position, the domains of religious and moral language do not refer to facts about the world, but rather express the emotional attitudes of religious or moral language users. Some scholars involved in the dispute argue for taking Berkeley to be an emotivist (non-cognitivist), while others hold that we should not do so. This paper puts forward an interpretation that lends support to the non-cognitivist reading of his stance, but in expressivist rather than emotivist terms. It argues that the label “expressivism” does more justice to the textual evidence concerning his understanding of moral language, as what is distinctive where this philosopher is concerned is his interest in explaining the nature of our practice of employing moral language (i.e. how we come to formulate moral statements as expressions of our non-referential attitudes, and the meta-level considerations pertaining to morality associated with this), rather than whether morality is just a matter of our emotions or feelings (i.e. such first-order considerations about morality as whether moral rightness and wrongness correspond merely to our emotional states).
book reviews
9. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 2
Lucas E. Misseri Anna Bugajska. Engineering Youth: The Evantropian Project in Young Adult Dystopias
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10. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 2
Jakub Pruś Józef Bremer. Ludwiga Wittgensteina teoria odwzorowania w filozofii, mechanice, muzyce i architekturze
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11. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 2
Reviewers of Articles Submitted in 2019
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12. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 2
Note about Forum Philosophicum
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articles
13. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Mathias Moosbrugger Historian in Disguise: On Derrida, Durkheim and the Intellectual Ambition of Rene Girard
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This paper rereads René Girard’s intellectual biography as a process first of apparent dissociation, and then of not so very much apparent, though quite solid, recovery of historical thinking. A trained historian-archivist, the young Girard began to massively rearrange his intellectual outlook by adopting methods and perspectives drawn from both very modern thinkers such as Jacques Derrida, and classical thinkers such as Émile Durkheim. In developing his signature theory of the scapegoat mechanism, however, Girard’s intellectual biography eventually came full circle. Reluctantly, and sometimes probably even unconsciously, he began to work intellectually like a good historian. Historical methodology and mimetic theory have, therefore, very much in common. This usually overlooked close relationship would seem to offer a promising new perspective when it comes to further developing mimetic theory methodologically.
14. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Colby Dickinson Polarized Readings of Rene Girard: Utilizing Girardian Thought to Break a Theological and Philosophical Impasse
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René Girard’s work often seems suspect to liberals, because it ap­pears as a totalizing narrative. Such hesitancy with respect to either dismissing or endorsing it follows from the demise of “grand narratives” that brought with them imperialistic and hegemonic tendencies. Yet if a liberal viewpoint does not embrace Girard, it is for different reasons that conservatives are either fully supportive of his thought as promising a return to religious values or hesitant about accepting his theories because they critique a form of violence inherent to any community. Girardian thought, it can be argued, has focused on deconstructing mythological justifications for violent activity at the expense of establishing a fruitful position regarding positive communal formations. The tensions between these juxtaposed liberal and conservative viewpoints, as taken up in this article, illustrate an impasse between deconstructivist-genealogists (representing trends within liberal discourse) and communitarians (representing conservative or orthodox viewpoints)—one that shows up in a variety of contexts today. Highlighting this particular standoff in interpretations of Girard can, nevertheless, yield important insights regarding the ultimate significance of his work.
15. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Andrew O’Shea Memory, Origins, and the Searching Quest in Girard’s Mimetic Cycle: An Arendtian Perspective
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This paper offers an interpretation of René Girard’s mimetic theory in light of Hannah Arendt’s account of St Augustine’s philosophy of love. Girard’s mimetic theory crosses many disciplines and has been the main inspiration in his oeuvre over decades. However, its later application and how it purports to demystify culture and point to the truth of the Christian revelation, sits uneasily with his early confessional position. This paper is an attempt to make sense of Girard the Christian thinker, who seeks to explain Christianity without a continuous searching quest for God and ethical orientation in the world. I examine his early theory of desire and how it claims to lead to the conversion of the hero and author of the novel, and how Girard compares the hero’s journey in literary space to the Saint’s journey in spiritual space. In explicating Hannah Arendt’s work entitled Love and Saint Augustine I set out some of the key concepts of Augustine’s philosophy of “love as desire” and highlight a number of contexts in Augustine’s thinking that refocus his philosophy in the direction of memory in response to the commandment to love God, neighbour and self. I go on to examine whether Arendt’s analysis of Augustine might also apply to Girard’s journey with mimetic theory. Finally, I attempt to articulate a context for reading Girard in light of Augustine’s own searching quest for God, one that tries to bring his personal and confessional stance back into his account of mimesis and human origins.
16. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Andreas Wilmes Demystifying the Negative: Rene Girard’s Critique of the “Humanization of Nothingness”
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This paper will address René Girard’s critique of the “humanization of nothingness” in modern Western philosophy. I will first explain how the “desire for death” is related to a phenomenon that Girard refers to as “obstacle addiction.” Second, I will point out how mankind’s desire for death and illusory will to self-divinization gradually tend to converge within the history of modern Western humanism. In particular, I will show how this convergence between self-destruction and self-divinization gradually takes shape through the evolution of the concept of “the negative” from Hegel to Kojève, Sartre and Camus. Finally, we shall come to see that in Girard’s view “the negative” has tended to become an ever-preoccupying and unacknowledged symptom of mankind’s addiction to “model/obstacles” of desire.
17. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Tania Checchi Myth and “il y a”: A Convergent Reading of Rene Girard and Emmanuel Levinas
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In order to disclose possible affinities between the oeuvres of Emmanuel Levinas and René Girard that run deeper than both the apparently opposite quarters in which they deploy their thought—difference and sameness—and their patently shared view—an ethical concern for victims— their analogue account of the mythical dynamics of undifferentiation should be explored. Due to their very similar endeavor—to pinpoint the circumstances in which mythical violence arises—Levinas’s notion of the il y a as a neutral and saturated field of forces and Girard’s description of the final paroxysm of the mimetic crisis can be equated with very instructive results. Furthermore, because both instances are linked to the primeval situation in which the subject as such emerges, these authors’ descriptions reinforce each other and provide us with a critical account of a realm that should be transcended—the domain of the violent sacred in which force becomes the ultimate criteria—lest we run the risk of a total social involution.
18. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Pierpaolo Antonello Sacrificing “Homo Sacer”: Rene Girard reads Giorgio Agamben
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Taking as its point of departure the existing critical literature on the intersections between René Girard’s and Giorgio Agamben’s anthropogenetic theories, this essay aims to add further considerations to the debate by discussing some of Agamben’s intuitions within a Girardian paradigmatic explanatory frame­work. I show how by regressing the archeological analysis to a pre-institutional and pre-legal moment, and by re-examining the antinomic structure of the sacred in its genetic organizing form (so briskly dismissed by Agamben in Homo Sacer), one can account more cogently for certain key issues relevant to Agamben’s theo­retical project, such as the “paradox of sovereignty,” the nature of the “state of exception,” and the dissociation between culpa and individual responsibility in archaic law, as recently discussed in Karman. I also put forward arguments concerning the limitations of Agamben’s immanent ontology to account for the zoe/bios distinction as a key structural element of his particular take on biopolitics, viewing this specifically in the light of Girard’s anti-sacrificial interpretation of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.
19. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
John Ranieri The Quranic Jesus: Prophet and Scapegoat
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A major theme in René Girard’s work involves the role of the Bible in exposing the scapegoating practices at the basis of culture. The God of the Bible is understood to be a God who takes the side of victims. The God of the Qur’an is also a defender of victims, an idea that recurs throughout the text in the stories of messengers and prophets. In a number of ways, Jesus is unique among the prophets mentioned in the Qur’an. It is argued here that while the Quranic Jesus is distinctly Islamic, and not a Christian derivative, he functions in the Qur’an in a way analogous to the role Jesus plays in the gospels. In its depiction of Jesus, the Qur’an is acutely aware of mimetic rivalry, scapegoating, and the God who comes to the aid of the persecuted. Despite the significant differences between the Christian understanding of Jesus as savior and the way he is understood in the Qur’an, a Girardian interpretation of the Qur’anic Jesus will suggest ways in which Jesus can be a bridge rather than an obstacle in Christian/Muslim dialogue.
book reviews
20. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Emanuele Antonelli Mark R. Anspach. Vengeance in Reverse. The Tangled Loops in Violence, Myth, and Madness
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