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41. 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.
42. 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.
43. 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.
44. 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
45. 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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46. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Piotr Ufnal Brian Besong. An Introduction to Ethics. A Natural Law Approach
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47. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 24 > Issue: 1
Note about Forum Philosophicum
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48. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Eric Gans René Girard and the Deferral of Violence
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Rene Girard’s anthropology goes beyond Durkheim and Freud in seeking knowledge in literary, mythical, and religious texts. Girard’s primary intuition is that human culture originated in response to the danger of violent mimetic crises among increasingly intelligent hominins, whose imitation of each other’s desires led to conflict. These crises were resolved by the mechanism of emissary murder: the proto-human community came to focus its aggression on a single scapegoat whose unanimous lynching, by “miraculously” bringing peace, led to its ritual repetition in sacrifice. Because this theory fails to found the signs of human language and worship on the deferral of spontaneous action, Girard can only attribute the internal peace necessary to the human community to the exhaustion of violent aggression. Instead, generative anthropology proposes that, beginning from the premise that the need to control internecine violence was the source of the human, an appropriative gesture toward an object of common desire, deferred out of fear of violence, becomes understood as a sign of the object’s sacred/interdicted status, after which it can be peacefully divided among the group. Following this originary event, the sacred/signifying universe of language and religion gradually comes to include the totality of human activity.
49. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Anthony W. Bartlett Theology and Catastrophe: A (Girardian) Semiotics of Re-Humanization
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Girardian anthropology tells us that the birth of human meaning and its signs are the result of a primitive catastrophe. But if these origins are exposed by the biblical record it is because another, transformative semiosis has opened in human existence. Girard’s seminal remarks on the Greek logos and the logos of John, endorsing Heidegger’s divorce of the two, demonstrate this claim and its source in the nonviolence of the gospel logos. In effect, there is a second catastrophe, one embedded in the bible and reaching its full exposition in the cross, generating a new semiosis in humanity. The transformation may be measured by viewing the original semiosis in a Kantian frame, as a transcendental a priori structured by violence. The second catastrophe generates an equivalent new a priori of nonviolence. The work of Charles Peirce illustrates both the way in which interpretants (of signs) open us progressively to new meanings, and how this process may ultimately be conditioned by love. The catastrophe of the gospel, therefore, works both on the dramatic individual level, with Paul of the New Testament as the great example, but also in slow‑motion over semiotic history, changing the meaning of existence from violence to nonviolence.
50. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Bernard Perret René Girard and the Epistemology of Revelation
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Rene Girard never worried about clarifying the epistemological framework of his theories. Yet it is a necessary task, if only to answer the questions of method inevitably posed by the mixture of scientificality and religious conviction that characterizes his approach. Girard’s use of the word “revelation” is paradigmatic from this regard. A philosophy of the event can provide an epistemological framework to unify the theological and anthropological meanings of this notion. On a phenomenological level, Divine Revelation is analogous to certain decisively meaningful happenings in our existence, or in history. The irruption of a radically new sense into a reality that does not contain it in any way is not an exclusive prerogative of religious experience. The schema of the meaningful event makes it possible to disclose the logic of the great Girardian narrative, whose key stages are revelations, in the sense of events bringing a new kind of meaning. The scenario of the emergence of culture described by Girard is event‑driven, and the same logical schema underlies the Girardian interpretation of the Passion as an unveiling of human violence. In the same way Girard analyses conversion, in both a religious and a “novelistic” sense, as a spiritual event. Finally, his apocalyptic conception of history can be interpreted using this epistemological framework.
51. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
John Ranieri How Girard Helped Me Understand the Distinction between Nature and Grace
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Questions concerning the relationship between nature and grace, reason and faith are central to Christian anthropology. With philosopher/theologian Bernard Lonergan’s essay “Natural Knowledge of God” as a starting point, these questions will be considered in conversation with the work of Rene Girard and theologian James Alison. Lonergan agrees with Karl Rahner that, with regard to these questions, dogmatic theology needs to be transposed into a theological anthropology. Given that Girard is an anthropologist of religion and culture who is open to theology, his work can be useful in effecting such a transposition. For example, Girard’s thought can help us understand what Lonergan means when he writes: “I do not think that in this life people arrive at natural knowledge of God without God’s grace, but what I do not doubt is that the knowledge they so attain is natural.” Implicit in this statement is an awareness that “natural reason” needs to be freed of its biases before it can operate freely and “naturally.” Girard’s anthropological approach to the Bible helps to explain why this is the case.
52. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Stefano Tomelleri The Scapegoat, Evangelical Revelation and Resentment
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The mimetic desire that underlies resentment can enter into different and complex strategies of interaction. In his writings, Girard has indicated at least three such strategies: those of the solipsist, the non‑conformist and the minimalist. His critical insight reveals indifference, transgression and minimalism to be strategies of resentment, where all of these are symptoms of an anthropological condition characterizing contemporary Western society today. At the same time, he sees evangelical revelation as the main source of our modern awareness of the mimetic nature of human beings: an awareness that has produced ongoing transformations in modernity linked to resentment. Moreover, he observes that it is the Judeo‑Christian tradition itself that has disclosed the mimetic nature of human desire and the logic of resentment. Viewed from this perspective, modern humanity now has an extraordinary opportunity to renounce the scapegoating mechanism so as to resolve its resentments, as evangelical revelation makes reconciliation and social reconstruction possible.
53. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Charles Mabee On Mimesis, Folkways, and the Impossibility of Christianity
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Neither rationally constructed nor intentionally imposed, humans live much of their lives guided by unspoken folkway traditions passed on from generation to generation. As the American sociologist William Graham Sumner reminded us over a century ago, those norms that prescribe “acceptable” social behavior bubble up from everyday life experience, rather than imposed from the top by cultural authorities. Sumner’s insights throw further light on the mimetic theory developed by Rene Girard and offer a more nuanced understanding of how mimesis actually works. The benefit of the extraordinary grip that folkway traditions hold on us is their utilitarian value and resultant cost‑effectiveness in terms of expenditure of mental energy. We follow folkway traditions to save time and mental energy. It is the thesis of this paper that Jesus recognized this power of customary thinking as a determinant of human behavior, and it was his strategy to attack specifically those folkway traditions that were exclusionary in nature in “shocking” ways that agitated many who followed generally accepted behavioral norms. As a result, it is wrong to take Jesus for a moral law‑giver, even with such benign terms as a new “law of love,” or the like. In fact, he did not propose a new formal legal tradition, but challenged individuals to reflect consciously on their unthinking behavior and assume responsible ownership of it. To follow Jesus, therefore, does not so much imply a deeper understanding of love, but a deeper understanding of the unconscious decision‑making processes that unwittingly guide our everyday lives.
54. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Emanuele Antonelli Mimesis and Attention: On Christian Sophrosyne
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One might well wonder about the source of Girard’s knowledge. Where is it thought to have come from in the first place? From what vantage point are we supposed to be surveying the events he claims are originary? And what, then, is the condition for the very possibility of his Christian wisdom? In this paper, I argue that we can put forward a tentative solution by looking at one particular aspect of all the texts that Girard has interpreted: they are all written texts. Analyzing this in detail with the assistance of the proposals of Bernard Stiegler, I will claim that it is writing itself that has afforded us the possibility of paying attention. Moreover, in the second section, I shall also put forward an analysis of the gnoseological condition of the possibility of Christian wisdom. To do so, I expand on Stiegler’s reading of Kant’s notion of schema focusing on its relation with the hermeneutical notion of figura, as presented by Erich Auerbach. Commenting on the common rhetorical setting of both the Critique of Pure Reason and the Bible, I then show that these two written texts address a very similar problem—a critique of the way people judge—and also put forward, surprisingly, much the same solution: to properly judge, it would be better to take into account past examples of judgments and consider that, no matter whether we critique them or not, they will schematize our own experiences and influence our intentionality.
55. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Maria Korusiewicz Circles of Failure, Strategies of Hope: A Girardian Perspective on the Tragic Vision
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This paper asks whether there are grounds for viewing Girard’s work as a tragic vision, and explores the criteria and contexts that might figure in such an investigation. Mimetic anthropology is built on references to the tragic perspective, but its tragic aspect is complex and diaphanous in respect of its structuring and dynamics. Its framework is difficult to explore without engaging with contemporary Christian theological thought—something that significantly affects its implications. As for the latter, the transformative potential of Girard’s tragic anthropology, directly engendered by its critical approach to its own theses, tends to shatter the stability of its assumptions. Therefore, from the earliest interpretations of ancient tragic drama, through the pitfalls of the notion of sacrifice and the dialogue with the philosophy of existence and dramatic theology, all the way to the so‑called apocalyptic phase in Girard’s thought, we can observe shifting relationships between the broadening areas of human failure on the one hand, and the elusive horizon of hope on the other. Within this vision, the last strategy of hope seems to lie in the decision of the individual as a witness to a man‑made apocalypse—and/or the apocalypse itself.
56. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Thomas Ryba The Fall of Satan, Rational Psychology, and the Division of Consciousness: A Girardian Thought Experiment
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This paper proposes a revision of Girard’s interpretation of Satan, along traditional theological lines. Appreciating the essential correctness of the Girardian characterization of mimēsis, it is an argument, contra Girard, that (1) Satan cannot be reduced to a mimetic process but is a hypostatic spiritual reality and, following from this, that (2) the origins of mimetic rivalry go back before the emergence of humankind and provide a model for human rivalry. Employing concepts drawn from Husserlian phenomenological psychology, Thomist theology, and psychoanalysis, it hypothesizes Satan’s psychological state, prior to his fall, as metastable anxiety and trauma and his state, afterwards, as a narcissistic, malicious, self-induced pathology in order to explain Satan’s impossible rivalry with God, a rivalry that precedes hominization and has always endangered human existence.
book reviews
57. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Józef Bremer Besong Brian, and Fuqua Jonathan, eds. Faith and Reason: Philosophers Explain their Turn to Catholicism
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58. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Andrzej Wierciński Małgorzata Hołda. Paul Ricoeur’s Concept of Subjectivity and the Postmodern Claim of the Death of the Subject
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59. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Jakub Pruś Piotr Warzoszczak. Fikcjonalizm modalny [Modal Fictionalism]
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60. Forum Philosophicum: Volume > 23 > Issue: 2
Reviewers of Articles Submitted in 2018
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