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Forum Philosophicum

Volume 25, Issue 2, Autumn 2020

Per Bjørnar Grande
Pages 311-322

Girard’s Optimism

This article contains a discussion on René Girard’s understanding of the positive sides of imitation—despite the ambivalent nature of desire. Historically speaking, the discovery of the scapegoat mechanism made a great contribution towards limiting violence. The decomposition of the scapegoat mechanism, and its power to find non-violent alternatives, has paved the way for a culture with numerous opportunities. Even if humans constantly rival one another, one must understand and define the close relationship between competition, cooperation, and rivalry. To be able to see the positive sides of mimesis, one needs to have a robust understanding of human nature as competitive and, thereby, see friendship and competition as closely related. Learning and creativity can actually become optimal when there is a high degree of competition. Fierce competition today is allowed because of the taboo against violence. The decomposition of myth has destroyed archaic societies but, at the same time, created problems of an apocalyptic kind. Increasingly, cultures are now de­veloping without the shelter that sacrificial society previously provided. Positive human development, as is evident in the demystifying of violent myths and the increased concern for victims, cannot stem the power of global terror. Despite greater pessimism in his later works, Girard’s hope is that, through the model of Christ, people will finally learn to love their neighbours as themselves. A change of heart is to a certain degree capable to lead people towards the same kind of non-differentiated love as God.

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