Volume 7, Issue 16, Fall 2011
“The Self and Other People
Reading Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation with René Girard and Emmanuel Levinas”
In the interest of moving conflict resolution toward reconciliation, theorists have turned to René Girard whose understanding of scapegoating and imitative desire acquires special importance. But Girardian thinking offers no unique ethical solution, and so theorists have turned to Emmanuel Levinas for such an account. Four ideas especially from Levinas appear helpful: his criticism of totality (and, concomitantly, his substitution of the idea of the infinite); the face as an opening (or gateway) to the infinite; the Other (or other individual) and my infinite (or unlimited) responsibility toward her (or him); and language as the dire as opposed to the dit, the saying (or “to say”) as opposed to the said, as one modality in which this openness to the other individual takes place. Combining Girard’s analysis of the sacrificial with Levinas’s analysis of the ethical may offer conflict resolution theorists an account as thoroughgoing and as old as Biblical scripture, and one to which, in the interest of moving toward reconciliation, they would do well to pay heed.