published on June 16, 2015
Lorenzo Magnani, Tommaso Bertolotti
Christ, Batman, and Girard
A Philosophical Perspective on Self-Sacrifice
The aim of this article is to offer a non-trivial reflection about the violence embedded in self-sacrifice. Firstly, we will suggest a definition of violence which does not make self-sacrifice necessarily violent, but rather aims at being consistent with the common sense conception of sacrifice as actually violent (if self-sacrifice was not violent, then it would not be perceived as something rare and everyone would be committing non-trivial self-sacrifices wherever we laid our gaze). Framing this initial claim within the vectorial conception of sacrifice offered by Derrida (and exemplified by de Vries), we will individuate in the violence against intellect (sacrificium intellectus) the core of the violent dimension of self-sacrifice, insofar as the author of the sacrifice does not limitedly commit part of her understanding in the sacrificial practice, but all of it, since she is both the agent and the patient of sacrifice. At this point, we will have gathered enough material to spell out two fundamental violent aspects of self-sacrifice. The first concerns the exemplar of self-sacrifice in Western tradition, that is, Jesus Christ’s. The self-sacrifice committed by God’s own lógos is the epitome of sacrifice as sacrificium intellectus, therefore the highest gradient of intellectual violence. At the same time, this is crucial as it further corroborates the interpretation of Jesus’ sacrifice as the last sacrifice: no mimetic attempt to reenact His sacrifice can hold the comparison under the fundamental aspect of intellectual violence. The second “mirror” to reflect about the violence of self-sacrifice will concern the sacrifice enacted by superheroes, namely Batman, and the extent to which the sacrifice of intellect is at play when kenotic self-sacrifice and scapegoating processes become hard to tell one from the other (i.e. when the hero’s commitment seems to reverberate internally with external blame).