[Buddha-l] Ethical Dilemmas

Alex Wilding alex at chagchen.org
Sun Jun 13 07:08:34 MDT 2010

Might I raise my head long enough to ask whether there is a shred of
anything more substantial than sheer speculation in this? Is it anything
more than the proverbial "French philosophy"?

-----Original Message-----
From: buddha-l-bounces at mailman.swcp.com
[mailto:buddha-l-bounces at mailman.swcp.com] On Behalf Of Joy Vriens
Sent: Sunday, 13 June 2010 2:05 PM
To: Buddhist discussion forum
Subject: Re: [Buddha-l] Ethical Dilemmas

"According to René Girard, human culture has been founded on two principles,
which he calls "mimetic rivalry" and the "surrogate victim mechanism."
Mimesis refers to the propensity of humans to imitate other people both
consciously and unconsciously. Girard developed a mimetic theory of the self
in his early work as a literary critic (Deceit, Desire, and the Novel: Self
and Other in Literary Structure [French, 1961; English 1965]). Such
novelists as Cervantes, Stendhal, Dostoevsky and Proust taught him that
humans learn what to desire by taking other people as models to imitate.
Aware of a lack within ourselves, we look to others to teach us what to
value and who to be."

"During the course of evolution, Girard believes a long series of primal
murders, repeated endlessly over possibly a million years, taught early
humans that the death of one or more members of the group would bring a
mysterious peace and discharge of tension. This pattern is the foundation of
what Girard calls the surrogate victim mechanism. Often the dead person was
hailed as a bearer of peace, a sacred figure, even a god. Fearful that
unrestrained violence would return, early humans sought ritual ways to
re-enact and resolve the sacrificial crisis of distinctions in order to
channel and contain violence. "Good violence" was invoked to drive out "bad
violence." This is why rituals from around the world call for the sacrifice
of humans and animals. For Girard, the sacred first appears as violence
directed at a sacrificial victim, a scapegoat. Every culture achieves
stability by discharging the tensions of mimetic rivalry and violence onto
scapegoats. Scapegoating channels and expels violence so that communal life
can continue. As mimetic tensions recur, a new crisis threatens, and sacred
violence is once again necessary."

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