[Buddha-l] Ethical Dilemmas

JKirkpatrick jkirk at spro.net
Sun Jun 13 10:02:01 MDT 2010

It's worse: French literary philosophy, masquerading as

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"?


On Behalf Of Joy Vriens
Sent: Sunday, 13 June 2010 2:05 PM

"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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