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The One by Whom Scandal Comes

The One by Whom Scandal Comes

René Girard
Translated by M. B. DeBevoise
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    The One by Whom Scandal Comes
    Book Description:

    "Why is there so much violence in our midst?" René Girard asks. "No question is more debated today. And none produces more disappointing answers." In Girard's mimetic theory it is the imitation of someone else's desire that gives rise to conflict whenever the desired object cannot be shared. This mimetic rivalry, Girard argues, is responsible for the frequency and escalating intensity of human conflict. For Girard, human conflict comes not from the loss of reciprocity between humans but from the transition, imperceptible at first but then ever more rapid, from good to bad reciprocity. In this landmark text, Girard continues his study of violence in light of geopolitical competition, focusing on the roots and outcomes of violence across societies latent in the process of globalization. The volume concludes in a wide-ranging interview with the Sicilian cultural theorist Maria Stella Barberi, where Girard's twenty-first century emphases on the continuity of all religions, global conflict, and the necessity of apocalyptic thinking emerge.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-399-9
    Subjects: Philosophy, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. A Note on the Translation
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)

    • CHAPTER 1 Violence and Reciprocity
      (pp. 3-20)

      Why is there so much violence in our midst? No question is more debated today. And none produces more disappointing answers.

      In the past, when people talked about the threats facing humanity, they always mentioned human violence, but it came after other perils that seemed to them still more formidable: destiny, the gods, nature, perhaps also the ferocious beasts that painters and illustrators until not so very long ago imagined to be even more enormous and more frightening than they really were. We may smile on being reminded of this, but in a way that suggests nostalgia more than amusement....

    • CHAPTER 2 Noble Savages and Others
      (pp. 21-32)

      The first ethnological investigations of primitive religions naturally attracted the interest of scientific journalists and popularizers since they combined ritual cannibalism and human sacrifice with other exotic forms of violence of which the public was fond. The moral superiority of the West seemed as obvious then to Westerners as its technological superiority, and encouraged a sensationalism that persists today only in third-rate publications. The popular hunger for violence is as great as ever, but the media now look for examples elsewhere than in archaic religion for fear of off ending public opinion, which today is more respectful of non-Western cultures...

    • CHAPTER 3 Mimetic Theory and Theology
      (pp. 33-46)

      Raymund Schwager attributes an essential role in Christian redemption to the phenomenon of the scapegoat.¹ What does this phenomenon involve? The Gospels tell us. They portray Jesus as a victim, sentenced to deathfor no reason, in the wake of a wave of contagious violence that furnished those who were caught up in it with false reasons, false grounds for accusation. We are not dealing here with the animal of Leviticus, the ritual victim designated in that book by the term “scapegoat,” but with the term’s familiar modern meaning, someone unjustly condemned by a group of people who have been...


    • CHAPTER 4 I See Satan Fall Like Lightning
      (pp. 49-56)

      Maria stella barberi: InI See Satan Fall Like Lightningyou propose a new reading of the Gospels, which you see as the source of mimetic theory.¹ Do you think that the debate to which the book gave rise has helped to clear up certain misunderstandings?

      René girard: To the Gospels one must add the Old Testament, for my book begins by considering the Tenth Commandment, which, basically, says that rivalrous mimetic desire is forbidden. Exodus and Deuteronomy already contained this prohibition, prior to the Gospels.

      As for the book’s reception, I don’t want to go into the various criticisms...

    • CHAPTER 5 Scandal and Conversion
      (pp. 57-66)

      Maria stella barberi: Following the gospel revelation, then, human violence was unmasked and became a manifest danger, threatening to bring us down, to lay us low. This, I take it, is what you mean by the notion of scandal—the stone, or obstacle, on which the sinner stumbles—which you sometimes identify with Satan, and which in any case is essential to the development of your argument.

      René girard: Yes, the gospel text explicitly likens Satan and scandal when Jesus admonishes Peter, saying “Get behind me, Satan” (Vade retro Satana, in the Vulgate), because you stand in my way: “You...

    • CHAPTER 6 I Do Not Pray for the World
      (pp. 67-74)

      Maria stella barberi: It is clear from what you have said so far that mimetic theory is very well suited to interpreting the Incarnation and the Passion of Christ, respectively, as the demythologization of religion and the revelation of the innocence of the victim. But does mimetic theory have anything to say about the eschatological consequence of the Incarnation and the Passion, which is to say the entry of the righteous into a heavenly Jerusalem made possible by Christ’s resurrection?

      René girard: There can be no mimetic theory of the Resurrection. The Resurrection is either an invention of religious propaganda...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Catholic Church and the Modern World
      (pp. 75-84)

      Maria stella barberi: You see the Catholic Church as the prototype of Christian testimony. Yet the Church has often been criticized for acting as the guardian of secular law, the institutional sacralization of violence. I’m thinking especially of the Inquisition.

      René girard: This reminds me of an Italian friend, an American citizen actually, who used to say that the Church is like a trade union: there’s no point belonging to an affiliate or subsidiary; one must belong to the strongest and oldest organization.

      Msb: Many people have said something similar. Max Weber, for example, used to say that if you...

    • CHAPTER 8 Hominization and Natural Selection
      (pp. 85-92)

      Maria stella barberi: Some readers of your last book understood you to have given up on modern hopes and expectations of scientific progress. They feel that promoting research in the name of the future, rather than of the past, holds greater promise because it would open up new perspectives in mimetic theory. How do you respond to this suggestion?

      René girard: I think it is misguided. At bottom, what is at issue—and what has never really been discussed—is the capacity of mimetic theory to account for the process of hominization in terms of natural selection. I have given...

    • CHAPTER 9 A Stumbling Block to Jews, Foolishness to Gentiles
      (pp. 93-102)

      Maria stella barberi: Augustine’s formula “victor quia victima,”¹ referring to Christ, construes the sacrificial visibility of Christianity in terms of a Sacrifice that put an end to all sacrifices—

      René girard: Yes, of course. That is also why those who are non-violent may implicitly (as the theologians say) be considered to be Christians. But they may be considered Christians in an explicit fashion as well, for oft en their non-violence is directly associated with this interpretation of the Passion. At bottom, then, non-violence is Christian. Have I already mentioned the Byzantine reading ofOedipus the King? The Byzantines interpreted Sophocles’...

    • CHAPTER 10 Lévi-Strauss on Collective Murder
      (pp. 103-112)

      Maria stella barberi: What led you to take an interest in anthropology after the publication in France ofDeceit, Desire, and the Novelin 1961?

      René girard: The book you mention dealt with a number of European novelists whose work had revealed the workings of desire and mimetic rivalry to me. When I was done writing it I began to wonder whether this desire is truly universal, whether traces of it could be found in non-Western and archaic cultures. I therefore set out to read the classics of ethnology. Before long I was simply overwhelmed by mimetic discoveries—I didn’t...

    • CHAPTER 11 Positivists and Deconstructionists
      (pp. 113-126)

      Maria stella barberi: From the anthropological point of view, there is a limit to our knowledge of ultimate things, a limit beyond which it is not given to human beings to glimpse the hidden foundations of the world. Hypotheses may be advanced concerning these foundations, but they cannot be known empirically. Nevertheless you insist, rightly it seems to me, that your work has the character of a scientific hypothesis.

      René girard: Mimetic theory does not pretend to be exhaustive from the anthropological point of view. It seeks to describe the transition from one type of religion to another. Beyond that,...

    • CHAPTER 12 How Should Mimetic Theory Be Applied?
      (pp. 127-130)

      Maria stella barberi: When you say that your ideas will either be rejected or become commonplace, do you mean that in the latter case they will be deprived of their interpretive force, or, rather, that in acquiring the status of a scientific theory they will become obvious?

      René girard: They ought to become obvious, because theyareobvious! On the other hand, there’s no shortage of ways in which they can be popularized, trivialized, turned into—how should I put it?—a kind of gadget. It’s a good thing, then, that mimetic theory has never been fashionable. It was protected...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 131-136)
  8. Index
    (pp. 137-139)