Wednesday, February 10, 2010

René Girard: "the Inverted Transcendence of Mimetic Desire

"The gods haven't withdrawn: they have gone online and their name is Legion. "

Andrew Galli via A Piece of Monologue in the Guardian (sounding rather like Žižek on Lacan's Big Other): on René Girard's Deceit Desire and the Novel.
Girard's premise is the Romantic myth of "divine autonomy", according to which our desires are freely chosen expressions of our individuality. Don Quixote, for instance, aspires to a chivalric lifestyle. Nothing seems more straightforward but, besides the subject (Don Quixote) and object (chivalry), Girard highlights the vital presence of a model he calls the mediator (Amadis de Gaule in this instance). Don Quixote wants to lead the life of a knight errant because he has read the romances of Amadis de Gaule: far from being spontaneous, his desire stems from, and is mediated through, a third party. Metaphysical desire – as opposed to simple needs or appetites – is triangular, not linear. You can always trust a Frenchman to view the world as a ménage à trois.

Mediation is said to be external when the distance between subject and mediator is so great that never the twain shall meet. [...]  When mediation is internal, however, the distance between subject and mediator is small enough to give rise to rivalry between the two. The mediator, who aroused desire for the object in the first place, comes to be seen as an obstacle to the fulfilment of this very desire: "the model shows his disciple the gate of paradise and forbids him to enter with one and the same gesture". Although now ostensibly a figure of hatred, the mediator continues to be idolised subterraneously or even subconsciously [...] Girard's contention is that the need for transcendence has survived the decline of Christianity, resulting in the ersatz "inverted transcendence" of mimetic desire. 

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