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METAPHYSICS AND THE REDEMPTION OF ´ SACRIFICE: ON RENE GIRARD AND CHARLES WILLIAMS
Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge, UK
´ Rene Girard is something of a Janus for philosophers and theologians interested in the question of sacriﬁce. On the one hand, few thinkers in any century have made such a compelling case for the importance and centrality of sacriﬁce within all human culture. On the other hand, Girard has steadfastly insisted that sacriﬁce be understood in exclusively anthropological terms thus foreclosing the metaphysical and theological questions that prima facie seem to attend any robust consideration of sacriﬁce. In this essay, I seek to move beyond this Girardian impasse by supplementing Girard’s latethought with a more robust metaphysics of sacriﬁce as found in the work of the novelist, literary critic, and theologian, Charles Williams (one of the Oxford ‘Inklings’ and a close companion of C.S. Lewis). To begin with, I ﬁrst explain Girard’s understanding of the mimetic mechanism and the sacriﬁcial origins of human culture. I then consider a number of the criticisms with which he has been charged, especially the accusation of methodological reductionism. I explore the way that Girard’s late work has responded to a number of these criticisms but argue that Girard’s responses fail to diffuse the charges. By way of conclusion, I suggest that Girard’s insights can be saved when supplemented with the kind of relational metaphysics found in Williams’ most perfectly realized novel, Descent into Hell. Rather than dispensing with ontology in favour of praxis, Williams transforms the profoundly Girardian themes of mediated desire, the doppelganger, mimetic rivalry, ritual, and the function of sacriﬁce by placing them in the context of what he calls the metaphysics of ‘co-inherence.’ This allows Williams to provide a far more positive account of both mimesis and sacriﬁce (even in its substitutionary mode) than Girard, not just non-retaliation but the actual bearing of one another’s deepest burdens in communion, prayer, and love. I. THE GIRARDIAN VISION
Henri Bergson held that the work of every great philosopher was animated by a single point of intuition, an insight so powerful and ‘so extraordinarily simple that the philosopher has never succeeded in saying it. And that is why he went on talking all his life.’1 This remark perhaps characterizes certain thinkers more than others, but it is ´ nowhere more true than in the case of Rene Girard. Over the course of nearly half a century, Girard has laboured in the service of a single insight that can be called the mimesis-sacriﬁce complex. Girard has so persistently stayed with this one theme that those who have once understood him are liable to wonder why they should read him again. Isn’t it always just ‘the same old Girard’? While there is some merit in this concern, there are good reasons for us to return to Girard at this time in particular. To begin with, in the midst of renewed controversy about the meaning of atonement in theological circles, and about the meaning of sacriﬁce in cultural theory and philosophy, attention must be paid especially to Girard. No one has thought more profoundly, creatively, and doggedly about these matters, and for this work he was rewarded, in March of 2005, with an election to the Acade´mie francaise, the highest honour that can be given to any French intellectual. ¸ However, it is not only present controversies and recent laurels that invite us to reconsider
r The author 2010. Journal compilation r Trustees for Roman Catholic Purposes Registered 2010. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
We shall call the model the mediator of desire. especially as regards his methodology and the need for a metaphysical and theological supplement to Girard’s anthropological insights. 2. Girard makes more acute certain criticisms that had already been levelled against him. or at least seem to be determined for him. 3. Girard’s mimetic theory insists that our instinctual animal drives (e. as evidenced especially by the publication of his recent Evolution and Conversion (2008). The disciple pursues objects which are determined for him. hunger. Stendhal. In this volume we see where Girard stands today. or the sanctioned models of accepted religion. is that human desire is always mediated through a model. sex. Flaubert. the mimesis-sacriﬁce complex becomes a global theory of origins explaining both human behaviour and the genesis of cultural institutions. but the recent volume both revises and develops the older one especially by clarifying Girard’s new attitude to sacriﬁce and by pushing his mimetic theory further into the recesses of evolutionary history. however. present already in Cervantes. Girard’s one insight has continued to develop in profound and suggestive ways. and the Novel. each a three-way conversation between Girard and a pair of interlocutors. Desire. As Girard writes: Don Quixote has surrendered to Amadis the individual’s fundamental prerogative: he no longer chooses the objects of his own desire – Amadis must choose for him.2). In contrast to the subjective turn in so much modern theory . Both volumes are written as dialogues. then Evolution and Conversion is his Retractiones. If Things Hidden was the alwaysAugustinian Girard’s Confessions. Don Quixote sets off to become chivalrous by imitating the legendary Amadis of Gaul. Chivalric existence is the imitation of Amadis in the same sense that the Christian’s existence is the imitation of Christ. for by pressing his theory to its limits. the vision of which Girard arrived at through a series of literary and anthropological studies in the 1960s and 70s. In Girard’s hands. thirst. 4. by the model of all chivalry.2 At the heart of Girard’s work is what I called above the mimesis-sacriﬁce complex. Let us begin. etc. the perfect knight errant. 5. Proust. This text is a sort of sequel and amendment to what remains Girard’s most famous and inﬂuential work. Girard develops this thesis in his debut book.4 In Cervantes.46 JACOB SHERMAN the man. Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (1978). for example. an object that is desired. Mimetic desire Mimetic doubling Mimetic crisis The Single-Victim-Mechanism Theogony and the genesis of culture The ﬁrst stage is an account of the way that all human desire is fundamentally a function of mimesis.5 What makes Quixote peculiar is not that his desire is mimetic. The complex can be broken down into ﬁve sequential stages: 1. but that he selects the uncanny model of a legendary knight from ages past. Deceit. by recounting the basics of Girardian theory before considering the ways he has now revised it. and a model who shows the subject how and what to desire. Desire is not a binary relation between a subject and an object but a triadic operation between a subject who desires..) only become human desires when mediated through a model. Radicalizing Aristotle’s insight that human beings are distinguished from animals by our capacity for imitation (Poetics 4. and Dostoevsky. rather than the more quotidian models of neighbor and surrounding culture.g.3 He argues that the fundamental insight of the modern novel. There is much to welcome in Girard’s development but also some ambiguity. but also metamorphoses within Girard’s thought itself. a study of the ﬁve European novelists Cervantes.
violence. for example. and those whose social status renders them all but inaccessible to the subject (nobles and commoners. As Girard explains in Things Hidden. heroes. External meditation occurs when the mediator is sufﬁciently removed from the subject’s world that there can be no danger of rivalry between subject and model.’ However. The desire for violence is raw desire. The victim of this violence both adores and detests it . the dead. we seek to take his being. Both may conveniently ignore a bright yellow bucket in the corner until one of them decides to play with it. however. we are always ‘interdividuals. to be who he is. of divine self-sufﬁciency. ‘The mimetic quality of childhood desire is universally recognized. all that remains is the identical desire for violence. the adult is generally ashamed to imitate others for fear of revealing his own lack of being. each becoming the model for the other’s desire.’8 Internal mediation for both children and adults is thus the harbinger of the second stage in the mimesis-sacriﬁce complex. The nearer the model to our world. . in turn. the more danger that we will not only seek to be like him. External mediators are gods. Our desire for violence becomes his desire for violence. the social. In the end. but that we will seek to possess what he possesses. Soon the initially desired object will be entirely eclipsed. spatial. and so violence becomes yet more attractive in the escalating shuttle between model and subject.METAPHYSICS AND THE REDEMPTION OF SACRIFICE 47 Girard holds that desire precedes the self. The almost mechanical precision with which violence escalates in mimetic rivalry poses a very great threat to the community surrounding the contestants. For the promiscuous circulation of desire is not easily contained but instead acts like a contagion. Nor is any of this surprising. except that . Mediation is internal. but also because our violent desire becomes a mimetic model for him. those of different lands. We desire what our model desires and how our model desires it. the evil twin. and his becomes ours. of course. This unleashes a mimetic shuttle between the two children. we no longer desire merely an object. or temporal hiatus between subject and model is not wide enough to prevent them from becoming competitive. this mimetic doubling is often represented by the familiar themes of fraternal conﬂict. when the model is found within the subject’s world. The proper name for this is. what is rarely acknowledged is that ‘adult desire is virtually identical. demigods. He writes: Violent opposition. as well. Girard’s analyses of this are often incisive and profound. . the signiﬁer of divinity. Desire clings to violence and stalks it like a shadow because violence is the signiﬁer of the cherished being. the sublime. is the signiﬁer of ultimate desire.’6 Girard distinguishes between two crucially different sorts of mediation: external and internal. will respond with violence not only in order to protect himself or his possessions. There exists no isolated self in possession of its own inviolate desires: we only ever become selves in the ﬁrst place by mimicking the desires of others. of that ‘beautiful totality’ whose beauty depends on its being inaccessible and impenetrable.. the stronger it grows the more likely that it will leap from the initial rivals and thereby infect mere . we desire the being of our model. that of mimetic doubling. and aggravating the other’s desire in turn. The model. As Girard notes. Suddenly the other ﬁnds it desirable. In myth and literature. desire without an object.7 Amadis can no sooner be threatened by Quixote than Christ can be in competition with his disciples. because mimesis is originary. . we are never ourselves individuals. then. or today. In this case. symbolic. . or the doppelganger.9 The sublime vanishing point of pure violence is the fulcrum around which a sort of mimetic chiasm turns. until the ferocity of their mutual demand for the single yellow pail issues in violent conﬂict. At this stage. rivalry effaces all differences leaving two doubles locked in violent contest. Think of two children in a sandbox. celebrities and their fans).
until the entire population is left in the Hobbesean state of nature: bellum omnia contra omnes. As the paroxysm of violence intensiﬁes. But once the desire becomes the sheer desire for violence. . Although the root of the community’s crisis lies in the mimetic rivalry that grips it. mimetic violence is its own cure. Once begun. Not only is sacriﬁce perfectly intelligible in itself. and the violence grows ﬁercer. In such cases. this is the founding violence of Romulus against Remus and Cain against Abel. the bellum omnia contra omnes suddenly transﬁgured into a bellum omnia contra unum. further augmenting mimetic susceptibility. culture. The end result of either scenario is the same: rampant mimetic rivalry and social disorder.11 This is the fourth stage in the sequence. Like Freud in Moses and Monotheism. against the victim whom everybody hates. The weakening of hierarchy and institution encourages the spread of mob mentality. It does not matter whether the proximate cause for the weakening of these structures lies in the entirely immanent mechanisms described above (internal mimetic desire leading to rivalry leading to crisis) or whether external forces such plague. a raw desire for violence alone. So long as rivals compete for an object. argues Girard. Girard stubbornly insists that we take this lynching quite literally. raw mimetic violence initiates a unanimity event. tribe. if it is impossible for the rivals to ﬁnd an agreement around the object which everybody wants. and so on). then the possibility of communal reconciliation is opened.48 JACOB SHERMAN bystanders. to understand the ubiquity of sacriﬁce throughout ancient culture. This is the advent of the third stage. consumed by an insatiable violence. and society. victim. the role of gender in witch-hunts. a rigorous logic governs the exponential spread of the crisis. For. Girard hypothesizes that upon reaching this point. Only when we grasp that communal stability is the result of the single-victim mechanism are we ﬁnally in a position. producing the wildest of explanations including the theory that no explanation is possible for sacriﬁce is held to be inherently irrational. the mimetic crisis. or society to function. Jacob’s favour for Joseph. The desire for violence produces doubles everywhere. destroying the hierarchies that alone allow the group. or war intervene.12 Girard vehemently disagrees. the real murder that lies at the origin of human institutions. famine. the mimetic reduplication more rapid. or scapegoat. but we owe our very rationality to the efﬁcacy of such sacriﬁces. The crowd descends with one ravenous voice upon its victim. The problem of sacriﬁce is one of the most intractable anthropological mysteries. The murderers must believe in their own innocence and thus perforce in the guilt of the victim. If the single-victim mechanism is to be effective. Recall that at its highest pitch mimetic desire is desire without an object. Sacriﬁce is the ritual re-enactment of the single-victim mechanism. the social barriers that would contain it collapse. the suspect parenthood of the Christ. what Girard often calls the scapegoat or the singlevictim mechanism. mimetic desire divides them against one another. many early human communities simply vanished. it must remain invisible. but in order to understand it we must try to imagine how the mob in its mimetic frenzy experiences the original lynching. the mob unconsciously (me´connaisance) transfers its own culpability to a single victim selected because of their marginal or exceptional status (think of Oedipus’s disability. Like the bleeding lance of Wagner’s Parsifal that both wounds and heals. suppressing all differences. But others managed to survive. on the contrary. How? The answer is found in the mechanism of mimetic violence itself. pure hatred. As Girard writes: The rivalrous and conﬂictual mimesis is spontaneously and automatically transformed into reconciliatory mimesis.10 The permeability of individuals to one another’s desires can produce a situation in which the crowd focuses its antagonism upon one mimetically chosen culprit. this very agreement is quickly found.
14 Laws. is only possible by the failure of the unanimity event. People discover that exhausting their violence against a single victim brings harmony and so when the next mimetic crisis arises they search more deliberately for a new victim. that of theogony and the creation of culture. this is because behind the gods lie real victims of communal violence. language. The sacred is the father of all human culture and. and water. ‘Myth is the guilt of Oedipus.19 For Girard the Catholic convert. The crowd justiﬁes its violence by vilifying its victim.13 Its anger spent. but they do so from the perspective of the innocent victim. institutions. writing. Thus this second transference hides the real corpse behind a sacred cloak. Already in 1959. religion. the casting of curses. who was initially demonized. the crowd reasons. this intervention is properly called revelation and is what occurred most fully in the resurrection of the one who prays. is now divinized for. while writing his ﬁrst work on the ﬁve European novelists. the better. we remember the presence of a god. Metonymically. Girard ‘effectively turns on its head the textbook view of the relation between religion and social order: social power is a transformation of the sacred . Ritual sacriﬁce is born. Myths arise as the story of the crisis told from the perspective of the murderers who assume both their own innocence and the coupling of guilt and divinity in the victim. Since then Girard has made it increasingly clear that he sees his work as simply the anthropological complement to the theological and scriptural language of Judaism and Christianity. poisoning crops.METAPHYSICS AND THE REDEMPTION OF SACRIFICE 49 The crowd hurls accusations against the selected victim: incestuous trysts.’16 Girard does not believe that his radical thesis is an apercu of his own but is rather a re-narration of the discovery that lies at the heart of ¸ Jewish and Christian revelation. this entire process is ritualized in order to prevent the crisis from emerging in the ﬁrst place. This is what I labelled the ﬁfth stage of the mimesis-sacriﬁce complex. The death of the sacriﬁcial victim is experienced as a kind of alchemical operation transforming baleful into benevolent violence. . ‘Forgive them. who but a god could have solved our crisis? Rather than the body of a victim. liaisons with the devil. Girard believes. blinding us to the genuine violence of the operation. if they ﬁrst punish and then heal. for they know what they do. but the importance of the Christian revelation for his work was not made apparent until the publication of Things Hidden in 1978. truth is the Cross of Christ.’15 Girard’s is indeed a radical thesis. looking luridly upon a woman of another race or class. the community ﬁnds itself at peace. And then a second unconscious transference occurs. Father. As Rowan Williams rightly notes. as Girard says. ‘the sacred is violence. This religious sublimation of actual violence is the explanation. and tragedy of divine ambiguity. and so on. prohibitions. If the gods are always found to be both good and evil.’17 The Hebrew and Christian scriptures remarkably unveil the victimizing mechanisms that have been hidden since the foundation of the world because they tell the same story as the myths and rituals of sacriﬁce. for the almost universal trope in archaic myth. As Girard writes. food. The more taboo and the harder to verify. Girard had converted back to the Catholicism he abandoned in his youth. rather than the sacred being an ideological transformation of social relations. responsible for both our woe and our weal. Something must intervene in order to short-circuit the mimetic consensus and unveil to members of the crowd their own violent albeit unconscious functioning. Thus Girard proclaims. The victim. all of the accoutrements of culture emerge out of this ritualizing of the single-victim mechanism. however. In the double transference lies the entire machine of ritual sacriﬁce.’ .’18 The disclosure of the single-victim mechanism. the victim is awarded responsibility for the community’s harmony and newfound exaltation. ‘Our own ability to detect the scapegoat mechanism is wholly determined by the detection that has already taken place within the gospel. Eventually. . the evil eye. and thus of archaic religion.
and literary critics. too masculinist.23 Even on the most reductionistic accounts. so for Girard every myth conceals a founding murder and the truth of all religion and culture is the mimesis-scapegoat complex. culture.’ All philosophy is secularized religion. social science replaces philosophy and is itself identical with true religion. violence. creation itself is not entirely given up to depravity.’21 Han Urs von Balthasar voices concerns similar to Milbank’s. or that its religion might be otherwise than demonic. and emancipatory scenarios.’ jettisoning all ‘moribund metaphysics. too pessimistic. biologists.50 JACOB SHERMAN II. in this case Christianity. It is not that Girard lacks imagination – for his reconstruction of human origins is nothing if not evocative. Girard has not been without his critics. he is apparently too Protestant. REAPPRAISING MIMESIS AND SACRIFICE What are we to make of this? Girard has been immensely inﬂuential and for good reason. As Milbank explains. This brings us back to the ‘theology’ of the young Barth (and also to Barth’s later theology insofar as he regards the analogy of being ‘as the invention of the Anti-Christ’). Girard obtusely insisted on the stubborn literalism of his discoveries. for Girard. and too postmodern. interdisciplinary application. for all of his avowed Catholicism. too premodern. Girard’s own susceptibility to such mimetic levelling no doubt conditions him to discover it at work in the world – and he exposes it masterfully – but it might also account for his exaggerated tenacity and wilful refusal of other explanations even when the evidence all but demands them. Enchanted by his own vision. Balthasar worries that. Girard’s approach tends to level the differences between diverse forms of religion.20 It is for this reason that John Milbank rightly places Girard’s approach to religion squarely within the positivist tradition. since it wants to be ‘purely scientiﬁc. Girard has no conﬁdence that the world itself might approach the truth. social scientists. too modern. Rather like a mimetic crisis.22 One way to describe this would be to say that Girard’s failure is a failure of the imagination. There is therefore no such thing as a ‘natural’ concept of God. a process that resulted in the formation of the annual Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COV&R) in 1990 and a peer reviewed journal (Contagion) to boot. rightly interpreted. In an age when all of his colleagues were ﬂeeing from truth claims. in Girard. and assertoric muscle in what he writes. As Balthasar writes: Girard’s synthesis is a closed system. for Girard. and the sacred. he refuses to embrace a more metaphysical imagination that would allow for a greater diversity of concrete instantiations. If. ‘[i]t is religion that ﬁrst of all secures ‘society’. He has been accused of everything from being too religious to being too secular. and in many ways redolent of the truth – but rather that he is reticent to imagine in diverse ways. Girard has consistently reached across departmental divides in order to participate in a sustained dialogue with theologians. plausible. too hopeful. Just as in the Bacchae everyone becomes Dionysus. There is remarkable internal coherence. unwilling to imagine other equally compelling. He seems to suffer from a kind of procedural myopia. heuristic power. . The religious question demands to be treated under a rubric wide enough to allow for the radical diversity we actually encounter in religious practices (including the diversity of sacriﬁcial practices). philosophers. Nevertheless. but perhaps the most persistent and pointed criticism of Girard is methodological. religion can be ‘explained’ in social terms. Girard is in practice too much of a Barthian. The charges come thick and fast. nevertheless human civilization and culture certainly is. Rather than taking shelter in a disciplinary enclave. and religion owes its existence to the covert scapegoat mechanism. compelling. feelings of social solidarity are linked with arbitrary sacriﬁce. This is especially problematic when it comes to the problem of religion. religion is the invention of Satan.
then what hope can there be for the world? At this point in his work. Girard’s moral opposition to the notion of sacriﬁce was at its highest pitch. Today I have changed my mind.’ Girard said in Things Hidden. ‘Following Christ. as murder. in fact.28 Girard has responded to such criticisms in two primary ways. for lack of a coherent account of salutary desire as metaphysically prior to violent mimesis. Girard says: Since the meaning of sacriﬁce as immolation. but no discernible positive vision supervened upon this refusal. following Christ seemed to mean shedding our very humanity. ‘means giving up mimetic desire. and the Christian sacriﬁce which is the renunciation of all egoistic claiming.METAPHYSICS AND THE REDEMPTION OF SACRIFICE 51 the homogenization of religious experience is entirely suspect. He says he made two errors in Things Hidden. Milbank argued that although Girard intended to present an Augustinian thesis. is the oldest one. Reﬂecting on his earlier work. theories that would reduce religion to a single causal mechanism. On the one hand. both of which can be clearly seen in the new volume Evolution and Conversion. As to the point about sacriﬁce. even to life if needed.31 . I decided that the word ‘sacriﬁce’ should apply to the ﬁrst typology. Girard is explicit.’30 Girard recuperates the language of sacriﬁce by distinguishing between self-sacriﬁce for others and the collective sacriﬁce of others. recent PET and fMRI studies demonstrate the diverse and as yet unnumbered array of neural correlates for what we identify as experiences of the sacred. the refusal of scapegoating. There is no doubt that the distance between these two actions is the greatest possible. to put it more philosophically. and it is the difference between the archaic sacriﬁce which turns against a third victim the violence of those who are ﬁghting. In 1978. ‘present us with a theology of two cities. For example. The second is the hasty and wrongheaded dismissal of the Epistle to the Hebrews.24 At the very least. Girard did not.25 Girard had succeeded in presenting his powerful but troubling argument that the mimesis-sacriﬁce complex lay at the foundation of all of human culture. Girard seemed to present the rejection of the sacriﬁcial order by Israel and the Christ as a merely negative gesture. Girard has simultaneously sought to explore the more positive dimensions of mimetic desire and in doing so has pressed his exploration of mimesis further back into the obscure depths of evolutionary history. but instead with a story of one city. but this success had grave consequences.29 On the other hand. Rebecca Adams.27 Girard introduced so wide a gap between God’s non-violent desire and our invidious mimetic desires that no room was left for any sort of positive mimesis. the withholding of vengeance. and its ﬁnal rejection by a unique individual. such plurality at the basest neurological level ought to give us pause when we encounter monolithic theories at the sociological level. Soon after the publication of Things Hidden a number of theologians and religious scholars responded to Girard’s account of sacriﬁce by crying ‘foul’.’26 Similar criticisms were raised in other circles. ‘The ﬁrst is the rejection of the word ‘sacriﬁce’ in relation to Christianity. in an inﬂuential article. religion. and civilization. argued that Girard’s mimetic theory was handicapped for want of a positive doctrine of creation or. he has withdrawn a number of his starker statements about sacriﬁce and now allows that the New Testament does not simply reject sacriﬁcial language but transforms it. in the cognitive science of religion. the murderous sacriﬁce. If everything in human culture participates in this cycle of collective murder. he felt that ‘sacriﬁce’ as a constructive concept should be banished from Christian thought and even suggested that a text like the Epistle to the Hebrews had no place in the New Testament because of its reliance upon priestly and sacriﬁcial language.’ but as his entire anthropology argued for the ineluctable centrality of mimesis in all human activity. in order not to kill.
‘are the real educators of mankind. consciousness. the attribution of mental states to others. Correlative to this is his growing concern with empirical studies in animal ethology. and language acquisition. Girard. Christ both exposes the archaic sacriﬁcial system and provides a model that we too can follow. The scapegoat resolution. ‘There is both a break and a continuity between the archaic. and culture. it is not one demanded for the expiation of sins. O.35 Research in all of these latter ﬁelds increasingly suggests that imitation may be the key to the emergence of distinctively human forms of learning.32 Girard goes even further.52 JACOB SHERMAN Thus. and produce in turn these forms of ‘counterintuitive’ symbolic structures [that become human language]. is disciplined into a ritual system of norms and prohibitions. and evolutionary biology. Evolution and Conversion is thus in many ways a lengthy response to the sort of criticism we met in Milbank. The entire history of humanity is bound up with sacriﬁcial practices. as if we were by nature strangers to violence. Discipleship does not entail leaving the mimetic cycle but rather maturing and choosing the appropriate model.’ prophetic of Christ’s ultimate non-violent sacriﬁce.’33 We can neither deny our violent history nor remain content with it. language. However. and this is a good thing for it is the source of our very humanity. neuroscience. We are neurologically programmed to be programmable through imitation of those around us. ‘in its own imperfect way. This catastrophe is the mimetic crisis . He writes: In order to break down the indexing relation between actual referent and sign . but is rather a self-sacriﬁce whose efﬁcacy lies in providing an example: by renouncing all sacred and retributive violence. Girard seems to hint at a kind of correspondence between the two orders of sacriﬁce and thoroughly renounces his previous attempts to ﬁnd some third non-sacriﬁcial space. and the biologists E. which they lead out of archaic violence. and roots his entire structure more . Girard suggests that the mysterious leap that so fascinates Deacon. for example. Perhaps the most notable aspect of this is the attention Girard pays to the evolutionary role of mimesis. eager to present his theory in an evolutionary framework. (that is. among others. the leap in hominid evolution from indexicality to symbolicity. which isn’t solely tied to encephalization. neurons that ﬁre both when an animal performs an action and when it observes that action being performed by another) has suggested to many a possible neural mechanism for such phenomena as social cognition. so we cannot simply reject sacriﬁce (even in its mode of archaic violence) without rejecting the order of creation as such. the evolutionary semiotician Terrence Deacon. . The discovery of mirror neurons.’ Girard says. developmental psychology. . empathy. explores the relation between his work and that of the Canadian neuroscientist Merlin Donald. . Balthasar. ‘The archaic religions. one needs a catastrophic moment in the evolutionary process. . He no longer believes that we could ever renounce mimetic desire..37 Where before Girard’s gaze was almost entirely ﬁxed on the agonistic nature of mimetic desire. Christ’s death on the cross is indeed a sacriﬁce. and Adams. Wilson and Richard Dawkins.36 For example. is traceable to the mimetic crisis and its resolution in the single-victim mechanism. sacriﬁcial religions and the biblical revelation. he now provides a much more irenic reading of mimesis. Girard not only tempers his judgments about sacriﬁce but also establishes a bridge between archaic violence and Christian non-violence. which dispels but does not authorize us to condemn sacriﬁce. which saves the proto-communities from the crisis of mimetic violence. Our interdividuality is not only cultural but also genetic. explores various salutary functions of mimesis. The archaic practice of sacriﬁcial murder is.’34 Girard’s reappraisal of sacriﬁce is matched by his equally vigorous reconsideration of the way that mimesis may function positively. from a binary relationship in signiﬁcation to one that dissolves the link between sign and object.
We might say that Girard’s work falls into the now largely forgotten genre that the eighteenth century Scottish philosopher Dugald Stewart dubbed ‘conjectural history. which unveils this complex and offers a model for an alternative way of life. comparing his work to early Darwinian theory. moreover. Girard tended to oppose the natural mechanism of scapegoating and the evangelical life of non-violence according to a stark either/or. and this despite the fact that the continuing sweep of his work presses in ever more metaphysical directions.METAPHYSICS AND THE REDEMPTION OF SACRIFICE 53 thoroughly in a creational or evolutionary framework. shuttling between anthropological positivism and theological ﬁdeism. . Is there a way out? III. but because he steadfastly refuses to imagine that the archaic sacred could have been anything more than just the ritualization of collective murder. does Christ really perfect the practice of collective murder? Is the peace that comes as an epiphenomenon of lynching actually prophetic of the peace that passes all understanding? There is a profound ambivalence here. So Girard remains ironically trapped in his own version of the mimetic cycle. and yet there is bound to be something troubling about this. away from its violent origins and into the practice of Christian non-violent community. and the biblical revelation. searching for a way beyond the violence he discerns everywhere in our past. only conﬁrms Balthasar’s previous accusations of Barthianism. the world can be understood only in the dual terms of the secular sciences. Girard’s most recent thought seems to conform to the Thomistic maxim that grace does not destroy but fulﬁls nature. Indeed. CHARLES WILLIAMS AND THE REDEMPTION OF SACRIFICE I have suggested that a number of the most recalcitrant problems in Girard stem for his desire to present his vision solely in anthropological terms. which is to say.38 To put it theologically. drawing certain theological conclusions but never tackling the metaphysical question directly. which explain the mimesis-scapegoat complex. it is a reading of the evidence through an ontology of primordial violence. but between these two he permits no mediating discourse. This is especially clear in Girard’s identiﬁcation of sacriﬁce tout court with collective murder. The problem is no less severe even when taken outside of the theological register. but we can bear no more victims. even after all of his concessions. but he explicitly continues to ignore the metaphysical question. Because sacriﬁce is the foundation of culture we need sacriﬁce. The question remains: is human ﬂourishing really derived from the most grisly practices of ritualized violence?39 One can argue further that by amending his work Girard has only augmented the methodological problems with which we opened this section. a somewhat strange refusal for a thinker so willing to use God-talk. For Girard. with the help of revelation. no metaphysics. but by refusing to do this work openly and reﬂexively he allows a number of untoward and unsubstantiated theses into the mix.’40 Girard recognizes that his theory outpaces the evidence but. Girard’s current stance seems to assimilate one to the other according to an evolutionary logic and an implicit process theodicy by which biblical non-violence supervenes upon archaic sacriﬁce (and here Milbank’s accusations of classical positivism retain their force). Girard wants a progressive vision in which humanity matures. By pushing the origins of mimetic desire back into the chthonic depths of evolutionary history. Whereas in his earlier writings. he ends by making Christian peace and human civilization the maturing of a horror rather than the fulﬁlment of a covenant. This is not something demanded by the evidence alone but an interpretive choice. Girard’s current work seems to adumbrate an implicit mimetic ontology. It is important to be clear: Girard is already doing metaphysics. a refusal that.
and a thousand particular local iterations in between.46 He has a special capacity for dramatizing the liminal space – which is. a poet unafraid of major risks.48 Unlike Girard. literary critic. precision. the violence of mimetic rivalry and collective ritual murder would not come ﬁrst. the moral consequence of illusion. from the conviviality and hospitality of a shared meal to the full terror of the mimesis-scapegoat complex.42 or the Enlightenment conjectural historians. Williams suffuses his entire narrative with what he calls the metaphysics of ‘co-inherence’ or ‘the way of exchange’ and thus situates his argument within the context of an original peace. The central plot of the novel is the haunting of a girl named Pauline by her doppelganger. Eliot. the foundations of the city. classically a sacriﬁcial space – between the natural and the supernatural. This imagined double is a succubus who leads Wentworth away not only from the real Adela but from the entire world of exchange. coinherence. and a theologian of rare creativity. Charles Williams. T.44 On this account. S. mimetic rivalry. tropes. I would like. with the imagined double of a real girl. however. Moreover. It is a frightening fate. the doppelganger. we take a page from Girard and pay special heed to literary expressions of the metaphysic we are after.47 His most perfectly executed novel. provides a marvellous contrast to Girard precisely because it is so thoroughly concerned with characteristically Girardian themes. Auden. Such an account allows us to hold on to Girard’s monumental insights without his problematic reductionism. S. and theologian. is that this heuristic choice is equally a metaphysical choice. H.’45 His novels seem to fall into a genre of their own that one is tempted to name ‘theological realism’ for the distinctive way they render the spiritual dimensions of everyday events concrete and intelligible. but Williams is careful to introduce the supernatural elements gradually so as to never tear the fabric of realism that binds the narrative together. and relationship. no less so than the metaphysical choices made by Darwin. the sort of creational shalom that the biblical tradition associates with the seventh day. the nature of ritual. I suggest. however. it abounds with the notions of mediated desire. Rowan Williams has expressed his admiration of the earlier Williams (no relation). calling him ‘a deeply serious critic. other. left only with the nescience of the self in the company of its own horrors. therefore.43 One could equally (and perhaps with more justiﬁcation) begin with an alternative metaphysic. and density is almost nearer to poetry. Lewis and a member of the Oxford literary circle known as the Inklings. interdividuality. to conclude by drawing attention to the work of the novelist. rather than dealing with these themes in the context of an ontology of original violence. is to make a relational metaphysics intelligible and concrete rather than just an exercise in speculation or wishful thinking. Adela Hunt. Williams was a close companion of C. he has been deeply admired by W. and mythologems. as if Wentworth were thereby plunged into a frozen Dantean abyss. while the secondary plot concerns the infatuation of an aging scholar. less supernaturalistic doubles appear throughout the . Although still too little known today.54 JACOB SHERMAN he contends that this choice is a heuristic necessity. of course. and the function of sacriﬁce. which in rhythm. Descent into Hell. The diversity of sacriﬁcial practices are reﬂective of the various ways this primal relationality can be ‘spun’ (to use a term of Charles Taylor’s) in either beneﬁcent or invidious directions.41 What he fails to recognize. He is remarkable for the way that his theology so thoroughly permeates the worlds within which his novels take place. and to this end he crafts even the stylistics of his prose.49 The difference this makes can be especially seen in the way Williams deals with the theme of the double. Lawrence Wentworth. but would rather be read as perversions of a more primordial relationality. Described so curtly the novel seems to have all the marks of a Gothic thriller. an ontology of original peace. of course. The difﬁculty. and more recently Geoffrey Hill. Here.
But I think when Christ or St. then and there. and she walked in it.53 Elated and perplexed. so for Williams we are all interdividuals.’ he said.’ Just as much as for Girard. I’m not carrying it for you – however sympathetic I may be. This sets sacriﬁce in rather a different light. .’50 She said. ‘and you shall not pretend at all. The thing itself you may one day meet – never mind that now. but as the root of a universal rule . he had simply picked up her parcel. She was. the young Pauline discovers herself unburdened and Williams is quick to point to the metaphysical consequences: She wouldn’t worry. If you’re still carrying yours. still perplexed at [his] strange language: ‘But how can I cease to be troubled? will it leave off coming because I pretend it wants you? Is it your resemblance that hurries up the street?’ ‘It is not. or whoever said bear. Stanhope ‘endured her sensitivities but not her sin. nor can. The world was beautiful about her. it is as much psycho-sexual as metaphysical. entirely free. I don’t say a word against all that. It doesn’t sound very difﬁcult. happened. but it was certainly quite different from anything she had ever supposed it to be. and stopped. showed not as a miraculous exception. Williams is careful with his language.’51 Pauline ﬁnds the whole business incredible and silly but agrees to allow Stanhope to at least try to bear her fear. unless you wish. probably a masque for Williams’ own ideal self-image. is hidden in the central mystery of Christendom which Christendom itself has never understood. but Williams also explores the doubling produced by real friendship. He had been quite right.54 The way of exchange is the way of the kingdom or what Williams prefers simply to call ‘the City. because she couldn’t worry. as . though the difference between the two may not in fact be so wide. by teachers and students. It’s a fact of experience. She was. The central mystery of Christendom. ‘behold. if this was one of the laws. When the story opens. what Girard would call mimetic rivals abound. but he had. To bear a burden is precisely to carry it instead of. and thinking unselﬁshly. and being anxious about. If you give a weight to me. It was a place whose very fundamentals she had suddenly discovered to be changed. That was the mere truth – she couldn’t worry. then and there incapable of distress. She is unable to ﬁnd relief until she meets the playwright. the compact between Pauline and Stanhope does allow her to meet her double without fear. And anyhow there’s no need to introduce Christ. God knew how he had done it. or whatever he Aramaically said instead of bear. ‘It means listening sympathetically. Paul. everywhere and all at once. he & meant something much more like carrying a parcel instead of someone else. the terrible fundamental substitution on which so much learning had been spent and about which so much blood had been shed. Stanhope offers to take the burden of Pauline’s fears upon himself.’52 Williams courageously describes the transfer in evocative detail. enjoying. I shew you a mystery’. but you’ll be free from all distress because that you can pass on to me. no doubt it helps. And in one of the novel’s most moving episodes. before any such perversion of relationship can take place. Well. A violent convulsion of the laws of the universe took place in her mind.METAPHYSICS AND THE REDEMPTION OF SACRIFICE 55 story: certainly.’ Stanhope said. we are created to bear one another’s burdens. and so on. . you can’t be carrying it yourself. for the collective murder by which a mob vents its aggression is no longer pre-eminent. no. A thing had. an action that Williams glosses by reference to the Pauline injunction: ‘Ye shall bear one another’s burdens. the substitution there . whatever happened later. ‘I know. . the universe might be better or worse. and the identity in difference that seems to be at the heart of healthy romance. Peter Stanhope. Haven’t you heard it said that we ought to bear one another’s burdens?’ ‘But that means – ’ she began. internally and externally porous one to another. we discover a frightened Pauline who has been terriﬁed since childhood by occasional encounters with her doppelganger. all I’m asking you to do is to notice that blazing truth. .
it touches on a reality more profound and more basic than what Girard’s analyses allow. . It was the one thing which could abolish his anger. in his own offering. he hoped and willed it. He knew that his rival had not only succeeded.56 Williams adds. and stared out.. but this time under a shadow. Stanhope.56 JACOB SHERMAN supernatural as that Sacriﬁce. He loomed behind the glass. The narrative of Pauline and the double will not easily ﬁt any of the Girardian categories. exteriorly and interiorly. honors that Wentworth comes to desire only because Moffatt ﬁrst possesses them. imagining death. Williams’ approach to the double in these episodes is a long way from the agon of mimetic rivalry. He stared passionately into death. he lost sight. the double of Adela Hunt whom Wentworth desires. He walked. but succeeded at his own expense . He heard the faint clang. This relationship is an almost perfect instantiation of mimetic rivalry as described by Girard. She had come. . however.58 . listening. Sir Aston Moffatt . This double turns out to be something akin to her own higher self. It is when Wentworth ﬁnds himself thus frustrated by one of Moffatt’s achievements that this desire without an object turns suddenly to raw hate and then to fantasies of murder. it did. Clearly. . and saw before him a body twisting at the end of a rope. at least. . The thing he had known must happen had happened. takes Pauline’s fear for her. The footsteps. We simply have to look to Wentworth and his relationship with his academic rival. She ﬂexed her ﬁngers by her side as if she thought of picking one up. have to leave the novel to ﬁnd a Girardian double. He stared intently down the drive. Aston Moffatt. in his excitement. He forgot. He stood breathless.55 Williams connects the whole phenomenon of the double explicitly with the thematics of sacriﬁce. ‘The question [of their controversy] itself was unimportant.’ For Wentworth. . They are competitors for the same honors. the psycho-sexual dynamic – perhaps the most immediate expression of the coinherent reality into which we are all plunged – this psycho-sexual energy is again present. and this allows her to ﬁnally greet the double that had so long haunted her. and Wentworth and he were engaged in a long and complicated controversy . to the window. as natural as carrying a bag. and the details of history will be twisted in order to give him an advantage over this rival. they were coming up the road. close to the world of the ﬁrst death. As he stood there.57 It is this act of violence – the sacriﬁce of Wentworth’s rival (even if only in his own fantasy) – that ﬁrst conjures the succubus. A little way up it stood a woman’s ﬁgure. softer now. unknowing. Wentworth and his rival are nearly indiscernible: Aston Moffatt was another military historian. all about Aston Moffatt. We do not. of the dangling ﬁgure. perhaps the only other worth mentioning. they stopped at the gate. His hate so swelled that he felt it choking his throat. he felt his rival choking and staggering. .. empowered to make her own offering and so to intercede for her relative in the midst of his martyrdom. he heard at last the footsteps for which he had listened. herself as known by the Omnipotence (to use a Williamsesque phrase) – and it is because Stanhope has empowered her to embrace this holy doppelganger that she is. . and having for long refused all unselﬁsh agony of facts. came in. and by a swift act transferred it. it precedes mimetic rivalry in importance and rises above it in scope. patter. Once again. Professionally. a heavy bulk of monstrous greed. Patter. Patter-patter. . refusing all joy of facts.. in turn. Sir Aston Moffatt . the rivalry with Moffatt simply is the desired object.
for example. Williams shows us how to read this as a kind of fall rather than an ontological given. have repercussions on our understanding of sacriﬁce. Mich. But unlike Girard. a world so constituted that substitution is a more basic and more benevolent form of relationship than rivalry and scapegoating. 2 Although Girard. though of course he didn’t know them in their Girardian form. Andison (New York: Citadel Press. Mark Heim. Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads (New York: Crossroad. . Saved from Sacriﬁce: A Theology of the Cross (Grand Rapids. The way of exchange is more primordial. The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics. it is Wentworth’s image of Adela. It is only through the perversion of this primordial relationality that we end in its murderous or suicidal rejection. Wentworth’s perverse sacriﬁce of his rival leads to an inhuman reduplication – not to a true or higher self in communion with others. but what is most frightening about Wentworth is not his violent scapegoating of another but rather the way he removes himself from the world of exchange. Michael Kirwan.59 Notes 1 From the lecture ‘Philosophical Intuition’ in Henri Bergson. furthermore.METAPHYSICS AND THE REDEMPTION OF SACRIFICE 57 Of course. not to the way of exchange that is the operation of the City. S. for all of his insight. Mabelle L. but neither ought we to remain content with these. Thus Girard. 1995). since everything is read in terms of the mimesis-sacriﬁce complex. for the Christian. Co. 2006). Eerdmans Pub.: William B. not to the reciprocal eros of sexual embrace. 2004). even to redeem it in its substitutionary mode. the fall into distorted forms of sacriﬁce is only possible because we are ﬁrst metaphysically constituted as relational creatures porous to the movements and needs of one another. Discovering Girard (London: Darton Longman & Todd. just as Williams believed sacriﬁce itself was once redeemed on a Hill outside of the City some two thousand years ago. of God’s own coinherent life. is an extremely lucid writer himself and can be read without extensive reliance upon secondary sources. The precision of this account is too great to suppose that Williams was ignorant of the mechanisms of desire that Girard describes. By contrast. because it lacks metaphysical breadth. Among the best are Gil Bailie. This not only allows Williams to sustain a more positive vision of human ﬂourishing – bearing one another’s burdens in a very real sense – but it also allows him to see more precisely into the diverse iterations of evil. clearly participates in the Girardian model of rivalry and violence. A larger. without losing this critical eye or robust realism. Both of which. and permeable to the commerce of heaven and earth that is a mirror. Following Williams. Here again. 1974). Wentworth. Pauline was able to embrace her double because of Stanhope’s substitution and this allowed her to make her own offering to a martyr in need. trans.. Williams sees into the machinery of mediated desire and discerns its capacity for violence and illusion. Like the ﬁve European novelists Girard began his career studying. we begin to imagine a world in which sacriﬁce might have more meaning than Girard has dreamt of. We dare not lose Girard’s formidable insights into the workings of violence. a hollow phantasm that will lead only to his destruction. more metaphysical imagination allows us to resituate the entire question of sacriﬁce and to avoid Girard’s interpretive excess. indeed. cannot help but miss aspects both of human ﬂourishing and human depravity. tends to elide. This is a dimension of human evil that Girard’s account. Still attentive to evil and guarding against illusion. sacriﬁce and the double are linked. it is not Adela. bur rather to a monster and to his own solitary hell. there are a number of ﬁne introductions to Girard’s work available. in contrast to some of his compatriots. nor his knack for appropriate suspicion. 108–09. a wider metaphysic such as that found in Charles Williams may permit us to re-open the question of sacriﬁce.
for all the light it sheds on mimesis. 5 vols. Azari. 32. Self and Other in Literary Structure (Baltimore. 2006). cf.: Stanford University Press. Girard has often returned to explore the theme of mimesis in other works of literature. also Jeffrey Carter. 1994). calls Girard to task for neglecting the centrality of shared meals in the genesis of culture and indeed in sacriﬁcial practices themselves. 173–74. and his persecutors are always right. Mimesis. 5 Girard. Johns Hopkins paperback ed. Desire. Cf. 1991).: Johns Hopkins University Press. 19 Girard. Alexandre Kojeve and Raymond Queneau.: Stanford University Press.. and the Novel. 15 Girard. 397. 13 Girard. 1988). On the role of conversion in mimetic theory. For Girard. A fear of mimesis had led many developmental theorists to pathologize adult mimesis. 21 John Milbank. 1987). Deceit. Indeed. 7 Girard. Evolution and Conversion. 23 Bruce Chilton.: Basic Books. for example. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 59. but is the fundamental character of all desire as such. everyone is already imitating his or her neighbour. see _______. Things Hidden. 66. Joseph Henninger. Odeon (New York: Oxford University Press. ed. Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World (Stanford. Calif.’ see Girard. and the Novel. ´ 14 ‘In the myth. 2001). Controversies in the Study of Religion (London. ` where Kojeve and Hegel locate mediation primarily in our desire for the desire of the other – that is. ed. a victim incapable of retaliation. Calif. 12 For two succinct yet insightful surveys regarding sacriﬁce. Oedipus Unbound: Selected Writings on Rivalry and Desire. Violence and the Sacred. et al. Swartley (Telford PA: Pandora Press. 398. Mircea Eliade (New York: Macmillan. especially to Hegel as interpreted by ` ` Alexandre Kojeve and it is true that Girard read Kojeve while writing Desire. mediated desire is not conﬁned to intersubjective relations. For Girard’s early account of ‘triangular desire. there are similarities here to the Hegelian notion of desire.’ in Violence Renounced: Rene´ Girard. et al. 1979). 148. ‘Loving Mimesis and Girard’s ‘Scapegoat of the Text’: A Creative Reassessment of Mimetic Desire. ` Discovering Girard.: Johns Hopkins Press. Saved from Sacriﬁce: A Theology of the Cross. especially in the ´ Greek tragedians and Shakespeare. Rene Girard. 1978). 26 Milbank. 188. Deceit. the victim is always wrong. ‘Stories of Sacrifice’. 1–2. 20 In saying this. (Malden. or an activation in the frontal-parietal region of the brain when Evangelicals pray Psalm 23. ´ ´ 18 Rene Girard and Michel Treguer. 2003). ´ 6 Rene Girard. Mark R. 95. 9 Girard. European Journal of Neuroscience 13 (2001). ‘A 15O-H2O PET Study of Meditation and the Resting State of Normal Consciousness’. Hans C. All I am suggesting is that this conversion.. 1969). Deceit. (New York: Ballantine Books. but am in fact saying no more than what Girard has said about the authors – Shakespeare. Rene Girard. . ed. Newberg et al. Andrew B. Deceit. 299–305. 10 The only way to solve this crisis is to descend upon a single victim. Deceit. See Bruce Chilton.58 JACOB SHERMAN ´ 3 Rene Girard.. 25 Girard. Rene Girard. Things Hidden. ‘Sacrifices. Contagion 2 (1995). 1st ed. Violence and the Sacred. I See Satan Fall Like Lightning. Lou. it is Girard who alerts us to the need for conversion in apprehending the mimetic theory. Quand Ces Choses Commenceront ([Paris]: Arlea. However. and the Novel.. 2000). 17 Girard. Proust. Biblical Studies and Peacemaking. Introduction to the Reading of Hegel (New York. Willard M. 2007). ‘Neural Correlates of Religious Experience’. on which see ´ Rene Girard. 146. The Temple of Jesus: His Sacriﬁcial Program within a Cultural History of Sacriﬁce (University Park. and Dostoevsky among them – that he most admires. ‘To Double Business Bound’: Essays on Literature. Human Brain Mapping 7: no. Cf. See Nina P. Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason. and the Novel. PA: Pennsylvania State University. Quoted in Heim. MA: Blackwell Pub. 1987). our need to be recognized by the other – Girard insists that we fundamentally desire only what the other desires. 27 Rebecca Adams. Things Hidden. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press. New York: Continuum.’ in Encyclopedia of Religion. Anspach (Stanford. Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origins of Culture (New York: Continuum. Cf. Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason. 2001). and the Novel in 1959. Kirwan. Desire.’ Rene Girard. I am not trying to introduce and ad hominem. Wrestling with Angels: Conversations in Modern Theology (London: SCM. 1965). 436. 22 Hans Urs von Balthasar. Violence and the Sacred. 172–73. I See Satan Fall Like Lightning (Maryknoll. or again differential activity in the posterior sensory and associative cortices known to participate in imagery tasks when Yoga teachers engage in the relaxation visualisations of Yoga Nidra. 24 Thus one can observe a slowing in the posterior superior parietal lobe when Tibetan monks meditate. John Milbank. Things Hidden. 2008). Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. 1992). And a single victim is possible because of the mimetic porosity of the crowd. may blind to certain non-mimetic aspects of behaviour. Desire. 109. 2004). Understanding Religious Sacrifice: A Reader. and ´ Anthropology (Baltimore. 2nd ed. 28 Girard. Desire. Evolution and Conversion. 11 Girard. 154. 16 Rowan Williams and Mike Higton. 2 (1999). 9. ´ 8 Rene Girard. 430–31. Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory. A Theater of Envy: William ´ Shakespeare. 4 Clearly. New York: Orbis Books. 227–31. 37.
Evolution and Conversion. Philip Clayton and Jeffery Schloss (Grand Rapids. the Supernaturalistc Fallacy: From Is to Ought. 42 On the metaphysical choices in Darwinism. T. Eerdmans. 58–93. it is a position Girard no longer holds. 7–48.. ed. D. 53 On the sometimes troubling psycho-sexual dynamics of William’s metaphysics and lived piety. as Girardians occasionally do. John Millar (1771) and Adam Smith (1776). 2004). 52 Ibid. 218. Mich. 1990). but because it involved intractable (almost Manichean) problems of its own. 2005). 30 Girard. It characteristically proceeds beyond empirical evidence by supplementing ethnographic data and historical artefacts with deductions from natural law theory in order to arrive at a supposedly universal series of stages through which peoples are assumed to pass as they ascend towards civilization The term was coined by Stewart (1794) in his account of Adam Smith. 48 Like Girard. 1963). New York: Cambridge University Press. Mich. 54 Williams. ‘Trying My Very Best to Believe Darwin. 23. L. And of Thomas Reid. New Studies in Christian Ethics (Cambridge. See Dugald Stewart. 189. 98. 40.: W. ed. 37 Ibid. Garrels. during his 1993 interview with Rebecca ´ Adams. Mark Heim. D. ‘The Way of Exchange. See Rebecca Adams. 55 Ibid. Religion & literature 25: no. (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux. 44 Abraham Joshua Heschel. see Hans Boersma. 216. 96–135. Now Collected into One Volume. with Some Additional Notes (Edinburgh. 1 8 ad 2. Huttar and Peter J.. 133–53. Co. 51 Charles Williams. 215. August 2008. that human ﬂourishing is derived precisely from the rejection of such violent practices. of Adam Smith. and to all those who helpfully responded to the paper at the University of Oslo during the 17th European Conference on Philosophy of Religion. MI: William B. S. 81. D.: Baker Academic. 38. 39 It will not to do to insist. 101. Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason. This was Girard’s position in 1978. Biology and Christian Ethics. 18 June 2008. D. Evolution and Conversion. 56 Ibid. I make no attempt to suppress the particularities of Williams’ confessional voice in what follows. 46 In his introduction to All Hallows Eve. Special thanks as well to the Cambridge 1405s. Ramsay and Company. Hospitality. See T. 1958). Schakel. All Hallows Eve.METAPHYSICS AND THE REDEMPTION OF SACRIFICE 59 29 Girard had already made such a concession. 35 See S. see Charles A. Difference. but in more cautious terms. 41 Girard. 58 Ibid. The Rhetoric of Vision: Essays on Charles Williams (Cranbury. 189. 1811). Eliot suggested that what Williams had to say was really beyond the bounds of any genre yet devised. 47 On Williams rhetoric. 34 Ibid. 31 Ibid. 110.B. .. Conor Cunningham and Peter M. see Stephen R. Ll. ed. Descent into Hell (Grand Rapids. S. 40 Conjectural history is a genre that began with David Hume (1757) and was developed in the work of writers such as Adam Ferguson (1767). 49 See the essay. and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition (Grand Rapids. of William Robertson. D. ‘Mimetic ´ Theory of Rene Girard and Empirical Research on Imitation’. Straus and Giroux... Ohio: Kent State University Press. 2004).. see especially Lois Lang-Sims. 2007). Clark. 45 Rowan Williams. Anne Ridler (London: Oxford University Press. 57 Ibid. 1989). The Image of the City and Other Essays.’ Summa Theologiae I. NY: Farrar. ‘A Cross-Section of Sin: The Mimetic Character of Human Nature in Biological and Theological Perspective.. Scott R. Read before the Royal Society of Edinburgh.: Printed by G. 43 On the metaphysical choices inherent in Scottish conjectural historians such as Adam Smith. NJ: Bucknell University Press 1996).. Evolution and Conversion. 59 I would like to give special thanks to Douglas Hedley for helpful comments on a previous version of this essay. 104. Charles Williams: Alchemy and integration. ‘Introduction’ in Charles Willams. Letters to Lalage: The Letters of Charles Williams to Lois Lang-Sims (Kent. Eliot. Descent into Hell..’ in Charles Williams. or. 38 ‘Gratia non tollit sed perﬁcit naturam. 159–96. Biographical Memoirs. 36 See especially chapter 3. see Milbank.. ‘The Symbolic Species. 50 Galatians 6:2. the Odd Inkling. Evolution and Conversion.’ in Girard. Williams’ anthropology is inseparable from theology.’ in Evolution and Ethics: Human Morality in Biological and Religious Perspective. 32 Girard’s thought here can be best understood in terms of a more or less Abelardian moral-inﬂuence theory of the atonement. The Sabbath: Its Meaning for the Modern Man (New York. Candler (London: SCM Press.. On Girard and the moral-inﬂuence theory. Contagion 12–13 (2006). 2000).’ in Belief and Metaphysics. Eerdmans Publ. and although I believe the argument can be ecumenically useful. Conor Cunningham. ‘Violence. The Times Literary Supplement. 33 Girard.’ review of Gavin Ashenden. Violence. Sacrifice: A Conversation with Rene Girard’. ‘Charles Williams. 2 (1993).
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