- Nietzsche’s Double BindsGiuseppe Fornari and René Girard on Nietzsche’s Thought
We think of the key, each in his prison Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison. (T.S. Eliot: The Waste LandWhat The Thunder Said)
Nietzsche ass Girard’s Double
Why is it so important to study Nietzsche? Many works about Nietzsche’s thought have been published over the years, from every conceivable position, including analytical philosophy.1
One more essay on Nietzsche may seem a bit repetitive. Yet, as Giuseppe Fornari wrote in the preface of Il Caso Nietzsche (The Nietzsche Case), it is fundamental to analyze Nietzsche deeply, because the most important themes of his works are still hidden among the pages of his books.2
René Girard has made an original contribution to understanding Nietzsche by underlining the close connections between Nietzsche’s [End Page 141] philosophy and the personal relationships he established during his life. In particular, Girard’s books deal with the ambivalent relationship between Nietzsche and Wagner. It is not possible to separate Nietzsche’s philosophy from his life. Following Girard’s analysis, we can realize how these themes are strictly related, as I See Satan Fall like Lightning seeks to demonstrate.3 Indeed Girard, unlike many other critics, understood the peculiarity of Nietzsche’s conception.
Nietzsche can be considered an upside-down, specular image of René Girard’s thought. Girard’s mimetic theory considers violence as the mother of all pagan ancient cultures. When a community is in a crisis, and the violence among its members is out of control because of the imitation of aggressive behaviors, we have what Girard calls a doubles’ crisis. Whosoever is infected by the widespread violence will become more similar to their mimetic rival, exactly in the moment in which he attempts to become different from him. In these conditions, the group may even destroy itself. Nevertheless, the community adopts a strategy that can preserve itself. A community in crisis seeks the cause, the origin of their conflict. Anyone even slightly different will draw their suspicions and accusation. The result is that they consider him the main agent responsible for what happened. So, when they find an individual who is suitable for the aforementioned purpose, the group kills or expels the victim. After his death, the community is totally pacified. Indeed, it has vented its violence against a single target. This target, from the community’s point of view, is considered retroactively to have had supernatural powers, thanks to which he had caused the crisis and, after his death, by means of the same powers, he was able to pacify the group. Because the community is not able to understand what has happened, they assign to their victim the cause of their sudden peace as well as their conflict; for this reason they deify him and put him in an afterworld from where he can still make use of his power.
All the pagan religions deified a victim who had taken on himself the violence of his persecutors. Indeed, the persecutors cannot read their own violence. They consider their victim extremely powerful and so totally capable of and guilty of their crisis: they always feel themselves to be under the power of their victim.
Little by little, to prevent crisis, the ancient communities were able to artificially reproduce this spontaneous mechanism described previously in their sacrificial rites. Indeed, the rites are a controlled reproduction of the crisis and its violent resolution. Girard ascertained this mechanism thanks [End Page 142] to his analyses of mythological texts that he considers tales of persecutions that were told instead from the distorted point of view of the persecutors.
Only the Christian religion was able to reveal this mechanism. Girard does not consider Jesus’ Passion a mythological tale. In fact, although Jesus is a victim of his community, the evangelic narratives are made from the victim’s perspective and denounce the violence of the persecutors. So, the evangelic texts disclose the persecutors’ plan by discrediting all the sacrifices committed against innocent scapegoats. When the victimization mechanism has been revealed, sooner or later it loses its power of deification. After Christianity, all the persecutors...