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MIMESIS AND SCAPEGOATING IN THE WORKS OF HOBBES, ROUSSEAU, AND KANT Wolfgang Palaver Universität Innsbruck i: "ntellectual fashion in our academic world forces us towards -originality. Searching for mimetic desire or traces of scape-goating in literature or philosophical texts gets therefore some applause because it has not been done before. It has become fashionable in the humanities to have your own special French intellectual to be innovative and conquer new fields. For many ofus Girard's mimetic theory might be of some help to better our standings in originality. But what seems to be an easy game at first sight has its disadvantages, too. Applying mimetic theory gets at least as much criticism as it earns applause. What is praised as an original contribution by some might atthe same time be debased as something quite idiosyncratic by many others. I still remember the reaction of a quite reputable political scientist from Berkeley to a paper of Girard given at a little seminar at Stanford, in which he reflected on the origin of human culture in the scapegoat mechanism. The political scientist welcomed the paper in a friendly way, asking us, however, ifby taking Girard's thesis for granted one might not as well be allowed to say that culture is based on jellybeans. This strange joke is in a way a typical reaction to the mimetic theory ifwe remember how often people do not understand at all why it is of any importance to deal with mimetic desire and scapegoating. Mimetic theory seems to be either one of those fashions which are caused by the necessity to be original or a strange obsession of a small sect following a Wolfgang Palaver127 guru who at least understood that you just have to insist on some bizarre ideas long enough to get some recognition in the end. My paper will try to show that such a critique ofthe mimetic theory is definitely wrong. Whatever major work in political philosophy I read I often came across exactlythose questionsthat are addressed by the mimetic theory. I think the collaboration of some scholars in mimetic theory would allow it to write a history of political philosophy by focusing on mimesis and scapegoating without excluding any ofthe major authors. I will try to do this today by the examples ofHobbes, Rousseau and Kant. In a first step I will show you how these three founding fathers of modern political philosophy were all concerned with mimetic desire. The rise ofthe modem world forced them to view human beings as mimetic competitors. In a second, more difficult step I will focus on traces of the scapegoat mechanism in the works ofthese three authors. Although scapegoating is less visible than mimetic desire it is nevertheless possible to see how this relates to the violent origin of human culture. A third part will address the differences between Girard's view on mimetic desire and scapegoating and the comparable views taken by Hobbes, Rousseau, and Kant. These differences are caused by the respective relationships to the biblical revelation . Whereas Girard's theory emphasizes the importance of the Bible to understand mimesis and scapegoating, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Kant are representatives of the modern neglect of the biblical revelation. A comparison ofthese three authors with an Augustinian perspective helps to understand the way, in which they differ from Girard's mimetic theory. 1. Mimesis in the works of Hobbes, Rousseau, and Kant A. Hobbes Hobbes's anthropology describes human beings as genuinely mimetic (Achterhuis 23f; Palaver 1991, 40-45). In Hobbes's early treatise The Elements ofLaw Natural andPolitic this is most explicitly visible. Human beings desire according to the other by always comparing themselves with one another. "All joy and grief of mind" consists "in a contention for precedence to them with whom they compare themselves" (Hobbes 1994, 163f; see also 50-60; 1991, 119). Human life with all its passions is paralleled in this book to a race, which has "no other goal ...but being foremost" (Hobbes 1994, 59). It is a race in which "Continually to be out-gone is misery. Continually to out-go the next before is felicity. 128 Mimesis and Scapegoating in Hobbes, Rousseau, & Kant And...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1930-1200
Print ISSN
1075-7201
Pages
pp. 126-148
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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