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RENE GIRARD AND THE LEGACY OF ALEXANDRE KOJEVE George Erving University of Washington i; "n a recent COV&R Bulletin, William Mishler voices a consensus ^opinion regarding René Girard's system of thought, "that between Girard and philosophy an incommensurable gulf exists...for the simple reason that Girard's notion oftruth is not philosophy's."1 Mishler contends that, however interesting the parallels between Girard's formulations and those of Hegel, Kojeve, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Derrida, "The gulf is more pertinent to the tenor ofGirard's thought than any influence." Without gainsaying Mishler's claim as it pertains to Girard's insights regarding the victimage mechanism and its centrality to community formation, I wish to argue nonetheless that Girard's relationship with the philosopher Alexander Kojeve is more extensive, more nuanced, and more pertinent to his mimetic theory than the "incommensurable gulf assertion suggests. Alexandre Kojeve's Parisian lectures given in the 1930s and published under the title, Introduction to the Reading ofHegel, have been widely acknowledged for their influence upon the post-war intellectual milieu in France and for their contribution to the centrality of "Desire" as a theoretical topos. Commentary has credited Kojeve's reading ofHegel for its broad impact upon literature, philosophy, and the social sciences in figures such as Raymond Queneau, Georges Bataille, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Lacan, and to a lesser extent, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, and Michel Foucault. René Girard's work however, has received comparatively ' No. 20, April 2002, p. 5. Mishler makes these remarks in response to Guido Vanheeswijck 's paper regarding Girard relationship with philosophy atthe 200 1 COV&R annual conference in Antwerp. 112George Erving little attention with respect to Kojeve and his sphere of influence.2 This is no doubt a result ofthe fact that Girard's concern with the historical reality ofthe victimage mechanism has run counter to major trends within postwar French thought, which, as Eugene Webb has pointed out, have sought to absorb "contingent reality into an ideal world ofmeaning constituted by the inherently linguistic structure of the human mind" (158-59). Thus Girard's emphasis on the connection between theory and reality as the 1 Ibid. Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen makes an implicit connection in his Girardian/Hegelian reading ofFreud in The Freudian Subject, and explicitly makes the case for it in a footnote to Lacan- The Absolute Master, where he remarks, "The numerous and troubling crossreferences between the Girardian and Lacanian descriptions [of the relationship between violence and Desire] are in all likelihood explained by common roots in Kojeve's problematic . In this respect, one should read Girard's not altogether convincing declaration of anti-Hegehanism in Deceit (110-12), which, m reality, is only justified by the accentuation —extremely brilliant to be sure—ofthe specifically Kojevian theme ofthe 'desire ofthe desire of the other'" (254, n21). Borch-Jacobsen does not further elaborate the points of intersection however. Eugene Webb likewise sees an "obvious" connection between Girard and Kojeve in the latter's "'Master' who seeks to do combat with an implacable rival so as to establish his own value and that of his objects of desire," and more generally, in their shared focus upon the centrality of 'Human desire [as], directed at the desire of another'" (116). Webb also mentions that Girard related to him in conversation that he had been reading Kojeve at the time he was writing Deceit, Desire, andthe Novel, but that he "did not consider either Kojeve or Hegel to have made a contribution toward what he himself considers his major original insight, his theory ..of the resolution of violence through its polarization on a single victim; both Hegel and Kojeve, he says, remained bound to the idea ofa perpetual dialectic ofviolence" (116). Guido Vanheeswijck seconds Girard's remark by suggesting that Girard belongs to a "second generation" of French thinkers which "on the one hand, embroiders on the theme ofdesire, borrowed from Kojeve's Hegel-interpretation, but. on the other, in its search for answers precisely wishes to get rid ofHegel" ("The Place of Rene Girard in Contemporary Philosophy") ( cov&r.html). While Vanheeswijckacknowledges that Girard follows Kojeve's anthropological point ofdeparture from Hegel, he maintains that he...


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