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The name of René Girard, I’ve noticed, has of late been cropping up on this site a bit more often than usua l. I don’t want to rehearse what I’ve written elsewhere on this remarkably original thinker, now inducted into “The Immortals” of the Académie Française , except maybe to stress that, once one begins to understand Girard’s idée fixe (his term), an astonishing amount of data from humanity’s social life begins to fall into place, from Sophocles and Shakespeare to adultery and Hollywood gossip .

But what about the Stone Age? Anyone with the least familiarity with Girard’s thought knows that for him “mimetic desire” means that we humans, as social beings, desire what others happen to want, so that desiring is a learned behavior, and not therefore inscribed in our biological appetites. Moreover, he also insists that the pathos of this imitative desire begins at the earliest emergence of our species. But how can that latter thesis be established anthropologically? Do we not here meet the boundary where Girard’s thought becomes pure speculation, however provocative his perspective might be?

I am obviously not the one to render a judgment on that question. However, news of a recent excavation in Germany from Der Spiegel makes me wonder: From the description of the findings of these archeologists, it seems that the onset of the Girardian dynamic of scapegoating for the sake of social cohesion can be dated, at the latest, from around the sixth millennium before Christ. And if this thesis pans out among the experts, then surely we can assume that other, even earlier primitive societies—which for whatever reason are now made inaccessible to us or have yet to be discovered—must have displayed that same dynamic.

At all events, I think I can safely make at least this prediction: decades and perhaps centuries from now—that is, long after the fashionable thinkers of our time (Derrida, Lacan, Žižek) are forgotten—people will be debating Girard’s thought. One sign of his originality is that, against the contemporary background, he is so noticeably original.

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