Culture Magazine

Girard Girard

By Bbenzon @bbenzon
During freshman orientation at Johns Hopkins I went to a lecture on cultural relativism given by Rene Girard. Both the topic and the lecturer were new to me. I came to understand that Girard was something of a rising star in the humanities and, thought I never studied with him, I was aware of him. When I went off to the State Universtiy of New York at Buffalo to get my degree in English, Girard was there in Comparative Literature. Again, I didn't study with him, but I was aware of him and I read his book on sacrifice, Violence and the Sacred. I got my degree and went out into the world and heard about Girard from time to time, getting the impression that he had become a significant figure.
But I had no idea!
And now there's an a private non-profit institute devoted to his work, Imitatio. The institute was founded by Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal, who'd studied with Girard at Stanford. Here's a lecture Thiel gave on Girard's ideas, Girard in Silicon Valley.
At about the time Theil was giving that lecture Joshua Landy published a skeptical essay on Girard's ideas, Deceit, Desire, and the Literature Professor: Why Girardians Exist. He argues that Girard's central ideas are weak and that they've gained adherents because they promise ready explanations of about everything.
FWIW, I haven't had much use for Girard's ideas. But this juxtaposition is amusing, a captain of industry funding a Girardian institute, a scholar debunding Girardian thought.

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