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What is Valentine’s Day Like in the Girard Household?
René Girard is famous for claiming that there is no such thing as spontaneous desire: we don’t fall for people because they are beautiful or smart or funny or kind; we fall for them because somebody else fell for them first.  This all sounds extremely exciting, in that very French kind of way.  But does anyone actually believe it?   Does René Girard himself actually believe it?

Let’s be clear here. Girard isn’t saying that people sometimes desire people, things, and accomplishments because someone else did first.  He is saying that people always desire people, things, and accomplishments because someone else did first.  What he calls “mimetic desire” is universal.

You think you love your partner for his beautiful soul?  No you don’t!  You think you chose your car because of its gas mileage?  Wrong!  You voted for Obama over McCain because you want some liberal appointments to the Supreme Court?  Impossible!

Does anyone believe this?  Many people say they do.  (Heck, there’s a whole institute (http://www.imitatio.com/) now for Mimesis Studies.)  And many people probably even believe that they believe it.  But I’ll lay heavy odds that almost none of them actually does believe it.

It’s a funny fact about human beings that we are capable of being wrong even about our own beliefs. You think, for example, that you are an absolute, unflinching atheist, yet when your plane hits turbulence, you find yourself muttering a prayer.  You think you find Eliot’s Four Quartets more consoling than Paul Simon, yet when someone dies, it is to Paul Simon that you turn.  You are forced (I hope) to admit that you were wrong.

So, do all of these Girardians really believe what they claim to?  Let’s find out.  Let’s ask the Girardians for their Valentine’s cards.  By rights, these cards should all read “I have loved you ever since the day that other guy laid eyes on you.”

If they don’t, I think we should say, to paraphrase The Princess Bride, “I do not think you believe what you think you believe.” That wouldn’t be entirely... incontheivable.



Well, but people are also famously unable to recognize desires, until external stimuli intervene. You might be latently hungry for hours, totally unaware of it, completely engrossed in a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle until the doorbell rings -- and when you get up and open it, hunger strides briskly in, rudely pushing its way past your visitor. Wow, you say as it reaches you, I'm starving. Were it not for the door, you might never have been hungry.

Speaking of holidays... I understand M. Girard was born on Christmas. What would possibly give him the idea that somebody else always gets there first?
This seems to be an excellent opportunity to call upon Antony and Cleopatra (Richard Burton and Liz Taylor), explaining their love for each other. The relevant passage begins around 6:55 of this video:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bD9AyVB4iQc
There are many layers, beginning with the desire of the other, and then the desire to erase that desire and its memory.
I wanted to mention that the topic was discussed here in Jealousy, and: Desire is always a desire of the desire of the other.

It was further discussed in The spark of love topic where St. Augustine is quoted, admitting how the main reason he loved some orator from Rome was that others praised him. "Thus it was that I loved men on the basis of other men's judgment" and he asks whether love is always like that. Augustine further says: "Instead, one catches the spark of love from one who loves."


Mostly I wanted to comment on what you say that: "It’s a funny fact about human beings that we are capable of being wrong even about our own beliefs." and “I do not think you believe what you think you believe.”
Something that always surprised me with philosophers is how clear it is that they simply can't believe what they preach. They claim beliefs that simply have nothing to do with the real world. They will be quick to explain that they are talking about the ontological world, or the Plato world of idea. They are talking about the deeper truth. When studying Kant one of the harshest criticism they can throw is:  "that's a psychological interpretation" and not an ontological one.
Viewing philosophy as detached and unrelated to the real world helps them argue much more freely, without the hindrance of making sense.

Of course if you look at someone like Kant, he truly believed in what he preached.  There is a phrase I really like of Nietzsche, in his book on the presocratics if I'm not mistaken, saying how they were each like a rock, their personality one with their philosophy. This is obviously not the case with many post-socratic philosophers, though it is with some.
Books Discussed
The Pre-Platonic Philosophers (International Nietzsche Studies (INS))
by Friedrich Nietzsche

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