Mimetic Theory and Its Shadow
Girard, Milbank, and Ontological Violence
Studies in Violence, Mimesis & Culture
Published by: Michigan State University Press
Imprint: Michigan State University Press
Sales Date: 2023-08-01
Leading Girardian theologian Scott Cowdell seeks to resolve a long-standing challenge to mimetic theory: that it entails a fundamental brutishness—an ontological violence. Girard’s account of scapegoating violence, seen as providing the initial stability for our species to emerge and consolidate, hardly seems compatible with Christian belief in God’s good creation, with violence only appearing after a subsequent Fall. The brilliant but controversial theologian John Milbank has long raised this concern about Girard, grounded in a remarkably sophisticated (though seldom fathomed) philosophical theology. Unpacking Milbank’s program, along with Girard’s recasting of Continental philosophy in light of mimetic theory, Cowdell finds a way between two apparently irreconcilable positions. With irenic spirit but analytic tenacity, he probes for ways through Milbank’s arguments while pressing on growth points in Girard’s. Cowdell’s proposals involve reframing divine creation in light of salvation history, reimagining divine participation by thinking Christ and evolution together, and developing a semiotic approach to mimetic theory that delivers ontological peace hermeneutically. Cowdell shows how Girard’s vision of human transformation through faith in Christ reveals a different world beyond ontological violence while preserving the divine participation that Milbank champions.