Beneath the Veil of Strange Verses by Jeremiah L. Alberg 2013 3A

OK.  Perhaps, Nietzsche’s self-promotion was a little over the top.

How about the fall back position, where I know that I should sacrifice for some object, but step back, and weigh the consequences?

Meet Jacques Rousseau.

Who wants to sacrifice when one does not get the rewards or the credit for the sacrifice?

Well, at least my innate “knowing that I should sacrifice” means that I must be naturally good.  But heavens, one should not over-do it, like that nut-job fellow who got himself crucified (page 43).  Someone else – someone reasonable – should be in charge of the “object that brings everyone into relation”.


Beneath the Veil of Strange Verses by Jeremiah L. Alberg 2013 2F

If so … ?

An ironic turn in mimesis occurred with the potentiation of civilization.

Mimesisconstrained was adaptive in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in. However, our current Lebenswelt is not the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  Mimesisunconstrained is so maladaptive that it produces the scapegoat mechanism.

A parallel ironic turn occurred with respect to referentiality in the passage from hand-speech to speech alone talk.  It is described in An Archaeology of the Fall.


Beneath the Veil of Strange Verses by Jeremiah L. Alberg 2013 2E

Where does the vital lesson lead?  What question does It raise?

Nietzsche’s placement of himself as ‘object that brings all into relation’ by posing as both Dionysius and Socrates; that is, as both insane and reasonable; could only occur if Nietzsche hammered out a new specialization, a new language of theoretically aesthetic tragic drama.  Such an effort could only happen due to the purely symbolic qualities of speech alone talk.

To me, that means that Girard’s theory of mimetic rivalry applies primarily to the era of unconstrained complexity.

Consequently, I shall label it mimesisunconstrained.

Now I can re-present the question that I started with:

Could there have been a different mimetic rivalry in the era of constrained complexity, that is, in the era that we evolved in (and that began to lose its mooring starting 7800 years ago)?

If so, I may label it mimesisconstrained?


Beneath the Veil of Strange Verses by Jeremiah L. Alberg 2013 2D

Beneath the surface of Nietzsche’s ploy swims a vital lesson:

“The most important object in the group” is the “object that brings the group into relation”.

Nietzsche imagined that this “object” could be Dionysius.  The alternative, the theoretical man of Socrates, could only keep the divine passions at bay.

Nietzsche constructed a symbolic order where Dionysian madness would be “the object that brings the group – that is, the entire civilization (willing or not) – into relation”.  Social constructions emanated from that symbolic order, giving organizational imperative to his vision.  “Dionynsian madness” became “the object that brought all subjects into organization”.

It seems to me that Nietzche was not far off some mark.  Look how many corpses resulted from the theoretically aesthetic tragic dramas of the 20th century.


Beneath the Veil of Strange Verses by Jeremiah L. Alberg 2013 2C

Does the last blog not sound like a parody of modern politics, where politicians and professors regard themselves as “golden calves” (icons of the most important objects in the group) who demand sacrifice from the “scapegoats” (icons of the ones who somehow failed to live up to the expectation that they should sacrifice everything for the most important object in the group)?

It sounds so to me.

It also sounds like Nietzsche’s manifesto, where he placed himself into the roles of both Socrates (by writing in the genre of theoretical aesthetics) and Dionysius (by writing in the genre of tragic drama (pages 22, 35)).

Nietzsche thus midwifed his own Birth, that is Of Total Tragedy, encompassing both Apollonarian and Dionysian poles (29).

Nietzsche sought to take credit for the sacrifices of both man (Socrates) and god (Dionysius).


Beneath the Veil of Strange Verses by Jeremiah L. Alberg 2013 2B

Hmmm, the previous blog points to a type of mimetic rivalry that would yield reproductive advantage under the selection pressures of intergroup competition.

But of course, such a ‘thing’ …

…was not meant to last, at least as far as human evolution goes.

In the milieu of unconstrained complexity, inaugurated 7800 years ago, the desire “to sacrifice oneself for the most important object in the group, in mimesis of the desire held by all the others in the group” became a fool’s errand.

Someone, by manipulating the symbolic order, could accrue the rewards and the credit for your sacrifice.

Plus, in a strange variant of the predator-prey relation, someone could demand your sacrifice because “you should feel that you should sacrifice yourself for the most important object in the group”.

And, for that special someone, it is that Special Someone: ‘me’.


Beneath the Veil of Strange Verses by Jeremiah L. Alberg 2013 2A

How would the idea of “mimesis” apply to our evolved Lebenswelt of constrained complexity, marked by selection pressures of intergroup competition?

What advantage would there be for each person to desire the same thing (that someone else desires) and to unconsciously deny that the other person – somehow – inspired the desire?

I cannot see an advantage, except for one circumstance.

What if that “thing” was an “object that was the most important object in the group”?

What if that object was so important that each person – by ‘himself’ (but in mimetic desire) – was open to sacrificing ‘himself’ for this object?

What if each person would seek opportunities to engage in some life and death struggle centered on the object?

If so, then any person in the group could be a hero, even in death, especially if ‘his’ death ended a horrible passage and allowed others to continue to live, that is, to keep the object alive.

To keep the object alive was to keep the group alive.  To keep the object alive was to allow your parents, your children, your cousins, your brothers and sisters, to live.


Beneath the Veil of Strange Verses by Jeremiah L. Alberg 2013 1C

Still, we are led to the question:

How did Girard’s “mimetic rivalry” operate in the Lebenswelt of constrained complexity, that is, in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in?

How could “mimetic rivalry” have enhanced “reproductive success” (the new term for “survival of the fittest”)?

It seems to me that “mimetic rivalry”, as Girard formulates the concept, would have increased intragroup competition and conflict (even with the catharsis of scapegoating).  Mimetic rivalry would have diminished reproductive success in a world of intergroup competition.


Beneath the Veil of Strange Verses by Jeremiah L. Alberg 2013 1B

Alberg presented a quick summary of Girard’s ideas (xiv-xvi, 14-16).  This summary affirms my suspicions that An Archaeology of the Fall places a discontinuity right in the middle of Girard’s hypothesis.

An Archaeology proposes that, 7800 years ago, humans began to change the way they talked, from hand-speech talk to speech alone talk, and the difference in semiotic qualities potentiated unconstrained complexity; that is, civilization.

“The world that we evolved in” is not the same as “the world that we live in”.

The world of constrained complexity is not the same as the world of unconstrained complexity.

Girard’s concept of mimetic rivalry pertains to our current Lebenswelt of unconstrained complexity.  Literature is full of it.  As we all know, or at least, as Girard convincingly argues, (what we once called) “literature” provides greater insight into the workings of the human mind than what we call “social science”.

But then, social science has its own “literature”.  How confusing is that?]


Beneath the Veil of Strange Verses by Jeremiah L. Alberg 2013 1A

Lately, I have been wresting (if blogging can be called that) with Teilhard de Chardin’s notion of a “scandal” in biology.

God declared His Creation “good” in Genesis. However, natural evil is intrinsic to evolution.  This is a scandal.

Coincidently, I came across a book on scandal in the tradition of Rene Girard, entitled Beneath the Veil of Strange Verses: Reading Scandalous Texts, by Jeremiah L. Alberg (East Lansing: Michigan University Press).

So, a diversion is in order.

My electronic book, An Archaeology of the Fall (2012), complements Alberg’s exploration, in a way that would make Flannery O’Connor proud.  If you read it, you will see what I mean.

You will also see why Rene Girard has appeared on my radar, not as dramatically as Charles Peirce and John Deely, or Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Zizek, or Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben, but there, nevertheless.  So far, I have contemplated his work through the eyes of his admirers.