Paul Dumouchel

* Teaching on Thursday July 19 and Friday July 20

Institution: Ritsumeikan University, Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences, Kyoto
Field of Expertise: Philosophy, in particular political philosophy and philosophy of science (biology and robotics).


Using mimetic theory:

Much (but by far not all) of my published research consisted in applying mimetic theory to different domains of inquiry. In L’Enfer des choses, with Jean-Pierre Dupuy we offered a mimetic analysis of modern economics and and my latest book Le Sacrifice inutile essai sur la violence politique (Paris, Flammarion, 2001) proposes a Girardian analysis of modern political violence. A collection of previously published and unpublished essays based on mimetic theory, and entitled The Ambivalence of Scarcity and other essays, is due to come out at Michigan University Press later this year.

Artificial empathy
Together with Luisa Damiano (Università degli Studi di Bergamo) we are carrying out for IMITATIO a research on imitation and artificial empathy. “Artificial empathy” is a term we use to refer to the recent development of social robots, that is, robots that are designed to interact with humans in social situations and which are endowed with “emotions” or at least with emotional expressions and to ongoing research in robotics to develop robots that in many ways “really” have emotional reactions and responses in their interactions with humans. The study centers on the place of imitation in the design and conception of such machines which truly embody the Girardian idea of imitation without representation.

“I don’t know”
This said I should add that there is a way in which I do not know the answer to the question “How have I been using mimetic theory in my research”. I first read Girard when I was a student. It struck me as remarkable and convincing and I spent many years working in environments, like the CREA in Paris, where using some aspect of Girard work in your research was just evident. So it is just part of what I do and I use or at least resort to some of its basic concepts many times without really being aware that I am doing so or paying any particular attention to the fact that I am. It is a bit as if I was asked, how do you use Max Weber or Immanuel Kant in your research? The answer is “I don’t know”, but clearly it constitutes a fundamental background to all my thinking and research and provides many of the working concepts which I take for granted.

Teaching mimetic theory
In teaching: I have rarely taught mimetic theory as such. Usually mimetic theory comes in as one resource among other which is more or less important depending on the subject matter of my teaching. I really first taught mimetic theory as such, at least intensively, during the last summer school on mimetic theory in Holland in 2010 and it will be very interesting and challenging to do so again. My website at the Ritsumeikan University:

Already from the beginning
In the collection For René Girard. Essays in Friendship and Truth (Michigan State University Press, 2009) I wrote (in my contribution "Already from the beginning"):

I first read René Girard when I was an undergraduate philosophy student, twenty-one or twenty-two years old. I bought La Violence et le sacré in Canada during the summer of what must have been 1972 or 1973. At that time, I worked evening shifts (from 4:00 PM to midnight) on a summer job in a shelter for street kids, mainly young addicts and victims of family violence. I read the book in early September on the plane that brought me back to France and on the train between Paris and Aix-en-Provence where I was studying. I could not put it down. It was a revelation. Here was genius. Not only did this work satisfy the highest criteria of academic knowledge. It also addressed issues that were central in my own life.
I came from a rather protected bourgeois milieu, and La Violence et le sacré allowed me to understand and make sense of the high level of violence that saturated the environment where I had worked all summer. Here was an author to imitate, one who was rigorously scientific and yet wrote in clear and accessible language. [ ] ... more