Central and East European
Society for Phenomenology

Conference | Paper

The Wounds of War and the Scars of Culture. Simone Weil and René Girard on Sociality of Violence

Paulina Sosnowska

Thursday 2 December 2021

12:10 - 12:50

Zoom 1-3

The philosophical discourses on violence developed in the 20th century can be grasped in two fundamental paradigms: the paradigm of force (Simone Weil) and the paradigm of domination (Horkheimer and Adorno). The paper is a part of a bigger project of reading modern discourses on violence within these two paradigms. This contribution aims at situating the theory of culture by René Girard within the paradigm of violence as immediate force, stemming from Simone Weil’s phenomenological description of force in The Iliad. Simone Weil can be read as a model for modern reflection on violence in different ways: one of them can be the identifying of her interpretation of The Iliad as a starting point for the critique or even the unmasking of blind reifying violence through philosophy of culture: an example of this kind of translation can be found in Girard and his analyses of the figure of the scapegoat and rituals of violence (sanctioned within myth), transferring violence into the sacral sphere.

The pivotal point of comparison is the concept of kydos, “the triumphant fascination of superior violence,” developed by Girard in Violence and the Sacred. The Greek term, which connects violence understood in the mode of immediate force with the magical and sacral dimension, serves as a key concept for the comparison of the two thinkers’ conceptualization of force. It allows an interpretation of the conceptual tenets of Girardian theory, such as unanimity, symmetry, mimesis, and myth in the light of key concepts of Weil, such as reification, symmetry, unawareness, and the blind mechanism of force. It also allows us to point out the discrepancies between the two conceptualizations (above all, the tensions between the rationality and the irrationality of violence), and to grasp Girard’s theory as a philosophical commentary to Weil’s insights. This is going to fill a spot on the map of modern discourses on violence.