Alastair, who has been having a lengthy break from blogging over the last year or so, is back and he has now graduated from the University of St Andrews. He has a wonderful summary of René Girard's influential and insightful concept of mimetic desire.
Girard claims that we learn what to desire by imitating the desires of others. This form of behaviour is easiest to observe in the case of children. Put two children in a room with a hundred toys and it is quite likely that they will end up fighting over the same one. Rather than arising spontaneously or being fixed on predefined objects, each child’s desire for the object is mediated and reinforced by the desire of the other. Girard argues that desire is ‘mimetic’ in character; our desire does not directly fix itself on objects, but is mediated by the desire of others for certain objects. Invested with the aura of the other’s desire, certain objects can become suddenly greatly desirable to us.This simple idea is then applied to all kinds of areas: love triangles, rumours, Oedipal attraction, scapegoating, masochism and, ultimately, sin. If you're unfamiliar with Girard, this is a great introduction.