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The Two Sides of Mimesis: Girard's Mimetic Theory, Embodied Simulation and Social Identification

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Abstract:

Crucial in Girard's Mimetic Theory is the notion of mimetic desire, viewed as appropriative mimicry, the main source of aggressiveness and violence characterizing our species. The intrinsic value of the objects of our desire is not as relevant as the fact that the very same objects are the targets of others' desire. One could in principle object against such apparently negative and one-sided view of mankind, in general, and of mimesis, in particular. However, such argument would misrepresent Girard's thought. Girard himself acknowledged that mimetic desire is also good in itself, because is at the basis of love, and even more importantly because it's the opening out of oneself. Starting from the notion of desire as openness to others I will discuss from a neuroscientific perspective the implications for social cognition of mimesis against the background of Girard's Mimetic Theory, an ideal starting framework to foster a multidisciplinary approach to the study of human intersubjectivity. It will be posited that a different, not mutually exclusive, account of mimesis leads to social identification henceforth to sociality. Mimesis is neither good or bad, but has the potentials to lead not only to mimetic violence but also to the most creative aspects of human cognition. Results of empirical research in neuroscience and developmental psychology show that such account of mimesis finds solid supporting evidence. It will be concluded that a thorough and biologically plausible account of human intersubjectivity requires the integration of both sides of mimesis.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dipartimento di Neuroscienze -- Sezione di Fisiologia, Università di Parma, Via Volturno 39, 43100 Parma, Italy., Email: vittorio.gallese@unipr.it

Publication date: 2009-01-01

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