The conceptual strength of Anattā is that it offers us a view of reality as being fundamentally a matter of relation, of permanent and absolute interconnection. This can have tremendous application and implications in the realm of Ethics, where the nature of the relations among humans and between humans and their environment is the focus. This association is also opening even wider doors towards religion – the Latin religio is the obligation, bond: a relation is responsible, and therefore ethical. Reality happens first in the form of relations, positing us as interrelated, and therefore, ethical agents, from the very fact of living. 1
We build our ethical character first through our relations to others, and only subsequently, with the help of rational principles. In other words, ethical models precede ethical principles.
If, as Girard tells us, “There is no solution to mimetism aside from a good model”, 2 then the new mimetico-Buddhist account of desire must lead us to realise that mimetic relations are unavoidable, constituting therefore the very setting of our ethical life. It is through one’s mediated relations that one will perform one’s ethical life. We build our ethical character first through our relations to others, and only subsequently, with the help of rational principles. In other words, ethical models precede ethical principles. If human life is fundamentally mimetic, and if mimesis brings the ethical responsibility at the forefront of the human experience, then we must conclude that ethical responsibility is the fundamental modality defining human life. This very fertile set of new considerations calls for a longer study that I will attempt to explore in a later work.
Originally presented at
the COV&R Conference, July 2012, in Tokyo, Japan.
Later published in
Contagion, Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture, Volume 20 (2013). (Download here)
Image courtesy: Wallpapers Craft
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|EXPLORE THE SERIES
|Girard and Philosophy
|Non-Self : From Anatta to Samvriti
|Is Anatta Behind the Mimetic Theory ?
|Towards a Girardian Ethics
- David J. Kalupahana actually argues that Buddhist Philosophy is characterised by a practical concern that posits Ethics as being primal to other Philosophical spheres like Aesthetic, Logic or Metaphysics (The Principles of Buddhist Psychology (New York: SUNY Press, 1987): 147). Parrallels on this very point with the Ethical theory of Emmanuel Levinas should be explored.
- René Girard, with Benoît Chantre. Battling to the End, trans. Mary Baker (East Lansing, USA: Michigan State University, 2010), 101.