Oedipus Rex in René Girard’s Violence and the Sacred


Sigmund Freud’s concept of the Oedipus complex has entered popular consciousness. It names the tendency of boys to become romantically infatuated with their mothers, and girls with their fathers, then called the Electra complex. The notion is scandalous but the phrase provides a certain scientific sounding emotional distance while also connoting messy depths of neuroticism. Incest and cannibalism are so taboo in most societies that in lists of things not to do, they are frequently omitted, so excluded from polite society, that most people forget they even exist most of the time. Classes in ethics will often mention abortion or euthanasia, but never even mention sleeping with your relatives, or eating people. That is a sign of a powerful taboo – so strong that the prohibited activity gets excluded from awareness.

A significant portion of René Girard’s book Violence and the Sacred is devoted to a critique of Freud. Continue reading

Juggernaut and Jackanapes

“Faustian man has become the slave of his creation . . . . The arrangements of life as he lives it have been driven by the machine onto a path where there is no standing still and no turning back.”

Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, vol. 2 (1922)

You may have seen photographs of the Ector County SWAT team besieging Big Daddy Zane’s saloon in West Odessa, Texas. The Ector County SWAT team besieged Big Daddy Zane’s because Big Daddy Zane was pouring drinks in defiance of the statewide shutdown, and a gaggle of protestors, some of them armed, were accomplishing nothing in particular in a vacant lot behind the saloon. Continue reading

Contract : Society :: Cell : Person

Society is indeed constituted of social contracts; there is no other sort of contract; so that “social contract” is redundant; to say “society” is to invoke contracts, and vice versa. A contract is literally a “drag together” People work together to drag things from here to there, which they could not alone easily budge; they coordinate their activities in search of common ends.

But obviously any such contract supervenes the society in which alone it can have any … traction. No prevenient society, no contract enacted therein.

Continue reading

Book the Band (Friendly is Not Enough)

The “key for the church is to welcome, not exclude.”

Pope Francis (2013)

The key for the Church is, rather, to possess something so desirable that people will charge a machine-gun nest to get it. In my youth I went to nightclubs to see bands play what I fondly imagined was great music. Those nightclubs were extremely unwelcoming. The bouncers were surly, the floors were filthy, the air was noxious, and price of drinks was shamelessly extortionate.

But those nightclubs were packed because they had THE BAND. Continue reading

Our Deepest Loves Cannot & Do Not Err

Provided they spring honestly from motives of true charity, and to the extent that we are sane, our deepest loves must point toward reals. They must be reliable guides, or they would interfere with survival, and we would not have them.

So then also likewise with our deepest sorrows.

Continue reading

This Strange New Land of Bondage

When Liberals look at man, they experiences a double vision similar to the double vision that drunkards suffer in an advanced state of intoxication. One difference is that the drunkards’ double vision is optical, and conveys no suggestion of a moral difference between the shimmering apparition on the left and the shimmering apparition on the right. But the liberal’s double vision is moral, and not an instance of mere duplication, because the Liberal sees man under the duel (not mixed) aspects of angel and fiend. When the liberal is in his sentimental after-dinner mood, he sees man as a decent fellow who is good at heart, and cruel, deceitful, larcenous and domineering only by accident. However, when the liberal is in his angry and exasperated schoolmarm mood, he sees man as an untrustworthy and froward fool, whose every act must be closely monitored and minutely regulated. Continue reading

Descartes’ Discovery of the Subject

Saint Paul“Philosophy starts by doubting the reality of the perceptible world, of the world of objects and things.”[1] But this is not enough. Philosophical theory should be primarily concerned with the thinking subject, and the meaning and purpose of his existence. “Reality is originally part of the inner existence, of the inner spiritual communion and community, but it becomes degraded in the process of objectification and by having to submit to social necessities.”[2] “To exist, is for man to dwell within himself, in his own authentic world, rather than to be at the mercy of the social and biological world.”[3]

Like Plato, Descartes expresses skepticism about physical reality; in Descartes’ case, whether external reality exists at all, and whether we can have knowledge of it. He goes beyond Plato by discovering the knowing subject. Plato’s conception of noumenal reality is universalist and has nothing that is essentially personal about it. It is populated by hypostasized abstractions, the Forms, but also a living god – the Form of the Good. Descartes’ notion of the existential interior stops short at the subject as the thinking thing. Cogito ergo sum; I am thinking therefore I am. Who is this I? Descartes asks. He replies, a thing that thinks. Multiple problems are immediately evident. One is the severely restricted and inadequate spiritual vision. There is no beauty, justice, or truth, and no God. Another is the restriction of the subject to a thinking thing. Feelings and volition are as much a part of the subject as thought, but these are simply omitted. So, there is a subject, but it is truncated and misdescribed and it would take Kant to identify the existential subject with freedom and the phenomenal world with determinism, though Kant continues to associate the noumenal with the intellect alone. Continue reading

When the Holy Fire Dies

“Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven.”

William Wordsworth, The Prelude (1799)

“Then a moody youth sat down on a world in ruins.”

Alfred de Musset, Confessions of a Child of the Century (1836)

The poet Wordsworth tells is that it is bliss to set out on a crusade.  Every crusader (but especially the young) rejoices that he has been specially chosen to join in the great task of saving humanity from barbarism, ignorance, tyranny, superstition or false gods.  But alas, before he reaches the New Jerusalem, the holy fire dies and the crusade breaks down in an inglorious bedlam of peculation, chicanery and quarrels.  As Eric Hoffer famously put it, “every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”  Thus, the crusader who felt so hopeful when he set out at dawn returns tired and hopeless at the close of the day.  From bliss to this, he thinks, as he sinks into the drab and prosaic life of what Spengler called the fellaheen. Continue reading

I Need a Haircut

HaircutI need a haircut. My barber needs my custom. My barber’s landlord needs his rent-check. My barber’s landlord’s bank needs his mortgage payment. The corporate bank needs the local office to stay solvent. Etcetera, etcetera. It cascades upwards. The lockdown, if it were ever justified, is now simply an economic suicide pact. We need to live free or we will die.