Theoretical and material discontinuities in René Girard’s discussion of the miracle of Apollonius of Tyana

Journal for Cultural Research 19 (4):365-378 (2015)

Ibanga Ikpe
University of Botswana
In discussing his mimetic theory, René Girard seeks to show that the story concerning the miraculous curing of Ephesus by Apollonius of Tyana could be used to demonstrate how an epidemic of mimetic rivalry can be converted into a state of unanimous violence that has a cathartic effect on society. In doing so, Girard emphasizes the importance of the model in mimetic contagion and its power in channelling the frustrations and violence of the crowd towards a single victim. For him, Apollonius achieved the curing of Ephesus, not through any miraculous intervention but by the single victim mechanism by which the trepidation of society is relieved through unanimous violence. This paper is an attempt to show what is wrong in Girard’s discussion of this miracle. While not necessarily discrediting Girard’s basic precept that human beings are mimetic in nature, it argues that his use of language in presenting the Apollonius story is unnecessarily emotive and inappropriate. It identifies historical and logical inconsistencies in Girard’s discussion and shows his denigration of Apollonius as irrelevant and unfair. It points to various inconsistencies in his adaptation of the story to his theory and concludes that the context and letter of the Apollonius miracle do not fit his mimetic mould and that his attempt to use the Apollonius miracle to further his theory fails to achieve its purpose.
Keywords René Girard  Apollonius of Tyana   sacrificial crisis  scapegoats  mimetic theory
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DOI 10.1080/14797585.2015.1065653
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References found in this work BETA

The Logic of Scientific Discovery.Karl Popper - 1959 - Studia Logica 9:262-265.
The First Stone.René Girard - 1999 - Renascence 52 (1):5-17.
Job: The Victim of His People.René Girard - 1989 - Religious Studies 25 (1):139-140.

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