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Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  404 ratings  ·  51 reviews
An astonishing work of cultural criticism, this book is widely recognized as a brilliant and devastating challenge to conventional views of literature, anthropology, religion, and psychoanalysis. In its scope and itnerest it can be compared with Freud's Totem and Taboo, the subtext Girard refutes with polemic daring, vast erudition, and a persuasiveness that leaves the ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published June 1st 1987 by Stanford University Press (first published 1978)
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Jack Welsh I don't know if this is still relevant, but it's only avail. (in english, at least) in print. I got a copy a year or so back.…moreI don't know if this is still relevant, but it's only avail. (in english, at least) in print. I got a copy a year or so back. (less)

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Jul 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Girard's basic thesis is well known; Human culture arose out of the resolution of mimetic desire. By nature we desire what is desired by others, this leads to conflict and ultimately murder. Institutions and rituals arise out of this act. Girard sees the Gospel texts of the New Testament as a revolutionary exposing of this basic mechanism. However, the church has continued to offer a sacrificial reading of the Gospel which undermines its revelatory potential.
This book is an excellent and
Andrew Marr
Nov 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most seminal books I know from the second half of the twentieth century. As a religious person, a monk as it happens, and a yearner for peace, I have been perplexed by the intertwining of violence with religion, which supposedly preaches peace, and especially perplexed by the violence within Christianity itself in contradiction to Jesus' teaching in the Gospels. It is Girard who has pointed the way to how violence happens in religious contexts and where religions resources are ...more
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
had my mind blown several time while reading tbh; the first two parts about anthropology, myth and the judeo-christian texts are easily 5/5 stuff and I had a blast reading them, unfortunately the last part dealing with psychoanalysis, esp. Freud, wasn't as engaging for me personally, mainly because it's not rly my area of interest and I simply know to little about it -- still, all in all highly recommended
Anthony Francavilla
Jan 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Exceptional. Girard's thoughts will change your life. You must read this book.
Lasse Birk Olesen
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mimesis, roughly imitation, is the fundamental learning mechanism of humans as evidenced by e.g. neuroscience.

Acquisitive mimesis is when people desire to acquire objects partly because they in turn are desired by others. Examples of objects include food, weapons, and women.

This gives occasion to mimetic conflict. Many prohibitions have been enacted by law to avoid mimetic conflict, such as prohibitions against copying or emulating others and against eye-for-eye-revenge. There have
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
When we think about who we consider the most influential thinkers in continental philosophy (and of adjacent fields such as psychology and sociology), those that come to mind from the past few centuries include the likes of Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud. Each of them proposed monolithic theories of human history, motivation, conflict, values, and behaviors; for Hegel it was the teleology of the world spirit, Nietzsche the will to power, Marx the class struggle, and Freud his psychoanalysis. ...more
Taylor Pearson
Like everyone else I know that has read this book, I read it because venture capitalist Peter Thiel said it was his favorite book ever and he seems pretty smart so I figured there was something there. Things Hidden is Girards most famous work on Mimetic Theory.

Mimetic Theorys key insight is that human desire is not an autonomous process, but a collective one. We want things because other people want them. As more and more people want something and that thing remains scarce, there is conflict.
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
One of the best and most profound books I have ever read. The great criticism I would suggest is overreach, in that Girard is trying to create a Copernican revolution that merges historical agency, metaphysics, psychology, and anthropology into a combined construct, and as such must at some point overreach himself (especially perhaps in his theist conclusions outside scriptural criticism which seemed much less well formed than his anthropological and literary conclusions). Anyways, few dense ...more
Nov 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
In this text, Girard and his interlocutors range widely in their discussion of mimetic behavior and the way in which it takes shape within human culture. At various points, the results seem to overstate and overreach the evidence available and are used to dismiss, too quickly, other forms of cultural study. The modern 'mimetic crisis' seems too crudely put, derived from a too narrow consideration of the contemporary world.

With all that said, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World
Alex Lee
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a pretty astounding book. The concept of mimesis is posed as a relational configuration by which humans interact and propagate social meaning and structure. I thought Girard spent maybe a little too long on Christianity, but it's still a good exegesis.

He flips the idea of sacrifice on its head and instead notes how mimesis is really about the social management of feelings. Instead of concerning ourselves with the group/hierarchy as the main focus of mimesis we can instead get that each
This man of powerful assertion turns out to actually have something shining and deep to say. Girard very elegantly pulls his argument for culture arising from mimesis and resultant rivalry through the postulated logical loops and then again through the Bible and Freud and I find I am listening.

Violence is poking us in the back whether we acknowledge him or not.
Oct 22, 2008 added it
though decidedly a work of christian apologetics, some interesting anthropological observations.
Mark Pothier
May 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I found this life-changing, and still don't understand why more people are not studying Girard closely.
Cristina Chițu
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
one must understand religion in order to understand philosophy. Since the attempt to understand religion on the basis of philosophy had failed, we ought to try the reverse method and read philosophy in the light of religion

Human beings are soon moved to make religion itself into a new scapegoat, failing to realize once more that the violence is theirs. To expel religion is, as always, a religious gesture - as much so today when the sacred is loathed and abhorred as in the past when it was
Stefan Bruun
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book as renowned investor and entrepreneur, Peter Thiel, has mentioned that this is the single most influential book he has ever read.

The mimetic theory brings a fundamentally different perspective on human behaviour. The reasons we act like we do, desire the things we desire, build our society the way we do etc. Very thought-provoking!
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Eugene by: Denis Vasilev
must read book about mimetic mechanism that may explain lot of things in Human life. Enjoyable reading where authors cover the religion and bible, scapegoating mechanism, relationship, psychology.
Alex Zakharov
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a recent podcast with Eric Weinstein, Peter Thiel pegged Girard as his biggest intellectual influence, making it pretty clear that I cant avoid reading Things Hidden Since the Foundation of World any longer. So a friend and I committed to a two-week Girard immersion and off we went.

And now, let me give away the store, and tell you whats been hidden all of human culture is held up in place by diverting human propensity to mimetic violence towards a sacrifice. Here is how it works.

Humans are
Jun 30, 2016 rated it liked it
I appreciate Girard's main theory of mimetic rivalry and how it functions within religious development. But his notion about the place of that theory as THE KEY to unlocking pretty much everything unnecessarily dismisses other good theories. I wish he could have simply offered his theory without needing it to be received in such a fashion. It would make it more palatable and more effective in the long run.
Erik Steevens
Oct 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: every spiritual seeker
Shelves: philosophy
Wow what a book !!! René Girard's hypothesis makes so much sense, it really completely changed my point of view according that book called 'The Bible'.
I found a path and i opened a door that led me to an insight i was looking for since so long time ago and this is all thanks to this fabulous book.
Chris Eversole
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Read this book, or any of Girard's work, and you will never look at the world the same.
Peter House
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is one of the most interesting philosophical works I have read in a while. René Girard, along with Jean-Michael Oughourlian and Guy Lefort, address a number of facets of human society and culture.

The authors investigate the victimage mechanism, acquisitive mimesis, and mimetic rivalry through the exploration of religion, myth, and literature. The result is a fascinating and insightful walk through on how we behave.

René demonstrates the observation that much of desire is mediated by a
Ben McFarland
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So, over the past few years I kept hearing about Girard, but until I read The Girard Reader this summer, I didn't really have a beachhead into his thinking. Now I've read what some consider to be his central work and, yeah, there's something here. I don't take back what I said before about the fact that Girard thinks like Darwin thought. The same powerful bottom-up mechanism is here, just on the level of human society rather than on the level of biological diversity. I'm still troubled by all ...more
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best I've ever read. Read the other reviews for more detail, I'm no good for that. The first section was a bit of a slog, but it established some important criteria for evaluating Prof. Girard's perspective in the central section, which was dynamite. The last section was difficult too, but illuminated the shortcomings of modern and post-modern psychoanalytic theory. Published in 1978, read by me over 40 years later than I wish I had. How much bs I could have spared myself!
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very meaningful book.

The core concepts of mimetic rivalry are (mostly) written with straight forward and easily comprehensible arguments and examples. Though some of the ideas may fall outside acceptable mainstream thought, the explanations of these unacknowledged realities that are plain to see in world history and contemporary societies make this book difficult to refute. Although Girard maintains an academic tone this book is quite accessible for a wide range of interested readers.
Nick Harris
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
A very interesting book but it was really hard to read. Especially at the beginning it took a while to get used to the vocabulary, and it is also very dense throughout. I read one subsection per day for the better part of a year and got through it. I'm happy that I did though, Girard has deep insight into human behaviour.
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is not an easy text to wrap your head around. Im starting to understand Girard, but still not entirely. This is the best explanation of his views on Judeo-Christian thought so far. But I started to lose it a bit when he starts getting heavy into his critiques of psychoanalysis. ...more
Siddarth Gore
It is setup as a conversation (or an interview) which is most boring. The memetic theory seems fascinating but looks like I will need to find a more accessible book to understand it.

Left it 100 pages in.
Arun Philips
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Toughest read of my life but left behind a good unsatisfaction.

Mimetic Process & Victimage Mechanism power desire, war, human systems.

Soln to fight doubles - love thy neighbor as yourself.
Volo Bonetskyy
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Love is the answer. I've heard that phrase many times, but only after reading Girards' book I felt the truth of it.
Leonardo Tukiman
Aug 11, 2019 rated it liked it
3 stars mostly due to my own personal incompetence as I struggled to find the gist of this supposed masterpiece. Will reread.
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René Girard is a French-born American historian, literary critic, and philosopher of social science whose work belongs to the tradition of anthropological philosophy.

He was born in the southern French city of Avignon on Christmas day in 1923. Between 1943 and 1947, he studied in Paris at the École des Chartres, an institution for the training of archivists and historians, where he specialized in

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“El mejor modo de castigar a los humanos, es dándoles lo que tanto reclaman.” 3 likes
“We can understand why one of the titles given to Jesus is that of ‘prophet.’ Jesus is the last and greatest of the prophets, the one who sums them up and goes further than all of them. He is the prophet of the last, but also of the best, chance. With him there takes place a shift that is both tiny and gigantic – a shift that follows on directly from the Old Testament but constitutes a decisive break as well. This is the complete elimination of the sacrificial for the first time – the end of divine violence and the explicit revelation of all that has gone before. It calls for a complete change of emphasis and a spiritual metamorphosis without precedent in the whole history of mankind. It also amounts to an absolute simplification of the relations between human beings, in so far as all the false differences between doubles are annulled – a simplification in the sense in which we speak of an algebraic simplification.
Throughout the texts of the Old Testament it was impossible to conclude the deconstruction of myths, rituals and law since the plenary revelation of the founding murder had not yet taken place. The divinity may be to some extent stripped of violence, but not completely so. That is why there is still an indeterminate and indistinct future, in which the resolution of the problem by human means alone – the face-to-face reconciliation that ought to result when people are alerted to the stupidity and uselessness of symmetrical violence – remains confused to a certain extent with the hope of a new epiphany of violence that is distinctively divine in origin, a ‘Day of Yahweh’ that would combine the paroxysm of God’s anger with a no less God-given reconciliation. However remarkably the prophets progress toward a precise understanding of what it is that structures religion and culture, the Old Testament never tips over into the complete rationality that would dispense with this hope of a purgation by violence and would give up requiring God to take the apocalyptic solution by completely liquidating the ‘evil’ in order to ensure the happiness of the chosen.”
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