Image of René Girard from the Wikimedia CommonsEarlier this month, Stanford University announced that prominent faculty member René Girard had died after a long illness. Among many contributions, Girard is best known to many for his theory of mimetic desire and his work on religion and violence.

In particular, Girard was interested in the causes of conflict and violence and the role of imitation in human behavior. Our desires, he wrote, are not our own; we want what others want. These duplicated desires lead to rivalry and violence. He argued that human conflict was not caused by our differences, but rather by our sameness. Individuals and societies offload blame and culpability onto an outsider, a scapegoat, whose elimination reconciles antagonists and restores unity.

Read full obituaries of Professor Girard from Stanford UniversityLe Monde, and the New York Times. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Religion & Ethics blog has published an appreciation of his work of his work.