War and sacrifice
comparing Jan Patočka and René Girard
This essay compares Jan Patočka’s challenging reflections on war and sacrifice with René Girard’s cultural anthropology. Both these thinkers questioned the usual understanding of these terms and emphasized how strongly conflicts dominate human life. Concerning war, both recognized the dangers of seeking security and comfort only. These parallels in the work of Patočka and Girard should, however, not blur the differences them. The most important difference stems from their attitudes towards Martin Heidegger. Despite the fact that Patočka tried to surpass Heidegger, he was still committed to his basic framework. Like Heidegger, Patočka criticized onto-theology and treated death as an unsurmountable barrier close but not identical to Heidegger’s being towards death. Contrary to Patočka, Girard distanced himself repeatedly and continuously from Heidegger, whom he saw as a representative of the archaic sacred with its root in violence.
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