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Who Decides Our Desires?
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Who Decides Our Desires?

Luke Burgis on why what we want is dependent on the whims of others.

This week, we were excited to have author

on the pod to talk about a hot topic: desire. Specifically, mimetic desire—the idea that desires are often generated through our human propensity to copy each other. He's written an excellent book about this called Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life. First theorized by the French philosopher Rene Girard, and present in everything from The White Lotus to the writings of Peter Thiel, mimetic desire is everywhere around us.

In our ever more adversarial politics, we talked about how to identify the power of mimetic desire in our society. It can be resisted—if we know where (and how) to look. And more: what does it mean to be a "political atheist," as Girard, a Catholic, called himself? And is Damir going to Hell?

In the full episode (for paying subscribers only), we also pondered what the more pessimistic conclusions of mimetic theory might be. Are we doomed to repeat cycles of imitation and scapegoating? Do citizens in democracies really deliberate rationally, or are they just following the leader?

We closed by asking what implications this could all have for our personal lives. How can we determine which of our desires are "thin"—mimetically taken from others—or "thick"—coming from a deep sense of self? Do we have to consciously restrain our own choices? And what might our lives look like if we regain our sense of self-possession?

NEW SUBSCRIBER FEATURE. We’re excited to roll out video versions of the podcast, available below. Enjoy!

Required Reading:

  • Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life, by Luke Burgis (Amazon).

  • Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, by Rene Girard (Amazon).

  • Shadi’s bad sports tweet.

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Appears in episode
Damir Marusic
Shadi Hamid