The Moral Imagination -  Michael Matheson Miller
The Moral Imagination
Ep. 48 Jonathan Bi: Rene Girard - Social Pressure, True and False Desires, Sacrifice, and Belief

Ep. 48 Jonathan Bi: Rene Girard - Social Pressure, True and False Desires, Sacrifice, and Belief

In this episode I speak with Jonathan Bi about the ideas of Rene Girard, social pressure, authentic and false desires, victims and scapegoats, persecution, and Girardian theories on imitation and violence. We also discuss how Girard’s work sheds light on woke capitalism, right and left totalitarianism, Max Scheler, Hannah Arendt, Alexis de Tocqueville, and more. We discuss many themes including:

  • Christianity and Girard’s theory and the secularization and falsification of Christian values such as how humanitarianism and pacificism replace charity and peace and justice and more.

  • Evangelical Counsels and The Rule of St. Benedict as a response to metaphysical desire

  • Different views of the problem of evil: Hegel, Rousseau, Ratzinger, Solzhenitsyn, Girard

  • Human Perfectibility and Utopianism

  • Hope and Progress

  • Benedict XVI Spe Salvi

  • On the goodness of being in the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and St. Augustine.

  • There is no technical solution to the problems of evil, suffering, of death

  • Embedded complexity, the dignity of labor, linear time, and how we live in a Christian civilization

  • Girard’s explanation of how scapegoating others for their behavior reveals that we too would be guilty — and why it is folly to think with confidence that we would not go along with the crowd if we lived under the Nazis or a slaveholding society

We begin a discussion on the atonement, Girard’s views and how to think about sacrifice — that we’ll have to finish in more detail

We also have a discussion about Christianity and Buddhism and religious belief. I hope you enjoy.


Jonathan Bi is an entrepreneur working on a startup in FinTech and a philosopher focusing on Buddhist philosophy, Continental philosophy, and specifically the work of Rene Girard. Among his many projects he and David Perell have created a seven session video course on the ideas of Rene Girard. Originally from China, Jonathan also grew up in Canada, and studied computer science at Columbia.


Jonathan Bi and David Perell Lectures on Girard

On the Atonement — we just got into this briefly, but didn’t have enough time or preparation to address it sufficiently. I am going to have another episode on the atonement, and also on Girard and the atonement, but here are two links to Catholic resources view of the atonement

 New Advent

Catholic Catechism

I See Satan Fall Like Lightning

By René Girard

The Scapegoat

By Girard, René

Deceit, Desire, and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure

By Girard, René

Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration

By Pope Benedict XVI

Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life

By Burgis, Luke

Eugenics and Other Evils (Annotated)

By Chesterton, Gilbert Keith

Ressentiment (Marquette Studies in Philosophy)

By Max Scheler, Lewis B. Coser, William W. Holdheim

Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World

By Girard, René

Buy on Amazon

The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Centaur Classics)

By Tolstoy, Leo

When These Things Begin: Conversations with Michel Treguer (Studies in Violence, Mimesis & Culture)

By Girard, René

The Origins of Totalitarianism

By Arendt, Hannah

The New Science of Politics: An Introduction (Walgreen Foundation Lectures)

By Voegelin, Eric

The Moral Imagination -  Michael Matheson Miller
The Moral Imagination
Welcome to the Moral Imagination Podcast.
The overarching theme of my podcast is what it means to be a human person and what makes for a meaningful and good life.
We will discuss philosophy of the human person, culture, religion, social philosophy, and many other related topics, like education, learning, economics, food, technology, artificial intelligence, and intellectual history. My goal is to interact with ideas and people whose work I find challenging, and intellectually and socially important.