The 'Charles Darwin' of human sciences

French-born philosopher René Girard provides important insights into the causes of violence, and the connection between religion and violence. The Australian Girard Seminar was formed recently to explore and spread his ideas.

Its website outlines his significance as follows: 'René Girard offers the most comprehensive, boldest, and most controversial account of human motivation, culture and religion. This French-American thinker weaves literature, anthropology, philosophy and theology into a developing project with many convinced followers in all these areas, also many critics.'

This interview on Eureka Street TV is the second of a two-part series on the work of this seminal thinker (view part one). The interviewee is one of Australia's leading experts on Girard, Anglican priest and theologian, Scott Cowdell. It was recorded at a conference on Girard called 'Violence, Desire and the Sacred' held earlier this year at the University of Sydney.

Cowdell was born in Brisbane in 1960, and grew up there. After his first degree, in physics and mathematics, at Griffith University he began studying for ordination in the Anglican Church. He gained a bachelor's degree in theology from St Francis College in Brisbane, and an arts degree and his PhD in theology from the University of Queensland.

Since ordination to the priesthood in 1988, he has held positions around the country. In Brisbane he worked as a parish priest in Fortitude Valley and Chermside, and lectured at the Brisbane College of Theology and University of Queensland.

He moved to Melboune where he taught at Trinity College Theological School in the University of Melbourne, and at the United Faculty of Theology. Then to Adelaide where he was principal of St Barnabas' Theological College and lectured at Flinders University.

He now lives in Canberra. For five years he was rector of the Anglican church in the suburb of Manuka, and lectured part time in theology at Charles Sturt University. He is associate professor of theology at Charles Sturt, and founding president of the Australian Girard Seminar.

Cowdell is an accomplished writer, penning articles for a range of theological journals, and authoring a number of books, including Atheist Priest? Don Cupitt and Christianity; Is Jesus Unique? A Study of Recent Christology; A God For This World; God's Next Big Thing: Discovering the Future Church; Abiding Faith: Christianity Beyond Certainty, Anxiety and Violence.

His forthcoming book about Girard is called René Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture and Crisis. 

To read or make comments on this article, click here.

Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity. 

Topic tags: Peter Kirkwood, Scott Cowdell, René Girard, Australian Girard Seminar, religion and violence



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