To associate "coopétition" with René Girard's name may come as a surprise. However, René Girard is the person who gives the keys to understanding the challenge that is at work when we are both "competitor and partner" at the same time. COP 21 puts humanity before the responsibility of accepting the other in his or her difference while living an inescapable interdependence. Mirror neurons confirm René Girard's theory by revealing the cerebral mechanisms involved in relational interaction..
Tribute to René Girard
Ahe academic philosopher René GirardMichel Serres, who died recently, is described by Michel Serres as the "new Darwin of the humanities". The theory of desire is a powerful deciphering of human behaviour. Desire is at the basis of learning and the transmission of culture. Jean-Michel Oughourlian, who has written and collaborated with René Girard, makes explicit links between mimetic desire and mirror neurons. The mimetic desire of the child gives him the means of the first learning. The baby's first babbling is an attempt to reproduce the sounds emitted by the mother. The development of the human being takes place through the "inter-dividual" relationship with the other. Three mimetic postures are possible. Copying the model in order to appropriate it, rejecting it in order to define another, or, passive choice, blocking oneself by blaming the other. Each desires what the other has. Competition for the same object can lead to conflict and violence.
The discovery of mirror neurons confirms the mimetic desire theory
Discovered twenty years ago, neural networks in the brain simulate the movements we observe in others. This brain skill is automatic. It is innate...when we see a smile, a mirror smile illuminates our brain and face. It is trained as we learn. Mimes, imitators are champions of the awakening of mirror neurons.... RAMACHANDRAN uses them to trick the amputee's brain into suffering phantom pain. Using a mirror, he tricks the brain into believing that the limb still exists. Pierre Bustany presents the effects of empathic observation on the brain. The test is to perform a thermal stimulation (a bit hot!) on the forearm of a volunteer guinea pig (bottom line). For the observer the same areas are activated + the areas of the visual cortex (top line). The person observing the situation can feel the suffering of the other. Over the course of research, the number of cerebral perceptions reacting to mirror neurons continues to increase. Although the brain knows the difference between "self and other", emotions often blur perceptions.
The documentary Paris-Berlin, destinies croisés (ARTE) illustrates a process of historical mimicry that leads to conflict. Two competing cultures, in search of supremacy, copy and hate each other. Devastatingly violent conflicts have ultimately led them to choose partnership over unbridled competition. The peace of peoples becomes the unifying aspiration. Europe is seeking a balance between peaceful partnership and stimulating competition for progress and growth. Global warming poses the same dilemma for leaders (and ourselves). Scientific consensus plays the role of federator. To be a partner for the common good that is the planet and to remain a competitor in the economic and cultural field. This type of relationship requires a change of mind through greater lucidity about the emotional motivations and brain mechanisms to which we are subject.
Cooperation at the heart of our lives
Any collaboration is subject to the biological reality of mimetic and emotional impacts. Competition and collaboration, two notions that are a priori antinomic, bring an emulation in creativity. Social networks, where we easily make friends, are also a competitive place for "likes" and buzz. In organizations, agile collaboration tries to structure a creative process where everyone is a partner in the result and a competitor for ideas and initiatives. To take advantage of these advances, however, participants must be lucid enough to embody the spirit of collaboration before the spirit of competition.
René Girard paved the way for understanding the sociological impacts of mimicry. Neuroscience with the discovery of mirror neurons gives us the keys to change. It is up to us to become increasingly aware of what influences us, and to learn how to take advantage of this knowledge.
- René GIRARD, Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque, Grasset 1977. Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde, Poche 1983.
- Jean-Michel OUGHOURLIAN, The Third Brain, Albin Michel, 2013.
- Pierre BUSTANY, Mirror Neurons, mimetic research
Mirror Neurons and the New Psychopathology
Another look at pain and empathy Colloquium at the American Hospital in Paris, January 2015
-Vilayanur RAMACHANDRAN, The Brain Makes the Mind - A Survey of Mirror Neurons, DUNOD 2011.