The academic whose fascination with the causes of conflict earned him the nickname "the new Darwin" has died at the age of 91. Rene Girard had a long career at Stanford University in the US.
Girard passed away at his Stanford home on Wednesday US time following a long illness, the university reported.
Born in France, he moved to the United States in 1947. The Frenchman had served as an emeritus professor at the French and Italian department of Stanford University, where he taught for more than three decades.
The author of some 30 books, the university called him "one of the leading thinkers of our era."
He was one of the 40 members of the prestigious Academie Francaise (French Academy), colloquially known as les immortels (the immortals). Fellow member and Stanford colleague Michel Serres had dubbed him "the new Darwin of the human sciences," referring to evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin.
In a statement announcing his death, the university wrote that Girard was especially interested "in the causes of conflict and violence and the role of imitation in human behavior," adding that his "concerns were not trendy, but they were always timeless."
French President Francois Hollande on Thursday praised Girard as a "demanding and passionate intellectual."
Girard is survived by his wife of 64 years, Martha, three children and nine grandchildren.
se/kms (dpa, AFP)