The Estates General of Psychoanalysis began with the convocation of René Major, inviting us to consider the crucial problems concerning the future of psychoanalysis. This was an interesting proposition which, on the one hand, admitted a crisis in psychoanalysis, and on the other was addressed to analysts from various countries, who spoke different languages and analytical dialects. This made possible considering the crisis (should it really exist) in our various contexts.
Sergio Benvenuto is a researcher in psychology and philosophy at the National Research Council (CNR) in Italy, and a contributor to cultural journals such as Differentia (New York), aut aut (Milan), Lettre Internationale (French, German, Spanish, Hungarian and Italian editions), Transeuropéennes (Paris), Zona Erogena (Buenos Aires). He translated into Italian Jacques Lacan’s Séminaire X…
1. If at a certain level psychoanalysis incorporates (or tries to incorporate) advances (but not methods!) of natural sciences, analytic philosophy certainly does not. Analytic philosophy itself generally says that sciences are synthetic and not analytic, which is an essential difference. It is true that analytic philosophy is usually (with some exceptions) hostile to psychoanalysis in …
Dear Sergio Benvenuto, Here are a few of my impressions of your essay "Eyes Wide Shut. Is Psychoanalysis in Touch with the Real" (Journal of European Psychoanalysis, nn. 8-9, 1999, pp. 43-66). It seems to me that you've presented a cornucopia of ideas, quite intriguing but insufficiently organized, articulated, and argued for. [The quotations in italics are taken from Eyes Wide Shut]
The title of Shuli Barzilai’s Lacan and the Matter of Origins is a rich condensation that points to several arguments. The matter is first of all mater, the mother, and the book’s central concern is to trace the role of the mother in Lacan’s theories of the constitution of the subject. The thesis is clearly defined and mapped: “the basic itinerary of the mother in Lacan’s work” is that the other is first conceived of as fully present, than as almost absent, and finallyÑafter a period of occlusionÑshe returns under the aegis of the phallus. Nevertheless, the formidable imago of the first period continues to haunt his later work” (2) so that “the Ômaternal theme’ is amply, albeit, varyingly, present throughout his writings” (3). “Origins,” in this thesis, signifies both the mother as origin and the genesis, the origin, of the subject. Highlighting the transgressive character of Anna Freud's work, the author shows how her theoretical accomplishment marks the passage from the Ego as daughter to the Ego as woman. The relationship between Anna and her friend Dorothy would represent in this perspective the presupposition of a 'recognition' of her feminine identity, positing the foundation of feminine identity itself "beyond" the structuring function of the Oedipus. In the end, the paper also argues whether the precocity of the pre-Oedipal relationship of a daughter with her father might constitute an impediment to her capacity for biological procreation.
The paper deals with the origins of psychoanalysis as they are intertwined with the roots of the father-daughter relationship between Sigmund and Anna Freud. Anna arrives at a psychoanalytic theorization which is different from the father's theory by way of emphasizing the Oedipal complex as the matrix of the feminine identity. Highlighting the transgressive character of Anna Freud's work, the author shows how her theoretical accomplishment marks the passage from the Ego as daughter to the Ego as woman. The relationship between Anna and her friend Dorothy would represent in this perspective the presupposition of a 'recognition' of her feminine identity, positing the foundation of feminine identity itself "beyond" the structuring function of the Oedipus. In the end, the paper also argues whether the precocity of the pre-Oedipal relationship of a daughter with her father might constitute an impediment to her capacity for biological procreation.
Ever since philosophy abandoned the concept of soul it has been difficult to define personal identity. For Freud identity had its roots in the body. But the body ego (considered as a system of drives) is captured in a system of dialectics with the other subject. When the subjective body and the objective body intercross, then the image of the body is produced, an image that changes following the development of child sexuality and that individuals model according to their own temperament and history. In communicational relationships with others, the body expresses that for which adequate words cannot be found. Freud calls hysterical symptoms “organ language”. But in the technological age the physiological body extends and strengthens itself with accessories such as the telephone and actual prostheses, like pace-makers or transplanted organs. Where then does Anzieu’s skin-Ego begin and where does it end? Cyberpunk science-fiction saw in advance the intimate connection between man and machine, as well as the production of androids, extracting from this hypothesis very interesting consequences. Instead of condemning bio-technology, Donna Haraway makes an effort to capture its aspects of emancipation and social utopia. Taken in by the great net of global communication, personal identity risks becoming dissipated into a thousand masks. What then does the unity of the subject consist in? In imaginative, mythopoietic creativity, which alone can contrast the depersonalization of globalization processes and the anonymity infused by the presence of technology.
I began my presentation to the clinical section of the Estates General with the comment that the six themes proposed by René Major for the conference could be seen as the six sides of a cube, and "that the questions which arose from these, combined variously, could well revitalize psychoanalysis". I placed great hopes in this meeting - as René Major had presented it - as the occasion for a liberation and emancipation of psychoanalysts from institutional ties, which in a suffocating way become evident at the majority of psychoanalytical conventions. My statement that "at traditional conventions, those considering themselves the pillars of psychoanalysis are usually confirmed in the name of a Master and his school, according to the conviction (and convention) that the stamp of a pensée maîtrisante [mastering thought] is sufficient to guarantee scientific validity to psychoanalytical theory and mask often substantial epistemological weaknesses" was meant in this context.
For those - like myself - who were part of the university world in Paris in May 1968, the gathering for the Estates General of Psychoanalysis (EGP) at the Amphi of the Sorbonne had a special meaning. As everyone knows, in that period Parisian youth had hoped, by their occupation, to make the old Sorbonne the headquarters of a new French Revolution. For me, the idea of holding an Assembly there today held a strong ambivalence. On the one hand, I was moved by nostalgia - our own youth always moves us. On the other, I suspected a hint of regression: the EGP’s double reference to revolution - both to the Estates General of 1789 and to the student occupation of 1968 - seemed to promise a celebration of correct, leftist French Grandeur, a wish to hook oneself to the memories of a grand rebellious tradition in order to ignore the 21st century. And when, on the afternoon of the last day (July 11), we all voted on some decisions by raising our hands, I had the feeling of déjà-vu: I had already voted by raising my hand, along with thousands of others, in this very same Amphitheatre in May 1968, during that exhilarating occupation. I felt at once both tenderness and refusal.
Text read at Sorbonne, Paris, 11 July 2000, at the debate “Relationships of Psychoanalysis with Sciences, Biology and Law”
Text read at Estates General of Psychoanalysis July 10, 2000, in the section “Relationship of Psychoanalysis with Art, Literature and Philosophy”.
Text read at Sorbonne University, Paris, 8 July 2000, at the debate “Clinical Practice”
The paper proposes a renewal of the problem-space in which the relation between psychoanalysis and the cognitive neurosciences is played out; this is in response to the persistent embarrassment or stand-off that characterizes current attempts at dialogue. The authors suggest going beyond classical conceptual oppositions, (mind-body, subject-object etc.), and beyond the seduction of the idea of some 'natural' conceptual translation between the two practices. A process of reciprocal 'transference' becomes central to creating the space in which the "mixed", (both biological and subjective), quality of our objects may be recognized and the pitfalls of reductionism be avoided. For psychoanalysis the hysteric was originally such a mixed or "quasi- object' in which psyche and soma were in a relation of reciprocal representation. On the other hand, the cognitive neurosciences' 'embodied-enactive' and neurophenomenological perspectives provide a philosophical framework for the place of subjectivity and interpretation in scientific work. This important epistemological shift in scientific thinking offers evocative conceptual tools (emergent processes, circular causality), which should transform the difficult dialogue between the neurosciences and psychoanalysis.
The alliance of psychoanalytic practice with medical science and psychiatry, emphasizing diagnostic categories and the treatment of symptoms, betrays the fundamental question of the subject's desire. Most important in the treatment is the subject's speech about his/her history in a particular context, which opens onto that subject his/her coming into being in the world, into generation, death and the limits of omnipotence. Giving up presuppositions that may be obstacles to listening calls for a renewed alliance of psychoanalysis with other disciplines.
The deconstruction of Jacques Derrida is unthinkable without psychoanalysis and psychoanalysis has become unthinkable without Derrida. Derrida’s analyses of logocentric metaphysics, his theorizations of writing, différance and the trace, the archive, and desistance are indebted to Freud’s discovery of the unconscious and its processes. Conversely, a deconstructive reading of Lacan’s discussion of “The Purloined Letter” and of a case in “The Direction of the Treatment” interrogates the position of the analyst and any fixed identification with one or another protagonist of either the fantastic or historical scene.
On the occasion of the meeting of the Estates General, it is appropriate to emphasize that psychoanalysis puts into question the paternal function, and is thereby incompatible with all forms of sovereignty. Psychoanalysis opposes state terror and discrimination: in the face of the death drive, it mourns the loss of mastery and acknowledges guilt. The analysis of the solitary, uprooted subject that Freud inaugurated has been transmitted through discipleship and filiation, and while it has succeeded largely in Western, urban environments, it has spread throughout the world, proliferating in many Schools and diverse institutional settings, without being dominated by any single organization or hegemonic thought system. A contemporary renewal of the practice of psychoanalysis might take into account new forms of parenting and family relations, reconsider the treatment of homosexuality and the definition of perversion, and confront demands for diagnosis and therapy in changing social systems, while remaining open as a critical instrument.
As someone attending the recent conference in Paris, the author poses to himself some intentionally limited questions about some partial aspects of the discussion. Even though his premise is a positive valuation of such an occasion intended for hundreds of people who wished to meet and debate contemporary psychoanalysis's most recurrent topics, he wonders if a certain relativism, typical of modernity, does not have its devastating effects on a discipline which, because of its extraordinarily rigorous ethical standing, appears little keen to agree with the times. A particular consideration is dedicated to neurosciences's position.