(This conversation, conducted by Sergio Benvenuto, took place in Paris, in May 1994, at the Italian Cultural Institute, for the MultiMedia Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences, a program of RAI (Italian Radiotelevision) and the Italian Institute for Philosophical Studies. We thank RAI for having permitted us to publish this text, translated from the French by Claudia Vaughn)
This lecture was originally prepared for the conference on "Memory: The Question of Archives" under the auspices of the Freud Museum and the Société Internationale d'Histoire de la Psychanalyse, London, June 3-5, 1994. I wish to thank Elisabeth Roudinesco for having invited me, and Malcom Pines who, when I fell ill, read my paper in my stead. I have delayed publication until now because I assumed the acts of the conference would be published as a book, but this, apparently, is not to be. As is my custom, I publish this lecture with no stylistic or other changes. The "you" in the text, originally the audience, is now the reader. [Y.H.Y.]
Sergio Benvenuto: Greek tragic myths and concepts have been taken up by modern thinkers-starting with Nietzsche and Freud-to speak of mankind in general. Why do human beings still think in terms of Greek tragedy? Jean-Pierre Vernant: We have become distant from ancient Greek culture. In my youth, all good students in sciences as well as in literature, studied Greek. Physicians, lawyers,…
In general, anthropology and psychoanalysis have not established a working relationship with each other, despite a cross fertilization of ideas between the two in the early days of both disciplines. Thus Heald, Deluz, and Jocopin say: "the most notable feature of European anthropology and psychoanalysis over the last sixty years has been their estrangement"(1).
Lacan has a theory of science. This requires no demonstration because such a theory has been expounded by Lacan himself in various texts and deployed by François Regnault(2). Granted that there is a theory of science in Lacan-and I maintain that it is complete and non-trivial-the question is "why is there one?" The answer to this question may partially depend on what the theory is. I will say something about the latter, but only in order to clarify the reasons for its existence.
"I can assure you," Jacques Lacan said in an interview to Express in 1957, "that from the moment someone was first made to lie down on a couch, and even if the analytic rule was but summarily explained, the subject was already introduced into a search for his own truth. Simply finding himself speaking in that particular way in front of another-a silence made up of neither approval nor disapproval, but of attention-is perceived as a wait...for truth."
Translated from the Italian by Claudia Vaughn
The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, (2) the seventh of a series of twenty-seven or twenty-nine seminars, is but a fragment of some thirty years of speech. Duration, insistence, continuity and discontinuity. Don't miss the general meaning by examining too closely the single moments.
Franz Boas (1) published the autobiography of the Kwakiut shaman Quesalid, a young “free thinker” who scoffed at "medicine-men" (one need not wait for Voltaire or Hume to come across “enlightened thinkers” in any society, even an American Indian one) and decided to attend a school for shamans in order to unmask their tricks. There, he learnt to tuck a small tuft of hair in the corner of his mouth, to be coughed out full of blood at the right moment and presented to the patient as the successful ejection of his illness