This article discusses the influence of Koyré’s epistemology on Lacan’s conception of the real and more broadly on his critical examination of the relation between science and psychoanalysis. The discussion necessitates a systematic return to Koyré, whose visibility in contemporary philosophical and psychoanalytical debates is rather marginal despite his major contribution to the development of epistemology, philosophy and structural psychoanalysis in 20th century France and beyond. The article embeds Lacan’s teaching in a broader intellectual movement of French philosophy of science, which already recognised the necessity of a materialist epistemology. Following this current, Lacan openly associated his take on structuralism with dialectical materialism. Or, this positioning of psychoanalysis can hardly be understood in its overall complexity without re-examining Koyré’s philosophical and epistemological polemics and the influence of his historical examination of the foundations of modern science on mid-20th century structuralism. The latter, one could argue, repeats the modern astronomical revolution in the field of human objects (language, thought, society). Lacan’s structural psychoanalysis was undoubtedly the most radicalised version of this repetition – but precisely this would not have been possible without Koyré’s historical epistemology.
In this contribution we will offer a reading of Freud’s ambiguous therapeutic “advice” to “say more than one knows”. Starting from some preliminary reflections on the issue of confession and Lacan’s theoretical distinction between enunciation/enunciated, we will propose three successive ideas with regard to the notions of unconscious, truth and subjectivity. Firstly, a connection will be established between unconscious enunciation and Austin’s couple of performative/constative utterances. Secondly, we will offer a psychoanalytic notion of “truth” through a brief comparison with the phenomenological procedures of epoché and reduction. Third and finally, we will end with some reflections on the psychoanalytic couple of knowledge and truth.
During its long history, psychoanalytical theory has developed a criticism dealing with almost the entire domain of human culture and civilization. That theory lays bare the unconscious motives and structures which, on the conscious level, can have all kinds of pernicious effects. The weak point of that criticism, however, consists in its awareness that the unconscious motives and structures it brings to consciousness, after its critical analysis, will remain unconscious and repressed. In that sense, psychoanalytical theory performs a critique of criticism as such. Unmasking falsity and lies does not necessarily result in establishing truth.
This essay outlines the contours of such a psychoanalytical ‘critique of criticism as such’, as well as its implications for contemporary critical thought in general. The essay more precisely focuses on the right-wing cultural criticism, which makes use of criticism’s newly discovered ‘tragic condition’ in order to support a conservative ethical, cultural and political programme. This essay proposes a few points of reference replying to these tendencies in contemporary critical thought.
The moral criticism of Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil puts the dogmatics behind the philosophy of utilitarianism and deontological ethics at stake. The philosophy of ‘living as art’ and the human rights philosophy are criticised. The subject of autonomy, or the ‘I’, the agent of most ethical theories, is seen as a grammatical fiction. The concept of the ‘will to power’ serves as a way to deal with the complexity of this subject, given as a field of influence. As a divided ‘will to power’, Nietzsche comes to meet psychoanalysis, whereas the divided subject of the unconsious is put forward. The focus on ‘life as art’ and happiness on one side, and on the human rights ethics on the other side, are reactive versions of ‘will to power’. They show the dominant will to obey. A new version of virtue ethics, now in a dysharmonic universe, is seen as a possible way. The Nietzschean ‘to overcome oneself’ comes to meet with psychoanalytic ethics of desire.