This paper looks at how the concepts of repetition and temporality were being conceptualised at the early stage of Lacan’s work in terms of his interest in cybernetics, and explores how repetition and temporality were being brought together within the overarching framework presented in the postface to the seminar on The Purloined Letter. Consideration is given to how Lacan theorises the automatic, autonomous nature of unconscious contents, their timeless indestructible character, and the distinction between conscious and unconscious memory. Adding to this Freud’s concept of Nachträglichkeit, the author looks at the difficulties in conceptualising a psychoanalytic notion of time within the context of repetition compulsion.
This paper explores how the influence of cybernetics within structuralism contributed to Lacan’s theory of the signifier as (functioning within a) structure. By examining his Freudian exploration within the broader scheme of American and French thought, the author extrapolates the link between these two theoretical paradigms and the implications that this had for his work. It is argued that in contrast to the apparent ease with which the structuralist paradigm was incorporated into Lacan’s theory, the surprise of his Seminar attendees when presented with cybernetics in 1954 was not altogether warranted. By exploring the close interaction between Jakobson and Lévi-Strauss during the 1940s, the author shows that the structuralist paradigm was already quite heavily invested by cybernetics. In commenting on two slightly different translations of an intervention that Lacan makes during the Bonneval Colloquium with Jean Hyppolite, the author pinpoints a likely turning point within Lacan’s work, within the context of his thesis on the temporality of the signifier and its relationship to the Freudian notion of repetition.
Freud’s characterization of the psychic apparatus is profoundly ambiguous. On the one hand, it tends towards a reductionist framework that explains psychic phenomena largely in terms of mechanical processes in the energetic economy of the psyche. On the other, it points towards a framework that affirms the autonomy and holistic nature of the psychic and the radical contingency of psychic phenomena with respect to mechanical processes. In this text, an attempt is made to develop the latter conceptualization as the most fruitful aspect of psychoanalysis for current reflections on the psyche. This is done by via an alternative interpretation of the negative determinations of the unconscious in Freud’s works, in particular that of the timelessness of the unconscious. These determinations can be clarified by relating them to Freud’s theory of association from the study on aphasia. In this view, the timelessness does not refer to the theory of regression, grafted onto the naïve interpretation of trauma, but to non-linear processes of (self-) organization that produce the radical, creative singularity of that which is psychic.