Kristeva and Cognitivism

Jacques-Marie-Émile Lacan'''
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(Kristeva, 2000: p. 42)

“You will see that the third model is much less optimistic, but for now let us stay with the second, and The Interpretation of Dreams, and consider Lacan’s con­tribution. In my opinion, the Lacanian assertion that “the subconscious is struc­tured like a language” constitutes a careful reading of this second Freud, whose essential aim Lacan elucidates. I am not one of those who feel Lacan indulges in an overly personal interpretation of Freud because he speaks of the signifier and not the drive and who are content to point out the outrageousness of the Lacanian reading. On the contrary, I think this reading applies all the rigor of the philosophy and linguistics of the sixties to the second Freud, and this La­canian rigour was certainly new. Nevertheless, the idea that language and the unconscious are dominated by the conscious, that the unconscious is organized like a grammar or rhetoric, is a Freudian position that does, in effect, support the statement that “the subconscious is structured like a language.”

The mathematicization of the unconscious pursued by the Lacanian school and, in another way, the cognitivistic ascendancy over unconscious fig­ures-the computational strategies applied today to conscious and uncon­scious processes-seem to me affiliated with this second Freudian program, formulated in The Interpretation of Dreams: Psychotherapy’s “task being to en­sure that the unconscious processes are settled and forgotten … The only course which psychotherapy can pursue is to bring the Ucs. under the dominion of the Preconscious.” This attempt to capture the unconscious in the conscious is, I think, very clearly inscribed in the Freudian project at this moment. It is not possible because language, as Freud understands it, is itself the place of this domination of the unconscious by the conscious. (I would also like to point out here that the unconscious of cognitivists has nothing to do with the Freudian other scene and that it ignores the primary processes and the other logic that governs sexual traumas; the cognitivistic pseudo-unconscious refers essentially to automatic functionings and mechanical acts and concerns lack of attention rather than the unconscious.)”

(Kristeva, 2000: p. 66)

“We are no longer in the realm of psychology and even less in that of psy­chiatry: the serene signifiance opens the analyst’s listening to being, certainly, but to a curiously altered being. Our memory, awakened by the narrative sexed in transference, indeed constitutes an unconscious Other (Lacan capitalized it) that inhabits us. We are at the heart of an unsettling strangeness here, and at the same time this memory, however outrageous, is invested by the narrative that restores it to us, that submits it to the domination of the conscious, that de­ciphers in language and addresses an Other.

This is a major stumbling block for cognitivist theories, which cannot con­ceive the Other except as an addressee, a double of “myself’ and, as such, knowable insofar as identical to “myself.” Now, the history of philosophy­, particularly, Descartes, Husserl, and Heidegger-teaches us that there is a log­ical obligation (“I think, therefore I am”) whereby my relationship to others implies a relationship of being to being and not of knowledge to knowledge. This means that, insofar as the other is himself, “I” cannot know him as such but only think of him in his own being, in his being as an other. If “I” try to think of him, I make the wager that since he is not me, he is different from me, he exists differently than me. “I” therefore make a wager of otherness, a wager in the Pascalian sense, the validity of which nothing can prove to me and which is absolute transcendence. Sartre, as I will show, put this brilliantly in Being and Nothingness: in order to accede to the other, to absolute imma­nence, “we must ask absolute immanence to throw us into absolute transcen­dence.'” The immanence where I am deep within myself (“I” love myself, “I” hate myself, “I” accept myself or kill myself: basically, “I” contemplate myself) is only possible in relation to an other; this has been said often enough. What is more difficult is to think that this other exists differently from me, that he is not simply a mirror image of myself; it is up to me to convince myself that there is an other whose being is radically “not me.” People have managed to do it, in a way, insofar as they have imagined an other who goes beyond them and who is not them, whom they have placed above them and who reigns over the world.

The Freudian revolution proposes that this absolute transcendence is quite simply what makes us speak by making us other-beings, which implies that, far from resembling others, being is always continuously other. This is Freud’s post- or anti-Cartesian wager: an ego addresses another ego, of course, but in fact it is a subject (“I,” who thinks and is) addressing another subject in being.”

(Kristeva, 2000: p. 94)

“I want to emphasize the copresence of sexuality and thought in order to disso­ciate myself from two currents of thought that investigate the psyche: cogni­tivism, on the one hand, which considers the mind solely from the point of view of consciousness, and a pre-Lacanian psychoanalysis, on the other, or at least a psychoanalysis that circumvents the Lacanian contribution and heads off into either a sort of organicism or an analytical approach that accentuates only the fantasmatic aspect of the psychical experience without taking thought into ac­count. Instead of psychoanalysis as a matheme of the signifier, or a theory of “the mind,” or the transaction of organs and drives, I will try to show that the originality of the Freudian discovery resides in this: psychoanalysis is a clinic and a theory of the copresence of the development of thought and of sexuality. This two-sided (thought/sexuality) approach to the speaking being, which I see at the heart of the analytical experience, is an original variant of the age-old no­tion of dualism, and far from biologizing the essence of man; it centres the study of the psychical apparatus, its deployment, and its obstacles, in the bi-univocal dependency of thought-sexuality/sexuality-thought.”

(Kristeva, 2000: p. 180)

“From now on, my relationship to the other is not one of knowledge to knowledge but being to being. “My relation to the Other is first and funda­mentally a relation of being to being, not of knowledge to knowledge” (p. 244)’ I ask you to contemplate this: who has drawn the consequences of this? Surely not the cognitivists, who return at best to Husserl and who assault us with strategies of cognition that are refinements of cogitation, not analyses of con­sciousness. The analysis of consciousness was done by Freud, who exposed in it the veritable negativity that is that of the unconscious and its “other scene,” its heterogeneous logic, including the drive. But Sartre did not want to deal with this, while at the same time being one of the rare writers to refer ­obliquely to psychoanalysis. By the same token, psychoanalysts would do well to reread this Sartrean debate concerning “knowledge,” “consciousness,” and “being” when they try painstakingly to define the other, confining it within strategies of knowledge and knowing intersubjectivity.

If it is true that Sartre stopped to consider the Freudian discovery and the as­ yet unexplored terrain it opened up, we might also say that what he calls the scandal of the plurality of consciousnesses is precisely what leads him to litera­ture, specifically to the novel, whose fabric is constellated of singularities: frag­mentation, separation, and the conflict of consciousnesses. Only literature can restore “my hawthorn blossoms,” “my characters” (Mme. Verdurin, M. de Char­Ius, etc.), singularities issued from my own and altered. Being then disperses its generality and, in the pages of Proust, for example, as in Nausea, dissolves in the superimposition of characters and sensory words such as “nausea.”

Let us continue with Sartre but alongside Heidegger this time: a Heidegger who profited from the philosophy of Husserl and Hegel, particularly in Being and Time. In order to remain within the Hegelian problematic of the other, Sartre stopped at the notion of Mit-Sein: “being-with.” Heidegger interests him here insofar as he is thinking about the accessibility or inaccessibility of the other. “Being-with” is the test of my being. Note that it is neither my knowledge nor my consciousness but an “essential being” on which “human realities” depend.”


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