François Ansermet – Thinking in the immeasurable


Linking neuroscience and psychoanalysis is a paradoxical approach that involves placing their non-rapport as a prerequisite to any approach.  Be that as it may, venturing along this path risks misunderstandings, whether in considering them as juxtaposed or in the sense of placing them excessively in mutual exclusion. Of course, in this confrontation there is a risk on both sides. For psychoanalysis, there is the reductionist risk of imagining that it can be confirmed or even proven by neuroscience. But the risk is mainly on the side of neuroscience: the risk is for it to discard psychoanalysis, which in my opinion, psychoanalysis is a future for neuroscience rather than neurosciences is the end of psychoanalysis.

Psychoanalysis poses essential questions that neuroscience cannot dismiss. I will mention two here.

Firstly, that which is brought by the hypothesis of the unconscious – that is, how to put to work in the framework of neuroscience, dimensionless, timeless, synchronic, discontinuous, non-linear processes that characterize the unconscious and that occupy so much space in the life of each one in the political future of the world.  Even that of economics through the unexpected processes of decision-making which respond to an illogical logic which totally ignores the notion of cognitive unconsciousness, that which is limited to the study of the non-conscious.

Then, there is the question of the homeostatic vision of brain function that does not reflect the reality of the world it produces. How can this idealized conception of perfectly regulated processes account for a human who is so disordered and deregulated from the whole world.  It may be to think of moving from neuroscience to logoscience and take into account the parasite that is language – a language that is “on the brain like a spider” (1) – another form of life that subverts the living.

It remains to know how to think in the immeasurable. First of all, it would be a matter of distinguishing between properties and states. The biological properties that establish a discontinuity from which the unconscious proceeds are not the unconscious. Confusion is all too often made through a series of fuzzy concepts such as that of emergence or through unfounded correlations or analogies.  Rather, it is a question of taking into account a series of paradoxes, which in itself leads to the concept of the unconscious which implies uniqueness, difference and discontinuity, until the fact that what is successive was first simultaneous (2); introducing the central place of synchrony which opens to the possibility of a permanent change, through being so determined not to be (3).-  In short, all this goes well beyond any idea of superposition between brain structures and their supposed functions, bringing beyond the biological while including the biological (4).

In short, we remain with the question opened by Lacan, to know what would be “a science that includes psychoanalysis” (5). In any case, for me, this would be a way to approach the proposed theme for the PIPOL9 Meetings.

Translated by Lorena Hojman Davis
Reviewed by Caroline Heanue

(1) Miller J-A., 4th cover of Jacques Lacan, My Teaching, Seul, Paris, 2005.

(2) “Succession implies Coexistence”: Freud S, Current Considerations on War and Death, 1915, Payot Small Library, Payot & Rivages, 2001, p. 25.

(3) Ansermet F, Magistretti P. To Each his Brain. Paris: Odile Jacob, Pocket, 2011.

(4) Ansermet F, Magistretti P. Enigmas of Pleasure. Paris: Odile Jacob, 2010.

(5) Abstract written for the Yearbook of the Ecole pratique des Hautes Etudes, 4th cover, Lacan J., Le Séminaire, book XI, “The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis”, 1964, Paris, Seuil, 1973.

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