Emilia Cece – Brain or drive


The richest work of Prof. Freud is undoubtedly Zur Auffasung der Aphasien (1891) (1). The interest lies precisely in its being his first attempt to go beyond the concept of the cerebral zone, through the clinical observation of aphasia and the anomalies of language and establish a new logical abstraction that will later permit him to launch a definitive attack on the the “central cortico-cerebral” system and on the localization theory of German neuropsychiatry.

Based on a precise clinical observation, his method inaugurates the overcoming of corporeal limits that will be the foundation of a new epistemology developed around the concept of the drive.

The transition was not without pain because once cerebral focal localization theory failed, nothing was as before.  The mind, the brain, the neuron itself and the associative pathways proved to be obsolete concepts, unable to follow the theories of communication and language that would soon develop.

In the meantime, the clinic of hysteria had upset the concept of anatomy, to the point of asserting that: <<hysteria behaves in its paralysis and other phenomena as if anatomy does not exist or as if it had no knowledge of it>> (Freud, 1893) (2).

Freudian research continued in this hiatus, crossing the unfathomable of a lack of correspondence between soma and being, a mystery to which even experimental psychology could not give form because nothing known and conscious could allow to it, not even the light of evolutionism.

The Freudian concept of drive precisely marks a border between the psychic world  (phantasmatic scene) and the corporeal world (somatic state), contaminating the field of human action that remains conditioned and parasitized by the drive impulse without either the subject or the brain being consciously involved.

The action, on the model of the reflex arc parasitized by the drive repeats itself under the conditioning of this, in any case basically drawing on an unconscious internal reality to which the phantasmatic screen attributes form.

The a-dimensional reality of the unconscious is based on this basic concept which is configured as a place, with no other representation than that of the phantasy, a liar translator that changes stimuli coming from the internal world into stimuli coming from the outside.

These two different realities (internal and external) are only articulated in a dialectical way by the object of desire, impossible to satisfy and non-existent. Therefore, to arrive at the concept of the cut as elaborated by Jacques Lacan as a revision of the problem of language and the symbolic order, permits a new manoeuver by opening up to a new topological conception that considers a surface continuity between internal and external.

When Lacan specifies in Seminar X that the object of desire (3) has a dual nature of cause and aim, it accounts for a fundamental Freudian concept: the necessity to discharge drive stimulus one way or another in order to obtain satisfaction implies that the stimulus is lived as external even if it comes from within.

If the drive points to a headless and rather stupid repetition that activates the phantasmatic scene to make more acceptable actions often rejected by the subject, then desire, because it is more similar as it is conveyed from the symbolic order, permits a passage from the internal to the external.

The aim of a psychoanalysis is to find, through a work of crossing the phantasm, a new connection with the somatic state and its own actions to better balance the way of dealing with reality.

It is therefore no longer a question of circumscribing cerebral localizations but of finding the precise point of that surgical cut that permits the traversal of the phantasm; of finding a detail that makes it possible to use its blunder and approach its inversion.

Interpretation operates this cut and neither the brain nor the mind is necessary to get over it but it will be the subject to say something more about saying the unreasonableness.

Translated by Sabrina Di  Cioccio

[1] Freud S., Contribution à la conception des aphasies, Paris, PUF, 2009.

[2] Freud S., « Quelques considérations pour une étude comparative des paralysies motrices organiques et hystériques », Résultats, idées problèmes, t. 1., Paris, PUF, 2001, p. 55.

[3] Lacan J., Le Séminaire, livre X, L’Angoisse, texte établi par J.-A. Miller, Paris, Seuil, p. 119 et sv.


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