Alba Cifuentes Suarez – Exit the subject

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This week, Laurent Dumoulin emphasises the distinction between the object of neuroscience, brains all the same, and the object of psychoanalysis of which the unconscious testifies in its irreducible singularity, it’s nothing in common. Vilma Coccoz highlights what it is that allows little Hans to find the analytic path: a displacement of the speaking body towards analysis; an exit that puts the speaking body on the way to desire and places the analyst at the knot of the three registers. It is another thing altogether when the exit programmed by the universalising discourse of science concerns the subject itself. To eradicate the singularity that is lodged in each one of us, the singularity of the mode of enjoying [jouir] and that is tantamount to eradicating the subject. François Leguil unfolds two paths adopted by brain science which dispense with the subject of the unconscious: either by bypassing it or cancelling it. If the former does not deny the unconscious, while trying to locate it, the later denies any singular style by arguing that cerebral functioning is the same for all and that it is enough to stimulate it to learn how to extract its full potential.

Where does this lead us? We might think that these are merely theoretical differences. However, some scientific studies today at a minimum pose serious ethical questions. In Spain, a pilot study in brain stimulation was conducted in prison (1). It was a matter of sending a light current through the brain of “volunteer” prisoners using electrodes to stimulate the prefrontal cortex, involved in decision-making and social behaviour. The aim of the study is to reduce the aggressiveness of prisoners demonstrating violent behaviour. The researchers behind this study point out that if it continues and produces good results, it could lead to a reduction in incarceration, which is very costly for society. This research could then be relevant to the general population in order to regulate antisocial behaviour and increase the morality of the human species. Who will judge tomorrow’s acceptable levels of morality? Are we on the cusp of a new ethics? That of the good, well programmed little brain? Lacan already pointed out in 1967: “The progress of universal civilization will result, not only in a certain discontent as Freud already realised, but by a practice, which you will see will become more and more extensive, which will not immediately reveal its true face, but has a name that, whether it is transformed or not will always say the same thing and that will happen: segregation “(2).

Translation: Raphael Montague

  1. https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/3/9/18256821/prisoner-brain-study-spain-aggression-neurointervention-ethics
  2. Lacan J. Petit discours aux psychiatres. Conference of the 10 November 1967 at St. Anne’s. Unpublished in EN.

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