Patricia Heffes – The empirical évidence of Spaltung


Gathering the scientific discourse in a sentence with the Freudian commitment to the unconscious is a great way to introduce ourselves fully to the theme of the next PIPOL Congress. The matter of the experience of the unconscious and its non-relationship with the brain are exposed from an apparent paradox. It is a phrase that we find in a Course by Jacques-Alain Miller when he seeks to “makes the experience of the real exist in the analytic cure” (1), an idea that he picks up from Lacan’s text “Science and Truth “.

What is the empirical evidence of the Spaltung? It is an updated way of referring to Lacan’s idea, “the statute of the subject in psychoanalysis, (…) at the end, we reach to establish a structure which accounts for the state of split, of Spaltung, which the psychoanalyst detects in his praxis.” (2). This already appears daily in the very recognition of the unconscious, but to know what happens in the praxis, the empirical fact is not enough even when the empirical fact is presented as a paradox. It is surprising that Lacan refers to empirical evidence, but it must be understood, as Miller says, that it is not in any way, “he only admits it because he believes it to be based on reason and articulated in mathemes.” (3)

But what can be recognized in practice? It is through the phenomenon of surprise- which Miller also refers to in that Course- where the Spaltung experience is situated. When the subject speaks he does not know what he says and the meaning that will emerge is generated from the signifier chain; it is interpreted in its evolution. For example, one can see how much the new meaning produced by a signifier articulation surpasses the previous one; the effect of surprise arises in the saying itself. What surprises is the meaning that it acquires and, in particular, since the analytical device encourages a word without response from the Other, it disintegrates in its very appearance the subject’s idea of possessing an identity. Therefore, as Miller shows, the word itself is experience in the analytical device.

And if “from our position as subjects we are always responsible” (4) there is misunderstanding, confusion, “error in good faith” or any other meaningless effect, the Spaltung bursts in as a question, opening the doors to the manifestation of anxiety through recognizable phenomena in the experience. Without a doubt, the Spaltung “is evidence” in a groundbreaking way, revealing that there is One that is not part of the chain and that there is that which does not allow itself to be caught by the signifier, that, which is at the very foundation of the Spaltung.

This matter of experience is possibly another way of explaining the “nothing in common” that the title of PIPOL 9 has placed between unconscious and brain. The experience of psychoanalysis as an experience of the real is concerned with a singular concept of that real with which Lacan indicated that is “completely alien to meaning” (5). It is in this line that it can be said that the experience of psychoanalysis says nothing about the brain.

Translated by Lorena Hojman Davis

(1) Miller, J.-A. “The experience of the real in the psychoanalytic cure”, Paidós, CABA, 2011, p. 127

(2) Lacan, J. “Science and truth”, in Écrits 2, Siglo XXI, Argentina, 1985, p. 834

(3) Miller, J.-A. Id., P.127.

(4) Lacan, J. Id, p.837

(5) Miller, J.-A. Id, p. 133

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