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Ignoramus: The Not-To-Know of Psychoanalysis

Ulus Baker

Unfinished translation of Turkish article 'İgnoramus: Psikanaliz neden işe yaramaz?'

The adventurous relationship of mankind with the fundamental psychoanalytic notion of the "unconscious" can be reflected in the clearest form through the question --was there an uncoscious before Freud? One can think that this problem could be considered in the context of Claude Lévi-Strauss' answer to the question --who are your predecessors?-- asked about "the first structuralists": he had the courage to ansewr --"Caduveo natives"... One can even add a further question to this: "how an unconscious thought could be possible?" --an astonishing question by the most ordinary common sense opinion... Here, we will not try to ask the same question but we will critically consider the notion of Unconscious, since it relates to our problematization of the opinion, through various sections and sequences of the analytic literature. We will try to pose the question of this "not-to-know" about thoughtful processes. Or this very question led us to an active force which is necessarily conceived by the Western "cerebral thinking" --depicted by Joseph Needham-- as both its "end" and "treshold" before action. This "not-to-know" was distinguished from the unconscious in that it did not appear as something to be unveiled or discovered. In this manner, it rather appeared as an active stimulant, as an increase in mind's active, creative and productive powers in every domains of life. The "unconscious" aspect of this not-to-know comes from its status which does not refer to an "already existing" presence --a status of ready-made. Its status does not come from a Heideggerian Vorhandenheit, presence-towards-the-hand, nor from an "unknown" out there, waiting for our discovery. It remains as something to be produced, formed and fabricated. It has to be created in the domain of a transvaluating activity, since there are no pre-established norms and values of creation. Briefly speaking, this "not-to-know" is not simply an ignorance. It is the necessity to act that appears at the limits of consciousness qua consciousness, knowledge qua knowledge, speech qua speech. Beyond, one can only act or react. One of its mportant aspects can be said to be shown in Marx's famous words: "philosophers have hitherto contented themselves in interpreting the world, or what is important now is to change it" . In short, ignorance as "not-to-know" is not a state that preceded the acquirement of knowledge, but which succeed it: it is succeeded by action.

Hence, we have now to reproduce a Spinozist notion of the unconscious, against the psychoanalytic unconscious. The "not-to-know" is no longer the unexplainable nor the unknown. Nor is it an "inability" or "failure". On the contrary, it is an active force that produces and reproduces the "new", new experiences and desires. In this perspective, what was determined by the psychoanalysis as a "lack", while the unconscious could never be marked by "negativity", does not correspond to the content of the not-to-know.

Thereby, we need now to invert a series of psychoanalytical arguments and reflections, including the contents of some categories of psychoanalytic literature. We begin by recalling the "discoveries" of psychoanalysis which we were hitherto indepted to applaud: the Oedipus complex, Desire, Instinct and Repression... Or it seems that the Oedipus complex is like a Zwangsneurose, an idée-fixe that locked in the entire psychoanalytic theory, practice and its sustaining culture and sub-culture. This is what condemns psychoanalysis, in spite of its obvious "revolutionary" beginnings, to a familial milieu and environment, where an aberrant and assimilating normalization process is relinquished within the therapeutic practice. The worst thing in psychoanalysis is its general confusion between therapy and normalization. It is evident that a "complex" always contains by definition a "forcing", even a "necessity". But psychoanalysis will still continue to esteem the "solution" of the Oedipus complex. Its main goal will tend to become the formation of an "adult" individual to be regained by the family milieu even when it often assumes a role of "help" or "assistance". It becomes today more and more difficult to distinguish between the aims of institutionalized psychiatry (a bio-political practice) and those of psychoanalysis (a scientific world-view).

An this famous and strange assumption of the "castration complex" alongside the Oidipus functions within psychoanalysis as a Trojan Horse, while proving that psychoanalytic theory and its metapsychology fails to develop a proper idea of the body, by marking human desire with anthropomorphic and sexist values. From its perspective, desire is nothing more than a manner of tending towards a lack, a deprivation or absence. It is merely an emptiness. Thus its aim or finality is satisfaction, conceived as the absence of desire. In order to prove this, psychoanalysis refers to the categories of "phantasm" and of the "imaginary", which are supposed to obey to the totalized Rule of the Law, which is nothing but the abstraction of Power and Authority (sometimes refined as the Name of Father, as in Lacanians). This means that, as if in a higher dimension, the Law is symbolically determined --as language-- and this Law organizes the boundaries, as Lacan would like to say, between language and imagination. The Rule of the Phallus and such implicatory categories like The Name of the Father are used as a network for capturing the "reality" on the one hand, and the symbolic/imaginary on the other, and this network in fact consists in a larger semantic domain, which is not fully explored by the psychoanalytical theory, including that of the Lacanians. There is at least one fundamental question which is not answered: practically, what to do with these categories? One fails to ask what to do with language (pragmatics), with sexuality (ethics), with labour (economics and politics) and with desire in general.

Neglecting practical necessities, psychoanalytic theory and culture tend to reproduce in many various ways the bondage of the weak individual to the socio-economic and familial orders, and thereby the fatalistic logic of slavery in general. Even in its most radical and critical avatars (as in Lacan and his followers, the French feminism and the academic post-colonialist literature) psychoanalysis or any other theoretical "cultures" under its influence, what matters is only describe this bondage by means of a weak "critical" inlook. Yet, in accordance to an elegant formula by Adorno, "criticism" in general is already bounded by the power and extention of what it intends to criticize, and it is a "weak thinking", since it is already proportional to what it attempts to ciriticize. This is just because, even from a critical perspective, to reconstruct, to interpret, to "understand" or even to "deconstruct" purely symbolic orders can never be sufficient in themselves. In other words, with simple critical attitudes one cannot constitute the logic of the action, that of the "ignoramus". Everything which is achieved by "criticism" is to develop, upon theoretical and critical foundations, a blind spot, a constant postponing of a contact with the non-discursive domain (the other or the non-discursive). Criticism, whether psychoanalytic or Marxist (or at least those adopting them as a method for discussion) is always in a double-bind with what it tends to criticize. When the so-called deconstruction is bound up to "structures" it intends to dissolve, and "intertextualty" to the "texts" it is intending to criticize, their critique will certainly depend upon a superoir, almost enigmatic order of a norm, of a rule or law. They thus belong to the same order or dimension. Or these "fates" should communicate with different and other orders, systems or regimes, to create contaminations, expansions instead of syntheses, propounding an active plurality of relationships --between "collective" and "individual", between "female" and "male", between "major" and "minor", between the "exploiter" and "exploited", between the West and the East, etc,.

Such an exclusion of "reality" in psychoanalysis has created so many harms in contemporary human thinking that we are not here entitled to cite them one by one. But the most important of these harmful effects is the failure to understand that the "real" should be created, produced. This is even true for the production of the symbloic and the imaginary. The cinematographic apparatus was aware of this necesity, more than psychoanalysis: there is an unconscious, but this unconscious appears only when it creates, not remaining as pure interpretation. We should wait for a "creation" of the unconscious, and this creation should be its major work. This recall of "production" is not coextensive with the moderated attempts for establishing a fusion or marriage between psychoanalysis and Marxism. To our belief, it is impossible, if not futile, to establish such a union as if a complementarity was possible, simply by adding what one neglected from the other side. Such a "marriage" could only be possible when one is capable to introduce production into the unconscious and the non-teleological desire into the real relationships of production. And in Freudian psychoanalysis, what essentially lacks is precisely such a conception of desire.

Psychoanalysis has prepared its end (both theoretically and practically) already in its early beginnings, when he conceived desire as a lack, or absence. Theoretically, it first faced to risk its fundamental concepts, like Oidipus, castration, narcissistic self (or "subjectivity"), and themes like Pleasure Principle and Reality Principle. First and foremost, we are today capable to talk about pre-Oidipal and post-Oidipal societies or cultures. The uprising of an even single individual among those maddened by civilization (Nietzsche, Artaud?) can show that the possible should not be left to the lamenting thinking that defines the possible by its boundaries and limitations. These cultures can operate both at the individual levels ("madness" and psychosis) and in collective, social dimensions ("primitive" societies, the East, perversity and "sub-cultures"). It is sufficient to attempt at a psychoanalysis of religious sects and communities today, rather than those of the individuals or of terrorist organizations. At every instance when the fog of ideological phantasies and of blindness is removed one can see that "group phantasies" tend to become much more important than individual "perversions" and phantasies. And, already at the level of the individuals, phantasies are mainly belonging to a kind of act of creation, especially in artistic-aesthetic domain. We can develop the fundamental thesis of Gabriel Tarde, to suggest that the individual phantasy is the creation of the real, an intercerebral movement towards the creation of the new, whatever its kind --a dream, imagination, or work of art. Yet, an individual does not exist, in opposition to a collectivity. It exists as "individuals", but the latter is not, as Durkheim believes, a society sui generis. There are merely "individuals" and the "individual" as such does not exist, and it is merely a pure abstraction. Even Oidipus appears as one of the worst described misunderstandings, or a phantasy of Dr. Freud. There are people wo remarked how Freud was cordially faithful to the Oidipus myth, which he fails to interpret adequately. This belief was perhaps lacking even in Ancient Greeks. While it was bound to a tragedy, Freud's conception of Oidipus has never been "tragic", since it purported to reproduce the familial conditions of an age and geography, which was anachronistically different from those of the Greeks. The result was what Deleuze and Guattari have described: an imperialism and colonialism of the Oidipus, intended to be "universal".

Today, the privileged notions in psychoanalysis tend to become "narcissism" and "ego ideals". They have at least a more clarified technical "detail" in their description and they more adequately conserve in themselves the entire empirical domain of psychoanalytic specialization. Or, the hopes linked to these concepts in reforming or even "revolutionizing" the psychoanalysis are still more futile, as they were already aborted conceptions if not distorted ones. Psychoanalysis continues to admit narcissism as a "primordial state". Thus, its apparition in any individual appears as a case of "regression", an immaturity in relationships with the world. In the writings of Freud, narcissism constitutes the foundational unconscious "resistance" against the attempts for the therapy. It is the resisting unconscious force against the transfer. But in this perspective, narcissims tends to be first "individualized" and then is reflected to the proper domain it belongs, to the historical-societal level. This is truly an extremely long détour. One could admit that subjectivity is not a "datum", an "already-given", since it is "produced" by institutions like religion, family or "disciplinary societies" or by mass communications and information systems, or, more deeply, by economic and social structures. This means that psychoanalysis leaves such notions as narcissism or "phantasm" without real content and correspondence.

Truly speaking, nothing is absent in psychoanalytical theory as the "body", as already in Freud, psychoanalysis replaces the body with incorporeal substances or phenomena like the "ego-ideal" or the "imago" (especially in Lacan). One can already feel how any discussion about this "primordial self" could ultimately destroy the fundamental tenets of psychoanalysis: at least such a discussion has precisely been the one which led Deleuze and Guattari (but first and foremost the "theater of cruelty" of Antonin Artaud) towards the notion of "body without organs". This is because the "narcissism" in psychoanalysis is not chronologically a "prior" state, but rather a state to come, belonging to an indeterminate future. It is part of an autism in which, as if in the Doppler Effect in astrophysics, the individuals are falling apart from each other, with an ever increasing distance. Sociologically, such an autism is helped by the technological developments at work, probably leading the cockoon generations tdwards such a kind of autism, under the banners of what has now been called as "information society".

One can still acknowledge once more a fundamental merit of psychoanalysis: that it has invented the unconscious... Or this success has subsequently been lost or caducisided. The unconscious is not something like a cuneiform tablette to be deciphered, a divine scripture to be interpreted and especially an "obscure world". It should first be evacuated from every such Platonic representations and thereby re-conceptualized as an active, creative ignoramus in the service of knowledge, art and philosophy and recalled to be reshapen by them. Or, a series of prejudices and shortcoming of the psychoanalysis create major theoretical and practical obstacles against such a re-interpretation. These obstacles, or rather aporias are belonging primarily to the order of neglected, distorted or repressed human experiences. These experiences make it difficult to create human "living arts": the art of love, of death and of telling the truth, in short, the fundamental art of the ignoramus and its work.

Our first question is then: is it possible to "love" through psychoanalysis? A rather bizarre question, but it reflects the limits of the practical, experiential merits of psychoanalytic theory and practice. Recalling sexuality at a determinate moment, psychoanalysis has nevertheless tried to manage a passage from its valuable "family romance" to a "love romance". But this has been in correspondence with a dislocation: among these "romantic" references, there happens the emergence of some problematic areas of interest for psychoanalysis --especially literature and art criticism. What is intended by psychoanalysis (an analysis of the psyche and a technique for therapy) comes now to expand beyond its limits. Today semiotic and cultural studies are suffering from this psychoanalytical imperialism. Or one should ask whether analytical categories could ever penetrate the "dephts" of such areas, since it is impossible to ascertain whether there are really such "depths" at stake. Are we believing in the complexity of a literary personage in the novel in the same manner with the complexity of a real individual? And psychoanalysis would now like to turn towards the psychic life that it assumes to belong to the "artistic creator", with a rather fraudulent coup de force. This is evident in Freud's studies of Dostoyevsky and Leonardo da Vinci. Or the "creator" is still more, thereby, isolated from his or her real conditions of life (his essential "biography"), condemned to the Oidipal triangle, to a kind of decisive familial romance, to the so-called reaction of sublimation. The only critical point is whether there really exist such a "creative genius", which still today, remains without a proper concept. Does a writer like Proust really needs to be "psychoanalytically" interpreted in order to develop his themes of "love romance" to carry everything out a familial context, to reach the mundane societal life experiences? Mundanity is another kind of familialism with its own romances and life experiences. One cannot say that analytical categories could ever be capable to penetrate these domains in their reality, as Proust or Chekhov could have done it. This is perhaps because such a “deeper reality” doesn exist, and that everything in literature is at the surface. Hence psychoanalysis will refer, almost existentially, to the “psukhe”, to the psychism of the “creator”.

Secondly, while psychoanalysis was confusing itself from its earliest times with the interpretation of dreams

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