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Derrida Vis--vis Lacan: Interweaving Deconstruction and Psychoanalysis

Derrida Vis--vis Lacan: Interweaving Deconstruction and Psychoanalysis

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 351
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  • Book Info
    Derrida Vis--vis Lacan: Interweaving Deconstruction and Psychoanalysis
    Book Description:

    Derrida and Lacan have long been viewed as proponents of two opposing schools of thought. This book argues, however, that the logical structure underpinning Lacanian psychoanalytic theory is a complex, paradoxical relationality that corresponds to Derrida's plural logic of the aporia.Andrea Hurst begins by linking this logic to a strand of thinking (in which Freud plays a part) that unsettles philosophy's transcendental tradition. She then shows that Derrida is just as serious and careful a reader of Freud's texts as Lacan. Interweaving the two thinkers, she argues that the Lacanian Real is another name for Derrida's diffrance and shows how Derrida's writings on Heidegger and Nietzsche embody an attitude toward sexual difference and feminine sexuality that matches Lacanian insights. Derrida's plural logic of the aporia,she argues, can serve as a heuristic for addressing prominent themes in Lacanian psychoanalysis: subjectivity, ethics, and language. Finally, she takes up Derrida's prejudicial reading of Lacan's Seminar on 'The Purloined Letter,'which was instrumental in the antagonism between Derrideans and Lacanians. Although acknowledging the injustice of Derrida's reading, the author brings out the deep theoretical accord between thinkers that both recognize the power of psychoanalysis to address contemporary political and ethical issues.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4769-1
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction: “For the Love of Lacan”
    (pp. 1-14)

    Derrida, it would seem, loves Lacan. It is, he insists, “for the love of Lacan” that he emphasizes the important political obligation to embrace a difficult thinking that rebels against normalization. Lacan in turn is not entirely averse to being loved by Derrideans. Concerning a certain deconstructive reading, he is quoted as saying, “I can say, in a way, if it is a question of reading, that I have never been read so well—with so much love.”² Naturally enough, Derrida’s love is not unconditional: “As always, Lacan left me the greatest freedom of interpretation, and as always I would...

  5. Part 1. From Transcendentals to Quasi-Transcendentals

    • [Part 1. Introduction]
      (pp. 15-18)

      It would certainly pay dividends to examine, along with Husserl and other thinkers who have inventively appropriated Kantian insights, what nevertheless remains unsatisfying about Kant’s transcendental philosophy. One could, with Derrida, also consider what goes against itself in Husserlian phenomenology to engender such proliferation in its name, since it is the impossibility of Husserl’s enterprise that first impels Derrida toward the “ontological” shift, reflected in what he nicknamesdifférance, whose correlative is the “plural logic of the aporia.”¹ However, I have here elected to follow another path from transcendental to quasi-transcendental thinking, namely via psychoanalytic theory. While it is, without...

    • 1 The “Ruin” of the Transcendental Tradition
      (pp. 19-45)

      The word “ontology,” derived from the Greek word for “being,” is often reduced to a name for the branch of metaphysics that concerns itself with characterizing what exists via, as Simon Blackburn puts it, “a prioriarguments that the world must contain certain things of one kind or another: simple things, unextended things, eternal substances, necessary beings, and so on” that “often depend on some version of the principle of sufficient reason.”¹ After Kant, however, the thinking of being can no longer simply characterize “what exists” as if one could determine what things would be like regardless of whether there...

    • 2 Freud and the Transcendental Relation
      (pp. 46-71)

      If we throw a crystal to the floor, it breaks; but not into haphazard pieces. It comes apart along its lines of cleavage into fragments whose boundaries, though they were invisible, were predetermined by the crystal’s structure. Mental patients are split and broken structures of the same kind … and can reveal a number of things to us that would otherwise be inaccessible to us.¹

      In his daily practice, Freud saw an extraordinary contamination: fantasy mixed with reality, discrepancies, conflicts, excessive certainties and uncertainties, symptomatic gaps, slips, blindness, resistances, denials, self-deceptions, and so on, making it impossible to draw a...

    • 3 Derrida: Différance and the “Plural Logic of the Aporia”
      (pp. 72-112)

      If Derrida’s name is almost synonymous with mad misunderstandings, perhaps one has to grant that his texts are frustrating to read at the best of times. Take, for example, his insistence that to ask the question “what isdifférance?” is already to have misunderstood what he means by this nickname, since the question implies thatdifférancecan be made present, that it has an essence or existence of some kind, or that it can be some thing, form, state, or power, which can be given a “proper” name (a name that can be capitalized and capitalized on).¹ But, on his...

  6. Part 2. Derrida Reading Freud:: The Paradoxes of Archivization

    • [Part 2. Introduction]
      (pp. 113-118)

      While, no doubt, countless other pathways may be broken through the thickets of Derrida’s encounter with Freud, my reading here is organized around the theses that Derrida risks inArchive Fever, but it will, in turn, draw from the material of other essays where relevant. For Derrida, the theme of archivization is intimate to psychoanalysis because it ties itself directly to the acts, processes, and places of memory both as individual psyche and as documentation. Addressing the Freudian legacy in these terms, he risks “three plus one” theses (or prostheses) “on the subject of Freud’s theses” toward the end of...

    • 4 The Im-Possibility of the Psyche
      (pp. 119-145)

      Addressing Freud’s theoretical exposition of the psychical apparatus, Derrida proposes on the one hand that Freud’s theorization in both content and structure moves increasingly toward a radically aneconomic “archiwriting,” ordifférance, so subverting the dominant Cartesian commitment that shapes conceptions of the psyche in Western philosophies.¹ This commitment may be understood in terms of the relation betweenmneme, anamnesis,andhypomnema.² Mneme,“living memory,” designates a place of storage “in the flesh.” Lacking intrinsic agency, it belongs with a constellation of concepts related to nature (passivity, materiality, extension, blind force). The power ofanamnesis(the revivification of memories through conscious...

    • 5 The Death Drive and the Im-Possibility of Psychoanalysis
      (pp. 146-182)

      In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud introduces the death drive at the most fundamental level in psychoanalytic theory and subsequently redescribes central notions in its terms. Again, Derrida finds in this notion a reiteration of the quasi-transcendental complexities already described, for any final determination of the death drive is suspended by our inability to demarcate its attributes clearly and on this basis establish orders of preference among them. In trying to conceptualize the death drive, one remains caught between the economic motifs of archivization, namely those of proper repetition associated with conservation and return and the equally necessary aneconomic motifs...

    • 6 Institutional Psychoanalysis and the Paradoxes of Archivization
      (pp. 183-206)

      With unsurpassable subtlety, Freud “analyzed, that is also to say, deconstructed,” what Derrida calls “the archontic principle of the archive,” which, he notes, concerns the “nomologicalarkhēof the law, of institution, of domiciliation, of filiation.”² This principle describes the movement by which the authority that presided over the archive is repeated across generations. As (arguably) the paternal and patriarchic principle, it presupposes that the authority vested in the father is directed toward its repetition in the sons. Freud uncovers the paradox whereby not even the strongest rebellion (parricide) circumvents the circular return of this same authority. At best, the...

  7. Part 3. Interweaving

    • [Part 3. Introduction]
      (pp. 207-212)

      Having outlined the genesis and structure of Derrida’s articulation of the “plural logic of the aporia”¹ and having demonstrated how this logic informs his reading of certain Freudian texts, I hope to have shifted the terrain of any Derrida/Lacan encounter beyond a prejudicial reading that seesdifféranceas an endorsement of a merely textual “freeplay” (the aneconomic aporia). In part 3, I begin to shift my attention to the other side of the coin, so to speak. At this point, my broad aim is to gather further support for the claim that beyond the prejudicial readings on both sides, Lacanian...

    • 7 The Lacanian Real
      (pp. 213-236)

      The first move of Lacan’s treatment of the paradoxical Real in “Tuché and Automaton”² is to defend psychoanalysis against the charge of subjective idealism.³ Psychoanalysis, he notes, is often enough reproached for reducing experience to illusion or for promoting “some such aphorism as life is a dream,” but nothing could be further from the truth. As he insists: “No praxis is more orientated towards that which, at the heart of experience, is the kernel of the real than psycho-analysis.”⁴ In countering the charge of subjective idealism, however, Lacan by no means resorts to the opposing doctrine of naı¨ve realism. To...

    • 8 Sexual Difference
      (pp. 237-260)

      In “Choreographies,” Derrida formulates the question of sexual difference as follows: “Must one think ‘difference’ ‘before’ sexual difference or taking off ‘from’ it?”¹ This question immediately lends itself to two equally misconstrued answers, related to how one determines both “sexual difference” and “difference.” On the one hand, Lacanians make the claim that one must think difference as taking off from sexual difference. However, this claim presupposes an understanding of “sexual difference” as Real (traumatic) and by no means, therefore, subject to a formal binary determination. As Žižek puts it: “if sexual difference may be said to be ‘formal,’ it is...

    • 9 Feminine Sexuality
      (pp. 261-282)

      Derrida’s remark that the “withdrawal … of the dyad leads towards the other sexual difference” condenses his criticism of the binary determination of sexual difference not in the name of a hysterical proliferation of differences (which amounts to a covert promotion of sameness) but in the name of adifférancethat is the equivalent of Lacan’s notion of the traumatic Real.¹ In what follows, I aim to establish the basis for linking this difference between two kinds of difference (binary difference anddifférance) to the Lacanian account of feminine sexuality, dealt with in part 4, by arguing that for Derrida...

  8. Part 4. Lacan and the “Plural Logic of the Aporia”

    • [Part 4. Introduction]
      (pp. 283-290)

      Lacan’s complex theoretical edifice, like Freud’s, is developed from a heady mix of clinical observation, theoretical speculation, and his appropriation of a vast array of literary and philosophical texts. Moreover, as Fink notes, his notions are “shaped and reshaped in the course of his career,” necessitating a choice between presenting them developmentally or structurally. Some, he remarks, will no doubt find a structural account “overly static and closed, one of the many fascinations of his work lying precisely in its constant transformations, self-corrections, and reversals of perspective.”¹ Like Fink, however, I have elected nevertheless to provide a synchronic “cut of...

    • 10 The Transcendental Relation in Lacanian Psychoanalysis
      (pp. 291-317)

      InCivilization and Its Discontents, Freud attributes the persistent human dream of a mythical beginning, where all was encompassed in the circle of self-sufficiency, to the unconscious mnemic trace in all of us of the primordial mother-child dyad (or its equivalents), which is to the infant an original, albeit never actually experienced, “oceanic” plenum.¹ As Copjec notes, one might immediately think of the “body without organs” depicted in Plato’sTimaeusas an early example of such a dream.² However, she argues, given Freud’s insistence that the body through which infants are attached to theNebenmensch(and later the wider world)...

    • 11 The Death Drive and Ethical Action
      (pp. 318-347)

      In answer to the question of how Sophocles’Antigone, a relatively neglected Athenian tragedy, so captured the ethical imagination that it has become a regular reference point for ethical speculation, Copjec proposes that German idealism recharged the play by finding in it the paradigmatic universality/particularity problematic of modern ethics.¹ The abyssal complexity of Hegel’s dialectic of the “ethical order,” to which it is indexed, has generated such a rich tapestry of readings that this reference point is, indeed, most likely to be Hegel’s Antigone. Lacan’s interpretation of the play, then, is as much a matter of finding contemporary relevance in...

    • 12 The “Talking Cure”: Language and Psychoanalysis
      (pp. 348-372)

      Lacan sees in Edgar Allan Poe’s tale “The Purloined Letter” an uncannily perspicacious illustration of certain aspects of his psychoanalytic theory, which in most respects is so well adapted to his purposes that it might have been written expressly to suit them. He hints, however, that it is precisely insofar as Poe was not consciously expounding a psychoanalytic theory that he unconsciously and therefore all the more accurately arrived at certain psychoanalytic insights. I shall offer a brief synopsis of the tale below, with the caveat that Lacan scrutinizes many of the apparently extraneous (but psychoanalytically significant) details I shall...

  9. Conclusion: To Do Justice to Lacan
    (pp. 373-386)

    To review the course of this study, I have tried to demonstrate how the “plural logic of the aporia” emerges from out of the relative ruin of the transcendental tradition, for which Freud, among others, is fingered, and how it comes into its own in Derrida’s thinking as a “repetition compulsion” that one could also call iterability. Turning to the family resemblance that joins Derrida to Lacan, I have described how this logic informs Derrida’s reading of key Freudian texts. Turning to Lacan, I have tried to demonstrate that he rereads Freud’s texts in terms of a “structural logic” that...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 387-438)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 439-448)
  12. Index
    (pp. 449-470)