Uses of the Neurosciences for Psychoanalysis
Éric Laurent

Author’s Bio

Laurent read this paper at “Neurosciences and Psychoanalysis…” on May 27, 2008 at the College de France. It was published in La Cause freudienne no. 70, December 2008.
Translation by Marcus A.K. Andersson.

Francois Ansermet and Pierre Magistretti preserved the homonymy proposed by Éric Kandel between the trace left by an associative learning experience in the nervous system and the traces which Freud wrote about in his “Project for a Scientific Psychology.” They gave, however, an essential twist to the Kandelian model, in that they placed the accent less on inscription than on the processes of constant consolidation and re-consolidation that reveal the nervous system’s plasticity. They also subverted the Kandelian model by including internal, corporeal stimuli under the notion of the trace, making the brain an homeostatic organ of sensations, whether these stimuli arise from the body or the environment.

With this conception of the nervous system, Ansermet and Magistretti maintain a horizon of possibility to explain psychical facts on the basis of an association of traces left by experience in the neural network. However, they emphasize that subjectivity as such cannot be reduced to a cartography of stimulus and behavior. They underscore that the essential discrepancy introduced by the constant re-association between traces leads to the production of a singularity (l’unique), which is different each time according to the variation of mental states over time. They generalize this approach by taking epigenetic mechanisms into account. Whence their formulas “the individual [appears] to be genetically determined not to be genetically determined,” and “plasticity thus enables us to take maximal advantage of the spectrum of possible differences, leaving due place to the unpredictable in the construction of individuality, and the individual can be considered to be biologically determined to be free, that is, to constitute an exception to the universal that carries him.”

It would thus be possible to understand the connection between the speaking subject and the function of biological activity as such—the function of the biological activity of the brain as well as that of the body from the perspective of the neurosciences—as well as the paradoxes of the system of learning and the traces that it leaves and, finally, the basis of these relations in physical laws.

It is this point that I wish to interrogate. I underline, first, that the Freudian project of a “Scientific Psychology” was constructed, in effect, using the state of neurology at the end of the 19th century. The theory of the inscription of “facilitations,” for example, stated that facilitations are provoked by discharges and leave inscriptions in the psychic system—and that they, furthermore, induce a feeling of satisfaction in the subject. According to this model, a quantity “Q” searches to discharge itself by circulating in the nervous system until it finds an efferent pathway (i.e. one leading away from the central nervous system). Freud’s conception of this energy, however, was problematic, since the quantity that he theorized was marked by a specificity irreducible to biological quantities as such. This energy was, rather, reserved for experiences belonging exclusively to the domain of sexuality that Freud constructed. The libido was postulated to be a quantity that remained constant through its operations of displacement, condensation, and repression, operations that mark representations of the sexual in psychic activity. It could also explain the excess or the lack of presence of representations in different pathologies. The obsessive mechanisms of restraint, for example, are marked by excess, a radical “plus,” whereas the fading of hysteric mechanisms is marked by a minus, a lack also fundamental in the experience of satisfaction. However, as Freud’s oeuvre developed, the pleasure principle conceived as a discharge of postulated libido was increasingly called into question. By forming the hypothesis that there exists something “beyond” the pleasure principle, Freud consummated his rupture with the biological mechanisms presupposed in the “Project,” and Civilization and Its Discontents affirmed that one must search for what is impossible to discharge—i.e., the impossible at the core of sexual satisfaction as such—in its connection to the social link. We pass, then, from the oeuvre of biological references to Freud’s anti-biological hypothesis, where the relationship of the body to the social implies an essential relation to a death that is no longer biological. After this rupture, then, psychoanalysis no longer upheld the psychological perspective of Helmholtz, which was compatible with physical laws.

It is from this point of departure that Lacan writes his “Presentation on Psychical Causality.” He refuses to localize the genesis of mental illness in the nervous system, since mental activity takes place in another dimension than that of physical space. Lacan’s position is Cartesian in a sense, because it refuses to confound thinking substance and extended substance. But Lacan’s Descartes is one filtered through Husserl and his Cartesian Meditations, thoroughly marked by phenomenology. In a commentary on the “Presentation,” Jacques-Alain Miller underlines the importance of the opposition between the notion of “psychical activity” as conceived by neuropsychiatry and the subjective function as such, which is always marked by a flaw, a shortage (défaut), a lack. Lacan opposes “that [hybrid] chain which is made of fate and inertia, throws of the dice and astonishment, false successes and missed encounters…which makes up the usual script of a human life” to “psychical activity, doublet of the neural functioning.” Similarly, but even more exaggeratedly in neuroses, clinical phenomena of psychosis such as hallucinations call into question not only a sensoriality, but also the personal signification that the subject aims for: “madness is experienced entirely within the register of meaning.” As soon as man speaks, he is submitted to the question of his truth. His most intimate identifications become responses to the paradoxes of his relationship to what he says and to what has been said to him. The materiality of the unconscious is not formed by learning, but by things said to the subject, things that hurt him, things that are impossible to say that make him suffer. The opposition between the principles of the nervous system’s functioning, which follow biological and physical laws, and the register of another causality, then, determines the foundation of psychology.

This is what is at stake in re-visiting Freud’s “Project for a Scientific Psychology” (1895), a posthumous text that was first published in 1951. This text was read passionately in the analytic movement as well as in Ego-Psychology circles, around Ernst Kris and around Lacan. Eric Kandel, frequently visiting Kris and his family, was deeply influenced by this reading of Freud. By bringing psychoanalysis back to general neurology, Kandel accomplished the project of Kris’s colleague, Heinz Hartmann, who wished to return psychoanalysis to the discipline of general psychology. Lacan, however, read the “Project” as a function of a particular type of memory. He didn’t relate it to phenomena of facilitation, but to phenomena of impossible routes. The cybernetics of the epoch gave Lacan the resources to situate the impasses of this memory’s functioning. Jean-Pierre Dupuy has noted that “[Lacan] took an interest, as we have already seen, in the theory of closed reverberating circuits that Lawrence Kubie’s work in the 1930s had led McCulloch to take up, and he was familiar with the work of the British neuroanatomist John Z. Young…[who tested] this theory in the octopus.” Lacan, then, broke the direct link with the analogy of neurological traces by rejecting that the Freudian “traces” inscribe themselves on the nervous system, claiming, by contrast, that they “are signifiers.” These traces, however, had to be related to the system of the organism as such. Lacan’s original solution was that the organism realizes itself by points of impossibility. The living being, to which the symbolic order attaches itself like a parasite, produces the impossible to represent.

The first consequence is that there can never be a unified representation of the subject of the experience of jouissance. This subject cannot speak of itself completely in its real, no more than Truth can, which cannot tell everything about itself. This perspective is opposed to the cognitivist position, according to which the individual’s relation to his body and to the world is unified. This cognitivist point of view could be analogous to Aristotelian “common sense,” as Stanislas Dehaene or Antonio Damasio maintain, exploring the biological foundations of “knowledge of the self.” It could just as well be the modulating multiplicity proposed by Daniel Dennett in his radical critique of all unifying perspectives. The important point with these cognitivist perspectives, however, is that all “psychical activity,” unified or not, responds to the needs of the living body. And yet, for psychoanalysis, nothing assures this adequation of the body and the subject. Even access to the bodily image is incapable of doing away with the initial fragmentation of the relation to the body, the experience of the fragmented body. Nevertheless, this body-image is unifying and fascinating, as our society of images bears witness to in exploiting the resources of our fascination in all possible manners. The discovery of mirror-neurons has allowed us to think of a yet larger extension of the powers of the imaginary field. Similarly, in terms not of the image but of the signifier: “far from being a function of total mental synthesis, mental integration is always fragmentary, and what we call the subject is precisely what is partial and fragmented in this integration,” flawed when there is not a lesion, no partial other, the impossible to totalize.

What authorizes cognitivism to confidently advance an exhaustive representation of psychical activity when this representation escapes any accessible knowledge? It is Chomsky’s introduction of the notion of the “unknown rule” that lets this approach account for the aporias of learning a language. Confronted with the impossibility for a subject to learn through hearing alone, Chomsky proposes a radical break with the hypotheses of associative learning. For the tradition of associative learning, which Kandel propagates, the brain is malleable. It configures itself to adapt to experience. There are no organs of learning specific to themes that are dealt with, no organs that calculate representations of different aspects of the world based on animal experience. Chomsky suggests, “by contrast, that learning is mediated by distinct learning organs, each with a structure that enables it to learn a particular kind of contingent fact about the world. The non-contingent facts, the universal truths, are not learned; they are implicit in the structure of the learning organs, which is what makes it possible for each such organ to learn the contingent facts proper to it (Hawkins and Kandel, 1984).” The specialized organ “learns,” and the subject is supposed to follow a rule that he is unaware of, a rule that is embedded.

As Jean-Claude Milner has noted, it is by generalizing this notion of the “unknown rule” that cognitivism can proceed. This conception is radically opposed to the explicit and declared character of the rule, which is essential for Wittgenstein. The opposition is complete between appearing to obey the rules and conforming to objective laws. The modular conception of the mind, which Jerry Fodor proposed after freeing himself from David Marr’s visual module, accomplishes the shift from Chomsky’s computational conception to a computo-representational model of the mind.

These two conceptions are radically separate with regard to their understanding of the relationship between language and the world. For Chomsky, language “doesn’t speak of the world.” Words are, by themselves, devoid of reference. There is no inscription of reference, because reference is an action accomplished by human agents. As Pierre Jacob argues: “Unlike what a human being knows, what he does is, according to Chomsky, bound to remain a mystery. Generative grammar has shown the way to scientific understanding of an aspect of what a human knows: their HLF [faculty to learn languages]. But an epistemic divide separates the problems encountered in understanding what a human knows and the mysteries involved in explaining an intentional action…Thus, because on Chomsky’s view any act of reference (and what Chomsky also calls the ‘creative use of language’) involves the freedom of the will, it is presently an epistemic mystery, not a scientific problem.”

On the other hand, “according to the computo-representational theory of the mind, not all thinking amounts to some intentional (or voluntary) action. For example, the cognitive process whereby my auditory perception of a stimulus is turned into a conceptual representation of a dog is not an intentional (or voluntary) action. When it results from my perception of a stimulus, my conceptual representation of a dog—the occurrence of my mental symbol “Φ”—is independent from any intention to refer to a dog.” This affirmation brushes aside Searle’s objection that it is necessary to admit that the rule can be known. We must note that this conception authorizes a type of modular multiplicity presenting such an extreme proliferation of models that it is now in search of its own Occam’s razor; Fodor himself defines the current state of the theory as a “modularism gone mad.”

The computo-representational theory of the mind, unlike Chomsky’s, seeks to bridge naïve psychology and the computational models of cognitive science. They want to function as laws that bridge, reconnecting the world of causes and the world of reasons, the physical and psychology. And this is what Chomsky refuses—and what Donald Davidson refuses as well, emphasizing that even if there is only one substance (i.e. even if the identity of mental and physical events is posited), the psychic field, governed by reasons, must still function in a lawless manner. He defines his position as that of an “anomalous monism.” I would like to put in a series, elucidating one after the other, in their radical differences, the three positions of Chomsky concerning the mystery of the “without law” of human action, Davidson’s anomalous monism, and Lacan’s approach to the Real in psychoanalysis through the impossible. I will follow this path until I am prepared to speak of the Real “without law.”

The temptation in the cognitive approach to the psychic field is to efface the relation to the impossible. It operates in two distinct ways. On one hand, through game theory, it attempts to produce a theory of decision governed by the principle of maximum utility, “according to which the agent chooses, among the actions available to him, the one that guarantees the probability of the greatest utility… balanced by the subjective probabilities with which he affects the eventuality of the consequences of his different actions.” On the other hand—refusing to consider optimizing thought processes alone—one wants to reduce the subject to be understood exclusively by the determinations of its activity as a living organism. I would like to oppose this temptation of naturalization to W.V.O Quine’s objections to such claims, objections that he posed throughout his oeuvre.

Sandra Laugier has very incisively defined the multiform anti-positivist strategy of analytic philosophy: “In ‘Two Dogmas of Empiricism’ (1953), Quine criticizes one of the foundations of logical empiricism, namely analyticity (in the sense given to it by Frege and, later, Carnap, as the truth founded on logical linguistic conventions), and proposes to efface the distinction between empirical and a priori enunciations. He goes even further in 1960 with his celebrated thesis of translation’s radical indeterminacy, when he destroys the idea of common significations between different languages, affirming that a linguist, in a situation of radical translation (without prior contact, nor commonality, between his language and the indigenous language), can elaborate manuals of translation in contradiction and compatible with what is given; there is, therefore, nothing on which the translator can base his accuracy.” He proceeds, finally, to a radical denaturalization in his Ontological Relativity published in 1969.

The thesis of indeterminacy in translation received multiple interpretations itself. It was radically opposed to Carnap’s positivist translation. It didn’t claim that translation was impossible, but, rather, that it was only too possible. There are only too many translations, without our being truly able to choose among them. Even more profoundly, it destroyed the myth of signification, because translation never exhausts itself. It doesn’t make us leave our language, nor our meaning (sens). Every operation of translation, every passage between languages, between distinct worlds, supposes a confrontation with the incommensurable within the interiority of a system of reference. It confronts us with the oxymoron of losing because of excess. It shows us that there is no “exile beyond the learned culture” and its language. This perspective renders obsolete the perspective of interlocking without a solution of continuity and retranslation of signs in worlds or in “successive symbolic frames of reference.” Truth is completely immanent to the activity of translation, “there is no extra-theoretic truth, no higher truth than the truth we are claiming or aspiring to as we continue to tinker with our system of the world from within.”

In this Quinian conception, language is not placed one side and experience of the world on the other. All certitude of the world passes through language, but it is obtained by an experience. “The analyticity criticized in “Two Dogmas” is, in effect, progressively replaced by a concept of the social, founded on the learning of language.” The analyticity of an enunciation is not what is independent of experience; an enunciation is analytic if everyone learns that it is true when learning the vocabulary of a language. Quine gives a definition of a gradient between empirical and analytical enunciations that is very interesting for psychoanalysis. “Each of us learns to take certain enunciations as true; there are enunciations whose truth is learned by many of us, and others whose truth is learned by few or none of us. The former enunciations are more analytic than the latter. Analytic enunciations are those whose truth is learned in this manner by all of us; and these extreme cases do not differ in a notable manner from our neighbors, and we cannot always say what they are.” It is language as a social link that is our only naturality. I will compare the relationship between the symbolic order and the experience of jouissance in psychoanalysis and the Quinian conception. In Lacanian terms, we would say that there is a point of the Real that never finds its ultimate translation into the symbolic. The Real insists. The subjects encounters his jouissance in a contingent fashion. It is a Real he believes in, that he posits as an exterior in the construction of the fantasm; this fantasm is a sort of theoretical system by which the subject is related to the experience of jouissance. The sublimation or the shared nature of the fantasm is of the same order as the Quinian construction: each of us encounters certain words or enunciations that are tied to our jouissance in a contingent fashion. There are fantasmic enunciations that are commonly shared, and others that are for few or for no one. The former are more sublimated that than the latter. Certain of the most intimate traits of the experience of jouissance of great artists become shared by almost everyone. They are sublimated.

Michel Leiris gives us one example of an encounter between an enunciation and an experience of jouissance in a screen memory published in the beginning of his great memoir, The Rules of the Game: Scratches. He marks his relationship to happiness, or more precisely to sadness and to women. While playing with small soldiers in the same room as his mother, a solider that he loves more than the others falls. He catches it just in time and exclaims “tunately” (“reusement”). His mother immediately corrects him, saying, “one doesn’t say ‘tunately’ one says, ‘fortunately’ (heureusement).” We know that his relationship to happiness was not always easy. He went into psychoanalytic treatment after a complicated night with Georges Bataille led him to a particularly severe temptation to commit suicide. Furthermore, he constructed a literary corpus with an admirable style, marked by a rigorous clarity. He never let anyone correct him again; he had become the master of it. The state where language marks the limit, impossible to cross, of the origin of the knot between symbolic, imaginary, and real is that of a language before routine usage, or “proper usage,” can be taught. Lacan calls this level of language lalangue, and it marks the most private, intimate relationship with language. It is the noise of language for everyone in the interior itself of the public language that is used. Psychic reality is that of lalangue, the point of the Real where public and private languages are entwined. The contingency of the encounter that creates lalangue is also the foundation of interpretative, and always contingent, activity of psychoanalysis.

However, one must not believe that it is possible to simply denounce the appearances that constitute the referential system of public language in favor of the fragmented elements that constitute the private fantasm, which provides direct access to jouissance. This is what Lacan calls the “cynical” perspective: the denunciation of appearances in public language in the name of the jouissance in private language. It corresponds to what, on the ontological plane, is a radically skeptical position. In fact, skepticism, to be tenable, supposes knowledge that knowledge alone can lead to. “It is science itself that teaches us that there is no absolute knowledge.” The theory of knowledge has its origin in doubt, certainly, but it is also knowledge that produces doubt: “skepticism is a product of science.” Believing and knowing are two logical grammars with distinct uses. For all that, knowledge doesn’t eliminate the register of belief, as Quine brilliantly shows at the end of his article on the “Two Dogmas of Empiricism.”

It is, in particular, because learning language repeats the learning of science that everyone, according to Quine, continues to learn and revise his or her language indefinitely. It is a logic of the same order as the logic that operates in the fantasm. The knowledge of the fantasm never ceases to target the failure of jouissance through the symbolic order. There is, however, no other access.

The isolation of the elements of the private fantasy, in what is most real about them, only obtains in the outcome of an analysis. The trajectory cannot be avoided. To address himself to his partner, the subject lends him sentiments, beliefs, expectations in reaction to what he says, and he wishes to act on the beliefs and expectations he anticipates. The decoding of sense in exchanges between analysand and analyst is not the only thing at stake. There is also the aim of he who speaks. It is about recuperating something lost through one’s interlocutor. This recuperation of the object gives the key to the Freudian myth of the drive, and it founds the transference that knots the two partners. The Lacanian formula according to which the subject receives the inversion of his own message from the other includes both the decoding and the will to act on the addressee. In the last instance, when the analysand speaks, he wants, beyond the sense of what he says, to attain in the Other the partner of his attempts, beliefs, and desires. He aims for the partner of his fantasm, without being able to attain the proper jouissance. The discovery of psychoanalysis is first that of the impotence of the subject to attain full sexual satisfaction (i.e castration). Beyond this, psychoanalysis, with Lacan, formulated the impossibility of a norm concerning the relationship between the sexes. If there is not full satisfaction and if there is no norm, it is up to each subject to invent a particular solution, a solution that inevitably rests on their symptom. The solution of each person can be more or less typical, relying more or less on the tradition of common rules. The solution may, by contrast, want to bring forth a rupture or a certain clandestinity. The fact remains that the relation between the sexes does not have a solution that can be “for all.” In this sense, it remains marked by the seal of the incurable, and there will always be a flaw. Sex, for the speaking being (l’être parlant), arises from the “not all” (pas-tout).

From this point, J.-A. Miller shows the originality of the dimension of the Real in the work of Lacan. “Lacan had approached something like a sort of first Real, that he formulated ‘il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel’. Already in this instant, he isolated a contravening trait to the idea that there had to be knowledge in the Real… Lacan translated the absence of the sexual relation in human life, in his species being, as a tear in the Real, as a hole in the Real: ‘Freud located the fact that what is called sexuality makes a hole in the Real.’”

The not-all, the impossible, the hole, marks the situation of the symbolic with regard to its relation with the body and defines the field of the Real of the experience of jouissance. The use psychoanalysis can make of the neurosciences should be taken into account. Psychoanalysts who close the hole of the experience of jouissance use the different approaches of the neurosciences in an immediate way. The following affirmation of Mark Solms, for example, is such an immediate use: “the recent neurological cartographies are adequate with Freud’s description. The central cerebral trunk at the limbic system—responsible for instincts and drives—corresponds to the Id. The frontal ventral region that controls selective inhibition, the frontal dorsal region that controls conscious thought, and the posterior cortex that perceives the external world correspond to the ego and the superego.” Similarly, we see this immediate use when the contemporary current of Ego Psychology proposes to rethink psychoanalysis from the perceptive of consciousness. Under the title “A Missing Link in Psychoanalytic Practices: Psychoanalytic Consciousness,” M. Busch surprises himself by discovering that what is interesting for neurosciences, namely, consciousness, doesn’t interest psychoanalysis, and he wants to remedy the situation: “It is my position that inherent in every interpretation of the unconscious in clinical psychoanalysis is an implied definition of psychoanalytic consciousness. Whenever we interpret something unknown to a patient we express our belief it is knowable.” It seems to me that even the direct use that Daniel Widlocher makes of the neurosciences in his work on emotional cognitivism, in particular what M. Damasio uses to found his ontology of signification, is subject to caution. “Affect is not easily located in the intimacy of the situation… But of what affect are we speaking? Of that which begins to mark each mental state that succeeds over the course of the session, of those which are ready to come forth at the evocation of such and such an associative chain….?”The “double work of locating affect in the psyche of the Other like that in one’s own” that he attempts to describe makes a direct encounter with emotional “mapping.” The direct use of neurosciences is always likely to become metaphoric or to make psychoanalysis function like a meta-language. M. Lionel Naccache makes many pertinent criticisms of the temptation to directly use the neurosciences in this manner.

I propose, rather, a mediated use of the neurosciences for psychoanalysis, mediated by the quasi-immediate consequences of the contributions of neuroscience: namely, psychopharmacological medicines. If one believes the report recently published in The Academy of Medical Science, which The Economist commented on, the works we are trying to understand today of M. Le Moal on “opposing processes” or on “Addiction and the Brain Antireward System,” and those of Madame Alberini on “The Consolidation and Reconsolidation of Traces,” are in the process of responding to the other works of pharmacodynamics on the derivates of glutamate. They will give birth to a new generation of medicine that promises to better fix memory or, on the contrary, to untie it, on the condition of accepting the synonymy between consolidation/reconsolidation of the trace and fixation/forgetting of memory.

Already in February, Alex Berenson took into account in the New York Times the works of Dr. Schoep who has been working glutamate for the past decade, after falling, as he says, in love with dopamine. He has worked for a longtime for Eli Lily, but went to Merck in 2007, since they offered him more means for experimenting prior to releasing the medication on the market. The moment when dopamine seems less seductive, glutamate is permitted to produce medicines. This hope announced itself after the display of the effects of fluoxetine or antidepressives of the same family in a study by Erik Turner of the University of Oregon, published in January 2008 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The efficacy of medicine can be called into question by meta-analyses whose methodology is not impeccable. One’s hopes are crushed because there is nothing left other than psychotropes that, once produced, are loved, adopted, and used with passion beyond the indications that they were designed for. Everyone remembers the enthusiastic accents of Listening to Prozac by Peter Kramer (1994) or, more soberly, the dependence Elisabeth Wurtzel describes in her autobiography Prozac Nation (2001). The subjects take hold of substances and make them their objects of security, in addiction or measured usage. Whether for Prozac, or medicines for erectile dysfunction, or attention stimulants, off label usage testifies to the manner in which medicine can be an instrument for exploring the body and its jouissance in multiple types of use. It is for their derived capacities for which they are used, that they are inscribed in our lives, unbedded. The review Nature launched, in the first trimester of this year, an informal study on the usage of Ritalin among its readership; of 1400 readers who responded, 1 of 5 declared that they had used Ritalin, ProVigil or other beta-blocking substances for non-medical reasons. The Economist , with its liberal orientation, thinks that one must not over-regulate deviant usages. After all, claims the report, “the genetic variations between individuals are associated with different levels of memory of work.” Ritalin or Provigil users have perhaps found that they feel, in a fashion legitimate for them—but for reasons still unknown—a need for the substance. By epigenetic arguments, they too find the particularity in every subject, that is to say each subject’s uniqueness that Francois Ansermet and Pierre Magistretti situated in the plasticity of the nervous system. A mediated use of the neurosciences assures the highest degree of liberty for both the subject and psychoanalysis regarding what is always fleeting, sliding, and deviant in the experience of the subject’s jouissance. Psychoanalysis’s use of neuroscience is also what the analysand does with it. He too addresses it to the psychoanalyst in making a metaphorical usage of the theoretical contributions of the neurosciences. He inscribes them in his own language. Furthermore, he makes an experience of, rather than learning of, the new objects that the neurosciences produce with the theory that he is already bound to from the beginning. Analyst and analysand again find themselves together, preserving the contingent singularity of an existence.


Ansermet F., Magistretti P., Biology of Freedom: Neural Plasticity, Experience, and the Unconscious, New York, Other Press, 2007, p. 8-10.


Freud, S., “Projet de psychologie,”, (1895-1950), transl. by Francoise Kahn and Rancois Robert, Lettres à Wilhelm Fliess, Paris, PUF., Bibliothèque de psychanalyse, 2006, p. 595-693.

Freud, S., Civilization and Its Discontents, (1929), New York, W.W. Norton, 1989.

Miller J.-A., L’orientation lacanienne, III, 10, lesson of January 30th 2008, TLN n° 376.

Lacan J., “Presentation on Psychical Causality”, Écrits, 2006, W.W. Norton, 130/160, commentary by Miller J.-A., lesson of January 30th 2008, op. cit.

Lacan J., ibid., 135/166.

Dupuy, J.-P., The Mechanization of the Mind: On the Origins of Cognitive Science, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2000, p. 109. Dupuy is referring to the lecture on January 19th 1955 of Seminar Book II, in which Lacan evokes the octopus in the context of a discussion of memory and the phenomenon of feed-back.

Dehaene S., Reading in the Brain, New York, Viking, 2009.

Antonio Damasio presented a very precise lecture on this topic during the colloquium.

These explorations are reminiscent of the salutations of German students Victor Hugo met in 1840, during his exploration of the Rhine: “Dic nobis domine, in qua parte corporis animam veteres locant philosophi [tell us, master, in which part of the body the ancients located the spirit]? I returned the salutation, and replied: In corde Plato, in sanguine Empedocles, inter duo supercilia Lucretius [Plato in the heart, Empedocles in the blood, and Lucretius between the eyebrows]. The three young men smiled, and the eldest cried: Vivat Gallia regina! [Long live the Gaule, our queen!] I replied: Vivat Germania mater! [Long live Germany, our mother]! We then saluted each other, and passed on.” (Hugo, The Rhine, Twentieth Letter, Victor Hugo Selected Works, vol. 27, 1900).

Dennett D., Kinds of Minds, Phoenix, Science Masters, 1996.

During the colloquium, Marc Jeannerot presented a lecture on this point. The original French reads as follows: “loin qu’il y ait une fonction de synthèse mentale totale, l’intégration mentale est toujours parcellaire, et ce qui s’appelle sujet est justement ce qui est parcellaire de cette intégration.”

Miller J.-A., L’orientation lacanienne III, 10, lesson of February 6th 2008, TLN n° 378.

Gallistel C.R., “Learning Organs,” in The Chomsky Notebook, New York, Columbia University Press, 2009.

Milner, J.-C., Introduction à une science du langage, Paris, Le Seuil, 1989.

Ibid. note 62 p. 252.

Jacob P., The Scope and Limits of Chomsky’s Naturalism, in The Chomsky Notebooks, op. cit., p. 227-228


Searle J.R., Minds, Brains, and Science (1984 Reith Lectures), Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1986.

Fodor J., “Modules, frames, fridgeons, sleeping dogs, and the music of the spheres,” p. 27 in Garfield J. (Ed.), Modularity in Knowledge representation and natural-language understanding, Cambridge Mass., MIT Press, 1987.

Andler D., Fagot Largeault A., Saint-Sernin B., Philosophie des sciences II, Paris, Gallimard, Folio Essais, 2002.

Laugier S., “Quine, la science et le naturalisme,” Les philosophes et la science, under the direction of Peirre Wagner, Ed. Gallimard, Folio essai, 2002, p. 715.

Quine, W.V.O., “On empirically equivalent systems of the world,” Erkenntis, 9, 1975, p. 327, cited in Laugier, S., op cit., p. 735.

Laugier S., op. cit., p. 744.

Quine, W.V.O., The Roots of Reference, La sale, Open Court, 1973, p. 80.

“The Nature of Natural Knowledge,” in S. Guttenplan, ed. Mind and Language, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1975, p. 68.

Laugier S., op. cit., p. 749.

Quine, W.V.O., “Les deux dogmes de l’empirisme,” 1953, translated by Jacob P., De Vienne à Cambridge, Paris, Gallimard, 1980, p. 110.

Miller, J.-A., “Pièces detaches,” Le Séminaire de Jacques Lacan, La Cause freudienne, N°61, Paris, Navarin/Le Seuil, 2005, p. 143-144.

Busch F., Joseph B., “A Missing Link in Psychoanalytic technique,” Journal of Psychoanalysis, 2004; 85:567-78 available on the website.

One will read the critique from this point of view: Laurent É., Lost in cognition, Nantes, Cécile Defaut, 2008.

Widlocher D., “Affect et empathie,” Revue Française de Psychanalyse, 1999, tome 1, p. 174.

In this colloquium.

Cf., “All on the mind,” The Economist, May 24th, 2008.

Cf., “Daring to Think Differently About Schizophrenia,” The New York Times, February 24th.

Cf., “Smart Drugs,” The Economist, May 24th, 2008.

Art: Ivonne Thein  

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