......• Notes on Time in Analysis
.........Kai Hammermeister

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At root

At root, time is scansion. There was never a whole time, a time undivided. The verb root di in the Indogermanic language means to separate, to divide, to cut up. The Latin tempus roots in the Greek temnein, to cut, to cut off. This cutting and dividing, however, is not that of Newton or Galilei who regard time as the infinite stretch of ever-identical discrete units, one after one after one. Such division presupposed a whole that is divided in a second step, thus the parts always emerge from the unity after the operation of segmentation. Yet etymology tells us differently: The very root of time is the cutting. Time depends in its very existence on scansion, and without being cut time cannot come into existence. There is not time that is whole before the cutting. Rather, it is from scansion that time emerges. Time is that which has always already been cut. Yet this initial cut which gives birth to time can also not be told from death. Every subsequent scansion marks time, gives time, and rings the bell that tells of time’s end. Every séance scandée, among all its other possible functions, creates time anew as a gift that arise out of the act of cutting (“What do I do with the rest of the hour?”) and hits home like that irrevocable announcement that we no longer make the cut.

A book

Just recently a book was published that appears to be the first monograph on the issue of Lacan’s variable length sessions. Yet Nicolas Langlitz’ Die Zeit der Psychoanalyse. Lacan und das Problem der Sitzungsdauer falls prey to the tension that announces itself in the doubling of the title. A philosophical investigation of time in psychoanalysis requires a different set of questions than the examination of a particular analytic technique. Langlitz realizes that to come to terms with the sudden termination of the séance one must investigate Lacan’s notions of the end of the session and the end of analysis, of the temporality of the subject, of memory, trauma, Nachträglichkeit, haste, and projection (a notion that Lacan wants to wrestle out of Melanie Klein’s hands where it had been grounded in spatiality and to reinsert into it the Heideggerian concept of Entwurf). Langlitz’ monograph takes up most of these issues, and while he repeatedly spends much time going over well known premises of Lancan’s thought, he still succeeds by tying together these concepts as they relate to the shortened sessions. This requires, however, that most of his chapters are spent on the elucidation of notions that have been scrutinized in detail elsewhere already. Only three of seven chapters address the variable length sessions directly. And these do not probe quite deep enough. Langlitz doesn’t seem to trust himself as a thinker, so most of his work is the kind of gathering and compiling that characterizes the intellectual historian who has little ambition to shed new light on a given matter. The author collects his materials well, but he rarely moves beyond it into that realm where a genuine philosophical questioning would begin. This holds true even more for his claim to investigate the notion of time as it is thought by Lacan and Freud. In Lacan’s reflection on time we need to be able to listen to the echoes of that tradition in philosophy that stretches from Plato through Augustine to Heidegger. With the exception of Heidegger, though, this tradition is entirely absent from Langlitz’ monograph. Into the realm that this absence opened up I will now sketch a very light pencil outline of some of the positions that would need to emerge as dialogue partners for Lacan in a future exposition of time that is both informed by philosophical precision and analytic accuracy. If a gap opens and can be utilized, however, it depends on the movement of the structural elements that frame it. Hence my insertion of some questions into the gap of Langlitz’ book are ultimately an appreciation.

What changes

Time – analysis: In, of, during, after, before. The prepositions slide around, their very flexibility the enactment of time’s movement. With their dance they open up that gap between time and analysis that allows the analysis to move forward. Every movement is one into a void that had to be created by displacement. Is it a similar dance of philosophers throughout history that opens up ever new gaps in which every new analysis can unfold?

Going back to Kant we acknowledge that time does not mark an external passage, but rather an introspection and hence a vision of self. For the analyst, it is not so much Kant’s insistence on time as the formal condition a priori of all appearances (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, A 34) that is of interest, instead he pricks up his ears when Kant ties time to the subject of knowledge. Die Zeit ist nichts anders, als die Form des innern Sinnes, d.i. des Anschauens unserer selbst und unsers innern Zustandes. (KdrV, A 33). Time is identical with the intuition (Anschauung) of ourselves as subjects. Such intuition is tied to vision and hence to the imaginary. That misidentification that emerges from the reflection of the mirror thus depends also on the structure of temporality, namely that arch of the re-flecting movement that emerges from the position of the subject (that is yet to be), the bouncing off of the reflecting surface, and the return to the subject.

It is Hegel who insists that intuition as vision and time achieves the subject only in abstraction. Die Zeit ist dasselbe Prinzip als das Ich = Ich des reinen Selbstbewusstseins; aber dasselbe oder der einfache Begriff noch in seiner gänzlichen Äusserlichkeit und Abstraktion. (Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften, § 258) The abstract subject will not emerge as concrete before it has not turned time into history. The liberation from the closed circuit of I = I can only be achieved by the Other. History is precisely that movement in which the subject constitutes itself in its encounter with the Other. But as Hegel explains in the chapter on master and servant in his Phenomenology of Spirit, this encounter is a struggle in which everything is at risk. Only through the anticipation of death as a possible outcome of the encounter with the Other does the subject temporalize and actualize itself.

Yet it would mean to fall prey to the ideology of self-transparency if time in analysis were to be equated with the revelation of the symbolic. There is also a sense in which time is a veil. Behind it and beyond its reach, the real remains. This notion of a residue that resists integration into an order cannot be distilled from Kant or Hegel. It is Schopenhauer who reactivates the Platonic resistance against all becoming and who sounds the motive of a desire that emerges from beyond the ego. Schopenhauer’s conception of the will resembles that of Freud’s Es in many respects, not least in their emphasis on timelessness. He argues that time is an element of maya, the veil of deception that serves to hide the will from itself. Will is a blind desire that ignores the principium individuationis, the principle of self-preservation that governs the ego. As it cannot see, it must remain outside the imaginary, restlessly knocking on the gates that the ego wants to barricade with language.

For Schopenhauer, the past always triumphs. The truth of the subject is not its history, but that past from which the subject emerges as a brief illusion in time. This emergence is a waste of effort, driven by narcissism. It took Nietzsche to reverse this valuation, to free the subject of the burden of its past and to reorient it toward the future. In a chapter titled Redemption in Also sprach Zarathustra Nietzsche advances the notion that the subject’s turn toward the future emerges from the responsibility that it takes on for its own past. Die Vergangnen zu erlösen und alles “Es war” umzuschaffen in ein “So wollte ich es!” – das hiesse mir erst Erlösung. From It was to Where Id was to willing the past as the source of the future – Lacan connects back through Freud to Nietzsche. Heidegger might have underscored Lacan’s reorientation from the dominance of the past to that of the future, but this revaluation is already at work in Nietzsche.

Too many aspects of temporality flow from Heidegger to Lacan to mention here. It is about time for a monograph that examines the relation between these two thinkers in detail, going beyond those texts by Heidegger that Lacan has been known to have read and including parallels of thought that cannot be reduced to the figure of “influence.” Heidegger’s notion of event, Ereignis, that was explicated in detail in a second magnum opus published only recently is clearly related to notions like Einfall, the sudden rupture of the chain of free association by an element that is and is not linked to the movement of language; the moment in analysis when the truth of the subject no longer consists in a reconstruction of the past but rather in the emergence of a genuinely new option for the future which remains irreducible to its past preconditions; and that unannounced ending of the session that does not only mark an insight into the past but also at times the possibility of a future.


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