Difference between revisions of "Science"

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Both Freud and Lacan use the term 'science' in the singular, thus implying that there is a specific unified, homogeneous kind of discourse that can be called 'scientific'. This discourse begins, according to Lacan, in the seventeenth century (Ec, 857), with the inauguration of modern physics (Ec, 855).
 
Freud regarded science (Ger. Wissenschaft - a term with markedly different connotations in German) as one of civilisation's highest achievements, and opposed it to the reactionary forces of [[religion]]. Lacan's attitude to science is more ambiguous. On the one hand, he criticises modern science for ignoring the [[Symbolic]] dimension of human existence and thus encouraging modern man 'to forget his subjectivity' (E, 70). He also compares modern science to a 'fully [[Real]]ised paranoia', in the sense that its totalising constructions resemble the architecture of a delusion (Ec, 874).
 
  
On the other hand, these criticisms are not levelled at science per se, but at the positivist model of science. Lacan implies that positivism is actually a deviation from 'true science', and his own model of science owes more to the rationalism of KoyrÈ, Bachelard and Canguilhem than to empiricism. In other words, for Lacan, what marks a discourse as scientific is a high degree of mathematical formalisation. This is what lies behind Lacan's attempts to formalise psychoanalytic theory in terms of various mathematical formulae (see [[mathematics]], [[algebra]]). These formulae also encapsulate a further characteristic of scientific discourse (perhaps the most fundamental one in Lacan's view), which is that it should be transmissible (Lacan, 1973a: 60).
+
Both [[Freud]] and [[Lacan]] use the term '[[science]]' in the singular, thus implying that there is a specific unified, homogeneous kind of discourse that can be called '[[scientific]]'.  
  
Lacan argues that science is characterised by a particular relationship to [[truth]]. On the one hand, it attempts (illegitimately, thinks Lacan) to monopolise truth as its exclusive property (Ec, 79); and, on the other hand (as Lacan later argues), science is in fact based on a foreclosure of the concept of truth as cause (Ec, 874).
+
This discourse begins, according to [[Lacan]], in the seventeenth century <ref>{{Ec}} p.857</ref>, with the inauguration of modern physics.<ref>{{Ec, 855</ref>.
  
[[Science]] is also characterised by a particular relationship to [[knowledge]] (savoir), in that science is based on the exclusion of any access to knowledge by recourse to intuition and thus forces all the search for knowledge to follow only the path of reason (Ec, 831). The modern subject is the 'subject of science' in the sense that this exclusively rational route to knowledge is now a common presupposition. In stating that psychoanalysis operates only the subject of science (Ec, 858) Lacan is arguing that psychoanalysis is not based on any appeal to an ineffable experience or flash of intuition, but on a process of reasoned dialogue, even when reason confronts its limit in madness.
 
  
Although the distinction between the human sciences and the natural sciences had become quite well-established by the end of the nineteenth century (thanks to the work of Dilthey), it does not figure in Freud's work. Lacan, on the other hand, pays great attention to this distinction. However, rather than talking of the 'human sciences' (a term which Lacan dislikes intensely      - see Ec, 859) and the 'natural sciences', Lacan prefers instead to talk of the 'conjectural sciences' (or sciences of subjectivity) and the 'exact sciences'. Whereas the exact sciences concern the field of phenomena in which there is no one who uses a signifier (S3, 186), the conjectural sciences are fundamentally different because they concern beings who inhabit the [[Symbolic]] order. In 1965, however, Lacan problematises the distinction between conjectural and exact sciences:
+
[[Freud]] regarded [[science]] (Ger. ''Wissenschaft'') as one of [[civilisation]]'s highest achievements, and opposed it to the reactionary forces of [[religion]].  
  
The opposition between the exact sciences and the conjectural sciences can no longer be sustained from the moment when conjecture is susceptible to an exact calculation (probability) and when exactitude is based only on  a formalism which separates axioms and laws of grouping symbols. (Ec, 863)
+
[[Lacan]]'s attitude to [[science]] is more ambiguous.  
  
Whereas in the last century physics provided a paradigm of exactitude for the exact sciences which made the conjectural sciences seem sloppy by comparison, the arrival on the scene of structural linguistics redressed the imbalance by providing an equally exact paradigm for the conjectural sciences. When Freud borrowed terms from other sciences, it was always from the natural sciences (principally BIOLOGY, medicine and thermodynamics) because these were the only sciences around in Freud's day that provided a model of rigorous investigation and thought. Lacan differs from Freud by importing concepts mainly from the 'sciences of subjectivity' (principally [[linguistics]]), and by aligning psychoanalytic theory with these rather than with the natural sciences. Lacan argues that this paradigm shift is in fact implicit in Freud's own reformulations of the concepts that he borrowed from the natural sciences.
+
On the one hand, he criticises modern [[science]] for ignoring the [[Symbolic]] dimension of [[human]] [[existence]] and thus encouraging modern man "to forget his subjectivity."<ref>{{E}} p.70</ref>.  
  
In other words, whenever Freud borrowed concepts from biology he reformulated those concepts so radically that he created a totally new paradigm which was quite alien to its biological origins. Thus, according to Lacan, Freud anticipated the findings of modern structural linguists such as Saussure, and his work can be better understood in the light of these linguistic concepts.
+
He also compares modern [[science]] to a "fully [[Real]]ised paranoia," in the sense that its totalising constructions resemble the architecture of a [[delusion]].<ref>{{Ec}} p.874</ref>
  
Is psychoanalysis a science? Freud was quite explicit in affirming the scientific status of psychoanalysis: 'While it was originally the name of a particular therapeutic method,' he wrote in 1924, 'it has now also become the name of a science - the science of unconscious mental processes' (Freud, 1925a: SE XX, 70). However, he also insisted on the unique character of psychoanalysis that sets it apart from the other sciences; 'Every science is based on observations and experiences arrived at through the medium of our psychical apparatus. But since our science has as its subject that apparatus itself, the analogy ends here' (Freud, 1940a: SE XXIII, 159).The question of the status of psychoanalysis and its relationship with other disciplines is also one to which Lacan devotes much attention. In his pre-war writings, psycho- analysis is seen unreservedly in scientific terms (e.g. Lacan, 1936). However, after 1950 Lacan's attitude to the question becomes much more complex.
 
  
In 1953, he states that in the opposition science versus [[art]], psychoanalysis can be located on the side of art, on condition that the term 'art' is understood in the sense in which it was used in the Middle Ages, when the 'liberal arts' included arithmetic, geometry, music and grammar (Lacan: 1953b: 224).
+
On the other hand, these criticisms are not levelled at [[science]] per se, but at the positivist model of [[science]].  
  
However, in the opposition science versus religion, Lacan follows Freud in arguing that psychoanalysis has more in common with scientific discourse than religious discourse: 'psychoanalysis is not a religion. It proceeds from the same status as [[Science]] itself (Sl1, 265).
+
[[Lacan]] implies that positivism is actually a deviation from 'true [[science]]', and his own model of [[science]] owes more to the rationalism of KoyrÈ, Bachelard and Canguilhem than to empiricism.  
  
If, as Lacan argues, a science is only constituted as such by isolating and defining its particular object of enquiry (see Lacan, 1946, where he argues that psychoanalysis has actually set psychology on a scientific footing by providing it with a proper object of enquiry    - the imago  - Ec, 188), then, when in 1965 he isolates the objet petit a as the object of psychoanalysis, he is in effect claiming a scientific status for psychoanalysis (Ec, 863).
+
In other words, for [[Lacan]], what marks a discourse as scientific is a high degree of [[mathematical]] [[formalisation]].  
  
However, from this point on Lacan comes increasingly to question this view of psychoanalysis as a science. In the same year he states that psychoanalysis is not a science but a 'practice' (pratique) with a 'scientific vocation' (Ec, 863), though in the same year he also speaks of 'the psychoanalytic science' (Ec, 876). By 1977 he has become more categorical:
+
This is what lies behind [[Lacan]]'s attempts to [[formalise]] [[psychoanalytic theory]] in terms of various [[mathematical]] formulae <ref>{{see [[mathematics]], [[algebra]]</ref>.  
  
Psychoanalysis is not a science. It has no scientific status    - it merely waits and hopes for it. Psychoanalysis is a delusion  - a delusion which is expected to produce a science. .  . . It is a scientific delusion, but this doesn't mean that analytic practice will ever produce a science. (Lacan, 1976-7; seminar of 11 January 1977; Ornicar?, 14: 4)
+
These formulae also encapsulate a further characteristic of scientific discourse, which is that it should be transmissible.<ref>[[Lacan]], 1973a: 60</ref>.
  
However, even when Lacan makes such statements, he never abandons the project of formalising psychoanalytic theory in linguistic and mathematical terms. Indeed, the tension between the scientific formalism of the [[matheme]] and the semantic profusion of lalangue constitutes one of the most interesting features of Lacan's later work.
+
[[Lacan]] argues that [[science]] is characterised by a particular relationship to [[truth]].  
  
==More==
+
On the one hand, it attempts to monopolise [[truth]] as its exclusive property <ref>{{Ec}} p.79</ref>; and, on the other hand, [[science]] is in fact based on a [[foreclosure]] of the concept of [[truth]] as [[cause]].<ref>{{Ec}} p.874</ref>.
Sigmund Freud defined psychoanalysis as the "science of the unconscious" (Wissenschaft des Unbewussten). The use of the German term Wissenschaft suggests a particular mode of understanding: Wissenschaft is constituted as a system of knowledge organized into a coherent and ordered arrangement of fundamental concepts (doctrine), capable of accounting for empirically observed phenomena (the objects of possible experiments) by means of a method that ensures their intelligibility and verification through controlled reproduction of the experiment. This view of science, which was dominant in the nineteenth century, characterizes a form of rational experimentalism that gradually reduced the meaning of the word "science" to a narrowly defined "phenomeno-technique" (in the coinage of Gaston Bachelard).
 
  
Freud's project to scientifically account for psychic processes appears clearly in 1895 in the introduction to the Project for a Scientific Psychology: "In this 'Project' the intention is to furnish a psychology that shall be a natural science: that is, to represent psychical processes as quantitatively determinate states of specifiable material particles, thus making those processes perspicuous and free from contradiction" (1950c [1895]). At this time he situated his discovery within the field of positivist materialism, where psychic processes are represented by means of the concepts of neurophysiology and the empirical data of clinical research; described, ordered, and reconstructed according to the method of the natural sciences (Naturwissenschaften). The construction of a metapsychology, a set of concepts specific to psychoanalysis, would lead Freud to abandon the neurophysiological representations found in the "Project" without renouncing his ideal of science.
 
  
Freud's belief in a "scientific conception of the world," his fidelity to the positivist ideals of his masters (especially Ernst Brücke) led him, in 1911, to cosign, along with Albert Einstein, David Hilbert, and Ernst Mach, an appeal (Aufruf) in favor of the creation of a society to help develop the awareness of positivist philosophy. This belief in the ideals of science can be found throughout his work, up to and including the Outline of Psychoanalysis (1940a [1938]), in which he writes: "Whereas the psychology of consciousness never went beyond the broken sequences which were obviously dependent on something else, the other view, which held that the psychical is unconscious in itself, enabled psychology to take its place as a natural science like any other. The processes with which it is concerned are in themselves just as unknowable as those dealt with by other sciences, by chemistry or physics, for example; but it is possible to establish laws which they obey and to follow their mutual relations and interdependences unbroken over long stretches—in short, to arrive at what is described as an 'understanding' of the field of natural phenomena in question."
+
[[Science]] is also characterised by a particular relationship to [[knowledge]] (''savoir''), in that [[science]] is based on the exclusion of any access to [[knowledge]] by recourse to intuition and thus forces all the search for [[knowledge]] to follow only the path of reason.<ref>{{Ec}} p.831</ref>.  
  
Freud's adherence to the ideals of science is tempered by an epistemological relativism remote from a "scientific catechism." He writes: "It is a mistake to believe that a science consists in nothing but conclusively proved propositions, and it is unjust to demand that it should. It is a demand only made by those who feel a craving for authority in some form and a need to replace the religious catechism by something else, even if it be a scientific one. Science in its catechism has but few apodictic precepts; it consists mainly of statements which it has developed to varying degrees of probability. The capacity to be content with these approximations to certainty and the ability to carry on constructive work despite the lack of final confirmation are actually a mark of the scientific habit of mind" (1916-17a). In other words, science demands that we renounce beliefs like magic, globalizing visions of the world, and absolute knowledge of metaphysics and religion. The work of the scientist entails the sublimation of epistemophilic sexual drives, which are present in the primal paradigm of the theories and techniques of infantile sexual investigation. Freud raised science to the level of a perfect model of the renunciation of the pleasure principle.
+
The modern subject is the 'subject of [[science]]' in the sense that this exclusively rational route to [[knowledge]] is now a common presupposition.  
  
Freud's need to preserve psychoanalysis from the grip of religion and philosophy did not result in his abandoning it to physicians and scientists. As early as The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a) and the Psycho-pathology of Everyday Life (1901b), he took the side of antiquity and popular knowledge against the exclusivity of official science. Throughout his work he manifested this oscillation between art and science, which he discovered that he shared with Leonardo da Vinci. On several occasions he pays homage to the poets and novelists, the true precursors of his own discoveries: "The authors of works of the imagination are valuable colleagues and their knowledge should be held in high esteem, for they have the gift of understanding many things that occur between heaven and earth and of which we have no idea. As for knowledge of the human heart, they exceed us considerably, we humble mortals, for they appeal to sources that are not yet accessible to science" (1908e [1907]).
+
In stating that [[psychoanalysis]] operates only the subject of [[science]].<ref>{{Ec}} p.858</ref>
  
Freud recognized the role of the imagination in scientific work. This element of fiction within any theory leads him to speak of a "mythology of drives" and the metapsychological "sorcerer." He identifies a dream element at work in science itself and shows, especially in Delusions and Dreams in Jensen's "Gradiva" (1907a [1906]), the overdetermination inherent in scientific discourse: science, as a whole, can be used for fantasy. Science, with its origins in dream and fantasy, can withdraw only temporarily behind respect for its methodological protocols and critical rationalism. Psychoanalysis can only maintain its scientificity through the implementation of a method within a given form of practice. This epistemological option appears constant over the development of Freudian thought: "What characterizes psychoanalysis, as a science, is less the material on which it works, than the technique of which it makes use" (1916-1917a).
+
[[Lacan]] is arguing that [[psychoanalysis]] is not based on any appeal to an ineffable experience or flash of intuition, but on a process of reasoned dialogue, even when reason confronts its limit in [[madness]].
  
The ideal of Freudian epistemology has gradually given way to the ideal of analysis, which has sometimes been referred to as an ethic. The scientific ideology to which Freud clung has shown itself to be dated, and has been rejected by modern epistemology. Freud's initial belief in the positivist demands of science has been beneficial: It has situated the specificity of psychoanalysis within a method capable of elevating resistance and transference, along with their analysis, to the rank of operators of knowledge of the unconscious. Freud refused to construct and describe a particular structure in which concepts, as well as objects, would remain inseparable from a method. But his positivist and realist prejudices sometimes prevented him from recognizing that the psychoanalytic system created its objects as it discovered them.
 
  
With Freud, psychoanalysis, by recognizing its debt to poets and scholars, continued to enjoy the prerogatives of one and the privileges of the other, and vice versa, inscribing its praxeological specificity within the interstices of the traditional loci of knowledge. Having done so, and notwithstanding the classical and modern culture of its founder, it participates indirectly in the decompartmentalization of discourse characteristic of postmodernity.
+
Although the distinction between the human [[science]]s and the natural [[science]]s had become quite well-established by the end of the nineteenth century <ref>{{thanks to the work of Dilthey</ref>, it does not figure in [[Freud]]'s work.  
  
==See Also==
+
[[Lacan]], on the other hand, pays great attention to this distinction.
* [[Future of an Illusion]]
+
 
* [[Matheme]]
+
However, rather than talking of the "human [[science]]s" and the "natural [[science]]s," [[Lacan]] prefers instead to talk of the "conjectural [[science]]s" and the "exact [[science]]s."
* ''[[Weltanschauung]]''
+
 
 +
Whereas the exact [[science]]s concern the field of phenomena in which there is no one who uses a [[signifier]],<ref>{{S3}} p.186</ref> the conjectural [[science]]s are fundamentally different because they concern beings who inhabit the [[symbolic]] [[order]].
 +
 
 +
 
 +
In 1965, however, [[Lacan]] problematises the distinction between conjectural and exact [[science]]s:
 +
 
 +
The opposition between the exact [[science]]s and the conjectural [[science]]s can no longer be sustained from the moment when conjecture is susceptible to an exact calculation and when exactitude is based only on  a formalism which separates axioms and [[law]]s of grouping [[symbol]]s.<ref>{{Ec}} p.863</ref>
 +
 
 +
Whereas in the last century physics provided a paradigm of exactitude for the exact [[science]]s which made the conjectural [[science]]s seem sloppy by comparison, the arrival on the scene of structural linguistics redressed the imbalance by providing an equally exact paradigm for the conjectural [[science]]s.
 +
 
 +
When [[Freud]] borrowed terms from other [[science]]s, it was always from the natural [[science]]s because these were the only [[science]]s around in [[Freud]]'s day that provided a model of rigorous investigation and thought.
 +
 
 +
[[Lacan]] differs from [[Freud]] by importing concepts mainly from the "[[science]]s of subjectivity," and by aligning [[psychoanalytic theory]] with these rather than with the [[natural]] [[science]]s.
 +
 
 +
[[Lacan]] argues that this paradigm shift is in fact implicit in [[Freud]]'s own reformulations of the concepts that he borrowed from the [[natural]] [[science]]s.
 +
 
 +
 
 +
In other words, whenever [[Freud]] borrowed concepts from [[biology]] he reformulated those concepts so radically that he created a totally new paradigm which was quite alien to its [[biological]] origins.
 +
 
 +
Thus, according to [[Lacan]], [[Freud]] anticipated the findings of modern structural linguists such as [[Saussure]], and his work can be better understood in the light of these linguistic concepts.
 +
 
 +
 
 +
Is psychoanalysis a [[science]]? [[Freud]] was quite explicit in affirming the scientific status of psychoanalysis: 'While it was originally the name of a particular therapeutic method,' he wrote in 1924, 'it has now also become the name of a [[science]] - the [[science]] of unconscious mental processes' <ref>{{[[Freud]], 1925a: SE XX, 70</ref>.
 +
 
 +
 
 +
However, he also insisted on the unique character of psychoanalysis that sets it apart from the other [[science]]s; 'Every [[science]] is based on observations and experiences arrived at through the medium of our psychical apparatus. But since our [[science]] has as its subject that apparatus itself, the analogy ends here' <ref>{{[[Freud]], 1940a: SE XXIII, 159</ref>.The question of the status of psychoanalysis and its relationship with other disciplines is also one to which [[Lacan]] devotes much attention. In his pre-war writings, psycho- analysis is seen unreservedly in scientific terms <ref>{{e.g. [[Lacan]], 1936</ref>. However, after 1950 [[Lacan]]'s attitude to the question becomes much more complex.
 +
 
 +
In 1953, he states that in the opposition [[science]] versus [[art]], psychoanalysis can be located on the side of art, on condition that the term 'art' is understood in the sense in which it was used in the Middle Ages, when the 'liberal arts' included arithmetic, geometry, music and grammar <ref>{{[[Lacan]]: 1953b: 224</ref>.
 +
 
 +
However, in the opposition [[science]] versus religion, [[Lacan]] follows [[Freud]] in arguing that psychoanalysis has more in common with scientific discourse than religious discourse: 'psychoanalysis is not a religion. It proceeds from the same status as [[[[science]]]] itself <ref>{{Sl1, 265</ref>.
 +
 
 +
If, as [[Lacan]] argues, a [[science]] is only constituted as such by isolating and defining its particular object of enquiry <ref>{{see [[Lacan]], 1946, where he argues that psychoanalysis has actually set psychology on a scientific footing by providing it with a proper object of enquiry    - the imago  - Ec, 188</ref>, then, when in 1965 he isolates the objet petit a as the object of psychoanalysis, he is in effect claiming a scientific status for psychoanalysis <ref>{{Ec, 863</ref>.
 +
 
 +
However, from this point on [[Lacan]] comes increasingly to question this view of psychoanalysis as a [[science]]. In the same year he states that psychoanalysis is not a [[science]] but a 'practice' <ref>{{pratique</ref> with a 'scientific vocation' <ref>{{Ec, 863</ref>, though in the same year he also speaks of 'the psychoanalytic [[science]]' <ref>{{Ec, 876</ref>. By 1977 he has become more categorical:
 +
 
 +
Psychoanalysis is not a [[science]]. It has no scientific status    - it merely waits and hopes for it. Psychoanalysis is a delusion  - a delusion which is expected to produce a [[science]]. .  . . It is a scientific delusion, but this doesn't mean that analytic practice will ever produce a [[science]]. <ref>{{[[Lacan]], 1976-7; seminar of 11 January 1977; Ornicar?, 14: 4</ref>
 +
 
 +
However, even when [[Lacan]] makes such statements, he never abandons the project of formalising psychoanalytic theory in linguistic and mathematical terms. Indeed, the tension between the scientific formalism of the MATHEME and the semantic profusion of lalangue constitutes one of the most interesting features of [[Lacan]]'s later work.
  
==References==
 
<references/>
 
* Freud, Sigmund. (1908e [1907]). Creative writers and daydreaming. SE, 9: 141-153.
 
* ——. (1916-1917a). Introductory lectures on psychoanalysis. Part I, SE, 15; Part II, SE, 16.
 
* ——. (1940a [1938]). An outline of psycho-analysis. SE, 23: 139-207.
 
* ——. (1950c [1895]). Project for a scientific psychology. SE, 1: 281-387.
 
* Lacan, Jacques. (1966). La science et la vérité. InÉcrits (p. 855-878). Paris: Le Seuil.
 
  
science, 1, 7-8, 10-11, 19, 34, 39-40, 47, 77, 86, 151, 163, 225-6, 231, 234, 245-6, 259, * 264, 274, astrology and astronomy 152, chemistry 9, chinese astronomy 151-2, * economics, 210, ethology, animal, 279, genetics 151, human sciences, 7, 20, 43, 223, * physics, 10, 163, physilogy, 163,
+
[[science]], 1, 7-8, 10-11, 19, 34, 39-40, 47, 77, 86, 151, 163, 225-6, 231, 234, 245-6, 259, * 264, 274, astrology and astronomy 152, chemistry 9, chinese astronomy 151-2, * economics, 210, ethology, animal, 279, genetics 151, human [[science]]s, 7, 20, 43, 223, * physics, 10, 163, physilogy, 163,
 
[[Seminar XI]]
 
[[Seminar XI]]
  
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<references/>
 
<references/>
  
]
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[[Category:Science]]
+
[[Category:science]]
 
[[Category:Psychoanalysis]]
 
[[Category:Psychoanalysis]]
 
[[Category:Jacques Lacan]]
 
[[Category:Jacques Lacan]]
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[[Category:Dictionary]]
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[[Category:Help]]

Revision as of 08:39, 24 June 2006


Both Freud and Lacan use the term 'science' in the singular, thus implying that there is a specific unified, homogeneous kind of discourse that can be called 'scientific'.

This discourse begins, according to Lacan, in the seventeenth century [1], with the inauguration of modern physics.[2].


Freud regarded science (Ger. Wissenschaft) as one of civilisation's highest achievements, and opposed it to the reactionary forces of religion.

Lacan's attitude to science is more ambiguous.

On the one hand, he criticises modern science for ignoring the Symbolic dimension of human existence and thus encouraging modern man "to forget his subjectivity."[3].

He also compares modern science to a "fully Realised paranoia," in the sense that its totalising constructions resemble the architecture of a delusion.[4]


On the other hand, these criticisms are not levelled at science per se, but at the positivist model of science.

Lacan implies that positivism is actually a deviation from 'true science', and his own model of science owes more to the rationalism of KoyrÈ, Bachelard and Canguilhem than to empiricism.

In other words, for Lacan, what marks a discourse as scientific is a high degree of mathematical formalisation.

This is what lies behind Lacan's attempts to formalise psychoanalytic theory in terms of various mathematical formulae [5].

These formulae also encapsulate a further characteristic of scientific discourse, which is that it should be transmissible.[6].

Lacan argues that science is characterised by a particular relationship to truth.

On the one hand, it attempts to monopolise truth as its exclusive property [7]; and, on the other hand, science is in fact based on a foreclosure of the concept of truth as cause.[8].


Science is also characterised by a particular relationship to knowledge (savoir), in that science is based on the exclusion of any access to knowledge by recourse to intuition and thus forces all the search for knowledge to follow only the path of reason.[9].

The modern subject is the 'subject of science' in the sense that this exclusively rational route to knowledge is now a common presupposition.

In stating that psychoanalysis operates only the subject of science.[10]

Lacan is arguing that psychoanalysis is not based on any appeal to an ineffable experience or flash of intuition, but on a process of reasoned dialogue, even when reason confronts its limit in madness.


Although the distinction between the human sciences and the natural sciences had become quite well-established by the end of the nineteenth century [11], it does not figure in Freud's work.

Lacan, on the other hand, pays great attention to this distinction.

However, rather than talking of the "human sciences" and the "natural sciences," Lacan prefers instead to talk of the "conjectural sciences" and the "exact sciences."

Whereas the exact sciences concern the field of phenomena in which there is no one who uses a signifier,[12] the conjectural sciences are fundamentally different because they concern beings who inhabit the symbolic order.


In 1965, however, Lacan problematises the distinction between conjectural and exact sciences:

The opposition between the exact sciences and the conjectural sciences can no longer be sustained from the moment when conjecture is susceptible to an exact calculation and when exactitude is based only on a formalism which separates axioms and laws of grouping symbols.[13]

Whereas in the last century physics provided a paradigm of exactitude for the exact sciences which made the conjectural sciences seem sloppy by comparison, the arrival on the scene of structural linguistics redressed the imbalance by providing an equally exact paradigm for the conjectural sciences.

When Freud borrowed terms from other sciences, it was always from the natural sciences because these were the only sciences around in Freud's day that provided a model of rigorous investigation and thought.

Lacan differs from Freud by importing concepts mainly from the "sciences of subjectivity," and by aligning psychoanalytic theory with these rather than with the natural sciences.

Lacan argues that this paradigm shift is in fact implicit in Freud's own reformulations of the concepts that he borrowed from the natural sciences.


In other words, whenever Freud borrowed concepts from biology he reformulated those concepts so radically that he created a totally new paradigm which was quite alien to its biological origins.

Thus, according to Lacan, Freud anticipated the findings of modern structural linguists such as Saussure, and his work can be better understood in the light of these linguistic concepts.


Is psychoanalysis a science? Freud was quite explicit in affirming the scientific status of psychoanalysis: 'While it was originally the name of a particular therapeutic method,' he wrote in 1924, 'it has now also become the name of a science - the science of unconscious mental processes' [14].


However, he also insisted on the unique character of psychoanalysis that sets it apart from the other sciences; 'Every science is based on observations and experiences arrived at through the medium of our psychical apparatus. But since our science has as its subject that apparatus itself, the analogy ends here' [15].The question of the status of psychoanalysis and its relationship with other disciplines is also one to which Lacan devotes much attention. In his pre-war writings, psycho- analysis is seen unreservedly in scientific terms [16]. However, after 1950 Lacan's attitude to the question becomes much more complex.

In 1953, he states that in the opposition science versus art, psychoanalysis can be located on the side of art, on condition that the term 'art' is understood in the sense in which it was used in the Middle Ages, when the 'liberal arts' included arithmetic, geometry, music and grammar [17].

However, in the opposition science versus religion, Lacan follows Freud in arguing that psychoanalysis has more in common with scientific discourse than religious discourse: 'psychoanalysis is not a religion. It proceeds from the same status as [[science]] itself [18].

If, as Lacan argues, a science is only constituted as such by isolating and defining its particular object of enquiry [19], then, when in 1965 he isolates the objet petit a as the object of psychoanalysis, he is in effect claiming a scientific status for psychoanalysis [20].

However, from this point on Lacan comes increasingly to question this view of psychoanalysis as a science. In the same year he states that psychoanalysis is not a science but a 'practice' [21] with a 'scientific vocation' [22], though in the same year he also speaks of 'the psychoanalytic science' [23]. By 1977 he has become more categorical:

Psychoanalysis is not a science. It has no scientific status - it merely waits and hopes for it. Psychoanalysis is a delusion - a delusion which is expected to produce a science. . . . It is a scientific delusion, but this doesn't mean that analytic practice will ever produce a science. [24]

However, even when Lacan makes such statements, he never abandons the project of formalising psychoanalytic theory in linguistic and mathematical terms. Indeed, the tension between the scientific formalism of the MATHEME and the semantic profusion of lalangue constitutes one of the most interesting features of Lacan's later work.


science, 1, 7-8, 10-11, 19, 34, 39-40, 47, 77, 86, 151, 163, 225-6, 231, 234, 245-6, 259, * 264, 274, astrology and astronomy 152, chemistry 9, chinese astronomy 151-2, * economics, 210, ethology, animal, 279, genetics 151, human sciences, 7, 20, 43, 223, * physics, 10, 163, physilogy, 163, Seminar XI


References

  1. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p.857
  2. {{Ec, 855
  3. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.70
  4. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p.874
  5. {{see mathematics, algebra
  6. Lacan, 1973a: 60
  7. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p.79
  8. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p.874
  9. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p.831
  10. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p.858
  11. {{thanks to the work of Dilthey
  12. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p.186
  13. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p.863
  14. {{Freud, 1925a: SE XX, 70
  15. {{Freud, 1940a: SE XXIII, 159
  16. {{e.g. Lacan, 1936
  17. {{Lacan: 1953b: 224
  18. {{Sl1, 265
  19. {{see Lacan, 1946, where he argues that psychoanalysis has actually set psychology on a scientific footing by providing it with a proper object of enquiry - the imago - Ec, 188
  20. {{Ec, 863
  21. {{pratique
  22. {{Ec, 863
  23. {{Ec, 876
  24. {{Lacan, 1976-7; seminar of 11 January 1977; Ornicar?, 14: 4