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Lacan's conceptualization of the relation between psychoanalysis, science and philosophy

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Psychoanalysis has been the subject of controversial critiques from a multitude of perspectives. Prominent among these are Masson’s critique of Freud’s abandonment of seduction theory, Sokal and Bricmont’s critique of Lacan’s ‘abuse’ of scientific and mathematical concepts, Foucault’s critique of the ‘repressive hypothesis’ and psychoanalysis’ pretence to universality (rather than seeing itself as merely one among many other ‘hermeneutics of self’), Popper’s critique of non-falsifiability and so on. Given the controversies surrounding psychoanalysis in general and Lacanian theory in particular, this talk will consider two related questions. The first concerns the scientificity (or lack thereof) of psychoanalysis. The second involves a critique of modern science in light of the Lacanian notion of the subject. Central themes involved in the elaboration of these two questions will be 1. the role of linguistics in Lacanian theory, 2. the importance accorded to mathematical formalization in Lacan’s understanding of the scientific revolution (can psychoanalysis aspire to such formalization?), 3. the notion of the ‘divided subject’, 4. Lacan’s attempt to rigorously demarcate psychoanalysis, distinguishing it from science, religion and magic, and finally 5. Lacan’s equation of the ‘subject of science’ with the psychoanalytic notion of the ‘subject of the unconscious’ in light of the Cartesian Cogito.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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