Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A passage from Derrida, Resistances of Psychoanalysis

Let me be quite clear about this: my intention here is not at all to accuse or criticize Foucault, to say, for example, that he was wrong to confine Freud himself (in general) or psychoanalysis itself (in general) to this role and place; on the subject of Freud or psychoanalysis themselves and in general, I have in this form and place almost nothing to say or think, except perhaps that Foucault has some good arguments and that others would have some pretty good ones as well to oppose to his. It is also not my intention, however it may seem, to suggest that Foucault contradicts himself when he so firmly places the same Freud (in general) or the same psychoanalysis (in general) sometimes on one side and sometimes on the other of the dividing line, and always on the side of the Evil Genius – who is found sometimes on the side of madness, sometimes on the side of its exclusion-reappropriation, on the side of its confinement to the outside or the inside, with or without asylum walls. The contradiction is no doubt in the things themselves, so to speak. And we are in the region where the wrong (the being-wrong or the doing-someone-wrong) would want to be more than ever on the side of a certain reason, on the side of what is called raison garder – that is, on the side of keeping one's cool, keeping one's head – on the side, precisely, where one is right [a raison], and where being right [avoir raison] is to win out over or prove someone wrong [avoir raison de], with a violence whose subtlety, whose hyperdialectic and hyperchiasmatic resources, cannot be completely formalized, that is, can no longer be dominated by a metalanguage. Which means that we are always caught in the knots that are woven, before us and beyond us, by this powerful – all too powerful – logic. The history of reason embedded in all these turbulent idioms (to prove someone wrong [donner tort] or to prove them right [donner raison], to be right [avoir raison], to be wrong [avoir tort], to win out over [avoir raison de], to do someone wrong [faire tort], and so on) is also the history of madness that Foucault wished to recount to us. The fact that he was caught up, caught up even before setting out, in the snares of this logic – which he sometimes thematizes as having to do with a "system of contradictions" and "antinomies" whose "coherence" remains "hidden" – cannot be reduced to a fault or wrong on his part (F, p. 624). This does not mean, however, that we, without ever finding him to be radically wrong or at fault, have to subscribe a priori to all his statements. One would be able to master this entire problematic, assuming this were possible, only after having satisfactorily answer a few questions, questions as innocent as What is reason?, for example, or, more narrowly, What is the principle of reason? What does it mean to be right [avoir raison]? What does it mean to be right or to prove someone right [avoir ou donner raison]? To be wrong, to prove someone wrong, or to do them wrong [avoir, donner ou fair tort]? You will forgive me here, I hope, for leaving these enigmas as they are.

4. The "Stroke of Genius": A Tireless Fort/Da

I will restrict myself to a modest and more accessible question. The distribution of statements, as it appears to be set out before us, should lead us to think two apparently incompatible things: the book entitled The History of Madness, like the history of madness itself, is and is not the same age as Freudian psychoanalysis. The project of this book thus does and does not belong to the age of psychoanalysis....(Derrida, "To Do Justice to Freud" in Resistances of Psychoanalysis)

(Would it be so extraordinarily presumptuous to insist: Begin here, or don't begin at all?)

Or you could begin here.

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