Friday, December 12, 2008

First Session Notes by Harita Atluri

(First Session was held on Saturday, 6 December 08)

The class began with the discussion on the possibility of two approaches to understanding the psyche –

  • First would be the psychophysics way, that is, going to the level of microtubular structures of cell and thinking the mind. For instance, Roger Penrose is a psychophysicist who thinks that the mind is divisible into neurons and neurotransmitters and chemical reactions.
  • The second approach as supported by Erica Burman is seeing individual mental health as a reflection of the social mental health.

The class took off from the question “Can they be a military solution to a political problem?”

It arose from the contemporary issue of Bombay blasts. In this context he introduced some of Lacan’s concepts which can be considered relevant in the treatment of the Bombay issue:

  • First is to get the facts right before impulsively making a statement or treatment.
  • Second would be to avoid the simplistic and inconsequential labeling like terrorist or abnormal. He himself gives up the terms like psychosis or neurosis since he believes that such labels do not help us understand the individual and achieve anything.
  • Third, he emphasized on the linguistic structure and brought about the linguistic turn in psychology. Instead of merely naming and labeling, he asked psychologists to attend to narratives, psychic structures and textualities; thereby not to pay attention to the broader categories but rather to the details. In doing away with names and labels he blurs the distinction between the inside and the outside of the discipline as well as between the analyzer and analysant. To quote Lacan: “We are made of the same clay we mould.” He implies therefore that the psychologist or psychoanalyst cannot and more importantly should not detach himself from the client.

Subjectivity as a mode of approach to the disciplines is introduced by Lacan. There are two ways of knowing the ‘other’:

  • Visual apparatus and
  • Audio apparatus.

In medicine practice the visual has always been given priority over the auditory whereas psychoanalysis gives preference to the latter. Even in history and myths, the visual has dominated among all the modes of knowledge acquisition. Historically, we can trace back to Plato where he gives preference to the visual in his cave metaphor in Book 7, The Republic. In myths, we have the popular anecdote of Arjuna being the perfect warrior because he is able to see only “eye” of the bird. He could not see the context in which the bird is and therefore he couldn’t see the “I” (the subjectivity) of the bird.

Lacan delivers 20 seminars at St. Agnes hospital. With one seminar each year, there is a gap of one year in between when he does not conduct the seminar because he is expelled from the International Psychoanalytic Society. His 21st seminar is on ‘TV: A Challenge to Psychoanalytic Establishment’ and is done through television. After this he dismantles his psychoanalytic institute telling his followers “It is up to you to be Lacanian, I remain Freudian”.

For those who do not seem to relate to the mainstream given understanding of shared reality, a reality which is agreed upon, Lacan invites psychologists to think of an alternate reality instead of merely pathologizing them. Therefore, he altered the notions like psychosis which came to mean for him not a breakdown of sanity or of reality but an alternative cosmology.

Ecritis was taken up for close reading in the class. It’s a French word, meaning collection and writing. In that the chapter ‘Beyond the Reality Principle’ is taken off from Freud’s ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’. In this context, we talked about how Lacan gave emphasis on understanding of the subjective entities rather than the biological entities. He goes as far as to say, there is no sexual relation referring to the relation between biological beings!

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