Article

INTERPRETING (WITH) FREUD1
Jean Laplanche
University of Paris, (VII)
Correspondence: Professor Jean Laplanche, 55 rue de Varenne, Paris, France

A b s t ra c t
This essay presents an explicit outline of almost everything that has implicitly governed Laplanche’s methodological purpose over the last 30 odd years. Of particular interest in the essay are the following: a critique of Jung and Ricoeur, together with a clear exposition of what impels Laplanche’s emphatically anti-hermeneutic approach to Freud; the suggestion of points of continuity between Laplanche’s early collaborative publications (with Leclaire and Pontalis) and his subsequent solo work; an account of the singularity of Freud’s analytic method and its implications for a textual analysis of Freud; the broaching of the notion of the ‘‘exigency’’ (exigence) of Freud’s thought, and its relation to desire.

Ke y wo rds
Freud; hermeneutics; psychoanalytic method; Ricoeur Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society (2006) 11, 171–184. doi:10.1057/palgrave.pcs.2100077

I n terpr et i ng wi th Freud

I

nterpreting: the word is familiar enough, and the function to which it refers – secular or, more readily, sacred – may seem well-established. Throughout the ages, and in all domains of culture, signs, oracles, writings have been interpreted. Interpretation always plays on the ambiguity or ‘‘polysemy’’, as it is known, of a text’s manifest element: whether it is the message delivered by a naturally appearing phenomenon or pronounced in a deliberately false statement, or whether, ultimately, in the Bible or the Koran, it entirely overflows by its very richness the text offered to an immediate reading.

c Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society 2006, 11, (171–184) 2006 Palgrave Macmillan Ltd 1088-0763/06 $30.00 www.palgrave-journals.com/pcs

but always by following the lines of virtual force. directly or indirectly. even a body of work – is considered to be a ‘‘natural’’ phenomenon open to potentially infinite meanings. reanimating it with one’s own breath. ancient or patristic – to interpret is to place oneself beyond the given. however imperceptibly. of unconscious meanings that are only sketched in outline. Translating. As something supposed to guarantee the authenticity of the interpretative undertaking. the paranoiac presents us with a kind of compendium of all the processes of hermeneutics: the interpretation of signs and gestures. the manifest and immediate meaning – these are processes with which we are also familiar in the context of psychopathology: paranoiac interpretation. There is no root in Racine. As understood by all non-Freudian hermeneutics – cabalistic or paranoiac. it is a word to be deciphered. He does this with an exactitude and a rigour that Freud heavily underscored. and replaced with a more truthful and authentic text. the latter. that meaning need interest us no more than any other interpretative variant or variation. and which would not hesitate to compare itself with a scientific procedure. A procedure which is meant to be allied to a branch of knowledge [savoir]. as ‘‘psychological’’ or ‘‘anecdotal’’ background. and which he underlines mercilessly. below the language one is reading and deciphering. But when I give to B an account of this interview. Systematic.Psychoanalysis. Foucault’s statement with respect to Renaissance hermeneutics: ‘‘There can be no commentary unless. at best. which. Hence. there runs the sovereignty of an original Text’’ (Foucault. to aim at back at this side. this two-level structure of manifest and latent text is given a rough ride by modern critics. p 41). sacred and secular. and. takes up everything in his personal discourse.4 Jean Laplanche . if it is granted that a work may have meant something ¨ specific to its author. from that point. of texts also. interpretation reduplicates this ambiguous nature within itself: in the course of a negotiation to which I lend my services as mediator I may declare my impartiality by reminding you that ‘‘I am only the interpreter of the wishes of your adversary B’’. everyday speech. and armed with a vision of the world which is doubtless no more than the counterpart to and transposition of the precarious and menaced. Culture & Society -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------172 Feeding off the ambiguity of the given. translated. but also deviating from. suddenly becomes indignant: ‘‘You’ve given your own interpretation of what I meant!’’. except. are always addressed to him.2 The paranoiac. a book that is at once to be read. of absences and presences. supplementing and re-inflecting. To interpret and to read are parts of the same process: that of taking up a work into one’s private universe. But here the given comes already freighted with meaning. worried by what I might have advanced in his name. but so much more rigid unity of his ego.3 and the classical critic who claims to be able restore the true Racine to us can only be a forger or. On the other hand. 1970. a naıf. certainly. at most. The manifest text – be it gesture. like the ‘‘great interpreter’’ does with the dead score he procures from Durand.

Let us take the last as an exemplar. it is to traverse backwards along the paths which have led to the production of a phenomenon. let us note that the German term bears slightly different resonances from the French. licensed by an appeal to Germanic ‘‘depth’’. you will easily pick up on who is the wisest and most reserved of the auditors: he will.5 The originality of Freudian interpretation truly merits being recalled and underlined.Psychoanalysis. each according to its relative level of ‘‘depth’’. But the wilder. their poetics is universally recognized. It is worth adding that this ‘‘wilder’’ analyst could be Interpreting (with) Freud . for it is too often misunderstood. It is often said – Freud sometimes said it himself – that psychoanalysis discovered the existence of a hidden meaning in dreams. then. and not always the younger among them. A dream. the text of a clinical observation. pass on second hand. but to show it in its true light. venture to propose a profounder and more complete interpretation of the material that has been set forth. and so on. Deutung is more realist: it supposes the existence of a meaning which is to be recovered. The obscure presentiment of the meaning. and in practice where even the most orthodox analysts do not always resist the seductions of reading as from an open book. of the part played by the ‘‘associations’’ reported by the speaker. or the narration of a dream. Slip into a meeting where one of them is setting out to his colleagues a clinical case. to interpret is to go from a manifest text to the latent text on which it is founded. our text. the intuition. no doubt with circumspection. can be at most only a precursor to this labour of decryption. both in the context of theory where certain efforts have been made to confine it within the general frame of a hermeneutics. even those dreams which have been related in passing and without any contextual commentary. Lending your ear to the discussion. one adds that there exists a plurality of possible meanings which are perhaps equally legitimate. Our book. And finding support in that quickly assimilated notion of ‘‘overdetermination’’. sometimes in laughter. It serves not only to clarify and shed light on a text. and not created. Culture & Society -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------173 Deutung – interpretation: Without wishing to lapse into the hermeneutic mysticism which. sometimes in fear. to find the immanent meaning: Bedeutung. And it is not uncommon for psychoanalysts themselves to be complicit in this kind of reduction of their theory and their practice. In the case of dreams we are faced with a given which bears a certain meaning and claims to be sufficient unto itself – signifier and signified: we tell our dreams. a subject’s actions or discourse. to speak the truth. and so forth. is a text which we can read and which we even believe we can summarize. will go as far as to translate in a single breath and as from an open book. could be the neurotic symptom. For Freud. But on the basis of this type of formulation alone one fails to see clearly what would distinguish Freud’s position from the current tendency to deny the idea that there exists a single legitimate interpretation for every meaningful production. accepts as scientific discourse what is only etymological or philological exegesis. making use of context.

and another text. strictly speaking. or ‘‘I can remember no more from this point on’’: such phrases can put us on the track not of the character of the dream. ‘‘The dream was blurred [flou]’’. but in a sense that is both hyperbolic and deviant with regard to what the Cartesian spirit understands by it. The ‘‘rules of method’’ presupposed a breaking down of the object into natural and simple parts which fit neatly together. It is the method necessary for passing from the one to the other. but without anything conferring a privileged value upon them. The impression the dream produces on me (sadness. and the whole can assume significance as one element among others. is anything of the narration: as much a detail as a scene or the whole ensemble of a dream. Culture & Society -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------174 the speaker himself. without any being privileged. for instance. which I believe to be perfectly innocent – these things belong to the elements of the dream. What Freud called a displacement of psychical intensity or a transvaluation of all psychical values in dreams is nothing other than the theoretical justification of the rule that units of meaning be segmented along all imaginable lines of division. But the term ‘‘element’’ itself must not delude us here: in a dream there are no partes extra partes7 subject to simple delimitation. All the details of a dream.Psychoanalysis. a sort of unconscious discourse called the ‘‘fantasy of desire’’. the rule of omitting nothing in the course of the session and of treating every thought in the same way is as much of a shock to the understanding as it is to the ‘‘ego’’. Only the cross-checkings and validations required by the treatment constrain us to accept the paradoxes and the paralogisms that it brings about. for he is not necessarily privileged in his position as expositor. In psychoanalytic technique things happen quite differently. the elements are not atoms of meaning or even ‘‘distinctive’’ atoms in the sense used by linguistic theory vis a vis articulated discourse. along the apparently less natural borders that might exist. Thus. The two rules of dialogue – that of free association for the analysand and equal floating attention for the analyst – form a methodological whole. What we call ` an element of the narration. as the possible point of departure for an associative chain. The main part of the emphasis is placed on the precept of treating all elements of the discourse equally. terrory) or the judgements I make of it. and nothing can justify the implication that this or that manifest fragment is the bearer of an unconscious meaning so evident that he or his auditors could arrive at it themselves without labour.6 So what is it that characterizes psychoanalytic interpretation? It is not just the certainty that there exist at least two texts in the behaviours with which it is confronted – one which the subject gives or gives himself in the immediacy of his consciousness. Scandalous though it be for modesty and the moral sense. the procedure of reconstruction and ‘‘synthesis’’ was self-evident once the object had been conveniently cut along its lines of cleavage. but of one ‘‘latent thought’’ among others – that of my friend X who likes to wear Jean Laplanche . No relation of subordination exists between the part and the whole: the part can be as significant as the whole. must be taken. We characterize this method as analysis.

And thus is the reality of the metaphor fleshed out: the memory of this person that I ‘‘have in mind’’ really is the object that I have placed within me and incorporated. Sometimes. the associative chains that form a seemingly disorganized and monstrous network. And if the outline of a latent content does begin to become legible. mark the entire formula of the dream with a sign of negation or derision. Freud was the target of constant criticism for failing to deliver this ‘‘reconstruction’’. in a late article Freud elected to introduce the new term ‘‘construction’’ so as to reserve ‘‘interpretation’’ for this progression from the singular to the singular which constitutes the essence of the psychoanalytic approach: ‘‘‘Interpretation’ applies to something that one does to some single element of the material. Indeed. lacking any proportion or correspondence to the chain to which it is appended. conduct on a double front one and the same attack. From there on it is to follow. the small. whether propitious or destructive. But it is a construction when one lays before the subject of the analysis a piece of his early history that he has forgotteny’’ (Freud. Culture & Society -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------175 loose-fitting [flou] clothes. and vice versa. of the manifest material. A procedure which is close to interpretation but already distinct from it. if not as the one true interpretation. Conversely.8 And even if it is sometimes necessary to attempt to put this sequence into words. To interpret is to cling to every thread of the discourse without letting go. or of my having forgotten something while awake prior to the dream.Psychoanalysis. such as an association or a parapraxis. but motivated by the single certainty that the innumerable interlacings of the tracks left by the hunter-game will eventually be revealed to plot out the signifying knots which punctuate a certain unconscious sequence. To interpret in psychoanalysis is first of all to radically dismantle and lay out flat the organization of the manifest ‘‘text’’. like an algebraic ‘‘exponent’’. the signifier to the signified. 1937. to patients shaken by the analysis in their very reasons for existence. At other times. more openly they demand that the analyst replace what his ‘‘reductive’’ interpretation has destroyed. they present their religious exhortation as interpretation. the narration can be of significance to the content. Interpreting (with) Freud . Thus again. in the common sense of the term. construction would be a process of linking up in the sequence of the fantasy a certain number of the signifying elements to which the originating desire is attached. it does not do so as a translation. more insidiously. The so-called ‘‘anagogic’’ line claims to overturn Freudian interpretation in the very act of restoring to it its ‘‘true’’ meaning. scarcely perceptible absurdity of a detail can. p 261). without loosing one’s footing. this ‘‘synthesis’’. by proposing to the neurotic new ‘‘ethical’’ and religious ideals (an attempt to edify: a pious reconstruction). nor as a transformation – even with the complexity of an anamorphic transformation – which would still entail a point-to-point correspondence between manifest and latent text. In this connection the enemy. moving step by step. Jung and the Zurich school. it still scarcely constitutes interpretation.

Psychoanalysis. whether in the form of dogmatic presentations. Culture & Society -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------176 simultaneously reviving the theological tradition which requires the ascension from the literal to the ‘‘spiritual’’ meaning of sacred texts. a pedagogically aimed substitute for the text itself. Michel Tort has formulated the decisive objection: isn’t every reading of a great author necessarily an interpretation? ‘‘The real problem at stake in ‘‘reading’’ is absolutely not how to banish all interpretation. Freud is not. excluding from their own methodology what can be learned from Freud about either one. but how to construct an interpretation which is rigorously consistent with the text’’ (Tort. but by default. which must be renounced in the interests of civilization. 1966. and for whom?). howevery For there are those who think that their Reading of Freud warrants the use of the capital letter to consecrate their reading as Unique and Prophetic. let us note that the mode of interpretation on which it claims to be based consists ultimately in channelling the desire of the subject. And there are others who want to maintain the possibility of keeping separate the act of reading of Freud and the act of interpreting Freud.11 And there’s the rub: it is not a matter of the non-analyst’s right to read Freud. would also be an ´ interpretation. for he himself happens to beya reader of Freud. 1914. Of what he does. The terms are themselves subject to interpretation. the fantasmatic structures discovered by Freudian analysis themselves become ‘‘symbols’’ to be deciphered: ‘‘The Oedipus complex has a merely ‘‘symbolic’’ meaning: the mother in it means the unattainable. a synthetic expositor of his thought. Interp reting Freud? Reading – Interpreting. however. p 1462). Let us bring to this debate two things drawn from Freud: an instance of what he does and another of what he says.12 it is a question of assessing what one calls reading and what one calls interpretation. to explain or to interpret him. from whom one must set oneself free in order to become independent’’ (Freud. for the effacement and the distortion of its true history. And Tort shows that a reading which claims to be only a reading. p 62). It need hardly be emphasized that this claim to overturn the Freudian perspective cheapens all that is properly revolutionary and scientific in the psychoanalytic method. in favour of a return to the mystical decipherment of the Treatise of Signatures. or historical accounts of the evolution of his thought. in placing his discourse within another – that of the doctor of the soul. In between these two terms a theoretical debate is taking place about what the press calls the ‘‘return to Freud’’. a faithful expose. the father who is killed in the Oedipus myth is the ‘‘inner’’ father. fascinating such texts can in many respects be. one of those authors who Jean Laplanche .9 Thus. However. they certainly carry their share of responsibility for the debasement and banalization of the doctrine. As to reading.10 Without wanting to discuss the efficacy of Jungian therapy (why.

a content in which is expressed. But by its very nature this kind of systematic and synthetic development. where it dominates the symptomatic picture. censorship and sealing-off – ‘‘egoic’’. but its occurrence in other forms of neuro-psychosis must not be overlooked. even ‘‘superegoic’’ effects – already begun in the inevitable reading of Freud by Freud? From ‘‘reading’’ to ‘‘interpretation’’ we pass with Ricoeur from one extreme to the other: from pure and impossible objectivity to that ‘‘relocation in a different discourse’’ for which the author demands if not the rights of individual subjectivity. intended to give a faithful reflection of the work and nothing but. it does not hesitate to fabricate a false one. according to Ricoeur. Culture & Society -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------177 live by exploiting their past work. then how could a ‘‘pure’’ reading of Freud (supposing it were possible) achieve anything but the reinforcement of the effects of filtering. in the strict sense of a vicarious object which presents the same arrangement as the work’’ (Ricoeur. that comes within its grasp. The concept of ‘‘secondary revision’’ which Freud forged apropos of dreams is eminently applicable in many other domains. like a plating. It operates in an exemplary way fashioning and imposing a scenario. and the rearrangement may often have to be a drastic one if the outcome is to be made to appear intelligible from the point of view of the system’’ (Freud. but also from phobias. Systems constructed in this way are known to us not only from dreams. To read and to give an exposition of Freud would. upon the dream. and even the aesthetics of waking thought. be to give an ‘‘architectonic reconstitution of the work’’. The care which he puts into writing his ‘‘Short Account of Psychoanalysis’’ is a testament to this. but it is more or less legible in all forms of conscious production. at least those of a kind of philosophical subjectivity: ‘‘I am not saying that a single philosophy is capable of furnishing the vehicle [structure Interpreting (with) Freud . as a result of special circumstances. The construction of systems is seen most strikingly in delusional disorders (in paranoia). even in the final years of his life. whether of perception or thought. ‘‘to produceya homologue. it is unable to establish a true connection. 1912–13. In all these cases it can be shown that a rearrangement of the psychical material has been made with a fresh aim in view. something of the vivacity and uncontrollability of unconscious desire. in the presentation and architectonic arrangement of a work. in the concern for intelligibility or for common sense. This ‘‘consideration of intelligibility’’ aims to render acceptable from the point of view of moral demands. opens the field to intellectual mechanisms situated at another. 1974. from obsessive thinking and from delusions. p 162). though in an already distorted form. But if the most direct effects of secondary revision are revealed in the more manifest elements of which a work consists. and if. connection and intelligibility from any material. more ‘‘superficial’’ level than those at work in the original discovery and its initial exposition. ‘‘There is an intellectual function in us which demands unity. p 93).Psychoanalysis. logics.

it is not in the sense that Ernest Jones conceives of it in his biography of Freud – inspired. p 169). as the appropriation of a body of thought. it is the same kind of ‘‘teleology’’ which carries along both the subject and Freudianism in ‘‘a succession of ‘‘figures’’. nor of the rigorous means that it gives itself in order to achieve those aims.13 The frankness with which Ricoeur defines his interpretation as extrinsic. exempt it from having to answer the following question: in this conception of interpretation. p 174). In Ricoeur. or else we should like to know why nothing of this Freudian method is. by indications given by Freud himself. a psychography of artists and philosophers etc. then at least transposable when it comes to the interpretation of Freud.Psychoanalysis. and the interpretation of Freudian thought on the other. I believe that the correct reading of Freud is possible. or again as a ‘‘reflexive relocation’’ should not. 1974.. In the absence of any response. 1900. it should be noted. Culture & Society -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------178 d’accueil] in which relations between force and meaning can be explained. the ‘‘reception’’ of the subject within a ‘‘teleology’’ which is presented to him as the highest and truest form of his conflicts. while only a correct philosophical interpretation is possible. 1974. With the Zurich school. what becomes of the Freudian discovery of interpretation? For either what Freud called Deutung – for which he claimed to supply an original. should not be considered the last word of psychoanalysis on the issue. hermeneutics is openly declared to be the relocation of one discourse in the contingent alterity of another discourse (an interpretation). Caught between the reduction of a body of thought to purely subjective conditions deriving from the contingency of an individual history. and the Jean Laplanche . it would have to be concluded that what Ricoeur returns to with his specific method is precisely what Freud always challenged. And it would not be enough to object to such a transposition on the grounds that this would entail a confusion of domains or levels: the interpretation of the human subject on the one hand. The schema that Freud (1913) sometimes proposes for the psychoanalytic study of a body of thought. if not directly usable. or to present itself under the mask of psychoanalytic interpretation. each of which finds its meaning in the ones which follow it’’ (Ricoeur. and against which he struggled during the split with Jung: the old hermeneutics of religious inspiration. ‘‘anagogic’’ interpretation finds itself facing a dilemma: to acknowledge itself as a form of pious indoctrination. however. scientific method founded and confirmed by patiently and rigorously conducted experience – is just a new avatar of the eternal hermeneutic. The one I propose is connected with reflective philosophyy’’ (Ricoeur. For if we understand Ricoeur rightly. p 620)).14 I nt e rp r e t i ng ( w i t h ) Fre u d If we call our approach to the Freudian text ‘‘psychoanalytic’’ and ‘‘interpretative’’. retaining nothing of the aims of the Freudian approach (‘‘unconscious wishes reduced to their most fundamental and truest shape’’ (Freud.

thus enabling other networks of meaning to emerge. but it only really obtains in the case against the project for a psychoanalytic psychography of Freud. can indicate the weak points of this or that theory. far from reducing it to just a pile of rubble.15 The fact remains. with nothing omitted and nothing privileged a priori – this is perhaps for us the equivalent of the fundamental rule of the treatment. – constitutes a salutary methodological rule in that it takes the secondary revisions and camouflages of reason from the rear. is most closely related to desire. the major condition for the application of the method. on the level of discourse. numerous Interpreting (with) Freud . here too we can only limit ourselves to some points of method. which could also be called the principle of egalitarian analysis.Psychoanalysis. A work conducted by J. he tells us. The weight of these objections is considerable. first of all. that a psychoanalysis of a thinker and of his work always comes up against this objection in principle: that we find ourselves outside of the treatment. The literalness of reasoning must obviously not be neglected.g. And even if one wanted to try it regardless (e.-B. Conducted in the consulting room of the psychoanalyst. the biographical elements we have at our disposal are incredibly incomplete. Freud only ever finds a deft compromise: psychoanalysis. The undertaking of which we are here sketching certain conditions of possibility. and all the more so the thinker. in the case of Freud. or to what. amounts to a renewed respect for literalness. to demonstrate the weaknesses detected by another discipline. however. but onto a desire of which the figures and the reasons sketch a fragment of a more general combinatory repertoire. could foreground the rigour of the Freudian procedure in regard to the creation and use of concepts. Applied to philosophers. Traversing the oeuvre in every direction. as Freud did for President Schreber). but it is up to rational critique. but must be compared with – and counterbalanced by – the literalness of the notion. and of the part with the whole etc. the dismantling of thought and expression – the placing of ‘‘insignificant’’ details onto an equal level with ceaselessly reaffirmed declarations of principle. A psychoanalytic psychography which took this maxim with consistent seriousness would not open onto the purely contingent or purely aberrant. applied by Jones to Freud himself. Just as we have given only fragmentary indications as to the method of psychoanalytic interpretation in the treatment. This rule. is different: transposing mutatis mutandis the Freudian method of analysis of the individual and his desire onto the exigencies of a body of thought. ‘‘must be right in some way’’. Once this fundamental rule is posed and applied.. Pontalis and myself (1973) enabled us to show how much the dismemberment of a body thought. shockingly fragmented and censored (and. this method seems to forget one of the essential points of the Freudian discovery: the neurotic in his symptom. even in certain deviations in his reasoning. internal critique. by the author himself). it must be conceded that. Culture & Society -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------179 simply rational critique of that body of thought.

The absurdity of a detail. can mark the whole of a dream with the symbol of negation. It must be understood that there exist complex Jean Laplanche . 1923. after various complex and accidental detours. Culture & Society -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------180 mechanisms or processes of the unconscious discovered in the psychoanalytic interpretation of neurosis or of the dream.16 Forgetting. when Freud introduces the concepts of bound energy and free energy which will go on to become fundamental in the doctrine. polymorphous perversity etc. leaning on [etayage]. and resulting. in a quasi-instinctual regulation of the sexual activity of the individual. the real process of projection (in the geometric and neurological senses) which would come to be added to the model on the basis of what seems to be overtly naive reasoning. to be analysed. Equivalences or permutations of signifier and signified. an inversion to be redressed: what Freud unconsciously intends thus to mark with the sign of critique is Breuer’s theory with which. explicitly. For him. For us. Thus. he claims to be doing nothing other than adopting the opposition introduced by Breuer between two sorts of cerebral energy: tonic or quiescent energy and mobile energy. the intellectual avatar.17 there is no use in denouncing the crude confusion between. (2) the terms that he does use are in fact drawn from the physics of Helmholz where they have a quite precise usage with which Freud and Breuer themselves are familiar. (3) the Freudian usage of these terms is aberrant and even absurd with regard to that of Helmholz. and one which has been perpetuated among Freud’s successors. the apparent confusion of the plane of reality and causality with the plane of metaphor – all of this is to be straightened out. of object and expression. cannot shrink from the task of interpretation. as we have seen. and.Psychoanalysis. manifesting itself as a second nature. if Freud tells us that the ego ‘‘is not merely a surface entity but is itself the projection of a surface’’ (Freud. of a fundamental repression: that by which the drive. all of this signals that there is a displacement to be acknowledged. on the other. since Freud’s free energy corresponds largely to Helmholz’s bound energy and vice versa. for. faced with such a massive forgetting. this forgetting is only the offshoot. But three points here are striking: (1) Freud thinks it useful to employ terms other than Breuer’s. The psychoanalyst. Freud ´ finishes up in his theory of the ‘‘id’’ apparently placing the drive back in the order of nature and biology. having described so distinctively in the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality the birth of sexuality from every kind of human activity (a birth punctuated by the terms autoerotism. Thus in 1895. denied its infantile and intersubjective origins.). p 26). on the one hand. the spatial model of the psychic apparatus on whose surface the ego would be situated. he will always make out to be in agreement. ends up being assimilated to the subject. to be interpreted. can be refound at the level of Freud’s work. In the history of Freudian thought this unconscious process is met with on more than one occasion. in the sense of repression: we find here a solid example with Freudian theory of the genesis of sexuality or of the drive [pulsion].

. since these notably imply a balance between parts whose comparative weights can be evaluated according to the quasi-volumetric importance that they have in the whole. is a binary or ternary equilibrium between elements which over a period of time can find themselves entirely displaced. But in order to pose its principles it would be proper first to examine the multiple functions of contradiction and to situate in its role and its principal significance the repetitive agency [instance] of desire. Far from being simpler than history. in showing. beyond its now fashionable currency. the almost kaleidoscopic shifts of investment which lead to this apparent paradox: the pleasure principle. situated at the beginning of the Freudian oeuvre on the side of the sexual drive. 1974. annexed Interpreting (with) Freud . He is likely to prefer the term ‘‘structure’’ – a term of which. is. this ‘‘historic’’ would be more complex. and those sorts of realized metaphors (such as identifications) which psychoanalysis discovered to be constitutive of the human being. in the manifest work. Is this to say that this methodical and critical usage of the unfolding of the signifying elements of the work implies the definitive rejection of all perspective. at a certain moment. for example. for the analyst not to consider it with some suspicion. and how wary it should be of everything in the doctrine which constitutes its ‘‘egoic’’ reworking. and apparently the same nature. In an interpretative approach inspired by the Freudian discovery. the unconscious metaphors that the interpretation of his thought allows us to recover. perhaps the notion of history (the history of a body of thought) should be relocated to another level: that of a ‘‘historic’’ (in the same way that one passes from ‘‘problem’’ to the ‘‘problematic’’). without taking into account the structural upheavals. The architectonic? This term too strongly implies the ideas of system. how at the level of the unconscious a minute detail of the manifest system can act as a counterbalance to considerable ‘‘energetic’’ masses. It has been seen that one of the results of Freudian interpretation is the depreciation in considerations of order. because it would unfold on several levels simultaneously. Structure in Freud (which is to say at once in his work and in his object). beyond Freud’s sometimes clumsy formulations. It can be seen how interpretation of this kind should take its distance from the manifest text. Jean Pouillon (1966) has recently given a particularly persuasive definition. of good order. dense networks of connection between the metaphors consciously advanced by Freud. historical or architectonic? Forgive me for making only a mention of this complex problem here. invested with a totally different function while retaining the very same name. Freudian psychoanalysis brings to this definition a quite peculiar stress that is linked to its method: structure should not be assimilated to form or to system. p 164–165). Culture & Society -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------181 relations.Psychoanalysis. of harmony. To take just one example: it is impossible to recover the meaning of the pleasure principle. of subordination of part to whole etc. far from being the plane that could ideally give an account of the passage from one ‘‘state of system’’ to another ‘‘state of system’’ (Ricoeur.

5 Cf. of a permanent exigency [exigence]. 1992. Can it be reproached for arriving at relatively fixed views insofar as it leads to the demonstration. has been able to resist this species of interpretation. finally to be refound as the regulatory principle of Eros – that constructive and generative force of synthesis quite different at the end of the Freudian oeuvre from what was described in 1905 as sexuality.B.Psychoanalysis. in the wonderment of seeing interconnections between interpretations made in the psychoanalytic treatment of individuals and Jean Laplanche . Translators’ note. Pontalis) and Life and Death in Psychoanalysis. the permanence of a discovery which has perhaps yet to find its adequate scientific form? About the Author Jean Laplanche is Professor Emeritus of Psychoanalysis at the University of Paris (VII). In the moment of enthusiasm for the dawning psychoanalytic discovery. ´ ´ pp 21–36 by Vincent Ladmiral and Nicholas Ray. p 226) 3 Il n’y a pas de ‘‘Racine’’de Racine. It lays down as its preliminary condition that one stay close to the work as well as to its impasses – accepting fully the need for a ‘‘reductive’’ analysis. Thus the formulation implies (a) that the body of work signed by Racine is not considered to be ‘‘rooted’’ in its author. and (b) that by the same token it would be naive to treat ‘‘Racine’’ the historical personage as the root or interpretative key to understanding his textual corpus. ` Notes 1 Translated from La revolution copernicienne inachevee: travaux 1965–1992. The full import of this phrase depends upon an untranslatable pun on Racine’s name: racine ¼ root. His abnormality finally reduced itself to this. 1900) which focuses on the ‘‘method of interpretation’’ and situates psychoanalytic practice in relation to ancient and popular procedures for the interpretations of dreams. 1922. and a member of the Association Psychanalytique de France. (With thanks to John Fletcher of the University of Warwick for his invaluable comments on the translation). across the mutations of the theory. His most recent major works to be translated into English are Essays on Otherness and The Unconscious and the Id.18 A structural history of Freudian thought is perhaps possible. 4 The recording onto disc or film of a musical or theatrical work does not alter the objection in principle: in the name of what absolute should we privilege the performance of Sacre du Printemps conducted in person by Stravinski? [Durand is the name of a major music publisher in France. that he watched his wife’s unconscious mind much more closely and then regarded it as far more important than anyone else would have thought of doing’’ (Freud. Translators’ note]. 6 No analyst. Culture & Society -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------182 to the death drive. but necessarily destined to be integrated into the ‘‘private universes’’ of innumerable future readers. so that he really was always in the right about it. 2 ‘‘[The jealous paranoiac] was extraordinarily observant of all these manifestations of [his wife’s] unconscious and always knew how to interpret them correctly. Among his best known major works are The Language of Psychoanalysis (co-authored with J. the beginning of the chapter in The Interpretation of Dreams (Freud. Professor Laplanche is also scientific director of the ongoing project to translate Freud’s Oeuvres Completes. provided that it takes Freudian thought fully into account in its very method. Paris: Aubier. and could furthermore call in analysis to justify his jealousy. including Freud himself.

James Strachey.). vol. London: The Hogarth Press [S. Yet on reflection. IV–IV. Seen from this ‘‘down to earth’’ perspective of the labour of ‘‘reading’’. the death drive and the theoretical evolution of Eros. the ‘‘little object’’ (das Kleine). The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. (1970). forgetting his sovereign approach (homo sumy). London: Tavistock Publications Ltd. pp 119 ff. Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. the more detailed exploration of this passage in Laplanche (1976. Croll sought to decipher the signatures thought to be imprinted within natural objects. in particular Serge Leclaire’s analysis of the ‘‘unicorn dream’’. The ancient doctrine of ‘‘signatures’’ held that all natural things on earth were ‘‘signed’’ by God. ‘‘it is Freud who came onto our territory’’ (Ricoeur. 7 ‘‘Parts without parts’’FTranslators’ note. 1974. Translators’ note. Silberer’s ‘‘anagogic interpretation’’ aims to establish the universal ethical significance of the products of symbolism. ‘‘symbolism’’ (taken in the precise sense of a ‘‘symbolic’’) perhaps comes down to a single truly universal symbol: the minimal and detachable element of meaning. M. in order to determine their specific healing properties as well as their relation to the divine. chapter six. S. See Laplanche and Pontalis (1973. trans. the analysis of the distinction between free and bound forms of energy in Laplanche (1976. As a chemist. has first to steel himself in order to face them. attentive and passionate dwelling on the literalness of the preceding ‘‘figure’’. The Interpretation of Dreams. p 34). The best and most convincing Hegelian analyses are those in which the new ‘‘figure’’. 14 As a means of illuminating the ‘‘dialectical teleology’’ which would allow such a ‘‘relocation’’ of Freudianism. the interpretation. 11 The debate concerning Paul Ricoeur’s work Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation (1970) can be followed in Tort (1966) and Ricoeur (1974). Freud. 15 Cf. the dissolution of which caused something of a stir at the time. 17 Cf. He therefore opposes it to analytic interpretation which supposedly reduces products of symbolism to their specific and usually infantile-sexual content. such as dreams. With what is called ‘‘symbolic’’ interpretation. (1900). p 163)? (And he was made man. the reference to Hegel is far from being unequivocal. Culture & Society -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------183 those made in the analysis of myths and folklore. Translators’ note. after all.E. one parallel to that which requires the patient labour of working through individual ‘‘associations’’. 18 On the relationship between sexuality. Translators’ note. Les Mots et les choses. see Laplanche (2004). have become so prevalent that the philosopher. Re fe r e n c es Foucault. 16 Cf. to the admiration of Jung. (Orig. esp. The UNR acted as a political party. Interpreting (with) Freud . 12 Must it be that the intimidation carried out by certain ‘‘analysts’’. and he dwelt among usy) 13 Such terms give away their vintage. Freud gives substance and authority to a theory of ‘‘symbolism’’ which claims to identify a universal unconscious language – one of symbols which would be marked neither by the history of the individual nor even by the particularities of a given civilization. what I have attempted in Laplanche (1961). the phallus in its innumerable guises. Laplanche and Leclaire (1999). 1966). is imposed through an over-insistent. There was talk in 1967 of ‘‘welcome centres’’ [structures d’accueil] for future orphans of the UNR. Translators’ note. the blackmail made by appeal to incommunicable experience. 10 The Treatise of Signatures forms one portion of the physician Oswald Croll’s Basilica Chymica (1609). by responding that. cold and wandering? [Note added 1992]. 9 The theological notion of ‘‘anagogic interpretation’’ was reprised by Herbert Silberer in 1914. But didn’t Freud build a ‘‘permanent’’ structure lest anyone should think it necessary to propose one (or several) centres of prefabricated accommodation for some unfortunate Freudians. pp 134–138).Psychoanalysis. and the private hunting ground of the treatment. there is in Hegel something of a prefiguration of the ‘‘reductive’’ interpretation of Freud.]. Freud actually comes upon a second method. 8 Cf. to ‘‘territory’’.

Laplanche. Denis Savage. P. British Journal of Psychotherapy 20 (4). P. S. J. XIV. S. vol. XIII.E. trans. Some Neurotic Mechanisms in Jealousy. The Unconscious: A Psychoanalytic Study in The Unconscious and the Id: A Volume of Laplanche’s Problematiques. Laplanche.E.-B. ´ ´ Tort. S. 1969). Evanston: Northwestern University Press. London: Rebus Press 1999. The Claims of Psycho-Analysis to Scientific Interest. Les Temps modernes 22 (246). Ricoeur.E. 1967). p. ´ ´ pp. trans. Holderlin et la question du pere. Freud. trans. Laplanche. (Orig. (1966). 767–790. Laplanche.E. 1970). Donald Nicholson-Smith. (1914). Laplanche (2004). (1999). in S. S. XIII. 1995. Jean Laplanche . (1966). and Leclaire. XIX. (Orig. M. 224–272. Jeffrey Mehlman. Ricoeur. ou la machine hermeneutique. Luke Thurston. Freud. pp. vol. 1966). in S. A Philosophical Interpretation of Freud. The So called Death Drive: A Sexual Drive. (1922). XXIII. On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement. Adolescence. vol. Constructions in Analysis. (1913). in S. trans. 30. (Orig. (1961). Culture & Society -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------184 Freud. London: Karnac Books and the Institute of Psychoanalysis (Orig. La soi-distant pulsion de mort: une pulsion sexuelle. London: Johns Hopkins University Press. vol. (1974). Vocabulaire de la psychanalyse. trans. J. XVIII. Freud. J. and Pontalis. (1937). Paris: Presses Universitaires de ` ¨ France. Les Temps modernes ´ ´ 21 (237). Presentation: un essai de definition. The Ego and The Id. Totem and Taboo. in S. (1912–13). The Language of Psychoanalysis. Luke Thurston ´ with Lindsay Watson. Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. Willis Domigo.Psychoanalysis. no. Freud.) The Conflict of Interpretation: Essays in Hermeneutics.E. (1976). (1973). Paranoia and Homosexuality. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. J. 1461–1493. pp. and 21 (238). trans. (1970). De l’interpretation.E. Pouillon. S. Vie et mort en psychanalyse. S. ‘Une interpretation philosophique de Freud’ in Le ´ Conflit des interpretations: essays d’hermeneutique. 1629–1652. De l’interpretation: essai sur ´ Freud. summer 2004 (Orig. vol. (1923). in S. J. S.). In Don Ihde (ed. J. vol. Life and Death in Psychoanalysis. Baltimore. Freud. in S. 93. pp.

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