Invited talk at the Phenomenology and Psychoanalysis Seminar.
What is at stake is a dialogue - which most of the time is not conciliatory – between, on the one hand, an interrogation held on the primacy of Erleben and of the acts of consciousness and, on the other, a theory and a clinic that, at first sight, locates what is essential to life in that which escapes consciousness and which determines conscious contents by processes foreign to those which consciousness can recognise as being her own. To the set of those processes, this theory gives the name of “unconscious”, by attributing a new meaning to this philosophical notion (that can already be found in Schopenhauer’ metaphysics). According to this theory, which is Freud’s, consciousness and the unconscious are presented as being opposed: the unconscious would determine consciousness and consciousness would ignore it, believing she is the only dweller of the mind when, in reality, she is but a little inhabitant of it, the involuntary agent of a drama of which she is not the author and to the determination of which she cannot escape. But this opposition - which is above all of a logical order - does not hide (and rather reveals) the continuity between consciousness and the unconscious, by stressing that the determination of one by the other, without suppressing the specificity of each one of them, displaces the centre of mental life from the first to the second, at the same time that it renders them inseparable. If the unconscious, as a set of processes and of effective forces rooted in the organic body (of which is originated the excitement that is the source of drives) determines the contents of consciousness, it is from that which we call consciousness and from the set of determinations that characterise it that we apprehend negatively, or by contrast, the unconscious. We can therefore understand, partly, the methodological – or even epistemological – critique Fink addresses to psychoanalysis as a science of the unconscious: it will always be dependent from a science of consciousness and of what such science is able to teach us.