Belgian philosopher and university teacher (). Merleau-Ponty and the Philosophical Position of d Flynn – – In Robert Vallier, Wayne Jeffrey Froman & Bernard Flynn (eds.). Par Alphonse de Waelhens. Bibliothèque de Psychologie clinique Psychanalyse Phénoménologie, dirigé par Jacques Schotte. Louvain-Paris, Nauwelaerts.

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With an increasing interest in psychoanalyst, due to his proximity to Lacan, de Waelhens too became the founder of the Belgian School of Psychoanalysis alongside Antoine Vergote, Maurice Dugautiez and Jacques Schotte. His interest in psychoanalysis had a particular focus on the psychoses, schizophrenia in particular, and in he published La Psychose.

I reproduce selections from de Waelhens text here to make it more available, if necessary, for those interested in the subject and, perhaps, to stimulate an interest in those unfamiliar with the subject.

Man, of all the higher animals, is probably the one whose birth is most premature. The consequences of this fact are as immense as they are ineradicable. Our immaturity at birth signals, to begin with, the possible confusion in the sense of identification of birth with death and death with birth. This immaturity entails the fact that our original and inescapable lot is dependence, in the sense of parasitism. Initially, and for a long time, the contrary is true: It is our very nature to be close to things.

The philosopher will say that we are from the outset of and in the real. This we are even to such an extent that at the outset, reality cannot reveal itself as reality to the subject who experiences it. There is indeed no awareness of the real in the infant since there is no subject which can be aware.

EUscreen – Alphonse de Waelhens

And awareness requires a form of distancing which nothing as of yet guarantees. This can be put in another way by saying that lack and need are certainly real, but nothing permits them to appear as they really are. The structure of the dual union and of its vicissitudes is essentially opaque to itself, because it is devoid of all mediating negativity.

This could also be expressed by stating that the pseudo-subject in question has not, as of yet, acceded to the level of se. As De Waelhens will explain in the next page, the concept of desire is part of a triad: No one concept can be understood without an understanding of its function in the triad.

Similar authors to follow

One finds a short but dense statement about this triad in M. Mannoni, The Backward Childp. One finds a longer essay in J.

Wilden, The Language of the Selfp. But dde us distinguish more carefully between need and demand. Need refers to a state of psychological tension thirst, for example which originates in a physiological disequilibrium dehydration.

Need disappears as soon as an adequate compensation a drink has re-established the equilibrium of the organism.

It can reappear as soon as the equilibrium becomes disturbed once again. Either one does not find the adequate object—a fact which signifies, in the envisioned situation, that one does not receive it—and dies for want of it; or, the needed object is given and one ceases to be in a state of need. Demand, on the contrary, attempts to eliminate the fundamental incompleteness of the human condition through the reestablishment of the original symbioses. It is clear that such a reestablishment is impossible, except on the level of phantasy or delirium and even that is not completely successfuland that no particular object can make good the lack which in fact constitutes our being.

From this point on, there is a choice between two possibilities. Either the subject does not renounce the quest to repeat the original state, and attempts to go from partial object to partial object without finding satisfaction in any of them, since, in fact, the satisfaction sought after is illusory, and each of the objects which, in turn, he yearns for is a mirage.

Or, on the contrary, he consents to live as a being who lacks. Thus, it is the renouncement of total fulfilment which breaks the vicious circle of demand and its illusions to raise that demand to the level of desire.


The idea that the wish for total fulfilment leads to a vicious circle is a key insight in psychoanalysis. It is however already present in other authors. This passage shows that it is unavoidable that general resistance develops against a reform, if a reformer insists that the reform be executed in its purity.

This will be the case even if the reformer has the general well-being of all honestly in mind.

Waelhens, Alphonse de [WorldCat Identities]

Such a reform leaves no room for the general well-being as it is perceived by others. This passage shows that moral choice is not a choice between good and bad, but between baskets which are a mixture of good and bad.

Good for human being is thus never the pure good, but always a mixture of good and bad. Thus the morally acting man is necessarily guilty and is therefore always in need of forgiveness. The transition from the wish for the ideal moral good towards the insight that guilt and forgiving are essential is parallel to the transition in psychoanalysis from demand to desire.

In both one has to give up an impossible ideal. In both a transition to a more refined And also frustrating solution is possible. The future subject can effectively extricate himself from the alternatives of the dual union wherein he is caught, and succeed in an attempt to transcend it, only if he can also situate himself at a place other than that where he is held captive.

This was the case for the child with the spool of thread. He situated himself on a level other than that on which he underwent the throes of his drama. For this to occur it is first of all necessary but not sufficient that some help be offered to the infant. Such help might be absent. We will have to study if and how the absence of such help contributes to the genesis of psychosis. The availability of this help, at the moment it is needed, implies that it be available even before it is in actual fact required.

There is no paradox here. Psychoanalysis, anthropologists, and philosophers are unanimous in recognizing that real history of a being begins even before it is born. It seems to us—but we will return to it further on—that this fundamental phantasy is exactly the first offspring of the representation of the original repression.

Nevertheless, this most archaic signifier will be able to be brought to consciousness. Lacan gives great emphasis to the same idea: It is here that appears that first and terrible paradox: And there is no need at all to invoke Melanie Klein to understand that this is particularly true in the case of the mother. Her rapport with her own body, and especially her body in the state of pregnancy, will prove to be fundamental.

For the bond between mother and child is established at the very moment of conception. And it is at this point that an entrance into the realm of metaphor and the symbolic is afforded him. It is the first step towards the disengagement which will be offered by the primal repression. This latter includes everything which is of the order of representing an object, in as much as it is an object of desire and a support for speech.

And why would she not accomplish it? And what does it mean to say that she does not? In this regard, Mme Aulagnier, who inspired this section, answers by attempting to describe and understand a certain type of woman in whom the literature dealing with schizophrenia is showing more and more interest: Indeed, much work has been done on this subject, especially by the Americans and the Dutch [trans.

Some crucial publications on this subject are: If we have chosen to center our reflection around Mme.

Such a point of view is, to a great extent, the same as that of our work. She is, we learn, a woman who is herself the law. This is infinitely different than the first characterization. A woman who wants to law down the law for herself and for everyone, if possible, in no way contests the existence of a law nor the indissoluble connection between the right to promulgate it and possession of the signifier that represents this right.


Simply, she refuses to recognize herself as deprived of that signifier, and, identifying herself with the man, she unconsciously imagines herself endowed with it hence, the frequent preference which she displays to collect and accumulate for herself symbols of it.

Thus, she arrogates to herself the right to enter into rivalry with the man in order to impose on him her own law. This is not done, however, to contest the legitimacy of that law.

It is useless to say more, since it is common experience that such a woman is little inclined to accept the inobservance on the part of others of any social etiquette which is more or less symbolic of the law in question here.

It is different with the mothers of psychotics.

These women neither recognize nor comprehend the law as such. That which replaces the law—for themselves and for the others upon whom they attempt to impose it—is their own caprice. The cards which are normally only symbolic instruments through which a game can be played between myself and others, a game in which the very fact of cheating means that I understand the rules, become in this case an end in themselves.

One no longer needs to know, in order to play, that the King is higher than the Queen, nor that the established order determines the value: It is a law which has no need of any symbolic support, and which only depends on the arbitrary choice of the one who plays. It is a law which, in the last analysis, is nothing else than the proof or sign of the fundamental absence of law in the arena in which these subjects locate themselves. It may even be an imaginary defense. This view of pregnancy, however, does not prepare the woman psychologically for the following traumatic event: One can easily see that such a disturbance, in the mind of the mother—which one would better call a perversion—can have grave and pathological consequences for the future subject.

For, precisely, this ahistoricity renders the maternal figure [fn. It is clear, in effect, that the capacity to lead a life which is fully and really historical supposes recognition of the law. Simone de Beauvoir once wrote a story about a unique individual who was immortal, entitled Tous les hommes sont mortels.

The main character, presently our contemporary, but already several centuries old, was denuded of all historicity, because he was removed from all irrevocability. No event of his life could be branded irrevocable, since that event would always be susceptible of being cancelled by a contrary one.

Was he an emperor or a slave, learned or ignorant, misanthrope or philanthropist, lover or misogynist? How could one tell, for everything was always being indefinitely redone, and since he has eternally before him not only his own future but the entire future. Exempted from the law of death, he was also removed from existence. It is like the player who would know that he were capable of indefinitely doubling the bid; he would be exonerated from the risk of playing, but, by that very fact, would be incapable of playing.

This same law—that of the absence of law—applies to the women of whom we are speaking, and entails for them the same sanction. Only, they do not even understand this—for such comprehension entails a knowledge of the law—they do not know that their waelhenx is pure inexistence. This will become apparent in the manner in which such a mother speaks of her pregnant body.