J. Laplanche-the young intellectual

J. Laplanche-the middle-age academic

J. laplanche-the “magister” of psychoanalytic reasoning

… The Copernican revolution…opened up the possibility of the absence of the center… If the center of the world can be everywhere, it follows correlatively that ‘its circumference is nowhere’. A decentered and infinite world…led…to the accusation of impiety. If man is no longer at the center of the universe, not only are all cosmogonies and creation myths contradicted, but all the pantheons forged in the image of man or centered on man are thereby devalorized… The Copernican revolution is perhaps still more radical in that it suggests that man, even as subject of knowledge, is not the central reference point of what he knows… an infinity of knowledge, as well as epistemological decentering much harder to accept… The empirical subject accords with Copernicus : he is carried back and forth in the moment of the universe. The transcendental subject… remains faithful to Ptolemy.
Jean Laplanche, ‘Essays on Otherness”, Routledge, 1999, p. 56 – 57

… The Ptolemaism of the human psyche, its narcissistic recentering, follows upon a ‘Copernican’ stage as its presupposition, in which the nursling child is caught up in the orbit of the other and has a passive relation to its messages. Furthermore, the moment of narcissistic closure – the construction of the ego as an agency – corresponds to the sequence of primary repression to the constitution of the internal other, the unconscious. On the side of theory, Freud’s endless Ptolemaic relapses – his way of continually taking the point of view of the subject in interpersonal matters and of the ego in intrapersonal ones – is nothing but a parallel to the ineluctable narcissistic closure of the apparatus of the soul… Psychoanalysis… is at once both Ptolemaic and Copernican. Copernican, in that it finds ita immediate centre of gravity in the other: both in the observation of the fundamental rule, which aims to make visible the gravitational pull exerted by the sun and stars of the unconscious, the obscure way it drags the apparent coherence of our discourse into its orbit, as well as in the transference. Psychoanalytic treatment itself, however, does not escape an endless recentering: the ego is tirelessly at work in it, striving to re-order the ‘recuperated’ element of the unconscious.
Jean Laplanche, ibid, p. 82 – 83

I have postulated as one of the major dimensions of the cultural domain this provocation by the enigma of the other. The cultural message, the artistic ‘creation’, is situated beyond a purely pragmatic aim (to produce such and such an effect on addressee, by using some particular means). It is, in its depths, provoked by the ‘nameless public’, ‘scattered into future’, who will receive (or not) this message in the bottle. The ‘cultural’ thus seems to me to be one of the precursors of the analytic situation, specifically because of the…transference it installs.
Jean Laplanche, ibid, p. 111

Between determinism and hermeneutics, what is the contribution of the concept of the enigmatic message and the correlative concept of translation? With the message…an existing, pre-existing sense is offered to the subject, of which, however, he is not the master… With the concept of enigma, a break in determinism appears: to the extent that the originator of the enigmatic message is unaware of most of what he means, and to the extent that the child possesses only inadequate and imperfect ways to configure or theorize about what is communicated to him, there can be no linear causality between the parental unconscious and discourse on the one hand and what the child does with these on the other. All the Lacanian formulae on the unconscious as ‘discourse of the Other’, or the child as ‘symptom of the parents’, disregard the break, the profound reshaping, which occurs between the two, and which may be likened to a metabolism that breaks down food into its constituent parts and reassembles them into a completely different entity.
Jean Laplanche, ibid, p. 160

… what is lacking in both Freud and Lacan is a consideration of the enigmatic dimension, otherness, on the part of the child’s adult protagonists: the others of the primal scene, the other of the castration threat appear as if they themselves had no relationships with their own unconscious. This is in accordance with the Lacanian formula – which is also valid for Freud and with which I take issue – that ‘there is no Other of the Other’.
Jean Laplanche, ibid, p. 173

Even if we concentrate all our attention on the retroactive temporal direction, in the sense that someone reinterprets their past, this past cannot be a purely factual one, an unprocessed or raw ‘given’. It contains rather in an immanent fashion something that comes before – a message from the other. It is impossible therefore to put forward a purely hermeneutic position on this – that is to say, that everyone interprets their past according to their present – because the past already has something deposited in it that demands to be deciphered, which is the message of the other person.
Jean Laplanche, ibid. p. 265

Freud never conceived that there could be other categories than factual reality and imagination… I now call this third category the ‘message’ or ‘signifier’. What Freud missed there is the category of the message. We should therefore be careful to avoid the Freudian antinomy of either real seduction or fantasy, and look rather at the message side… Not all seductions are abuses. There is the implantation of an erotic message in the infant which he or she does not understand… For me, the priority of the other is the priority of the message from the other… moral values can be transmitted and persist in individuals without ever entering consciousness. They remain, as it were, enigmatic: they are never decoded not subjected to contextual analysis. As such, they persist as psychotic enclaves that can dangerously disrupt individuals and societies… I am struck by the immutable character of moral imperatives… moral issues remain very much self-enclosed, in enclaves. There is no fundamental interrogative work, for example, on either taboos or moral imperatives. In his discussion of narcissism Freud does relate the moral imperatives of the super-ego to paranoid observational delusion…a message that is not metabolized.
Jean Laplanche, “Seduction, Translation and the Drives”, ICA, London, 1992, p. 9 – 12

The Oedipus and castration complexes are ways of secondary elaboration of the primary messages… Oedipus was the first criminal through the feeling of culpability – that is, the feeling of culpability is more primary than the elaboration of the complex.
Jean Laplanche, ibid, p. 31

…there is a big difference between the work of thought and a poem… the author of thought takes his own language as a big palace, a huge building, but he inhabits only a part of it. He leaves parts almost completely empty; he uses some passages and door more than others. So there is a way in which an author of thought uses his language. A poet tries to use his language as a whole, he tries to inhabit as much of the palace as possible; going from one place to the other, he uses new meanings of the words and new resonances. That is one reason why you cannot think exactly of Lacan’s work as a work of thought, because it is a little between a work of thought and poetry; he twists words and expressions and uses it as an argument, as a way of convincing.
Jean Laplanche, ibid, p. 49

The dependency of the little human being on the adult, which is much more marked than in other species, favors the dislocation in which humanization originates, namely the precocious sexualization of the human being… the issue is that the adult is entirely infiltrated with unconscious and sexual significations, of which the adult too does not possess the code… The breast is a major erogenous zone in a woman, which cannot fail to perform that function in relationship to the child. What does this breast which feeds and excites me want of me? What incites me to be excited? What does it want to say to me that it doesn’t know itself? It is because the adult’s gestures directed at the child’s preservation carry unconscious sexual messages (i.e. unconscious for them), which in turn cannot be mastered by the child, that such gestures produce the movement of cleaving and drifting that eventually ends up in autoerotic activity. But the obligatory vehicle of autoeroticism, that is, what stimulates it and makes it exist, is the intrusion of enigmatic signifiers brought by the adult, then their subsequent repression… In conformity with the Freudian theory of afterwardness (Nachtraglichkeit), we conceive this primal repression in at least two forms of time. The first form of time, which is passive, as with implantation, is the first inscription of enigmatic signifiers before they have been repressed. They have a sort of dormant status… The second form of time is linked to reactualization and reactivation of these signifiers which henceforth are internal and attacking, and which the child must try to link together. It is the attempt to link, to symbolize dangerous and traumatic signifiers, which results both in what Freud calls the child’s theorization (infantile sexual theories), and in the partial failure of this symbolization or theorization, let us say in the repression of an unmasterable, unencirclable reminder.
Jean Laplanche, ibid, p. 188 – 191, 193

A transference consists in adding new signifiers in order to displace, transpose, and thus bind together the original and most traumatic signifiers.
Jean Laplanche, ibid. p. 193