Call for Papers Vol. 4, n.2, December 2020

 Psychoanalysis and Hermeneutics

Guest Editors: Ignacio Iglesias Colillas (Psychoanalyst / PhD_University of Buenos Aires), Giuseppe Martini (Italian Psychoanalytic Society)

Deadline (full paper): February 28th 2021

Psychoanalysis, not only as a theory but above all as a therapeutic practice aimed at relieving psychic suffering, always implies understanding and the search for meaning. For these reasons, it is rightly inscribed in the hermeneutic field, although the tension that is established with the non-hermeneutic field, which can refer to the body or the affections, is constant.

Although hermeneutics is a philosophy with a strict continental brand, it was the American psychoanalysts, especially in the last decades of the last century, who were most interested in it, but neglecting the philosophers who were attentive to the critical and methodical aspects and taking little account of the complexity of the work of others. In particular, the great diffusion that De l'interprétation. Essai sur Freud, was not accompanied by the knowledge of Ricoeur's later writings dedicated to psychoanalysis, certainly less systematic, but strongly innovative. Ultimately, it seems appropriate to state that the interest in hermeneutics on the part of the psychoanalytic community has been subordinated to certain misunderstandings, which have led to favouring a relativistic reading or have reduced it to a narrative understanding characterized by coherence and systematization and, therefore, antithetical to the tendency of the unconscious to chaos and incompleteness.

In recent decades, however, the two disciplines have undergone a profound parallel evolution. The new conceptions that have appeared both in the field of hermeneutics and in that of psychoanalysis are not lacking in analogies, to the point of suggesting a mutual, albeit indirect, influence. Let us think, for example, of the theme of narration, a paradigm of Ricoeurian hermeneutics of the 1980s, but also of contemporary psychoanalysis itself, after the crisis of metapsychology produced in some way a decline in the interpretation and concept of psychic reality. Or consider the growing importance in the psychoanalytic field of the unrepressed unconscious that has called into question the primacy of the representation of the unconscious, which can be compared to the attention of hermeneutics to the untranslatable. At the same time, as attention to the analyst as a person, to the Self and to relational aspects in the psychoanalytic field has grown, so too for hermeneutics the question of the Self/Other has become increasingly central, which it shares with Phenomenology. These aspects allow us to glimpse the relevance of this philosophy for the ethical questions that pass through the clinic.

Within such an extensive and problematic field of reflection, we suggest identifying the following thematic areas and questions:

 1. Symbol and interpretation: in one discipline or another, interpretation always has a symbolic value; however, in the analytical field it is also closely correlated with affections, with drives, with the economy of libidinous investments and, finally, with metapsychology. From a practical point of view, it seems to be closely linked to the relief of suffering. On the other hand, the symbol has been assumed in psychoanalysis with very different, if not opposed, meanings, starting from the value it assumes in Freud and Jung, and then reaching Klein, Bion, etc. The following questions then arise: A) How is the interpretation articulated from the clinical point of view, B) What is the relationship between the interpretation of psychic reality by psychoanalysis and the interpretation of reality by the delusional patient (see Schreber), and C) How is it conceived from the hermeneutic point of view?

2. Narration: another essential term in both hermeneutic and psychoanalytic vocabulary, narration has often been implicitly opposed to interpretation or, in any case, has marked its transformation/overcoming. In the hermeneutic field, much reflection has been made, especially thanks to the last Ricoeur, on the relationship between history and narration; the problem has also appeared in the analytical field thanks to the well-known and much discussed dichotomy between "narrative truth" and "historical truth". Here too there are intriguing questions: A) What is the relationship between history and narration in psychoanalysis? B) What is the relationship between psychoanalysis, hermeneutics and truth? And again: is truth therapeutic? C) Is clinical narration a construction or a reconstruction? How does it relate to literary narration? And finally, a last question: D) Which of the three hermeneutic fields - interpretation, narration, translation - is best adapted to contemporary psychoanalysis?

3. The relationship between epistemology and hermeneutics: this question, at least since the 1950s, has been at the centre of debate and opposition among psychoanalysts. A) Can they be integrated or are they mutually exclusive? B) How do the neurosciences intervene to transform this debate? C) Can one speak of psychoanalysis as a science and, if so, is it a competition between models aimed at making the most effective one prevail with the greatest scientific evidence, as in the medical field, or is the coexistence of "many psychoanalyses" rather desirable, since in the human sciences, for example, many philosophies coexist? D) What is the internal consistency of the Freudian discourse?

4. Psychoanalysis seen from the point of view of hermeneutic philosophy: several philosophers have reflected more or less systematically on hermeneutics: it is inevitable to place Paul Ricoeur at the top of the list, but the contributions of M. Henry, J. Habermas, J. Derrida, are also important, and we cannot overlook the often merciless criticism of Karl Jaspers, which nevertheless takes on a new value and perhaps a new potential in the light of the evolution of post-Freudian psychoanalysis. A double question immediately arises: A) What have the philosophers of psychoanalysis learned? B) What have the psychoanalysts learned from the philosophers; and furthermore C) What methodology for such a comparison?

5. Differences between the hermeneutic perspective in psychoanalysis and the hermeneutic perspective in phenomenological psychiatry: the presence of hermeneutics in these two disciplines has gone through different paths and has affected clinical experience in very different ways. On the other hand, psychodynamic psychiatry, being to all intents and purposes a "comprehensive" psychiatry, has also confronted hermeneutics and made its own the essential words of its vocabulary: interpretation, symbol, narration, dialogue, otherness, etc. Are these different paths, perhaps opposed to each other, or can they be integrated and mutually fertilized?

6. The challenge of the incomprehensible, the unrepresentable and the untranslatable: very appropriate for psychoanalysis is what Hans Georg Gadamer said during a congress of psychiatry about its relationship with hermeneutics: although both disciplines are dedicated to understanding, it is not so much what distinguishes them as the common interest in what escapes understanding. This is all the truer because psychoanalysis is currently interested in the more formless dimension of the unconscious, which is not the seat of repressed thoughts but of sensations that have not yet reached the state of representation. Parallel to the relevance of the unrepresentable in psychoanalysis, the interest of hermeneutics in the untranslatable has become evident, and the admission not only of an untranslatable "of departure" but also of an "of arrival" (Ricoeur). This very current discourse also has distant historical roots that refer to the incomprehensible of Jaspers, a fundamental category of both his philosophy and his psychopathology. And so: A) Are we witnessing a decrease in representation, a traditional category of both hermeneutics and psychoanalysis? B) What is the relationship between representation, interpretation and symbol? C) How can a possible dialectic be articulated between the representable and the non-representable in hermeneutic philosophy, psychoanalytic theory and clinical psychoanalysis?

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