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May22,2014,bycriticalmoment

http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/criticalmoment/2014/05/22/whatispsychologybadiouinterviewsfoucault
in1965/

WhatisPsychology?BadiouInterviewsFoucaultin
1965
ForalltheinterviewsofMichelFoucaultthatareavailableinEnglishtherearestillsomethatarenot
availablewhileothersareonlypartiallyavailable.AnabbreviatedandeditedversionofAlainBadious
interviewwithFoucaultontheoriginsandstatusofpsychology(PhilosophyandPsychology.)is
availableinTheEssentialWorksofFoucault,19541984,Volume2,Aesthetics,Method,andEpistemology,
J.D.Faubion(ed),NewPress,1998,pp.2567.HoweverthankstotheArgentinianchannelEncuentro,we
nowhaveaccesstothefullversion.
TheinterviewtookplaceoneyearbeforethepublicationofLesMotsetleschosesandFoucaults
archaeologicalanalysisis,ofcourse,alloverthisinterview.ForthoseseekinghelpwithTheOrderof
ThingsandinparticularwithFoucaultselusiveideaoftheDeathofManthisinterviewprovidesauseful
andsuccinctelucidation.HoweverFoucault,asever,neverdisappointswithhisabilitytosurprise.Ifthe
riseinFoucaultspopularityinthe1980sand1990scoincidedwiththerelativedeclineinpopularityof
Marxismandpsychoanalysis,hereisFoucaultinthe1960sheraldingpsychoanalysissdiscoveryofthe
unconsciousanddescribingpsychology,neuteredoftheunconscious,asavulgarreflectionoftherelations
ofproduction.
Anysuggestionsfortheimprovementofthetextwouldbewelcome.Pleaseemail
samueljamesgrove@hotmail.com
SamuelGrove2014
Badiou:Whatispsychology?
Foucault:Generally,whenthatquestionisformulated,moreovertoapsychologist,weareinfact,asking
twoverydifferentquestions.Firstweareasking:Whatispsychologyabout?butIdonotthinkthatis
themostimportantquestion,andthatconcernsonethemost.Ihavetheimpressionthatinformulatingthe
question,Whatispsychology?weareautomaticallyaskingamorefundamentalone:Ispsychologya
science?Ihavejustsaidabanality,butanyway,Ithinkthatitisveryimportant.Itisimportantbecauseit
ispublicandnotoriousthatthescientificstatusofpsychologyisnotwellestablished,norisitveryclear.
AndIfearthat,inaskingthisquestionofifpsychologyisascience,weareomittingamorefundamental
question;onethatwouldallowustoresolve,ifnotall,atleastthemostessentialone.Iwouldlikethatwe
notonlyinterrogatepsychologyaboutthetypeofobjectivitythatitcanreach,theformofsciencethatitis
capableof,butthatweinterrogatepsychologylikeanyotherformofculture.
Whatdoyouunderstandbyformofculture?
ByformofcultureIunderstandtheforminwhich,withinadeterminedculture,thereformsaknowing,
thereisinstitutionalised,thereisliberatedalanguagethatispropertoand,eventually,reachesacertain
formofscienceorparascience.Iwouldlikethatweinterrogatepsychologyinthatsense;inwhat
sensepsychologyinwesterncultureisatypeofknowingandifsaidknowingcouldbeconsidereda
science,oreventuallynot.

Fromthatpointofview,whatwouldbeyouranswer?
IthinkthatpsychologybelongstoacertainformofculturethatwasconstructedintheWesternworld,
perhapsinthe19thcentury,andthisformofculturehavingemergedatthatmoment,doesnotdate
completelybacktothe19thcentury.Itisevidentthattheformofculturefoundedbypsychologyis
inscribedinthehistoryoftheotherformsofculture.Ithinkof,forexample,inwhatcouldhavebeen
confessionalduringtheChristiancenturies.Ithinksimilarlyinwhatcouldhavebeenliteratureorthe
theatreinthefunctioningofthoseinstitutionsduringthecourseoftheMiddleAges,eveninthe16th
century;thecalltolove,thesaloonetc.Itsaboutthisinterrogationthatmanalwaysformulatedtohimself
aboutmanhimself,thequestionthatinagivenmomenttookonthisformofculture,wecalltoday
psychology.
Youdidntrefertophilosophy.Philosophy,then,isnotaformofcultureortheredoesnotexistalink
betweenpsychologyasaformofcultureandphilosophy?
Youareaskingmedifferentquestions.Youareaskingmeifphilosophyisorisnotaformofculture.And
youareaskingmeifphilosophyandpsychology,understoodbothasformsofculture,havearelation
betweenthem,andfinally,youareaskingwhatistherelationshipthatcouldexistbetweenthesetwoforms
ofculture.
Tothefirstquestion,Ithinkwecouldreplybysayingthatphilosophyprobablyisthemostcharacteristic
andgeneralformofcultureoftheWesternworld.SinceGreekthoughtuntilHeidegger,andevenuptothe
present,philosophywasthemirrorwherewesternculturewasalwaysreflected.Inthatsense,philosophyis
notaformofculture,butthemostgeneralformofcultureofourculture.Andnow,tothequestionofif
thereexistsarelationshipbetweenthetypeofculturethatphilosophyisandtheformofculturethat
psychologyiswhatcouldwereplytothisquestion?Wecanreplyintwoways.Wecansaythat
psychologydidnothingmorethanretake,inapositiveandscientificstyle,aseriesofquestionsthathad
beenhoundingphilosophyduringthepreviouscenturies,andthatpsychology,intreatingconductand
behaviour,didnothingmorethandemystifyononesideandmakepositiveontheother;notionssuchas
thoseofthesoulorofthought.Inthatsense,psychologywouldbepurelyandsimplythescientificversion
ofwhat,uptothatmoment,hadbeenhiddenundertheformofphilosophy.Andlikethis,psychology
seemstobetheformofcultureinwhichWesternmanquestionshimselfandpsychologywouldbethe
fundamentalrelationshipbetweenmanandhimselfinaculturelikeours.
Butthereexistsanotherpossiblereply,andthisistheoneIprefer.Itwouldconsistinsayingthat
philosophy,inbeingthemostuniversaltypeofcultureofthewest,wasproducedinagivenmoment,
withinthesaidtypeofcultureandwithintheinterrogatorsthatauthorizedtherecameaboutahighly
fundamentaleventthatprobablydatesbacktothe19thcentury,maybethe18thcentury.Thiseventwasthe
apparitionofwhatwecancallatypeofanthropologicreflection.Thatisforthefirsttimethereappearedin
thatmomentthequestionthatKantformulatedinhislogic,Whatisman?.
ButbeforeKantthereareotherworkstitlesOnhumannature,thereexistsareflectionaboutman.
YesbutIthinkthatthereflectionaboutmaninthe17thand18thcenturies,thosetreatiseonhumannature
aboutman,inrealityservednothingmorethantoproduceasecondorderreflectionwithrespecttothe
philosophicreflection.Thatistosaytheproblemofphilosophywas,atleastsincetheChristianera,a
reflectionaboutinfinity.Manonlyputforthquestionswithrespecttothisphilosophyofinfinity.Wewere
askingourselvesinwhatconditionsandhowitwaspossiblethatfinitebeingscould,ontheonesidehave
realknowledge;thatistosayhaveknowledgeofinfinityand,despiteit,eternallyresideinthefinitude
becauseofthingslikeerror,dreamsortheimagination.Inthatsensethequestionwhatisman?wasnot
thefundamentalquestionofphilosophy.

AndafterKantthereisachangeofperspective.
WithKantcomesachangeinperspective.Forthefirsttimephilosophyaskeditselfprimitivelyaboutthe
finite.Itisfromthefinitethatphilosophicalquestioningbreaksaway.Moreoveritischaracteristicthat,
frompasttimes,thoughtoverthefinitehademergedovermathematics.
HoweverCritiqueofPureReasonisnotananthropology?
Yes,butIwouldreplywithKantstextinLogic.WhenKantformulatesthreequestions:WhatcanI
know?,whatshouldIdo?,andwhatcanIexpect?,thesearerelatedtoanotherfourthquestionwas
istdeMensch?meaningwhatisMan?andthisisthequestionofanthropologyandthemostgeneral
questionofphilosophy.Andinthatsense,IthinkthatKant,ifnotthefounder,heisatleastthediscoverer
ofthisnewphilosophicalfieldthatisanthropology,whichcameinthe19thcenturyandthroughthe
dialecticofHegelandMarx,rediscoveredtheareawhichtraditionallyhadbelongedtophilosophy.
Wouldyouallowmetosummariseinafewphrasesthat,withoutdoubt,willbetrayyourthought?
Notatall!
Youdistinguishedtwoperspectives.Inthefirst,philosophyopensthedomainofpsychology,butthehuman
sciencesguaranteeitseffectiveandpositiveelucidation.Inthesecondperspective,whichyousaidyou
prefer,anthropologybecomesadefiningmomentinphilosophyasaformofculture,throughwhichthe
Westsucceedsinformulatingathoughtaboutbeingorattemptstoachievesuchathought.Ifitsalright
withyou,Iwouldliketopickupmyquestionagainabouttheessenceofpsychologyineachofthese
levels.FirstlyIfweadmitthatphilosophyimplicitlyfixesitsdomainoverthehumansciencesingeneral,
consideringthatthehumansciencestookthebatonfromthepositivistviewoftheoldphilosophical
questioninsidethisviewpoint,assumingyoucouldimitateitprovisionally,whatdoesthespecificityof
psychologyguaranteewithintheotherventureswhichwecommonlydesignatewiththenamethehuman
sciences?
Ithinkthatwhatcharacterisespsychology,andwhatgivesitareasonforbeingandagainforwhichitwill
remainthemostimportanthumanscience,adisciplininghumanscienceinsomeways,wasFreud`s
discoveryoftheunconscious.Thatistosaythatpsychologyitself,initsinterior,producedtowardstheend
ofthe19thcenturyasurprisingrestructuringandthat,inmyopinion,openedthemostproblematicandthe
mostfundamentaldimensionofpsychology.Wecanalsosaythatpsychology,fromtheendofthe18th
centurytotheendofthe19thcenturyessentiallyproposeditselfinanexplicitway,ananalysisofthe
conscious;ananalysisoftheideasundertheformofideology;ananalysisofthought,offeelingsetc.Then,
attheendofthe19thcentury,abruptly,circlingarounditsobject,psychologydidnotplantitselfasa
scienceoftheconsciouspsyche,butasascienceofwhathadjustbeendiscovered,thescienceofthe
unconscious.Fromthemomentinwhichpsychologydiscloseditselfasthescienceoftheunconscious,it
notonlyannexedanewdomain,onethathadbeenignoreduntilthatpresent,butineffectcompletely
restructuredthedomainofallthesocialsciences.Thus,indiscoveringtheunconscious,psychology
discoveredthatthebodyitselfformspartofourunconscious,thatthecollectivetowhichwebelong,the
socialgroup,thecultureinwhichwehavelivedformpartofourunconscious.Itdiscoveredthatour
parents,motherandfatherarenothingmorethanfiguresinsideourunconscious,insuchawaythatthe
scienceclosetopsychology,likephysiology,likesociology,sawthemselvesremodeledandrecreatedfrom
psychologyitselffromthenon,throughthisdiscoveryoftheunconscious.Anditwaslikethisthat
psychology,atthelevelofitsmostsecretfoundations,probablybegancarryinginitselftheentirefateof
thehumansciences.
Nowletslookatitfromtheotherperspective.WhatplacecanweassigntothisFreudiandiscoveryofthe
unconsciouswithinanthropology,seenthistimeasaphilosophicalmomentinWesternthought?

Wellinthiscaseaseriesofeventshappened.(TakeintoaccountthatIalwaysspeakofevents,thatIama
fiercepartisanoffactualhistory,atleastinphilosophy,sinceafterall,uptothepresent,wehavenever
placedthehistoryofthoughtinanyotherwaythaninabstractterms,intermsofgeneral,ideal,and
atemporalstructures.)Onewouldhavetoriskapurelyfactualhistoryofphilosophyandnotof
philosophers.IfwecreatedapurelyfactualhistoryofphilosophyIthinkwewouldhavetoverifyaseries
offacts,ofeventsofphilosophyitself,whichoccurredinthe19thcentury.Thisunconsciousthat
psychologydiscoveredasanewobject,andatthesametime,asauniversalmethodforallthehuman
sciencesineffecthadalreadybeenanalysedbyphilosophystartingfromSchopenhauer.Nowthis
unconscious,whichwasaphilosophicalobjectsinceSchopenhauerandcontinuedtobeoneuntil
Nietzsche,wasatthesametimeforphilosophy,whatallowedtheanthropologicalquestiontotakeform,
thequestionthatKanthadassignedtophilosophyatitsmostgeneraldomain.Thankstotheobservations
ontheunconscious,wefinallyrealized,toputitinavulgarway,thatmandoesnotexist.Andthatis
exactlywhatNietzschediscoveredwhen,inaffirmingGod`sdeath,hedemonstratedthatthisdeathwasnot
simplytheendoftheChristianreligion,northeendofallreligions,buttheendofmanwithinhisreality
andhishumanistvaluewhichhehadrecognisedsincetheRenaissance,sinceProtestantism,andprobably
sincemuchearlier,sinceSocrates.Anditisinthiswaythatwearriveatthiscuriouschasmwithinthe
fundamentaleventsofWesternknowledgeinthe19thcentury.Theappearanceofanthropologyasthe
destinyofWesternphilosophyfromthebeginningofthe19thcentury,discoveredbythephilosophyofthe
unconsciousasthefoundationandatthesametimeasthedisappearanceofthisanthropology,and
moreoverthehumansciencesandpsychologyretake,neartheendofthe19thcentury,thisunconscious.
Theymixthesciencesofmaninawaythatinterpretsitself,thatbelievesinitself,andthatcanbepositive,
butwhenthehumansciencesdissolvedintheirpositivity,philosophicallyspeaking,mandisappeared.And
preciselyifthisdoesnowexist,thislink/nonlinkbetweenphilosophyandpsychology,itisexactlybecause
ofthisphenomenon.PhilosophyimposedthesubjectofanthropologyonallWesterncultureandwhen
psychologyretookthissubjectandgaveit(thankstotheunconscious)anabsolutelynewandpositive
word,philosophydiscoveredthatmanhimselfdoesnotexistanditisduetothepositivityofpsychology
thatitdidnothaveanythingmoreofafoundationthananaberration,avoid,agapthanwouldbeman`s
existence.
Yousaidthatthegreatreconsiderationofpsychology,andofthehumansciencesingeneral,cameatthe
endofthenineteenthcenturyaroundthediscoveryoftheunconscious.Theworddiscoveryisgenerally
takenwithinascientificorpositivistcontext.Whatexactlydoyoumeanbythediscoveryofthe
unconscious?
Ithinkwehavetoconsiderthatwordinastrictsense.Freudliterallydiscoveredtheunconsciousasathing.
Twentyyearsago,therewasaprevailingwayofthinkingwhere,despitetheinterestofpsychoanalysis,it
wassaidthattherewasinFreudaneternalthingnesspostulate.FromPolitzeranduptoandincluding
MerleauPonty,thethingness,thepositivismofFreud,wascriticizedasasequeltothenineteenthcentury
andtheyattemptedtoreintroducethisbothersomethinginanetworkofmeaningsmoresubtle,morefine;
withinanetworkofmeaningsuchthattheunconsciouswasfixedinasubjectivity(maybetranscendental,
empiricalorhistoricalitdoesntmatter),buttheunconscioushadceasedtobethatdisagreeableand
obstinatethingthatFreuddiscoveredinthedepthsofthehumanpsyche.WecannotforgetthatFreud
effectivelydiscoveredtheunconsciousasonediscoversathing,orifyoulike,asonediscoversatext.We
knowwellandtheinterpretationsthatDrLacanmakesofFreudareunquestionable,thattheFreudian
unconscioushasthestructureofalanguage.Butthisdoesnotmeantosaythattheunconsciousisanempty
orvirtuallanguage.Theunconsciousisaword,notalanguage.Itisntasystemthatallowsustospeak,it
iswhatiseffectivelywritten,wordsthatweredepositedintheexistenceofman,inthepsycheofmanthat
wereliterallydiscoveredwhenthemysteriousoperationthatispsychoanalysiswaspracticed.Wediscover
awrittentext.Thatistosay,wediscoverinthefirstplacethattherearesignsdeposited.Secondlythat
thesesignswanttosaysomething,theyarenotabsurdsigns.Andthirdlywediscoverwhattheywantto
say.

Therecognitionoftheunconsciousasatextandtheoperationthatdeciphersthemeaningofthistextare
theytwomethodologicalmomentsofpsychology?
Myimpressionisthat,inthepracticeofpsychoanalysis,thediscoverythatthereisatextandwhatthetext
wantstosay,formpartofthesamething.
Thatis,tousethelanguageoflinguistics,thepsycheisboththemessageandthecodeofthemessage?
Wehaveagroupofsymbols,ifyouwill,ofwhichwedontevenknowifthelettersorwordsare
represented;and,furthermore,whenwedoknoworadmittoaddressthewordsdepositedwedontknow
theirmeaningandwedontknowwhatistherelationoftheirmeaning.Analysismustrealisethistriple
operationthatconsistsoftheidentificationofthesignifier.Thenitmustestablishthelawthatregulatesthe
relationbetweenthesignifierandthesignificationandfinallydiscoverwhatthiswantstosayanddiscover
thefinaltextthatcanbeinterpreted.
Inoteadifficultyinthis.Ifthemessagethatrepresentstheunconsciousisitsowncodethenthepsychology
intheformofpsychoanalysisisunabletoconstituteascienceintermsofgeneralstructures.Inanycase
wewouldhavetorelatetextstothebearersofitsownmessageandthiswouldforceustostartfrom
scratchineverycase.
Forthisreasontheredoesntexistageneralpsychoanalysis,acollectivepsychoanalysis.Theredoesnt
existapsychoanalysisofacultureorasocietyexceptmetaphorically.Weareintheareaofthesciences
onlythrougherrororthroughanabuseoflanguage,thereisonlypsychoanalysisoftheindividualandthe
foundingofanalyticmeaningisintheanalyticrelationbetweenthedoctor,thepsychoanalystandthe
patient.Onlytheserigorouslyindividualdiscoveriesthatthereisatextandwhatthetextwantstosay,
allowsustoestablishgenuineisomorphisms,orgenuinegeneralstructuresoflanguagethatwewillfindin
otherindividuals.Butthefactthatthemessageitselfcontainsitsowncodeisafundamentallawof
psychoanalysisandwhatmakespsychoanalysisthesingularresultofanindividualoperation,whichis
itselfalsothecureofpsychoanalysis.
Iwouldliketoreturn,withacertainobstinacy,tothequestionWhatispsychology?andmaybegetyou
totalkaboutwhatIsuspectyoudontwanttotalkabout.Youdefinepsychologyasascienceoras
knowledgeoftheunconscious.Butwhatstatuscanweaccordthepracticeofsayanimalpsychology,
psychologicaltests,psychophysiology,factorialpsychology?
Allofthiswecall,inoppositiontopsychoanalysis,theoreticalpsychologyorlaboratorypsychology.I
thinkpreciselythatthispsychologyistheleasttheoreticalwecouldimagine.Theredoesntexistbetween
Freudiantheoryandpracticethedistinctionthatwaswantedformanyyears.Freudianpracticeandthe
Freudiantheoryarenomorethanthesamething.Incontrastthepsychologytitledtheoretical,itoccursto
me,isterriblypractical.Iwanttosaythis;thattherelationsofproductionchangedbetweenthe19thand
20thcenturies.Manwasnolongerconsideredonlyaproducer,butnowaconsumerandthisappearanceof
consumptionasaneconomicfactandwithintheplayoftherelationsofproduction,openedaspacein
whichacertainnumberofpracticesbecamepossible.Itappearstomethatthepsychologyofaptitudesand
thepsychologyofnecessitieswouldfindthemselvesverycomfortablewithintheseneweconomic
practices.AndIbelievethatallpsychology,fromthemomentitisntpsychologyoftheunconscious,thatis
tosaywhenitisntpsychoanalysis,isnecessarilyabranchofeconomics.
Atonetimetherewasanefforttodistinguishexperimentalorpositivistpsychologyandanthropological
psychologyinthedistinctionbetweenexplanationandcomprehension.Doyouthinkthismakesanysense?
Ibelieveitmakesreallyprofoundsense,butImnotsureofthenotionofcomprehensiontheword
understandingismoreadequate.Myimpressionofwhathappenedwasthefollowing.Fromthe17thto

theendofthe19thcentury,alltheinterpretativedisciplineswereleftintheshade,infavourofamethodof
knowingthatwastoagreaterorlesserdegreepositivist,oflawsorprinciplesofexplanation.Andthrough
Nietzsche,throughthereappearanceofexegesesofreligioustextsinthe19thcentury,through
psychoanalysisthatdiscoveredtheinterpretationofthesign,therereappearedinWesternculture
techniquesofinterpretation,ofexegesisthatoriginatedinAlexandriaandbeforeChristianityandhadnot
stoppedhangingoverwesterncultureuntiltheendofthe16thCentury,untiltherenaissanceandmaybe
includinguptoCartesianism.TheappearanceoftheseinterpretativetechniquesiswhatDiltheyreferred
reluctantlytowiththewordunderstanding.Iwouldpreferforustosayexplainandinterpret.Ibelieve
thatthischaracterisesmuchbetterthisoscillatingmovementbywhichtheancientexegesisofAlexandria
reappearedthroughFreuduptocontemporarypsychoanalysts.
Iwouldliketoconcludewithapedagogicalquestion.Withhowyouwouldteachoneofourclasseswecall
PsychologyHowcanweconfrontit?
IwouldhavetoadmitthatIwouldhaveproblemsbecauseIbelievemypaperwouldbeatleasttwo
papers.OnonesideIwouldhavetoteachpsychologyand,ontheother,philosophy.Ithinktheonlywayto
resolvethisproblemisnottonegatetherelation,but,onthecontrary,tomaintainandunderlineit.And
whatIwouldliketodoisapsychologycourse,maskedinthephilosophyofDescartes.ButIwouldmaskit
behindmyroleasapsychologist.IwouldtrytochangemyfaceasmuchasIcould,changemyvoice,my
gestures,myattireand,later,duringthehourofpsychology,teachlaboratorypsychology,thetests,the
labyrinth,therat.Iwouldalsohavetotalkaboutpsychoanalysis.Thiswouldbethesecondvariantofthe
firstpersonality.Iwouldtrytospeakwiththemostprudence,withthemostprecisionaboutwhat
psychoanalysisis,whatisveryclosetowhatisfundamentaltothehumansciencesandatthesametime
furthestawayfrompsychologyofthelaboratorymaybebecauseitisntwellconnectedtothesame
structureofpraxis.
Andthen,duringthefollowinghour,itwouldbephilosophy;thatistosayitwouldbemetakingoffmy
mask,tryingtorecovermyvoiceand,inthismoment,theclosesttomyown,tryingtospeakaboutwhat
philosophyis.