THE ITALIAN CONNECTION Pt. 1
Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy: Forming or Conforming?
A Passionate Debate Between Two Italian Lacanian Analysts (1)
Translated by Simona Revelli
Note by Translator
All footnotes in the following text are by the translator. I would like to thank Ettore Perrella, Antonello Sciacchitano, Franco Baldini, Paolo Migone and Francesco Bollorino, editor of Psychiatry On Line - Italia (POL.it) (2), for their responsiveness and for giving their permission to publish my translation of the following debate. I would like to thank also Darian Leader, Ian Parker, Kirsty Hall and Anne Worthington for their help and feedback. A very special thank to Mauro Santacatterina, who consistently supported this project in a multitude of ways. Finally, I would like to thank the College and POL.it (3) for making this material available through their websites. I hope the reader will find it as interesting and stimulating as I have done.
Introduction To English Translation
by Mauro Santacatterina
The government of the United Kingdom is considering the possibility of extending to psychotherapy and psychoanalysis the provisions of existing legislation which regulates health professionals. As it happened in 1989 to their Italian colleagues and in 2004 to their French ones, English psychoanalysts are summoned to declare if this concerns them. It is evident that such declaration must necessarily be positive, but this does not mean at all that it may be taken for granted. As things stand, both a 'yes' and a possible 'no' - apparently heroic and, therefore, verisimilar - are derived from the resolution of an impossible equation, that which contains the terms 'psychotherapy' and 'psychoanalysis'. Both these terms, in fact, are in themselves almost inadmissible, at least, for as long as one insists to measure either one of them in its dependence from the other. Since memorable time, Mathematics has made use of equations of multiple variables, as well as parametric ones. Nonetheless, many European psychoanalysts still become very excited if someone - for example, the State - decides a value in their place, and, tearing their hair, go as far as to predict that psychoanalysis will soon die. Luckily, Freud's invention will certainly not come to an end because this or that law establishes who (psychiatrist, psychologist, psychotherapist) may cure others, without running the risk of imprisonment or starvation. What new adjustments - for sure, only short-lived - may Die Frage der Laienanalyse find? After all, this has been almost unchanged since 1926. It is easy to foresee that, for a long time yet, the qualification of 'psychoanalyst' will continue to re-present itself as a boulder in all Western languages, a boulder as heavy as the problems connected with the concept of 'intellectual profession'. For psychoanalysis, all this will correspond to a kind of waiting for its epistemological status to find a convincing definition beyond the current one - apophatic, and, therefore, frail - as science sui generis. With respect to Grümbaun, for example, it is evident that his results cannot be verified through Popper's procedure without being seriously misunderstood. Moreover, as a science, psychoanalysis cannot escape procedures of control, but, instead, should seek to establish and promote them, underlining the intrinsic complexity that constitutes its strength. This epistemological uncertainty becomes clear when one takes into consideration the training of future analysts. This is normally defined with adjectives such as 'particular', 'specific', 'individual', and, therefore, as not definable in itself. At this point, the antinomic bent taken in every discussion regarding the regulation of psychoanalysis becomes even obvious. On the one hand, analytical training develops through procedures and springs out from presuppositions that are very different from those of Academia or those pre-arranged by someone else - including the State. On the other, the analytic act is a public one, so it is logical that anyone - including the State - may ask organisations to explain the standards that their candidates and members should adhere to.
Ettore Perrella and Antonello Sciacchitano, the Italian psychoanalysts who are the authors of the ensuing debate, are aware of this. When Simona Revelli asked me to write an introduction to her English translation, I was very pleased and accepted immediately. That was because, to this day, these two authors' brief correspondence still holds interesting elements for me. This is especially so because their debate is a paradigm of the huge theoretical implications generated by the confrontation not so much with abstract Law - something that psychoanalysts discuss plenty and very willingly, as do the not at all lay shepherds of souls - but with concrete Law. Thus, I anticipate that the reader will appreciate the authors' quick, but punctual, incursions into Philosophy of Law, Logic and even Theology as necessities in this case. Their starting points are opposite, which explains the initially polemical tone of the debate. For Perrella the axis psychotherapy-psychoanalysis is continuous, and it is precisely in this continuity that he foresees a possible solution to the problem of regulation, provided that the tradition of legal positivism can be overcome. In line with the French school, for Sciacchitano psychoanalysis constitutes, instead, a solution to continuity, and, therefore, a break of the axis that he defines as 'Hippocratic'. Thus, for Perrella, the problematic encountered by every project that aims at regulating psychoanalysis - conceived as one of the possible modalities of subjective training - depends on the modern superimposition of law with the plain of rights. For Scacchitano, the mere idea of regulating psychoanalysis entails the high risk of its being absorbed into state medicine, which can only pursue the ideal of adapting individuals to the expectations of the society to which they belong.
At this point, in order to avoid anticipating the authors' conclusions - a mistake that, probably, I have already made, given my interest in the topic - I shall perform the only duty that justifies my introduction. That is, I shall move to give the English reader some useful information, so as to make it possible for him to understand more fully this 'passionate quarrel'.
The authors' email exchange was generated as a result of their involvement with 'Spaziozero - Movement for Lay Psychoanalysis' (a movement, not a real organisation), which aimed at reflecting on the practice of psychoanalysis in Italy following the approval of Law 56 in 1989. When Perrella and Sciacchitano began to write to each other, Spaziozero had 181 members, among which there were about ten editors and sub-editors of specialised journals (such as 'Psicoterapia e Scienze Umane', one of the oldest, founded in 1967). Among these 181 'Gideon' members, there were several Lacanians, but also some Freudians, Jungians, and so on. If I remember correctly, there was even an Adlerian, who also seemed perfectly at ease. So, to begin with, it seemed as if a miracle was occurring. Analysts of different orientations were discussing the same topic - psychoanalysis - which, as if by magic, had gone back to be lay, and, therefore, also, 'one'. Further, the first meetings, which were organised in the offices of various members and in different towns, became occasions for Sunday trips that entailed collective journeys by car and pantagruelic restaurant meals. No particular qualification was required to be accepted, nor there was a hierarchy between members. So, it happened to also hear someone spill out his opinion just as it came into his head, which, on the way back, gave the sharper ones an opportunity to laugh about the most sensational slips and acrobatic debate they had heard. In those days, I was a young practitioner, and, beyond learning that wise self-irony from older members, I was also nourished by their experience, from which, evidently, I had much to learn. Would I ever be able to speak with such eloquence? Would I ever receive patients in such elegant offices?
But, perhaps with the complicity of winter, these Sunday trips began to be less and less enjoyable, and, soon, it became also less and less necessary to find large restaurants. Before Perrella's 'open letter', which sought to initiate a dialogue, there had been other attempts at cheering up people's hearts. However, all of them had failed. What was happening? Why all those prestigious personalities, who had at first become involved, seemed so tired and absent? At the time, I wondered about this every day, perhaps because I was the youngest and I had been appointed Secretary of the Movement - a position of which, then, I was very proud. Later on, however, I understood that the melancholic turn was nothing other than what had already occurred some years before. At that time, too, Italian psychoanalysts had not been able, and had not wanted, to express a common position to Parliament, and, instead, had allowed themselves, first, to show contradictory behaviour, and, then, to plunge into a complete inhibition.
Clearly, no one wanted to abolish Law 56, as no one was so foolish as to think that psychology and psychotherapy, the presence of which was already well established in Public Health, could go on being unregulated. Nevertheless, everyone was aware of the tremendous legal tangle entailed by it - and particularly by article 3, the article concerning the practice of psychotherapy - which could only be resolved by acknowledging that this Law did concern psychoanalysis. But did anyone have a serious idea to submit to public debate? Did anyone have not so much a 'solution', as a real will to search for one? Most unfortunately, I must say that the answer is 'no', and of this I am absolutely certain, since, in my position as secretary, I attended all the meetings, formalised the agenda, and circulated the minutes as well as other group correspondence. Consequently, my initial admiration was followed, first, by rage, and, then, by pity, towards those whom I had considered my masters. Many of them, in fact, at best, proved to be self-conceited 'provincial' teachers, as weak as reeds in the wind. The meetings were literally corrupted by real rambling speeches. I say 'real', because sometimes it would be those very 'sons of Dora' to deliver them, in French or in German, as if the translation into a different linguistic code could alchemically guarantee some sense. In the end, there was nothing left but unpleasant words, in the midst of which some members gripped on tightly to the old, dear transference and fell in love with one another.
Today, I remember almost with benevolence the indecorous show that I witnessed, because, now that I have my own elegant office and I am no longer so young, I have learnt that psychoanalysis exists, and will continue to exist, despite psychoanalysts. It exists in France, notwithstanding the recent compromise - but I would rather have the symptom than the inhibition! And it exists in the UK, as the interesting current debate demonstrates, three years ahead of the countdown set for 2008. What has happened for a long time in the USA and in Germany shows that the problem of regulation could be a great opportunity. But this could only be so if, from the very beginning, we had the courage not to defend ourselves behind futile 'passwords', and, instead, began to think about what the profession entails in real terms. I think that the profession of a psychoanalyst is like any other profession. And I think that, precisely by considering it in these terms, we may be more able to evaluate it in a fruitful manner for all the new and old professionalism of the third millennium.
'Profession' comes from the Latin 'profiteor', which means 'I declare my faith, I say what I think', and by extension, I show the 'rule' of my action. Every professional - be it a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, and so on - holds his professional 'title' only because he declares the compass of his practice, thus, also, delineating its boundaries. Professional competence is always necessarily implied - or, if one prefers, 'potential' - in that it may be assessed only retrospectively, only after it has been defined. Anyone may be dissatisfied with a legal defence, or, unfortunately or fortunately, with the outcome of a surgical operation. Nevertheless, since subjective time is 'actual' (and even more so for Freud than for Aristotle), there is no way of getting out of the logic of 'promise'. Professionals can only promise - that is to say, they can only speak well, and, then, do well by keeping their promise. And who else is the psychoanalyst, if not the expert of this temporal curve that catches and holds us? What is psychoanalysis, if not the science that undertakes to discover its predictive formulas, starting from, and in spite of, language?
The sheer difference between manual work and intellectual work has been explained ad nauseam first by Marx and then by Weber - hence, the relationship between the professional and the religious worlds, a relationship that most people consider annoying and improper, when, in fact, it is totally crucial for understanding this matter (is a 'profession' not, by definition, free or lay?)
At the moment, it is in no way possible to predict what will happen in the UK, what law will end up regulating psychotherapy. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that, whatever the outcome, this will have some repercussions on the 'passion' we have inherited from Freud - as Ian Parker wrote in his introduction to the conference of the College of Psychoanalysis, scheduled for 2006. Therefore, English psychoanalysts are right to want to contribute to the current debate - of course, bearing also in mind that there are a number of already established forms of psychotherapy, which are perfectly transmissible as techniques - by asserting the strength of the Freudian message (as well as the Kleinian, Lacanian and... Kohuttian). Because this means helping (rather than blocking!) the Legislator - that is, all of us - to issue fertile and operative rules. Unfortunately, this did not happen in Italy, as a result of which the State had no other option but to come up with a simple mulching (I hope that my learned colleagues will forgive me for using a term derived from horticultural science), which, obtorto collo, today I consider even well deserved.
Lacanou Océan, 14th August 2005
(1) The original title of the debate is Dibattito tra Ettore Perrella e Antonello Sciacchitano su psicoanalisi e psicoterapia: un appassionato 'litigio' tra due analisti lacaniani. The Italian text may be read at http://www.pol-it.org/ital/documig5.htm
(3) Section for contributions in English http://www.pol-it.org/ital/english.htm
Introduction to Original Text Published on POL.it
by Paolo Migone (1)
In the spirit that is common to all other contributions published in the 'Psychotherapies' section of POL-it, which is characterised by a critical debate about different positions or approaches in psychotherapy, we are publishing a heated debate between two lacanians: Ettore Perrella and Antonello Sciacchitano. This occurred by email in the summer 1997 and concerned fundamental issues regarding the identity of psychoanalysis, its theoretical and judicial legitimation and its supposed difference from psychotherapy. In this way, we enter directly into the universe of lacanian thinking, an important theoretical point of reference within the psychoanalytic debate. Once again, we enter into this approach not through an exposition of the ideas of the founder of this school (in this case the ideas of Lacan, or aspects of his thinking). Instead, we do so by showing the agreement and disagreement about singular aspects as seen by two authors, this time from within the same tradition.
Beside Perrella and Sciacchitano, we thank the journal of lacanian orientation Scibbolet for giving us permission to publish this material. The material was published in this journal in 1997 (vol. IV, n. 4, pp. 166-194) with the title 'Una lettera per l'altra' (2) and in the journal Arché/Ipotesi.
The initial stimulus for this exchange was provided by an open letter sent by Ettore Perrella to the supporters of Spaziozero - Movimento per una Psicoanalisi Laica. This movement (formed on 22nd May 1995, after a conference in Padua entitled 'Psychoanalysis and the Italian law regarding psychotherapy') publishes about ten journals. Its aim is to promote a movement that is critical of those aspects of law 56/1989, which concern the regulation of psychotherapy. Schiacchitano replies to the open letter with a critical tone and, in turn, Perrella reacts. It is so that this exchange begins (including the open letter from Perrella, there are in total 12 emails).
Finally, we have gladly published also a reply from Franco Baldini, director of the journal Thélema. This addresses some of the passages in two letters from Sciacchitano, respectively dated 29th July and 22nd September 1997. In this, it is argued that Sciacchitano has failed to correctly interpret Baldini's thought. Further, in one of the two letters (the one dated 22nd September) a suggestion is made regarding the supposed personal advantages that hide behind theoretical positions. Although some of the tones of this correspondence might be justifiable in view of the emotive nature of the debate, we consider the suggestion made by Sciacchitano most improper and apologise to Baldini, as well as to the readers, for this lowering of tone. Nevertheless, we have decided not to edit the original text and to publish Baldini's reply, which we received in December 1998.
(1) Italian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, co-director of the journal Psicoterapia e Scienze Umane (Psychotherapy and Human Sciences), editor of the section 'Psicoterapie' of POL.it.
(2) 'A Letter for another'.
From Perrella to the Supporters of Spaziozero
Padua, 30th June 1997
With the approaching of the end of my position as a participant to the committee of Spaziozero - and of our first Congress, which is scheduled for next autumn - I think it is important to communicate to each one of you some general reflections on the work that the movement has carried out so far, and what still remains to be done. In the first instance, I think it is necessary to make public in all possible ways the fundamental theses, in support of which the movement was formed. I think it might be possible to summarise these as follows:
1. Psychoanalytic formation is completely independent from any university directives.
2. Law 56/1989 is not applicable to psychoanalysis.
3. Any law that seeks to legislate a matter such as psychotherapy can have no judicial
value (obviously, leaving aside those general rules regarding financial and taxable
operations, which apply to any profession and are already enforceable through other
It is obvious, nonetheless, that on at least two of these points (the first and the third) there is no general agreement whatsoever, not even within our movement. This, in my view, often precludes any serious attempt at political action on our part. On the first point, in particular, often we continue to confuse the exigencies of psychoanalytic formation with the presumed judicial necessity to guarantee a minimal standard of professional competence. We know, however, that these directives bear no relation whatsoever with an effective formation of the subject, and, therefore, with the formation of analysts. This concerns a dangerous point, since if not even our movement is able to reach a univocal and clear conceptualisation with regard to the complete difference between analytical formation and professional competence, not only we have no hope to persuade anybody else of the necessity to recognise the distinction between psychoanalytic formation and the directives of the university, we even run the risk of becoming more legislative still than law 56 itself.
Further, with regard to the third point, it is true that Spaziozero is not at all obliged to concern itself with psychotherapy in general (even more so, given that this generality is assured by nothing other than the word that designates it). Nevertheless, this must not lead us to forget that Spaziozero emerged precisely as a result of a lack of clarity regarding law 56/1989, which, by not mentioning psychoanalysis, seems to exclude it as its object, but without this being enough to guarantee it.
From this point of view, the repeated prudent considerations that refrain us from making public our positions, seem to me to confirm that same absence of a serious politics of psychoanalysis that has allowed this law to be approved in its ambiguous terms: precisely the ones that we should submit for discussion. We all know that law 56 has been approved in its form, precisely, because Italian analysts have always worried more about defending the interests of their associative parishes than the fundamental principles of their practice. If it were to maintain this silence, Spaziozero would limit itself to satisfy the need for an 'auto-comforting' of those who support it, as it is each time, when, even in our meetings, each one of us carries on enouncing his or her position without being able to articulate it with that of others. It seems evident to me that, in this way, a clear political position of the movement will never emerge. When we know that only a minority of Italian analysts adhere to it, would a theoretical discussion among ourselves be enough to justify the existence of Spaziozero?
Spaziozero emerged in order to confront a problem regarding the politics of psychoanalysis. Now, as I pointed out during our last meeting in Bologna, the politics of psychoanalysis is such only on the condition that it is the politics of psychoanalysis, and not a prudent silence. Of course, prudence is a virtue. But where does prudence end and cowardice begin? What would we risk if we were to publicly assert our position? To elicit a clarification with regard to the meaning of the law that is contrary to our expectations. But it is certainly not by avoiding such a risk that Spaziozero may elicit greater clarity about its significance. If what some of us fear truly happened, this would be enough to raise the problem to a general political level, on which, at last, we would have the opportunity to intervene in a honest and open way. As I said in Bologna, given that law 56 is about to be reviewed, to miss the current opportunity to make this happen would, instead, condemn us to the failure of our movement.
On this point, it is true that at our last meeting we approved the suggestion to gather the necessary signatures for a petition to the Ministero dell'Università e della Ricerca Scientifica - MURST (1). However, gathering more than a thousand signatures requires from us an immediately political commitment, which cannot be assumed in a 'prudent manner'. No one can request from others that they subscribe to a theoretical position of which he himself is not persuaded. Therefore, I am afraid that, when we meet again next autumn, the signatures gathered will amount to a total of… none. The problem is not tactical, but concerns the total strategy of the movement. In order to be completely open and 'democratic', Spaziozero risks remaining a timid attempt at an intellectual 'auto-comforting' of the analysts who support it, without stopping the largest Italian associations from manoeuvring, in the usual way, so as to ensure the legal monopoly of psychoanalytic formation, from which law 56 emerged. Spaziozero, instead, must truly become what it is: a movement constituted around an exigency that is not only psychoanalytic, but also ethical and judicial, defendable in public, and, therefore, politically.
The problem for us is not simply one of defending some analysts who, were they not to be formally recognised as psychotherapists, could become the victims of this or that accusation in this or that court. Rather, it is one of clarifying that the right to form oneself as an analyst cannot depend on any legal regulation. In other words, as the best legal exponents have always known, rights are not reducible to the application of the law [emphasis placed by the editors of the Italian journal Scibbolet]. Can the practice of psychoanalysis depend, instead, on the law? As far as the rules of any profession are concerned, yes; as far as the 'passe' for practicing it is concerned, no. Why not? Because, in reality, psychoanalytic formation coincides with subjective formation, and this cannot be legally regulated without being impeded. But - one might say - the State has the power to regulate whatever it wishes. Certainly. This, however, once again, does not mean that it has the right to do so. Rights do not emerge from the law, but from a judicial order represented in today's States by the Constitution, with which each single law can at times fall into contradiction. It is not a matter of clarifying only, here, what relationship there is between psychoanalysis and rights, but, also, what relationship must exist between rights and legislation. This is a political problem that has a weight far greater than the first, and that, therefore, deserves that we fight a political battle. In order to undertake such a battle, we must depart from more than our professional interests.
Obviously, I am talking from a position that subordinates law to morality. As it is well known, in Germany such subordination forms a constitutional principle, which is such that jurists can formulate contra legem sentences, whenever they consider a certain law to be greatly at odds with the moral principles expressed by the Constitution, and to do so without having to defer the matter to the Constitutional Court. This, of course, is not possible in Italy. Nevertheless, the problem exists for us too. And we should always remember this, if we do not wish to run the risk of utilising ideas about rights still tied up with an old judicial positivism - and not simply to hide our psychoanalytic professionalism behind them.
I will not continue, here, on this crucial problem regarding the philosophy of rights, to which, for sure, I shall return elsewhere. Instead, I shall limit myself to clarify that I consider it essential that, in the autumn, at whatever cost, Spaziozero formulates and publishes its theoretical positions with regard to the above three points. The fight we face demands that we understand who is our enemy. This enemy is not simply the State's laws. It is also among us, unless we become able to establish some firm points on our programme and draw conclusions from these in our experience.
(1) Department of University and Scientific Research.
From Sciacchitano to Perrella
Milan, 29 July 1997
I have received your circular this morning, which, for me, has precipitated considerations I have entertained for a long time. For many reasons, I would rather communicate these to you privately - not least because of the familiarity of the discussion, which could be carried out as a philosophical dialogue, rather than as a public diatribe.
I tell you briefly how, today, I read your position. Naturally, all my arguments follow logically from my initial interpretation and you can let me know whether this is correct and acceptable.
Reduced to the bone: your argument seems to be constituted by two theses, A and B, of which the second (B) depends on the first (A) through a fortiori.
The thesis A, to which I think Baldini also subscribes (1), holds that the State cannot regulate psychotherapy, just as it cannot regulate any other process of subjective formation, which has to take place in absolute freedom. The thesis B holds that, for even greater reasons, the State cannot regulate psychoanalysis, which, within psychotherapy, represents an ideal ethical apex.
Your politics descends from this theory, which, simplified to banal limits (still, the banal can help us to clarify), ends up defending psychotherapy in order to defend psychoanalysis. Let me explain why my politics is not yours: because it bases itself neither on A nor on B, both of which I shall now proceed to challenge. The anticipated conclusion is that, as it has dubious basis, I consider your politics for psychoanalysis inefficient. This does not mean that I do not find it interesting, even pleasurable, working with you, also, at a political level (at a theoretical one I think there are no problems).
As far as 'A' goes: I hold that the State has the right, perhaps even the duty, to regulate psychotherapy, because it is true that psychotherapy is a process of subjective formation, but it is a very particular process, which, better than formation, one could call 'conformation'. Psychotherapy, in fact, is a process of conforming the individual to the environment and its tyrants, so that he or she may live within it in the most tranquil and comfortable way, adjusting to the criteria of the dominant morals. Given that psychotherapy is an activity aiming at conforming, the State has every right to intervene, controlling whether it is distributed and applied in a manner that conforms to the parameters of civilised life, which, as State, it has the right and the duty to defend and promote. Let's suppose that a psychotherapeutic variant would conform those adept to delinquency… it is only a paradox (not so unrealistic!) to demonstrate the necessity for State control.
Our theoretical routes, and therefore our political strategies, begin to diverge from here. This divergence becomes bigger as we move to thesis 'B', which is the one I am most interested in. I shall be brief. It is false to say that psychoanalysis represents the ethical apex of psychotherapy, simply because the psychotherapeutic project, being that of conforming, is not ethical. Psychoanalysis is an ethics, on this we are in agreement. However, psychotherapy, at most, is moralistic. I think we also agree that the State cannot intervene on ethics, but if what is at stake is civil coexistence, it can intervene on moralising. This clarification is useful to beat the idea typically held by the great bureaucratic psychoanalytic institutions (millerian École, Italian Psychoanalytic Society), which believe that psychoanalysis is a sub-field (if even more noble) of psychotherapy.
And what happens to the cut of the Freudian subversion? Are we still within the Hippocratic field? No, thank you, I am not keen on being granted nobility, if I have to let myself become infected by what Lacan used to call the Hippocratic pong. And, as it is possible to demonstrate through the texts, psychotherapy is the last avatar of Hippocratis.
Recently, I held a conference in Turin entitled: 'Healing without therapy'. At this, I argued that in psychoanalysis there could be no therapy, least of all psychotherapy. Indeed, there are only two, and related, forms of therapy known to us: religious salvation and medical restoration to the status quo ante. For different reasons that are easily imaginable, both are not given in psychoanalysis. At this conference, I held that what there is in psychoanalysis is, instead, healing. Leaning on the Nietzsche of the Gay Science and Zarathustra, I clarified that this healing has to be understood in the intransitive sense of Genesung ('I heal myself'), commonly translated as 'convalescence', as opposed to the transitive Heilung ('I heal you'), humorously translated as 'sanatorium'. What happens in psychoanalysis is that 'I heal myself' by changing my intelligence of things. What does not happen is that 'you heal me' by imposing conformism, of which you are a representative guaranteed and abundantly paid by the dominant power.
Put briefly, this is the theoretical basis that forms my politics of psychoanalysis. And you cannot take it as prudence if in one of the plenary meetings of Spaziozero I feel like benevolently advising you not to fornicate too much with the ministerial commissions for psychotherapy. The risk to exorcise is a corollary of the previous logical analysis. The State already appropriately intervenes on psychotherapeutic ground because this is within the ground of its competence. If you, as a psychoanalyst, get into the ground of psychotherapy, you force the State to intervene in the ground of psychoanalysis - and then it will be in an inappropriate manner.
Dear Ettore, if psychoanalysis will survive, it will never do so on the merits accrued through engaging with the ministerial commissions, nor by smuggling itself under the veil of psychotherapy. This is because, between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, there is no relation - at last we must be convinced of this and begin the elaborate the grieving, if we have not already done so with the complicity of the institutions. Psychoanalysis, perhaps, will survive, because it will be able to re-propose the novelty of its ethical discourse and its social tie within the intellectual and moral squalor in which we live today (and on the causes of this we could open a long debate, which would involve the imports of big science and its technological derivatives, as well as the theoretical poverty of the hermeneutic discourse).
In conclusion, I think I have demonstrated to you why my political prudence is not cowardice. I don't think I will have persuaded you, though, and I confess that I would not want to do so either. Spaziozero, movement for lay analysis (and not for lay psychotherapy!), is not a monolith. It has room for diverse theoretical positions and political strategies. Of course, my position is different from yours, although it is closer to yours than to that of whom, like Baldini, understands psychoanalysis as a science. But this means that there will be an ideological debate in Spaziozero, and you know that, at that point, I will not pull back.
(1) In relation to this, see Franco Badini's reply.
From Perrella to Sciacchitano
Padua, 3rd September 1997
If even with a month delay, I reply with great pleasure to your email dated 29th June. I wrote the open letter to which you have replied, because - perhaps in a manner that is a little provocative - I wanted to stimulate a clarification within Spaziozero of some theoretical terms that to me seem decisive. Naturally, I am not at all in agreement with you, and it seems to me a good thing that it can be so, despite the fact that we collaborate within the same movement. As you rightly say, Spaziozero is not and must not be monolithic. Nevertheless, one thing is for it not to be monolithic, and another is for us not to understand each other on some minimal fundamental points. Were this to be so, all that we are doing would be perfectly pointless. I am not the only one to hold this view: Sergio Erba has called me to ask me to publish my open letter in Ruolo Terapeutico and has told me that he completely agrees with me. Until now I have received no other replies, but I do hope there will be more. Assuming that this will happen, I think it would be useful to publish all the correspondence in our journal. I believe that only an effective public debate may allow us to establish firm opinions about those decisive points I have raised. I am afraid that conferences are not good enough for this. Indeed, all too often, in too many discussions, I have noticed how the opinions of so many of us will completely change within the space of only a few minutes. This seems to me a worrying indication of our lack of clarity, precisely, on those fundamental points. And, often, we seem to be in complete agreement, but it takes little to discover that this agreement is only apparent - for example, a word that for someone signifies something slightly different than for someone else. In reality, the only thing that brings us truly together is that we dislike law 56. But this is really not enough to make the movement function. It would be necessary to have, also, one or two common ideas about how things might be better. From this point of view, I must confess that, at times, there seems to be no clarity at all, not even among us.
But I come to the content of your reply. I will tell you frankly what I think, as you have done with me. I will also be frank about what I think of the positions of other people who are part of the movement. I hope no one will be offended. It would be truly intolerable if some of us could not shoulder the frankness of others, as this would mean that we spend our time defending ourselves from imaginary enemies, rather than trying to understand how we may resolve our problems. In the first instance, I must say that psychotherapy as such has never mattered one bit to me. For me, in psychoanalysis one deals with something completely different than rendering more tolerable the social and moral misery in which we all live. Psychoanalysis is a matter of formation (not less!), that is to say, of the possibility to save at least some crumbs of the moral and social principles that have been transmitted to us, and that in turn we have the duty to transmit to others (at least, I think). If psychoanalysis is not for this, what is it for? Having made these initial remarks, I must say that I do not at all share the distinction you make between psychotherapy as conforming, and psychoanalysis as ethical. This is so for a simple and precise, but absolutely decisive reason: one cannot know in any way what is psychoanalysis and what is psychotherapy. One cannot know this to start off with, because, thank God, the use that someone makes of his or her experience will depend neither on the will, nor on the method, of his therapist or analyst. One cannot know it, because it is in no way possible to demonstrate (although it can be argued) that an analysis has truly occurred (at least, not from what I can deduce from the great failure of the Lacanian programme of the 'passe').
The fact is that no one can say: 'this is ethics and this is not'. And most of all, no one should say it. In fact, no one can judge someone else on the basis of something that, for him or her, is, and has to be, totally intimate and essential: the righteousness of an action. One would assume that the Lord would do this on the last day of judgement. But from what is written in the Letter to the Romans, one can deduce that not even God would express a judgement on such a spiky matter. This is because his judgement, which is the only right one by definition, consists only in letting those judgements that we formulated in the course of our lives fall back on us (Saint Paul calls it katakrònein, which means 'to judge retroactively'). And how could we, normal mortals, do what not even God is able to do? Therefore, I tell you frankly, your a priori distinction between what is ethical and what is not, seems to me not only impossible to sustain, but also deeply guilty of the only unforgivable act: that against the spirit. On what basis can one say whether someone is undertaking or has undertaken an analysis or a therapy? On the basis of the method used by his or her analyst or therapist? But I see thousands of very prominent analysts who hold theses that are perfectly equivalent to the sort of conforming that you have mentioned, whilst I cannot trace back the righteousness of an act to whom has committed it, leaving completely aside whom might have guided it in an analysis or a therapy. I have no sympathy whatsoever for behavioural therapy. But how can I, a priori, exclude the possibility that someone who has undergone a process of this kind might have gained from it a truly ethical position? Not only I cannot know this, but, even if by a miracle I could know it, I still could not say it, simply because I would have no right to do so. 'Psychoanalysis' and 'psychotherapy' are vague words, the signification of which cannot be defined a priori, and most of all, cannot be defined as you do.
Dear Antonello, the true risk for Spaziozero is that, if we let analysts act (in other words, ourselves), we run the risk to further aggravate our current situation. At least law 56 is so messy that it is even impossible to respect it. If, instead, we attributed to the State competence over the soul (because it is of this that one talks about when one speaks of psycho-something), we would commit an intolerably authoritarian act. And I have the impression that some positions that I hear expressed in Spaziozero are, indeed, more authoritarian than those expressed by law 56. Sadly, among these I have to place yours, given that not only you grant yourself the right to judge what is ethical and what is not (I am not sure on the basis of what evidence), but you also grant this right to the State. To this, I must add the position of those who would like to manufacture a nice faculty of psychoanalysis, and who have everything to learn about how to evaluate the acts of others. And I must conclude with the position of those, who, with a kind of State absolutism that renders pale any positivistic judiciary of half a century ago, believe that the State can legislate on anything (this is Kelsen's thesis - who, coincidentally, also wrote in Imago before the world war, but then realised that this position had some consequences…). How may we demonstrate that no law has the right to prohibit anyone to speak with someone else (free of charge or by charging this is their business, as long as the one who is making a gain pays tax) on the basis of theoretical presuppositions much more authoritarian than those which have led to the formulation of law 56 in the terms that we, also, dislike?
But, one might say, psychotherapy (or psychoanalysis) is a profession... And so? Legally, professions certainly did not need to be regulated by law 56, as they were perfectly regulated even before this law. The problem in Spaziozero (and imagine elsewhere!) is not only psychoanalytic, but more generally cultural. This is so because we do not manage to understand each other (and I am afraid not even when we are by ourselves) not only on the difference between very ungraspable concepts, such as those of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, but, also, on much broader and politically essential matters, such as the relationship between rights and justice. On this last point, I have read some books this summer, and I can assure you that, from 1945 onwards, philosophers of rights have done nothing but trip up the kind of judicial positivism, that we, in Spaziozero, take as absolutely given and evident. Mais passons. I think I can speak of this elsewhere (that time in Milan when I spoke about responsibility was only the beginning). In conclusion, I shall return to your letter. 'To fornicate with ministerial commissions' is certainly not the aim of Spaziozero and, even less, my own. However, becoming clearer about what we must do, certainly is. The cowardice that in my open letter I said I fear was certainly not yours, nor that of someone else. The courage I believe we need, is certainly not that of placing ourselves on the same ground as the State, but that of not doing so. Whatever the lawyers thought or still think, rights are not simply a demonstration of the omnipotent will of the State (as Galli rightly reminds us, Hitler could think so but we cannot), because, if that were so, nothing anymore could distinguish rights from arbitrariness and tyranny. As Augustine knew - a big scandal for the lawyers - an unjust law is not at all a law. And if morals and ethics exist, it is because the law cannot know everything. If we have forgotten this, we have forgotten, also, what distinguishes Western tradition from Judaic and Muslim traditions, which make the law the direct manifestation of God's will. But what happens when we make it the direct manifestation of the State's will?
Now, as you say: 'psychoanalysis, perhaps, will survive because it will be able to re-propose the novelty of its ethical discourse'. On this, I am in perfect agreement with you. Indeed, we must be vigilant never to forget the difference between ethics, morals and rights. If we do, we can call what we do whatever we like, but we will always remain prisoners of the same wrongdoings, and the same stupidity, that we believe must be opposed.
From Sciacchitano to Perrella
Milan, 4th September 1997
It is a pleasure to have a discussion with someone who raises intelligent questions. I shall try to explain to you my position on the question of the One, which, after all, is simple. As an interpretation of the lacanian not-whole, I propose von Neumann-Gödel-Bernays' notion of 'proper class'. The justification is that the not-whole, although a 'larger' universal than the commonly used universal - the holistic universe - lacks something. What does it lack? Just as a 'proper class', it lacks the possibility of being conceived as a whole and, therefore, as One.
We can discuss some consequences of this sort of direction. For example, in my view, it is possible to hold the thesis that the lacanian not-whole is the 'one that is not' Platonic. Be it as is may be, at this point it should not be difficult for you to understand why Cantor's whole (the wholeness of all wholes) or Russell's whole (the whole of all the wholes that do not 'auto-belong' to one another) are wholes unlike any other. In fact, they are not-wholes; in other words, they are 'proper classes'. Of these one cannot say that they are 'one', because it is impossible to predicate something like a whole about them - at least, not without falling into contradiction. These, in fact, cannot be thought of as elements of other totalities (try it!). In other words, there is not a predication to which they may be subjects.
How come? Here is the good stuff. I am led to think that the previous analysis is naturally false. The not-whole does not exist. It is an effect of language, of its discrete structure of elementary signifiers. Language reveals itself as limited; it does not consist of predicating everything about everything. But from this to say that the not-whole does not exist, or, equivalently, that God does exist, it's a scabrous step. Firstly, because we end up directly into the religious discourse; secondly, because we cannot get out of language. The reason for this is not the dominance of the linguistic register, as a certain Lacan seems to hold. The reason for it is that, in order to be able to say 'I get out of language', one would need first to posit language as a whole. But, in my opinion, natural language, whatever natural language, is a 'proper class' just as the whole of Cantor or Russell, only more interesting.
To come to the problems that are humanly possible to confront, one of the greatest is the articulation between 'one' as an element (a level that I call 'intensional') and 'one' as a whole (a level that I call 'extensional'). The analyst's interest lies in distinguishing between 'one' as a linguistic element and 'one' as an imaginary corporal totality - the first always 'one', the second… not always.
I am very curious to read your reply about the Platonic and Aristotelian ways of thinking of 'one'. On Sunday I will announce your good intentions to aut aut (1).
(1) Italian philosophical journal, of which Sciacchitano was editor for a period of time.
From Sciacchitano to Perrella
Milan, 8th September 1997
At last I find time to reply to your letter, which, as I said in a previous email, intrigues me. I will come to the point immediately, avoiding polemics on details where your argument seems weak. These are points that, if you wish, you yourself will try to reinforce (for example, where you say that no one can say what ethics is, but, earlier, you make reference to the cowardice of analysts who do not take a political position, as you do. So you do know what ethics is?).
I think that the discrepancy between our positions occurs where you affirm: 'Psychoanalysis is a matter of formation (not less!), that is to say, of the possibility to save at least some crumbs of the moral and social principles that have been transmitted to us, and that, in turn, we have the duty to transmit to others. If psychoanalysis is not for this, what is it for?' My answer is disarming: it is 'for nothing'. It is not a boutade. It is the beginning of a theory that sees not only one discourse running through society - for example, the idealistic discourse that argues for the conservation of the conquests of the soul. With Freud, a discourse emerges in our society - and, therefore, a social bond - that aims neither to whatever elevation of the soul, nor to any savings of accumulated goods. This is called psychoanalysis. It is the opposite of the discourse of the master, which demands the conforming of the subject to the value of the spirit and the parallel production of ever-greater goods. And it has nothing to do with the servile discourse of those who align themselves to the master: today psychotherapy, medicine always - the queen of philistine conformism of all times.
Freud's intellectual operation is not easy to follow, because, through a first phase of looking for sense in the dream as in the lapsus, it ends up in the nonsense of the death drive and repetition. This nonsense grinds against the religious spirit that spills out from each of our pores, which is imposed by the master. The Freudian death drive, on the contrary, implies that, at some point in analysis, what you thought made sense (the cure, moral values, the Absolute Spirit) vanishes, becomes invisible. The One becomes undone. The whole becomes paralysed. The subject falls from the throne (but Lacan calls it étron, stronzo (1) ) of his phantom.
Does it mean, then, as you hold, that 'no one can say: "this is ethics and this is not", and most of all nobody should say it'? Dear Ettore, in my opinion, it means something more despairing: it means that even your relativism does not stand. It means that you are in the grip of the unconscious, which does not grant you a comfortable relativism. It means that, from now on, ethics no longer passes via the moral principles transmitted through society, but via a desire that before was ágraphos, and now, through analysis, has been inscribed and takes you where it wants, and… against your will. Jesus prophesised to Peter: 'When you were young you dressed yourself and went where you wanted to; when you will be old an other will dress you and take you where it wants to.' This is ethics. One can say it, a posteriori. Everyone who has truly undertaken an analysis can say it; but certainly not the dim among the Pharisees, nor the vile among the philistines.
By the way, thank you for having suggested the nice Pauline verb katakronéin to me. I would make it play with kataphronéin, in the sense of 'regaining the senses' after having passed through the alienation in the Other. I mean: I want to go back home as a stranger, and no master has to adjust me to his 'good', and no servant has to advise me about my own - not even if he has been authorised by the State.
I am sorry you consider my discourse authoritarian. My discourse is mine and I do not ask for it to be shared by many (although some do). You will concede that I can say what is my ethics. If I did not, I would deny the journey I have undertaken throughout my daily analytical work. My ethics, I would say, is not nihilistic: all is non-sense but something can be done. And as you yourself can witness - given that you have written an article on the Platonic and Aristotelian One with my encouragement - I do keep myself busy. I hope your article will not disappoint me. I hope it will be a majorly useless article, just to put to the test the metanoia of the intellect constructed in analysis.
Coming to Spaziozero: I can confirm that the business about law 56 does not interest me period. Without fear of passing for a State supporter, I repeat what I have already said to you: the State has every right to control the conforming to the civil ideals that regulate civil co-existence. In this sense, psychotherapy is a conforming process, ergo, the State has the right to legislate psychotherapy. I say this in order to fix properly the objectives of the politics for psychoanalysis. My politics are not against a State that legislates on matters regarding conformism. I am not a revolutionary who wishes to impose conformities that are alternative to the current ones! My politics is a cultural politics. To those who are capable of thinking, I wish to announce that it is possible to think - perhaps not much, but well - outside those schemas received by tradition: binary logic - truth as adjustment, ethics as conformism to the dictates of the Super-Ego. Can you tell me how many today, even among our friends, have an interest in a programme so 'intellectual' (as they say with disdain)? I say this without irritation, but only with deep regret, because this means that they don't think; and if they don't think, it means that they have had no experience of the unconscious - which is a little pile of thoughts mostly inadequate for everyday reality. There is a nice aphorism by Brecht at the beginning of some short stories for a calendar: 'A thinker (sic) needs few things: a little light, a little bread, a little thought'.
I conclude these untimely considerations with a political reference. Currently, a process of convergence between lacanian and non-lacanian analysts is happening in the world. This is the politics we should carry out to re-launch psychoanalysis: promote the social analytic tie, the transference of research work and the debates, such as this correspondence of ours. These is where nests the secret of the long Freudian analysis that began a century ago and that perhaps will end shortly, thanks to so many analysts who worry about things that are none of their business - psychotherapy and its laws, veterinary and perhaps the Stock Exchange - neglecting our good, old psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is a secret we ourselves do not know, one on which I feel like working with the enthusiasm of an adolescent and the disenchantment of a mature man. I hope to have you among my work-mates. But I am telling you, if you go on boring me with law 56 and the ministerial commissions, you will see less and less of me at the meetings of Spaziozero.
Komischerweise I started off with the intent of writing a dialectically well-argued letter, and, instead, what has emerged is a very personal (personlich) letter. My teacher of German would reproach me, but I hope that you will not take it in the pathetic sense.
P. S. I have the impression of having disappointed you. You consider Law 56 unjust and I consider it just (just for psychotherapy, indifferent for psychoanalysis). This is why I don't start battling to change it. So you think of me as a traitor to the cause.
To remedy this, I shall remind you of what one should do with an unjust law according to Freud (at least to him you will concede the right to say what is ethics?). Simply, and more bravely than Augustine, he says that with such a law there is nothing else to do than 'es herzhaft zu übertreten': bravely transgress it. He says it in Laienanalyse! The quotation is in German because you would look for it in vain in Musatti's farcical translation, which limits itself to suggest that one should 'take no notice of it'. To continue the parade and dissipate the pathetic tone, I offer you also a polemical trigger in code. 'Sag' mir mal: die Ministerien zu besuchen, gilt es für dich als das ungerechte Gesetz herzhaft zu übertreten? Es sieht mir zwar aus, sich zur Sache überzutreten' ['Tell me: does frequenting ministerial departments mean to you courageously transgressing the unjust law' To me, this seems a conversion to it].
(1) 'Idiot', but also 'turd'.
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