Neus Carbonell – Brain or symptom


The paradigm of neuroscience is based on the assertion that “we are our brain,” so that the brain is supposed to be the organ that creates any human indication:- perception, consciousness, feeling, act, will. Some paradoxes underlie the apparent simplicity of this statement. To begin with, we might ask ourselves:- if we are our brain and therefore, we do not have it, how then, does it precede the human? Is the brain human? What entity is it? What ontological status can we attribute to it?

Nothing in common with psychoanalysis of the Lacanian orientation which would affirm that in any case “we are our symptom.” Namely, there is a subject, as long as there has been a response to the real, a response that has become a symptom. For psychoanalysis, there is no other possible destiny for the speaking being.

The aphorism of neuroscience “we are our brain” supposes likewise, a real awaiting to be deciphered. Science holds on the horizon the promise of a reading of that real, either now or in the future. It is because of this assumption that the father of an autistic child hopes that science can unveil the enigma of autism when biopsies of living brains are possible. We are our brain is then, a teleological and totalitarian affirmation: when we know everything about the brain, we will know everything about ourselves. Although perhaps this is not so clear. It has been necessary to invent a scientific name for contingency: the notion of neuronal plasticity is now the name of what is not yet written.

There are some talking cures including some oriented by psychoanalysis, that move away from science, proposing what we might call “life narratives.” Based on the effects of truth that “life stories” can generate, this proposal could be formulated with an aphorism of the type: “we are the fiction that we build about ourselves.” In the words of Jacques-Alain Miller, in these cases “analytic experience in the form of a narratology […] is perceived as the construction of a fiction that has effects of truth.” Thus, the real of the word and the jouissance of the symptom is ignored. As a result, these therapies can even be compatible with neuroscience. Both share the idea of ​​a real that does not hinder anything, either because it can be read in neurons and synapses of the brain, or because it can be symbolized by the fiction of a narrative.

Nothing in common between the brain and the unconscious. The destiny of the speaking being is to deal with an opaque and meaningless jouissance, with what does not cease not to be written and which only contingency can make it readable in a flash. Thus, for psychoanalysis, there is no common and possible “we.” Rather, it is about verifying each time the response to a real that caused the emergence of a subject. It is in this way that the speaking being, one by one, may learn something of what one does not know how to make do with.

Transl.: Polina Agapaki

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

This post is also available in: FrenchItalianSpanish