After the Cogito: Lacan on Psychoanalysis, Science and Religion

Author: Itzhak Benyamini (Bar-Ilan University, PhD.)

This paper examines the way Jacques Lacan defines psychoanalysis in the 1950s as distinct from both religion and science. Psychoanalysis, religion, and science, I shall argue, constitute a paradigmatic triangle for Lacan. In contrast to Freud’s prevalent image as a scientifically-minded and anti-religious person, Lacan’s position is much more intricate to begin with. On the one hand, he does not consider himself a man of the enlightenment and an atheist; on the other hand, he tries to prevent psychoanalysis from becoming a church. Lacan’s ambivalence toward science and toward religion is apparent in his understanding of modern science in relation to the subject of the Cogito (Descartes’ ‘I think’), and later in his conception of the subject of psychoanalysis as essentially identical with the Cogito, but one that also has another aspect. In other words, psychoanalysis is grounded in modern science, but not solely in it. Lacan insists that psychoanalysis must not regress to a pre-Cartesian position (as it does with Jung), but also must not assume the rationalist-formal position of modern science and its conception of the subject, which is in effect split. Our examination of Lacan’s position with respect to science will show that this position is related to his conception of religion, and especially to his conception of the Judeo-Christian tradition; modern science, Lacan argues following Alexandere Koyré, is grounded in a certain ethics, that is, in Judeo-Christian ethics.

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