A Phallus by any Other Name... Is Deconstruction the Psychoanalysis of Philosophy?

16 April 2009
William Samson ( HBA Philosophy and English 4th Year)

      The points of contact between psychoanalysis and deconstruction are hard to ignore.  Both fields are engaged in uncovering that which lies behind and beneath that which is apparent, spoken, and thought.  Even their methodologies are in some ways eerily similar: Freud digs at the repressed by means of free association, while Derrida undoes the repression inherent in logocentric philosophy (the historical repression of writing, for instance).  With Freud's insights being called into question, and in many cases disproven, it is incumbent upon thinkers of all stripes to examine the relationship between the works of Freud and those of later thinkers like Derrida, who are demonstrably indebted to him.  Even if psychoanalysis did not influence deconstruction (that is, metonymically, if Freud did not influence Derrida),  Derrida's thought shares concerns with Freud's, though they do not necessarily approach these concerns in exactly the same way.  It is worth examining, then, the extent to which Freud has a part in the creation of Derrida, the extent to which Derrida's thought is founded in Freudian theory.  Is deconstruction simply psychoanalysis by another name, or in a slightly altered context?  To put it differently, is deconstruction simply the psychoanalysis of philosophy?  This question cannot be answered by a simple yes or no, by insisting on Derrida's radicality (both in the common sense of the word, meaning a free-thinker, but also in its Latinate sense, as referring to a root, an origin) or his derivativeness.  The question (fundamental as it is to both the legacies of Freud and Derrida) must be answered with wide consideration of both authors' works.  Derrida himself attempts to answer this question in a perfunctory manner in Writing and Difference, yet fails to put the matter to rest (at least in the minds of his critics). 

      Derrida's relationship to Freud is complicated, not only because Derrida defined his earlier works in part based on his sympathies and his departures from psychoanalysis (in the same manner as he defined his earlier work in relation to Heidegger and Nietzsche), but also because Derrida, though he certainly has many disagreements with Freud's theories, never set down in writing exactly what was salvageable from Freud (and psychoanalysis), in the same way that he set down in Spectres of Marx what was salvageable from Marx.  As Powell puts it, Derrida never "settled accounts with Freud as he did with Marx" (Powell 63).  To further complicate the issue, both Derrida and Freud take some of their inspiration from the same figurative well.  Notions from Nietzsche, such as the eternal return, come up in Freud as well as in Derrida, slightly modified, in their accounts of the repetition compulsion and of the iterability of the signifier, respectively.  This being the case, I reiterate, repeat, return to the question: is deconstruction simply (never simply) the psychoanalysis of logocentric philosophy?  An addendum:  if it is not, what are the points of contact, points of reference, and points of departure within psychoanalysis that deconstruction makes use of?  What, of Freud, is Derrida justified in using in his own theories?

      The first step in answering these questions regarding the validity of Derrida's use of Freud's theories consists in evaluating the extent to which Freud's theories can be characterized as being something other than psychology, because, whatever it might be that Jacques Derrida is doing, it is not psychology.  Freud's theories, however, transcend the psychological, reaching toward the theoretical--dare I say, the philosophical?--even as they subsume these disparate dialogues, naturalizing the philosophical theories he may be inspired by, repackaging them in the rhetoric of biology and psychology.  Concepts that Freud uses in his thought, derived from or at least inspired by philosophers like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, are found in the writings of philosophers writing later on, such as Derrida, Lacan, and, to a certain extent, Sartre (though, this last is a reaction against those naturalized concepts more than anything).  Freudian psychoanalysis uses these notions to decentre the subject, to destroy the Cartesian and Kantian conceptions of the ego, and to replace them with a subject that does not determine itself.  In a sense, this marks Freud's return to a more Romantic way of thinking, and his turn away from Modern and Enlightenment thought, which placed great importance on the rational ego.  Even after Freud, Western philosophy has been characterized in large part by Kantian and Cartesian thought, these being the bases for French and German philosophy until the 20th century, and beyond (especially in Anglo-American spheres).  Freud's importance to philosophy, then, comes from the fact that he takes these challenges (that is, the Nietzschean and Schopenhauerian challenges)  to the rational ego seriously, and accounts for them in his thought by naturalizing them--that is, by construing and explaining them biologically.  Freud also takes from literature, compressing the literary, mythological, and dramaturgical aspects of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, for instance, into an aspect of his own psychological theory. 

      Regardless of how harmful psychoanalysis might be in practice--and that it is harmful is not in question; one need only look at scholarship that goes beyond taking Freud at his word, such as Frederic Crews' Memory Wars, for confirmation of this--his incredulity toward the Enlightenment narrative is attractive to some, who, like Derrida, are also engaged in undoing this narrative.  Derrida's use of Freudian concepts, however, never "biologizes" the critiques of Enlightenment thought, and when Derrida makes use of these concepts, it is never "otherwise than in quotation marks" (Derrida [2001] 247).  For Derrida, the use of a biological register does not confer the scientific indubitability that Freud sees in it: science is no more than a handmaiden to technology, and is definitely not the way to access some form of objective truth.  The question of the validity of Derrida's use of Freud, and also the validity in the ways that other philosophers have made use of psychoanalytic thought, becomes the question of how much of Derrida's reticence to valorize a scientific (or, since we are speaking of a Freudian conception of science, here, it might be more proper to speak of Derrida's reticence to valorize a "science-y") discourse is sacrificed in his wish to align the psychoanalytic critique of the Enlightenment's rational subject with his own critique of Enlightenment-style subjectivity.

      Derrida attempts to answer this question in a brief introduction to "Freud and the Scene of Writing" in Writing and Difference.  Derrida refuses to reduce deconstruction to psychoanalysis, maintaining that the two are separate, that the apparent similarities are just that, apparent, and that psychoanalysis is, in the final analysis, complicit with logocentrism in a way that deconstruction is not, despite the fact that Freud makes certain tentative movements away from logocentrism.  There are, nonetheless, and despite Derrida's insistence on the differences between psychoanalysis and deconstruction, many points where their interests intersect, many points where they seem to share the same concerns and come up with similar conclusions.  In fact, Derrida outlines some of these in a peremptory manner, at the outset of "Freud and the Scene of Writing."  What they are both engage in is "the analysis of a historical repression" (Derrida [2001] 246)1 and both repressions--that of writing since Plato and that of a trauma in one's personal history--effect a return of some sort; "the relation between phone and consciousness" as "presence 'pure and simple'" (Derrida [2001] 247), and Freud and Derrida's efforts to theorize an undoing of the privileging of consciousness, or the spoken word (or, more precisely, in Derrida's case, consciousness as the spoken word, as presence). And indeed, the similarities between the two fields of inquiry are more than superficial.  Freud's description of the unconscious can be interpreted as being in line with Derrida's critique of the metaphysics of presence.

      The metaphysics of presence is a term for the privileging as logically and ontologically prior of what is present over that which is absent.  Derrida believes that philosophy from Plato to Nietzsche is characterized by such valuations.  The privileging of presence over absence also entails a privileging of speech over writing (because of the presence of the speaker guarantees the speech, whereas the absence of the writer brings forth an indefinite--if not infinite or potentially infinite--plurality of readings).  Derrida sees these valuations as problematic, if not false--if only because truth/falsity is another of these hierarchical binaries that Derrida seeks to rattle.  Undoing or undermining the metaphysics of presence is one of the tasks that Derrida sets for his early works, and is a theme that runs through his oeuvre as a whole.  Thus, it is hard to see Freud as being anything other than complicit with Derrida when Freud himself seems to attack the same structures that Derrida finds problematic (although, admittedly, Freud is not attacking these structures for the same reasons as Derrida and other deconstructionists). 

      Among the moments where Freud's and Derrida's interests seem most aligned are those when Freud sets up his attacks on the primacy of consciousness.  Freud, anticipating Derrida, calls into question the idea of consciousness as the ultimate presence, a presence to oneself.  The idea of an unconscious, of a radical alterity forming and informing consciousness, overturns the immediacy and primacy of consciousness.  If Freud's hypothesis of the unconscious were true, then the conscious mind would not be anything other than an epiphenomenon of the unconscious.  In other words, the conscious mind would be the presence of an absence, a presence that both marks and masks its absence, for although the unconscious, on this account, would exist, it is by definition absent from the perceiving subject's awareness.  If the unconscious exists, then the subject is constituted by something that is always withheld from it.  The idea that consciousness (at least as it was conceived by philosophers from Descartes to Kant, as a self-evident and self-evidencing rational ego) is constructed by a more primal and evasive force, inaccessible to the mind of the meditating philosopher, is exactly the type of vacillation that Derrida wishes to instil in philosophy.

      Freud's fascination with the mind comes not only from his training in different sciences (he took courses in anatomy, biology, chemistry, and physiology), but also, doubtless, from some of the philosophy courses he took.  During his few years at the University of Vienna, Freud managed to find the time to take a number of philosophy courses under the esteemed professor Franz Brentano (Deigh 162).  One might have heard of Brentano before, in connection to Husserl, who studied under Brentano from 1884-86, and who had a great deal of influence over the young Husserl's later thought (Kockelmans 17-8).  One of Brentano's insights for Husserl was that consciousness is intentional, that is, always object-oriented,

or, simply put, about something (in the sense that one is never simply conscious, one is always conscious of something), an insight that informed phenomenology, from Husserl to Sartre (and indeed, one of the most famous explanations of intentionality comes from Sartre's Being and Nothingness: the example of the man looking for Pierre in the caf).  Obviously, though, this is not the insight that Freud took from Brentano.  To Brentano, Freud likely owes the depth of his knowledge of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, which, despite what Freud might say to the contrary, informed not a small part of psychoanalysis.

      Instead of finding from his studies under Brentano the insight that human consciousness is intentional, then, Freud seems to have reacted against such notions of consciousness as a presence-to-itself.  Where Husserl concentrates on the phenomena of experience and that which is "given," Freud concentrates on what is hidden, marginalized, and repressed.  If Freud is a deconstructionist avant la lettre, it is certainly because of his incredulity towards consciousness as immediate presence-to-oneself, and in what he does to uncover the unconscious.

      Among the other things that Freud does, he looks to the language of the analysand in order to find the workings of that which is repressed.  Freud, in bypassing consciousness in favour of that which is excluded from consciousness, anticipates Derrida's emphasis on textuality and language over consciousness.  Indeed, the textual turn in Continental thought is in part responsible for the relative poverty of non-phenomenological Continental philosophy of mind (that is, philosophy of mind qua consciousness, excluding the unconscious).  Because the structuralists, Derrida, Foucault and others, turned to textual, discursive, and semiotic analysis, there has been relatively little need to talk of consciousness (or unconsciousness, or "mind" for that matter) as reified categories (in the same way that Anglo-American philosophy sometimes does) rather than as concepts that can be philosophically interrogated.  All of these categories are constructed in language, and can be subsumed into the larger category of text, in order to be analysed as such.  Freud's emphasis on the language of the analysand is a fortuitous anticipation of the direction in which Continental thought would proceed in the decades following his writings.

      In The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Freud discusses a largely philological classification of slips of the tongue from an earlier work on that subject.  He admits that the philological classification is correct, as far as it goes: slips of the tongue can be caused by other sounds in the same utterance.  However, Freud insists that this phenomenon only accounts for a small portion of slips of the tongue, and that there is a second way that slips can occur, namely, "by influences outside the word, the sentence, or the context, deriving from elements that we do not intend to express, and only the disturbance itself makes us aware of their arousal" (Freud [2003] 55).  The inclusion in everyday speech of unintended elements is what Freud is describing, and these unintended elements of linguistic utterances are the effects of the unconscious mind reaching out from beyond the veil and appearing, unpredictably and ephemerally, in an otherwise mundane utterance.  These slips are seen as symptoms of an unconscious, and they point to an irrational centre of the subject which conditions the slip.  Freud's thought on the matter can be summarized as this: the symptoms are, therefore, the unconscious is.  In every conscious action, then, there are unconscious motivations, which are not immediately apparent.

      Derrida elaborates a similar although by no means identical concept in his early grammatological works.  This is the idea of the trace, which is the mark of a present absence.  In other works, Derrida uses words like "diffrance" or "pharmakon" (amongst other terms) to indicate this idea (which, of course, is "neither a word nor a concept" properly speaking [Derrida [1982] 3]).  Accordingly, "Derrida, then, gives the name 'trace' to the part played by the radically other within the structure of difference that is the sign" (Spivak xvii).  Within a sign (which is a term that I would use less readily than Spivak--the sign is fetishized by structuralism, whereas deconstruction refuses to acknowledge the union between signifier and signified which constitutes a "sign" in the sense that Spivak, echoing Saussure, Peirce and Lambert, uses it), there are always the elements of its own undoing, unintended, often overlooked, repressed by the structures of the language itself.  This is just as, within a slip (of the tongue or of the pen), Freud sees the symptomatology of a repressed, the sign that something else is at work, that any such utterance indicates an influence outside of the word and outside of our intentions in speaking.  For Derrida, then, the signifier is imperfect therefore the trace exists.

      Freud, somewhat in spite of himself, elaborates in "Note on the Mystic Writing-Pad" a characterization of the human mind that seems like an (untheorized) notion of the trace.  In this essay, Freud discusses the example of a so-called Mystic Writing-Pad, a children's toy.  For the purposes of Freud's metaphor for the human mind, this Mystic Writing-Pad promises "to do more than a sheet of paper or a slate" (Freud [2009(b)] 25).  Freud's metaphor for the mind must be able to account for a few things, which the images of the sheet of paper and the slate do not.  The metaphor Freud uses should, on his own account, allow for the "lasting memory-trace" as well as for the "receptive capacity" of the mind (24).  According to Derrida, "if such metaphors are indispensable, it is perhaps because they illuminate in return the meaning of a trace in general" (Derrida [1972] 75).   Freud's metaphors for the mind are an important focus of Derrida, not because of their use of writing (an absence) to explain consciousness (a presence)--such metaphors have been used since time immemorial.  No, Freud's innovation, at least as far as Derrida is concerned, is his recognition of the poverty of these metaphors, and his insistence on being able to account for both the receptive capacity and lasting trace in the mind.  Freud's "Note on the Mystic Writing-Pad" describes the titular device as consisting of a wax tablet, covered by a thin sheet.  According to Freud, "This sheet is the more interesting part of the small apparatus" (Freud [2009 (b)] 25-6).  This sheet consists in two parts, an outer, largely protective layer, on which the user of the Mystic Writing-Pad actually writes, and a lower layer of waxed paper, which adheres to the wax tablet, creating the writing.  It should also be noted, as Freud does, that "no chalk or pencil is needed, for the writing does not depend on material being deposited on the receptive surface" (26).  Instead of an exterior material being deposited on the writing surface (which is the condition of possibility for writing with chalk, ink, or a pencil, which all leave their marks by leaving behind some piece of their physical being), an impression is made with a stylus.  The stylus never touches the wax paper, or the tablet beneath, it is restricted to direct contact with the exterior protective sheet.  This is a fabulous metaphor for how Freud sees consciousness as being "housed on the surface of the brain" (Freud [2009(a)] 23), in the cerebral cortex, much like the waxed paper in the Mystic Writing-Pad, which clings to the surface of the tablet.  The writing on the sheet is easy to erase, but it leaves traces, indents on the wax tablet.  The outer sheet of celluloid, which covers the wax paper, is there as a sort of protective barrier, "responsible for deterring harmful external effects" (Freud [2009(b)] 27).  The analogy between the Mystic Writing-Pad and the human mind is especially apt for Freud because the only way in which the mechanism works is by means of "distributing them [i.e., the functions of receptivity of stimuli and the storage of lasting traces of those stimuli] within two separate but mutually connected components" (28).  The important difference between the mind and the Mystic Writing-Pad is that the traces on the pad do not effect their own returns to the surface of the pad (like their counterparts in the mind do), nor can the pad "reproduce writing from within" (28), another ability of the mind over the Mystic Writing-Pad.  The analogy serves, however, to illustrate the way in which the functions of the mind and the children's toy are similar.  More than any other mechanism for writing, this toy recreates the psychical writing that Freud wishes to illustrate.  The components of the Mystic Writing-Pad, from the fragile and easily ripped was paper, to the traces left on the wax tablet, all have counterparts that function in the same way in the human mind.

      It is a fortunate accident that Freud uses a word that is translated as "trace" in his essay, one that Derrida is all too willing to exploit as much as he can in "Freud and the Scene of Writing".  The trace, in Derrida and in Freud, is an absence.  The trace in Freud is that which is left over in the memory from the absenting of lived experience (that is, to phrase it in terms more amenable to Derrida, the trace is that vestige of the excluded which remains present, if hidden, even after its exclusion).  For Derrida, the trace is a presence indicating an absence (the remainder of the excluded term of a binary in the dominant term).  The exposition of the trace of the devalued term of a binary as being always and already within the privileged term of the same binary is Derrida's most well-known and consistently practiced strategy to show that these logocentric binaries are troubled.  The trace (like the pharmakon, the ghost, and the hymen, depending on the text) is an undecidable element, something that cannot be confined to one term of the binary or the other.  Freud's hymen is the metaphor of the trace, which, inscribed in the unconscious mind, returns to the conscious as a slip of the tongue or the pen, as an element within a dream or as the source of a neurosis.  Freud's acknowledgement of this double role played by the trace in his Mystic Writing-Pad example brings him close to Derrida's own line of thought.

      Their common acknowledgement of the trace and the importance of language has an effect on their respective views on subjectivity.  In both Freud and Derrida's writing, the subject is decentred.  The Cartesian subject, the ego cogito, is no longer the subject that they speak of, when they speak of one at all.  Likewise, the Kantian (and Husserlian) transcendental ego is also ruled out. For, when Freud and Derrida speak of the subject, they do not speak of the empirical subject common to early modern thought, that subjectivity which characterized philosophy from Descartes to Kant.  In Descartes and Kant, the subject is aware of his own mental states. Indeed, one criterion that Descartes uses to decide if something is a physical or mental thing is indubitability: if the phenomenon can be doubted, it is physical, if it cannot be doubted, it is mental; thus, sensations like pains, for Descartes, fall under the rubric of mental instead of physical, because one cannot be mistaken about whether or not one is in pain (Rorty 62).  Consciousness, on this model, is able to know itself (harkening back to the Socratic exhortation).  For Freud, however, the subject can doubt that he is, in fact, experiencing something (resistance to analysis, for instance), even if he might not be able to doubt his existence per se. This is because the Freudian subject is not centred in the rational Cartesian ego cogito, but is situated somewhere in between the conscious and  unconscious mind.  The Freudian subject (or, at least, the person subjected to Freudianism) does not have privileged access to his own inner (mental) states, thanks to Freud's assumption of an unconscious mind.  And this unconscious is not only the unconscious of the individual (although it is marked by the experiences of the individual), it is also to a certain extent the unconscious of the history of the species--following from Freud's belief in the "biogenetic law (that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny)" (Sulloway 236).  Nor does Freud allow the Cartesian substance dualism.  As stated above, Freud sees the conscious mind as an epiphenomenon of the unconscious, but for both the conscious and the unconscious, Freud posits a biological origin.  Freud writes of a "psychophysical" origin of both the conscious and the unconscious mind (Freud [2009(a)] 3).  The mind, in Freud's thought, can be situated physically, is an effect of physical forces, and can interact with the physical world in a non-problematic way.  Thus Freud rejects the Cartesian ideal of a subject as a centred, unified, rational entity (both characterized and constituted by rationality). 

      Derrida, for his part, also troubles the ideal Cartesian subject, calls it into question and attempts to unravel it, but in a different way than Freud does.  Indeed, the way in which Derrida calls classical notions of subjectivity into question brings up a critique of Freud's own theories.  Derrida sees the subject as being constituted in and by language, and "subjectivity" as a concept that cannot exist outside of diffrance.  The specific conception of subjectivity that Derrida seeks to dissolve is that is the "notion of the sovereign subject as master of its discourse" (Brandt 158).  A pre-deconstructive consciousness is one that is constituted by discourses it has not interrogated, creating a subjectivity delimited by logocentrism.  Any self-reflective acts (such as are found in the Cartesian and Husserlian project) will be functions of logocentric biases, and, as such, will be acts of self-abnegation rather than emancipation.  A pre-deconstructive subjectivity is a subjectivity that has already renounced itself to logocentric categories.  Unfortunately, Freud's theories are elaborated in a way that does not question the logocentric structures (strictures, closures) that Derrida wishes to challenge.  By constantly reinforcing dualisms in his philosophy (unconscious/conscious, death drive/Eros, interior/exterior etc.), Freud, even when he acknowledges a tension or a certain undecidability between the two poles, privileges one as being subsumed by the other, if only eventually.  Therefore, if Freud anticipates Derrida, it is only incompletely, and Derrida's use of Freud's theories (problematic as they are) must be interrogated.

      Julia Kristeva interprets Derrida's stance on subjectivity as anti-humanistic, arguing that the implicit position of a grammatological stance such as Derrida's negates the possibility of humanism as such (and of an affective, compassionate politics):  "the grammatological deluge of meaning gives up on the subject and must remain ignorant not only of his functioning as social practice, but also of his chances for experiencing jouissance or being put to death" (Kristeva 142).  Thus, according to Kristeva, who published the original French version of the work in which the above quote appears in 1974, Derrida's philosophy of language (as a differential system, deferring meaning indefinitely, and never coming to speak of a ding an sich) makes lived experience into abstracted meanings (or, at least, positions), and is callously neutral and disinterested in the face of both birth and destruction, jouissance and death.  Kristeva may or may not have recanted her somewhat critical stance on deconstructive politics given the number of works on precisely that subject in the years since she first published Revolution in Poetic Language.  Certainly, Derrida's deluge of signifiers has not preventing him from outlining the shape and function of a deconstructive politics in The Ends of Man, or from recanting that vision and enunciating a different political stance in Spectres of Marx.  In any event, Kristeva's early critique of a perceived lack of humanistic or political sensibility on Derrida's part is mistaken.  What Kristeva fails to acknowledge at this point is that Derrida's conception of language is not, stricto sensu, the same as the prevailing view of language advanced in structuralism at the time he was writing.  The conception of language held by structuralists involves a conception of the sign, a unified signifier/signified pair.  Even in those where such a conception is absent, there are remainders of such a logocentric view.  For instance, Lacan's philosophy, where the power of signifiers to do the work they are "meant" to do  is severely limited, relies on a notion of signification where signs "may have worked properly" in the past, but which also stipulates that they have "simply gone astray" (Powell 72).  In Derridan deconstruction, however, the possibility of signification "working properly" is ruled out from the very beginning.  Language, as a differential system, is only made possible by the existence of the trace, which is anterior to language itself: "Although it [i.e., the trace] does not exist, although it is never a being-present outside of all plenitude, its possibility is by rights anterior to all that one calls a sign" (Derrida [1974] 63 emphasis in original).  The trace is the condition of possibility for signification as a whole, and it is also that which conditions the failure of signification. This is something that is present to a surprising extent in Freud's work, which is why Derrida allows himself to make use of Freud as a fortuitous example.

      The structure of language as signifiers, which obviates the need for talk of subjectivity as consciousness for Derrida--after all, according to Derrida, "Any subject of the signifier is subjected to the law of the signifier" (Derrida [1975] 42)--is uncannily similar to the structure of consciousness in Sartre.  Perhaps, once the similarities and differences between Sartre's view of consciousness and Derrida's characterization of language are elaborated, Sartre will offer a less problematic model of subjectivity than does Freud.  Sartre, writing in the wake of the Second World War, was acquainted with the works of Freud, and indeed some of his philosophical works entertain long treatments of Freudian theory (loosely construed), but it is not these which will be discussed here.  Instead, we shall examine Sartre's own sketch of consciousness, not in contrast to Freud's, but in comparison with Derrida's views on language and subjectivity.  For Sartre, "consciousness is a being, the nature of which is to be conscious of the nothingness of its being" (Sartre 47).  In Sartre's phenomenological ontology (that which he sketches out in Being and Nothingness), nothingness is everywhere, constituting not only our differentiation of ourselves from the world, but also the differentiation of the manifold objects of our perceptions from each other.  For Derrida, the differentiation of self from other (or Other)--and indeed all differentiation--is a function of language, whose differential structure is not unlike that of Sartre's conception of consciousness.  What Derrida might take from Sartre, that which might elucidate his conception of the differential structure of language (vis--vis the structure of consciousness as nothingness) is the way he speaks of (or rather around) diffrance: "One does not disclose nothingness in the manner in which one can find, disclose a being.  Nothingness is always an elsewhere.  It is the obligation for the for-itself never to exist except in the form of an elsewhere in relation to itself" (78).  Glossing nothingness and negation as diffrance, one can see how the characterization of diffrance as something that cannot be contained, logically, in a given text, is anticipated in Sartre.  Concordantly, diffrance cannot be inscribed in any text; it always and already spills out.  Much like the nothingness which cannot be disclosed in a given example, a given situation, or, in fact, in anything "given," so too does diffrance refuse to be contained in a text.  This is not to say that Sartre's view of negation and Derrida's differential structure are the same.  Even a cursory reading of Sartre will show that the man's philosophy owes much to logocentrism and that if Sartre anticipates Derrida, it is only as a failed or proto-deconstructionist.  Starting from an arguably similar point as Derrida, Sartre does not realize the incipient radicality of his inclusion of nothingness at the heart of consciousness--and it should be noted here that, insofar as Sartre's project differs from Heidegger's, it is in the distinction between Being and existence, between Dasein and lived experience, experienced as such, so Sartre is speaking of consciousness differently than Heidegger would, were he making the same claim--and attempts to reclaim all those experiences which he called into question (all those distinctions which he showed were illusory).  He reclaims them by invoking thetic consciousness, which constitutes the world around one according to a principle of intentionality, creating an artificial plenitude based, ultimately, on the negation inherent in consciousness.  This movement to restore plenitude to experience is an effacing of all of the difference (glossed as negation) in a way that can only be seen as violent.  Thus, Sartre escapes aligning himself with Freudian theory, but at the expense of recreating a theory of the subject similar to that proposed by Enlightenment thought.  This is simply incompatible with Derrida's project as regards subjectivity, and demonstrates the difficulties of trying to retain a critical stance on subjectivity while rejecting psychoanalytic insights wholesale.

      This perceived commonality between Derrida and Sartre, between language and consciousness as the locus of subjectivity (whatever vision of subjectivity one might have--psychoanalytic or poststructural) brings to mind another thinker, no less influential in France than either Derrida or Sartre, namely, Lacan.  Lacan, who by no means takes ideas directly from either Sartre or Derrida, is astonishingly close to being a synthesis of the two of them, at least as regards their views on language, consciousness, and subjectivity.  Where Derrida places the subject within language, and Sartre places negation at the heart of consciousness, Lacan construes subjectivity as a consciousness which is a function of linguistic signification in addition to negation--negation, in this sense, not as some ontologically present absence, as is the case in Sartre, but as lack, as desire, as a vacuum that needs to be filled. Perhaps, then, his thought will provide a middle-space between Freud and Derrida, where structuralist concerns about subjectivity as construed by discourse will meet with Freudian concerns of subjectivity as informed by internal drives. Derrida and Lacan are in some ways very similar, but in other ways they are also very different, although not so different that Lacan did not, at a conference where both he and Derrida attended, accuse Derrida of being contrary as a result of being angry that Lacan had "already said what you want to say" (Roudinesco 410).  Of course, at that point in time, Derrida had virtually no familiarity with Lacan's philosophy, had certainly never read anything substantial by Lacan, never studied under the elder philosopher, making Lacan's attempt to trivialize Derrida as an imitator fall flat. 

      There is, however, something that comes out of contrasting Derrida and Lacan, which might be very useful for our discussion of Derrida's use of Freud. Lacan engaged himself in making Freudian ideas commensurate with structuralist linguistics (as embodied in Saussure's theories, though, over time, Lacan's interpretation of these theories moved from being structuralist to poststructuralist), and as such, significantly changed the shape of psychoanalytic theory.  Lacan's notion of the "mirror stage" is enough to give one a summary understanding of how subjectivity is construed in and by language in Lacanian psychoanalytic theory.2  The mirror stage is Lacan's explanation of both the coincidence of the acquisition of language with the individuation of the subject as an individual.  This coincidence is not accidental (that is, it is a coincidence insofar as the two events occur contemporaneously, but not in the sense that the two events are otherwise unrelated, because, in fact, these two particular events are related).  According to this story (which Lacan claims is a literal rendition of what everyone goes through in order to individuate themselves), before the mirror stage, a child does not (indeed, cannot) differentiate himself from his environment: "its own toes are objects to be explored, placed in the mouth, and so forth, just like its rattle" (Tyson 27).  Only when seeing its body in a mirror (some interpret this literally, and Lacan's own way of writing of the mirror stage certainly bears this interpretation out, though some insist on interpreting him figuratively, claiming that the child might see itself "mirrored" in the actions of others, and gain an idea of itself as subject through analogy) can the child gain knowledge of itself as something whole, the unification of all of the disparate and fragmentary experiences that it has known (in a fragmentary way) heretofore.  The initiation into the symbolic order comes when the child recognizes that it is something different from its mother, it is an "I" not a "you" or a "that" (Tyson 28).  Both the imaginary (the pre-differential stage of development, where the child knows himself only as his image in the mirror, and knows everything only as its image) and the symbolic (i.e., linguistic) orders are departures from the Real, for Lacan, which means that with the initiation of the person  into these orders, with the introduction of signifiers that can only ever refer to other signifiers and never to real things, the plenitude of the real is apportioned by language, thus meaning is made by the exclusion of certain signifying chains in favour of others: "Human language works by such [desire]," writes Terry Eagleton.  "Words have meaning only by virtue of absence and exclusion of others" (Eagleton 145).  The Lacanian psychoanalytic version of what the subject is and how it is constructed, then, shares certain sympathies with both traditional psychoanalysis (in the division of the psyche into the conscious and unconscious mind, the relationship to the mother, the role of the father, amongst other things--although some of his theories, especially centring on affective states, seem to indicate his deep sympathies for Kleinian object relations theory) and a structuralist approach.  Lacan's modernization of Freudian psychoanalysis can be seen as a reformulation and elaboration of Freud's theories in light of the theories of language put forth by structuralists and others, who have a fetishized conception of the signifier.

      Certainly, then, there are affinities between Derrida's thought and Lacan's, but these are on the structuralist-inspired side of Lacan's thought, and not on the psychoanalytic aspects of it (if it is indeed possible to speak of Lacan's work as though the psychoanalytic and structuralist aspects of it were separable, which might very well not be the case).  Lacan's thought plays entirely within the language game of psychoanalysis.  Lacan does not define the space in which his question is determined, constitutes the nature of the psychoanalytic endeavour as one outside of the text (the text in general, and the textuality of psychoanalysis in specific), for which Derrida takes Lacan to task: "All of Lacan's work presupposes the urgency of the problematic of Jenseits [that is, Beyond the Pleasure Principle] even thought that very problem appears mythological, poetic, and speculative to so many psychoanalysts" (Derrida [1975] 41).  Derrida underlines the fact that Lacan's presupposition is that of the truth of psychoanalysis, the truth of Freud.  This is the major difference between Derrida and Lacan, then, the fact that Derrida is suspicious of the categories Freud introduced.  So much so, in fact, that Derrida is wary of using psychoanalytic terms "otherwise than in quotation marks" (Derrida [2001] 247).  Derrida sees Freud as participating in a logocentric discourse, in addition to the fact that he subsumes every aspect of human life under the category of the biological. 

      Yet, Derrida certainly sees salvageable aspects of Freud, too, in his decentring of the subject, but also in those brief moments when Freud seems to be going beyond logocentric categories.  Derrida is all too often, unfortunately, not vigilant enough to only mention Freudian concepts "within quotation marks." There is, however, a distinction to be made between mention and use, to mention something is to indicate it, to draw one's attention to it, whereas to use a concept is to enact it.  Derrida will often mention psychoanalytic concepts (especially in his works on psychoanalysis), but he rarely, if ever, actually enacts any of these concepts in his own analyses.  Derrida never devotes a work to explaining how psychoanalysis and deconstruction are related; that is not the point of any of his works centring on Freud, except in a very brief and casual way in the prefatory note to "Freud and the Scene of Writing," as indicated above.  Deconstruction is not the psychoanalysis of philosophy.  Deconstruction does not unveil the truth of a philosophical text, a truth that was unknown to all but the unconscious of the text's author.  What deconstruction does is to demonstrate the suspension of categories such as truth and falsehood, science and speculation, ideal and reality, which is always already present in a given situation.  Deconstruction, unlike psychoanalysis, does not "unveil" the "truth"; the truth of deconstruction, as such, is already apparent, already laid bare. What is hidden is the fact that this is so.  Deconstruction takes the Freudian critique of the Enlightenment subject, rejects all of the logocentric, biological, and mystical trappings of psychoanalysis in favour of the rhetoric of structural linguistics (for, even in its most sophisticated form, Derrida's concept of linguistics does not stray far from the core of structuralist linguistics, and, if anything, it only radicalizes its tenets), and uses Freud as little more than an example of a somewhat textual thinker, writing on the cusp of the closure of metaphysics.  Derrida's conception of Freud is not one of a biologist of the mind, as Freud can (not incorrectly) be seen.  Instead, it seems quite clear that Derrida saw as valuable those aspects of Freud which came closest to an early version of a grammatological science (for instance, Freud's textual metaphor for the mind in "A Note on the Mystic Writing-Pad").  Freud, for Derrida, is a proto-grammatologist who, in ambling towards a mode of thinking more in line with deconstruction than anything else at the time he was writing, was assaulted by logocentrism, whose thought, as a result, was injured badly, and who must, therefore, limp towards a mode of thought that will be forever beyond his reach--that is, towards Derrida's mode of thought.  But, as Freud informs us at the end of Beyond the Pleasure Principle, "the Scripture says that limping is no sin" (Freud [2009a] 77).
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