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Derrida, Brault, and Naas (1994) Asserted a Philosophy of Psychoanalysis That Claims “Madness” Is Not Necessarily a Disease, but a Cognitive Process Lacking Reason

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Beyond his first essay treating Freud, "Freud and the Scene of Writing," Jacques Derrida's preoccupation with Freud is remarkably focused. His attention is almost exclusively directed towards the text signalling a shift in the Freudian trajectory, Beyond the Pleasure Principle. In the final instalment of Derrida's encounter with the work of Michel Foucault, that focus is brought to bear on the very same text of Foucault that had earlier occasioned one of Derrida's earliest public entrances onto the French philosophical scene.

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In the three essays that make up this stimulating and often startling book, Jacques Derrida argues against the notion that the basic ideas of psychoanalysis have been thoroughly worked through, argued, and assimilated. The continuing interest in psychoanalysis is here examined in the various "resistances" to analysis—conceived not only as a phenomenon theorized at the heart of psychoanalysis, but as psychoanalysis's resistance to itself, an insusceptibility to analysis that has to do with the structure of analysis itself. Derrida not only shows how the interest of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic writing can be renewed today, but these essays afford him the opportunity to revisit and reassess a subject he first confronted (in an essay on Freud) in 1966. They also serve to clarify Derrida's thinking about the subjects of the essays—Freud, Lacan, and Foucault—a thinking that, especially with regard to the last two, has been greatly distorted and misunderstood. The first essay, on Freud, is a tour de force of close reading of Freud's texts as philosophical reflection

By means of the fine distinctions Derrida makes in this analytical reading, particularly of The Interpretation of Dreams, he opens up the realm of analysis into new and unpredictable forms—such as meeting with an interdiction (when taking an analysis further is "forbidden" by a structural limit). Following the essay that might be dubbed Derrida's "return to Freud," the next is devoted to Lacan, the figure for whom that phrase was something of a slogan. In this essay and the next, on Foucault, Derrida reencounters two thinkers to whom he had earlier devoted important essays, which precipitated stormy discussions and numerous divisions within the intellectual milieus influenced by their writings. In this essay, which skillfully integrates the concept of resistance into larger questions, Derrida asks in effect: What is the origin and nature of the text that constitutes Lacanian psychoanalysis, considering its existence as an archive, as teachings, as seminars, transcripts, quotations, etc.?

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Madness, Foucault writes, is just such an absence of an oeuvre. One reason Foucault givesto justify the importance of this move is that it provides a needed historical and cosmicperspective on modern psychiatry, a useful qualification and contextualization of itsrationalist, therapeutic ideals. With Freud modern psychiatry reinstitutes a dialogue with madness, says Foucault in his paper “Madness, the absence of an oeuvre” (1963)— also an appendix to the 1972 edition (Descartes, René, 1996). It sets itself up in a fold of esoteric speech, a speech that “is transgressive, not in its meaning, not in its verbal matter, but in its play. Foucault’s history provides the necessary backdrop to take such a perspective on Freud and modernpsychiatry. He uses a thorough historical, or archeological, method to make his argument.For the 1972 edition Foucault drops this entire preface in favor of a brief one thatfocuses on the uses to which a book a put, and adds an appendix which addresses some of the criticisms that Jacques Derrida made of the book, particularly in “Cogito and the History of Madness” (1963 and 1967)

Foucault’s response, in the “My body, this paper,this fire” appendix and in a somewhat acerbic “Reply to Derrida” paper, also published in1972 in the journal Paideia, initiates a rancorous disagreement between the two. Derrida reports in his later “To Do Justice to Freud” paper of 1992 that they did not speak to each other from 1972 until 1982 when Derrida was released from a Czech prison. Jean Khalfa says that what is at stake in the debate is the rejection, in Foucault’s book, “of a particularconception of philosophy as irreducible to the material circumstances of its production.” Derrida’s “Cogito and the History of Madness” (1963 and 1967) reasserts this conception of philosophy by focusing on, and finding a flaw in, Foucault’s brief treatment of howRene Descartes separates reason from madness. In Derrida’s reading, Descartes does not separate reason from madness, but rather uses madness in the guise of hyperbole or excessto provide impetus to thought (Derrida, Jacques, 1994).

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In any event, for ten years, from 1970–1980, Derrida returns not once but three times, on three separate occasions, in three different contexts, to Freud's text on repetition compulsion and the death drive, each time devoting more time and energy – that is to say, more pages – to it. As we will see in this essay, what emerges from this textual encounter is not only a new kind of pleasure; it is also a chance event of repetition that brings with it something strikingly new.

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Derrida, Jacques, Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas. (1994). "To do justice to freud, The history of madness inthe age of psychoanalysis. Critical Inquiry, 20 (2), 227-266.

Descartes, René, David Weissman, and William Theodore Bluhm. 1996. Discourse on the method and, Meditationson first philosophy. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Foucault, Michel. 2006. History of madness. London: Routledge

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