Levi Bryant has published a short blog post expressing his idea of psychoanalysis. He begins with a short phrase from Freud (“Freud described psychoanalysis as being among the three impossible professions”), but quickly replaces its meaning with a Lacanian equivalence between impossible and real, then goes on to spell out three senses of “real” that take us even further from the beginning sentence. Accoding to sense (1) the real is what is impossible to represent. Apart from the fact that this is trivial as even my experience of eating breakfast cereal cannot be represented, Bryant takes us even further from Freud by telling us what the ideal analyst would be like if a half-remembered quote from Lacan were adopted as norm.

The ideal is impossible, as he demonstrates  rather long-windedly, thus by his Lacanian axiom it is all the more real. Here Lacan coincides with Tertullian, credo quia absurdum, and we see the link between this very pious description of the impossible analyst and Levi Bryant’s polemic against “mysterian” religious hypotheses. For Bryant the analyst is, or should be, unknowable and she should intervene in “mysterious” or unrepresentable ways. Apart from the question of whether the analyst occupying the place of death is a useful representation of her role, we can ask if becoming a “non-person” is the best way to occupy that place.

We find in Bryant both a monist conceptual representation of the analyst (defined as occupying the place of the dead or silent partner), and a monist  quasi-empirical representation of what it would be like to occupy that role. All this takes place at the level of idealised representations derived very loosely from “representative” one-line citations from Freud and Lacan. Despite the title of Bryant’s recent book there is no cartography in his method here (and no materialism either). The empirical question could be raised of whether any of the great analysts, Lacan included, ever conformed, or even tried to conform, to this ideal. A further empirical question is to what extent is the therapeutic style described here efficacious in its own terms. A further monist aspect is the description of the therapeutic goal: the determination of the absolute difference of the analysand, a static synchronic goal despite its speculative identification with desire, a seemingly more diachronic term.

Conclusion: this text illustrates a typical defect in Bryant’s approach to psychoanalysis when compared with his more general philosophy. Professor Levi is an innovative creator of a pluralist onto-cartography, whereas Doctor Bryant is a nostalgic exponent of a monist psychoanalysis.

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  1. stellarcartographies says:

    I have always found Bryant’s continued reliance on psychoanalysis to be incredibly inconsistent with his supposed materialism/naturalism. From any thoroughly materialist perspective (i.e. not dialectic materialist) psychoanalysis is little more than an irrational dedication to a theory of humors.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. terenceblake says:

    As it stands, Lacanian, and arguably Freudian in general, psychoanalysis is idealist. It is of no use to simply append “material” and “materialist” as adjectives everywhere, this changes nothing. My main objection however is that even if one overcomes this problem it remains monist. It is no use using a Deleuzo-Guattarian machinic ontology, which is pluralist, and a Freudo-Lacanian theory of the unconscious, which is reductive. The sad image of the analyst as self-suppressive is deduced from such a reductive theory, entails a vision of analysis as an instance of the ascetic ideal; So Bryant’s “impossible” analysis is idealist, reductiionist, incoherent with his onto-cartography, and not at all conducive to human flourishing.


  3. prsmith5 says:

    Great post Terence!

    “Despite the title of Bryant’s recent book there is no cartography in his method here (and no materialism either).”

    I don’t know if it’s Bryant per se or just being committed to Freud or Lacan (as opposed to a practicing psychotherapist like Gregory Bateson, who influenced Deleuze and Guattari more than most acknowledge), but your comment here connects to how suspect I am to topologies in general. Here, I might be a bit too dialectical for post-68 tastes, but the Lacanian Real just seems an excuse for a lack of social-historic connections between a structural model and what it claims to account for (in all its impossible representability). Connecting that to claims of objects seriously, as you point out, only amplifies the problem.


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