Philippe Sabot

Les deux régimes de l’inconscient dans les Mots et les choses

Listening track

[00:00-08:05] Philippe Sabot identifies the general purpose of his intervention in rendering explicit the paradigm that supports the analysis of the last pages of The Order of Things. The Foucaultian criticism of the humanities and the relationship with structuralism (notably that of Lévi-Strauss) is examined through the role played by the concept of the unconscious. [08:06-13:42] This process develops around two main theses: 1) the humanities re-activate a scheme characterized by a representative doubling, in which there is an epistemological primacy of representation. Sabot shows how the three fields of knowledge about man addressed by Foucault – biology, economy, and the study of language – correspond to three pairs of operational concepts: function/norm, conflict/rule, and signification/system. [13:43-15:30] 2) In this context, Sabot examines a double shift capable of constructing a critical history of the reorganization of the field of the humanities. The first shift concerns a succession of epistemological models (biology, economy, philology); the second, the emergence of a dimension of the unconscious based on the series norm-rule-system to the detriment of the series function-conflict-signification. [15:31-18:30] In order to clarify this notion of the unconscious exploiting the difference between knowledge and representation, Sabot analyzes the critical role played by the “counter-sciences” in the reconfiguration of the humanities. [18:31-24:40] First, psychoanalysis, which presents itself as a discourse on unthought through its attempt to “steal” the unconscious from the space of representation in order to reduce it to its structural conditions, which coincide with the three figures of human finitude: death, desire, law. [24:41-37:05] Secondly, ethnology, which, by clearing the historical horizon where there can appear knowledge of the other, shows the structural constraints through which our historical unconscious deploys itself in every cultural manifestation. Sabot underlines that psychoanalysis and ethnology are bound together in the framework of formal structures on the concept of the unconscious, borrowed from the approach of Lévi-Strauss. [37:06-40:42] Thirdly, it is the paradigm of linguistics that gives to the unconscious a formal matrix suitable for a symbolic system capable of drawing a strong analogy between the internal structure of language and the structuring of the relationships that connect the individual to the social. Finally, linguistics also reveals the set of collective and individual phenomena related to this symbolic order as elements of a signifying system governed by structural invariants. [40:43-42:00] The dissolution of man in this set of structures does not imply the failure of anthropology, but a reappropriation of these objects and the complete renewal of its theoretical forms. [42:01-53:22] Discussion.

Keywords: The Order of Things, structuralism, human sciences, unconscious, representation.

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