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Psychoanalysis for Foucault: ontology or hermeneutics?

Grant number: 14/26406-6
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctoral
Effective date (Start): August 01, 2015
Effective date (End): April 30, 2016
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Philosophy - History of Philosophy
Acordo de Cooperação: Coordination of Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES)
Principal Investigator:Carlos Alberto Ribeiro de Moura
Grantee:Carolina de Souza Noto
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


The aim of this study is to understand the status conferred on psychoanalysis by Foucault. This is not a straightforward question, since the philosopher makes numerous diverging comments on this branch of knowledge along his trajectory. Not only Foucault poses different theses on psychoanalytical theory and practice in different phases of his philosophical itinerary, but within the same book we find ambiguous formulations on the subject. Having as a background the author's several dissonant comments on psychoanalysis, our intent is to consider in which ways particularly the texts from the 1970's relate to Foucault's critique of human sciences that was systematized in 1966 in The Order of Things. Given that, in this book, the philosopher condemns a certain kind of reflection that aims to confer an ontological status on human finitude (i.e. to develop an ontology of man's constitutively alienated being), it is necessary to investigate whether the critique that Foucault addresses to psychoanalysis after 1966 is framed along the same lines as the critique made to the analytics of finitude. The aim is, therefore, to understand whether or not the accusatory claim that psychoanalysis is nothing but a "sexuality device" at the service of biopower is founded on the idea that psychoanalysis presupposes an ontology. The idea of psychoanalysis as ontology, however, is a thesis that is refuted by Foucault in some texts from the 1950's and 1960's. In this period, the philosopher holds that psychoanalysis is, above all, rather a hermeneutic method than a general theory on man. Thus, if it is true that Foucault's final genealogical theses on psychoanalysis are grounded on a view of psychoanalysis as ontology, we are posed with a problem: does psychoanalysis ultimately consist, for Foucault, in a theory on the being of man? In order to answer this question, we will follow a suggestion - given by Derrida, but also found in Foucault - that it is possible to find, in the works of Freud himself, a solution to this problem. According to this suggestion, there are in Freud, on the one hand, texts of a more ontological nature, but on the other, also texts that insist on the central role of interpretation and the comprehension of the meaning production process. Finally, if it is possible to draw a distinction between an ontological psychoanalysis and a hermeneutic psychoanalysis, the last question we will try to answer is: from a hermeneutic point of view, is not the notion of historical interpretation adopted by Foucault, even in his last texts, close to that of Freudian psychoanalysis? (AU)

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