Rob Weatherill – The Proximity of The Other. Psychoanalysis and Levinas

THE LETTER 21 Spring 2001, pages 28-40


This paper attempts to demonstrate the importance of the work of Levinas for an ethics of psychoanalysis that transcends ideological difference. Firstly, the role of language in psychoanalysis and the construction of subjectivity is stressed, secondly, the work of Bion and the containment of anxiety. However, beyond these ‘positions’, there remains the impossible proximity of the other as singularity, for whom, according to Levinas, I am responsible without limit. For Levinas, as for Freud, the subject is not one, but instead, open, gaping, exposed between being and nothingness, a diachrony, which language, the Law and philosophical systems in general, dissimulate and betray. Technique saves the analyst from this proximity of the ‘client’ but at once becomes cynical and complacent, unless it remains haunted by its own resistance to the other, indeed its own failure.

Post-Lacan, no one could dispute the central place that language holds in the practice of psychoanalysis. The son of alcoholic parents talks about ‘bottling-up’ his feelings; the man whose father is a womaniser dreams of ‘raking’ the autumn leaves. A French analyst reports that his patient dreams of giving him *six roses*. The patient’s father had died of…


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