Stephen J. Costello – What type of Knowledge – The Fideist Position in Psychoanalytic Praxis

THE LETTER 09 (Spring 1997) pages 102-116


‘I am not one of those who philosophise’. The less’, Lacan continues, ‘one wants to do philosophy, the more of it one does’. I don’t particularly want to philosophise either but as both Aristotle and Lacan have confirmed, in order to want not to philosophise, one must philosophise. What I have to say locates itself within theological and philosophical discourses as much as within Lacanian psychoanalytic praxis.

Today, I would like to confine myself to exploring the relationship between fideism and psychoanalysis or, to put it more specifically, the fideist position and analytic praxis, a connection tentatively adumbrated for us by Lacan in week 19 of the seminar entitled Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis, which we are here considering. To this end, I shall cover three topics: (1) a succinct historical and hermeneutical survey of fideism in the Western intellectual tradition; (2) a brief exposition of Pascal’s and Kierkegaard’s philosophical psychology of religion, as two examples of such a fideist position and; (3) to conclude by connecting the fideist position to the Lacanian clinic and to the sujet suppose savoir.

Firstly, let’s define what we mean by fideism. Fideism, as a reaction to rationalism and under the influence, if not inspiration, of Protestant thought, has sought to subordinate reason to faith. The insistence that…

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