Neutralization of Cerebrality: What Is Psychic Event?


Second part of Malabou’s Les Nouveaux blessés is called La neutralisation de la cérébralité (Neutralization of Cerebrality) and consists of four chapters:

chapter 5: Qu’est-ce qu’un événement psychique?

chapter 6: La “théorie de la libido” et l’altérité du sexuel à lui-même: névrose traumatique et névrose de guerre en question.

chapter 7: La séparation, la mort, la chose: Freud, Lacan et la rencontre manquée.

chapter 8: Objection de la neurologie: “réhabiliter l’événement”.

This part of the book opens with a discussion of the theme that has already been mentioned in the first part, namely, the problem of articulating a position concerning the nature of the “psychic event” using both the resources of psychoanalysis and neuroscience. Continue reading

Ruins of Identity: Irretrievable Damage.


So finishing up Part One of Malabou’s Les Nouveaux blessés – the remaining chapters of this part (3 and 4) deal primarily with an issue that was already set up through the discussion of what constitutes cerebral (and, by extention, psychic) identity – in these chapters we will see the first elements of what constitutes the primary goal of the study that could be roughly presented as following: what does cerebral trauma tell us about the human identity? how does psychoanalysis (and philosophy in general) deal with the new information given to us by neurosciences regarding the physical processes that define who we are? These issues of identity, of course, are not approached naively and without preparation. Carl Dyke posted a link to his essay on the issues that, I think, gives a great summary of the main problems (with philosophy and neuroscience constituting only a part of the big picture) – you can read it here (PDF).

Chapter 3: L’identité sans précédent (Identity without precedent) Continue reading

Post-Traumatic Plasticity: Digression I


UPDATE: Short video of Malabou can be found here.

The second chapter of Part One of Les nouveaux blessésLes célébro-lésés: du roman neurologique au théâtre de l’absence – deals with some examples of cerebral damages and their general effects (the prevailing one being that of “indifference” and “cold detachment”) and how neurological scientific style itself is a strange co-conspirator in this perpetuation of coldness and detachment in a way it deals with these cases stylistically.  However, Malabou brings up her favorite notion of “plasticity” in order to engage a topic she has already addressed in Que faire de notre cerveau? which leads me to my first digression – what is this plasticity as applied to the discussion of the brain? Continue reading

Cerebral Autoaffection Interrupted.


[I collected all the previous posts on Malabou here in order to avoid constant linking the new post to the old ones, since these are simply reading notes, use them as you see fit, but preferred uses are: to impress someone with knowledge of Malabou without actually opening the book, to cite in defense of claim “I was into Malabou before it was cool” and the like pretentious yet awesome ways…]

What is this “cerebral unconscious” then? One must be careful, argues Malabou, not to fall into the trap of identifying that which is not conscious with that which is unconscious. “Cerebral unconscious” is all that information that brain provides for itself about the internal state of the organism, that it informs itself of, that it auto-represents, i.e. “cerebral unconscious” refers to the whole ensemble of processes of brain’s autoaffection. [83] If we go back to the introduction of this discussion of the relationship between sexuality and cerebrality, we will see that Malabou already emphasized the fact that “neuronal architecture is composed of different systems in constant interaction.” [59] This point should remind the reader, I think, that the discussion of “cerebral auto-affection” or “cerebral unconscious” is not directed as some sort of system-building that would reconcile the struggle between sexuality and cerebrality via some sort of larger synthesis of both into a final system.   Continue reading

No Regulation Without Representation: Continuing with Malabou.


Before I continue with my reading of Malabou’s Les Nouveaux blessés, here’s a quick recap of the previous episodes. First post was concerned mainly with the introductory matters. Second, with cerebrality and sexuality. Third, with cerebral autoaffection which is where I got distracted and went reading all kinds of interesting books on related topics on which I may post later. This notion of cerebral autoaffection, it seems to me, reminds one of Derrida’s discussion of iterability.  However, Malabou’s account does not really mention or engage Derrida’s notion, and justifiably so, one might argue. To help organize my thought here, I’d like to see the whole of the first chapter:

Chapter 1: L’autoaffection cérébrale:

  1. De l’énergie nerveuse à l’énergie psychique: Freud ou le cerveau détourné.
  2. La redéfinition du cerveau comme psyché.
  3. Le cerveau temporel et l’inconscient destructible. Continue reading

Neurological Subordination of Sexuality: Reading Malabou.


[continuing from here]

Part One of Les Nouveaux blessés (which Malabou herself proposes to translate as The New Wounds here) is entitled – La subordination neurologique de la sexualité. This part deals primarily with the “struggle for etiological domination” between neurology and psychoanalysis. This struggle, argues Malabou, is basically about defining and redefining the concept of “l’événement psychique.” In neurological subordination of the sexual, the psychic event is no longer considered as the sexual event: “The hypothesis of an emotional brain dismisses the idea of an autonomous sexual drive.” (60) Malabou identifies this specific la ligne de rupture between contemporary neurology and psychoanalysis in a following way: “contemporary neurology fundamentally contests the concept and the very existence of what Freud referred to as ‘psychic energy’.” (61) Neurological stance does not requires a “detour” to libido to deal with neuronal events – Malabou points out that the reason for the present lack of cooperation between neurology and psychoanalysis is precisely this fundamental disagreement – if for neurology there is but one type of energy – l’énergie nerveuse – then there is no need for Freudian notions of drive and libido. (62) Malabou cites Joëlle Proust from Le livre noir de la psychoanalyse (the book I’ve mentioned in my first post on Les Nouveaux blessés): Continue reading

Cerebrality vs. Sexuality: Malabou On Rethinking Psychoanalysis and Neurology


Continuing with my reading of Malabou’s Les Noveaux blessés. [See this review I found since posting on Malabou]

The general introduction to the book’s three parts contains a number of very intriguing proposals all united under an overall theme of rethinking the relationship between Freud’s psychoanalysis and the new developments in the field of neurology. Various topics are gathered under a new concept Malabou is proposing: cerebrality [cérébralité]. Malabou’s point here is to reformulate our understanding of – no more, no less – guiding principles of philosophy and science that regulate our dealings with “trauma” in terms of “cerebrality” as opposed to Freudian “sexuality” [sexualité]. Malabou’s stated goal in the introduction is to address the issue of cerebral damage in terms of its philosophical and psychoanalytic implications: rather than dealing with “new wounded” as patients only, Malabou proposes to address a number of issues related to their status as subjects.

First target is Freud’s interpretation of neurosis – Malabou proposes to expand (not to replace, it seems to me) Freud’s understanding of “l’étiologie sexuelle des névroses” – since for Freud “sexuality thus appear as a concept that decides the sense/meaning [sens] of an event in the psychic life,” (24) if we reinterpret the whole of this life and its events in terms of “brain” and “cerebrality,” it might be possible to both incorporate the new range of cerebral damages (and its accompanying suffering, something Malabou is very concerned with) and reconsider the relationship between psychanalysis and neurology (and philosophy). ‘Cerebrality’ is constructed the same way as ‘sexuality’ in Freud: vis-a-vis its capacity to “determine the course of psychic life.” (25) The concept of ‘cerebrality’ primarily functions as a kind of umbrella under which a new discourse can unify various discourses about the brain, and especially when it comes to dealing with various types of injury [blessure]: Continue reading

Reading Catherine Malabou: Les Nouveaux blessés (2007)


Malabou’s recent book – Les nouveaux blessés (The New Wounded) – finally made its way from my shelf to the area of my immediate interest, so here are some remarks as I begin reading this book – these are meant just as observations that I hope could be useful to others who are interested in Malabou’s work. This book comes out of Malabou’s personal experience with her grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease and, as Malabou reveals in the Preamble, her own rethinking of the role of philosophy and its relationship to neuroscience – via her engagement with the concept of “plasticity” Malabou came to be more and more interested in the study of the brain: its functions, organization and pathologies:

Cette extension de mon champ de recherche a eu de réelle répercussions sur ma pensée, au point qu’il y a aujourd’hui pour moi an ‘avant’ et un ‘après’ mon incursion dans le domaine des neurosciences. (11)

This “before” includes mainly works on “plasticity” beginning with Malabou’s doctoral dissertation and then book on Hegel (L’Avenir de Hegel: Plasticité, temporalité, dialectique) – the only work presently available in English – Sebastian Rand is working on the translation of Que faire de notre cerveau? for Fordham Press – already announced in the catalog as What Should We Do With Our Brain? – coming out in October) – then comes (after a book with Derrida and a short book on “plasticity”) a volume on Heidegger (Le change Heidegger : Du fantastique en philosophie). The “after” is the book on the brain Que faire de notre cerveau? and the present volume Les nouveaux blessés. Continue reading