(with the linguistic collaboration of Danielle Lemelin)


Sociobiology or Metabiology?

Panel discussion :


Departement of French and Spanish Seminar Series

Memorial University

February 28th, 2003


Psychoanalysis is both a theory and a therapy. For the purpose of this discussion, I will adopt the theoretical point of view, rather than the clinical approach, and I will deal with science from there.

As a theory, Psychoanalysis has a triple point of view : economic, dynamic, and topographical; it is a Metapsychology, meaning that it is different from Psychology and from Metaphysics, something deeper than Psychology and beyond Metaphysics. Psychoanalysis is the theory of the Unconscious : Freud did not invent the Unconscious; he discovered or rediscovered it : in dreams, slips of the tongue, jokes, parapraxis, acting out, literature, art, myths, politics, war, sexuality, and madness. The Unconscious is present or manifest in everyday life -- in our anxiety, our pain, and our suffering.


Like every discipline, field or subject -- if you except maybe Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry, which use numbers and formulas instead of letters and sentences ­- Psychoanalysis struggles with languages : there is in the field a language struggle between German, English, French and, to a lesser extent, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian theorists. Based on that, in my opinion, from a theoretical point of view, the main psychoanalysts are : Freud, Ferenczi, Reik, Roheim, Abraham, Jones, Klein, Bion, Winnicott, Lacan, Leclaire, Perrier, and Legendre. I would exclude Adler, Jung, and most of the psychoanalysts of the International Psychoanalysis Association [IPA] after the death of Freud in 1939, especially after the exclusion of Lacan in 1953 (in fact) or 1963 (officially).


Last year, one of my students said to me that she was not interested in reading Psychoanalysis because Freud was sexually obsessed. There is no doubt, for Freud, that the Unconscious is directly related to sexuality and language, to affect and representation, but Psychoanalysis is not Sexology. Based on therapy, Freud was able to see the relations between dreams and sexuality, dreams and libido, dreams and desire, and between the sexuality of the adult and that of the child, also known as infantile sexuality. Everybody has heard of the symbolism of dreams and of the mechanics (or energetics) of the four stages (or phases) of infantile sexuality : oral (or cannibal), anal (or sadistic), phallic and genital; every stage or phase is libidinal, but sometimes it is ego-libido ­- the subject's drive to be ­ and sometimes it is object-libido ­- the subject's drive to have.

The Unconscious is also a matter of primary processes, like condensation and displacement, metaphor and metonymy, investment and identification, introjection and projection, phantasies and drives, etc. The dynamics between the primary processes and secondary processes -­ such as fixation, inhibition, formation of the Unconscious (compromise formation, reaction-formation, substitutive formation) -­ is the foundation for Freud's first topics; these concepts are based upon the difference between the Conscious, the Preconscious and the Unconscious, as well as the difference between thing-representation and word-representation. It is, however, the introduction of the economy of the two principles ­- the reality principle and the pleasure/displeasure principle ­- with the theories of drive, narcissism and masochism, which form the road to the second topics of the Id, the Ego and the super-Ego in 1923.

Besides its insistence upon infantile sexuality and on bisexuality, the main concept of Psychoanalysis -­ and the one provoking the most opposition from religious and political ideologies or scientific ideologies, and the social or natural sciences -­ is the concept of a castration complex. This complex differs sexually : with a boy, it is known as castration anxiety; with a girl, it is known as penis envy : possessing a penis representing to her the ability to make a child for her mother, receiving a penis representing the ability to make a child for her father. For both, it is a matter of ambivalence between love and hate, a generation struggle where the parent ­- mainly the father for the son, also the mother for the daughter -­ is a role model and a rival for the child. This generation struggle is certainly quantitatively different from one social class to another, but generation struggles and class struggles are part of what I call the struggle of the fathers. This is where the social difference is a way to deal with or displace the sexual difference...

[I would have liked, here, to speak about neurosis and psychosis, but I don't have the time and, as I already have said, it is not within the parameters of this discusssion. For those who read French, I would refer than to my last book, Le sujet, p. 56-70].


Like Haeckel, Freud believed that ontogenesis (individual development) recapitulates phylogenesis (species development); but, at the same time, he wrote that what is innate to the species has to be acquired in the individual; in fact, ontogenesis does not recapitulate phylogenesis, it invents it. That is why, for Roheim, there is an ontogenetic theory of culture and civilization, based on the primal scene and primal phantasies of murder and incest; that is why there is also no gap between individual psychology and collective psychology. The Oedipus complex, or the castration complex, is nothing else, from a collective point of view, than the prohibition of incest, the main prohibition being between mother and son, and the prohibition of murder.

From Totem and Taboo to Moses, passing by a number of texts, there is what some call a "small short story"; like others, I call it a "great narrative" : it is the murder of the father of the primitive horde, by the gang of brothers for the troop of sisters. This historical or mythical event is the foundation of paternity based on a presumption (a deduction, an induction or an abduction) : this is the foundation of fatherhood and of exogamy, by the way of the totemic feast. This foundation is a genealogical invention and not a genetic discovery. The historical or mythical murder has been repeated in religion (Moses, Jesus Christ), in mythology (Oedipus, Dionysus and other gods), art (see the sculpture of Moses by Michelangelo interpreted by Freud himself), literature (tragedy : Oedipus, Hamlet; or most novels), bullfighting, etc. ­- It is repeated in every murder!

For Popper however, a great narrative is not a science ­- we will answer to that in question number 7.


Psychoanalysis is not incompatible with Biology, nor Freud with Darwin. Despite Bickerton and Pinker, Chomsky is probably incompatible with Darwin, but Linguistics is not incompatible with Psychoanalysis; they are all great narratives. It is not a question of choice between Lamarck and Darwin : language, as speech and discourse, is the transmission of the acquired characters. Like Freud, Darwin was Lamarckian and, in The Descent of Man, he was already talking about the primitive horde; but, with Mendel and molecular Genetics, Biology had to propose a "New Synthesis" [Simpson, Mayr] : the Neo-Darwinism.

With Wilson and Sociobiology, we have a new "New Synthesis". Based on Ethology, Sociobiology is not distinguished here from Evolutionary Psychology. It is a discipline which imposes genetic determinism of human society and culture : genes ­- and not individuals or species ­- reproduce themselves. The organism is reduced to the genome, metabolism being ignored or marginalized. The struggle for life is at the end a sperm war. Natural selection is overturned by sexual selection in human society because men and women don't have the same strategies of reproduction : for Sociobiology, reproduction is more expansive for women than for men; their strategy must be qualitative and more selective. As well, many psychological or socio-historical behaviors have a genetic basis : autism, nepotism, altruism, opportunism, jealousy, donjuanism, anorexia nervosa, prohibition of incest, morality, and religion. Sociobiology is the inversion of cultural, social or structural Anthropology : for Lévi-Strauss, nature is universal and culture is individual; for Tooby, nature is universal and individual, culture is natural and spiritual.

Usually, Sociobiology is rejected for political or ideological reasons : it has been associated with eugenism, racism, sexism, liberal economy (Malthus, Smith), and the reactionary right. At the end of the second millenium, however, Sociobiology was adopted or claimed by Marxism and Feminism : by Chris Knight, probably a marxist of the trotskyst tradition, Camilla Power and Ian Watts; all are inspired by Turke and Dunbar on one hand and by Engels and Lévi-Strauss on the other hand. The class struggle is replaced by a sex struggle and by another "great narrative" like this one :

In the beginning, humans ­- who were not already humans ­- were dominated by men, who abused women and children; that struggle was suicidal. This is why there was a "symbolic revolution" of the "proletariat" of women against the "management" of men : the sex strike, the strike of the sisters, using synchronisation of menstruations around the New Moon to be fertile around the Full Moon, when the hunters came back with meat; there was then an exchange of sex for meat, prostitution being an exchange of persons, mainly women, for goods. The new historical or mythical event was not the murder of the father by the brothers; the new myth is the sex strike by the sisters, which is the origin of the evolution of culture and mind.

In one word, for Sociobiology, sexuality is reproduction and paternity or fatherhood had been known forever, even by animals other than humans -­ information genetically and not genealogically passed on.


With Knight, Power and Watts, the speed or mood of Sociobiology is hysterical or manic, feminist or optimist; this is the hysterical speed or mood of a maternal theory of evolution or nature : this is the great narrative of the Mother. The speed or mood of Metapsychology is obsessional or paranoiac, macho or pessimist; this is the obsessional speed or mood of a paternal theory of punctuation or culture : this is the great narrative of the Father. For Sociobiology, the goal of sexuality is reproduction of genes; that is its teleology. For Metapsychology, reproduction is the effect of sexuality and not its cause, but there is something that both great narratives share : the taboo and/or language of blood, blood as menstrual and maternal and blood as criminal and paternal ­- the blood of periods and the blood of meat. This taboo is the prohibition of infest, which leads to the prohibition of incest ­- you cannot share the blood of your mother ­- and to the prohibition of murder ­- you cannot spill the blood of an animal, especially if he is human, without paying the price! Sexual predation or sexual hunting, the reproduction by sexuality, leads to exogamy and dual relations or structures of kinship; food predation or food hunting, the production of food, leads to totemism and sexual division of labor. Totemism is a pre-law, a pre-religion and a pre-art at the origin of culture. Sexuality, or sexual difference, is the origin of work, tools, the domestication of fire, agriculture, craft, etc.

That is the metapsychological part of Psychoanalysis; the metabiological one deals with the theory of the drive. While Sociobiology insists on the multiplicity of instincts, like William James, Metabiology makes a distinction between the life drives and the death drive. With this last drive, come the original or primal phantasies, which are related to murder and incest, ambivalence, anxiety, repetition compulsion and sense of guilt. Because of the most sexual of drives, the death drive ­- which is not only a return to the mineral or vegetal reign, but a detour by the animal one itself ­- human life, in its anorganic essence, is metapsychological and metabiological. Like the essence of technics is not technical [Heidegger], the essence of human life is not biological, meaning genetic, but genealogical!


For Popper and his criterion of falsifiability, Psychoanalysis and History are not sciences. On the contrary, Psychoanalysis questions epistemology and science itself, as Heidegger did in Metaphysics and as Derrida does in Philosophy and Literature. Science is not thinking and knowledge is irreductible to learning as truth is to knowledge. For Foucault, Psychoanalysis, Linguistics and Political Economy are what he calls counter-sciences; I prefer to consider Psychoanalysis as an ab-science, because that which is excluded by the discourse of science is the main topic of Psychoanalysis ­- the subject, which is not the same thing as the individual, ego or self. Psychoanalysis is still a scandal for science, because consciousness is the essence of science. Science has to reduce sense to meaning, language to brain and subjectivity to error and illusion; science has to ignore libido, desire, drives, phantasies, but scientists cannot ignore these, because they speak. This is particularily so when speaking their mother tongue, which implies not only mind and brain, but the whole body including the soul (as conduit of the senses), flesh and heart.

The history of Life Sciences is full of scientific ideologies, as Canguilhem showed in several of his books, including Ideology and Rationality in the History of the Life Sciences [1977 in French, translated in English in 1988]. Despite the fact that Freud and Lacan didn't have the same conception of science, the former was trying to be in agreement with the Biology and Anthropology of his time, while the latter did the same thing with Linguistics and Mathematics. As "ab-science", Psychoanalysis is "l'absente de tout bouquet"...


The International Psychoanalysis Association was founded in 1910 by Freud and Ferenczi; it has been followed by dissensions, exclusions, expulsions, and excommunications. In the beginning, this was probably in great part because of the figure and presence of Freud himself as a father to idolize and to hate, every disciple waiting to overcome the master. After Freud's death, at the time of World War II, Psychoanalysis was taken in charge or taken over by Medecine and Psychiatry in Great Britain and the United States of America. It became taboo because of Germany and the Holocaust : on the one hand, Psychoanalysis was associated with German language and Germany; on the other hand, it was related to Jewish people, psychoanalysts or not.

The Standard Edition of the complete works of Freud, translated in English by Strachey, from 1953 to 1974 (in 24 volumes), was the beginning of the anglicisation and medicalisation of Psychoanalysis. It is an aspect of the language struggle in science, between German and English and between English and French; the Société psychanalytique de Paris (founded in 1926) and the Association psychanalytique de France (founded in 1964) didn't accept the anglophone abbreviation IPA...

To finish, let's talk about Psychoanalysis and the universities in North America and Europe. With the exception of Paris VIII, in Saint-Denis close to Paris, I don't know of an established and autonomous department of Psychoanalysis (outside of Psychiatry and Medecine). This may be because there is no more space, as it is already occupied by Psychology, Behaviorial or Animal Behaviorial Science, Cognitive Science, Neuroscience, Biotechnology, Molecular Biology and Genetics. This is why, like Semiotics, Psychoanalysis has to perform between disciplines : Literary Studies, Comparative Literature, Linguistics, Philosophy and Law. The main institutional problem, however, is that the analytic discourse is the negation of the academic discourse, as the hysterical discourse is the negation of the master discourse. The analytic discourse questions Power, Religion, Science, Art and their boundaries; it is not a scientific ideology or a political one. In the end, the struggle of the mothers might overpower and overcome the struggle of the fathers, as we see sex struggles, Feminism against Phallogocentrism, and language struggles replacing the generation struggle and the class struggle in the Alma Mater of the Western World.

­- If human cloning is not a crime against humanity and if there is a struggle for life and a future for Psychoanalysis, it might be in the therapy of clones!...