Here's our new topic for debate: unbounded by a definition, violence calls for a singular debate in the psychoanalytic field, and is ample enough so that we analysts not abstain from discussions partaking of the spirit of the times. We can contribute towards understanding such issues as political violence, democracy, dictatorship, globalization, terrorism, fascism, genocide, fundamentalism-- in sum, our daily life confrontations.
I venture to propose that it is worth distinguishing the idea of violence from the idea of evil. As analysts, we witness the amorous universe inevitably coexisting with the aggressive and destructive, doing so apart from normative or moral biases. We consider crucial the symbolic destiny that these drives carry, placing them on the spectrum of civilizational development.
Along with Hannah Arendt we can view evil as the destitution of the human, its thingification. This concept reinforces the critique of the positivist tendency in psychoanalysis, evinced in innocent assertions such as "the material the patient brought", "the patient's dynamics"; usage of Freud's work as a theoretic tabulator ignores for example its allegorical character, plentiful in metaphors and poetry. Here we'd be headed towards the field of "evil". Closer to the notion of violence we have the common attempts at adapting the patients' visions to our theoretic tenets and a disrespect for the distance between theoretic abstraction and the poetic singularity which each brings as their language.
Easy enough nevertheless to attribute to ourselves the ethics of respect for alterity without questioning our own limits, and to bring the discussion of violence and evil- without confusing them- into our intimacy. But how confront the theme of violence without losing the radical singularity of psychoanalysis?
In the Freudian field violence can be defined as the stimulus which surpasses the elaborative possibilities of the spirit. Exemplifying, where there is a precarious psychic construction, love can be experienced as unbearable violence. Sexuality will be termed violent or not depending on personal characteristics, the culture circumscribing the subject, the narrator and the narrative being built. This paradox could only emerge from the singularity of the psychoanalytic field.
From this may further arise a discussion on the relation between the ethics of submission to otherness and the violence of the attempt to capture otherness in a definition, fix it in the bounds of a totality (Lévinas). The infinite of our object-- the unconscious-- imposes on us the abyss and terror. But psychoanalysis entails also devotion to it, and the ethics with which we must clothe ourselves is submission to this infinite that surpasses us, "hurts" us and simultaneously elevates us.
Violence is omnipresent. Freud in Project for a Scientific Psychology says the prolonged helplessness of the human being is the source of all ethical motives. To helplessness corresponds necessarily devotion and submission to the being who arrives. But we recall that aside from the violence of excess in the presence of the stimulus, there is the violence of excess in the lack of the presence that contains. From the helplessness of the human being, thus, from this core violence, is born the best and the worst of humanity: creation, transformation, destruction.
Violence also engenders beauty, within the Kantian notion of the sublime. Violence, excess, turns sublime when, rather than hurting directly, it can be observed in safety. When it becomes an object of representation, when captured by art, the possibility for thought opens. Thus it is not arbitrary to seek equivalences between the creation of dreams and artistic construction. Faced with the overwhelming we fail to give it a form but when the imagination stirs and intuits a representation, the sublime is made present. Volcanoes, earthquakes and, why not?, our drives, our own nature, are fonts of terror. Before the violence of the infinite our spirit becomes but of puny significance. The sublime arises on transforming into objects of observation and resistance what terrifies us. Within this Meltzer says that the primordials of the sense of beauty appear in the child upon the vision of the mother's face who understands it and that on this gesture the dreamer will construct the architecture of the spirit and people it.
In this way violence, fruit of the relation between stimulus and elaboration, interlinks ethics and aesthetics. It is in the body, in loving relations, in the social fabric, in culture-- our theme presents itself to us as infinite. Accept this invitation to debate, reader, and also to appreciate the beauty of the first steps, uncertain yet, which our e-journal essays.