Metaphysics and Psychoanalysis

Bruno Bérard, Alain Brun, Michel Cazenave, Paul Dawalibi, David Lucas, Dominique Reniers.

The book is in French – here a translation of key elements in English.

Metaphysics and psychoanalysis are both hybrid from a certain point of view: psychoanalysis is an ‘art’ and a science, metaphysics a science and a ‘path’; hence the ongoing controversies to which they may be subject. Six contributors, from various horizons of psychoanalysis, psychology or philosophy, deliver here an uncompromising dialogue, between metaphysics and psychoanalysis.


  1. Introduction. Metaphysics and Psychoanalysis – Bruno BÉRARD
  2. The Psychological and the Spiritual – Michel CAZENAVE
  3. Unconsciousness and Metaphysical Perspective – David LUCAS
  4. Between the Lines of the Freudian Text, the Metaphysics that Fails to Make Itself Heard – Dominique RENIERS
  5. Psychoanalysis and Metaphysics – Alain BRUN
  6. The Suffering Identity – Paul DAWALIBI
  7. The Truth, it Does not Go Without Saying – Dominique RENIERS


Metaphysics of Symbol

It seems to us more useful here to sketch out what would be a metaphysics of the symbol, the latter not absent from psychoanalysis. We must first of all distinguish between what is shown and what is demonstrated. This is what the philosopher Henri Gouhier (1898-1994) does by distinguishing between philosophies of truth and philosophies of reality, the former seeking the causes to demonstrate the truth and the latter the source to show the reality: “the source is on the level of the real what the cause is on the level of truth”. However, the metaphysical nature of the symbol cannot be demonstrated (“to explain a given symbolism rationally would be equivalent to reducing the mythos to the logos”, therefore  annihilating it); on the other hand, it can show itself, and we can even “establish its legitimacy with regard to critical reason” (Jean Borella), but by demonstrating it by the absurd:

– To deny that sacred forms are messages from the Transcendent is necessarily to make them mere unconscious productions of human consciousness;

– However, whatever the genesis of this alienation process, it constitutes a rigorously contradictory thesis and nothing has therefore been explained (except this impossible prophet whose revelation consists precisely in declaring that any revelation is an illusion, as a man who would proclaim: ‘speech doesn’t exist’!

Jean Borella

To “convert to the symbol” is therefore simply to recognize that meaning cannot be generated: one cannot force oneself to understand what one does not understand (Simone Weil); it is the Platonic remark that one can only know by reminiscence (Plato, Meno, 81d, for example). This is the formula of Paul Ricœur: “the symbol gives thought” and which Jean Borella completes: “the symbol gives thought to itself”, or even the “nihil est in intellectu quod non fuerit in sensu” (nothing is in the intelligence that was not first in the senses), insofar as we add the Leibnizian correction: “nisi ipse intellectus” (but the intellect itself). [Introduction, p. 53]

Notice of publication

Metaphysics and psychoanalysis are both hybrid from a certain point of view: psychoanalysis is an “art” and a science, metaphysics a science and a “path”; hence, assuredly, the ongoing controversies of which they may be the object.

Six contributors, from various backgrounds of psychoanalysis, psychology or philosophy, six doctors, researchers or teachers in the fields of psychiatry, narrative medicine, psychoanalysis, pathological and clinical psychology or metaphysics, have therefore accepted to contribute to this essay, and deliver a courteous but uncompromising dialogue between metaphysics and psychoanalysis.

The reader will find, in the richness of the elements gathered in this confrontation, whether from Freud, Jung or Lacan, but also from Descartes, Guénon, Plato, Schopenhauer, Kant, Plotin, Heidegger, Jankélévitch, Bailly, Borella and so many others, something he can himself think about, and further.

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