Call for papers
Gaston Bachelard vis-à-vis Psychoanalysis
Directed by Ilona Bocian and Marta Ples-Bęben
What is Bachelard’s relationship to psychoanalysis and, more generally, to theories dealing with the psyche? As a philosopher and epistemologist, Bachelard approaches such theories more as intellectual propositions than as clinical methods of therapy. He draws his inspiration rather freely from them, showing their heuristic possibilities, thus opening up new avenues for philosophical reflection relating both to the process of knowledge formation and to the role of imagination in the relationship of human beings with the outside world. For the upcoming issue of Bachelard Studies, we would like to invite reflection on the complex and evolving relationship of Gaston Bachelard’s philosophy to psychoanalysis by proposing some of the research ideas outlined and developed below.
- The Psychoanalysis of Scientific Knowledge
In 1938, Bachelard published two books, La formation de l’esprit scientifique and La psychanalyse du feu. He entered into discussions on the possible extension of psychoanalysis and the relationship between psychology and philosophy. Each of these two publications presents a different method inspired by Freudian psychoanalysis.
The psychoanalysis of scientific knowledge presupposes a link between the mind and the unconscious. Epistemological obstacles delay the progress of objective knowledge. Among these obstacles, Bachelard refers to imagination as a function of image and concept production linked with prior experience. How does the influence of the unconscious manifest itself in the history of science? What is the importance of direct contact with perceptual reality for the formation of unconscious resources since, according to Bachelard, it is this contact that founds most epistemological obstacles?
Bachelard emphasizes the “cathartic” function of the psychoanalysis of scientific knowledge, whose aim is to “purify the scientific mind”. In this approach, science itself becomes a revision of existing theories and a correction of errors. Is there a practical dimension to this approach to science? But what about the role of psychoanalysis in his later epistemological works? Is there still any sense in talking about epistemological obstacles, and about a psychoanalysis of contemporary science? And what about the idea of “psychoanalyzing the elements,” after Bachelard’s La psychanalyse du feu?
- The Psychoanalysis of Objective Knowledge in Pedagogy
This psychoanalysis of scientific knowledge includes reflecting on the educational process that reveals the bidirectional character of Bachelard’s method. On the one hand, this method is oriented towards the theory of science and, on the other hand, towards the pedagogical practice which leads to it. Thus, the psychoanalysis of scientific knowledge distinguishes between two levels of knowledge formation: the collective level (universal and historical), and the individual level (the mindset of students and researchers). Just as science corrects errors at the collective level, teaching should aim to eliminate erroneous ideas arising from the unconscious of individuals, both students and teachers. Bachelard emphasizes the importance of school-science and teacher-student relations in developing knowledge and building the scientific community. How can Bachelard’s postulates be implemented in current pedagogical practice? What is the relationship between the individual and collective levels of knowledge formation? What is the context of Bachelard’s theses based on discontinuity and epistemological rupture as mechanisms of development in the field of knowledge?
- Psychoanalysis and Reverie
What is the relationship between psychoanalysis and reverie (or daydream)? What type of psychoanalysis of imagination mobilizes Bachelard after La psychanalyse du feu? What theoretical resources does Bachelard put in place for his subsequent work on the three remaining imaginary elements ? Later, in the Poetics, we find an explicit refusal of psychoanalysis because it works at too deep or obscure a level of the psyche (night dreams), whereas reverie is situated at a more lucid, waking level—that of the dreamer’s cogito.
We must then measure these changes and assess the nature of the imagination: for Bachelard, is it a matter of escaping and breaking links with the outside world, or of rooting oneself more intimately in the world? What stratification of levels of mental activity and what conception of human being is revealed in reverie?
- Influences and Sources of Inspiration
Bachelard formulated his first psychoanalytic theses in response to Sigmund Freud’s research. Over time, he also drew inspiration from concepts and hypotheses drawn from the analytical psychology of Carl Gustav Jung, while critiquing Freud’s theses. He was critical of Freudiansm, which he called “classical psychoanalysis”, mainly because of its reductionism. However, in his later work, Bachelard revisited the Freudian conception of psychoanalysis. What prompted this return? Which Freudian categories had the most lasting impact on Bachelard’s philosophy?
Another issue to consider is the coexistence of Freudian and Jungian influences that Bachelard assumed in his philosophy by going beyond their classical approach and remaining “between and beyond Freud and Jung”. Can we speak here of coexistence, or rather of their mutual suppression, depending on context and on Bachelard’s concrete choice at a given moment?
Bachelard also read the works of French psychoanalysts. He knew some of them personally and had correspondence and discussions with them. He was not part of any school of thought created by members of the French psychoanalytic movement. Nonetheless, he was undeniably interested in French publications about the psyche, as can be seen from the references he made in his books to Marie Bonaparte, Juliette Favez-Boutonier, Jacques Lacan, Yvonne and René Allendy, Robert Desoille, and Jean Piaget. But we could also mention the names of Binswanger, Minkowski, Kuhn and the method of Daseinanalyse. How did Bachelard’s body of research, so diverse in terms of premises and methods, influence his philosophy? Were such studies important only in the context of the application and analysis of concrete concepts, or did they more broadly affect the totality of the assumptions and methods of Bachelard’s philosophy?
Bachelard offered his own interpretations of classical categories of psychoanalysis and depth-psychology, such as “complex”, “archetype”, “sublimation”, “libido”, “unconscious” (individual and collective), “Id”, “ego”, and “super-ego”. He applied and adapted these concepts within the framework of his own hypotheses by proposing, for instance, a psychoanalytic reading of the work and life of Isidore Ducasse in his Lautréamont, or by analyzing the social relations created within the scientific city. In this regard, we can then ask: Is the Bachelardian understanding of psychoanalytic concepts consistent with the theories that launched them in the first place? We want to pay particular attention to the use of the category of the “unconscious” in various psychoanalytic currents and in Bachelard’s approach, as well as to his attitude towards the unconscious vis-à-vis the “id” (infra-ego). In what ways might Bachelard’s thinking be said to energize contemporary psychoanalytic practices? Is there any sense in talking about psychic theories inspired by Bachelard’s work?
Ilona Bocian e Marta Ples-Bęben
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