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Freud and Lacan

Below is an excerpt of the chapter entitled Freud and Lacan, by Louis Althusser, and translated from French by Ben Brewster:

To my knowledge, the nineteenth century saw the birth of two or three children that were not expected: Marx, Nietzsche and Freud. ‘Natural’ children, in the sense that
nature offends customs, principles, morality and good breeding: nature is the rule violated, the unmarried mother, hence the absence of a legal father. Western Reason makes a fatherless child pay heavily. Marx, Nietzsche and Freud had to foot the often terrible bill of survival: a price compounded of exclusion, condemnation, insult, poverty, hunger and death, or madness. I speak only of them (other unfortunates might be mentioned who lived their death sentences in colour, sound and poetry). I speak only of them because they were the births of sciences or of criticism.

That Freud knew poverty, calumny and persecution, that his ‘spirit was well enough anchored to withstand, and interpret, all the insults of the age – these things may have something to do with certain of the limits and dead-ends of his genius. An examination of this point is probably premature. Let us instead consider Freud’s solitude in his own times. I do not mean human solitude (he had teachers and friends, though he went hungry), I mean theoretical solitude. For when he wanted to think i.e. to express in the form of a rigorous system of abstract concepts the extraordinary
discovery that met him every day in his practice, search as he might for theoretical precedents, fathers in theory, he could find none. He had to cope with the following
situation: to be himself his own father, to construct with his own craftsman’s hands the theoretical space in which to situate his discovery, to weave with thread borrowed intuitively left and right the great net with which to catch in the depths of blind experience the teeming fish of the unconscious, which men call dumb because it speaks even while they sleep.

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