Chomsky with Joyce : 11th April 2005 (Paris) : Éric Laurent

by Julia Evans on April 11, 2005

Published as Chapter 1 – p3-16, Chomsky with Joyce, of  “Lost in Cognition: Psychoanalysis and the Cognitive Sciences.” by Éric Laurent : translated by Adrian Price : Karnac 2014 : Published in French by Éditions Cécile Defaut, 2008 : See Lost in Cognition: Psychoanalysis and the Cognitive Sciences : 2008 – French, 2012 – Hebrew, English -2014 : Éric Laurent  or here  

This is a lecture delivered at the École de la Cause Freudienne on 11th April 2005. Under Serge Cottet’s chairmanship, Jacques Aubert and Éric Laurent were invited to present the recently published Book of Lacan’s Seminar XXIII, Le Sinthome. [Availability given Seminar XXIII: The Sinthome or Joyce and the Sinthome: 1975-1976: beginning on November 18th 1975 : Jacques Lacan or here]

Full text available at  /éric laurent or authors by date  

From pxiii of the Preface to ‘Lost in Cognition’ :

The first section opens by examining the status of the unconscious as exemplified by Joyce’s text and how Lacan relates it to Chomsky’s conception of the language module. The term “cognitivism” covers very different programmes. Chomsky’s cognitivism is one thing, the cognitive therapies are quite another. The two programmes have nothing to do with each other. Lacan’s reflection opens a dialogue with Chomsky’s programme and opposes it. To think that what languages have in com- mon is that they allow for the emergence of science is quite different from thinking that what they have in common is generative grammar in the form of a language organ. Lacan’s reflection strikes me as decisive. The Lacanian perspective consists rather in postulating clearly that what languages have in common is not grammar but the possibility of science. Natural languages convey number, and number is what then allows for the emergence of science. 

Related texts

Presentation at Lacan’s Seminar : 20th January 1976 (Paris) : Jacques Aubert or here 

Reading Notes to Jacques Lacan’s Seminar XXIII : 2005 : Jacques Aubert or here 

Passed Over Stories : 6th November 2005 (Paris) : Jacques Aubert or here    

Excerpt published with references

See Extracts from Éric Laurent ‘Lost in cognition’ , 22nd March 2016, or here 

Excerpt from: Éric Laurent. “Lost in Cognition: Psychoanalysis and the Cognitive Sciences.” : translated by Adrian Price : Karnac 2014 : See Lost in Cognition: Psychoanalysis and the Cognitive Sciences : 2008 – French, 2012 – Hebrew, English -2014 : Éric Laurent  or here  

  : p4 : CHAPTER ONE : Chomsky with Joyce : The following lecture was delivered at the École de la Cause Freudienne on 11 April 2005. Under Serge Cottet’s chairmanship, Jacques Aubert and Éric Laurent were invited to present the recently published Book of Lacan’s Seminar, Le Sinthome. [See here]

“Suddenly, in December 1975, a glimmer of light came peeping through. Lacan had just got back from the US and was speaking about Chomsky (Lacan, 2005a, pp. 27–43 [1]). We were acquainted with Chomsky. We had been able to take advantage of the lessons of Jean-Claude Milner, who was and has long remained the leading French Chomskyan. We thought, therefore, that we might find something here, some point of support. Next, in February 1976 [2], a lesson of the Seminar ended with the following declaration: “Mad […]? […] this is not a privilege, […] in most people the symbolic, the imaginary and the real are tangled up […].” (Lacan, 2005a, p. 87)” 

“We were starting to understand. For some of his audience a door was opening: we were hearing the flipside to “On a question prior to any possible treatment of psychosis” (Lacan, 2006, pp. 445–458 [3]). What had been established, or so we believed, as a radical distinction between madness as a result of foreclosure, and that which is not affected by foreclosure, was now being displaced. Between neurosis and psychosis, which hitherto stood apart like two distinct continents, there emerged a passage of generalisation. We didn’t understand everything, but an altogether different world was fanning out for us, which we were just starting to glimpse. Likewise, the knots looked to be a theoretical instrument that was highly abstract (a long way from where we were standing) and yet clinical and pragmatic. The many indications about rectifying the “slipped knot” by means of the sinthome lay in this direction.”


[1] Seminar XXIII : 18th November 1975 : pII IV of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : : See Seminar XXIII: The Sinthome or Joyce and the Sinthome: 1975-1976: beginning on November 18th 1975 : Jacques Lacan or here 

I start from my condition which is that of bringing to man what scripture states as, not a help for him, but a help againsthim. And, from this condition, I try to find my bearings. This indeed is why I was truly, in a way that is worth remarking, why I was led to this consideration of the knot. Which, as I have just told you is properly speaking constituted by a geometry that one may well say is forbidden to the imaginary, which can only be imagined through all sort of resistances, indeed of difficulties. This is properly speaking what the knot, in so far as it is Borromean, substantifies.

If we start, in effect, from analysis, we affirm, it is something different to observing, one of the things that most struck me when I was in America, was my encounter which was certainly not by chance, which was altogether intentional on my part, it was my encounter with Chomsky. I was properly speaking, I will say stupefied by it. I told him so. The idea that I realised he held, is in short one that I cannot say can in a way be refuted. It is even (29) the most common idea, and it is indeed what before my very ears he simply affirmed, which made me sense the whole distance I was from him. This idea, which is the idea, that in effect is common, is this, which appears precarious to me. The consideration, in short, of something that presents itself as a body, a body provided with organs, which implies, in this conception, that the organ is a tool, a tool for gripping, a tool for apprehending. [pII V] And that there is no objection in principle to the tool apprehending itself as such, that, for example, language is considered by him as determined by a genetic fact, he expressed it in these very terms before me; in other words, language itself is an organ. It seems quite striking to me, this is what I expressed by the term stupefied, it seem quite striking to me that from this language, a return can be made back on itself like an organ.

If language is not considered from the angle, that it is, that it is linked to something which, in the Real, makes a hole, it is not simply difficult, it is impossible to consider how it can be handled. The observation method cannot start from language without admitting this truth of principle that in what one can situate as Real, language only appears as making a hole. It is from this notion, the function of the hole that language puts into operation its hold on the Real. It is of course not easy for me to make you feel the whole weight of this conviction. It appears inevitable to me from the fact that truth as such is only possible by voiding this function.

Language moreover eats this Real. I mean that it only allows this Real to be tackled, this genetic Real, to speak like Chomsky, in terms of sign. Or, in other words, of message which starts from the molecular gene by reducing it to what brought fame to Crick and Watson. Namely, this double helix from which there are supposed to start these different levels that organise the body throughout a certain number of stages. First of all, the division of development, of cellular specialisation, then subsequently this specialisation of starting from hormones which are so many elements on which there are conveyed, as many sorts of messages, for the direction of organic information. 

This whole subtilising of what is involved in the Real by so many of these aforesaid messages, but in which there is only marked the [II VI] veil drawn over what is the efficacity of language. Namely, the fact that language is not in itself a message, but that it is only sustained (30) from the function of what I called the hole in the Real.

For this there is the path of our new mos geometricus, namely, of the substance that results from the efficacity, from the proper efficacity of language, and which is supported by this function of the hole. To express it in terms of this famous Borromean knot in which I put my trust, let us say that it is entirely based on the equivalence of an infinite straight line and a circle.

[2] Seminar XXIII : 10th February 1976 : pVI 12 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : See Seminar XXIII: The Sinthome or Joyce and the Sinthome: 1975-1976: beginning on November 18th 1975 : Jacques Lacan or here :  

And what I am raising as a question, since what is at stake, is whether yes or no Joyce was mad, why after all would he not have been? All the more so in that this is not a privilege, if it is true that in (106) most, the Symbolic, the Imaginary and the Real are entangled to the pint they are continued from one to the other, if there is not an operation that distinguishes them in a chain, properly speaking, the Borromean knot, of the supposed Borromean knot, for the Borromean knot is not a knot, it is a chain. Why not grasp that each of these loops is continued for each one into the other in a way that is strictly not distinguished and that at the same time, it is not a privilege to be mad.  

[3] On a question preliminary to any possible treatment of psychosis : December 1955-January 1956 : two most important parts of Seminar III : Jacques Lacan : Information & availability :


Texts by Éric Laurent   here 

“Ordinary Psychosis” all posts given here 

Extracts from Éric Laurent ‘Lost in cognition’, 22nd March 2016,  or here 

Lost in Cognition: Psychoanalysis and the Cognitive Sciences : 2014 : Éric Laurent or here

Racism 2.0 : 26th January 2014 : Éric Laurent

On the real in a psychoanalysis : 17th October 2013 : Éric Laurent

Psychosis, or Radical Belief in the Symptom : 17th June 2012 : Éric Laurent : given in Tel Aviv, Israel

Psychoanalysis & Our Time (video): 30th September 2011: New York : Éric Laurent

Against Neuro-metaphors (video): 30th September 2011 : New York : Éric Laurent

Lacan as Analysand (video): 30th September 2011 : New York : Éric Laurent

The Symbolic Order in the XXI Century: Consequences for the Treatment: July 2010: Éric Laurent

Guiding Principles for Any Psychoanalytic Act: 16th July 2006 : Rome : Éric Laurent

How to recompose the Name-of-the Father : 2004 : Éric Laurent

 On the origin of the Other and the post-traumatic object : 6th November 2004 (Lyon) : Éric Laurent or here  

The Real and the Group : 2000 : Éric Laurent


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  Julia Evans      

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, Sandwich in Kent & London


Further texts

Of the clinic  here 

Case Studies   here    

Ordinary Psychosis  here   

Topology  here 

On Trauma  here 

Lacanian Transmission  here 

Some Lacanian History  here 

By Sigmund Freud here 

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud  here 

By Jacques Lacan   here   

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan  here 

By Éric Laurent  here 

By Julia Evans  here