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

by Julia Evans on September 1, 2014



Related texts



Chapter headings with date when first published


Others by Éric Laurent available on LacanianWorks


Translated by Adrian Price

Published by Karnac Books : 2014

Originally published in French : as Lost in cognition- Psychanalyse et sciences cognitives : by Éditions Cécile Defaut : 2008

Related texts

Link to the video of the September 2014 presentation given by Éric Laurent in Dublin at ICLO-NLS (See end note i) on the occasion of the launch of the translation of his book “Lost in Cognition: Psychoanalysis and Neurosciences.” : “Psychoanalysis and the Cognitive Paradigm” by Éric Laurent – available here

Also see Extracts from Éric Laurent ‘Lost in cognition’ or here from Chapter 1

On its publication in Hebrew translation, Éric Laurent gave this interview : Interview with Eric Laurent : 20th July 2012 (Israel) : by Or Ezrati , published in Haaretz : Information here


Éric Laurent is a former president of the World Association of Psychoanalysis and author of La bataille de l’autisme: de la clinique à la politique. In 2004 he delivered the ‘Eight Guiding Principles for Any Psychoanalytic Act’ to the General Assembly of the WAP, and in 2011 was invited to deliver the Abram Kardiner Lecture at the New York Academy of Medicine. Éric Laurent has lectured widely in Europe, Israel and Latin America and his articles are regularly translated into English in the Psychoanalytical Notebooks of the London Society, Lacanian Ink and Hurly-Burly. 


Quoted from a report of the book launch, by Florencia Shanahan, circulated as : nls-messager 1157.en/ ICLO-NLS: REPORT – Eric Laurent in Dublin : published by the New Lacanian School of Psychoanalysis / http://amp-nls.org : on 21st September 2014 20:22 : available here or at www.LacanianWorksExchange.net /éric laurent or authors by date (2014)

Rik Loose, Chair of ICLO-NLS[i], gave an overview as an introduction to the event. This book gathers a number of papers produced in the last decade as a result of Laurent’s relentless engagement with Lacanian psychoanalysis and its place and function in the ‘great conversation of civilisation’. From neural plasticity and the inscription of the subject, expert-assessment and the ‘psychopathy of evaluation’, to cognitive psychoanalysis and the impasses of the DSM-V, the book is an invitation to discover how the teachings of Freud and Lacan are alive in the everyday practice and research of the Lacanian Orientation. 

Chapter headings with date when first published

Preface to the English-Language Edition, Loss and cognition : probably 2014 : Available from www.LacanianWorksExchange.net  /éric laurent (2014) or authors by date (2014)

Part I: How is the subject inscribed?

Chapter 1 : Chomsky with Joyce : 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, Le Sinthome. [Availability given Seminar XXIII: The Sinthome or Joyce and the Sinthome: 1975-1976: beginning on November 18th 1975 : Jacques Lacan or here]

Also see Extracts from Éric Laurent ‘Lost in cognition’ or here or Chomsky with Joyce : 11th April 2005 (Paris) : Éric Laurent  or  here  

Full text available at www.LacanianWorksExchange.net  /éric laurent or authors by date

from pxiii of the Preface  : 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.

Chapter 2 : Neural plasticity and the impossible inscription of the subject : probably 2008 : from pxiii of the Preface : The second article looks at the impossibility of reducing the subject to traces of learning processes. … Thus, they reject any fixed correspondence between an emotion and a bodily state. we accept their thesis that there is a space for renewed inscriptions of synapses and that in this sense one never uses the same brain twice. On the other hand, it remains the case that there is a radical impossibility of reducing subjective inscription to a system of traces.

Part II : Impossible Evaluation

pxiii of Preface : The second section broaches a further point of impossibility, which stems from the first : that of evaluation when it seeks to reduce the particularity of the subjective symptom by apportioning it into tick-boxes. The mad machine of the ideology of evaluation is striving to turn (pxiv) everything into a uniform entity, with all the psychotherapies and every which treatment technique translated into a kind of universal code by means of a procedure that implements an all-pervasive assessment of these practices.

Chapter 3 : Collective expert-assessment and compared clinical trials : a machine run amok : probably 2008 : pxiv of the Preface : The first article examines the failure of a project by France’s Inserm … when in 2004 it evaluated the psychotherapies using an inappropriate model that homogenised each of the various therapeutic practices. The subsequent 2005 assessments on “conduct disorder in children and adolescents” ended up triggering a strong reaction of rejection in the form of the pas de zéro de conduite petition. This evaluative machinery run amok is examined here in its precise functioning.

Chapter 4 : The psychopathy of evaluation : Originally published as “Blog-notes” psychopathie de l’évaluation” in La Cause Freudienne, issue 62, March 2006, p51-70. [This text was previously translated into English by Michele Julien as “Blog-Notes: The Psychopathology of Evaluation” in the Psychoanalytical Notebooks of the London Society, issue 16, May 2007, p45-75] : Available at www.LacanianWorksExchange.net  /éric laurent or authors by date (2006) :  pxiv of Preface : The problem resides in the connection between state apparatus and its sanitary bureaucracy couched in the language of cognitivist evaluation. The connection between this neo-speak and the rhetoric of evaluation is the infernal machine that today constitutes our environment and the very air we breathe. It constitutes an apparatus that strives to scale down the space in which the subject dwells, namely, the space of equivocation. There is an ongoing effort to reduce the subject to his skills, to his social abilities, and to his knowledge-learning competence, that is, to conditions for potential learning.

Part III: Psychoanalysis and cognition :  pxiv of Preface :  The third section groups together three assorted papers.

Chapter 5 : On the origin of the Other and the post-traumatic object : This lecture was delivered at the Institut des Sciences Cognitives in Lyon on 6th November 2004 and was later published as “L’origine de l’Autre et l’objet post-traumatique” in the Bulletin de l’ACF Rhône-Alpes, issue 88/89, November 2006. : Available On the origin of the Other and the post-traumatic object : 6th November 2004 (Lyon) : Éric Laurent or here  : pxiv of Preface : [This paper] is addressed to those post-Chomskyans who have been attempting to find a modality of the origin of language beyond the dividing line between animal species and humans. For psychoanalysis of Lacanian orientation, the cut that Lévi-Strauss accentuated between nature and culture is displaced. Lacan proposes something different: that psychoanalysis leaves behind the animal-human opposition in favour of that between the living being and the speaking being.

Chapter 6 : The cul-de-sac of cognitive psychoanalysis : This paper was published in La Cause Freudienne, issue 60, June 2005, p17-22 (An earlier version of this article was translated into English by Lieve Billiet available The Blind Alleys of Cognitive Psychoanalysis : 24th April 2005 : Éric Laurent : See here) : pxiv of Preface :    The second article examines the state of cognitivist psychoanalysis, the monster born of this attempt to translate psychoanalytic hypotheses by taking a detour via cognitivism. The mainstream of psychoanalysis in the US today is the former ego psychology current translated into cognitive terms. The ego-psychoanalysts now use the language of neuroscientist and physiologist of memory, Eric Kandel, or of emotional cognitivist Antonio Damasio. They maintain that in order to survive as a scientific discipline, one must use cognitivist jargon; and they apply this policy to both psychology and psychiatry. They assert that not only (pxv) must one use the language of the DSM to maintain a dialogue with psychiatrists, but also one must adopt the classification by disorders rather than by symptoms. This has led them to renounce psychoanalysis, as we show in our examples.

Chapter 7 : Cognition and transference in psychoanalysis today : This paper was presented at the Thirty-Third Study Days of the École de la Cause Freudienne, Désangoisser avec la psychanalysie, held in Paris on 2-3 October 2004 : pxv of Preface : In opposition to this standpoint we set out what is most specific to the analytic discourse. This discourse situates the specific real of psychoanalysis, in which one encounters the subject of its experience. The symptom turns out to be untranslatable in terms of. disorder, when the latter is understood as a cognitive error. The dimension of the particularity of the subject of the symptom can be contrasted with the homogenising category of disorder (as a cognitive error). For example, the latter category generalises the conception of hallucination as an error of perception. Lacan was against such an approach and showed that, far from being a perceptual error, a hallucination is a manifestation of the subject’s truth. The term “cognition” has fallen prey to a great deal of loose talk, notably some unfortunate synonymies, but there is no cause to go running to the neurosciences, making out that they say the same thi^g as psychoanalysis or that they confirm it. We ought rather to single out two planes: the plane of scientific objectivity and the plane of the objectality of psychoanalysis. Scientific objectality and psychoanalytic objectality are fundamentally heterogeneous. Indeed, the object a, the notorious object constructed by Lacan as Dasein, the subject’s Being, cannot be demonstrated by science. Starting off from the object a and the symptom, we must examine both the effect science has on the way the subject is produced and the regime of scientific certainties. The principles of Lacanian analytic practice ground interpretation upon the experience of a real that is specific to psychoanalysis, and not upon any conformity with the objects produced by a scientific discourse.

Chapter 8 : Epilogue : The new pathways of loss in the DSM-5 impasse : This lecture was delivered at the colloquium ‘Qui a peur du DSM-5?’ held at the Maison des Mines, Paris, on 12th October 2013 : pxv of Preface : Lastly, an epilogue examines the consequences of the failure of the DSM programme and the new configurations that are being produced to replace it. The cognitive-behavioural programme is now being modified by the newly affirmed scientific necessity of bypassing the observation of behaviour and we are seeing new clinical research programmes that seek to observe biomarkers. The study of behaviour has iost its prestige and there is now a general wariness about authoritarian behaviour modification. The article “The new pathways of loss in the DSM-5 impasse” examines how the cards are being re-dealt to the various players in the clinical field whose divergent interests are not (pxvi) about to converge anytime soon in a unifying paradigm. Something is going to remain “lost in cognition”.

References p151 

Index p163  

References & Index available at www.LacanianWorksExchange.net  /éric laurent or authors by date (2008)


Synopsis (from the publicity materials):

This book examines the pretensions of the new paradigm in psychology that has put itself forward as the model for the future of the clinical disciplines, thereby seeking to put paid to psychoanalysis. What is this paradigm shift? It goes by the name of cognitive-behaviourism. Where does it come from? From the United States. Until the nineteen-sixties, behavioural psychology had enjoyed a certain prestige in the US. It was later disqualified by the objections from the linguist Noam Chomsky who held that no learning procedure could ever account for linguistic ability. This ability was surely innate, Chomsky argued, and so he set about hunting out the organ of language. Behaviour had to be complemented by a machine for taking cognisance, a machine that was innate and which conformed to the post-Chomskyan model. It took the discipline some thirty years to deck itself out in new clothes. The advances in biology, in neurology, and in the nebula that resulted from them under the ‘neuroscience’ label, oversaw this change. Under the name of behavioural-cognitivism, a new reduction of human experience to learning has emerged. 

Based on the psychoanalysis of Lacanian orientation, this book upholds an opposing thesis. The unconscious does not fall into the “learning” category. It is what is missing from or surplus to any possible learning process. It a mode of thought that is free from both learning and consciousness, and this is what is at once odd and scandalous about it.

From the book launch Florencia Shanahan reports 

[Report of the book launch, by Florencia Shanahan, circulated as : nls-messager 1157.en/ ICLO-NLS: REPORT – Eric Laurent in Dublin : published by the New Lacanian School of Psychoanalysis / http://amp-nls.org : on 21st September 2014 20:22 : available  at www.LacanianWorksExchange.net /éric laurent or authors by date (2014)]

The conference delivered by Laurent on “Psychoanalysis and the Cognitive Paradigm” bore witness to a perspective which does not recoil before the challenges of an ever changing world and its uncertainty, while at the same time responds to the lures and perils of the more or less authoritarian forms of approaching, managing and theorising what is human.

The presentation was simultaneously a historical framing of the points of rupture and continuity in the development of psychoanalytic and cognitive hypotheses, a strong critique of the so-called neuro-cognitive and neuro-psychoanalytical theories, and a creation of bridges for a debate that would include a questioning of the epistemological and clinical foundations of the multiple discourses at play.

Laurent concluded: “We are emerging from a period in which a predominant paradigm was established that only allowed for opposition on the fringes. Now the entire field is shot through with fresh contradictions between scientific hardliners, public and private healthcare bureaucracies, upholders of various clinical traditions, and those appealing for a clinic of the subject. The cards are going to be reshuffled and the divergent interests of the different players are not about to converge in an overhauled unifying paradigm anytime soon. Something new will remain ‘lost in cognition’. We shall continue to assume responsibility for the ongoing commentary of this loss…”

Quote from pxi : Preface to the English-Language Edition

… By virtue of the commentary it gives on these pages the new psychology claims to hold a legitimate place among the neurosciences.

Some psychoanalysts have been encouraging colleagues to follow the same path that psychology has taken, arguing that there will be a place for the Freudian unconscious processes amongst the diversity of models of cognition. Some think that the time has come for subjective processes to be translated in terms of neuronal networks. This is the error of the theoreticians of cognitivism and the supporters of cognitive psychoanalysis, both of whom think that neuroscience in fact merely confirms the discoveries of Freud and Lacan.

Based on the psychoanalysis of Lacanian orientation this book upholds the opposing thesis: what has been lost in this would-be translation is the unconscious itself. We lose sight of the subject of the analytic experience and the object of psychoanalysis.

The unconscious does not fall into the catgory of “learning”. It is what is missing from or surplus to any possible learning process. …

What has been lost in the cognitive stance – lost in cognition – is the originality of the Freudian unconscious. Precipitated from speech, this unconscious finds its locus in a written form and not in traces. Its locus lies outside the body. It is articulated to the body of living beings, however, by experiences of jouissance that remain unforgettable. The three sections that make up this book seek to demonstrate this articulation.

[i] Irish Circle of the Lacanian Orientation – New Lacanian School of Psychoanalysis :  www.iclo-nls.org

Others by Éric Laurent available on LacanianWorks

An up-to-date list of posts for the “Laurent Éric” category : available here

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

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