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Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy: Forming or Conforming?

A Passionate Debate Between Two Italian Lacanian Analysts

Translated by Simona Revelli

Note by Translator

I would like to thank Ettore Perrella, Antonello Sciacchitano, Franco Baldini, Paolo Migone and Francesco Bollorino, editor of Psychiatry On Line - Italia (POL.it), for their responsiveness and for giving their permission to publish my translation of the following debate. I would like to thank also Darian Leader, Ian Parker, Kirsty Hall and Anne Worthington for their help and feedback. A very special thank to Mauro Santacatterina, who consistently supported this project in a multitude of ways. Finally, I would like to thank the College and POL.it for making this material available through their websites. I hope the reader will find it as interesting and stimulating as I have done.

Introduction To English Translation

by Mauro Santacatterina

The United Kingdom is about to pass a law to regulate psychotherapy. As it happened in 1989 to their Italian colleagues and in 2004 to their French ones, English psychoanalysts are summoned to declare if this concerns them. It is evident that such declaration must necessarily be positive, but this does not mean at all that it may be taken for granted. As things stand, both a ‘yes’ and a possible ‘no’ – apparently heroic and, therefore, verisimilar –are derived from the resolution of an impossible equation, that which contains the terms ‘psychotherapy’ and ‘psychoanalysis’. Both these terms, in fact, are in themselves almost inadmissible, at least, for as long as one insists to measure either one of them in its dependence from the other. Since memorable time, Mathematics has made use of equations of multiple variables, as well as parametric ones. Nonetheless, many European psychoanalysts still become very excited if someone - for example, the State - decides a value in their place, and, tearing their hair, go as far as to predict that psychoanalysis will soon die. Luckily, Freud’s invention will certainly not come to an end because this or that law establishes who (psychiatrist, psychologist, psychotherapist) may cure others, without running the risk of imprisonment or starvation. What new adjustments - for sure, only short-lived - may Die Frage der Laienanalyse find? After all, this has been almost unchanged since 1926. It is easy to foresee that, for a long time yet, the qualification of ‘psychoanalyst’ will continue to re-present itself as a boulder in all Western languages, a boulder as heavy as the problems connected with the concept of ‘intellectual profession’. For psychoanalysis, all this will correspond to a kind of waiting for its epistemological status to find a convincing definition beyond the current one – apophatic, and, therefore, frail – as science sui generis. With respect to Grümbaun, for example, it is evident that his results cannot be verified through Popper’s procedure without being seriously misunderstood. Moreover, as a science, psychoanalysis cannot escape procedures of control, but, instead, should seek to establish and promote them, underlining the intrinsic complexity that constitutes its strength. This epistemological uncertainty becomes clear when one takes into consideration the training of future analysts. This is normally defined with adjectives such as ‘particular’, ‘specific’, ‘individual’, and, therefore, as not definable in itself. At this point, the antinomic bent taken in every discussion regarding the regulation of psychoanalysis becomes even obvious. On the one hand, analytical training develops through procedures and springs out from presuppositions that are very different from those of Academia or those pre-arranged by someone else - including the State. On the other, the analytic act is a public one, so it is logical that anyone - including the State - may ask organisations to explain the standards that their candidates and members should adhere to.

Ettore Perrella and Antonello Sciacchitano, the Italian psychoanalysts who are the authors of the ensuing debate, are aware of this. When Simona Revelli asked me to write an introduction to her English translation, I was very pleased and accepted immediately. That was because, to this day, these two authors’ brief correspondence still holds interesting elements for me. This is especially so because their debate is a paradigm of the huge theoretical implications generated by the confrontation not so much with abstract Law – something that psychoanalysts discuss plenty and very willingly, as do the not at all lay shepherds of souls – but with concrete Law. Thus, I anticipate that the reader will appreciate the authors’ quick, but punctual, incursions into Philosophy of Law, Logic and even Theology as necessities in this case. Their starting points are opposite, which explains the initially polemical tone of the debate. For Perrella the axis psychotherapy-psychoanalysis is continuous, and it is precisely in this continuity that he foresees a possible solution to the problem of regulation, provided that the tradition of legal positivism can be overcome. In line with the French school, for Sciacchitano psychoanalysis constitutes, instead, a solution to continuity, and, therefore, a break of the axis that he defines as ‘Hippocratic’. Thus, for Perrella, the problematic encountered by every project that aims at regulating psychoanalysis - conceived as one of the possible modalities of subjective training – depends on the modern superimposition of law with the plain of rights. For Scacchitano, the mere idea of regulating psychoanalysis entails the high risk of its being absorbed into state medicine, which can only pursue the ideal of adapting individuals to the expectations of the society to which they belong.

At this point, in order to avoid anticipating the authors’ conclusions – a mistake that, probably, I have already made, given my interest in the topic - I shall perform the only duty that justifies my introduction. That is, I shall move to give the English reader some useful information, so as to make it possible for him to understand more fully this ‘passionate quarrel’.

The authors’ email exchange was generated as a result of their involvement with ‘Spaziozero – Movement for Lay Psychoanalysis’ (a movement, not a real organisation), which aimed at reflecting on the practice of psychoanalysis in Italy following the approval of Law 56 in 1989. When Perrella and Sciacchitano began to write to each other, Spaziozero had 181 members, among which there were about ten editors and sub-editors of specialised journals (such as ‘Psicoterapia e Scienze Umane’, one of the oldest, founded in 1967). Among these 181 ‘Gedeon’ members, there were several Lacanians, but also some Freudians, Jungians, and so on. If I remember correctly, there was even an Adlerian, who also seemed perfectly at ease. So, to begin with, it seemed as if a miracle was occurring. Analysts of different orientations were discussing the same topic – psychoanalysis - which, as if by magic, had gone back to be lay, and, therefore, also, ‘one’. Further, the first meetings, which were organised in the offices of various members and in different towns, became occasions for Sunday trips that entailed collective journeys by car and pantagruelic restaurant meals. No particular qualification was required to be accepted, nor there was a hierarchy between members. So, it happened to also hear someone spill out his opinion just as it came into his head, which, on the way back, gave the sharper ones an opportunity to laugh about the most sensational slips and acrobatic debate they had heard. In those days, I was a young practitioner, and, beyond learning that wise self-irony from older members, I was also nourished by their experience, from which, evidently, I had much to learn. Would I ever be able to speak with such eloquence? Would I ever receive patients in such elegant offices?

But, perhaps with the complicity of winter, these Sunday trips began to be less and less enjoyable, and, soon, it became also less and less necessary to find large restaurants. Before Perrella’s ‘open letter’, which sought to initiate a dialogue, there had been other attempts at cheering up people’s hearts. However, all of them had failed. What was happening? Why all those prestigious personalities, who had at first become involved, seemed so tired and absent? At the time, I wondered about this every day, perhaps because I was the youngest and I had been appointed Secretary of the Movement - a position of which, then, I was very proud. Later on, however, I understood that the melancholic turn was nothing other than what had already occurred some years before. At that time, too, Italian psychoanalysts had not been able, and had not wanted, to express a common position to Parliament, and, instead, had allowed themselves, first, to show contradictory behaviour, and, then, to plunge into a complete inhibition.

Clearly, no one wanted to abolish Law 56, as no one was so foolish as to think that psychology and psychotherapy, the presence of which was already well established in Public Health, could go on being unregulated. Nevertheless, everyone was aware of the tremendous legal tangle entailed by it - and particularly by article 3, the article concerning the practice of psychotherapy - which could only be resolved by acknowledging that this Law did concern psychoanalysis. But did anyone have a serious idea to submit to public debate? Did anyone have not so much a ‘solution’, as a real will to search for one? Most unfortunately, I must say that the answer is ‘no’, and of this I am absolutely certain, since, in my position as secretary, I attended all the meetings, formalised the agenda, and circulated the minutes as well as other group correspondence. Consequently, my initial admiration was followed, first, by rage, and, then, by pity, towards those whom I had considered my masters. Many of them, in fact, at best, proved to be self-conceited ‘provincial’ teachers, as weak as reeds in the wind. The meetings were literally corrupted by real rambling speeches. I say ‘real’, because sometimes it would be those very ‘sons of Dora’ to deliver them, in French or in German, as if the translation into a different linguistic code could alchemically guarantee some sense. In the end, there was nothing left but unpleasant words, in the midst of which some members gripped on tightly to the old, dear transference and fell in love with one another.

Today, I remember almost with benevolence the indecorous show that I witnessed, because, now that I have my own elegant office and I am no longer so young, I have learnt that psychoanalysis exists, and will continue to exist, despite psychoanalysts. It exists in France, notwithstanding the recent compromise – but I would rather have the symptom than the inhibition! And it exists in the UK, as the interesting current debate demonstrates, three years ahead of the countdown set for 2008. What has happened for a long time in the USA and in Germany shows that the problem of regulation could be a great opportunity. But this could only be so if, from the very beginning, we had the courage not to defend ourselves behind futile ‘passwords’, and, instead, began to think about what the profession entails in real terms. I think that the profession of a psychoanalyst is like any other profession. And I think that, precisely by considering it in these terms, we may be more able to evaluate it in a fruitful manner for all the new and old professionalism of the third millennium.

‘Profession’ comes from the Latin ‘profiteor’, which means ‘I declare my faith, I say what I think’, and by extension, I show the ‘rule’ of my action. Every professional - be it a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, and so on - holds his professional ‘title’ only because he declares the compass of his practice, thus, also, delineating its boundaries. Professional competence is always necessarily implied - or, if one prefers, ‘potential’ - in that it may be assessed only retrospectively, only after it has been defined. Anyone may be dissatisfied with a legal defence, or, unfortunately or fortunately, with the outcome of a surgical operation. Nevertheless, since subjective time is ‘actual’ (and even more so for Freud than for Aristotle), there is no way of getting out of the logic of ‘promise’. Professionals can only promise - that is to say, they can only speak well, and, then, do well by keeping their promise. And who else is the psychoanalyst, if not the expert of this temporal curve that catches and holds us? What is psychoanalysis, if not the science that undertakes to discover its predictive formulas, starting from, and in spite of, language?

The sheer difference between manual work and intellectual work has been explained ad nauseam first by Marx and then by Weber - hence, the relationship between the professional and the religious worlds, a relationship that most people consider annoying and improper, when, in fact, it is totally crucial for understanding this matter (is a ‘profession’ not, by definition, free or lay?)

At the moment, it is in no way possible to predict what will happen in the UK, what law will end up regulating psychotherapy. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that, whatever the outcome, this will have some repercussions on the ‘passion’ we have inherited from Freud - as Ian Parker wrote in his introduction to the conference of the College of Psychoanalysis, scheduled for 2006. Therefore, English psychoanalysts are right to want to contribute to the current debate - of course, bearing also in mind that there are a number of already established forms of psychotherapy, which are perfectly transmissible as techniques – by asserting the strength of the Freudian message (as well as the Kleinian, Lacanian and... Kohuttian). Because this means helping (rather than blocking!) the Legislator – that is, all of us – to issue fertile and operative rules. Unfortunately, this did not happen in Italy, as a result of which the State had no other option but to come up with a simple mulching (I hope that my learned colleagues will forgive me for using a term derived from horticultural science), which, obtorto collo, today I consider even well deserved.

Lacanou Océan, 14th August 2005

Introduction to Original Text Published on POL.it

by Paolo Migone

In the spirit that is common to all other contributions published in the ‘Psychotherapies’ section of POL-it, which is characterised by a critical debate about different positions or approaches in psychotherapy, we are publishing a heated debate between two lacanians: Ettore Perrella and Antonello Sciacchitano. This occurred by email in the summer 1997 and concerned fundamental issues regarding the identity of psychoanalysis, its theoretical and judicial legitimation and its supposed difference from psychotherapy. In this way, we enter directly into the universe of lacanian thinking, an important theoretical point of reference within the psychoanalytic debate. Once again, we enter into this approach not through an exposition of the ideas of the founder of this school (in this case the ideas of Lacan, or aspects of his thinking). Instead, we do so by showing the agreement and disagreement about singular aspects as seen by two authors, this time from within the same tradition.

Beside Perrella and Sciacchitano, we thank the journal of lacanian orientation Scibbolet for giving us permission to publish this material. The material was published in this journal in 1997 (vol. IV, n. 4, pp. 166-194) with the title ‘Una lettera per l'altra’ and in the journal Arché/Ipotesi.

The initial stimulus for this exchange was provided by an open letter sent by Ettore Perrella to the supporters of Spaziozero - Movimento per una Psicoanalisi Laica. This movement (formed on 22nd May 1995, after a conference in Padua entitled ‘Psychoanalysis and the Italian law regarding psychotherapy’) publishes about ten journals. Its aim is to promote a movement that is critical of those aspects of law 56/1989, which concern the regulation of psychotherapy. Schiacchitano replies to the open letter with a critical tone and, in turn, Perrella reacts. It is so that this exchange begins (including the open letter from Perrella, there are in total 12 emails).

Finally, we have gladly published also a reply from Franco Baldini, director of the journal Thélema. This addresses some of the passages in two letters from Sciacchitano, respectively dated 29th July and 22nd September 1997. In this, it is argued that Sciacchitano has failed to correctly interpret Baldini’s thought. Further, in one of the two letters (the one dated 22nd September) a suggestion is made regarding the supposed personal advantages that hide behind theoretical positions. Although some of the tones of this correspondence might be justifiable in view of the emotive nature of the debate, we consider the suggestion made by Sciacchitano most improper and apologise to Baldini, as well as to the readers, for this lowering of tone. Nevertheless, we have decided not to edit the original text and to publish Baldini’s reply, which we received in December 1998.

From Perrella to the Supporters of Spaziozero

Padua, 30th June 1997

Dear friends,

With the approaching of the end of my position as a participant to the committee of Spaziozero - and of our first Congress, which is scheduled for next autumn - I think it is important to communicate to each one of you some general reflections on the work that the movement has carried out so far, and what still remains to be done. In the first instance, I think it is necessary to make public in all possible ways the fundamental theses, in support of which the movement was formed. I think it might be possible to summarise these as follows:

  1. Psychoanalytic formation is completely independent from any university directives.
  2. Law 56/1989 is not applicable to psychoanalysis.
  3. Any law that seeks to legislate a matter such as psychotherapy can have no judicial

value (obviously, leaving aside those general rules regarding financial and taxable

operations, which apply to any profession and are already enforceable through other

Italian laws).

It is obvious, nonetheless, that on at least two of these points (the first and the third) there is no general agreement whatsoever, not even within our movement. This, in my view, often precludes any serious attempt at political action on our part. On the first point, in particular, often we continue to confuse the exigencies of psychoanalytic formation with the presumed judicial necessity to guarantee a minimal standard of professional competence. We know, however, that these directives bear no relation whatsoever with an effective formation of the subject, and, therefore, with the formation of analysts. This concerns a dangerous point, since if not even our movement is able to reach a univocal and clear conceptualisation with regard to the complete difference between analytical formation and professional competence, not only we have no hope to persuade anybody else of the necessity to recognise the distinction between psychoanalytic formation and the directives of the university, we even run the risk of becoming more legislative still than law 56 itself.

Further, with regard to the third point, it is true that Spaziozero is not at all obliged to concern itself with psychotherapy in general (even more so, given that this generality is assured by nothing other than the word that designates it). Nevertheless, this must not lead us to forget that Spaziozero emerged precisely as a result of a lack of clarity regarding law 56/1989, which, by not mentioning psychoanalysis, seems to exclude it as its object, but without this being enough to guarantee it.

From this point of view, the repeated prudent considerations that refrain us from making public our positions, seem to me to confirm that same absence of a serious politics of psychoanalysis that has allowed this law to be approved in its ambiguous terms: precisely the ones that we should submit for discussion. We all know that law 56 has been approved in its form, precisely, because Italian analysts have always worried more about defending the interests of their associative parishes than the fundamental principles of their practice. If it were to maintain this silence, Spaziozero would limit itself to satisfy the need for an ‘auto-comforting’ of those who support it, as it is each time, when, even in our meetings, each one of us carries on enouncing his or her position without being able to articulate it with that of others. It seems evident to me that, in this way, a clear political position of the movement will never emerge. When we know that only a minority of Italian analysts adhere to it, would a theoretical discussion among ourselves be enough to justify the existence of Spaziozero?

Spaziozero emerged in order to confront a problem regarding the politics of psychoanalysis. Now, as I pointed out during our last meeting in Bologna, the politics of psychoanalysis is such only on the condition that it is the politics of psychoanalysis, and not a prudent silence. Of course, prudence is a virtue. But where does prudence end and cowardice begin? What would we risk if we were to publicly assert our position? To elicit a clarification with regard to the meaning of the law that is contrary to our expectations. But it is certainly not by avoiding such a risk that Spaziozero may elicit greater clarity about its significance. If what some of us fear truly happened, this would be enough to raise the problem to a general political level, on which, at last, we would have the opportunity to intervene in a honest and open way. As I said in Bologna, given that law 56 is about to be reviewed, to miss the current opportunity to make this happen would, instead, condemn us to the failure of our movement.

On this point, it is true that at our last meeting we approved the suggestion to gather the necessary signatures for a petition to the Ministero dell'Università e della Ricerca Scientifica - MURST. However, gathering more than a thousand signatures requires from us an immediately political commitment, which cannot be assumed in a ‘prudent manner’. No one can request from others that they subscribe to a theoretical position of which he himself is not persuaded. Therefore, I am afraid that, when we meet again next autumn, the signatures gathered will amount to a total of… none. The problem is not tactical, but concerns the total strategy of the movement. In order to be completely open and ‘democratic’, Spaziozero risks remaining a timid attempt at an intellectual ‘auto-comforting’ of the analysts who support it, without stopping the largest Italian associations from manoeuvring, in the usual way, so as to ensure the legal monopoly of psychoanalytic formation, from which law 56 emerged. Spaziozero, instead, must truly become what it is: a movement constituted around an exigency that is not only psychoanalytic, but also ethical and judicial, defendable in public, and, therefore, politically.

The problem for us is not simply one of defending some analysts who, were they not to be formally recognised as psychotherapists, could become the victims of this or that accusation in this or that court. Rather, it is one of clarifying that the right to form oneself as an analyst cannot depend on any legal regulation. In other words, as the best legal exponents have always known, rights are not reducible to the application of the law [emphasis placed by the editors of the Italian journal Scibbolet]. Can the practice of psychoanalysis depend, instead, on the law? As far as the rules of any profession are concerned, yes; as far as the ‘passe’ for practicing it is concerned, no. Why not? Because, in reality, psychoanalytic formation coincides with subjective formation, and this cannot be legally regulated without being impeded. But – one might say – the State has the power to regulate whatever it wishes. Certainly. This, however, once again, does not mean that it has the right to do so. Rights do not emerge from the law, but from a judicial order represented in today’s States by the Constitution, with which each single law can at times fall into contradiction. It is not a matter of clarifying only, here, what relationship there is between psychoanalysis and rights, but, also, what relationship must exist between rights and legislation. This is a political problem that has a weight far greater than the first, and that, therefore, deserves that we fight a political battle. In order to undertake such a battle, we must depart from more than our professional interests.

Obviously, I am talking from a position that subordinates law to morality. As it is well known, in Germany such subordination forms a constitutional principle, which is such that jurists can formulate contra legem sentences, whenever they consider a certain law to be greatly at odds with the moral principles expressed by the Constitution, and to do so without having to defer the matter to the Constitutional Court. This, of course, is not possible in Italy. Nevertheless, the problem exists for us too. And we should always remember this, if we do not wish to run the risk of utilising ideas about rights still tide up with an old judicial positivism - and not simply to hide our psychoanalytic professionalism behind them.

I will not continue, here, on this crucial problem regarding the philosophy of rights, to which, for sure, I shall return elsewhere. Instead, I shall limit myself to clarify that I consider it essential that, in the autumn, at whatever cost, Spaziozero formulates and publishes its theoretical positions with regard to the above three points. The fight we face demands that we understand who is our enemy. This enemy is not simply the State’s laws. It is also among us,

unless we become able to establish some firm points on our programme and draw conclusions from these in our experience.

Ettore Perrella

From Sciacchitano to Perrella

Milan, 29 July 1997

Dear Ettore,

I have received your circular this morning, which, for me, has precipitated considerations I have entertained for a long time. For many reasons, I would rather communicate these to you privately - not least because of the familiarity of the discussion, which could be carried out as a philosophical dialogue, rather than as a public diatribe.

I tell you briefly how, today, I read your position. Naturally, all my arguments follow logically from my initial interpretation and you can let me know whether this is correct and acceptable.

Reduced to the bone: your argument seems to be constituted by two theses, A and B, of which the second (B) depends on the first (A) through a fortiori.

The thesis A, to which I think Baldini also subscribes, holds that the State cannot regulate psychotherapy, just as it cannot regulate any other process of subjective formation, which has to take place in absolute freedom. The thesis B holds that, for even greater reasons, the State cannot regulate psychoanalysis, which, within psychotherapy, represents an ideal ethical apex.

Your politics descends from this theory, which, simplified to banal limits (still, the banal can help us to clarify), ends up defending psychotherapy in order to defend psychoanalysis. Let me explain why my politics is not yours: because it bases itself neither on A nor on B, both of which I shall now proceed to challenge. The anticipated conclusion is that, as it has dubious basis, I consider your politics for psychoanalysis inefficient. This does not mean that I do not find it interesting, even pleasurable, working with you, also, at a political level (at a theoretical one I think there are no problems).

As far as ‘A’ goes: I hold that the State has the right, perhaps even the duty, to regulate psychotherapy, because it is true that psychotherapy is a process of subjective formation, but it is a very particular process, which, better than formation, one could call ‘conformation’. Psychotherapy, in fact, is a process of conforming the individual to the environment and its tyrants, so that he or she may live within it in the most tranquil and comfortable way, adjusting to the criteria of the dominant morals. Given that psychotherapy is an activity aiming at conforming, the State has every right to intervene, controlling whether it is distributed and applied in a manner that conforms to the parameters of civilised life, which, as State, it has the right and the duty to defend and promote. Let’s suppose that a psychotherapeutic variant would conform those adept to delinquency… it is only a paradox (not so unrealistic!) to demonstrate the necessity for State control.

Our theoretical routes, and therefore our political strategies, begin to diverge from here. This divergence becomes bigger as we move to thesis ‘B’, which is the one I am most interested in. I shall be brief. It is false to say that psychoanalysis represents the ethical apex of psychotherapy, simply because the psychotherapeutic project, being that of conforming, is not ethical. Psychoanalysis is an ethics, on this we are in agreement. However, psychotherapy, at most, is moralistic. I think we also agree that the State cannot intervene on ethics, but if what is at stake is civil coexistence, it can intervene on moralising. This clarification is useful to beat the idea typically held by the great bureaucratic psychoanalytic institutions (millerian École, Italian Psychoanalytic Society), which believe that psychoanalysis is a sub-field (if even more noble) of psychotherapy.

And what happens to the cut of the Freudian subversion? Are we still within the Hippocratic field? No, thank you, I am not keen on being granted nobility, if I have to let myself become infected by what Lacan used to call the Hippocratic pong. And, as it is possible to demonstrate through the texts, psychotherapy is the last avatar of Hippocratis.

Recently, I held a conference in Turin entitled: ‘Healing without therapy’. At this, I argued that in psychoanalysis there could be no therapy, least of all psychotherapy. Indeed, there are only two, and related, forms of therapy known to us: religious salvation and medical restoration to the status quo ante. For different reasons that are easily imaginable, both are not given in psychoanalysis. At this conference, I held that what there is in psychoanalysis is, instead, healing. Leaning on the Nietzsche of the Gay Science and Zarathustra, I clarified that this healing has to be understood in the intransitive sense of Genesung (‘I heal myself’), commonly translated as ‘convalescence’, as opposed to the transitive Heilung (‘I heal you’), humorously translated as ‘sanatorium’. What happens in psychoanalysis is that ‘I heal myself’ by changing my intelligence of things. What does not happen is that ‘you heal me’ by imposing conformism, of which you are a representative guaranteed and abundantly paid by the dominant power.

Put briefly, this is the theoretical basis that forms my politics of psychoanalysis. And you cannot take it as prudence if in one of the plenary meetings of Spaziozero I feel like benevolently advising you not to fornicate too much with the ministerial commissions for psychotherapy. The risk to exorcise is a corollary of the previous logical analysis. The State already appropriately intervenes on psychotherapeutic ground because this is within the ground of its competence. If you, as a psychoanalyst, get into the ground of psychotherapy, you force the State to intervene in the ground of psychoanalysis – and then it will be in an inappropriate manner.

Dear Ettore, if psychoanalysis will survive, it will never do so on the merits accrued through engaging with the ministerial commissions, nor by smuggling itself under the veil of psychotherapy. This is because, between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, there is no relation – at last we must be convinced of this and begin the elaborate the grieving, if we have not already done so with the complicity of the institutions. Psychoanalysis, perhaps, will survive, because it will be able to re-propose the novelty of its ethical discourse and its social tie within the intellectual and moral squalor in which we live today (and on the causes of this we could open a long debate, which would involve the imports of big science and its technological derivatives, as well as the theoretical poverty of the hermeneutic discourse).

In conclusion, I think I have demonstrated to you why my political prudence is not cowardice. I don’t think I will have persuaded you, though, and I confess that I would not want to do so either. Spaziozero, movement for lay analysis (and not for lay psychotherapy!), is not a monolith. It has room for diverse theoretical positions and political strategies. Of course, my position is different from yours, although it is closer to yours than to that of whom, like Baldini, understands psychoanalysis as a science. But this means that there will be an ideological debate in Spaziozero, and you know that, at that point, I will not pull back.

Best regards,


From Perrella to Sciacchitano

Padua, 3rd September 1997

Dear Antonello,

If even with a month delay, I reply with great pleasure to your email dated 29th June. I wrote the open letter to which you have replied, because - perhaps in a manner that is a little provocative - I wanted to stimulate a clarification within Spaziozero of some theoretical terms that to me seem decisive. Naturally, I am not at all in agreement with you, and it seems to me a good thing that it can be so, despite the fact that we collaborate within the same movement. As you rightly say, Spaziozero is not and must not be monolithic. Nevertheless, one thing is for it not to be monolithic, and another is for us not to understand each other on some minimal fundamental points. Were this to be so, all that we are doing would be perfectly pointless. I am not the only one to hold this view: Sergio Erba has called me to ask me to publish my open letter in Ruolo Terapeutico and has told me that he completely agrees with me. Until now I have received no other replies, but I do hope there will be more. Assuming that this will happen, I think it would be useful to publish all the correspondence in our journal. I believe that only an effective public debate may allow us to establish firm opinions about those decisive points I have raised. I am afraid that conferences are not good enough for this. Indeed, all too often, in too many discussions, I have noticed how the opinions of so many of us will completely change within the space of only a few minutes. This seems to me a worrying indication of our lack of clarity, precisely, on those fundamental points. And, often, we seem to be in complete agreement, but it takes little to discover that this agreement is only apparent – for example, a word that for someone signifies something slightly different than for someone else. In reality, the only thing that brings us truly together is that we dislike law 56. But this is really not enough to make the movement function. It would be necessary to have, also, one or two common ideas about how things might be better. From this point of view, I must confess that, at times, there seems to be no clarity at all, not even among us.

But I come to the content of your reply. I will tell you frankly what I think, as you have done with me. I will also be frank about what I think of the positions of other people who are part of the movement. I hope no one will be offended. It would be truly intolerable if some of us could not shoulder the frankness of others, as this would mean that we spend our time defending ourselves from imaginary enemies, rather than trying to understand how we may resolve our problems. In the first instance, I must say that psychotherapy as such has never mattered one bit to me. For me, in psychoanalysis one deals with something completely different than rendering more tolerable the social and moral misery in which we all live. Psychoanalysis is a matter of formation (not less!), that is to say, of the possibility to save at least some crumbs of the moral and social principles that have been transmitted to us, and that in turn we have the duty to transmit to others (at least, I think). If psychoanalysis is not for this, what is it for? Having made these initial remarks, I must say that I do not at all share the distinction you make between psychotherapy as conforming, and psychoanalysis as ethical. This is so for a simple and precise, but absolutely decisive reason: one cannot know in any way what is psychoanalysis and what is psychotherapy. One cannot know this to start off with, because, thank God, the use that someone makes of his or her experience will depend neither on the will, nor on the method, of his therapist or analyst. One cannot know it, because it is in no way possible to demonstrate (although it can be argued) that an analysis has truly occurred (at least, not from what I can deduce from the great failure of the Lacanian programme of the ‘passe’).

The fact is that no one can say: ‘this is ethics and this is not’. And most of all, no one should say it. In fact, no one can judge someone else on the basis of something that, for him or her, is, and has to be, totally intimate and essential: the righteousness of an action. One would assume that the Lord would do this on the last day of judgement. But from what is written in the Letter to the Romans, one can deduce that not even God would express a judgement on such a spiky matter. This is because his judgement, which is the only right one by definition, consists only in letting those judgements that we formulated in the course of our lives fall back on us (Saint Paul calls it katakrònein, which means ‘to judge retroactively’). And how could we, normal mortals, do what not even God is able to do? Therefore, I tell you frankly, your a priori distinction between what is ethical and what is not, seems to me not only impossible to sustain, but also deeply guilty of the only unforgivable act: that against the spirit. On what basis can one say whether someone is undertaking or has undertaken an analysis or a therapy? On the basis of the method used by his or her analyst or therapist? But I see thousands of very prominent analysts who hold theses that are perfectly equivalent to the sort of conforming that you have mentioned, whilst I cannot trace back the righteousness of an act to whom has committed it, leaving completely aside whom might have guided it in an analysis or a therapy. I have no sympathy whatsoever for behavioural therapy. But how can I, a priori, exclude the possibility that someone who has undergone a process of this kind might have gained from it a truly ethical position? Not only I cannot know this, but, even if by a miracle I could know it, I still could not say it, simply because I would have no right to do so. ‘Psychoanalysis’ and ‘psychotherapy’ are vague words, the signification of which cannot be defined a priori, and most of all, cannot be defined as you do.

Dear Antonello, the true risk for Spaziozero is that, if we let analysts act (in other words, ourselves), we run the risk to further aggravate our current situation. At least law 56 is so messy that it is even impossible to respect it. If, instead, we attributed to the State competence over the soul (because it is of this that one talks about when one speaks of psycho-something), we would commit an intolerably authoritarian act. And I have the impression that some positions that I hear expressed in Spaziozero are, indeed, more authoritarian than those expressed by law 56. Sadly, among these I have to place yours, given that not only you grant yourself the right to judge what is ethical and what is not (I am not sure on the basis of what evidence), but you also grant this right to the State. To this, I must add the position of those who would like to manifacture a nice faculty of psychoanalysis, and who have everything to learn about how to evaluate the acts of others. And I must conclude with the position of those, who, with a kind of State absolutism that renders pale any positivistic judiciary of half a century ago, believe that the State can legislate on anything (this is Kelsen’s thesis – who, coincidentally, also wrote in Imago before the world war, but then realised that this position had some consequences…). How may we demonstrate that no law has the right to prohibit anyone to speak with someone else (free of charge or by charging this is their business, as long as the one who is making a gain pays tax) on the basis of theoretical presuppositions much more authoritarian than those which have led to the formulation of law 56 in the terms that we, also, dislike?

But, one might say, psychotherapy (or psychoanalysis) is a profession... And so? Legally, professions certainly did not need to be regulated by law 56, as they were perfectly regulated even before this law. The problem in Spaziozero (and imagine elsewhere!) is not only psychoanalytic, but more generally cultural. This is so because we do not manage to understand each other (and I am afraid not even when we are by ourselves) not only on the difference between very ungraspable concepts, such as those of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, but, also, on much broader and politically essential matters, such as the relationship between rights and justice. On this last point, I have read some books this summer, and I can assure you that, from 1945 onwards, philosophers of rights have done nothing but trip up the kind of judicial positivism, that we, in Spaziozero, take as absolutely given and evident. Mais passons. I think I can speak of this elsewhere (that time in Milan when I spoke about responsibility was only the beginning). In conclusion, I shall return to your letter. ‘To fornicate with ministerial commissions’ is certainly not the aim of Spaziozero and, even less, my own. However, becoming clearer about what we must do, certainly is. The cowardice that in my open letter I said I fear was certainly not yours, nor that of someone else. The courage I believe we need, is certainly not that of placing ourselves on the same ground as the State, but that of not doing so. Whatever the solicitors thought or still think, rights are not simply a demonstration of the omnipotent will of the State (as Galli rightly reminds us, Hitler could think so but we cannot), because, if that were so, nothing anymore could distinguish rights from arbitrariness and tyranny. As Augustine knew - a big scandal for the solicitors - an unjust law is not at all a law. And if morals and ethics exist, it is because the law cannot know everything. If we have forgotten this, we have forgotten, also, what distinguishes Western tradition from Judean and Muslim traditions, which make the law the direct manifestation of God’s will. But what happens when we make it the direct manifestation of the State’s will?

Now, as you say: ‘psychoanalysis, perhaps, will survive because it will be able to repropose the novelty of its ethical discourse’. On this, I am in perfect agreement with you. Indeed, we must be vigilant never to forget the difference between ethics, morals and rights. If we do, we can call what we do whatever we like, but we will always remain prisoners of the same wrongdoings, and the same stupidity, that we believe must be opposed.

In friendship,


From Sciacchitano to Perrella

Milan, 4th September 1997

Dear Ettore,

It is a pleasure to have a discussion with someone who raises intelligent questions. I shall try to explain to you my position on the question of the One, which, after all, is simple. As an interpretation of the lacanian not-whole, I propose von Neumann-Gödel-Bernays’ notion of ‘proper class’. The justification is that the not-whole, although a ‘larger’ universal than the commonly used universal - the holistic universe - lacks something. What does it lack? Just as a ‘proper class’, it lacks the possibility of being conceived as a whole and, therefore, as One.

We can discuss some consequences of this sort of direction. For example, in my view, it is possible to hold the thesis that the lacanian not-whole is the ‘one that is not’ Platonic. Be it as is may be, at this point it should not be difficult for you to understand why Cantor’s whole (the wholeness of all wholes) or Russell’s whole (the whole of all the wholes that do not ‘auto-belong’ to one another) are wholes unlike any other. In fact, they are not-wholes; in other words, they are ‘proper classes’. Of these one cannot say that they are ‘one’, because it is impossible to predicate something like a whole about them - at least, not without falling into contradiction. These, in fact, cannot be thought of as elements of other totalities (try it!). In other words, there is not a predication to which they may be subjects.

How come? Here is the good stuff. I am led to think that the previous analysis is naturally false. The not-whole does not exist. It is an effect of language, of its discrete structure of elementary signifiers. Language reveals itself as limited; it does not consist of predicating everything about everything. But from this to say that the not-whole does not exist, or, equivalently, that God does exist, it’s a scabrous step. Firstly, because we end up directly into the religious discourse; secondly, because we cannot get out of language. The reason for this is not the dominance of the linguistic register, as a certain Lacan seems to hold. The reason for it is that, in order to be able to say ‘I get out of language’, one would need first to posit language as a whole. But, in my opinion, natural language, whatever natural language, is a ‘proper class’ just as the whole of Cantor or Russell, only more interesting.

To come to the problems that are humanly possible to confront, one of the greatest is the articulation between ‘one’ as an element (a level that I call ‘intensional’) and ‘one’ as a whole (a level that I call ‘extensional’). The analyst’s interest lies in distinguishing between ‘one’ as a linguistic element and ‘one’ as an imaginary corporal totality - the first always ‘one’, the second… not always.

I am very curious to read your reply about the Platonic and Aristotelian ways of thinking of ‘one’. On Sunday I will announce your good intentions to aut aut.

Bye bye,


From Sciacchitano to Perrella

Milan, 8th September 1997

Dear Ettore,

At last I find time to reply to your letter, which, as I said in a previous email, intrigues me. I will come to the point immediately, avoiding polemics on details where your argument seems weak. These are points that, if you wish, you yourself will try to reinforce (for example, where you say that no one can say what ethics is, but, earlier, you make reference to the cowardice of analysts who do not take a political position, as you do. So you do know what ethics is?).

I think that the discrepancy between our positions occurs where you affirm: ‘Psychoanalysis is a matter of formation (not less!), that is to say, of the possibility to save at least some crumbs of the moral and social principles that have been transmitted to us, and that, in turn, we have the duty to transmit to others. If psychoanalysis is not for this, what is it for?’ My answer is disarming: it is ‘for nothing’. It is not a boutade. It is the beginning of a theory that sees not only one discourse running through society - for example, the idealistic discourse that argues for the conservation of the conquests of the soul. With Freud, a discourse emerges in our society – and, therefore, a social bond – that aims neither to whatever elevation of the soul, nor to any savings of accumulated goods. This is called psychoanalysis. It is the opposite of the discourse of the master, which demands the conforming of the subject to the value of the spirit and the parallel production of ever-greater goods. And it has nothing to do with the servile discourse of those who align themselves to the master: today psychotherapy, medicine always - the queen of philistine conformism of all times.

Freud’s intellectual operation is not easy to follow, because, through a first phase of looking for sense in the dream as in the lapsus, it ends up in the nonsense of the death drive and repetition. This nonsense grinds against the religious spirit that spills out from each of our pores, which is imposed by the master. The Freudian death drive, on the contrary, implies that, at some point in analysis, what you thought made sense (the cure, moral values, the Absolute Spirit) vanishes, becomes invisible. The One becomes undone. The whole becomes paralysed. The subject falls from the throne (but Lacan calls it étron, stronzo) of his phantom.

Does it mean, then, as you hold, that ‘no one can say: "this is ethics and this is not", and most of all nobody should say it’? Dear Ettore, in my opinion, it means something more despairing: it means that even your relativism does not stand. It means that you are in the grip of the unconscious, which does not grant you a comfortable relativism. It means that, from now on, ethics no longer passes via the moral principles transmitted thorugh society, but via a desire that before was ágraphos, and now, through analysis, has been inscribed and takes you were it wants, and… against your will. Jesus prophesised to Peter: ‘When you were young you dressed yourself and went where you wanted to; when you will be old an other will dress you and take you where it wants to.’ This is ethics. One can say it, a posteriori. Everyone who has truly undertaken an analysis can say it; but certainly not the dim among the Pharisees, nor the vile among the philistines.

By the way, thank you for having suggested the nice Pauline verb katakronéin to me. I would make it play with kataphronéin, in the sense of ‘regaining the senses’ after having passed through the alienation in the Other. I mean: I want to go back home as a stranger, and no master has to adjust me to his ‘good’, and no servant has to advise me about my own - not even if he has been authorised by the State.

I am sorry you consider my discourse authoritarian. My discourse is mine and I do not ask for it to be shared by many (although some do). You will concede that I can say what is my ethics. If I did not, I would deny the journey I have undertaken throughout my daily analytical work. My ethics, I would say, is not nihilistic: all is non-sense but something can be done. And as you yourself can witness - given that you have written an article on the Platonic and Aristotelian One with my encouragement - I do keep myself busy. I hope your article will not disappoint me. I hope it will be a majorly useless article, just to put to the test the metanoia of the intellect constructed in analysis.

Coming to Spaziozero: I can confirm that the business about law 56 does not interest me period. Without fear of passing for a State supporter, I repeat what I have already said to you: the State has every right to control the conforming to the civil ideals that regulate civil co-existence. In this sense, psychotherapy is a conforming process, ergo, the State has the right to legislate psychotherapy. I say this in order to fix properly the objectives of the politics for psychoanalysis. My politics are not against a State that legislates on matters regarding conformism. I am not a revolutionary who wishes to impose conformities that are alternative to the current ones! My politics is a cultural politics. To those who are capable of thinking, I wish to announce that it is possible to think – perhaps not much, but well – outside those schemas received by tradition: binary logic - truth as adjustment, ethics as conformism to the dictates of the Super-Ego. Can you tell me how many today, even among our friends, have an interest in a programme so ‘intellectual’ (as they say with disdain)? I say this without irritation, but only with deep regret, because this means that they don’t think; and if they don’t think, it means that they have had no experience of the unconscious - which is a little pile of thoughts mostly inadequate for everyday reality. There is a nice aphorism by Brecht at the beginning of some short stories for a calendar: ‘A thinker (sic) needs few things: a little light, a little bread, a little thought’.

I conclude these untimely considerations with a political reference. Currently, a process of convergence between lacanian and non-lacanian analysts is happening in the world. This is the politics we should carry out to re-launch psychoanalysis: promote the social analytic tie, the transference of research work and the debates, such as this correspondence of ours. These is where nests the secret of the long Freudian analysis that began a century ago and that perhaps will end shortly, thanks to so many analysts who worry about things that are none of their business - psychotherapy and its laws, veterinary and perhaps the Stock Exchange - neglecting our good, old psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is a secret we ourselves do not know, one on which I feel like working with the enthusiasm of an adolescent and the disenchantment of a mature man. I hope to have you among my work-mates. But I am telling you, if you go on boring me with law 56 and the ministerial commissions, you will see less and less of me at the meetings of Spaziozero.

Komischerweise I started off with the intent of writing a dialectically well-argued letter, and, instead, what has emerged is a very personal (personlich) letter. My teacher of German would reproach me, but I hope that you will not take it in the pathetic sense.

With affection,


P. S. I have the impression of having disappointed you. You consider Law 56 unjust and I consider it just (just for psychotherapy, indifferent for psychoanalysis). This is why I don’t start battling to change it. So you think of me as a traitor to the cause.

To remedy this, I shall remind you of what one should do with an unjust law according to Freud (at least to him you will concede the right to say what is ethics?). Simply, and more bravely than Augustine, he says that with such a law there is nothing else to do than ‘es herzhaft zu übertreten’: bravely transgress it. He says it in Laienanalyse! The quotation is in German because you would look for it in vain in Musatti’s farcical translation, which limits itself to suggest that one should ‘take no notice of it’. To continue the parade and dissipate the pathetic tone, I offer you also a polemical trigger in code. ‘Sag' mir mal: die Ministerien zu besuchen, gilt es für dich als das ungerechte Gesetz herzhaft zu übertreten? Es sieht mir zwar aus, sich zur Sache überzutreten’ [‘Tell me: does frequenting ministerial departments mean to you courageously transgressing the unjust law? To me, this seems a conversion to it].

From Perrella to Sciacchitano

Padua, 11th September 1997

Dear Antonello,

This exchange of letters seems important to me, because it gives us an opportunity to clarify points that do not concern only us. This is why I shall respond to your objections point per point, again, begging you to reply. Most certainly we will not manage to find ourselves in agreement on everything (and I cannot see why we should). Still, perhaps we could find agreement on the fundamental points, so the game seems to me all to be played yet.

Naturally, I completely agree with you on some points. There can be no doubt, for example, that the evangelical quotation to which you make reference expresses a truly ethical position. There can be no doubt, also, that you have every right to feel regret when - referring to the fact than among our confreres (as they curiously say in French) there are few who have an interested in such an ‘intellectual’ programme - you conclude that ‘they do not think’. On the other hand, I am not sure whether it is enough to have an experience of the unconscious in order to acquire a capacity for thinking. It seems to me that, instead, those who refuse to think would find it quite difficult to undertake an analysis. Further, sometimes it seems as if ending and analysis and possibly becoming an analyst leads to loosing the habit… For example, are all those who let themselves be sustained by an imaginary adhesion to a certain psychoanalytic creed still thinking? I have had to ask myself this question because I have witnessed too many psychoanalytic conferences where nothing else was done than to enunciate the lacanian lecture.

But now I come to the first important point of disagreement with you. When we say that these people do not think, are we expressing an ethical judgement? If we were you would have caught me with my hand in the bag - as you say you have done when you accuse me of contradicting myself, believing that for an analyst it is a sign of cowardice not to take a political position in relation to law 56. But this is not at all the case, either for me or for you, because ethically no one can or must judge someone else’s act. The only truly ethical imperative is the evangelical one not to judge. Now, when I suggest that cowardice could be the position partly held by many of us (perhaps even myself), am I expressing an ethical judgement? Absolutely not, because this is a moral matter. Of course, this last word is redundant among us psychoanalysts, although we do not do well to continue talking about ethics in a way that makes morals seem like its opposite. Morals, instead, contains criteria of general judgement on behaviours and acts that are not only inevitable, but also absolutely necessary. Indeed, in as much as they are formulated in words judgements are always general. This is why it is not only difficult but even impossible to judge ethically.

Of course, here there is the question about the judgement we pass on ourselves. This is a difficult point, on which I touched in my comment regarding the Letter to the Romans. What I think is that when one judges, one cannot but feel each one of his acts as ethically insufficient. I am not only referring, here, to what Freud says in relation to the Super-Ego (if anything, this is just a consequence). I am referring also to the fact that to judge oneself to be in the right means, indeed, to commit an act of pride. This does not mean that one who acts well has no knowledge of it. But one thing is to know it and another is to say it. This is why those who give a religious direction to their existence attribute all the good that they accomplish to a power outside themselves, and to themselves only all the sins. This is not the result of some hypocrisy but of an entirely structural ethical reason.

Therefore, when I express a fear or even a general judgement, I do not exclude that for someone else the contrary could be true. What I know for sure is that Spaziozero will loose every function, unless it takes some clear and public positions on the problem of the analysts’ formation and of their judicial position. This has nothing to do with my predilection for small political games (of which I never sin, given my complete repulsion for all that has to do with this sort of thing). It depends instead on an awareness, which I hope is ethically well founded (I hope, because I cannot say to be certain of it).

But let us come to a second problem. You say that because it ‘does not aim at any elevation of the spirit’ psychoanalysis is ‘for nothing’. From a logical point of view, you will admit that this is really not a great deduction. That something does not have the function of elevating the spirit does not mean that it has no function at all. Of course, we must understand each other about what we mean by ‘useful’. When I say that psychoanalysis is for forming (whereas psychotherapy has the function of eliminating a symptom) I am not at all original, because, in a different way, I am only repeating what Lacan says when he holds that didactic analysis is finite analysis. On the other hand, it seems to me that to say that psychoanalysis has no uses whatsoever corresponds neither to reality, nor to what you yourself believe (in fact, if you really believed this, you could no longer place any difference, for example, between a correct theory and one that is incorrect and reductive). Third problem: the One. Maybe once you have read my paper we will have an opportunity to ‘fight’ about this for a very long time. When you say that ‘the One becomes undone’, I could ask you: and are the parts produced in this way not also ‘ones’ as the original was? I gave a seminar on this, which I sent to you hoping that you would tell me what you think of it. Of course, it did occur to me that you would disagree with much of what I said. But, if this were the case, why not say so? Or else, were all my statements so banal as to deserve not even the slightest consideration? Finally, I really cannot see what relationship there might be between falling from the throne of the phantom and the One.

But let us come to the most important point. Your thesis (which, of course, is not only yours) is certainly not ‘revolutionary’. Whether you know it or not, it is, instead, intolerably reactionary. The judicial positivism that you and the solicitors defend, as if it were the most obvious thing on earth, corresponds to that ideology of rights that favoured no less than the birth of Nazism. I am not at all exaggerating. Indeed, to say that the State has the right to legislate anything means to totally separate the sphere of rights from that of justice, and, in so doing, to authorise any regime to do whatever it wishes.

There are certainly very respectable precedents, some of which are disturbingly close to Freud. I am referring to Kelsen, who nevertheless realised that he had committed a very big mistake, on which he wrote a palinode. But since 1945 (!!!), among the philosophers of rights, judicial positivism (which is nothing other that the name for statism) no longer benefits from the slightest prestige - although it is true that those who have a judicial formation are still, today, in the worst position to elaborate a conception of rights that is different from the one you believe to be normal. Despite this, nobody continues to believe, as you do, that the State can legislate on anything (other than the solicitors, that is, who notoriously know nothing about philosophy of rights). Indeed, to believe this is to confuse legitimation with legislation. If you want a small bibliography, I can let you have an essential and very useful one.

On this point, dear Antonello, I shall never let go. The problem is one of global politics, even one of nothing less than civilization. In other words, it is a matter that concerns something more than psychoanalytic disappointments. I am saying this from my position, which has never been, nor will ever be that of a politician. Sure, I shall never bore you again with the ministerial commissions. But I shall continue to do so with regard to the necessity for the supporters of Spaziozero to clarify their ideas about these general political (and ethical) folds in relation to their own positions. From this point of view, Freud’s übertreten could have worked only before Nazism, when in Europe there was still a liberalism that today has almost disappeared (and which has never existed in Italy). But Freud is not a great example, as he belongs to the number of Jews who did not believe in the existence of concentration camps (until they themselves ended up there, as it would have happened to him had he not been supported by Bonaparte).

With affection,


From Sciacchitano to Perrella

Milan, 16th September 1997

Dear Ettore,

I too believe that this correspondence is important, as it allows the expression of positions that are difficult to understand in the printed form. For example, if I were to publish what I wish to say to you today, I would have to inscribe it with the title of ‘serwild’ psychoanalysis. Even among the most tolerant journals of Spaziozero, which one would allow me to do so? Yes, it is not a typing error: ‘serwild psychoanalysis’ is not Romanesque style psychoanalysis. It is the psychoanalysis that calls to servitude, which, as Lacan says, is typical of human sciences (in La science et la vérité he speaks of their appel à la servitude, cfr. Écrits p. 859). I see the greatest amount of servile appeal in that deterioration of the busy-bodies belonging to the human sciences by now legalised as psychotherapy. Is it worth remembering that the first meaning of terapéia is servitude?

Psychotherapy is the shadow discourse of the master. It aims at conforming suffering people to the master’s ideals, promising that afterwards they will all be happy. Psychotherapy, in fact, does the ‘good’ (this would be enough to differentiate it from psychoanalysis) not for the individual, as it farcically holds, but for the master. Its practice does not need much subjective formation: it is enough that the candidate learns to use the cucullary muscles (so the anatomists call them in the old days, as they supported the cucullus – the cap – of the good councillors, who knew how to keen their heads to the dictates of the ruler).

Dear Ettore, having made this brief theoretical preamble, you can easily understand that what I hold at a practical and political level cannot be taken as Stalinism. I only hold that the State has the right to intervene in the exercising of the cucullary muscles of its councillors… if we wish to become these. This is not Stalinism but tolerance. I myself have no wish to become a councillor of the State. Consequently, I have no interest in the cursus honorum that the State promises to its employees. I belong to a discourse that is opposite to that of the master and its servile shadow. Psychoanalysis cannot be servitude, psychotherapy can. Therefore, the rebellion against the law that regulates psychotherapy seems to me the miserable rebellion of the servant against the master. I am not surprised to find some Catholics amongst the Spartacuses of the insurrection. It fits into the tradition of the Catholic Church’s rebellion of the eighteen hundreds against the Italian State. But I am surprised to find you among them, a lay thinker. Are you under the influence of some unknown curse?

I do appreciate your ear pulling. The term ‘morals’ does need to be re-evaluated by analysts. Personally, I reserve it to the package of moral norms reducible to the activities of the Super-Ego. But this dutiful recognition is not enough. One should also have the courage to recognise that ethical demand (Anspruch) is on the side of the Id, which is even isomorphous to the demand of the drive (therefore, in this linguistic construction, highly intellectual). The necessary work to make this position pass through the resistances of the analyst (his formation being a further resistance) is enormous. In the first instance, it requires an intellectual effort to reactivate the channels across eidetic truth (‘Ethic Truth’ today sounds like an oxymoron, since the first is relegated to the noetic plain, whilst the second to the dianoetic). In the second, it is necessary to weaken the weight of the Super-Ego in our associations (it is impossible to eliminate it), and, at the same time, give back a voice to the Id that ‘cannot say what it wants’ (The Ego and the Id, last lines). The measure that guides me to the boundary of judgement – not to judgement, in this you are correct – is Heidegger’s: "We are only what we have the strength to demand from ourselves’ (The Essence of Truth, comment on the myth of the cave). But the practical work, too, is not less demanding. It requires that we activate social bonds between ourselves that are less marked by the Super-Ego and more marked by the Id. Wilder, then? No, more attentive to that, which, still

unwritten, continues to beat in the unconscious of each one of us. The re-launching of psychoanalysis is born out of the scriptures of still unwritten laws. In relation to this, I am very interested in what you have to say about the unconscious as an over-essential fact. It seems useful, to me, to get away from a certain neo-Platonism (from which all conformists drink, starting with some transvestites among the ‘human scientists’ - perhaps dressed in the black tunic of the uncomfortable and rebellious priest, or in the white cloak of the cognitivist doctor).

Who knows, by ways still unknown to me, this discourse might link up again to what I had to say about the one: the one that becomes undone and the one that is in ‘extension’. It is the one of the good totality. It is the one that unifies social masses. It is the one that becomes undone and becomes fragmented with psychoanalysis. The fragments are the signifiers, which are the ones that do not become undone – I conventionally call them the ones in ‘intension’, to differentiate them from the ‘one in extension’ or of mass. These are the ‘ones’ that run across the world to gather other masses (by identification, as Freud says) and unify other Egos.

In the history of the psychoanalytic movement, these two types of ‘ones’ have counterpoised one another in a singular way. My vision of this history, elaborated with Sergio Contardi, is simple. The divisions of the analytical movement – all but one – have occurred in the name of psychotherapy, which, at an individual level, proposes the reconstruction of the imaginary unity of the Ego as a therapeutic end, and, at a social level, advances ideals of adaptation and civil homeostasis. With psychotherapy we are in the realm of the ‘one in extension’, the ‘one’ that comes undone. So you see Adler contesting Freud because he takes no notice of the inferiority of the organ; you see Jung contesting Freud because he takes no notice of psychic energy; you see Fromm contesting Freud because he takes no notice of the dynamics of the socio-environmental factor. They all demand that we get into the bag of the ‘one’ through the route of psychotherapeutic conformism. But Freud has always turned a deaf year to the servile discourse. Not because he was a master (had he been one, he would have appreciated all these!), but because he had something new to fry in his little pan: the signifier ‘psychoanalysis’, in which he was more interested than in social conventions. The moral: Freud has always gone down his own path behind the ‘one in intension’, which, as yet, the efforts of the scientific discourse have not manage to remove: the signifier ‘psychoanalysis’, as I said.

I spoke of an exception. Lacan produces the new and definitive split in the analytical movement – which, whitened by scientificity, in the mean time had become a psychotherapeutic movement in the hands of Jewish conformism labelled as International Psychoanalytic Associaton (IPA). But he did so in a topsy-turvy way, reproducing no less than psychoanalysis itself. This is why he claimed to have made a return to Freud, but with a difference in relation to him. After Lacan, in fact, the splits no longer occur in the name of psychotherapy, but, rather, in the name of small narcissistic differences, fostered by little people, who have gone onto the scene either as little Lacans or as great lacanians. In reality, Lacan has advanced the theoretical clarification of psychoanalysis to the point where there is no escape for cowards. Indeed, after Lacan, the risk is that there can be only ‘pentiti’ of psychoanalysis. Dear Ettore, are we the ‘pentiti’ of psychoanalysis?

With affection and curiosity,


P.S.: I am interested in resuming your thesis on the impossibility of ethical judgement in Freudian terms. Freud has elaborated a true doctrine of judgement at various points: it goes from the Project to Metapsychology (Unconscious), to the Mystic Writing Pad, to Negation. I start ab ovo, that is, from the Project (I, SS 16). I translate:

‘Judgement is a process made possible by the inhibition of the Ego and activated by the lack of resemblance between the investment of desire of a memory and an analogous perceptive investment. The outcome could be that the coincidence of the two investments will become a biological signal that puts an end to the activity of thinking and gives way to discharge. On the contrary, the non-coincidence of these stimulates the work of thinking, which again ends at the next coincidence.’

What does this mean? That we should not formulate ethical judgement? That in the field of ethics one can never arrive to the act? That the constant inhibition of the Ego is valid? It would be, then, a truly intellectual inhibition - that of ethical judgement - that never arrives at formulating itself and never ‘discharges’ itself into the act. Why? Because there is a perceptive fault? Because there is a lack of ‘ethical’ memory? How do you understand this?

I think that there is something to be rescued from your thesis. For example, that ethical judgement cannot be an adjustment to the dictates of an already written law (judicial law). But how does one get to the Freudian ‘discharge’? A way of doing so could be to admit that ethical activity – at least, that of analysts – is like that which is realised in analysis: by writing laws until now still not written, as those of an Antigonean memory would be – Heidegger would say: ‘by leading to unconcealment’. The occasion to do so could be whichever. Even law 56 can be an occasion to write ethical novelties and, even, to forge new bonds between analysts - as I hope will be the case for us.

From Perrella to Sciacchitano

Padua, 18th September 1998

Dear Antonello,

First of all, I would like to ask your permission to publish our correspondence, as it is, in the next volume of Arché. I do think that this exchange of ideas could be important for others too.

I now come to your letter dated 16th September. That psychoanalysis can be wild, as you write, is very true. But is psychotherapy always so? If you asked my opinion, I would immediately reply that I think it is, always. But one thing is to believe this, and another is to make it a generalising statement that would contrast with that of Lacan, according to whom the experience of psychoanalysis is totally enclosed within the analysand. This is a crucial principle, by itself sufficient to demolish any judicial criteria (that is to say, general) about the authorisation to practice as a psychoanalyst; and I can see no reason why it should not be extended to any form of psychotherapy (even to those that I find totally unacceptable). From it, Lacan drew the consequence that only the recognition of occurred formation would be possible (but then, despite the passé, he came to declare that this is reversible). So, who can give this recognition, and in the name of what? This is why having left the SISEP I did not set up a psychoanalytic association (I have never thought of doing so), but something called Accademia Platonica delle Arti (!!!). Sure, some analysts do belong to this, but, within it, no one has a title to legitimise his or her formation (not even I). Is this a radical, extremist, maximalist solution? I don’t know and I don’t care. In my view, it is the only possible one. This is why I have not much faith in the creation of psychoanalytic associations, if these continue to operate according to the old principle of assigning titles.

This is why, when you say that the State has the right to ‘intervene in the exercise of the cucullary muscle of its councillors’, I truly believe that this kind of tolerance is not a virtue. It would be so for the ideas of others, only as long as these others do not try to impose them on someone else. But a ‘State’ psychotherapy - should there ever be one (and, fortunately, we are not at this point yet…) - in no way should be tolerated, just as it would be intolerable for a State law to impose on me that I should go to Church every Sunday, or to the Mosque every Friday. You, instead, dear Antonello, with your tolerance, would tolerate this too, and even that the State makes soap out of six million Jews (to return to the previous example). In other words: what is it to tolerate other people’s intolerance (even more so, if the other is the State) if not unaware, and indeed, because of it, even more unforgivable cowardice?

With regard to the slave and the master, I take the liberty to remind you that, in a democratic State, sovereignty – that is, the capacity to decide on exceptional states, as Schmitt would put it (who was definitely not a Nazi) – rests with the people: that is, with me, you and all the others. It is you, who, by attributing all rights to it, transforms the State into a master. Now, what is it to do so? The name is idolatry, which is the greatest of all sins, because it grants to the State the rights that only belong to God (who, thankfully, has never given us a law against psychotherapy). Consequently, I shall now toss the omelette. Although I care very little to be seen as a layman, it is not at all me who is ‘under the influence of some unknown curse’. Rather, it is all of those – and they are the pressing majority – who do not notice the great contradiction into which they are immersed by confusing tolerance with a totalitarian statism, in which those jurists who deserve to be called so have no longer believed for more than half a century (already in 1935, Schmitt said that the State is no longer the dominant political force). The unpleasant thing is that this is not at all a curse, but the well-known and very banal effect of our loss of inclination for thinking. Instead, we spend our time mucking about with tools of communication, having lost any capacity to suspect that, whilst we muck about, a political class of infamous cultural level churns out confused and messy laws and decrees that recognise only criteria of power, whilst totally neglecting any judicial criteria. These sorts of operations are certainly part of Italian law, and to disobey them would lead to a position of illegality. But this does not mean that when the State approves such laws it operates legally. At this point, two hypothesis begin to emerge from the rights that have been formulated over the last fifty years:

  1. an illegitimate law can be transgressed on moral grounds, but the transgressor remains
  2. condemnable in judicial terms.

  3. An illegitimate law must be changed, because it has not and has never had any judicial


The second position, which seems extreme, corresponds to that adopted in all those States that have a Constitution; whereas in others (England, United States and, if even in a more limited way, Germany) one is not even required to refer the matter to a Constitutional court (because, often, a judge can formulate a contra legem sentence).

Having said this, I know full well that you are not consciously a coward, a statist and a totalitarian; so much so, that, with complete serenity, you pass from enunciating principles that I find truly incomprehensible, to drawing from them absolutely correct consequences - as you do when you quote Heidegger: ‘We are only what we have the strength to demand from ourselves’. This is an ethical principle, on the basis of which each one of us may only judge one’s self. Consequently, when I pull your ear and you do the same with me, in reality, we are not at all judging one another (and it is precisely this that is so extraordinary!). As far as I am concerned, I am only trying to demonstrate to you what are the consequences of those positions that to you seem to think totally correct.

Naturally, I could be wrong, but so could you.

I now come to the final great question: ‘are we the ‘pentiti’ of psychoanalysis?’ As far as I am concerned certainly not, if with the term psychoanalysis we are referring to the fundamental task (ethical and scientific) of Freud and all the others. But, quite frankly, if, instead, I think of what psychoanalysis continues to become, I must tell you that I feel a thousand miles away from this swamp of stupidity and superficiality that, to top it all, appoints itself with badges of the soul.

With regard to the problem about ethical judgement (a truly complex one), I attach a piece that is due to come out in Arché’s volume on anorexia. It is only a first approach on this problem, but I hope it will be enough to give you an approximate idea of how I think it should be pursued.

In the mean time, I say goodbye to you with affectionate gratitude, not only for your ‘tolerance’, but because we are truly exchanging some ideas (something that, with a confrère, has happened to me only very rarely).


From Sciacchitano to Perrella

Milan, 22nd September 1997

Dear Ettore,

Your arguments have touched me. They have nailed me to the ultimate responsibility that we, tolerant people, carry: in evangelical terms, that of tolerating those who are intolerant. For sure, in the scenario prefigured by you, should there be an imposition of ‘State’ psychotherapy tomorrow, I would have the anorexic satisfaction of being able to say: ‘I told you so: the truth of psychotherapy is that it belongs to the State’. At that point, it would be too late to oppose statism, and it would not be an act of great cowardice to surrender the weapons. On the other hand, at that point, it would be a duty to recognise that, ahead of it, we did not fight hard enough against statism.

I shall repeat to you my way of committing myself to the politics of psychoanalysis, which you seem not to have fully understood yet. It is a way that makes practice secondary to theory, at least for as long as we still have time to think and we don’t have to rush to action with the enemy on our doorstep. That is why I do not become agitated, as you do, by a ‘messy’ law. Instead, going round the logical factors that produce laws such as this, I attempt to surprise the legislator from behind.

Therefore, I am speaking of the weakening of binarism, which is not just a nice intellectual programme, but, also, promises a certain practical efficacy. Indeed, in my opinion, one should not fight the laws that regulate conformism directly, but by aiming at the heart of their ideological matrix that have been always the dictates of that Aristotelian logic, for which the contrary of false is truth and the contrary of truth is false - to the exclusion of any possible third. Having established the principle of truth as that of adjustment, this logic, in the hand of the powerful of the moment, judges whether society conforms or not to its ideals. If it does not, it knows what to do (the third is there, within such a logic as within any respectable logic, but cannot be seen - in theory it is metalanguage, in practice it is the master. Of course, if only society knew less dictatorial laws than the binary one… But for society, too, it is more convenient to conform to the powerful so as to appoint itself the title of ‘healthy’.

Dear Ettore, I think that, we could do much more against the statist demands of law 56 by publishing our correspondence, than by associating ourselves with the psychologists’ trade-unions in order to defend their conformist cause. After all, they do not need our little help, nor do they ask for it. And, most of all, they do not wish us to compromise with our idealism their commercial enterprise - the big business of the schools of psychotherapeutic ‘conformation’. As far as I can see, all psychotherapists have rushed to register on their list, and others can’t wait to do so. On the side of the analysts, some (not many) have shown a comprehensible reluctance to enlist under the flagship that calls to the wild. But, I ask myself, why should these few obstruct the many who, coherently, tend towards what their nature has shown as being the Supreme Good - subjugation not to the unconscious, but to the discourse of the master? Is it a challenge? If so, what has psychoanalysis to do with it? Why do you want to use the good name of psychoanalysis to prevent people from achieving what they believe is good for them? Because it isn’t good? But they don’t know that. Let them kid themselves. Or are you less tolerant than I am? Can you not tolerate the ignorance of others? In analysis, I have been working with (against?) the will not to know for twenty-five years.

And now I come to more painful notes: what use can we make of Spaziozero? Spaziozero is called to take a political position otherwise it will soon disappear. This will not be easy, because in this movement there are three theoretical souls that, somehow, correspond to the Platonic ones: the vegetative, the animal, and the intellectual. Cold and mechanical, the vegetative germinates in Baldini, who wants a scientific psychoanalysis without a subject, teachable in some private university that is run by a rector . Noble and passionate, the animal soul resides in those who believe that psychoanalysis is the ideal apex of psychotherapy. For these, among which I see wandering you restless shadow, the truth of psychotherapy is not the State - as I have said - but psychoanalysis itself. This is a dazzlement generated by political passion, which does not escape to the analysis of the intellectual soul. For this soul, analysis is an endeavour that reforms the intellect, with no other aim than that of leading the subject to the Freudian Urteilsverwerfung, the ethical operation of a revision of the judgement concerning the removed desire - an operation that is useless to the powerful, and rarely belongs to the conforming psychotherapeutic programmes.

Not many sustain this ethical and theoretical position. Nevertheless, a few can be found, for example, in the psychoanalytic association known as APLI, Istituto Per la Formazione Teorica Permanente. I know that you are not keen on psychoanalytic associations, and in many ways I would agree with you. They are are either bureaucratic Churches, or Mafia gangs. If I waste my time in a psychoanalytic association, is because I believe that I can get out of a binary logic that ‘conforms’ the Ego to the Super-Ego - the miserly fruits that the by now secular history of the analytical movement has made us taste. Naturally, I do not have a well-defined programme in my head, other than to commit myself to the political enterprise. I only need the few principles I have mentioned to you, and a few realities concerning the reform of the social bond between analysts. Did Freud have the whole of psychoanalysis in his head when he abandoned hypnosis (still, unfortunately, he did have the IPA in his head)?

Dear Ettore, yes, let us abandon the hypnosis of psychotherapy. Let us abandon it to its destiny, and let us get back onto Freud’s path. This is intellectually far more stimulating, and politically even more rewarding.

Bye bye,


P.S.: I have no objections to publishing this correspondence in Arché, as long as you authorise me to publish it in Scibbolet 5 under the rubric of Spaziozero. But I would publish it with a few cuts, only to maintain the imprint of the contingency, which is always welcome in analysis, as it is the mark of the phallus.

P.P. S.: Perhaps you are not aware that the one who is writing to you is an exemplary - in Italy perhaps more unique than rare - of those poor souls who, living under Lacan, took the passe with the then renowned EFP (I mean, before the dissolution). A failure amongst many, as this event was carried out entirely under the heading of identification with the symptom of Lacan, who, through the passe, asked nothing else from the world than the improper recognition of his teaching. I was forced by Lacan himself to attempt the enterprise (it might have been the lethal outcome of this that lead me not to institute a passe in my association).

This long preamble is to introduce the question that, by surprise, a regularly randomly selected passeur asked me at the end the passe: ‘By what may an analysts be recognised?’ At that time, frazzled as I was by the interweaving of various and not very homogeneous transferences – on the analyst, on the passeur, on the master – I was unable to answer. This was so, not because I lacked a precise reply, but because I still lacked the moral courage to offer one that was my own. Twenty years later, I have granted myself that courage, building it piece by piece. Today I would say that an analyst could be recognised by the fact that he attempts the impossible. As with all good tests, this condition is obviously necessary but not sufficient: I know good philosophers who attempt the impossible, but they are not analysts. Needless to say, I am happy to work with them. Doubly needless to say, amongst them, one could not find a single psychotherapist, even if one paid in gold.

From Perrella to Sciacchitano

Padua, 24th September 1997

Dear Antonello,

I totally agree with you that our correspondence has not ended yet, although I do think that we are finding ourselves on less and less distant positions. Naturally, I have nothing against publishing our letter in Scibbolet too, although this raises only a little doubt for me: why publish the same text more than once? Would it not be precisely because the readers of one journal do not read the others? And is this separation (everyone for himself and no one for all) not one of the problems that Spaziozero should resolve? What I am saying is this: would it not be better if the readers of Scibbolet also read Arché, and if the readers of Arché also read Scibbolet? In any case, we shall do as you wish. Could you let me have an edited copy of your letters? I shall let you have one of mine, too, and then we can put them together. If the correspondence continues beyond its publication, we should continue to publish it as a series - like a romance of the eighteen hundreds…

But I come to the point. I think that we have really come to the crux of the matter. You write: unless it takes a political position, Spaziozero will soon disappear. Of this I am certain. From what I can gather, it would seem that my initial letter has raised negative responses among some in the movement. Unfortunately, unlike yours, these have not been explicitly formulated.

With regard to intolerance and cowardice, in reality, I think that all those who have subscribed to Spaziozero (whose number, from what I hear from Mauro Santacatterina, has recently dramatically decreased) are neither cowards nor intolerant, for the simple reason that they did subscribe to it. I never thought or said otherwise. Nevertheless, like everyone else, we also have our own incoherencies, contradictions and even sins, and I do think that it is vital for each one of us to know, or at least to suspect, which are his or her own. If I may express something about this, contrary to what you might have thought, in my life I have always felt a real horror for all that is political. Of course, this depends also on what we mean by ‘political’. In any case, I am not a political agitator of the masses, and I should also add that I have no instinctual sympathy whatsoever for the masses themselves. On the one hand, I believe that this is a virtue, and, on the other, a defect that I struggle to correct.

In any case, if Spaziozero is to become a true movement of psychoanalytic politics, it is vital that a nucleus of positive theses emerges from within it. Not in the sense of positive rights, but in the sense that we cannot limit ourselves to speak about what we do not want, unless, having done so, we are unable to say what it is that we do want and propose. From this point of view, there are different positions (not only two, as you think perhaps too optimistically). What is more, often, the same people hold alternatively different positions. This problem seems to me a serious one, because it is not only so for those who concern themselves with psychoanalysis, but for everyone (and, I am afraid, with only very few exceptions).

I continue to believe that it is neither right, nor correct to rely on psychoanalysis as on something that automatically guarantees a proper ethical and political position for those who practice it. This seems to me an ideological illusion that, under a coating of Freudian or Lacanian paint, can let through any sort of rubbish. Given that such a coating has been produced several times, and in several forms, throughout the history of psychoanalysis, I really think it is high time to turn the page and admit, with some humility, that the word ‘psychoanalysis’ guarantees nothing at all to anyone. I believe that if my position on this triggers truly phobic reactions in some of our colleagues, it is because to accept it would also mean to accept a disorientating narcissistic fall. One would imagine that psychoanalysts should be used to such a fall. But I think that - if they did occur in analysis (and only those who have undertaken one may know whether that has happen) - later on, their narcissistic falls become over compensated by a sort of psychoanalytic purism that produces beautiful souls, but, also, hides much ignorance and conformism. I want nothing to do with all this, as I think neither do you and many others. Why surrender, then, instead of trying to reveal what each one of us thinks about the formation of analysts and the meaning that analytical practice has today? Is clarity not a much better compensation than the delirium of omnipotence?

So, with regard to intolerant people, of course they must be tolerated. But intolerance itself must not, because, otherwise, we would find ourselves precisely in that situation that you rightly describe as State psychotherapy - a danger from which we are not rescued by using a magic word like ‘psychoanalysis’. And it is up to all of us not to get to this point. All of us who? Us analysts? If I were to trust this term, I would have to trust, also, people who have assumed diametrically opposite positions to the one that I believe should be that of a psychoanalyst. Can we, instead, trust the position of those who, stubbornly, continue to attempt the impossible, as you wrote (and, indeed, such stubbornness is not exclusive to analysts)? I have no problems with accepting a philosopher as a companion on my journey, nor would I refuse the companionship of anyone else. Therefore, I would not refuse, either, those who define themselves as psychotherapists. The fact is that the problem that Spaziozero is facing is not only a psychoanalytic one; it is also a complexly social and political one. If we were to forget this, we would completely miss our aim and Spaziozero would come to an end within a few weeks. What the hell, I am not tolerant and liberal because I am an analyst; I am an analyst because I am tolerant and liberal. I believe that those who were Maoists ahead of becoming analysts could not but conceive of psychoanalysis than in totalitarian terms - unless they underwent a complete metanoia, that is, a ‘conversion’, which, as the Greek word indicates, in reality is a total mutation of intellect. It is this mutation that we must produce with psychoanalysis and whatever other instruments that are at our disposal - it is precisely this effect, I think, that you call ‘reform of the intellect’. Each one of us has his own Maoism in its closet, as we would say of a skeleton. To become free of it - should one wish to do so - is not at all easy; but, unless one decides to do so, it is even totally impossible.

This is why, dear Antonello, I really do not think that I am ‘a restless shadow’ that wanders around the supporters of psychotherapy. First of all, because psychotherapy matters to me only as any other practice that is freely chosen by anyone (that is, for a reason of general principle, and nothing else. I would defend in the same way carpenters, or Artic explorers). Secondly, like everyone else, I am not a ghost but a flesh and blood guy.

Finally, I hope that the study-day in Padua will help us clarify some ideas in Spaziozero. This is why I think it would be better not to invite speakers, but, instead, really confront each other - even a little aggressively should it become necessary - about the crucial points, the formulation of which will enable our Movement to begin to truly exist (and not only on paper or computer).

In friendship,


From Sciacchitano to Perrella

Milan, 27th September 1997

Dear Ettore,

I know you are very engaged with Spaziozero, but I take advantage of your delayed reply to request from you a consultation on Paul. Don’t be surprised. As you may not imagine, I have had a Catholic upbringing. The apex of my religious formation, which today is the basis of my atheism, is that faith is born out of charity. Otherwise said, for me, God is unconscious, but is also an evident effect of the social relation. With regard to this, I am writing to ask you for a good translation from Greek of Corinth’s I, 13, 13. The German and French versions are a little different from each other. The Bible de Jérusalem says: ‘La foi, l'espérance et la charité demeurent tous les trois, mais la plus grande d'entre elles, c'est la charité’. More romantically, the Einheitsübersetzung translates: ‘Fürjetzt bleiben Glaube, Hoffnung und Liebe (sic), diese drei; docham größten unter ihnen ist die Liebe’.

I think that this citation by Paul is pertinent, and very relevant, to our debate. Psychoanalysis makes its apparition (in the sense of an Epiphany), in a way that can be judged, in the social bond between analysts and non-analysts. Therefore, a politics of psychoanalysis cannot act correctly, unless it passes through the renewal of the social bond between us - the Greeks’ metanoia. If one wishes to reform psychoanalysis, this bond, too, is in need of reformation. The rest - commissions, laws, Ministerial departments - is needed, but is secondary to the politics of psychoanalysis. To say it with Freud, the primary process remains the social bond between us. I say this because it seems to me that, among us, the interest in the social bond has been relegated to a secondary plane, and, instead, the false question about psychotherapeutic formation has been brought to the most prominent plane. Therefore, whatever remains of my Catholic formation becomes disquieted.

I wait for your opinion and wish you a good weekend,


From Perrella to Sciacchitano

Padua, 29th September 1997

Dear Antonello,

Your letter dated 27th September makes me think that, when you wrote it, you had not received my reply of the 24th, which I had also sent to you. I shall not spend much time talking about yesterday’s meeting of the Council of Spaziozero. It went very well, as I imagine Contardi will have already told you. In any case, the important aspect is that the turn - suggested by you in your ‘Pauline’ letter, and by me in my intervention at this meeting - seems a worthwhile attempt to everyone. Spaziozero must become a truly political movement, and, for this to happen, I think we need to deal with the points on which our opinions diverge - because, as all divergent things, although divergent these are also convergent.

Galli also wants to publish our correspondence in Psicoterapia e Scienze Umane… Now we must really render our letters publishable… Sort yours out and I shall also do the same with mine. Soon, I will send my text on the ‘One’ to Rovatti.

Now, let’s come to St Paul. I did not have a Catholic upbringing, which gives me the option of thinking that I am not an atheist. Literally translated, the text you have sent me sounds like this: ‘But for now [nynì] there remains [ménei] fedelity, hope, and love [agápe], these three: but the greatest among these is love’. Some linguistic considerations: nynì is the time of waiting for revelation (apokálypsis), thanks to which it will be possible to see the divine directly. It is no longer for speculum in aenigmate. It is the present for the hopeful and anticipating waiting of revelation. The anticipation of revelation has the triple form of that which remains – triply insisting (the three ‘theological virtues’). The Greek pístis, as the Latin fides, means fidelity before meaning faith. Belief has nothing to do with it. What it has to do with is fidelity to the alliance, that is to say, to the Word and to Logos, which is its initiator. Hope is the openness to the advent of revelation (that is, of the return of Logos in judgement), whereas agape is most certainly love. ‘Charity’ is a completely nonsensical translation. In Greece, even today, to say ‘I love you’ to a lover one says s'agapò. The three virtues have a verb in the singular tense, which could also be sustained in anticipation by the neutral plural (‘these three things’). Grammatically, however, this seems to me sustained by each one of these three, as if all three were only one thing (that is why, earlier, I made reference to their triadic relation).

I hope that these hurried notes are helpful. In any case, I welcome your Catholic upbringing. At last I have found someone who has understood that the problem of psychoanalytic transmission can only be resolved on the higher plane of love. This plane is truly so high that we all would would rather take it as a metaphor, whereas it is the very matter of our lives.

See you soon,


Reply from Franco Baldini

Milan, 2nd December 1998

In the series of letters exchanged between Antonello Sciacchitano and Ettore Parella, widely published in the journals Scibbolet and Arché, as well as on the web, Sciacchitano makes erroneous references to me on two occasions.

In his letter dated 2nd July 1997, Sciacchitano writes:

‘The thesis A (to which, I think, Baldini also subscribes) holds that the State cannot regulate psychotherapy just as it cannot regulate any other process of subjective formation, which has to occur in full freedom.’

I have never held this view but, rather, the exact opposite one, and I have explained this on several public occasions at which Sciacchitano was present. In synthesis: I believe that the State has the right to norm all that it wants, but it should not do so by throwing upside down consolidated traditions and principles of doctrine. If the State wishes to norm psychoanalysis it should norm psychoanalysis, not something else that it believes to be psychoanalysis. Having said this, I believe that the best thing for psychoanalysts would be to regulate themselves.

In his letter dated 22nd September 1997, Sciacchitano again writes:

‘Cold and mechanical, the vegetative germinates in Baldini, who wants a scientific psychoanalysis that is without a subject, teachable in some private university that is run by a rector.’

First, I note that whilst in his letter dated 29th July I emerged as a defender of subjective rights, by the 22nd September I have already become someone who would like to abolish these. I also wish to underline that to define ‘cold and mechanical’ the vegetative soul (it would be best to say ‘the vegetative part - mòrion – of the soul’), indicates a lack of knowledge about Aristotle.

Most of all, I firmly object to the equation: science = abolition of the subject. I have explained several times (also, in private, to Sciacchitano) that at least since the '20s - with the turn of quantum physics - science absolutely no longer does away with the subject, it no longer attempts to abolish it. As a Freudian analyst and as a scientist, I know full well that the subject cannot be abolished, but I also know that this is not an obstacle to the constitution of a scientific objectivity. Today’s scientific objectivities are all constituted in a way that could be defined as ‘non-transcendentalist’ - if Sciacchitano knows what I am talking about. That is, far from denying the subject, scientific objectivities themselves are nothing else but forms of subjectivities. Needless to say, this too is not cold and mechanical.

The project of a psychoanalytic institute – which I have always suggested only as one possible solution of the problem of analytical formation – was not born out of my own mind, but goes right back to Sigmund Freud. The suggestion that I am manoeuvring to bring about for myself the possibility to take up a position as Rector is one that aims at implying that my involvement in all of this is moved by some occult ambition for power. That is, it suggests that, unlike Freud, I do not support the scientific value of psychoanalysis because I have a strong conviction and on the basis of some well founded arguments, but, rather, only in order to obtain academic power. The whole of my life demonstrates that this is quite to the contrary, and all those who know me even a little bit can testify to this.

I think that in private anyone has the right to manifest their opinions – even in ‘Dionysian’ ways – but in public tones and manners should be different.

Franco Baldini



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