The word “empirical” is close to the word for “experiment” and this links the former to knowledge production through observation of (interacting) objects.
In other words, it is the eye that takes centre stage.
Psychoanalysis puts the ear at centre stage. It is not about observing, primarily, but about listening.
You can not always see the unconscious. But you can more easily hear it.
At the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) an empirical observation was established: the theory of gravitational waves can be maintained. However, when this knowledge was transmitted to the public, it was done using data-generated audio. If you watch the videos of various scientists attempting to explain to a lay audience the significance of the discovery you will no doubt notice that the sound clip is always at the centre of their transmission and it always invites a laugh from the interviewer.
“LIGO acts a whole lot more like an ear than an eye,” Hughes explained this week in a colleague’s office in the physics department at MIT.
Why is the sound clip the chosen way to demonstrate gravitational waves to a lay audience?
The sound of gravitational waves, which, to be clear, is the sound of the event of two black holes merging together, is similar, in effect, to the voice as a partial object. In this way, the scientist brings to the lay person an impossible object. The impossible object of the voice is one that does not make sense. It is a bit like the voice:
“[it is] not the voice of a command or of superego, but rather the impossible unbearable voice to which one has to respond. It is the voice which doesn’t say anything and the voice which cannot be said, the voice of […] an unbearable appeal, a call to respond, to assume one’s stance of the subject.” (Mladen Dolar).
The scientists have provoked in the lay public an event. You can only laugh at their discovery. It is an event to which they themselves desire to know, and it is an event about which they invite us as an ignorant public to come to know as well.
Science today is starting to be heard.