Theory as Listening

Many Lacanian writers dismiss any “theory” that is not steeped in clinical praxis. However, these same authors time and again refuse to refer to any clinical activity. They go on to critique the empirical paradigm but do not offer anything in place of it except, for example, the Lacanian theory of the four discourses. To provide just one example: this is exactly how it plays out in Paul Verhaeghe’s “On Being Normal and Other Disorders.”
The word “theory” comes from the Greek “theoria,” which means to “look” and “speculate” – it is intimately related, therefore, to the passive observer $<>a. However, it uses strong visual vocabulary, thereby downplaying the auditory dimension of analytic experience. We need to emphasize that there is no outside to theory, despite various philosophical pretensions toward an unmediated Weltanschauung.
Theory, the inside, is the only way to get to the outside world. Theory is fragmented, lacking, and contradictory. It is complicated and it doesn’t explain everything.
Theory is the way we listen to things that can not be seen. Theory listens to the unconscious. It listens to the material.

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