2001 - N° 3






N°3 : Suggestion… psychoanalysis, hypnosis, placebo effect




On certain philosophical and political problems inherent to the psychoanalytic theory of transference

Tobie Nathan clic

What does hypnosis force us to think ?

Isabelle Stengers clic

Return to Delbœuf

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and Todd Dufresne clic

From Louis Lambert to Alexis Didier. How Balzac contributed to the description-construction of magnetic somnambulism

Bertrand Meheust clic

" An old-fashioned magnetizer ? " A note on Theodore Flournoy and hypnosis

Sonu Shamdasani clic

The placebo effect does not exist

Philippe Pignarre clic

A Visit to the FreudArchives

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and Sonu Shamdasani clic

The hadra of the gazelles

Olivier Ralet clic

" Is it right to take out the hau ? Mauss, Lévi-Strauss, and the double bind of gift-giving "

Mark Rogin Anspach clic

Belief and desire

Gabriel Tarde clic

Hesperia or the evening land : a Virgilian contribution to Western politics

Bruno Pinchard clic



On certain philosophical and political problems inherent to the psychoanalytic theory of transference

Tobie Nathan

In this introductory article, the author questions the concept of transference. He insists on the originality of this notion, in as much as it constitutes the basic requirement allowing an innovative practice to take place (psychoanalysis) while simultaneously barring the way to an objective observation of this very practice. Indeed, transference is construed as a " natural " phenomenon, independent of a therapist’s intervention. In the author’s view this gives rise to a political question. Unlike concepts from other competing therapeutic settings, transference, in as much as it claims to be a natural autonomous process, is not available for public recognition, public debate or consensus : it simply is ! The author demonstrates ways in which the concept of transference, which necessarily implies a theory and a professional group which advocate it, is in effect a powerful vector of influence.

Key words : transference, influence, therapist’s theory, therapist’s power, user groups.

What does hypnosis force us to think ?

Isabelle Stengers

How might one define hypnosis ? More precisely, how might one address a bicentennial history throughout which not only every definition has been challenged but where the very " reality " of what the terms " magnetic rapport " and " hypnotic rapport " successively referred to has repeatedly been negated ? The answer offered here sets out to explore the explicit ambition present from the very start of this history : magnetism like hypnosis are inseparable from the project of achieving a convergence between a scientific understanding of disorders of the soul (and, if need be, of the body) and a scientifically, or rationally founded, therapeutic technique. Challenges and negations thereby take on interest in that they testify to the failure of this attempted convergence, including the history of Freudian psychoanalysis which thought it could achieve it by excluding hypnosis. However, it does not suffice to give up on the convergence, as the double history, proper to the 20th century, of experimental research in hypnosis and hypnosis as a therapeutic technique demonstrates. The history of experimental hypnosis raises the entire question of proof in experimental psychology through the problem of the "compliant witness", resulting in a crisis of the differentiation between what we qualify as "psycholgical" and "social". The history of therapeutic hypnosis raises the question of whether it suffices to say that hypnosis is merely a particular technique belonging to the diverse group of "transe techniques". The notion of transe itself expresses the old modern ambition to go beyond the diversity of techniques, to relegate to the realm of illusion the power of the entities called forth by therapists. But what if it were the other way around ? What if, be it the unconscious or the language invoked by the " new hypnosis ", the power associated with these entities were the object to be addressed, and not their explanatory properties ?

Key words : experimental hypnosis, therapeutic hypnosis, transe, history

Return to Delbœuf

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and Todd Dufresne

Freud scholar Todd Dufresne chats with his colleague Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen. Among other things, he asks him why he does not believe in Freud and the unconscious, why he never went on the couch, why his work has taken a more historical turn, why he did not learn anything from Lacan, what he responds to those who present him as a quaint positivist and a " Freud basher ". The bulk of their conversation, however, runs around the role of suggestion in hypnosis, but also in psychoanalysis, experimental psychology, and the social sciences in general. Instead of considering suggestion as a parasitic " noise " that must be e-limin; - d or controlled in order to ensure the objectivity and scientificity of the data, Borch-Jacobsen views it as a production of artefacts that is inherent to any human interaction. To cap it all, he describes himself as a disciple of the Belgian philosopher-hypnotist Joseph Delbœuf, which is not likely to endear him to the French " shrinks ".

• Key-words: Unconscious - Hypnosis - Suggestion.

From Louis Lambert to Alexis Didier. How Balzac contributed to the description-construction of magnetic somnambulism

Bertrand Meheust

The "magnetic" somnambulist Alexis Didier (1824-1886), considered the greatist psychic of modern times, practiced, between 1843 and 1855, a form of clairvoyance different, in its extreme precision, from anything which can be found in the archives of divination. The goal of this article is twofold. The first is to outline the distinctiveness of Alexis’ practice, which developped at the very time when the invention of photography was profoundly altering representation and science was establishing the preeminence of facts. The second goal is to show how this practice is inspired and carried by Balzac’s imagination, more precisely by the caracter of Louis Lambert.

Key words: magnetic somnambulism, clairvoyance, Balzac

" An old-fashioned magnetizer ? " A note on Theodore Flournoy and hypnosis

Sonu Shamdasani

In this article, the author challenges Elisabeth Roudinesco’s judgment of Theodore Flournoy whom she qualifies as " an old-fashioned magnetizer " resistant to Freudian rationalism. Based on reports published by Flournoy of hypnotic sessions with two young female patients, the author brings to light a constructivist analysis of the hysterical subject, hypnosis and suggestion thus offering psychological explanations of psychic phenomena. He also emphasizes the appearance of the notion of artefact, arising directly from the hypnotic setting and the influence of the experimenter. The author concludes that the theory of the therapeutic relationship presented by Flournoy is in effect a very conscious synthesis of Freud and Janet based on realistic empiricism.

Key words : hypnosis, suggestion, influence, hysteria, constructivism.

The placebo effect does not exist

Philippe Pignarre

What is required to carry out a controlled study versus a placebo ? Not only is it necessary to have drugs that are all similar to one another, which implies modern chemistry and large scale industry, but also the ability to transform " patients " into " cases ".

Although this may be simple for infectious pathologies, it is obviously much more difficult when it comes, for example, to mental disorders. This raises the question of clinical studies. Such studies always depend on the protocole negociated between the different agents involved in the pharmaceutical industry (business people, experimenter physicians, researchers, ethics committees) which is different in each instance. Clinical trials, which gave rise to the expression " placebo effect ", are not simple science-making machines. In this perspective, the placebo effect is the dead angle of modern medicine. It does not confer the power to judge other therapies.

Key words : placebo effect, clinical trials, medication

A Visit to the Freud Archives

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and Sonu Shamdasani

Four years after the " great controversy " around the Freud exhibition at the library of Congress in Washington D.C., two of the protagonists returned to the Library to investigate the Freud Archives itself - what was really at stake n the dispute. They interviewed the librarians, rummaged in the archives and 30t lost in the Kafkaesque labyrinth of the restrictions of access, and went through the correspondences of Anna Freud, Kurt Eissler, Ernest Jones and Siegfried Bernfeld, which laid bare the genesis of the Archives. The authors describe in detail the politics of censorship and the manipulation of documents practised by the Archives, and recount how and why the Archives was founded. Their investigation shows what a few have long suspected: the mission of the Freud Archives was never to facilitate access to the history of Freudianism, but to control and to maintain the hermeneutic and narrative monopoly of the Freud establishment on documents and accounts pertaining to the history of the psychoanalytic movement. Along the way, the authors challenge the generally accepted idea according to which this sequestering of the Archives wouid be of purely anecdotal interest and not affect the theory of psychoanalysis itself.

• Key-words: Freud - Archives - History - Censure.

The hadra of the gazelles

Olivier Ralet

During Ramadan, the djinns are chained by angels, until the twenty-sixth night, the night of destiny, during which they are freed. Before the month of fasting begins, it is recommended that " inhabited " humans pacify their relationship with their " inhabitants ", otherwise the resuming of their " inhabitants’ " activities may be brutal. In order to negotiate a pacific coexistence, the djinns must be given the opportunity to express their grievances and expose their claims. To this end, the hadra, a ritual involving music, incense and colors, attracts them, bringing them forth to take the place of those they inhabit, dance with their bodies and speak through their mouths. The reader is invited to attend one such ceremony in a Moroccan zawiya. It is that of Sidi Ahmed Dghughi, one of two saints who founded the Hamadcha brotherhood. Known for his privileged relationship with the invisible world of the djinns; Sidi Ahmed is acclaimed as an effective intercessor with God for humans tormented by the spirits who inhabit them.

Key words : Morocco, Hadra, possession rituals, Hamadcha, djinn.


" Is it right to take out the hau ? Mauss, Lévi-Strauss, and the double bind of gift-giving "

Mark Rogin Anspach

If a gift must embody spontaneous generosity, the obligation to make a return gift seems to engender a double bind, for when generosity is bound to be repaid it seems less generous in the first place. The tension between the requirement of reciprocity and the idea of the gift has preoccupied theorists of archaic exchange since Mauss, who explained the obligation to reciprocate by the hau, the Maori " spirit of the gift ". Lévi-Strauss and the commentators who have followed him consider the reference to the hau to be superfluous. The author shows, on the contrary, that it serves precisely to defuse the potential double bind. In the end, this double bind only concerns the modern, non-religious gift.

Key-words : Gift, Exchange, Mauss, Lévi-Strauss, Double bind

Belief and desire

Gabriel Tarde

(preceded by an introduction of the author by Bruno Latour)

Gabriel Tarde is one of the founders of French sociology. He rejected the distribution of tasks recommended by Durkheim between sociology, which would take on collective phenomena, and psychology, limited to individual and inner phenomena. He suggests an entirely new relationship between nature, society and inner life. His psychology is in no way individual : no inherent elements are to be found in the brain, but rather a swarm of beliefs, images that come from elsewhere. Tarde offers to move beyond the non-issue of the relationship between sociology and psychology, individual and social, physiological and symbolic, qualitative and quantitative, scientific and interpretative.

Hesperia or the evening land : a Virgilian contribution to Western politics

Bruno Pinchard

Bruno Pinchard sets out to examine an object which has been left to philologists and which neveretheless contains fundamental elements to interprete the myths which govern our times. This object is Latin analyzed here not only in terms of its use in the Roman Empire but also according to Aeneas’ distress as he founded Rome and in the bizarre form of latency which remains active in the very idea of Latium. These thoughts on Latin lead us to an evaluation not of the triumphant myths but of the secret ones which deeply inform any simple statement concerning the Western indiviudal.

Key words : Latin, Aeneas, mythology, Western individual, nation, homeland





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