File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0107, message 143

Date: Fri, 27 Jul 2001 19:27:05 -0500
Subject: Re: Paralogy in psychology


"The Postmodern Condition" is the primary text in which Lyotard utilizes
the concept of paralogy.  As Mark has implied, an interesting question
is why paralogy (and also the concept of narrative) tends to be
de-emphasized in Lyotard's later writings.

In TPC the concept of paralogy emerges in the context of an epochal
crisis of legitimization. Simplifying to the extreme, in this decline of
the Grand narratives, the following modes of legitimization emerge -
consensus, the performative and paralogy.

There is certainly an element of polemics to all this.  The
communicative model of consensus favored by Harbermas is undermined by
Lyotard who sees it as implicitly tending towards terror.  An anti-model
of dissensus based on paralogy is advocated in its place as one that
does not suppress differences and that furthers justice.

Given all this, however, and even acknowledging the extent to which
Freud always remained important for Lyotard, I also find it difficult to
see how paralogy would apply to psychology, especially within the
therapeutic context to which you seem to be referring.

In a cynical sense, one could argue that all therapy tends towards the
performative.  In a broader sense, however, I think of the therapeutic
relationship as being hierarchical in structure and tending towards
either a metanarrative or communication model.  In the first there is a
model of emancipation - the doctor through his erudite insight and
intervention heals the patient of her problems and hysteria and returns
her whole to life. In the second model, favored by Sullivan and other
humanistic psychologists, this hierarchy, while more understated, still
exists, but the norm is now one of consensus.  By acknowledging her
thoughts and feelings, the good doctor allows the patient to be heard
and, perhaps, as in Wittgenstein, the solution to the problem is seen in
its vanishing.  The fly is shown the way out of its imaginary bottle.
My concern is that if paralogy enters into this relationship, it can
only do so as a kind of technique.  As a technique, it may contribute to
a dramatic breakthrough, but it could also lead to a kind of terror,
which is precisely what "my ambivalence" seems to fear.

So the question remains - How is the concept of paralogy being used
within this therapeutic context.  You have brought us closer, but so far
you still have only given us a quote from Lyotard and another person's
apprehension.  I think I have some idea of what Lyotard means by
paralogy.  What do these psychologists mean?  Is it merely shop jargon
or does it have implications for the rest of us psychotic bastards who
are beyond all therapeutic hope. (I am jesting here, of course, but I
think psychology today must answer for its complacency towards
capitalism and the status quo.  As Jim Hillman once put it: "A hundred
years of psychotherapy and the world keeps getting worse.")



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