Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

On Love, Hate and Knowledge

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

On Love, Hate and Knowledge

Article excerpt

In this short theoretical paper, I discuss Bion's three relations of love, hate, and knowledge, using Peirce's semiotic theory of relations and Bakhtin's semiotic/philosophical writings. Reading Bion through the prism of these resources allows us to better understand the meaning and ontogenesis of the basic relations and to examine their clinical explanatory value.

Keywords: Bakhtin, Bion, hate, knowledge, love, Peirce, relations, semiotics

1. The difficulty of reading

In Learning from Experience, Bion (1989) makes the rather thought-provoking suggestion that the three basic relations of an individual are love (L), hate (H), and knowledge (K). However, despite intensive efforts to elaborate these basic relations, their meaning and ontogenesis remain to a large extent elusive. This difficulty should not be considered the result of poor style or theorization. Bion's writings, especially the later ones, struggle reflectively with the tension between the introduction of insights (Gampel, 2007) and the recognition that these insights should be presented in a communicative, 'digestible' form that would necessarily and tragically undermine their novelty, turning them into ready-made, reified clichés. This irresolvable tension may be addressed stylistically by creating 'holes' in the text, which on the one hand create points of singularity and catastrophes but on the other hand allow the text to 'breathe' and the reader to engage in a different kind of reading. In fact, in biology it has been found that the more complex the organism, the more holes and variety of holes it contains (Casati, 1994). Bion's holes are signs of complexity that call for a different kind of reading, one that is never conclusive but is an ongoing struggle to comprehend something that can never be fully described in words. This approach clearly resonates with Ortega y Gasset's description of reading as a utopian task. In his seminal text The difficulty of reading, Ortega y Gasset (1959, p. 1) defines utopia as: "Every action whose initial intention cannot be fulfilled in the development of its activity and which has to be satisfied with approximations essentially contradictory to the purpose which has started it." The present paper is just one attempt to carry out this utopian task by reading and elaborating on Bion's three basic relations in light of C.S. Peirce's semiotic theory and Bakhtin's epistemology. This reading will hopefully give us a better understanding of these basic relations and make their ontogenesis and their clinical value clearer. Bear in mind, though, that reading is a utopian task since every utterance is simultaneously deficient and exuberant - it says less than it wishes to say and more than it plans (Ortega y Gasset, 1959). Therefore the reading expounded in this paper should not be considered conclusive; it is guided by no more than the holes it presents to the reader.

2. Where do we come from?

Semiotics is defined as follows:

The perspective that results from the sustained attempt to live reflectively with and follow out the consequences of one simple realization: the whole of our experience, from its most primitive origin in sensation to its most refined achievements of understanding, is a network or web of sign relations.

(Deely, 2005, p. 16)

As a perspective, rather than a theory or a method, semiotics in its modern form (e.g. Neuman, 2003; Sebeok and Danesi, 2000) may offer a metatheory for psychoanalysis. However, in the context of psychoanalysis, the focus of a semiotic analysis should be clearly articulated. As Canestri suggests: "What should seem more pertinent to our discipline today is not so much a definition of the symbol itself, or a rigid and limited characterization of symbolism ... but ... the greater relevance acquired by symbolization as a process" (Canestri, 2007, pp. 2-3). If we adopt this perspective, we can re-examine many theoretical difficulties associated with the meaning of central concepts in psychoanalysis. …

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