The violence of the ethical encounter

listening to the suffering subject as a speaking body

Dorothée Legrand

pp. 43-64

How does the clinical encounter work? To tackle this question, the present study centers on the paradigmatic clinical encounter, namely, psychoanalysis, paradigmatic in that it is structured by the encounter itself. Our question thus becomes: how does the clinical encounter work, when its only modality is speech? By reading Jacques Lacan and Emmanuel Levinas together, we better identify how speech sets up as subjects those who address one another and how this subjectivation touches the suffering body specifically. In this framework, a definition of the encounter is put to work: The encounter of a sufferer and a listener, that is, the clinical encounter, is the opening of an inter-human space beyond suffering. This conception of the encounter permits a specifying of the violence it avoids—respecting the transcendence of the other irreducibly other—but also the violence that it mobilizes—through a presumption of subjectivity imposed upon the other, by which the subjectivation at work in the encounter is, by definition, a subjection to the other. This outlines, then, an ethics of the clinical encounter: a relationship of man to man commanded by one sensing body to another, i.e. a minimal and therefore radical ethics that is structured as a sensible ethics between speaking bodies.

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