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Civitarese, G. (2008). ‘Caesura’ as Bion's Discourse on Method. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 89(6):1123-1143.

(2008). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 89(6):1123-1143

Psychoanalytic Theory and Technique

‘Caesura’ as Bion's Discourse on Method

Guiseppe Civitarese

The author contends that Caesura, one of Bion's last works, can he read as the equivalent of Descartes's Discourse on Method. In this compact and complex text, the dictate of ‘methodical’ and ‘hyperbolic doubt’ —so called because it is taken to the extreme form of application to the faculty of thought itself — which, for Descartes, represents the fundamental principle of philosophical and scientific research, is reflected in the formula of ‘transcending the caesura’. Bion directs his attention successively to the pairs of opposing concepts that structure psychoanalytic discourse and demonstrates their paradoxical and non-separative logic. The binary system of producing meaning is deconstructed through the systematic use of non-pathological — i.e. not static but dynamicreversible perspective. A viewpoint that appears natural, self-evident and primary is plunged into crisis and proves to be founded on what the punctuation mark of the slash excludes. Yet the new point of view does not supplant its predecessor, but supplements it. The conceptual opposition is not overturned, but merely destabilized in such a way as to maintain a creative tension that generates new thoughts. By this technique of wrong-footing the reader, Bion achieves what is tantamount to a Kuhnian revolution: the transition from Freud's semiotic or evidential paradigm to an aesthetic one, centred on emotional experience — to a ‘science of at-one-ment’. Working with the antithetical concepts of censorship and caesura, the author illustrates some clinical implications of this radical shift.

(Final version accepted 31 July 2008)

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