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Kahn, L. (2014). The Third Place: On J.-B. Pontalis, ‘No, Twice No’. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 95(3):553-562.

(2014). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 95(3):553-562

The Third Place: On J.-B. Pontalis, ‘No, Twice No

Laurence Kahn

(Accepted for publication 28 March 2014)

“I believe that an analysis can only be fruitful if the analyst is not assured of an answer from the outset and provided he, himself, feels implicated and lets himself be reached in what he does not know” (1970, p. 23). Interviewed by Otto Hahn in 1970 on his engagement with psychoanalysis, J.-B. Pontalis then stipulates how the distinction between theory and practice makes no sense in his view: “Even if one's position is ‘empirical’ so to speak, i.e. if one sticks to the therapeutic frame and the analytic situation, the situation itself presupposes a minimum amount of theoretical notions in order to be established” (1970, pp. 13-14). A coincidence? Pontalis takes the example of Beyond the Pleasure Principle, a text which, however speculative it might be, had a huge impact, Pontalis stresses, not only on analytic theory, leading to well-known divisions, but also on analytic practice. By introducing the death drive, by forging an alliance between a drive-related force heretofore tied to life and sexuality and another force of dislocation, of fragmentation, Freud primarily seeks to account for the impasses that arise from the clinical confrontation with conditions at the border of the analysable. To Pontalis, it is therefore impossible to overlook such an “inconceivable concept, unless we are in fact conceived by it” (1976, p. 248). Impossible to ignore that negative power and elude the effects of that process of unbinding, of rupture, but also and equally of closure.

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