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Moncayo, R. (2015). Against Understanding: Commentary and Critique in a Lacanian Key (Volume 1). By Bruce Fink. New York: Routledge, 2014, 280 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 102(4):598-601.

(2015). Psychoanalytic Review, 102(4):598-601

Against Understanding: Commentary and Critique in a Lacanian Key (Volume 1). By Bruce Fink. New York: Routledge, 2014, 280 pp.

Review by:
Raul Moncayo, Ph.D.

This book is a collection of essays and case material written for various audiences and purposes that the author brought together under the title of “Against Understanding.” The title tells us something about a key theme of Lacanian psychoanalysis and at the same time may be misleading. For as Fink writes: “It is more a question of neither accepting nor rejecting the analysand's projections of knowledge, neither claiming to know nor not to know” (p. 36). The psychoanalytic function requires that the analyst be neither for nor against knowing or not-knowing but rather use both as pathways to the unconscious.

The title points to the fact that Fink is writing for a North American and English audience somewhat averse to the difficulty of the Lacanian text and that has either ignored Lacan or used him (often without giving credit where credit is due) to develop a psychoanalytic tradition of its own. His book addresses many questions that have been raised in the contemporary psychoanalytic world and the mental health field at large. Is insight the goal of psychoanalysis, or is the focus on affect, for example, more important for therapeutic change and symptom resolution? What should be the balanced emphasis given to the role of affect and cognition (catharsis and insight), or trauma and fantasy, in effective psychotherapy? Is there an effective psychoanalytic treatment of psychosis?

To begin to approach the relationship between knowledge and ignorance it is first necessary to clarify and define what is meant by knowing or knowledge and ignorance or not-knowing or even non-knowing. There are forms of knowledge that represent ignorance and forms of ignorance that represent knowledge. All of these terms are often confused in the literature, although Lacan left many clues to establish precise differences among them.

Inscitia is brute ignorance, whereas inscientia is non-knowing constituted as such, as empty, as appeal of the emptiness at the centre of knowledge.

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