Lacanian Press Agency
Paris, Wednesday 31 October 2001

*******************************************
*******************************************
- NO CHAIR OF TRUTH AT THE COLLEGE DE FRANCE by Luc Miller
- CINEMA REVIEW by Anne-Sophie Janus
- FROM ONE EPIDEMICS TO ANOTHER by Eric Laurent
********************************
No chair of truth at the College de France
Paris, Oct 31 (LPA) - The College de France wishes to promote "science for citizens." For this purpose it undertook an unprecedented initiative: to organise regularly a multi-disciplinary symposium on a present-day problem of general interest: entrance is free. The first one took place on Oct. 16-17, on the subject *Truth in sciences*. The organising committee under the presidency of Jean-Pierre Changeux attracted a very large audience that filled the luxurious Marguerite de Navarre amphitheatre.

This could not fail to evoke in me the last text of the Ecrits, Ē La science et la verite Č. This lesson first appeared in January 1966 in the first issue of the Cahiers pour l'analyse published by the Cercle d'Epistemologie de l'ENS, of which Jacques Bouveresse was a member. Was the allusion to Lacanās lesson anywhere close to consciousness? In the opening lecture that Mr Bouveresse gave as a member of the organising committee there was nothing that could suggest that.

The person holding the Chair of Philosophy of Language and of Knowledge moves to the background in order to bring forth numerous quotes into exemplary dialogue. The thesis he promotes is that of "structural realism" as developed from Henri Poincare by Mr Elie Zahar in a work published this year. To a question from the audience, Prof. Bouveresse answers from his Chair, that his own position still requires working through, on the basis of his "strong sense of psychic reality" and his refusal to admit that "mathematical structures are the only things that end up being real".

From his Chair of Group Theory, the mathematician Jacques Tits would rather give up than take part in this debate : "I could abstain from this exposition, but I accept to speak (laughter in the audience)". He truly and humbly admits that he does not know the philosophical language, and takes it upon himself as his duty to describe the practice of truth in mathematics. Most of the great mathematicians do not deal with philosophy (they are not the best known to the general public). The "crisis of the foundations" has not shattered their trust: "they are aware of Godelās theorems (as an) imminent threat that will not be fulfilled."

"A theorem is true or it is entirely nothing (laughter)," declares Tits. In order to gain consideration, an assertion must be interesting, beautiful, useful. Despite these qualities, all of them interim, it would be dropped with no hard feelings if it werenāt true : this is an extremely stable quality that makes it a theorem.

I indulged in a moment of daydreaming what would be the likes of a mathematical revue devoted to brilliant yet false assertions. They are so much larger in number than theorems! Yet the mathematical community readily assures the detection of the main pitfall-ideas by the publication of counter-examples, by oral transmission of warnings.

The common language expression "it is mathematical" indicates validity beyond discussion. This validity, however, ensues from a strict discussion device involving chalk and blackboard. These tools are still essential for many mathematicians, as evidenced by the impressive display of 3 x 3 blackboards reigning over the auditorium and the lecturer. "If two mathematicians disagree," says Tits, "you may see them discussing enthusiastically for hours, but they come to an agreement suddenly." Isnāt this device for the reduction of contradictions to comprehension ignored by those fascinated by the absence of dialectics in written mathematics?

The "astonishing consensus" obtained must not make us forget the limitations of this device. Tits mentions several rather extreme and less consensual cases in which it becomes hard for a mathematician to account on the blackboard for the validity of a theorem. This may happen because the proof is exorbitant (several thousand pages for the classification of simple finite groups), or it requires colossal culture (Fermat's Great Theorem), or it may rest on finite yet inhuman combinatorial verifications readily performed by a computer (the four-colour theorem). Validation becomes increasingly hesitant Tits mentions the "back and forth" steps of these theorems ö until a certain point of stability is reached where "skilled mathematicians find no more objections."

The College de France is generously open to a wide variety of disciplines, including those without a Chair. With Olivier Houde, it also lets in a burst of youth and boldness. With neither chalk nor board and no text to read, Houde exploits with dynamism and enthusiasm all the resources of digital technology in a slide show of Cognitive Psychology experiments. One of them carries the slogan "The origin of truth norms in the baby : truth without words." To Piaget's "token experiment," which placed the learning of the number at age seven or eight, the lecturer opposes "the Babar experiment" as operating from age three. The following sequence is described: Baby is shown two Babars, a screen is then interposed, a third Babar is secretly added, the screen is removed, a "surprised expression" is observed in Baby (picture of wide-eyed Baby). Houde draws the conclusion ö Baby already knows the number ö according to the principle that there is no effect of counter-truth without a norm of truth. He supports this by the example of the applause elicited by magic tricks: transgression of the norms of truth elicits some kind of satisfaction. The exposure, quite brilliant, is too fast for me to grasp all its underpinning. The audience claps their hands.

There is no Chair of Truth at the College de France. The Truth is not even pronounced. Citizens are able to watch true-life scientists.

Report by Luc Miller, graduate of the Ecole Polytechnique, PhD in mathematics, lecturer at Universite de Paris X Nanterre, researcher at the Centre de mathematiques de l"Ecole Polytechnique.

Cinema Review
Paris, 14 Oct (LPA) Š Va Savoir, "How would you know," a dance in three movements by Jacques Rivette.

Farandole? A procession of characters enters the scene. At its head a faltering couple. Next, two other couples whose members join in the dance, consecutively. The partners take their places, facing each other. The show may commence.

Quadrille? The crazy team undertakes a complex dance, wisely combining steps and figures. The initial duos split apart, partners swirl and change hands. Affinities are suggested, and then vanish. The new couples, established as a result of a few steps, indulge in the execution of several love figures: husband and wife, lovers, rivals. Partners evolve at the rhythm of a music alternating the binary and ternary mode. Thus, after a few bars, duos sometimes combine into triplets to form geometric love triangles.

Reverences? A prelude at the end of this ballet : dancers on the tight rope. Balancing themselves near the arches of an empty theatre hall, two men face each other in an alcohol duel. Ugo, the italian acrobat, and Pierre, the heideggerian philosopher, armed with bottles of vodka, challenge the law of gravity. A net (off stage) under their feet patiently awaits the loser.

The dance comes to its resolution on a theatre stage, around a black forest cake concocted by a candid cooking experimenter. The film then slides into marvel. As by enchantment, the characters enter one by one, emerging from all possible angles of the off-stage: from the top of a staircase, from behind the decoration, from backstage, from between the rows of the audience and the sky. By virtue of the magic wand, two lost objects: a phantom manuscript and a happiness-ring, make their reappearance and lead the narrative to its happy end. The circumvolutions of the narrative are undone and the initial couples are restored in a final reverence.

From the beginning of the film, the line separating theatre from reality staggers under the effect of the cut. The unlikeliness of this end makes confusion complete, particularly because this miraculous theatrical turnaround takes place in a scene. The question of whether we are watching a movie or theatre remains magically suspended.

Paris, 29 October (ALP) - Man in the era of technical reproducibility. Steven Spielberg's A.I (Artificial Intelligence).

A robot's life is not a sinecure. These mechanical beings are the victims of the obsolescence and distrust of their masters, men. As mimetic beings, they watch the humans to learn to reproduce their gestures and mimics. Their creators concentrate all their efforts in reality effects and are particularly careful with their outward appearance. Sitting at the side of the swimming pool, a group of youngsters admired the elasticity of its skin and the softness of David's hair, an eleven year old robot. The most outgoing in the group wonders, bringing together gesture and thought: what does the swim suit of the robot conceal?

A.I. is a corroding fairy tale devoid of any hollywood prudishness whatsoever and aimed at a straightforward treatment of sexuality and its commerce between humans and robots. Operating at Rouge City, Gigolo Joe sells his charms to humanity. His conceivers did not hesitate to furnish him with extraordinary mechanical virility and unprecedented erotic savoir-faire. In these troubled times, humanity lives under the toll of a most restrictive reproductive policy which endangers men's very masculinity. No human lover could satisfy women who tasted cybernetic pleasure. Men are currently humiliated and pushed into murderous madness, as evidenced by the fate of one of Gigoloās clients, a woman assassinated on a hotel bed by her mortified husband.

In front of the sterile performance of robot lovers, the eternal youth of robot children. Underneath Davidās swimming trunks: a gap, necessarily. The lack of childhood sexuality has not been franchised by this future society. Robotics industry will by no means expose its customers, the parents of these robot children, to the horror of mechanical-oedipal love.

Davidās initiate quest at the second half of the film is therefore doomed from the start. Beyond his substantial immutability öhis constitutive optic fibres are inalterable, his youth everlasting- the passage from childhood to adulthood is essentially inaccessible to this child" he will never go through the oedipal stage.

"Iām special. Iām one of a kind." His quest having failed, David clings with all his might to this individualistic creed. His resolution and boldness do not last long: they are shattered the moment he enters his "fatherās antrum" in true Frankenstein heritage - to penetrate the mystery of his birth. Stupor stricken, he discovers he has countless twin brothers: plain, loose, pieces; half-assembled parts, or already packaged toys ready for use. He then assesses the extent of the irony of his condition: he is reproducible. To infinity.

From one epidemics to another
Paris, 19 Oct (LPA) Š The LPA said so from the beginning, from Bulletin 5, dated 24 September. The murderous terrorist wants to strike the living, beyond symbols. Our new object of anxiety confirms it. The precise definition of this object is "the genetically modified, antibiotic-resistant, bacterial strain". Let us separate straight away the object of anxiety, always exceeding description, a sheer action tool of bad will, from the object of fear. The latter can be described and preparations for the eventual encounter can be made.

Those responsible for prevention in health systems are preparing for everything. Congresses and meetings multiply at contagious speed. From the American federal authorities to the French agency of sanitary security, all are checking the vaccine stocks available for the widest possible range of biological weapons. Conveyor belts at the multinational pharmaceutical companies are reaching top speed. The body feels threatened, it most likely thinks more than thought, which is usually hindered by multiple contradictions.

In the US, this produces a mass phenomenon. Somebody holding a post of responsibility in Florida callas "mass hysteria", collective hysteria, the anxious quest of the population for protection against infections. Gas masks and antibiotics (Cipro, Bayer) are out of stock despite appeals to reason. At a time when hysteria has disappeared from psychiatric manuals, it remains the name of choice for field workers to describe what they are dealing with. The term "hysteria" in this context is no longer likely to be denounced as an insult to femininity. The anxious epidemic concerns men as well as women. This is a time to notice that the collective personal pronoun [on in French, TN revealed by the epidemics of anxiety is not only false conscience, mutualist existence. It is the precise perception of an object cause. The On as living, beyond its individual features, is threatened by the bad will of an Other. Collective anxiety awakens from the routines in which everyone was constrained. Something of the real is indeed at stake.

The threat on the living is stronger the less the corpses are visible. Neither at New York nor at Afghanistan do we see dead. This was the strong call of publicity psychologists. In order to make sure the master remains unhindered by public opinion, it sufficed to avoid any images of corpses. The situation becomes immaterial. It reveals itself as no less real. At that point, the politics of the image finds its limit.

The Lacan years
Paris, 13 Oct (LPA) - An announcement is given that the inaugural evening of the 9th International Salon de Psychiatrie will take place Nov 13 2001, from 6 PM to 8 PM, at the Grand Amphitheatre, Sorbonne University: "Homage to Lacan by his peers, our inaugural evening wishes to be a contribution to the critical archaeology of his work and its influence on the spirit of the time: the Lacan years."

On the programme: M. Zafiropoulos : 1938-1953, Lacan avant Lacan (de Durkheim a Levi-Strauss) / Pr. G. Molinie : Langage et desir / Pr. G. Lanteri-Laura : Lacan psychiatre, 1960 (l'Evolution psychiatrique et Bonneval) / Dr A. Green : Mes annees Lacan. Regard retrospectif, 1960-1967 / J. Allouch : 1963-1981, Jacques Lacan ne m'interesse pas / Pr. P.-L. Assoun : La "pensee-Lacan."

Translated by Liliana Mauas-Singer
Edited by Susana Tillet (Melbourne)

*******************************************
*******************************************
lacan.com - exclusive for the US