Re-Imagining Castoriadis’s Psychic Monad

Thesis Eleven 83 (1):5-14 (2005)
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Castoriadis portrays the psyche in its originary state as a ‘psychic monad’ - an infantile psyche that experiences itself as omnipotent, omnipresent, undifferentiated and sufficient unto itself. According to Castoriadis, this totality is fragmented in a ‘triadic phase’ through the experience of desire, which brings to the fore the encounter with the Other. In contrast, Marcel Gauchet rejects the concept of the psychic monad, arguing that the unformed psyche enters the world with a primordial openness to being formed and transformed. Psychic tension does not arise from the immersion of the closed monad in a hostile world, but from within the psyche itself, for the psyche must form itself and be formed by the world. Gauchet’s understanding of an inherent psychic tension provides an important corrective to Castoriadis’s theory of the monad that nevertheless remains consistent with Castoriadis’s anthropology



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Karl Smith
Cardiff University