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By Jean-Claude Milner (auth.)

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Sample text

What is required is not the construction of other sciences on the linguistic model, for these attempts have not demonstrated that they have encountered any formalisable real. Rather, the actual findings of linguistics must be seriously taken into account by those who hope - or hoped - to find in language some truth. Fifteen years ago, Foucault undertook such a project in The Order of Things. He concludes his account of linguistics in the nineteenth century, treating it together with the political economy of labour and the biology of life, by listing what he calls 'three compensations' for the 'demotion of language to the mere status of object' (p.

Hence, the assertion of the arbitrariness of the sign indicates what it is that linguistics can have nothing to say about: why language is the way it is. It is only the given form of language's existence- one out of a set of possible forms- which is its object; herein lies the nature of its empiricalness. Milner's interpretation of arbitrariness also explicitly rules out conventionalism (n. 11, p. 96), and, a fortiori, the whole project of a semiology whereby the form of language is made to follow from a system of conventions and their functions.

For this reason, to any epistemology of science, even if depsychologised, must be added a psychoanalysis of scientific knowledge. Nor is it surprising that Lacan, in attaching Freud to a philosophical tradition, should do so via the notion of the subject. But in Lacan's concept of the 'subject of the unconscious,' the Cartesian cogito is detached from consciousness and shorn of the ego in which subjectivity - the subjectivity that furnishes the grounds for certainty- is now shown not to reside.

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