‘Who Announces the Nonrecourse?’: The fort/da in ‘To do Justice to Freud’ and in the Derrida/Foucault debate


Joaquín Montalva[1]


Abstract: This article consists of a commentary on Derrida’s essay “To do Justice to Freud: The History of Madness in the Age of Psychoanalysis”, with the aim of tracing what cannot be re-appropriated by the presuppositions of the Derrida/Foucault debate. By analysing the question “who announces the nonrecourse?”, I will explore the way in which Derrida’s writing is affected by the necessity and impossibility of not repressing unreason. I will defend that Derrida compulsively writes the effects of his own resistance to repress unreason by reproducing the Foucauldian quest for a “beyond of reason”. This repetition compulsion not only keeps re-opening the debate, but more importantly, it triggers the return of unreason as a disarrangement of the principles of identity and linear time which destabilizes any authorial ground for a history of madness in general and for any of its critiques. This article will read the exchanges between Derrida and Foucault by deconstructing the premises of any debate in general.


Keywords: Fort/da. Madness. Psychoanalysis. Deconstruction. Transference.



Jacques Derrida’s critique of Michel Foucault’s interpretation of the Cartesian Cogito in Histoire de la folie triggered a widely commented “debate”. The underlying assumption for many commentators is that there was a disagreement between these two thinkers and that disagreement can be settled, as any debate, by giving reason to one of the parties involved. However, these readings have tended to disregard that, in the Foucault/Derrida exchange, there is an excess that overflows the logics and principles of debates in general. This, since to donner la raison to one of the names involved in the discussion implies overlooking the fact that the “debate” itself – if we can even call it a “debate” – is concerned with the very limits of reason and meaning in general. In this article, I will present a commentary on Derrida’s essay “To do Justice to Freud: The History of Madness in the Age of Psychoanalysis”, with the aim of tracing what cannot be re-appropriated by the presuppositions of a debate. In other words, I will focus my attention on some gestures and elements that cannot be ruled by the reassuring figure of an author who can respond for its rubric and be held responsible for an argument. Instead, this exchange will be read as a movement of compulsion to repeat itself which allows madness to return over and over again, not as a language alien to reason (like Foucault suggested), but as a disarrangement of the principles of authorship, non-contradiction and linear time. Using Derrida’s expression, I will approach these maddening repetitions as a “[…] torment interior to meaning in general.” (DERRIDA, 2005, p. 46). Thus, by analysing the question “who announces the nonrecourse?” (posed by Derrida, but inspired by the Foucauldian project), I will defend that Derrida’s own writing is affected – by means of transference – by the necessity and impossibility of not repressing unreason. However, this should not be interpreted as a contradiction or mistake on Derrida’s behalf, but as a symptom that he inherits from Freud’s and Foucault’s common project of listening to madness. As I will show, this inherited compulsion and its rhythm are embraced by Derrida and expanded in order to evidence, through their movements, that “[…] reason is madder than madness.” (DERRIDA, 2005, p. 76). Following this line of inquire, I will claim that even though Derrida questions the possibility of writing a history of madness, he compulsively writes his own resistance by reproducing (in the form of a debate that gives and takes reason) the Foucauldian quest for a “beyond of reason”. This repetition compulsion not only keeps re-opening the debate. But more importantly, it triggers the return of unreason as a disarrangement of the principle of identity which destabilizes any authorial ground for a history of madness in general and for any of its critiques. I am not, however, suggesting that both authors are guilty of the same fault. That would imply to remain working under the constraints of a debate. Instead, I will show that when analysing this chapter from French intellectual history it becomes irrelevant to ask who is right or wrong. This, insofar that distinction and pretension erases the fact that, as both authors claim, “madness” is inextricably linked to the possibility of meaning in general.[3] Thus, I am interested in displaying the effects of repression and “eternal return” of unreason in a scene of writing that faces the limits of its own possibility. In this case, the madness of this “debate” is that in “To do Justice to Freud” the notion of authorship is gradually disseminated, insofar the transference of its compulsion to repeat itself impersonates Freud’s, Foucault’s and Derrida’s name, making it impossible to differentiate between “parties” that can be accountable for their arguments. Finally, by tracing this uncanny repetition, I will show that the essay “To do Justice to Freud” allows to read madness, not as another language or as a primal murmur foreign to logos, but as a compulsive rhythm that messes with principles such as authorship, linear time and of no contradiction.


1 To donner la raison

Before submerging myself into the currents of Derrida’s text, I would like to open the archive of the debate yet another time. I am aware it is, as Geoffrey Bennington puts it, “[…] a well-trodden ‘debate’ […] which has arguably been a dialogue de sourds.” (BENNINGTON, 2016, p. 205). This dialogue of sourds has mainly inspired two distinct types of reactions, as Bennington (2016, p. 205) continues:

[…] historically inclined readers are impressed by the historical nature of Foucault’s reply to Derrida and his parting jibe at Derrida’s supposedly “historical well-determined little pedagogy”, and philosophically inclined readers are more impressed by Foucault’s failure to respond to Derrida’s more general questions except by means of invective.


This division between these two groups has been referred by Antonio Campillo (2000) as the difference between a quasi-transcendental and a quasi-empirical approach to history and by Amy Allen (2016) as a clash between a transcendental critique and an immanent critique of reason. Regardless of the fact that these distinctions hardly do justice to the intellectual richness of the debate and of the literature inspired by it, they still convey a certain compulsion to pick a side, either on the side of history/empiricism or of philosophy/theory (FLAHERTY, 1986, p. 155). Renowned authors such as Slavoj Žižek, Edward Said, Gayarti C. Spivak, Carlo Ginzburg and Jürgen Habermas have taken a stand in this debate, and they have been followed by an ever-growing number of researchers that keep commenting this debate as a debate.

The publication in 2016 of the book Foucault/Derrida: Fifty years later, edited by Olivia Custer, Penelope Deutscher and Samir Haddad, stands as proof of the way in which the Derrida/Foucault debate has become a tradition. This work is remarkable not only because it gathers very interesting essays by influential authors, but also because it captures very well the main positions on the debate and reproduces their respective trenches. There is a first group of essays that aligned with Foucault’s famous response: 1) claims that Derrida  misread the Cartesian Cogito (Pierre Macherey), 2) argues that Derrida could not appreciate the value of Foucault’s archival thinking as a form of groundless ground (Lynne Huffer), 3) portrays Derrida as a Hegelian metaphysician that violently imposes the teaching of philosophy (Colin Koopman) and 4) asserts that Derrida did not understand Foucault’s immanent critique of reason because he just reproduces the tradition of transcendental philosophy (Amy Allen). Then, there is a second group of readers that, following Derrida’s critique: 1) unpacks Derrida’s understanding of the concepts of “violence” and “hyperbole” beyond the Cartesian discussion to show how they operate in Derrida’s later work (Michael Naas), 2) shows how Foucault’s virulent response to Derrida misses the point of the complexity of his approach to philosophy and pedagogy (Samir Haddad), 3) rearticulates Derrida’s original critique in light of Foucault’s later work in order to show the way in which his lack of a theory of reading makes it impossible for him to be accountable for his metahistorical enunciative position (Geoffrey Bennington) and 4) unpacks one of the multiple arguments of Derrida’s “To do Justice to Freud” in order to display the way in which Derrida’s deconstruction is not limited to Foucault’s early work (Robert Trumbull). And lastly, there is a fairly new tendency to advocate for the reconciliation of these two thinkers. This attempt at bridging their differences operates by means of resorting to works that are not directly related to the debate to supplement the fallacies of the dialogue of sourds. In this group, we find: 1) interesting attempts to bridge the differences between Foucault and Derrida by claiming that in their later work both of them transformed the transcendental question (Thomas Khurana), 2) efforts at showing that Derrida’s critique influenced Foucault’s concept of “critical ontology of ourselves” and his later understanding of history (Judith Revel), 3) essays that show how Derrida’s sexual difference and Foucault’s biopolitical analysis on motherhood  enhances the perspective of the other (Penelope Deutscher) and 4) works that  vindicates the intellectual benefits of approaching Derrida’s and Foucault’s corpus from the perspective of their combined legacy in a non-antagonistic manner (Olivia Custer). It is way beyond my possibilities to do justice to the compelling and interesting emphasises, turns, arguments and possibilities that each of these works provides, nor my intentions to simply disregard them as “wrong interpretations”. They actually form an invaluable archive on which my reading is anchored. It is fairly clear how the first two groups fit into the idea of the debate as a debate, however the third one is not. The latter provides very interesting inputs for understanding the shared problems, perspectives and concerns of an entire generation of French thinkers from a collaborative perspective that resists the allure of conflict, antagonism and sectarianism. Nonetheless, an uncomfortable sense of finitude and reconciliation sits at the core of this last tendency. These readings still operate under the aim of overcoming difference and thus to reappropriate negativity. It is a pragmatic choice sustained by a very reasonable decision that allows us to look for new inputs and possibilities for critical thought. But, in this choice, there is something about not tolerating conflict, disorder, incompleteness and (why not?) a bit of unreason as well. But then again, there is good reason for that: this quarrel is 50 years old and they did not even listen to each other! Thus, the impulse to fix this by acting as mediators that can re-establish the broken dialogue is almost of good taste and manners. However, we should not forget that the entire discussion revolves around the problem of undecidability, the limits of reason, the aim of not reappropriating negativity and the eternal return of the repressed. Thus, any decision involved in the resolution of the debate will trigger the repetition of the debate itself about the possibility of not reappropriating unreason, which will keep us blind to its maddening compulsion to repeat the drive for resolution.


2 To Enunciate Madness

It is time for us to read the “debate”. Regardless of all the acknowledged impossibilities, Foucault wanted to write his Histoire de la folie in a “relativity without recourse”, that is to say, in a language without support of the logos.[4] This, as an attempt to reproduce an “[…] obstinate murmur of a language talking to itself – without any speaking subject and without an interlocutor.” (FOUCAULT, 2006, p. XXXI). This premise led Derrida to open the “debate” in 1963 by asking the following questions:

[…] who enunciates the possibility of nonrecourse [le non-recours]? Who wrote and who is to understand, in what language and from what historical situation of logos, who wrote and who is to understand this history of madness? For it is not by chance that such a project could take shape today (DERRIDA, 2005, p. 44-45).


This questioning of the “who”, as the author of a “nonrecourse” that was written “today”, is at the core of Derrida’s critique of the Foucauldian project. These questions refer to Foucault’s pretention of opening an “empty space” (without recourse or support on the logos) in which “madness” enunciates itself. That is to say, as a text in which madness becomes the author of its own discourse. Thus, in these questions there is some kind of “core” of the debate that highlights the fundamental contradiction of the Foucauldian project of trying to narrate, in the form of a chronological history, an experience that should be alien to any structure of meaning.[5] However, they have not received much attention in the literature of the “debate”. One of the only exceptions is Geoffrey Bennington’s work (2016, p. 219) to which I will come back later in this article. It is no accidental that when Derrida re-opened the “debate” in 1991, he reproduced these exact same words that resisted the changes of tone and emphasis, that marked a silence of 28 years. What is at stake in this quote is the permanence of the query about the condition of possibility for writing – in a particular “today” – a history that pretends to be written in a language without recourse of the logos and its authorial ground. Derrida inherited this aporia by facing, in a first instance, the necessity for transgressing the margins of logos to question the possibility of conceiving madness without reproducing the violence of reason. And, in a second instance, by facing the impossibility of enunciating madness without falling back into reason. From Derrida’s perspective, it is impossible to move beyond logos in order to listen to madness in a pure state. Any attempt would be doomed to repeat the repression of unreason by the language of reason. However, Derrida insists in asking Foucault’s question: “who enunciates the possibility of nonrecourse?”, not in order to look for an outside of language. Instead, he wanted to show, through the compulsive and uncanny movements of his writing, that reason and madness are inextricably linked. In this sense, Derrida’s repetition of Foucault’s question implies a change of emphasis marked by an understanding of madness as a constitutive part of reason, and not as an isolated element that pre-existed the reason/unreason binominal opposition.


3 Histories of Madness

As Derrida claims, Foucault wanted “[…] madness to be the subject of his book in every sense of the word: its theme and its first-person narrator, its author, madness speaking about itself.” (DERRIDA, 2005, p. 39). This is the relativity without recourse on which Foucault sustains his book. However, as I already stated, Foucault openly recognizes the difficulties that his project faces. Thus, Derrida’s attention on this issue should not be understood as a mere critique, but as a problematization of an issue already acknowledged by Foucault.

In “Cogito and History of Madness”, Derrida addresses this problem from two perspectives. Firstly, he recognizes that Foucault’s book was written from a relativity without recourse and questions the condition of possibility for this event to have taken place. Secondly, he criticizes the notion of “madness” that Foucault relates to the relativity without recourse. With respect to the latter, Foucault’s notion of madness, according to Derrida, is based upon the assumption of a “pre-history” in which logos had no contrary and the binominal relationship between reason and unreason did not exist yet. Thus, for Derrida, the history that Foucault narrates presupposes the previous existence of a unitary logos that allows him to conceive the idea of an original “madness” in “natural” or “wild” state. Derrida argues that Foucault, by grounding his premises on a pre-historical unity, his narrative relies on a foundational event (“the Cartesian exclusion”) which broke the “original unity” of logos by founding the “classical age” on the constitution of the reason/unreason binominal opposition. Derrida criticises this a priori arguing that, by writing a history that is opened by the decision that separates reason from unreason, Foucault “[…] runs the risk of construing the division as an event or a structure subsequent to the unity of an original presence, thereby confirming metaphysics in its fundamental operation.” (DERRIDA, 2005, p. 48). Therefore, the intention of narrating a Histoire de la folie in itself takes part of the doctrine of classical logos, insofar as it presupposes that reason has a contrary which can be unveiled and that does not correspond to the distribution of truth that derives from the “Cartesian exclusion”. Thus, Foucault would be reproducing the logos of metaphysics from which derives the notion of reason that he tries to avoid.

But that is not all. Derrida also claims that, even if the Foucauldian project would not depend on this a priori, the idea of making a division between reason and unreason to conduct an archaeology of one of its parts also reproduces the binominal differences of metaphysics. Subsequently, by attempting to trace the path of unreason (which can only be thought in contraposition to reason), Foucault would be falling into the unescapable repetition of the reclusion/division of madness. In a nutshell, Derrida states that Foucault, by essentializing madness, inevitably repeats the tradition of classical logos. And by doing this, he contradicts his pretension of trying to escape “every original division” in order to let “madness enunciate itself”. However, Derrida is aware that Histoire de la folie was still written, that the nonrecourse has been enunciated, and therefore, he keeps questioning the condition of possibility for writing a Histoire de la folie. Derrida is aware of the impossibility of the project, yet still, he compulsively returns to this problem in his writings.  Nevertheless, the words that he quotes and re-quotes from Foucault’s book take a completely different meaning in Derrida’s writings. For Derrida is not that Foucault achieved the impossible task of opening a space where madness itself could be listened to. Instead of this, he realises that Foucault’s book, by repeating the maddening decision of repressing unreason, reveals the madness from within reason. In other words, the impossibility for Foucault to enunciate madness is what allows reason to reveal its madness. This “other” type of madness, which always already seems to have been smuggled into the realm of reason, is what mobilizes Derrida’s analysis in “To do Justice to Freud”.


4 To do Justice to Freud/Foucault

The problem of the repressed is directly addressed in the text “To do Justice to Freud”. This essay announces in its subtitle (“The History of Madness in the Age of Psychoanalysis”) a methodological declaration of principles that reveals a certain contemporaneity between the enunciation of a nonrecourse and a specific “today”. This distinction is what drives Derrida’s change of emphasis and reading criteria in this return of/to the “debate”. His analysis does not consist (anymore) in addressing the time of classical age. In its place, it is a particular “now”, from which Derrida re-frames the question for the condition of possibility of a Histoire de la folie. Thus, he places at the centre of his queries the “age of the book” (DERRIDA, 1998, p. 76). However, this does not constitute a mere change of time frame of the object analysed. Rather than that, what emerges in this temporal displacement is a re-adjustment of the understanding of the subject/object opposition by means of the introduction of the Foucauldian notion of “objectivization”. By resorting to the concept of “objectivization”, Derrida wants to question the object/subject opposition in order to argue that Foucault’s “classical age” would be intrinsically related to an “age of psychoanalysis”. This, insofar the latter constitutes the place of enunciation from which it is possible to conceive a “classical age” in the first place.[6] This approach blurs the opposition between context of production and historical object. According to Derrida, maintaining it would “[…] be neither possible nor just, and hardly faithful to Foucault’s own intention.” (DERRIDA, 1998, p. 76). Therefore, in order to do “justice to Foucault”, Derrida claims that he “[…] regularly attempts to objectify psychoanalysis and to reduce it to that of which he speaks rather than to that from out of which he speaks.” (DERRIDA, 1998, p. 76). In other words, Foucault would be writing of and from “the age of psychoanalysis”, which blends the enunciative position with the object of the book.

Having said this, a question remains: what does Derrida understand by age of psychoanalysis? In the introduction of the book Résistances de la psychanalyse, Derrida refers to a bleak present of the psychoanalytic institutions that derives from two types of resistances. On the one hand, as a result of the European antipsychiatry movement of the 60’s and 70’s, there is what he refers as to a generalized (social and institutional) resistance and fear towards psychoanalysis (DERRIDA, 1998, p. VII). On the other hand, this first resistance coexists with another resistance that has “always already been there”: the resistance of psychoanalysis to itself. This resistance has been part of Freud’s practice since its beginnings, and it is encapsulated in the Freudian concept of “resistance to analysis”. It is the resistance experienced by the analyst that pretends to speak and understand the language of madness at the same time that he/she faces the patient’s irreducibility who resists analysis. According to Derrida, both resistances constitute “[…] perhaps one of the cards dealt to our time.” (DERRIDA, 1998, p. VIII). Hence, to approach Derrida’s reading of Histoire de la folie, we must understand that the age of psychoanalysis is founded upon a crisis that transgresses Foucault’s project twice. Firstly, his book was conceived as a critique of every institution that derives from the tradition of the objectivization of mental health. Secondly, Foucault faces the impossibility of listening madness in its own language, as far as his book must be written from within the reason/unreason binominal opposition. Thus, Foucault’s place of enunciation would be marked by a resistance to psychoanalysis and a resistance of psychoanalysis, and this places him in a contemporaneity to the “age of psychoanalysis”. This specific “place of enunciation” opens the possibility to voice a discourse that is presented as a discourse without recourse of the logos. Thus, since Foucault’s project is crossed twice by the psychoanalytic legacy, his discourse, like the one of the “analyst” that fails to listen to madness, is affected by the transference with its object/subject of study.[7] That is to say, Derrida’s interpretation of Foucault’s book presupposes a heritage that is common to the analyst and the author who faces the impossibility of listening to madness without reproducing the reason/unreason binominal opposition. Thus, the madness of this situation is that the thematic shore of the book commences to affect the thematizing one, that is to say, the scene of writing in general.

The importance of the concept of “Age of Psychoanalysis” and its relation to the problem of inheritance and transference in “To do Justice to Freud” have passed largely unnoticed in the literature of the “debate”. Scholars have mainly focussed their analyses on elements related to mourning (NAAS, 2003), hospitality (BOOTHROYD, 2005), the archive (ARVATU, 2011) or on the way in which Freud’s understanding of the duality pleasure/power allows for the deconstruction of Foucault’s concept of power (TRUMBULL, 2016). One reason that explains this could be that a shorter version of this essay was published in English in The Work of Mourning, a book that has received more attention than Résistances de la psychanalyse where the concepts of transference, age and fort/da are treated more explicitly. However, we can only speculate on how this might have affected the reception of this essay in the Anglophone tradition.

Alongside the embracing of the concept of “age of psychoanalysis”, Derrida introduces a range of psychoanalytic concepts to approach Foucault’s work. For this purpose, he re-directs the reader to his essay “To speculate – on ‘Freud’” in different parts of the text. An example of this shift is when Derrida, after alluding to different Freudian concepts, calls for the need of moving from the problem of the Cartesian Evil Genius (which he addressed in Cogito and History of Madness) to the demoniac in Freud. In Derrida’s words, what is at the core of “To do Justice to Freud” is

[…] to recall the necessity of taking into account a certain Evil Genius of Freud, namely, the presence of the demonic, the devil, the devil's advocate, the limping devil, and so on in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, where psychoanalysis finds, it seems to me, its greatest speculative power but also the place of greatest resistance to psychoanalysis (death drive, repetition compulsion, and so on, and fort/da!). (DERRIDA, 1998, p. 86).


This quotation, along with introducing the coordinates that Derrida follows to re-interpret the problem of the Evil Genius in Foucault, directs our attention to Freud’s Beyond the pleasure principle. In this book, Freud’s demoniac represents the possibility of speculation and, at the same time, the strongest resistance to analysis. Thus, Derrida, by borrowing some psychoanalytical concepts, defines Foucault’s book as the writing of a fort/da. And, as he asserts in “To speculate – on ‘Freud’”, the depiction of every fort/da must be interpreted as a reading pattern for the gestures and movements that are present in the narration of “another” fort/da. Accordingly, he writes: “[…] the scene of writing does not recount something, the content of an event which would be called the fort/da. This remains unrepresentable, but produces, there producing itself, the scene of writing.” (DERRIDA, 1987, p. 336). Consequently, Freud/Foucault’s text is confined to represent a resistance to analysis in the repetition of its own writing. There, the fort/da constitutes, using some of Derrida’s expressions, a “saccadic rhythm” (between “to limp” and “to falter”), a detour that always comes back, “[…] ‘a beyond…’ that walks without advancing one step.” However, this same resistance, by framing the scene of writing, constitutes the condition of possibility for the analyst to write. This, as long as the transference opens a space where an exchange between psychoanalysis and the patient’s irreducibility can take place. Therefore, the transference operates as the only condition in which the analyst can “bridge” the object/patient resistance to the “repressed”. But once again, we must bear in mind that the “[…] transference itself displaces, but it only displaces the resistance. It operates a resistance, as a resistance.” (DERRIDA, 1987, p. 339). Thereby, Derrida expresses that transference neurosis triggers an eternal tendency to reproduction. That is to say, to a “compulsion of repetition” of and in Freud/Foucault, which sets the foundations for a writing that spins while eternally reproduces its resistance. Consequently, it unleashes the advent of multiple doubles that come to occupy the place of the “original” resistance.

Hence, according to Derrida, the Freudian/Foucauldian scene of writing faces its resistance. It inherits it and writes it down in the form of a resistance to/of psychoanalysis. It is the outstanding debt that both authors contracted with the theoretical language that allows them to repeat the transference. It is a debt that opens an “age of psychoanalysis” which is marked by the acknowledgement of a resistance to analysis and by the need to have recourse to a kind of language that provides them with the foundations for a discourse without recourse. Bennington has referred to the problem of borrowed language in Foucault by “scattering” his concept of Parrhēsia. He asserts that “[…] whereby Foucault has to borrow his resource from his object without explaining how he does so, goes along with a parallel fudging of the question of reading. Foucault has no theory of reading and cannot have one within the terms of his discourse.” (BENNINGTON, 2016, p. 216). This issue is manifested symptomatically in Foucault’s work as an impossibility to account for any metahistorical a priori that could allow him to “distinguish” his enunciative position from his objects of study.


5 The Doubles of the Repressed

From this (maddening) perspective, Derrida traces the effects of this Freudian transference in Foucault’s book. He claims that, in the book there are two figures that represent the “eternal return of the repressed”. Two figures that, by standing at the edge of the “place of enunciation” of Histoire de la folie, disjoint its chronology. Firstly, Derrida focuses his attention on the multiple apparitions and identities of Freud’s figure in Foucault’s narrative. Secondly, he analyses the different shapes that the “Evil Genius” embodies in the text, which are not constrained to the Cartesian cogito, since they represent different characters that, by means of metonymy, come to embody the Freudian demoniac.

He begins with Freud who is depicted by Foucault as a fragmented figure: he personifies two identities and inhabiting two temporal structures. Regarding time distribution, Derrida interprets the multiple placings of the “Father of Psychoanalysis” in Foucault’s book as a manifestation of what he denominates as the “pluralization of psychoanalysis”. Chronologically speaking, Foucault’s Freud is divided: in some passages, he belongs to the “classical age” and, in others, he belongs to the contemporary age. Freud is constantly re-situated between ages. This “father figure” is used by Foucault as a historic artefact that allows him to refer to a new phase in the relationship between reason and madness. As “The Father of Psychoanalysis”, Freud has a place in this history of madness due to his pretension to re-open the dialogue with “madness” (DERRIDA, 1998, p. 97).

Regarding the meaning of these apparitions/repetitions of “Freud” in Foucault’s narrative, Derrida argues that Freud’s identity is also double. At first, Foucault introduces a “good Freud” that belongs to the tradition of the “mad geniuses”, who are presented as people that allowed the mad “to stop being mad”.[8] In this sense, the psychoanalytical attempt at listening the “mad ones” in their own language, according to Foucault, would re-open the dialogue that the division between reason and unreason has broken (assuming that that is possible).[9] But then, Freud is also endowed with an antagonistic role that situates him in the “tradition of asylum”. However, for Foucault, Freud also embodies and perpetuates the doctor’s thaumaturgical powers since he is the one who confines and diagnoses the “mad ones”. Thus, alongside the “good Freud” stands a “bad Freud”; a Freud that, even though keeps trying to re-open the dialogue with madness, is condemned (as any doctor) to constantly face his limitations and the resistances to analysis. This inevitably perpetuates the monologue of reason. Consequently, in the Foucauldian reading that Derrida displays, the “bad Freud” remains trapped in the asylum that the Cartesian exclusion inaugurates. This duplicity in/of Freud should not be considered as a critique of a historical contradiction, but as an effect of the legacy of the “age of psychoanalysis”. Furthermore, as Christopher Johnson shows, in Derrida’s essay “Freud and the Scene of Writing” Freud is also a twofold figure. He belongs both to the tradition of logocentric metaphysics and his “[…] discourse is at the same time foreign to the tradition which, since Plato and Aristotle, has consistently used graphical metaphors to illustrate the relationship between reason and experience, perception and memory.” (JOHNSON, 2005, p. 68). Thus, it could be argued that this duality, in the treatment of Freud, could be related to the different positions that characterize any figure that stands at the edge of two historical structures. Nevertheless, Derrida goes a “step beyond…” by showing that what makes this distribution of historical identities even madder is that Foucault’s Freud is not only standing at the edge of the “classical age” and the “contemporary age”. If we carefully follow Derrida’s analysis, it can be observed that the distribution of Freud in the text depends on a chiasmatic effect that disjoints the temporal apparitions of the “Father of Psychoanalysis”. The range of action of the “good Freud” (as the analyst that re-opens the dialogue with madness) is delimited to the time and space of the “contemporary age”. However, this temporal placement is described by Foucault as a return. It is Freud’s return to a moment that is prior to the “Cartesian exclusion”. It is the arrival to a point that is before the “classical age”. A moment that takes place, according to Foucault, during the constitution of the age that opens and perpetuates the historicity of this history, by means of the constant reproduction of the disruption of the reason/unreason dialogue. Thus, the “madness” of the Foucauldian project is that Freud is given an identity as “contemporary man” only by returning to a moment that is prior to the “classical age”. The chronology of Histoire de la folie blends “past” and “present” in a synchronic movement that re-introduces (by endlessly returning/advancing and multiplying its temporal structures) a Freud that is always already divided from within. By following the traces of these multiple “apparitions”, Derrida argues that the condition of possibility for announcing this discourse without recourse is given by a certain belonging to an “age” that inherits a psychoanalytic language. Thus, this condition of possibility made Foucault’s book contemporary to Freud and to his resistance to analysis in return. Nevertheless, this is not the most decisive effect of Derrida’s use of the Foucauldian concept of objectivization. He advances yet another step “beyond…” in order to return – as a “compulsion of repetition” – to the figure of the Evil Genius to re-interpret it in relation to the “age of psychoanalysis”.

As I asserted before, with the adoption of the concept of “age of psychoanalysis”, Derrida introduces a repertoire of concepts with psychoanalytic filiations; one of those is the demoniac in/of Freud.[10] This figure comes to occupy the place that the Cartesian Evil Genius has in Cogito and History of Madness. In “To do Justice to Freud”, the threat of the Evil Genius is radicalized and generalized by means of hyperbole.[11] At this stage of the “debate”, the threat is not delimited or exclusively restricted to a “classical age” constructed by Foucault. Instead, through the scene of writing, the place of enunciation (the frame of Foucault’s book) becomes threaten by multiple avatars of the Evil Genius. According to Derrida, these manifestations of the “demoniac” are constantly being multiplied by means of a regular metonymic operation in Foucault’s writing, in which figures such as “the divine”, “the demoniac”, “evil genius”, among others, come to represent the “eternal return of the repressed”. Consequently, the acknowledged impossibility (by Foucault) of temporalizing madness through the chronological language of reason, is reproduced in/by the analyst/author that writes/repeats his own resistance to analysis. Thus, what emerges with the recourse of Foucault’s language would be the transference and repetition of an age of psychoanalysis which marks the impossibility for enunciating madness without falling into the “compulsion of repetition” of the “original” resistance. In this sense, this scene displays the unavoidability of a return that challenges the distinction between representation and apparition. Moreover, in Derrida’s (1987, p. 270) words:

[…] the devil comes back [revient] in a mode which is neither that of an imaginary representation (of an imaginary double), nor that of an apparition in person. His way of coming back [revenance] defies such a distinction or opposition. Everything occurs and proceeds as if the devil “in person” came back [revenait] in order to double his double. So, as a doubling his double, the devil overflows his double at the moment when he is nothing but his double, the double of his double that produces the unheimlich effect.


This uncanny multiplying effect alters the reassuring order of representation by reproducing a duplicity of the “original” double as a fundamental form of the “diabolical”. This makes it impossible to conceive any simple “origin” nor to distinguish between “presence” and “absence”, and by no means to gain access to the “experience of madness in itself”.

Another of the “advents” of the demoniac, that Derrida finds in Foucault’s book, is embodied by the doctor’s figure. In Foucault’s narrative, the structure of the asylum provides psychoanalysis with a “power” of “magical” attributions that derives from a form of thaumaturgy that operates by simulacrum. In different passages of the book, Foucault attributes demoniac features to medical knowledge which derives from the relationship of complicity that the doctor establishes with the patient. This patient/doctor relationship provides supernatural qualities to medical interventions inside the asylum (FOUCAULT, 2006, p. 507-509). The interesting thing about these passages is that this “return of the demoniac” complicates even further the chiasmatic representation of Freud as a doctor. With Freud/doctor’s arrival, the demoniac stops representing the threat of unreason and re-appears under a “moral power” which is based upon a secret that, as Foucault writes, is “almost demoniacal.” (FOUCAULT, 2006, p. 509). Thus, at the asylum, the demoniac takes control over the mad patient’s figure and the doctor’s one alike. At this stage of the analysis the displacement is total: the Evil Genius threatens the scene of writing in general without distinguishing between reason and unreason. Foucault/Freud is eternally threatened by the internal division of reason and unreason, which is transferred and repeated by the analysist and his object. Hence, in all these chiasmatic repetitions of the Evil Genius of/in Foucault/Freud we find over and over again, as Derrida writes: “[…] the Cartesian exclusion being repeated in a deadly and devilish way, like a heritage inscribed within a diabolical and almost all-powerful program that one should admit one never get rid of or frees oneself from without remainder.” (DERRIDA, 1998, p. 95). Consequently, Derrida’s argument consists of showing that Foucault writes from and about an “age of psychoanalysis” which is affected – by means of transference – by the fears, limitations and residues of psychoanalysis. Therefore, what provides the Foucauldian discourse its recourse to enunciate a discourse, without recourse is to speak from a historical proximity to madness that, in return, makes him pay the price of being “eternally threatened” by the demoniac (inherited) from Freud.


6 “Who annunciates the nonrecourse?”

If I would to stop here, I could assert that Derrida has “answered” the question “who announces the nonrecourse?” Moreover, I could even say that he has “found” the condition of possibility for a Histoire de la Folie. However, defending such a statement would imply trusting too much in the psychoanalytical solution and forgetting, once more, the role of transference. Derrida’s entire argument is rooted on one idea: “Foucault writes about and from an age of psychoanalysis.” That is to say, he writes from a particular “today” that provides him with the discursive foundations to articulate a discourse without recourse, which, as I have shown, unavoidably makes it impossible to distinguish between object and subject. Nevertheless, would not a specific age be preceded and overflowed by the same history that makes it possible? I have been defending that Derrida’s reading is based on an historical positioning of Foucault’s book through the concept of objectivization. This reading protocol implies melting the borders that divide the object (“classical age”) from the subject (Foucault in the “age of psychoanalysis”). However, Derrida is aware that “to do justice” to Foucault also implies to consider that the concept of objectivization cannot be isolated from the concept of subjectivization, insofar both concepts derive from modes of problematization. It is for this reason that, at the end of his essay, he returns to the concept of “age of psychoanalysis” to problematize it and to take yet another step “beyond…” without advancing a single inch. Derrida writes: “[…] the book entitled The History of Madness, like the history of madness itself, is and is not the same age as Freudian psychoanalysis.” (DERRIDA, 1998, p. 100). What this paradoxical sentence introduces is the necessary fragmentation of Foucault’s identity in relation to his belonging to a particular place of enunciation. Thus, instead of closing the “debate” to remain the author that exposed “Foucault’s contradictions”, Derrida decides to take the repercussions of his deconstructive work seriously and to keep proceeding consistently towards its ultimate consequences. This, in order to demonstrate that he is dealing with a structural issue that cannot be contained nor controlled by any authorial agency (including his). In other words, Derrida shows to be aware of the effects that derive from using a borrowed language to announce a nonrecourse, not only in his deconstruction of Freud/Foucault’s work. But, instead of limiting his reading solely to unveil how this aporia operates in the work of other authors (a gestures that could easily be appropriated by the structure of a “debate”), he displays the way in which his writings cannot escape this same maddening principle. He is “now” the one that places the author of Histoire de la folie at the edge. It is the return of a constitutive impossibility which announces the Demoniac’s most radical apparition: it no longer represents a threat confined to the “classical age”, neither a threat that prefigures an “age of psychoanalysis” that, in 1961, made (im)possible Foucault’s book. “Now”, it is a threat that emerges from within the scene of writing from which Derrida writes in 1991. It is the “final” threat, one that disrupts all our (already internally fragmented) formulations and makes it impossible to establish a secure relationship of identity between Foucault and “the age of psychoanalysis”. Let us follow the traces of this “last” fort/da.

In “To do Justice to Freud”, Derrida updates the “debate”. On the one hand, he comes back to his 1963 arguments by re-interpreting them under the light of psychoanalytical concepts. On the other hand, he attempts “to do justice” to Foucault by applying Foucault’s concept of objectivization to problematize his “place of enunciation”, according to his later work. It is important to consider that for Foucault the exercise of problematization implies to critically assess the universe of practices of the self, on which every subjectivization and objectivization emerged intertwined with the context in which men became and object for knowledge.[12] Therefore, in his later works, he resorts to practices of problematization that allows him to dismantle the structures of power that shape the subject, and one of these practices is the exercise of historical writing. This specific practice of problematization is described by Foucault in the text “What is Enlightenment?” In this essay, he situates Kant as part of a critical tradition that he denominates Historical Ontology of Ourselves which he defines as the philosophical ethos constituted by a modern limit-attitude of permanent critique of our time. This standpoint, according to Foucault, constitutes an approach to critique that must, he writes, “[…] move beyond the outside-inside alternative; we have to be at the frontiers. Criticism indeed consists of analysing and reflecting upon limits.” (FOUCAULT, 1997, p. 315). Thus, the limits must not be understood as contours of possible knowledge, but as spaces of transgression on which we must exert our own freedom in order to resist historical determinations. Therefore, for Foucault, through a re-interpretation of Kantian ideas, “the present” – as the place of enunciation of contemporary philosophy – becomes part of the same critique in which the thinker’s discourse roots the possibility of his/her critique. Consequently, the critical practice of the constitution of the self (as part of the problematization of the process of objectivization) also forms part of the problematization of the process of subjectivization.

We should not be naive in believing that Derrida’s use of this Foucauldian framework for placing Foucault in a temporal distribution (the age of psychoanalysis) is exempted from these paradoxes. Particularly since from this perspective he addresses the possibility of announcing a nonrecourse as a critical way of exerting freedom. Therefore, Derrida inherits, exposes and expands the Foucauldian paradox of a problematization of a problematization that compulsively repeats the predetermination/freedom duality. In other words, by incorporating into his analysis a borrowed language (objectivization, subjectivization and problematization) in order “to do justice to Foucault”, Derrida reproduces, as a debt/legacy, the paradoxes of Foucauldian ethics that derive from the attempt to imagine ways to free the subject from the structures of power. Thus, as Derrida shows, it is no longer possible to determine who announces the nonrecourse, if it is Foucault writing a history of madness, if it is Freud and the legacy of psychoanalysis talking about himself/itself, or if it is Derrida repeating his return to the “debate”. We cannot determine the authorship of any of these (im)possible annunciations. Thus, the problem of using a “borrowed language” goes beyond Bennington’s critique of Foucault’s lack of a theory of reading (BENNINGTON, 2016, p. 216), since it also affects the determination of any historical figure that is indebted to an “age of psychoanalysis” which includes Derrida’s writing as he was consistently aware.

Derrida returns to the question for a “today” that allows a subject to announce a nonrecourse by asking who is the subject of that announcement though the problematization of the “age of psychoanalysis” to which Foucault belongs and does not belong to. Thus, what returns with/in this essay is the question for the place of enunciation and the subject that enunciates what appears in the form of a fort/da. It is a fort/da that as any fort/da will tell us more about the scene of writing of a Derrida that inherits the Foucauldian play of eternally problematizing its own problematization, than about the subject it attempts to analyse. Hence, the idea of a “debate” (which heavily relies on the notion of authorship) collapses as Derrida (1998, p. 109) writes:

[…] the “we” who is saying “we think in that place” is evidently, tautologically, the “we” out of which the signatory of these lines, the author of The History of Madness and The Order of Things speaks, writes, and thinks. But this “we” never stops dividing, and the places of its signature are displaced in being divided up. A certain untimeliness always disturbs the contemporary who reassures him or herself in a “we.”


Derrida openly drops the possibility of recognizing the historical stability of a single Foucault that can be situated in an “age of psychoanalysis”. That is to say, he abandons the “today” from where the “we” speaks.  Instead, he writes about the “now” as a space of transgression that disrupts every identity and sense of belonging, and eternally divides and blends the “inside” and the “outside”. However, Derrida takes yet another step “beyond…” by alluding to the Foucauldian concept of “contemporary men” in order to transgress the limits of his own historical positioning by asserting:

[…] this “we,” our “we,” is not its own contemporary. The self-identity of its age, or of any age, appears as divided, and thus problematic, problematizable (I underscore this word for a reason that will perhaps become apparent in a moment), as the age of madness or an age of psychoanalysis – as well as, in fact, all the historical or archaeological categories that promise us the determinable stability of a configurable whole. (DERRIDA, 1998, p. 109).


Derrida’s use of the Foucauldian objectivization that, in a first seemed to allow us to find the condition of possibility of writing a history of madness, “now” drives Derrida to the problematization of a problematization. That is, to a paradox which precludes him to recourse to any stable place of enunciation that could sustain his writing. In face of this situation, Derrida questions the condition of possibility of history in general, by asking if this disparagement of principles, this difference to the self, and always with the self, is what perpetually threatens historicity in general. He asks: “[…] would there be any history, would anything ever happen, without this principle of disturbance? Would there ever be any event without this disturbance of the principality?” (DERRIDA, 1998, p. 110). These questions and problems (re)appear in the text over and over again, without giving us a chance to reply. Thus, in face of the dominion of the “principle” (either of power or pleasure), Derrida “closes” the “debate” asking for the relationship of a “French Freudian legacy” and the Foucauldian attempt of going “Beyond…” the dominion of power in The Will to Knowledge. Thus, in the last pages of “To do Justice to Freud”, Derrida alludes to a legacy of Freud’s Beyond the principle of pleasure in the first volume of History of Sexuality. In this way, Derrida returns to Freud in order to defend that, in History of Sexuality, the father of psychoanalysis:

[…] would not only never let itself be objectified by the Foucauldian problematization, but would actually contribute to it in the most determinate and efficient way, thereby deserving to be inscribed on the thematizing rather than on the thematized border of this history of sexuality. (DERRIDA, 1998, p. 116).


Thus, Derrida refers to the problem of the frame in order to claim that the critical strategy of Freud’s writing would be inherited by Foucault. This, insofar both share the quest for a “beyond…” power/pleasure, which is triggered by the drive of a duality that moves between both principles without beginning or “origin”. For Foucault, power is mobile and essentially dispersed in such a way that its movements cannot be attributed to any given subject. Moreover, he claims that it emerges from countless scattered points of resistance. In his History of Sexuality: Volume I, he challenges the power/pleasure opposition by showing how these two terms are intrinsically related to each other. This, insofar for Foucault, pleasure emerges penetrated by multiple manifestations of power to the extent that by means of repression, power re-directs and enhances sexual desire (TRUMBULL, 2016, p. 154). As Foucault asserts, the institutions that attempt to control unproductive sexualities

[…] function as mechanisms with a double impetus: pleasure and power. The pleasure that comes of exercising a power that questions, monitors, watches, spies, searches out, palpates, bring to light; and on the other hand, the pleasure that kindles at having to evade this power, flee from it, fool it, or travesty it. The power that lets itself be invaded by the pleasure it is pursuing; and opposite it, power asserting itself in the pleasure of showing off, scandalizing, or resisting […] These attractions, these evasions, these circular incitements have traced around bodies and sexes, not boundaries not to be crossed, but perpetual spirals of power pleasure. (FOUCAULT, 1978, p. 45).


Many years before, Freud approached the power/pleasure opposition in Beyond the Pleasure Principle in order to speculate on the possibility of finding an “original drive for mastery” that could operate independently of the pleasure principle. However, by relating the concept of mastery to his drives theory, he found a structural dualism where neither life drives (from where the pleasure principle derives) or death drives (from where the power/master principle derives) can permanently overtake the other. Thus, they remain in an unsaleable tension. Hence, for Freud, the mastery of power is fundamentally compromised and, therefore, it cannot become a foundational force, which leads to a structure of eternal duplicity that mimics the devil’s march in a way that anticipates Foucault’s spiral of power pleasure. Moving through these coordinates, Derrida asks for the place that Freud would occupy in regard to the Foucauldian problematization. That is to say, he asks if Foucault would locate Freud on the side of the thematizing or the thematised shore. However, as the last recourse after Foucault’s death, Derrida can only imagine the principle of a reply, and by sketching a hypothetical answer, he takes Foucault’s place and writes:

[…] what one must stop believing in is principality or principleness, in the problematic of the principle, in the principled unity of pleasure and power, or of some drive that is thought to be more originary than the other. The theme of the spiral would be that of a drive duality (power! pleasure) that is without principle. (DERRIDA, 1998, p. 117).[13]


The ending is the beginning

This “Foucauldian/Derridian” response (eternally) perpetuates the silence of a Foucault that can no longer answer. Then what remains is the repetition of a hypothetical response that resounds as an echo of Derrida’s voice talking about and for the two. This echo repeats and multiplies the question for the condition of possibility for a History of Madness. It is the eternal return of the scene of a fort/da that displays, over and over again, that the condition of possibility for history in general is its condition of impossibility. A contradiction in principle, that reproduces the division between reason and unreason, from within a “debate” between Derrida and Foucault. A “debate” that became a “compulsion of repetition” that eternally reproduces the question for the condition of possibility for the history of a “debate”. A history that does not stop writing itself, repeating, without giving reason to any of the parties involved, without reason, without parties, without any principle of reason…


¿Quién anuncia el no recurso?: El fort/da en Ser justo con Freud y en el debate entre Derrida y Foucault

Resumen: Este artículo consiste en un comentario del ensayo Ser justo con Freud: La historia de la locura en la era del psicoanálisis de Derrida con el objeto de rastrear lo que no puede ser reapropiado por la presuposición del marco del debate entre Derrida y Foucault. Al analizar la pregunta “¿quién anuncia el no-recurso?”, exploraré la forma en que la escritura de Derrida es afectada por la necesidad e imposibilidad de no reprimir la sinrazón. Argumentaré que Derrida compulsivamente escribe los efectos de dicha resistencia a no reprimir la sinrazón a través de la repetición de la búsqueda Foucaultiana de un más allá de la razón. Esta “compulsión de repetición’ no solamente reabre una y otra vez el debate, sino que desencadena el retorno de la sinrazón en la forma de un desarreglo de los principios de identidad y tiempo lineal, desestabilizando todo forma de autoría sobre la historia de la locura en general y cada una de sus críticas. Este artículo se aproxima a los intercambios entre Derrida y Foucault deconstruyendo la premisa de la posibilidad de un debate sobre la historia de la locura.

Palabras Claves: Fort/da. Locura. Psicoanálisis. Deconstrucción. Transferencia.



ARVATUA, A. Spectres of Freud: The Figure of the Archive in Derrida and Foucault. Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal, v. 44,  n. 4, p. 141-159, 2011.

BOOTHROYD, D. To be Hospitable to Madness”: Derrida and Foucault Chez Freud. Routledge: Journal for Cultural Research, 2006, Vol9. No.1, p. 3-21.

CAMPILLO, A. Foucault and Derrida: The History of a Debate. Trans. C. Boundas. Angelaki: v. 3, n.2, p.113-135, 2010.

CUSTER, O.; DEUTSCHER, P.; HADDAD, S. Foucault/Derrida: Fifty years later. New York: Columbia University Press, 2018.

DERRIDA, J. The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987.

DERRIDA, J. Resistances of Psychoanalysis. California: Stanford University Press, 1998.

DERRIDA, J. Writing and Difference. London: Routledge, 2005.

FLAHERTY, P. (Con)textual Contest: Derrida and Foucault on Madness and the Cartesian Subject. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, n. 16, 2, p. 157-175, 1986.

FOUCAULT, M. The History of Sexuality. Volume I: An introduction. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978.

FOUCAULT, M. Afterword by Michel Foucault. The Subject and Power. In: DREYFUS, H.; RABINOW, P. Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983. p. 208-228.

FOUCAULT, M. What is Enlightenment? In: RABINOW, P. The Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1985. Vol I: Ethics. New York: The New York Press, 1997. p. 303-320.

FOUCAULT, M. The Order of Things. New York: Routledge, 2005.

FOUCAULT, M. History of Madness. London: Routledge, 2006.

FREUD, S. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1961.

JOHNSON, C. System and Writing in the Philosophy of Jacques Derrida. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

TRUMBULL, R. Power and the “Drive for Mastery”: Derrida’s Freud and the debate with Foucault. In: CUSTER, O.; DEUTSCHER, P.; HADDAD, S. Foucault/Derrida: Fifty years later. New York: Columbia University Press, 2018. p. 151-165.


Received: 02/06/2022

Accept: 22/08/2022

[1] Académico por hora FAE Universidad de Santiago, Santiago – Chile. PhD in Critical Theory University of Nottingham. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9602-2201. Email: joaquin.montalva@usach.cl .

[2] I am grateful to the anonymous referees of this journal for their helpful comments and suggestions.

[3] In Foucault’s words: “[…] this structure is constitutive of what is sense and nonsense, or rather of that reciprocity through which the one is bound to the other; it alone can account for the general fact that in our culture there can be no reason without madness.” (FOUCAULT, 2006, p.  XXXII). And, according to Derrida: “It is through this relationship to the other as an other self that meaning reassures itself against madness and nonmeaning.” (DERRIDA, 2005, p. 72).

[4] Foucault writes: “[…] it is, no doubt, a doubly impossible task, as it would require us to reconstitute the dust of this concrete pain, and those insane words that nothing anchors in time; and above all because that pain and those words only exist, and are only apparent to themselves and to others in the act of division that already denounces and masters them.” (FOUCAULT, 2006, p. XXXII).

[5] Foucault writes: “[…] this structure of the experience of madness, which is history through and through, but whose seat is at its margins, where its decisions are made, is the object of this study.” (FOUCAULT, 2006, p. XXXII).

[6] In a text entitled “The Subject and Power”, Foucault advocates for the necessity of criticizing the “conceptual needs” that derive from the process of objectivization that turns human beings into subjects by critically assessing its contexts of production (FOUCAULT, 1983, p. 209).

[7] The concept of transference that Derrida is referring to comes from Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle. There, Freud elaborates a method called transference which is based on encouraging the patient to corroborate the construction of his/her experience by means of his/her own memory. This strategy opens the field to all sorts of resistances that hamper the becoming conscious of the unconscious. Freud writes, “[…] the patient cannot remember the whole of what is repressed in him, and what he cannot remember may be precisely the essential part of it. Thus, he acquires no sense of conviction of the correctness of the construction that has been communicated to him. He is obliged to repeat the repressed material as a contemporary experience instead of, as the physician would prefer to see, remembering it as something belonging to the past. These reproductions, which emerge with such unwished-for exactitude, always have as their subject some portion of infantile sexual life of the Oedipus complex, that is, and its derivatives; and they are invariably acted cut in the sphere of the transference, of the patient’s relation to the physician. When things have reached this stage, it may be said that the earlier neurosis has now been replaced by a fresh, ‘transference neurosis’.” (FREUD, 1961, p. 12).

[8] Foucault declares himself a trustee of a tradition that he calls the “mad geniuses” where he gathers people such as Nerval, Hölderlin, Van Gogh, Nietzsche, Roussel, Artaud and, in some passages, Freud. Foucault calls upon this genealogy to assert that his discourse without recourse is sustained by the experiences of these “mad geniuses”. He states that they are the ones that testify for the continuity of the “murmur of madness” that makes possible to conceive the project of writing the history of madness “in itself” (FOUCAULT, 2006, p. 28, 344 and 511).

[9] David Boothroyd (2005) interpreted the demand of “doing justice to Freud” as a recognition of Freud being hospitable to madness. However, he misses the point that for Derrida madness is intrinsically related to the decision that divides reason and unreason, and therefore from logos. In that regard, it cannot be treated as an “absolute alterity” to which be hospitable to (this implies essentializing madness), and more importantly, it also misses the role that transference and fort/da plays in the text.

[10] Derrida relates the demoniac to writing based on their shared tendency to repetition by asserting that: “[…] the very procedure of the text itself is diabolical. It mimes walking, does not cease walking without advancing, regularly sketching out one step more without gaining an inch of ground.” (DERRIDA, 1987, p. 269).

[11] According to Derrida’s argument in “Cogito and History of Madness”, the fiction of the Cartesian Evil Genius represents the possibility of total madness insofar it is inflicted by something “alien” to the mad one. Therefore, this hypothetical type of madness would escape the subjectivity of the thinking being and disrupt every economy of meaning from beyond the control and responsibilities attributed to the res cogitans (DERRIDA, 2005, p. 63-64).

[12] In The Order of Things Foucault states that anthropology, as an analytic of finitude, was placed at the centre of knowledge after representation (as historical a priori) lost the power to determine by itself, the synthesis between subject and predicate (separation between things and words). In this context, the search for the foundations of knowledge became rooted on men’s finitude, transforming this way the subject into the object of knowledge in return (FOUCAULT, 2002).

[13] Based on this passage Robert Trumbull (2016), in a very interesting and compelling essay, analyses how Freud’s understanding of the power/pleasure duality and its relationship to his drives theory allows to deconstruct Foucault’s understanding of power as the foundational term for a critical analysis of a history of sexuality.