Freud famously said (paraphrasing what he calls a “bon mot”) that psychoanalysis, education and government are the “impossible professions”. His explanation focuses on our narcissistic resistance to what these professions have to say about us and to us. Freud ads that philosophy, in taking the contents of conscious experience as the transparent reality it works with, is just such an expression of narcissism and therefore in a sense hopelessly lost. Of course neither Plato, nor Leibniz, nor many thinkers in between and after, would deny there are many things we have forgotten or repressed, and which we habitually deny. Descartes’ cogito, when taken in its full implications, expresses a radical transcendence of the ego and not the – mistaken – idea that the contents our consciousness are or should be all clear and distinct to us. Can we interpret the idea of the impossible professions differently? Perhaps the impossibility lies on the side of the practitioner as well. The original “bon mon” says that healing, educating and governing are impossible professions. Does this not have to do with the fact that the body heals itself, that the student teaches her- or himself, that the state is best governed as if frying a small fish? Is philosophy, by distancing itself from the figure of the sage and by saying wisdom is its object of desire but not its possession, not doing the same thing – and by its monological character? It does not try to persuade anyone. Each thinker for herself! “I truly became a philosopher when I understood that there is no dialogue in philosophy”, Zizek once said. The analyst, the teacher, the leader, the sage: in their practice they are vanishing mediators. The analysand who discovers the lack, the student who discovers the teacher within, the citizens who govern themselves , the philosopher who thinks for her- or himself alone and for no one else – they return to themselves via their vanishing other. Here, the professional has no other job than to get lost and the ones who make themselves comfortable in their position are furthest from this professionalism: that is the nature of ideology, in which the moment of vanishing becomes the ever-elusive aura of authority, the doctor, the professor, the president, the pope: near, no matter how far away, far away, no matter how near. But there are real analysts, teachers, leaders and sages. Lao Tse is one of them.
The impossible professions and the vanishing mediator