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Number 9: Winter 2013

Trauma in and out of mathematics with intestinal ontology: on what is in ate and: is allergy a phobia?

Philip Hill

What in general might immunology and psychoanalysis have to do with each other?  What might be common in both fields?  Is there sufficient justification for a research programme that sets out to identify common structures in immunology and psychoanalysis? Such a programme could lead to questions such as – Is allergy a phobia? What is innate about intestinal ontology? Is biology a branch of psychoanalysis?

I have argued elsewhere that there are parallel structures in three closely related categories: in the histories of immunology and psychoanalysis, in the clinical techniques of immunology and psychoanalysis and in their theories. Here I sketch two aspects of one structure as it is currently theorised: allergy and phobia.1

How might allergy and trauma be understood as versions of the same structure?

Firstly  let us be clear about some vital distinctions between ‘metaphor’, ‘identity’ and ‘structure’, all terms we will use to develop our argument later in the paper.  Metaphor or something like it exists perhaps, but not everything is metaphor, as hippies and cultural relativists have claimed.  If everything were truly metaphor then metaphor would itself be a metaphor for metaphor, for metaphor, for metaphor…   There would be a ridiculous infinite regress and meaning would fall over wholesale.  It is certain that there are at least three categories of non metaphors in language and psychoanalysis.  Proper names, fundamental fantasies and what I call ‘standard word meanings’ or common meanings found in a community, or a sub culture.  So the phrase or signifier ‘9 o clock’ must have a common meaning or we would be forever unable to meet at the time designated.  If everything were metaphor then there would be no common time or place to meet, no true or false, or right or wrong.  If everything were metaphor we could not even disagree. Even the idea of ‘randomness’ could not be sustained.


  1. Other candidates include T cell production, B cell production, antigen presentation, with dream production, and autoimmunity and psychosis.