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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

How do you make an animal neurotic? By introducing variable meanings or indeterminacy in place of fixed meanings.  Pavlov, in a variation on his best known experiment conditioned dogs to expect food, after having been shown a circle, and to expect an electric shock after having been shown an oval.  The dogs seemed content.  Then Pavlov increasingly made the circles oval, and the ovals more circular. For the first time the dogs exhibited obvious signs of what we might call ‘anxious behaviour’. Thus a meaning was varied or made indeterminate, and an ‘animal neurosis’ was simulated and indeed stimulated.

Being a man or a woman is to be something indeterminate, of unknown value. The central appeal of orthodox Judaism and Islam are the wholesale answers they set out to provide to the ultimately e idiosyncratic questions of gender and sexual identity.

So it is almost certain that we have genes for our acquisition by language but that they are not in essential part positive ones but that they in most cases cause or underline an absence or lack, something missing and with it anxiety.  We have genes that determine premature birth, without which we would not be helpless for long enough for language to take root, alongside these we also have missing genes for instincts that would also have us less helpless. I suspect that some types of autism and psychosis are casualties of these lacks, when the lack does not lack enough, or too much.

No doubt there are also some ‘positive genes’ for vocal cords and perhaps other important aspects of our domination by language but in essential part we have genes that specify a space where it can be identified that something key for language is missing, that must be found or created independently and idiosyncratically by each of us.  So I believe that we do have genes for language but not the kind that the early Chomsky and Pinker argue positively constitute a universal grammar in the tradition of given Platonic Forms. Instead we have a powerful invitation to trauma, to an important set of absent meanings.

Trauma is not necessarily sporadic, a violent collision or a chance unwelcome sexual encounter. It is also embodied in the indeterminancy of meaning, in Lacanian terminology, the real entangled with the symbolic, and the imaginary.  Trauma is an every sentence phenomenon. The Tower of Babel is in every utterance.  This is why when patients first present with obvious trauma it is generally only within just a few sessions that they introduce material that predates the trauma first presented.