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TRUTH GAMES by John Forrester

TRUTH GAMES

Lies, Money and Psychoanalysis

By John Forrester

Pub Date: Jan. 4th, 1998
ISBN: 0-674-53962-1
Publisher: Harvard Univ.

 Two long, very intricate essays: one on the implications of both the inescapability of lying in life and its centrality in psychoanalysis; the other on the nature of money--or, better, of obligation and indebtedness--particularly as seen in Freud's Rat Man case study. Forrester, a science historian (Cambridge Univ.; Dispatches from the Freud Wars, p. 192), is often masterful in the longer and more important piece, his philosophical and psychoanalytic exploration of lying, though at times he writes in a kind of hypercompressed intellectual shorthand. He analyzes first both those philosophers (St. Augustine and Kant, among others) who insist on absolute truthfulness and those (e.g., Nietzsche) who question the equation of the truthful with the moral. Forrester then proceeds to look at the psychoanalytic enterprise, where mental processes, particularly conflicts, are valued over veracity, so that ``psychoanalysis aims to be the science of lying inasmuch as it is the only science that does not find the prospect that the object of its inquiry may intentionally deceive the scientific investigator subversive of its pretensions to truth.'' The second piece is a close but abstruse look at Jacques Lacan's re-reading of the Rat Man case in light of the belief that ``debt . . . becomes something magnificent, the emblem of individual destiny, and the signifier of the social order itself.''Along his somewhat meandering, associative path, Forrester invokes Marcel Mauss's anthropological theory of gifts, Marx on the practical and political role of money in modern society, 19th-century theories of thermodynamics, Karl Polyani's political philosophy, and Keynes's economic theory. Forrester is scintillating for those who can follow him through what British psychoanalyst Adam Phillips (Terrors and Experts, 1996), in his foreword, calls ``two linked intellectual novellas, a Bildungsroman of ideas.'' But very few readers not well-versed in philosophy, Freud, and Lacan will be able to do so.