What makes quantum mechanics so appealing is that even what appears to be a modest experiment yields, upon a closer analysis, radical philosophical implications. So, let’s begin with such an experiment performed by Anton Zeilinger for Carlo Rovell. A weak laser beam made up of a small number of photons is split into two parts, creating two separate paths – one, let’s say, on the ‘right’, and the other one on the ‘left’. (One should note that Rovelli mentions this experiment and not the one for which Zeilinger with two others got the Nobel prize in 2022: the other experiment was meant to demonstrate the instant (faster than light) communication between two entangled particles, and Rovelli disagrees with this reading of the experiment – for him there is no communication faster than the speed of light.) The two paths are reunited before becoming separated again and ending up in two detectors: one, let’s say, ‘up’, and the other ‘down’:

“What I saw is this: if I blocked either one of the two paths (left or right) with my hand, half of the photons ended up in the down detector and half ended up in the up one. But if I left both paths open, free of any impediment, all of the photons ended up in the lower detector: none in the one above it. /…/ There is something very peculiar going on. If half of the photons arrive at the up detector when one path is free, it would seem reasonable to expect that half of the photons should also arrive above when both paths are free. But this is not the case. In fact, none do. How, by blocking one path, can my hand cause the photons travelling on the other path to go to the upper detector?” (45)[1]

The strangeness of the situation resides in the fact that “it seems that you need only to observe for what is happening to change! Note the absurdity: if I don’t look for where the photon passes, it always finishes below. But if I look at where it passes, it can end up above. The astonishing thing is that a photon can end up above even if I haven’t seen it. That is to say, the photon changes trajectory due to the fact that I was waiting for it at the gate, on the side where it hasn’t passed. Even if I haven’t actually seen it!” (47)

What makes the situation strange is that it (not quite symmetrically, but nonetheless) turns around the common idea of quantum mechanics, according to which, if a process is unobserved it remains in a state of superposition, while observation reduces this multiplicity and causes its “collapse” into one version which is part of our ordinary reality. Here, however, if the first part of the process is unobstructed, the second part finishes with all particles in one exit, and if the first part is obstructed, the second part finishes with particles equally distributed between the two exits. It is not simply that observation affects the observed object; the mystery is in the fact that just observing (one exit of the two – the one through which NOTHING passes) only tells us that all particles passed through the other exit. And there is a further mystery: how did the particles somehow know that one of the exits is observed and avoided it?

For Rovelli, the answer is provided by the concept of noncommutativity. In the quantum world, to multiply the position by the velocity is different from multiplying the velocity by the position: the order counts. Why? Because of the uncertainty principle. “The uncertainty principle does not mean that we cannot measure the position of a particle with great precision and then its speed very precisely as well. We can. But after the second measurement, the position will no longer be the same: measuring the speed loses information on the position, so that if we measure it again, we will find it changed.” (93) “This tells us precisely about the importance of order: ‘first X and then P’ is different from ‘first P and then X’. How different? By an amount that depends on Planck’s constant: the scale of quantum phenomena.” (94) X and P are thus noncommutative variables: “‘Noncommutative’ means: such that their order cannot be changed freely.”(94)

This brings us back to Zeilinger’s photons which “could pass on the right or on the left and end up up or down. Their behavior may be described by two variables: a variable X that can have the value ‘right’ or ‘left’, and a variable P that can have the value ‘up’ or ‘down’. These two variables are like the position and speed of a particle: they do not commute. Hence they cannot be determined together. This is the reason why, if we close one of the paths determining the first variable (‘right’ or ‘left’), the second is undetermined: the photons go randomly ‘up’ or ‘down’. Vice versa, in order for the second variable to be determined, for the photons to all go ‘down’, it is necessary that the first variable should not be determined; that is, that the photons must pass via both paths ‘right’ and ‘left’. The entire phenomenon follows from the equation which says that these two variables ‘do not commute’ (are noncommutative), and hence cannot be determined together.” (95)

But are we here really dealing with the impossibility to measure two properties (like position and speed of a particle) simultaneously? Do we not get the case of measuring two properties of a photon (left/right plus up/down) one after the other? So, I would still like to get an explanation of how the very indetermination of the first part (no path is blocked) causes the determination of the second part (all photons go down). Is it not as if less order in the first part gives birth to more order in the second part? What I get is the key role of the temporal aspect: again, noncommutativity means that the temporal order in which operations (measurements, in this case) are done matter, that they change the result.

And – here comes the surprise – we encounter a similar noncommutativity in Freud and Lacan, in their descriptions of the psychoanalytic process.  The title of Freud’s short text from 1914, “Remembering, Repeating and Working Through,” provides the best formula for the way non-commutativity works in the psychoanalytic process. The three concepts Freud mentions form a dialectical triad: they designate the three phases of the analytical process, and resistance intervenes in every passage from one phase to the next.

The first step consists in remembering the repressed past traumatic events, in bringing them out, which can also be done by hypnosis. This phase immediately runs into a deadlock: the content brought out lacks its proper symbolic context and thus remains ineffective; it fails to transform the subject and resistance remains active, limiting the amount of content revealed. The problem with this approach is that it stays focused on the past and ignores the subject’s present constellation which keeps this past alive, symbolically active.

Resistance expresses itself in the form of transference: what the subject cannot properly remember, she repeats, transferring the past constellation onto a present (e.g., she treats the analyst as if he were her father). What the subject cannot properly remember, she acts out, re-enacts ‒ and when the analyst points this out, her intervention is met with resistance.

Working through is working through the resistance, turning it from an obstacle into the very resort of analysis, and this turn is self-reflexive in a properly Hegelian sense: resistance is a link between object and subject, between past and present, a proof that we are not only fixated on the past but that this fixation is an effect of the present deadlock in the subject’s libidinal economy. The lesson is thus that remembrance alone doesn’t count: it moves the analysis forward only against the background of repetition (as part of the transference) – so remembrance counts only if it comes AFTER repetition.

In Seminar XI, Lacan points out that remembrance

“can be obtained more completely by other ways than analysis, but they are inoperant as far as cure is concerned. / It is here that we must distinguish the scope of these two directions, remembering and repetition. From the one to the other, there is no more temporal orientation than there is reversibility. It is simply that they are not commutative – to begin by remembering in order to deal with the resistances of repetition is not the same thing as to begin by repetition in order to tackle remembering. / It is this that shows us that the time-function is of a logical order here, and bound up with a signifying shaping of the real. Non-commutativity, in effect, is a category that belongs only to the register of the signifier.”[2]

While fully accepting the importance of factual truth – or, in this case, not a physical fact but his interpretation that explains the patient’s symptoms – a psychoanalyst has to tell this to the patient at the right moment, when (based upon his analytic experience) he is convinced that his statement will deeply affect the patient’s subjectivity, pushing him towards accepting some repressed truths about his subjectivity and desires. If the psychoanalyst tells this to his patient too early, the patient will dismiss it as irrelevant. For the truth to have an effect on those to whom it is told, it matters when it is told to them – and, obviously, the same goes for political statements. Jean-Paul Sartre formulated this paradox in a perfect way: “when the authorities find it useful to tell the truth, it’s because they can’t find any better lie. Immediately this truth, coming from official mouths, becomes a lie corroborated by the facts.”[3] If the factual truth is told outside repetition and transference (which guarantee the subject’s full engagement in what is told), it functions as a lie in the guise of truth.

Jean-Pierre Dupuy formulated a similar insight about social processes when he dealt with counterfactual situations – situations that are vaguely parallel to superpositions which disappeared in the collapse of a wave function. Dupuy returns again and again to the distinction between two types of conditional proposition, counterfactual and indicative: “If Shakespeare did not write Hamlet, someone else did it” is an indicative proposition, while “If Shakespeare had not written Hamlet, someone else would have done it” is counterfactual. The first one is obviously true since it starts from the fact that Hamlet is here, was written, and someone had to write it. The second one is much more problematic since it presupposes that there was a deeper historical tendency/necessity pushing towards a play like Hamlet, so even if Shakespeare were not to write it, another writer would have done it.[4] In this case, we are dealing with a rather crude historical determinism reminding us of what Georgi Plekhanov, in his classical text on the role of individuals in world history, said about Napoleon: there was a deeper historical necessity of the passage from Republic to Empire, so if, owing to some accident, Napoleon were not to have become the Emperor, another individual would have played his role.

Is exactly the same distinction not at work in how we consider Stalinism? For many, the rise of Stalinism was necessary, so that even without Stalin or in the case of his early accidental death, another leader would have played his role, maybe even Trotsky, his great opponent. For Trotskyites, but also some others like Stephen Kotkin, the role of Stalin’s contingent person was crucial: no Stalinism without Stalin, i.e., if Stalin were to have disappeared from the historical scene in the early or mid-1920s, things like forced collectivization and the practice of the “construction of Socialism in one country” would not have taken place.

Was then the rise of Stalinism a simple accident, the actualization of one of the historical possibilities that were lying dormant within the situation after the triumph of the October Revolution? Dupuy proposes here a more complex logic, the logic of retroactively transforming an accidental act into the expression of a necessity: “necessity is retrospective: before I act, it was not necessary that I act as I do; once I have acted, it will always have been true that I could not have acted otherwise than I did.”[5] Stalin could have died or he could have been deposed, but once he won, his victory retroactively became necessary. It is the same with Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon: he could have acted otherwise, but once he did it, crossing the Rubicon became his fate, he retroactively became (pre)destined to do it. This properly dialectical relationship between necessity and contingency is radically different from Plekhanov’s determinism: the point is not that, if Caesar were not to accomplish the fateful first step from the Republic to the Empire, there would have been another person to serve as the vehicle of this historical necessity. Rather, Caesar made a contingent choice which retroactively became necessary.

That is to say, we, of course, cannot change the past causally, at the level of facts; we cannot retroactively undo what actually happened, but we can change it counterfactually. In Hitchcock’s Vertigo, the past is also changed in this way. What Scottie first experiences is the loss of Madeleine, his fatal love; when he recreates Madeleine in Judy and then realizes that the Madeleine he knew already was Judy pretending to be Madeleine, what he discovers is not simply that Judy is a fake (he knew that she was not the true Madeleine, since he recreated a copy of Madeleine out of her), but that, because she is not a fake — she is Madeleine —Madeleine herself was already a fake. His discovery thus changes the past: he discovers that what he lost (Madeleine) never existed.

In his Seminar I, Lacan claims that the meaning of symptoms do not come from the past but from the future: as the analytic work proceeds, an interpretation is achieved at some later time that casts the whole behavior into relief in a wholly different light, and makes its sense clear: “while the unconscious is ideally inaccessible, it is realized in the symbolic; more precisely, ‘it is something which, thanks to the symbolic progress which takes place in analysis, will have been.’ At some point in the future, its past configuration will be determined; it is always caught up in a future perfect. As for the symptom, its meaning will also be realized (not “discovered” as the translator would have us believe). Meaning is not there from the outset, but constructed during the analytic process.”[6] It is also in this sense that, for Lacan, the status of the unconscious is not ontological (a deep substance of our psychic life) but ethical: it is the ethical task of the analytic process to realize it. And before we succumb to the temptation to dismiss this notion of the symptom as something constrained to the early Lacan prone to the idealist notion of the Symbolic, we should recall that in one of his last texts, he also says that “the meaning of the symptom depends upon the future of the real.”[7] Is he not describing here the same retroactive determination of the past by the future?

So, in what sense does Lacan mention “the future of the real”? For Lacan, a true interpretation is not just another symbolic semblance but a discourse which is not of a semblance (the title of one of Lacan’s late seminars): it has effects in the real, it transforms the real of the patient’s subjectivity. Interpretation is not just a different symbolization of the unconscious real; it changes the basic coordinates of the real core of its subjectivity, if—that is—it is formulated at the right moment of the analytic process. Here time enters again: an interpretation has effects in the real only if it is formulated at the right moment; otherwise, it remains a symbolic bla-bla, a semblance which leaves the real unaffected, and hence, it is no wonder that the patient as a rule easily agrees with it. Direct acceptance of an interpretation is a proof that it has no effects in the real, that it leaves the core of the patient untouched.   

Especially today, in our Politically Correct times, a seduction process always involves the risky move of “making a pass.” At this potentially dangerous moment, one exposes oneself, one intrudes into another person’s intimate space. The danger resides in the fact that, if my pass is rejected, it will appear as a Politically Incorrect act of harassment; so, there is an obstacle I have to overcome. Here, however, a subtle asymmetry enters: if my pass is accepted, it is not that I have successfully overcome the obstacle. Rather, what happens is that, retroactively, I learn that there never was an obstacle to be overcome.[8] Do we not find a homologous paradox of asymmetrical choice in the Gospel according to John, when Christ says he did not come to judge but to save, rejecting judgment with the rationale of don’t judge (others) for you will yourself be judged? The text then goes on:

“Whoever believes in him is not judged [ou krinetai], but whoever does not believe is judged [kekritai] already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:18–19 ESV).

The temporality is here crucial: there is no present moment of judgment when you are judged; you either are not judged or you have already been judged. What is excluded is to be judged innocent, the same as in Dupuy’s example of seduction: either you fail and the obstacle remains in force (you are rejected as a harassing intruder) or there was no obstacle at all. What is excluded, therefore, is to successfully overcome/force the obstacle. And, incidentally, exactly the same asymmetry is at work in the Hegelian dialectical process: the subject either stumbles upon an insurmountable obstacle or he realizes that there is no obstacle at all, that what appeared to him as an obstacle is the very condition of his success.

However, there is a dark obverse of this case. On September 2, 1998, Swissair flight 111 from JFK to Geneva crashed into the Atlantic Ocean southwest of Halifax, and all 229 people on board died. The investigation took over four years, and it disclosed that the flammable material used in the aircraft’s structure allowed a fire to spread beyond the control of the crew, resulting in the crash of the aircraft. After bringing out a series of wrong moves by the pilots and ground control, a report in the National Geographic Air Crash Investigation series ends by raising the question: if the pilots had avoided all mistakes, what then? The sad answer is: the flight was doomed from the beginning; no correct moves would have made a difference. So, it is not that “if the pilots had acted differently, the tragedy would have been avoided”; the counterfactual past possibility is retroactively canceled. This is how the past can be changed counterfactually: when we learn that the flight was doomed from the beginning, nothing changes at the level of (past) facts. What changes are just counterfactual possibilities.

Let’s take another well-known example from today’s politics: the pressure is mounting on Ukraine to abandon the goal of gaining back all the occupied territories and accept peace talks with Russia. Today, many of those on the “Left” who pretend to advocate a more “balanced” (i.e., pro-Russian) view of the Ukrainian war repeat again and again that the main cause of the continuing bloodshed is the NATO military support of Ukraine which boosts the profits of the military-industrial complex… There is an element of truth in this claim: yes, without NATO support, peace would soon be established there because Ukraine would be forced to capitulate. This is why we should also reject what, on March 9 2024, Pope Francis said in an interview and what was then celebrated by many peaceniks as a great wisdom: Ukraine should have what he called the courage of the “white flag” and of negotiating an end to the war with Russia. But a white flag is not a call for negotiations; it signals surrender. And if Ukraine falls, this would give an incentive to Russia to go on to conquer other countries. Ukraine must defend itself and survive to keep the long-term peace prospect viable… The most disgusting thing to do at this moment is therefore to repeat triumphantly the old motif “we were telling you for years that Ukraine cannot win…” – obviously true, but whatever the final outcome will be, Ukraine achieved an unexpected miracle in resisting Russia for such a long time.

Another stupidity is the idea that the Ukrainian war is just a moment of the conflict between Russia and NATO, with thousands of Ukrainians sacrificed to NATO interests to weaken Russia. Are Ukrainians really so stupid as to play this role while they could have enjoyed peace? What peace? Russian occupation which would annihilate them as a nation… This is why the alternative “peace through negotiations or war” is a false one: Ukraine will be in a position to negotiate only if it remains strong enough to present a real obstacle to Russian invasion. Here we see again how the relationship between armed resistance and peace negotiations is non-commutative: serious peace negotiations are possible only after the attacked side (Ukraine) pursues armed resistance and thereby demonstrates its strength and willingness to fight. Conversely, if we go directly to peace negotiations, they equal surrender…

Let’s finish this series of cases with the highest one from theology: the sin and the Fall. Is this case also noncommutative? Recall Hegel’s characterization of rational consideration itself as evil:

“Abstractly, being evil means singularizing myself in a way that cuts me off from the universal (which is the rational, the laws, the determinations of spirit). But along with this separation there arises being-for-itself and for the first time the universally spiritual, laws – what ought to be. So, it is not the case that /rational/ consideration has an external relationship to evil: it is itself what is evil.”[9]

The serpent says that by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, Adam and Eve will become like God; and after the two do it, God comments: “Behold, Adam has become like one of us” (Genesis 3:22) Hegel’s comment is: “So the serpent did not lie, for God confirms what it said.” Then Hegel goes on to reject the claim that what God says is meant with irony: “Cognition is the principle of spirituality, and this /…/ is also the principle by which the injury of the separation is healed. It is in this principle of cognition that the principle of ‘divinity’ is also posited.”[10] Subjective freedom is not just the possibility to choose evil or good,

“it is the consideration or the cognition that makes people evil, so that consideration and cognition /themselves/ are what is evil, and that /therefore/ such cognition is what ought not to exist /because it/ is the source of evil.”[11]

The good emerges as a possibility and duty only through this primordial/constitutive choice of evil: we experience the good when, after choosing evil, we become aware of the utter inadequacy of our situation. The queerness of the law thus reaches its apogee in Christianity in which we, humans, are a priori presumed to be fallen, to dwell in sin, so that the entire reign of the law consists of the rules of how to deal with our violations of the law: through confessions and other modes of ritualized repentance. That’s why, as many perspicuous theologians knew, the Fall is felix culpa, the fortunate fault / the blessed fall – or, as St. Augustine put it: “For God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit any evil to exist.” We have to add another step to this reasoning: in order to bring good out of evil, the good itself – God – has to bring evil out of itself. This is why we should turn around the standard Christian (or Catholic, more precisely) explanation of why there is evil in the world: God gave us freedom, and freedom is the freedom to choose what we freely decide, inclusive of evil… But is it not the other way round? God (more than just exposed us to the temptation of evil, he) pushed us into evil so that we would discover our freedom. There is no freedom without evil since, as Hegel knew very well, to be able to choose between good and evil one already has to be in evil.

Is, consequently, the paradox of the forced choice not inscribed already into the structure of God’s original gift of freedom to man? Man is given freedom – with the expectation that he will misuse it to break free from the Creator, i.e., to become effectively free. The only way to use the gift of freedom without incurring guilt is not to use it at all – in short, what we find here is the very structure of the forced choice: “you are free to choose – on condition that you make the wrong choice…” No wonder that, according to the standard Gnostic reading of the Fall, the snake which tempts Eve in Paradise is a benevolent agent of wisdom, trying to impart knowledge to Adam and Eve imprisoned within the walls of the Paradise by their evil Creator who wants to keep them in ignorance! God himself, by way of explicitly prohibiting Adam and Eve to eat the apple from the tree of knowledge, effectively WANTS them to violate his prohibition, to make the step into knowing good and evil and thus becoming aware of the shame of their nakedness. God is here himself inconsistent, divided, saying one thing and, beneath the lines, giving another covert injunction.

As Kierkegaard puts it, the prohibition awakens the possibility of freedom – the freedom to violate the prohibition, i.e., to eat from the tree of knowledge of the difference between good and evil. God engages here in a perverse strategy: in pronouncing the prohibitive Word, he solicits man to violate this prohibition and thereby become human, As St Augustine put it long ago (in his Enchiridion, xxvii): “God judged it better to bring good out of evil, than to allow no evil to exist.” Or, as Hegel, Kierkegaard’s great opponent, would have it, knowledge is not just the possibility to choose evil or good, “it is the consideration or the cognition that makes people evil, so that consideration and cognition /themselves/ are what is evil, and that /therefore/ such cognition is what ought not to exist /because it/ is the source of evil.”[12] In short, prohibition precedes what it prohibits, or, as Kierkegaard puts it, the explanation anticipates what is subsequent. The knowledge gained by Adam and Eve after eating from the tree is nonetheless not simply empty. Here is what happens after they taste the apple:

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ The man answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’ And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?’” (Genesis 3:7-11)

Before eating from the tree, the two were already naked, they just didn’t know it. They fell literally like the proverbial cat above the precipice which falls down only after it looks down and notices there is no ground under its feet. The shift involved in the Fall is thus purely subjective; it involves a different attitude towards what Adam and Eve are: the two of them merely realize (register, take note of) what they are – as in the famous passage from Molière in which a guy, when told that he is speaking prose – a new learned word for him –, asserts with pleasure that he knows how to speak prose. What betrayed their Fall to God was not their brash display of nakedness, but their feeling of shame at realizing that they were naked. One can say that their very moral feeling of shame made them guilty. Recall Alphonse Allais’s old joke when he pointed at a woman walking along a street and shouted: “Look at her! Beneath her clothes, she is totally naked!” In exactly the same way, a human being is guilty only under the cover of his/her shame. And is it not the same with the punishment that befalls them (they will die)? In the same way that they were already naked, they were also already mortal, they just didn’t relate to their mortality – as Heidegger would have put it, animals die, but only man relates to his death as his innermost (im)possibility. So, when God enounces the punishment, he just spells out what Adam and Eve already realized when they noticed that they are naked, namely their misery as two weak mortal beings.

To reintroduce here the term “observation,” one should point out that at the level of physical reality, NOTHING HAPPENS with the Fall; the Fall (eating the apple and gaining knowledge) means just that Adam and Eve register/observe what they were already doing. As Augustine emphasized, of course, there was sex in paradise before the Fall, but sexual acts were performed as a simple instrumental activity, like cutting woods or gathering fruits from the trees – there was no surplus-enjoyment in it. This enjoyment came only with awareness. And this fact allows us to introduce a noncommutative sequence of events: there is no sin before its prohibition, and there is no good before evil. Sins are the same acts we were doing before the prohibition; we were just not aware (observing) that we were doing them. Observation thus changes an innocent act into sin. In a similar way, we were not good before choosing evil because choice as such is evil. So, the Fall is not a fall from goodness; it retroactively creates what it falls from.

This brings us to another important topic: that of counterfactual situations. They are something that is immanent to reality itself: things are not just what they are, their actuality is accompanied by the shadow of what would have happened if a different course of action were to be taken. For example, when in 2020 we decided to impose a quarantine to curb the spreading of the Covid pandemic, we did this to diminish the number of infections and deaths. However, there is a key distinction to be made here:

“I have a choice of two actions, A and B. I choose A. I estimate that I am in a better situation in the option A than in the option B, as far as I can appreciate it after I have chosen A. However, I have no guarantee that if I were to choose B, my situation would have been the same as the one that I envisage for B after having chosen A. In other words, the presupposition is that the ‘actual’ (i.e., real) choice of B puts me into the same world as the ‘counterfactual’ (i.e., virtual, ‘against the facts’) choice of B if I’ve chosen A. Even more simply, the hidden hypothesis is that the ‘alternate’ worlds have the same reality as the world in which we really find ourselves.”[13]

We should abandon this hypothesis, not just for obvious empirical reasons—our counterfactual estimation of what would have happened if we were to choose B (no or much less quarantines) could simply turn out to be wrong. Remember how, in the Summer of 2020, when the UK authorities prohibited access to beaches? When this prohibition was largely ignored and the beaches were packed, this led to almost no increase in infections. To put it simply, A is not the same after I’ve chosen B – after I’ve chosen B, A is measured by the standards which made me choose B. And this brings us back to (Rovelli’s reading of) Zeilinger’s experiment: does this experiment not clearly prove that Lacan’s formulation is wrong, i.e., that non-commutativity is NOT “a category that belongs only to the register of the signifier”?

But are things really so simple? What if we risk a radical hypothesis according to which the “weirdness” of quantum phenomena resides in the fact that we encounter there phenomena which we thought were unique to the symbolic universe in which humans dwell? The claim “it seems that you need only to observe for what is happening to change” should be read very precisely, in its literal sense: the change is caused not by an element being observed but by an observation which sees nothing. Does this “astonishing thing” not come close to what Saussure called differentiality? If the identity of an entity resides only in its differences from other entities, then the fact that something doesn’t happen (at a place in the structure where it was expected to happen) counts as a positive fact.


[1] Carlo Rovelli, Helgoland, London: Penguin Books 2021. Numbers in brackets in this text refer to the pages of this book.

[2] The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XI, New York: Norton 1991, p. 40.

[3] Quoted in Ian H. Birchall, Sartre Against Stalinism, New York: Berghahn Books, 2004, p. 166.

[4] See Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Economy and the Future, East Lansing: Michigan State University Press 2014), p. 24.

[5] Op.cit., p. 110.

[6] Quoted from The Symptom 10: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Bruce Fink.

[7]  Jacques Lacan, La troisième [The third]. Lettres de l’Ecole freudienne 16 (1975), p. 186.

[8] Another case of such asymmetry: in an apparently “irrational” way, economic and financial agents, when confronted with the possibility of a catastrophic outcome, choose to ignore it: “They eliminate it from their calculations, on the ground that it is too horrible to bear close scrutiny. But it is precisely in removing it that they give it a place; in fact, a quite considerable place” (op.cit., p. 86). If the 50/50 alternative is either that our stocks will further grow or that a total collapse of the market will render them worthless, it may appear “rational” to diminish their value for half—but the truly rational strategy is to retain their full price, since, in this way, we win if things turn out OK, and if they turn out bad it doesn’t matter what we did.

[9] G.W.F. Hegel, Vorlesungen ueber die Philosophie der Religion II, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag 1969, p. 206.

[10] Op.cit., p. 207.

[11] Op.cit., p. 205.

[12] Op.cit., ibid.

[13] Jean-Pierre Dupuy, La Catastrophe ou la vie – Pensées par temps de pandémie, Paris: Editions du Seuil 2021, p. 16.