As a late arrival I am perhaps particularly keen to carry this discussion forward. So, whilst still looking forward to responses to my first intervention, I already found myself engaged in further thoughts about the discussion so far.

Like others I am interested in the thought condensed by A. Phillips almost to the value of a sound-bite: 'the making of a theory is like the making of a phobia', where phobia is of course understood as an attempt to limit or master anxiety.

Whilst this may only express a fraction of what goes into the  making of a theory it nevertheless makes an interesting point. So let's run with it for a bit longer in order to explore what this might contribute to our question of the possibility of dialogue. Theories are symptoms – and so, in a certain, quasi-Lacanian, sense, are egos/identifications/ways of enjoyment/ways of life/Weltanschauungen/ideologies etc.

We could think about this for a moment from a perspective outside of psychoanalysis, i.e. that of system theory. According to Luhmann, who extends ideas first articulated by the Chilean biologists Maturana and Varela, both psychic systems and social systems (i.e. the two kind of systems that we are concerned with) are autopoietic – they constitute and maintain themselves via the establishment of a boundary or 'skin' that differentiates the system from its environment whilst allowing enough 'cross-border traffic' to secure its continuing life and growth. The constitution of any system relies for its functioning on a reduction of complexity as far as the perception and processing of the external world is concerned. Through this reduction of complexity the system achieves the coherence and continuity that allows it to operate in a reasonably stable manner within its highly complex environment – in fact, the system's (always particular and always limited) environment is, strictly speaking, already 'the other side' of its existence qua system. Internal/external or self/other differentiation, reduction in complexity and self-(re)generation are processes inextricably entwined with each other.

Luhmann points out that an important and ineluctable effect of the kind of reduction that establishes and maintains the system (our 'symptom', if you will) is generated precisely by that which is left out in the process. There is always a rest or a remainder that does not get represented in the constitution of the system and its environment (which, to repeat, is in every case specific to the system as it constitutes itself). Consequently, there is always a threat that the system will not be able to cope with that which exceeds it. This, of course, brings us in the vicinity of psychoanalytic conceptualisations of anxiety – exactly the affect that we are considering when we discuss the problems that alterity confronts us with, and which a phobic symptom, or a theory, might help us with.

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