To think is to say no

The no as a conscious project?

Frédéric Manzini, in the footsteps of Alain and Derrida, opposes the thought of the yes, systematic and blind, to the thought of the no, which always questions its merits.

Thought refuses to acquiesce, to “give up arms”. It says no to itself to avoid its lazy transformation into a belief. Derrida: “What is interesting, philosophically, is not that thought refuses this or that, it is that it is the refusal itself […] This no, before stumbling against this or that object, is the very project of consciousness.”

A recalcitrant donkey

The definition brings us closer to Derrida’s thought and its context, the Algerian war, a procession of unacceptable ideas to which thought must say no! But is this really the right definition of thought? Is the function of a brain to refuse its own actions? Would evolution have given us, as a governing organ, a donkey that refuses to move forward?

The correct definition of thought is to be a manager of one’s own conflicts. And overcome them by building a more synthetic idea. Conflict is part of its intimate functioning, from trains of sensory excitement in the unconscious to contradictory events in the conscious. Several possible interpretations are perpetually vying for their subject. Which one to choose?


The mental function is not to say no to all these interpretations but to elect the Yes that is best found there. Its position remains precarious. It is besieged by No(s) which are looking for an opening. It seeks to consolidate itself in the following events. The mind seeks stability. How else to survive in a torrent of contradictory information?

Identity is built on the progressive rooting of Yes(s). Solutions to conflicts. A personality not too jostled by life settles on solid references, Yes(s) that appear a little too satisfied, as Frédéric says. The personality tortured by the No(s), on the contrary, is the one who has not found the syntheses soothing. Neuroses. No-roses? Should we make it a definition of thought?

Let’s catch our breath

“To think is to say no”… is an affirmation! Alain and Derrida stop for a moment, satisfied, in their frantic chase in search of the Yes.

This race in the torrent of conflict is the true definition of thought. Turtles, rabbits, believers, no-roses, none of us definitively capture the Yes.


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