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Jacques Lacan: 1901-1981

LX:92 | Introduces Presence, Hollows Out Absence

There is only one resistance, the resistance of the analyst. The analyst resists when he doesn’t understand what he is dealing with. He doesn’t understand what he is dealing with when he thinks that interpreting is showing the subject that what he desires is this particular sexual object. He’s mistaken. What he here takes to be the objective is just a pure and simple abstraction. he’s the one who’s in a state of inertia and of resistance.

In contrast, what’s important is to teach the subject to name, to articulate, to bring this desire into existence, this desire which, quite literally, is on this side of existence, which is why it insists. If desire doesn’t dare to speak its name, it’s because the subject hasn’t yet caused this name to come forth.

That the subject should come to recognise and to name his desire, that is the efficacious action of analysis. But it isn’t a question of recognising something which would be entirely given, ready to be coapted. In naming it, the subject creates, brings forth, a new presence in the world. He introduces presence as such, and by the same token, hollows out absence as such. It is only at this level that one can conceive of the action of interpretation. (228-9)


Source

Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book II: Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 1954-1955.  Trans. Sylvana Tomaselli.  Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller.  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1991.


Notes

Desire - specifically, the Lacanian concept (désir) - is a key component of my approach to art.  This includes, among other elements, the Session, training and education, and the Aretaic framework. 

In the text of Lacan's Seminar XI (The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis) its translator, Alan Sheridan, provides some useful context for understanding the concept:

The human individual sets out with a particular organism, with certain biological needs, which are satisfied by certain objects.  What effect does the acquisition of language have on these needs?  All speech is demand; it presupposes the Other to whom it is addressed, whose very signifiers it takes over in its formulation.  By the same token, that which comes from the Other is treated not so much as a particular satisfaction of a need, but rather as a response to an appeal, a gift, a token of love.  There is no adequation between the need and the demand that conveys it; indeed, it is the gap between them that constitutes desire, at once particular like the first and absolute like the second.  Desire (fundamentally in the singular) is a perpetual effect of symbolic articulation.  It is not an appetite: it is essentially excentric and insatiable.  That is why Lacan co-ordinates it not with the object that would seem to satisfy it, but with the object that causes it (one is reminded of fetishism). (278-9)


LX:87 | The Analyst as Artist

A fine painter can be thought of as looking at “the same thing” other people look at, seeing something different, and making it visible to us: The painter reveals - renders perceptible - something we had not seen before. In the case of van Gogh, it might be the humanity in an old pair of shoes, in the case of Monet, it might be the shimmering colors in a garden under the influence of the hot summer sun. A photographer does something similar with light and textures: She uses films, filters, shutter speeds, and aperture settings to bring out something that is there - already there, waiting to be seen, as it were - but that is not seen without her help. A novice musician strives to play the notes written on the sheet music at more or less the correct speed, but the accomplished musician subtly brings out, by varying speed and stress, the multiple melodies or voices implicitly there in the very same notes.

That might be one fruitful way of thinking about what we as therapists do as well: We bring out something that is there - already there, waiting to be heard - but that is not heard without our help. As one of my analysands once put it, his desire was like a murmur, a heart murmur so faint no one had ever heard it before, not even him, until he began his analysis. (46)


Source

Fink, Bruce. Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Technique: A Lacanian Approach for Practitioners.  W.W. Norton & Company 2007. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

 The Shamans and Sorcerers. The Psychoanalysts. The Artists.

Works and Days

 

Documents

 


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LX:86 | Encouraging an Investment in the Desire to Know

It would seem that the analyst by repeatedly asking “why?” becomes associated, in certain cases, with a desire to know why. Lacan1 suggested that our general attitude in life is a will not to know: not to know what ails us, not to know why we do what we do, not to know what we secretly seem to enjoy, not to know why we enjoy what we enjoy, and so on. A strong motive, a considerable investment, is required for us to overcome that will not to know, and one of the trickiest tasks for the analyst is to find a way to inspire in his analysands such an investment. Perhaps it is at least in part the analyst’s will to know, as demonstrated in his continual questions, that inspires a desire to know in his analysands; it is his persistent asking of questions that allows him to become the cause of the analysand’s wondering, the cause of the analysand’s desire to know why.2 (35)


[1] Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book XX: On Feminine Sexuality: The Limits of Love and Knowledge (Encore 1972-1973). Trans. Bruce Fink. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1998. Pp. 1.

[2] As I have indicated elsewhere, it is the point at which the analysand formulates broad questions of her own about the why and wherefore of her direction in life that marks the end of the preliminary face-to-face meetings; in other words, this is the point at which the analyst should consider moving the analysand to the couch.
The analyst must, of course, be careful not to ask so many questions as to begin to direct what can and cannot be talked about in sessions. The general topics addressed and direction of sessions should be left up to the analysand, except when she is obviously avoiding important work.


Source

Fink, Bruce. Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Technique: A Lacanian Approach for Practitioners.  W.W. Norton & Company 2007. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

Efficacious Transference

Works and Days

 

Documents

 


Notes

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LX:78 | The Individual Myth

It was exactly this sort of contrast between elements of an individual’s biographical vocabulary and formal, organizing principles that would interest the anthropologist Clause Lévi-Strauss. Although the constituents of a biography or a myth were infinite, why should the forms they took turn out to have a limited number of structures? In his paper “The effectiveness of symbols,” published in 1949, he argued that whereas the preconscious consisted of an individual lexicon “where each of us accumulates the vocabulary of his personal history,” the unconscious “structures it according to its laws and thus transforms it into language.” The unconscious “is as alien to mental images as is the stomach to the foods which pass through it. As the organ of a specific function, the unconscious merely imposes structural laws upon inarticulate elements which originate elsewhere - impulses, emotions, representations and memories.”1

Lévi-Strauss’s article was important to Lacan in a number of ways. As well as introducing the idea of what Lévi-Strauss called an “empty unconscious,” it elaborated a subtle comparison of the work of the psychoanalyst and the shaman. The shaman appeals to myth to reintegrate what a patient may experience as arbitrary and incoherent physical pain. The appeal to the symbolic system of myth can serve to situate this in a framework of meaning, giving the patient a language in which to express his or her psychic state. But whereas the shaman’s patient receives a social myth which does not correspond to a “former personal state” (a physical disorder), the Western neurotic starts out with “an individual myth” made up of elements drawn from his or her past.

This myth would consist of elements from the patient’s personal history - their vocabulary - structured by the symbolic function of the organizing principles of the unconscious. “The form of myth.” says Lévi-Strauss, “takes precedence over the content of the narrative.”2 This would explain the fact that, following Freud, there are a limited number of complexes, although the diversity of patients’ experiences is obviously unlimited. The complex moulds the multiplicity of cases, and is equivalent to what Lévi-Strauss calls the individual myth.


[1] Claude Lévi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology, trans. Claire Jacobson and Brooke Grundfest Schoepf (New York: Basic Books, 1963), p. 203

[2]Lévi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology, p. 204.


Source

Leader, Darian.  "Lacan's Myths."  The Cambridge Companion to Lacan.  Ed. Rabaté, Jean-Michel.  Cambridge University Press, 2003.  37-38. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

Training of the Self By Oneself
Stultitia

Works and Days

It's Hard To Say

Documents

 


Notes

 


LX:77 | Desire Proper to the Analyst

No one has ever said that the analyst should never have feelings toward his patient. But he must know not only not to give in to them, to keep them in their place, but how to make adequate use of them in his technique. (32)


Source

Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book I: Freud's Papers on Technique 1953-1954.  Trans. John Forrester.  Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller.  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1991.  


See Also

Lexicon Entries

The Analytical Relation
A Desire To Obtain Absolute Difference
Anxiety as a Signal
Of Beyond the Pleasure Principle
White

Works and Days

 

Documents

 


Notes

 


LX:76 | Standing Toe to Toe

The unconscious, according to Lacan, has to be understood as a chain of signifiers. The central term in this definition is of course, the signifier. This term has to be understood in an active sense: the (linguistic) signifier must be thought of as something that cuts actively into something else that is not yet structured, in the strict sense, and in so doing gives rise to meaning. A few examples will illuminate this idea. It is known that Lacan attaches great importance to fatherhood, and to what he calls the “Name-of-the-Father”. But what is a father? At first sight it seems the answer to this question is readily available. Is not the father simply the begetter of the child? Nevertheless, it would appear from anthropological research that the matter is somewhat more complicated than we usually think. Certain primitive tribes ascribe pregnancy not to coitus with this or that man, for example, but rather to an encounter with spirits in an out-of-the-way place. One need not infer from this that the members of the tribe have no notion of the connection between coitus and pregnancy. This seems rather unlikely. What is at stake here is not so much the question of whether the members of the tribe do or do not know that there can be no pregnancy without coitus, but rather that of whether there exists in the symbolic system a signifier that expresses the idea that the one with whom the woman has coitus is also the father of the child that she bears. In other words, it turns out that the connection between procreation and fatherhood is decided on the level of the symbolic system; it is a question of whether there is a signifier in the symbolic system that articulates this connection. According to Lacan, it follows from this that the signifier is not merely the reproduction of a previously given order. On the contrary, it actively institutes a function - fatherhood - that clearly cannot be directly derived from the facts of experience.

A second example1 might further clarify the meaning and importance of the signifier - the distinction between “man” and “woman.” Few will want to contest that there is indeed such a distinction. Nevertheless, if we try to found [sic] this difference exclusively in reality, we will be disappointed. As much as we might endeavor to justify this distinction in terms of various feelings, patterns of thinking, and so on, we will never find anything more than gradual differences. Yet we are not a bit “man” and a bit “woman” (or vice versa), but either “man” or “woman” - we are one or the other. This absolute difference does not exist in (lived) reality, which knows only gradual distinctions. Even a reference to biological data is of little help here. Certainly, it is difficult to deny that relevant biological differences exist between “men” and “women,” but even these differences seem to offer no satisfactory explanation for the fact that we admit, without hesitation, to belonging to one or the other category. That I am a “man” or a “woman” - the one or the other - is not a pure biological given. On the contrary, such a strict order, on the basis of which we have simply to “choose” one or the other category, only comes about when the symbolic system “impresses” itself, as it were, upon (biological) reality and upon lived experience. The strict difference between “man” and “woman” comes to us from language, as do all other distinctions by which reality is for us ordered and receives it meaning (for example, the distinction between human and animal, between human and gods, etc.). In Lacan’s terms, these distinctions come to us from the order of signifiers, and they must therefore be understood as an actively structuring principle. Lacan has a name for this articulated system of differential (linguistic) distinctions that lays down for us the law in accordance with which we can perceive reality as meaningful: the symbolic. The symbolic is the order of language and of the law.2 Lacan often calls this order the Other (l’Autre).3

Thus it also becomes clear why we said, in our exposition of Freud above, that the expression “reality outside of us” requires further consideration, and cannot simply be accepted as it stands. The world in which we carry on our everyday existence is always already structured by the signifiers of language. The world in which we shape our lives receives its form from our expectations, intentions, representations, and so on, and these are themselves structured in turn by the symbolic systems that determine us (for example, in articulating the difference between man and woman). At the very least, then, the opposition between language and the thing about which it speaks is more complex than we suggested above, and than Freud sometimes seems to think. The world about which we speak and in which we live is no “brute” reality; it is itself already mediated and structured by the signifiers of language, which allow it to appear as a meaningful and differentiated environment (Umwelt).

The signifier actively institutes meaning. Language does not simply reflect reality; it is not the expression of a previously given order. The reality in which we carry on our existence must, on the contrary, be understood in a pregnant sense as the effect of the order of signifiers. In this context, Lacan points out that signifiers are essentially determined diacritically or differentially. In other words, they signify primarily on the basis of their difference from other signifiers and not, for example, by referring to a non-linguistic reality. Let us return to our example of the difference between “man” and “woman.” It is clear that the signifier “man” only has meaning as opposed to the signifier “woman” - for what could “man” mean without “woman”? The signifiers “man” and “woman” receive further meaning from a complex network of references in which signifiers such as “human,” “animal,” and “plant,” for example, hold a central place. The meaning of a signifier is in the first place dependent upon the linguistic context of which it is a part. Moreover, the fact that a signifier only receives meaning from a complex network of signitive references immediately implies, for Lacan, that the meaning of a signifier changes according to the context in which it is taken up. When an analysand says in an analytical session, Je vais à la mer (“I am going to the sea”), the analyst might hear, Je vais à la mère (“I am going to the mother”), basing her interpretation on other associations that the analysand has formulated in the course of this or other sessions. A second example can perhaps make the point somewhat clearer. Some years ago, for professional reasons, I opened a bank account in Holland, and the bank clerk asked if I had any “titles.” I replied that I did, but immediately added that I wanted to keep them in Belgium, where I was living at the time. The man looked at me strangely, and asked me if the “titles” were not valid in Holland. After a bit of talking back and forth, it turned out that he had meant academic titles, while I, because of my Belgian background, had understood “titles” in the sense of the French titres (“financial securities”).4  Just as the associative context determined the meaning of the signifier mer/mère (“sea”/“mother”) in the first example, so here the meaning of the signifier “title” changes depending on whether it is to be understood in an academic context or an economic one. The production of meaning is thus in principle a process that cannot be closed off. There is no ultimate context that could, as it were, embrace all contexts and so bring the production of meaning to completion.

To some extent, we can also understand now why Lacan says that his thesis “the unconscious consists of a chain of signifiers” is in agreement with the basic theses of the Freudian oeuvre. According to Freud, the unconscious is not of the order of language because the unconscious does not know any reference to reality, and it is precisely language that introduces this reference. Lacan’s differential definition of the signifier, however, implies that language cannot be understood primarily as a reference to a reality outside of it, as Freud had thought. On the contrary, the meaning of a term is determined by its place in the system; it is the product of the “play of signifiers.” Just as the Freudian “thing-presentations” combine with each other and generate effects without taking reality into account, so too the Lacanian “play of signifiers” is not determined by a self-sufficient, pre-given referent. Both the Freudian and the Lacanian unconscious, as it were, put external reality out of play. (7-13)


[1] In what follows we give as an example of signifiers the words “man,” “woman,” etc. Later we will have to nuance this. Signifiers are not in the first place words, but the significant differences that are articulated by phonology.

[2] Later we will specify this as the law of the father.

[3] The term “Other” in Lacan does not refer exclusively to the order of language and the law as such. Lacan also often uses this term to indicate the unconscious. For the unconscious is also of the order of language. Furthermore, he also calls other “persons” l’Autre insofar as they represent the order of language and the law.

[4] To understand this example the reader should know that both the author and the bank clerk were speaking Dutch. The confusion arose because more legal terms derived from French are used in the Dutch spoken in Belgium (Flemish)


Source

Van Haute, Philippe. Against Adaptation: Lacan's "Subversion" of the Subject.  Trans. Paul Crowe and Miranda Vankerk.  Other Press 2002. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

The Red Ink
Discourse
More Than I Know
Reflective Understanding
Diplomatic Situation
The Trap of Life and Experience
Questioning Builds A Way
Parrhesia
The 'Claro, Pero' Paradox
A Snobbish Idiot 

Works and Days

Documents

pdf CPE : Signifier, Signified (94 KB)


Notes

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LX:74 | The Trap of Life and Experience

The Psychoanalyst’s first task is to listen and to listen carefully. Although this has been emphasized by many authors, there are surprisingly few good listeners in the psychotherapeutic world. Why is that? There are several reasons, some of which are primarily personal and others of which are more structural, but one of the most important reasons is that we tend to hear everything in relation to ourselves. When someone tells us a story, we think of similar stories (or more extreme stories) we ourselves could tell in turn. We start thinking about things that have happened to us that allow us to “relate to” the other person’s experience, to “know” what it must have been like, or at least to imagine how we ourselves would have felt had we been in the other person’s shoes.

In other words, our usual way of listening is centered to a great degree on ourselves - our own similar life experiences, our own similar feelings, our own perspectives. When we can locate experiences, feelings, and perspectives of our own that resemble the other person’s, we believe that we “relate to” that person: We say things like “I know what you mean,” “Yeah,” “I hear you,” “I feel for you,” or “I feel your pain” (perhaps less often “I feel your joy”). At such moments, we feel sympathy, empathy, or pity for this other who seems like us; “That must have been painful (or wonderful) for you,” we say, imagining the pain (or joy) we ourselves would have experienced in such a situation.

When we are unable to locate experiences, feelings, or perspectives that resemble the other person’s, we have the sense that we do not understand that person - indeed, we may find the person strange, if not obtuse or irrational. When someone does not operate in the same way that we do or does not react to situations as we do, we are often baffled, incredulous, or even dumbfounded. We are inclined, in the latter situation, to try to correct the other’s perspectives, to persuade him to see things the way we see them and to feel what we ourselves would feel were we in such a predicament. In more extreme cases, we simply become judgmental: How could anyone, we ask ourselves, believe such a thing or act or feel that way?

Most simply stated, our usual way of listening overlooks or rejects the otherness of the other. We rarely listen to what makes a story as told by another person unique, specific to that person alone; we quickly assimilate it to other stories that we have heard others tell about themselves or that we could tell about ourselves, overlooking the differences between the story being told and the ones with which we are already familiar. We rush to gloss over the differences and make the stories similar if not identical. In our haste to identify with the other, to have something in common with him, we forcibly equate stories that are often incommensurate, reducing what we are hearing to what we already know.1 What we find most difficult to hear is what is utterly new and different: thoughts, experiences, and emotions that are quite foreign to our own and even to any we have thus far learned about.

It is often believed that we human beings share many of the same feelings and reactions to the world, which is what allows us to more or less understand each other and constitutes the foundation of our shared humanity. In an attempt to combat a certain stereotype of the psychoanalyst as a detached, unfeeling scientist rather than as a living, breathing human being, certain practitioners have suggest that the analyst should regularly empathize with the analysand, highlighting what they have in common, in order to establish a solid therapeutic alliance. Although these practitioners have a number of good intentions (for example, to debunk the belief in the analyst’s objectivity), expressions of empathy can emphasize the analyst’s and analysand’s shared humanity in a way that whitewashes or rides roughshod over aspects of their humanity that are unshared.

I would propose that the more closely we consider any two people’s thoughts and feelings in a particular situation, the more we are forced to realize that there are greater differences than similarities between them - we are far more different than we tend to think! In any case, the alliance-building supposedly accomplished by an empathetic response on the analyst’s part (like “that must have been painful for you,” in response to what the analyst believes must have been a trying life event, say the break-up of a long-term relationship) can be accomplished just as easily by asking the analysand to describe his experience (“what was that like for you?”), which has the advantage of not putting words in the analysand’s mouth. In the work I do supervising psychotherapists of many ilks, I find that the comments that are most often intended by the therapist to be empathic and to foster in the patient a sense of being “understood” generally miss the mark, the patient responding, “No, it wasn’t painful. Actually, it was a lot easier than I thought - I never felt better!” The analyst who succumbs to the temptation to respond empathetically often find that she is actually not on the same page as the analysand at that precise moment.

In effect, we can understand precious little of someone’s experience by relating it or assimilating it to our own experience. We may be inclined to think that we can overcome this problem by acquiring much more extensive experience of life. After all, our analysands often believe that we cannot understand them unless we look old and wise, unless we seem right from the outset to have had a good long experience of life. We ourselves may fall into the trap of thinking that we simply need to broaden our horizons, travel far and wide, and learn about other peoples, languages, religions, classes, and cultures in order to better understand a wider variety of analysands. However, if acquiring a fuller knowledge of the world is in fact helpful, it is probably not so much because we have come to understand “how the other half lives” or how other people truly operate, but because we have stopped comparing everyone with ourselves to the same degree: Our frame of reference has shifted and we no longer immediately size everyone else up in terms of our own way of seeing and doing things. (1-4)


[1] This is true of most forms of identification: Certain facets of things or experiences must almost always be effaced or ignored in order for an identity to be established between any two of them. As Casement put it, “the unknown is treated as if it were already known.”

Casement, P.J. (1991). Learning from the patient.  New York & London: Guilford.


Source

Fink, Bruce. Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Technique: A Lacanian Approach for Practitioners.  W.W. Norton & Company 2007. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

Anxiety as a Signal
Silent Relationship with the Other
A Kind of Refusal of Understanding
Socratic Midwifery
Standing Toe to Toe
Context and Relevance
LX:98 | roll the dice

Works and Days

 

Documents

  pdf Mariu Palacios (Len Luterbach), Lima Peru (43 KB)


Notes

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LX:71 | A Limited But Infinite Path

But why say that desire is never satisfied, as if psychoanalysis had a pessimistic vision with respect to human aspirations?

I can appreciate your reservations. I will answer you by saying that in that place where desire does not attain its goal, I mean where it fails, a positive creation emerges, a creative act takes place. If that is the case, you would wonder, why must desire necessarily fail? Desire will never be satisfied for the simple reason that we speak. Inasmuch as we speak, inasmuch as we are immersed in the symbolic world, inasmuch as we belong to that universe where everything has a thousand-and-one meanings, we will never achieve a complete satisfaction of desire, for from here to the full satisfaction of desire, an infinite field constituted by a thousand-and-one labyrinths, spreads out. Since I speak, it is sufficient that on the path of my desire I advance a saying or posit an act, including the most authentic, to immediately encounter a host of equivocations at the source of every possible misunderstanding. Acts can then be creative, but the purest act or the most accurate word could never avoid the appearance of another act or another word that will divert me from the shortest path to the satisfaction of desire. Once the word is uttered and the act is posited the path toward the satisfaction opens once again. One approaches the goal, one posits an act in life, and yet another path opens. This line of desire exactly reproduces the trajectory of an analysis. It is a path which is not traced in advance, but is opened with each experience. The analytic experience takes place, it is inscribed as a point, and it opens from this point to a new section. We pass through it to another point, beginning a new passage. Considered as the trajectory of a cure, analysis is an expanding path, because once the limit is reached, it moves up one notch. The exact formulation would be: analysis is a limited but infinite path. Limited because it always faces a limit that stops it. And infinite because once reached the limit advances infinitely always further. This is precisely the same logic of displacement that we are able to use to understand both the trajectory of desire and the trajectory of an analysis.

According to the set theory proposed by Cantor, this expanding movement is ruled by a principle called the principle of passing to the limit.1 For Cantor, the passage to the limit signifies that arriving at the limit generates an infinite set. And if we return to our terminology, we say that one reaches the threshold, and right away, an additional sequence opens up onto infinity. (36-37)


[1] Georg Cantor, “Fondements d’une théorie générale des ensembles,” in Cahiers pour l’analyse (Paris: Seuil, 1969), 35-52.


Source

Nasio, Juan-David. Five Lessons on the Psychoanalytic Theory of Jacques Lacan.  Trans. Pettigrew, David and François Raffoul.  State University of New York Press 1998. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

Diplomatic Situation
Principle of Incompletion 

Works and Days

 

Documents

 


Notes

See About


LX:68 | Of Beyond the Pleasure Principle

I began my lectures this year with the onerous topic of the utilitarians, but the utilitarians are quite right. They are countered with something that, in effect, only makes the task of countering them much more difficult, with a sentence such as “But, Mr. Bentham, my good is not the same as another’s good, and your principle of the greatest good for the greatest number comes up against the demands of my egoism.” But it’s not true. My egoism is quite content with a certain altruism, altruism of the kind that is situated on the level of the useful. And it even becomes the pretext by means of which I can avoid taking up the problem of the evil I desire, and that my neighbor desires also. That is how I spend my life, by cashing in my time in a dollar zone, ruble zone or any other zone, in my neighbor’s time, where all the neighbors are maintained equally at the marginal level of reality of my own existence. Under these conditions it is hardly surprising that everyone is sick, that civilization has its discontents.

It is a fact of experience that what I want is the good of others in the image of my own. That doesn’t cost so much. What I want is the good of others provided that it remain in the image of my own. I would even say that the whole thing deteriorates so rapidly that it becomes: provided that it depend on my efforts. I don’t even need to ask you to go very far into your patients’ experience: if I wish for my spouse’s happiness, I no doubt sacrifice my own, but who knows if her happiness isn’t totally dissipated, too?

Perhaps the meaning of the love of one’s neighbor that could give me the true direction is to be found here. To that end, however, one would have to know how to confront the fact that my neighbor’s jouissance, his harmful, malignant jouissance, is that which poses a problem for my love.

It wouldn’t be difficult at this point to take a leap in the direction of the excesses of the mystics. Unfortunately, many of their most notable qualities always strike me as somewhat puerile.

No doubt the question of beyond the pleasure principle, of the place of the unnameable Thing and of what goes on there, is raised in certain acts that provoke our judgment, acts of the kind attributed to a certain Angela de Folignio, who joyfully lapped up the water in which she had just washed the feet of lepers - I will spare you the details, such as the fact that a piece of skin stuck in her throat, etc. - or to the blessed Marie Allacoque, who, with no less a reward in spiritual uplift, ate the excrement of a sick man. The power of conviction of these no doubt edifying facts would vary quite a lot if the excrement in question were that of a beautiful girl or it it were a question of eating the come of a forward from your rugby team, In other words, the erotic side of things remains veiled in the above examples. (187 - 188)


Source

Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-1960.  Trans. Dennis Porter.  Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller.  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1992. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

Sublimation;Desire Proper to the Analyst 

Works and Days

 

Documents

 


Notes

 


LX:67 | A Desire To Obtain Absolute Difference

The analyst’s desire is not a pure desire. It is a desire to obtain absolute difference, a desire which intervenes when, confronted with the primary signifier, the subject is, for the first time, in a position to subject himself to it. There only may the signification of a limitless love emerge, because it is outside the limits of the law, where alone it may live. (276)


Source

Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis .  Trans. Alan Sheridan.  Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller.  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1998. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

Anxiety as a Signal
Desire Proper to the Analyst
White

Works and Days

 

Documents

 


Notes

 


LX:66 | Anxiety as a Signal

In order to show you where we are headed, I am going to get well ahead of myself, after which we will backtrack, darting hither and thither like jackrabbits.

Where is the analyst situated in the subject’s relationship to desire, in his relationship to an object of desire that we assume, in this case, to be an object that brings with it the threat in question, the threat that determines the zu Verdrängen, the [fact that it] “must be repressed.” It goes without saying that none of this is definitive, but since we are broaching the problem in this way, let us raise the following question: when faced with a dangerous object, since that is what is involved here, what would a subject ordinarily expect from someone who would dare occupy the place of his companion? The subject would expect his companion to give a danger signal, a signal that, in the case of a real danger, would lead the subject to get the hell out of there.

What I am introducing here is something that people complain that Freud did not include in his dialectic, for it was truly something that needed to be done. I say that the internal danger is altogether comparable to an external danger, and that the subject strives to avoid it in the same way that we avoid external dangers. Look at what this provides us by of an effective articulation if we consider what actually happens in animal psychology.

Everyone has heard about the role played by signals among social animals like those that live in herds. When a predator shows up, the cleverest animal, or the one in the herd that is keeping watch, notices, smells, and locates it. Gazelles and antelopes raise their muzzles, make a little bellowing sound, and without delay the whole herd dashes off in the same direction. A signal as a reaction to a danger in a social complex, at the biological level, can thus be grasped in an observable society. Well, the same is true of anxiety as a signal - the subject can receive the signal from the alter ego, from the other who constitutes his ego.

You have heard me warn you at length against the dangers of altruism. I have explicitly told you to beware the pitfalls of Mitleid or pity, that which stops us from harming the other, the poor girl [la pauvre gosse], leading us to marry her and to both of us being bored for a long time to come - I am abbreviating here. However, if it is merely humane to alert you to the dangers of altruism, it does not mean that this is the final mainspring; and it is, moreover, in this respect that I am not, with respect to whomsoever I am speaking on a particular occasion, playing devil’s advocate. The latter would bring him back to a healthy egoism and steer him away from this truly likable direction that involves not being mean. For, in fact, this precious Mitleid or altruism merely covers over something else, and you can always find it, assuming that you look at it psychoanalytically.

He who is suffocated by this Mitleid is the obsessive, and the first step is to notice - using what I point out to you and what the whole tradition of moralists allows us to assert in this case - that what he respects, what he is unwilling to violate in the other’s image, is his own image. If the inviolability of this image were not carefully preserved, what would arise would truly be anxiety.

Anxiety when faced with what? Not when faced with the other in whom he sees himself, the one I called “the poor girl” earlier, who is poor only in his imagination, for she is always much tougher than you might think. When faced with “the poor girl,” he is scared to death of being faced with the other a - not the image of himself, but the object of his desire.

I will illustrate this with the following point, which is quite important. Anxiety is undoubtedly produced topographically in the place defined by i(a) - in other words, as Freud articulated it in his last formulation, in the place of the ego. But there is no anxiety as a signal except insofar as it is related to an object of desire, inasmuch as the latter disturbs the ideal ego - that is, the i(a) that originates in the specular image.

Anxiety as a signal has an absolutely necessary connection with the object of desire. Its function is not exhausted in the warning that one must take off. Even as it serves this function, a signal preserves one’s relationship with an object of desire.

This is the key to and the mainspring of what Freud accentuates in this text - as well as elsewhere, repeatedly and with the same accent, with the same choice of terms, and with the same incisiveness that is illuminating in his work - by distinguishing the situation of anxiety from that of danger and from that of Hilflosigkeit [helplessness or distress].

When in Hilflosigkeit or distress, the subject is purely and simply overwhelmed by a situation that irrupts, which he cannot cope with in any way. Between that and taking flight - flight which, not to be heroic here, Napoleon himself considered the truly courageous solution when it came to love - there is another solution and it is what Freud points out to us by underscoring the Erwartung character of anxiety.

This is its central feature. True, we can secondarily construe it to be a reason to take off, but that is not its essential characteristic. Its essential characteristic is Erwartung, and I designate it by telling you that anxiety is the radical mode by which a relationship to desire is maintained.

When the object disappears - for reasons of resistance, defense, or other ways of cancelling out the object - there remains what can remain, which is Erwartung. In other words, what remains is a pointing toward the object’s place, a place where the object is now missing, where we are no longer dealing with anything but an unbestimmte Objekt [an uncertain, undecided, or indefinite object], or again, as Freud says, an object with which we are in a relationship of losigkeit [not having it]. When we are at this stage, anxiety is the final or radical mode in which the subject continues to sustain his relationship to desire, even if it is an unbearable mode. (363-365)


Source

Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book VIII: Transference.  Trans. Bruce Fink.  Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller.  Polity Press. 2015. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

A Desire To Obtain Absolute Difference
The Trap of Life and Experience
Desire Proper to the Analyst
White

Works and Days

Saturday - Sunday September 5-6 2009 

Documents

 


Notes

 

LX:63 | Introduction to the Thing

Honey is what I am trying to bring you, the honey of my reflections on something that, my goodness, I have been doing for a number of years and which is beginning to add up, but which, as time goes by, ends up not being that much out of proportion with the time you devote to it yourselves.

If the communication effect here sometimes presents difficulties, reflect on the experience of honey. Honey is either very hard or very fluid. If it’s hard, it is difficult to cut, since there are no natural breaks. If it’s very liquid, it is suddenly all over the place - I assume that you are all familiar with the experience of eating honey in bed at breakfast time.

Hence the problem of pots. The honey pot is reminiscent of the mustard pot that I have already dealt with. The two have exactly the same meaning now that we no longer imagine that the hexagons in which we tend to store our harvest have a natural relationship to the structure of the world. Consequently, the question we are raising is in the end always the same, i.e., what is the significance of the word?

This year we are more specifically concerned with realizing how the ethical question of our practice is intimately related to one that we have been in a position to glimpse for some time, namely, that the deep dissatisfaction we find in every psychology - including the one we have founded thanks to psychoanalysis - derives from the fact that it is nothing more than a mask, and sometimes even an alibi, of the effort to focus on the problem of our own action - something that is the essence and very foundation of all ethical reflection. In other words, we need to know if we have managed to do anything more than take a small step outside ethics and if, like the other psychologies, our own is simply another development of ethical reflection, of the search for a guide or a way, that in the last analysis may be formulated as follows: “Given our condition as men, what must we do in order to act in the right way?”

This reminder seems to me difficult to disagree with, when every day of our lives our action suggest to us that we are not far removed from that. Of course, things present themselves differently to us. Our way of introducing this action, of presenting and justifying it, is different. Its beginning is characterized by features of demand, appeal and urgency, whose specialized meaning places us closer to earth as far as the idea of the articulation of an ethics is concerned. But that does not change the fact that we may in the end, or at any point whatsoever, discover such an articulation once again in its completeness - the kind of articulation that has always given both meaning and arguments to those who have reflected on morals and have tried to elaborate their different ethics. (19-20)


Source

Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-1960.  Trans. Dennis Porter.  Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller.  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1992. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

Sublimation;The Most Basic Sphere of Concern is Schooling;White

Works and Days

 

Documents

 


Notes

 


LX:62 | More Than I Know

This is one of the essential things I said [...] analysis can be distinguished from everything that was produced by discourse prior to analysis by the fact that it enunciates the following, which is the very backbone of my teaching - I speak without knowing it. I speak with my body and I do so unbeknownst to myself. Thus I always say more than I know (plus que je n’en sais). (119)


Source

Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book XX: On Feminine Sexuality: The Limits of Love and Knowledge (Encore 1972-1973).  Trans. Bruce Fink.  Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller.  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1998. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

Standing Toe to Toe; White

Works and Days

 

Documents

 


Notes

 


 

LX:60 | A Kind of Refusal of Understanding

Commenting on a text is like doing an analysis. How many times have I said to those under my supervision, when they say to me - I had the impression he meant this or that - that one of the things we must guard most against is to understand too much, to understand more than what is in the discourse of the subject. To interpret and to imagine one understands are not at all the same things. It is precisely the opposite. I would go as far as to say that it is on the basis of a kind of refusal of understanding that we push open the door to analytic understanding. (73)


Source

Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book I: Freud's Papers on Technique 1953-1954.  Trans. John Forrester.  Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller.  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1991.


See Also

Lexicon Entries

Get Off the Bus
The Trap of Life and Experience 

Works and Days

 

Documents

  pdf Mariu Palacios (Len Luterbach), Lima Peru (43 KB)  


Notes

 


LX:55 | Sublimation

Note that no correct evaluation of sublimation in art is possible if we overlook the fact that all artistic production, including especially that of the fine arts, is historically situated. You don't paint in Picasso's time as you painted in Velazquez's; you don't write a novel in 1930 as you did in Stendhal's time. This is an absolutely essential fact that does not for the time being need to be located under the rubric of the collectivity or the individual - let's place it under the rubric of culture. What does society find there that is so satisfying? That's the question we need to answer.

The problem of sublimation is there, of sublimation insofar as it creates a certain number of forms, among which art is not alone - and we will concentrate on one art in particular, literary art, which is so close to the domain of ethics. It is after all as a function of the problem of ethics that we have to judge sublimation; it creates socially recognized values. (107)


Source

Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-1960.  Trans. Dennis Porter.  Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller.  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1992. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

A Fundamental Quality of an Act; Introduction to the Thing; Of Beyond the Pleasure Principle;The Shamans and Sorcerers. The Psychoanalysts. The Artists.; White

Works and Days

 

Documents

 


Notes

 


LX:54 | A Fundamental Quality of an Act

Lacan draws a distinction between mere ‘behaviour’, which all animals engage in, and ‘acts’, which are symbolic and which can only be ascribed to human subjects. A fundamental quality of an act is that the actor can be held responsible for it; the concept of the act is thus an ethical concept.

However, the psychoanalytic concept of responsibility is very different from the legal concept. This is because the concept of responsibility is linked with the whole question of intentionality, which is complicated in psychoanalysis by the discovery that, in addition to his conscious plans, the subject also has unconscious intentions. Hence someone may well commit an act which he claims was unintentional, but which analysis reveals to be the expression of an unconscious desire. Freud called these acts ‘parapraxes’, or ‘bungled actions’ (Fr. acte manqué); they are ‘bungled’, however, only from the point of view of the conscious intention, since they are successful in expressing an unconscious desire. Whereas in law, a subject cannot be found guilty of murder (for example) unless it can be proved that the act was intentional, in psychoanalytic treatment the subject is faced with the ethical duty of assuming responsibility even for the unconscious desires expressed in his actions. He must recognise even apparently accidental actions as true acts which express an intention, albeit unconscious, and assume this intention as his own. (1-2)


Source

Evans, Dylan.  An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis.  Routledge. 1996. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

Act
Apologia
Efficacious Transference
Foucault's Objective
Freedom and Self-Emergence
Intentional Arc
Linguistic Structure of the Unconscious
Parrhesia
Principle of Incompletion
Quest for the Invariant
Reflective Understanding
Relations of Power
Situated Freedom
Socratic Midwifery
Take Care of Yourself
The 'Claro, Pero' Paradox
The Act of Naming
The Analytical Relation
The Central Attitude
The Intention to Speak
The Museum
The Notion of Liberation
The Red Ink
The Scope of Ethics
This Permanent Dissonance
Sublimation
Context and Relevance

Works and Days

 It's Hard To Say

Documents

 


Notes

See About


LX:52 | Symbolic Order

Before I leave you, and since one must punctuate, put in a final full stop, to serve you as an orientation table, I will tun once again to the four poles which I have more than once written on the board.

I begin with A, which is the radical Other, that of the eighth or ninth hypothesis of Parmenides, which is equally the real pole of the subjective relation and is what Freud ties the relation to the death instinct to.

Then, here you have m, the ego, and a, the other which isn't an other at all, since it is essentially coupled with the ego, in a relation which is always reflexive, interchangeable - the ego is always an alter-ego.

Here you have S, which is simultaneously the subject, the symbol, and also the Es. The symbolic realisation of the subject, which is always a symbolic creation, is the relation between A and S. It is subjacent, unconscious, essential every subjective situation.

This schematisation doesn't start off with an isolated and absolute subject. Everything is tied to the symbolic order, since there are men in the world and they speak. And what is transmitted and tends to get constituted is an immense message into which the entire real is little by little retransplanted, recreated, remade. The symbolisation of the real tends to be equivalent to the universe, and the subjects are only relays, supports in it. What we get up to in all this is to make a break on the level of one of these couplings. (321-2)


Source

Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book II: Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 1954-1955.  Trans. Sylvana Tomaselli.  Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller.  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1991. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

 

Works and Days

 

Documents

 


Notes


LX:49 | La Mort

Death belongs to the realm of faith.

You’re right to believe you will die. It sustains you. If you didn't believe it, could you bear the life you have? If we couldn't totally rely on the certainty, that it will end, how could you bear all this?

Nevertheless, it is only an act of faith. And the worst thing about it is that you're not sure! Why can't one of us live to be 150 years old? But even so... that’s where the act of faith becomes so strong. And in the midst of all this - the reason I'm telling you - is because I've seen it. One of my patients, a long time ago - you won’t have heard of her or I wouldn’t be telling you. Anyway, she suddenly dreamed that the source of existence would spring forever from her. The Pascalian dream... an infinity of lives descending from her in an endless line. She woke up half mad.

[audience laughs]

She told me that and, I assure you, she didn't find it funny.

So, there you are. Life... that's the solid base on which we live. As soon as we start talking about life as such... the life we live... there’s no doubt about it... we’re aware of it all the time... it’s a question of thought... of seeing life as a concept.


Source

Lacan, Jacques. Jacques Lacan Parle.  Dir. Françoise Wolff. 1972. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

Ideas (Alone and In Their Own Right); This Permanent Dissonance; Some Might Say 

Works and Days

 

Documents

 


Notes

 


LX:47 | Discourse

A discourse is that kind of social bond which we will call an agreement, if you like.

[...]

The least one can say is that everything that is built up between these animals known as humans is constructed, manufactured, and founded on language. [...] We cannot fail to observe that the thing which holds human beings together [...] is something related to language. I call discourse that ‘something.’ [Discourse is that something] which within language fixes, crystallizes, and uses the resources of language.


Source

Lacan, Jacques. Jacques Lacan Parle.  Dir. Françoise Wolff. 1972. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

The Intention to Speak; The Museum; The Red Ink;Standing Toe to Toe;White

Works and Days

Creative Activity

Documents

 


Notes

See About


 

 

LX:42 | The Act of Naming

He began by naming, and the thing existed. But clearly, a name alone is unable to establish existence. It must as well be the case that the name is repeated and inscribed in a structure. To name is not simply to attach a name, naming is an act which not only instantiates an element, but gives it consistency and engenders a structure. Freud names, the thing exists, and the consistency unfolds.

Now quite often, in the context of the cure, the psychoanalyst’s interpretation is limited to this act, the act of naming. A correct interpretation consists precisely in giving the right name to an event that emerges. In this way, it causes the structure of the unconscious to exist. But the problem is that one must interpret without giving it too much thought. An interpretation is not a reflective or calculated intervention. An interpretation is a name that one gives without much knowing, and in the giving of the name there is a leap. An interpretation is the leap of a name; it is a passage, a crossing, a risk taken. You see, as an act of naming, interpretation involves the risk of exposing oneself. (48)


Source

Nasio, Juan-David. Five Lessons on the Psychoanalytic Theory of Jacques Lacan.  Trans. Pettigrew, David and François Raffoul.  State University of New York Press 1998. 


See Also

Lexicon Entries

The Red Ink; A Fundamental Quality of an Act; The Museum 

Works and Days

Creative Activity

Documents

 


Notes

See About


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