Sunteți pe pagina 1din 159

lacanian

ink
lacanian ink (ISSN

1049-7749)

is published two times a year


(Fall/Winter, Spring/Summer)

30.00
50.00
overseas add$ 18.00 postage
Back Issues: individual$ 20.00
institutions$ 30.00

Editor
Josefina Ayerza

Subscriptions: individual$

Contributing Editors

institutions$

Alain Badiou

Mail orders to:

Adrian Dannatt
David Ebony
Barbara P. Fulks

lacanian ink

133 Wooster Street


New York, NY 10012
(212) 253-1002
fax: (212) 505-1507
email: lacink@lacan.com
http://www.lacan.com
Manuscripts, in duplicate or
on an Apple Macintosh
compatible diskette

JoanCopjec

(3.5"),

should be accompanied by a
SASE, and sent to lacanian ink
at the above address.
Please limit your presentation to

2,500 words. No responsibility


i assumed for loss or damage,
C"pyright 2006 by lacanian ink.

Jorge Jauregui
Richard G. Klein
Cathy Lebowitz
Peggy Phelan
Raphael Rubinstein
Slavoj Zizek

27
Josefina Ayerza
Jacques-Alain Miller

To resume again. . .
On Jacques Lacan's Anxiety II

The Names-of-the-Father

Alain Badiou
Mehdi Belhaj Kacem
Slavoj Zizek

The Formulas of l 'Etourdit


On Agamben's

Profanations

The Fundamental Perversion


Lacan as Reader of Hegel

Robert Gober
Cathy Lebowitz interviews JA

1978-2000
Catherine Opie

2
8
64
80
96
114
130
142
150

CATHERINE Qprn's work courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles. BLAKE


RAYNE' work courtesy of Miguel Abreu Gallery, NYC. ROBERT GoBER's
work courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery, NYC. FLORENCIA GONZALEZ
ALZAGA's work courtesy of the artist.

JACQUES-ALAIN MILLER is a practicing analyst and teaches psycho


analysis at Paris VIII. Sole editor of Jacques Lacan's Seminars and
writings, his latest book is Le neveu de Lacan (Broche).

ALAIN B ADIOU teaches philosophy at Paris VIII and is Conference


Director at the College International de Philosophie. His latest
book is Circonstances 2 (Leo Scheer) .
MEHDI BELHAJ KAcEM is a French writer and the author of Cancer
(1994), Vies te morts d'lrene Lepic (1996) and Esthetique du chaos
(Editions Tristram, 2000).
SLAvOJ ZIZEK is the author of several works on philosophy, psycho
analysis, and popular culture. His most recent books are The Uni
versal Exception and Interrogating the Real (Continuum) edited by
Rex Butler and Scott Stephens and The Parallax View (Verso).
CATHY LEBOWITZ is an editor at Art
editor for lacanin ink.

in America and a contributing

JosEFINA AYERZA is a writer and practicing analyst in New York


City. She writes regularly for artists' catalogues, Du, Flash Art,
and other publications.

Cover: CATHERINE OPIB


Self-Portrait/Nursing, 2004
C-print
40 x 32 inches
Dyke, 1993
C-priot
40 x 30 inches
Courtesy Regen Projects,
Los Angeles

To

resume

again...

For sixteen years now, lacanian ink has been publishing writers,
philosophers, poets, painters, art-critics, musicians ... , from very
different latitudes. To the point that we have a dialogue going on,
this dialogue is open enough as to not belong in a place; it happens
however in New York City, and this is how it includes everyone
of us, how it is us ...
lacanian ink21 is taking up on "The-Names-of-the-Father,"
Jacques Lacan's very succinct seminar.
It lasted a day.
It consists of the one lesson.
It doesn't have a number.
As you know we go from SeminarX: Anxiety to SeminarXI: The
Four Fundamental Concepts ofPsychoanalysis.
"Lacan didn't want to number it," says Jacques-Alain Miller
in his Des noms-du-pere, where he directly addresses the story, "and
do we want to say that from then on and forever there is a hole in
Lacan's teaching ... in the series of his seminars ...? Lacan liked
to interpret it, to provoke his audience, 'It wasn't by chance that I
couldn't give my seminar on The Names-of-the-Father ... ' as if to
give that seminar would have been in some way impossible... as
if there existed a curse ...
For Lacan there is a correspondence between the seminar.
and what was happening to him at the moment, that is his excom
munication; as if the bar placed on his name would necessarily be
followed by another on the seminar "The Names-of-the-Father."
The Name-of-the-Father divides into the theory of the father
"

lacanian ink

and the theory of the name: if we refer to the paternal metaphor, it


is the function ofmetaphorizing the desire of the mother, of barring
it; if to the event of naming, Kripke 's theory of dice, soon pointed
out by Lacan, brings in the function of a pure signifier of the proper
name to emerge in mathematical logic.
Calling on the logic of the "impossible," the proper name
ascribes to the unmovable. Saul Kripke called it a "rigid designa
tor." Not displaceable: Say we proclaim that George W. Bush is an
opera singer, he will still be George W. however we describe him.
The "possible," to which Lacan refers in "L'Etourdit," allows us
to understand that, if George W. Bush is not been an opera singer
nothing stops us from conceiving a possible world in which he was.
Here Slavoj Zizek would exist as a proper name.
The proper name does not depend on the list of properties
assigned to the person.
Here Lacan introduces thematically and for the first time in
his writing the concept of jouissance, or how to designate the being
of the subject without doing the same for the proper name. This is
the lacking name, which must be discovered, that is, the name of
jouissance, the name of my being as a being of jouissance. "We
can't call it my ob jet a," says Miller, "it is not a proper name, but in
spite of everything ..." In the diagnostic a subject is not designated,
he rather is a clinical structure as we speak of an obsessive, an
hysteric, a phobic... However, the true proper names in the clinie
include the surplus of jouissance of a subject, its objet a. W hen we
refer to the "Rat Man," or to the "Wolf Man," we give them proper
names, which have nothing to do with the Name-of-the -Father.
The unconscious, repetition, transference and drive, names
we owe to Freud, are the names of the father in psychoanalysis.
If$, a, A,- . are the new names of the father in psychoanalysis,
with Lacan the switching of the names turned into irony, since he
didn't have much hope that someday psychoanalysis could reach
a scientific state.
With Alain Badiou in his "Formulas of l'Etourdit," the Real
.

To resume again...

may be designated as impossibility, I quote " . . . and this is why one


of the synonyms for ab-sense in Lacan's text is ab-sex sense- the
formula which says that there is no sexual relation."
Mehdi Belhaj Kacem comments on Giorgio Agamben's
forthcoming Profanations.

Homo sacer is the paradox of politics.

Even when it is the people, the sovereign needs a sort of borderline


character to set up the order of the state: as the structure of the ban,
the law is irrelevant to Homo sacer.
Slavoj Zizek comments the ongoing rise of religious funda
mentalism: "its true danger does not reside in the fact that it poses
a threat to secular scientific knowledge, but in the fact that it poses
a threat to authentic belief itself."
In "Lacan as a Reader of Hegel," Zizek alludes to the
analyst as the Hegelian master who adopts the stance of a passive
observer, does not intervene directly into the content, but merely
manipulates the scene so that the content confronted with its own
inconsistencies destroys itself- it is this neutrality which keeps the
analyst "on the path of non action." The Hegelian wager is that
the best way to destroy the enemy is to give him the free field to
deploy his potentials, and that his success will be his failure, since
the lack of external obstacles will confront him with the absolutely
inherent obstacle of the inconsistency of his own position . . .

"

Cathy Lebowitz and I discuss the work of Catherine Opie,


the Name-of-the-Father here involved with a self-portrait of Mother
and baby child, while being fed at the breast . . .
Robert Gober rephotographs grainy snapshots taken during
a 1978 drive from New York City to Jones Beach . . .
Blake Rayne is a New York City young artist that inaugu
rated Miguel Abreu 's gallery with a show of his paintings.
Florencia Gonzales Alzaga is an avant-garde photographer
who lives and works in Buenos Aires.

Introduction to Reading
Jacques Lacan 's Seminar on Anxiety II*

JACQUES-ALAIN MILLER
translated by BARBARA P. FULKS

IV. ON THIS SIDE OF DESIRE

1. AMoBILE
A RHETorucIAN's ART
What I have in my hands is a book. And yet, rereading it, redis
covering it in this form, Magritte's statement comes to mind: ''This
is not a book."
I ask myself:

If it's not a book, then what is it?

It's more

like a film, a recording of a mobile's displacement. This mobile is


a thought that crosses a space, that opens a dimension and explores
it, that traces a path-not without getting lost, not without encoun
tering impasses, not without retracing its steps in order to look for
points of passage. A thought often designing panoramas which
vanish shortly after leaving excessively weighty details, which are
often mirages, and in whose direction one walks only to see them
dissipate. But the mirage and the dissipation are necessary in order
to find the exit which allows us to go beyond.

*L'orientation /acanienne, Paris, Spring 2004-text and notes in French edited by Catherine Bonningue

and published in

la Causejreudienne 59. Paris, February 2005.

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

If one tries to compose a Lacanian doctrine on anxiety from


this Seminar, one must pay attention and not take each formula for
the solution. One certainly finds, on rereading it, some twenty or
thirty definitions, and not one is definitive. One can't find a single
definition of anxiety which is not conditional, which is not relative
to some perspective. One sees the art of the rhetorician, of Lacan's
wit in the argumentation he advances. He argues pro and con, like
the debate instructor teaches. He is always so persuasive that one
might wish him to stop because one has understood.
No formula of anxiety in this Seminar will save us the
trouble of retracing the route of Lacan's steps. If I had to comment
on it-which I will not-I would do it paragraph by paragraph.
There is not one which doesn't need to be weighed, adjusted, which
does not need some rectification, some inflection, where one will
find in this or that place the reason for doing so.
I mentioned "getting lost," I spoke of impasse. On reread
ing it and knowing the end of the film-or at least of the work-one
cannot really go astray, because the whole text swarms with brain
waves valuable in themselves, independent of perspective, which
in themselves cause one to think and that can often be captured in
a phrase. I am going to try to greet the publishing of this Seminar
by delivering to you my compass, my own, which I constructed by
reading, by writing this Seminar. I still have to add some elements
or find some insights which have not yet come even to me.

CONSTRUCTED PHENOMENOLOGICAL MOMENT


I asked myself, holding this book in my hands, how I would respond
if I had to say in one word what it was about. This is the response
that I imagined being able to make: it is a matter of a plunge on
the side of desire.
What is there on the side of desire? The response is given,
repeated, hammered here, and I have provided a summary, maybe
even a duplicated schema: on the side of desire there is jouissance
and there is anxiety. One sees, in effect, the tertiary sequence laid

lacanian ink

10

out. It is an ordered tertiary often presented as a chronology which


lays out successive moments. It is, of course, the chronology of a
logical time in three moments.

Jouissance, mythic moment, Lacan more or less said, but


one must take this adjective in the way he used it more than once
to designate what exists of the more real (plus real).
Freud's text

Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety supports

the whole development of the Seminar. Lacan refers to it in the


beginning: anxiety is defined by Freud as an affect, and because it
is the good old anxiety, it is known and felt. This moment might be
called phenomenological. It appears, it is felt, one is bothered by
it, one loses one's footing, one is disoriented, or one feels anxiety
at being disoriented. Even if it is not developed by Lacan, the term
"phenomenology" is valid.

It is a commonly accessible affect.

But this moment of anxiety, as Lacan deals with, may well not be
accessible and easily found: One must keep in mind throughout
the Seminar his comment: "The time of anxiety is not absent from
the constitution of desire, even if this time is elided and not eas
ily found."1 To support this sensational assertion he offers, as if
to clear it up, a reference to Freud's "A Child Is Being Beaten,"
where it is a matter of the constitution of fantasme during three
times, the second time when confronted with being reconstructed.
This indication shows that, in Lacan's elaboration, the moment of
anxiety is logically necessary and that one benefits by remember
ing this in order not to be fascinated by the splendor, the horror
of the phenomenology of anxiety. This moment is thus fixed as
phenomenological and constructed at the same time.

ANTINOMY OF DESIRE
The constitution of desire is the subject of this Seminar, and it is
not at all that of the doctrine which has become Lacan 's classic
doctrine. One might designate desire here as an analytical moment
inasmuch as it depends, in a proper sense, on interpretation.

So

much so that Lacan was able to identify it as analytic interpretation,

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

11

saying "desire-it is its interpretation," because the functional status


of desire is to be repressed-an adjective I choose here in order
to join it with Freud's constructions. Repressed desire, this is the
desire that Lacan translated as metonymic, running under speech,
under the signifying chain. There is, however, in relationship to
this status of desire as metonymic repression, another face of desire
which itself is phenomenological: desire as fascinated by the object.
Lacan's nine previous Seminars used the spectacle of fascinated
desire. What Lacan develops, designated as constitution of desire,
is what he will develop the following year in a much tighter way
as the causation of the subject stemming from the two operations
of alienation and separation.2
These two adjectives, repressed and fascinated, introduce
an antinomy of desire in the Lacanian definition. On the one hand
there is a metonymic status of the instance of desire, of its insistence
under the signifying chain, among the signifiers, in the interval. It
is a desire in some way invisible, inaudible, or else one may imag
ine it "of the analyst"; and then there is the imaginary status of its
object. Until then, in Lacan's elaboration, there were very rapid
slidings which joined these two statuses, a symbolic status and an
imaginary status affecting desire.

Drive

Jouissance

Anxiety

Anxiety

Repression

Desire

mythic and real


phenomenological and constructed
repressed and fascinated

In its metonymic status, which Lacan set up in "The agency of the


letter in the unconscious or reason since Freud,"3 the novelty is to
see that desire is a desire for nothing, that it is only the metonymy of
the lack-in-being, and that at the end of desire there is nothing. At
the same time, when desire is combined with the relation of love,4

lacanian ink

12

it is valid to speak of desire aimed towards the object distinguished


from among all the rest, as Freud develops it in his chapter "Being
in Love and Hypnosis" in

the Ego.5

Group Psychology and the Analysis of

There is the antinomy between the desire as desire for

nothing and desire as desire for a distinguishable object. It is good


that some imaginary exists in the desire which stages the scene of
desire and, in this staging, the subject displays himself attracted,
magnetic, because of the object. He finds obstacles which conflict
with his reaching the object, difficulties or impasses to its posses
sion. This staging of desire causes much of what is expressed in
the analytic experience, where it is a question of what is desirable
and how one reaches it.

2. AIMED-FOR OBJECT AND OBJECT-CAUSE


FROM INTENTIONALITY TO CAUSALITY
Up until the Seminar on

Anxiety,

the scene of desire was always

structured by the intentionality of desire. Lacan mentions this term,


which has very precise references in philosophy in the beginning of
the twentieth century, and in French phenomenology. He remained
fond of the model of intentionality which ruled the thought of the
middle of the last century until this Seminar. One credits the origin
of this idea to Brentano, who, as Sartre says, was opposed to the
concept in idealist philosophy inwhich "Spider-Spirit" (Esprit-Ara

ignee), the spirit of not

being able to think except in ideas, attracts

things in its web in order to make of them immanent contents of


consciousness. Sartre explains, to the contrary, that consciousness
is not a content, that it is empty, and lacks being in relationship
with the world into which it bursts. The world is not idealized; it
remains in its place, outside, and it is, on the contrary, consciousness
which is directed toward what is there in the world. Sartre reminds
us of what Husserl says: "Every consciousness is consciousness
of some thing."6 Every consciousness exists as consciousness of
something other than itself. The model which until then structured

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

13

the scene of desire for Lacan is that of a desire which has the ob
ject in front of it. Even if he managed to complicate the status of
the object by putting it in the jantasme, it remained in front of the
desire which obeys the structure of intentionality. The Seminar on

Anxiety challenges this structure of intentionality. It is a solution.


As designed here, things are antinomic with the metonymic status
of desire in the way that the object and the metonymic nothing are
arranged. Throughout this Seminar Lacan elaborates the causality
of the object which returns as a leitmotif in the place of the structure
of intentionality. He introduces it at the beginning in the simplest
way: "The real object is not in front, but behind."
One has to distinguish here the aimed-for object and the
object-cause, the latter introduced in this Seminar after having been
introduced at the beginning of this year in "Kant avec Sade. "7 The
aimed-for object of desire is that which one can introduce in the
amorous connection, while Lacan tries to show the function of the
object-cause through anxiety.

object-cause
anxiety

palea

aimed-for-object
love

agalma

The ethical status of the aimed-for object is

agalma, while, par

excellence, the object-cause is rather on the order of pa/ea. To

the Greek agalma, the precious thing, Lacan opposes the Latin
palea, the left-over (dechet), and he devotes long expositions to
the anal object which is paradigmatic of an eminent function of
the object-cause.
In the Seminar

Le transfert, inspired by the question of

what Alcibiades finds in Socrates, Lacan explains the prevalence


of the aimed-for object. W hy does Alcibiades make Socrates the
aimed-for object of his desire? The solution that Lacan finds and
develops consists in explaining the prevalence of this object by the

lacanian ink

14

hidden presence in it of agalma, of the partial object. He enumerates


these objects: the oral object, the anal object, the phallic object.8
The partial object of analytic theory- we owe the term to Karl
Abraham-is placed on the side of the aimed-for object. We see
desire here under the regime of love. The fascinating object whose
paradigm is the phallus, the big phi (<I>), is set up at this moment.
On the side of love, it is a paean to the fascinating object.

In the Seminar on Anxiety we have, on the contrary, an


elaboration which rectifies this detour, this necessary going astray,
in order to restore the partial object to its place as object-cause.
The partial object is put back in the place of cause under the types
described as remainder and left-over. Desire is conceived as a cut,
null, separated object that has been let go of, which the subject has
transferred, and whose paradigm is the

object-cause
anxiety

--+

--+

objet a.
aimed-for-object
love

agalma

palea
partial object
CoNDmoNALITY OF DESIRE

From here it is not difficult to anticipate that this Seminar proceeds


to a restoration of desire. It is not a matter of the realization of
desire, this very important term in L'acan's previous Seminars. The
end of desire is always a false end, a misunderstanding of the object
that counts. Desire is a misunderstanding. What Lacan saw there
will accompany him in all the rest of his teaching, when he will
define, at the same moment in which he will advocate the pass, the
end of analysis as a deflation of desire; that is to say it is deflated as
if by an analytic detumescence, in which the fascinating aimed-for
object disappears.

In a repetitive way in this Seminar the idea returns that the


object aimed-for through desire is only a lure. To the extent that,

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on

Anxiety II

15

when Lacan evokes Buddhism at some point, he asserts again that


desire is only an illusion. Desire is not truth but illusion. He repeats
this assertion in order to validate it, not entirely, but to validate that
it can have meaning for our experience.9
From this Seminar, one can deduce a direction of the cure
from his point that the analyst is not fascinated by desire, or even
by the interpretation of desire; what must be interpreted is on this
side of desire. The object-cause must be interpreted. Lacan will
say later that interpretation bears on the cause of desire, but this
is where the change in the point of application of interpretation is
outlined.
The first time that Lacan proposes this still-mysterious
object-cause, he illustrates it by the fetish of fetishistic perversion.
It is here, he says, that the dimension of the object as cause of desire
is unveiled; the fetish is not desire, but it must be there in order for
there to be desire, and desire itself is going to stick around wher
ever it can. You see to what level the fascinating object of desire
has fallen. It is no longer any old place where desire is going to
stick around: it must be there. One can already, in this "be there,"
see Dasein, from which Lacan will characterize as the objet petit
a, resonate.
What Lacan develops in this Seminar is an object which is
the condition of desire, and this condition is distinct from intention.
It is the conditionality of desire in relationship to what was once
its intentionality.

object-cause
anxiety

agalma

palea

\_

aimed-for-object
love

partial object

conditionality

intentionality

lacanian ink

16

TRUI'HFUL OBJECT AND FALSE OBJECT


The illustration of fetishism as perversion is made, not to restrict
the validity of this construction, but, on the contrary, to reveal the
status of desire as such, that it is appended to a different object
from the one it aims for. I'm describing for the moment a fantastic,
even abstract world. I intend to give you some connecting points.
An internal misrecognition of desire-which is displayed in the
Seminar-is entailed. The misrecognition is posed by Lacan in an
enigmatic fashion, beginning in the second lesson, in a confrontation
with Hegel, described by the phrase, "Man's Desire is the Desire
of the Other." This lesson concludes with the evocation of how
the struggle of pure prestige which takes place between the two
confronting consciousnesses in The Phenomenology ofSpirit could
be expressed by the plan of love. Lacan expresses it in terms of
mastery: "I love you even if you don't want me to." This is the dia
lectic of master and slave transposed to the register of love. Lacan
opposes another formula to it, mysterious, enigmatic, a formula of
which he says that it may not be articulatable even though it might
be articulated. This formula involves the impossible and designates
the real of the matter: "I desire you even if I don't know it."
I leave to one side why Lacan considered this formula to
be irresistible if it manages to be understood. I'll just note this:
"I desire you even if I don't know it" expresses the nescience of
desire. Authentic desire is desire inasmuch as it doesn't know its
object; it doesn't know the object it causes. The formula is not
articulatable inasmuch as the desire is repressed, that is to say, the
desire is unconscious.
One witnesses in the Seminar on Anxiety a doubling of the
object, that of object-cause and aimed-for object, a doubling which
is transferred to the two statuses of the object: the authentic object,
which is always the unknown object, that which is properly petit

a,

and the false

objet petit a,

the

agalma.

This opposition of the

authentic object and the false object is an opposition which is, in


the light of what Lacan developed later, somewhat unpolished, but

Reading Jacques Lacan 's Seminar on Anxiety II

17

this opposition inspires the contrast that Lacan makes between the

jantasme of the

pervert and that of the neurotic. 10

Pervert

Neurotic

1>
subject

Other

What this elementary schema attempts to show is that, for the per
vert, as one said at the time, the petit a is in its place, on the side of
the subject, but where the subject cannot see it. It is on the side of
the Other that it becomes visible, since, on the side of the subject
there is nescience, in the place where the

objet petit a is properly

inscribed. This is illustrated in "Kant avec Sade," by the position


of Sade who is unaware of himself as

objet petit a; he is unaware

that he stands in the place of the object.


This is, on the other hand, a bit more developed in the Semi
nar, which explains certain of Lacan 's statements in a contemporary
text, "The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire in
the Freudian unconscious":11 that the neurotic, on the contrary,
makes the petit a pass to the side of the Other. He is busy with his
fantasme, he is conscious of it and he can take this object as aimed
for. It is not the authentic place of the objet petit a for Lacan such
as he poses it in the Seminar, where it is exterior to the field of the
Other and is seen as invisible by the subject. The neurotic himself,
through a maneuver, through its use, makes petit a pass to the side
of the Other and it is then an objetpetit a which causes hisfantasme
to serve him to dream, if I might say, to dream of perversion. It is
in the extent to which the fantasme of the neurotic is entirely on
the side of the Other that one can make a catalog of perversions,
because that is where one retrieves it.

lacanian ink

18

Lacan will not keep these schematic schema. They indicate,


however, something very important: the position of exteriority of

petit a

in relationship to the field of the Other. This sentence of

Lacan's in

Ecrits,

"At least a foot of jantasme is in the Other,"

difficult to understand, is clarified by the opposition between the


perverse jantasme and the jantasme of neurosis. Suddenly Lacan
introduces the notion that the petit a of the jantasme of neurosis is
a false petit

a, a falsification, an

undue displacement in the Other,

since its true place is on the side of the subject. We understand


nothing at all about the Seminar if we don't understand that it is
constructed on the notion of the exteriority of petit a in relationship
to the field of the Other.
The petit a is displaced in the neurotic. Lacan says there
is a fallacious use of the object in his jantasme. We know this use
of fallacy since it was mentioned by Lacan in "The subversion of
the subject." The text is taken up again in Anxiety: the demand of
the Other takes on the function of object in itsfantasme and in this
way the petit

a,

this falsified petit

a,

becomes bait for the Other,

and it passes into the field of the Other. This is the condition which
makes psychoanalysis possible for the neurotic, but it has nothing
to do with perversity in this condition. The neurotic concedes petit

a,

a false petit a, to the Other.

WHAT DOESN'T LET ITSELF BE SIGNIFIED


These terms, as worked on by Lacan, will continue to be profoundly

Encore, he will finally confront his construction


objet petit a: "All of that is only semblant." The search for
what is the true objet petit a, this curious search, this surprising
schematic, although clarifying for Ecrits, causes us to sense that
difficult until, in

of the

one has not finished in Lacanian theory, in analytic theory, with the
question of the relationship of the

semblant

with the real. Lacan

implies that there is "a lure of the fantasmatic structure for the
neurotic,"12 to which he himself is attracted in his Seminars: to
make of the object-cause the aimed-for object, to recover the one

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on

through the other, to transform petit

Anxiety II

19

a into something which can

be found, be seen.
In this Seminar, the field of the Other is the field of ob
jectivity. I don't hesitate to use this word objectivity, since Lacan
opposes it to that of objectality which on the contrary incorporates,
qualifies object-causes.

objectivity

objectality
object-cause

-;i.

-;i.

aimed-for-object

anxiety

love

palea

agalma
partial object

conditionality

intentionality

Here, the neurotic fantasme is posed as inauthentic and the

ob jet

petit a of the fantasme of the neurotic is only a substitute. There


remains in this Seminar the notion that the true of true, the true

objet petit a, cannot be seen. This, at any rate, is what is precisely


stated in "The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire
in the Freudian unconscious." Lacan constructs the object-causes
as non-specularizable; they cannot be captured in the space of the
mirror, in the scopic field; they escape the visual field. This is why
what Lacan calls the field of the Other in the Seminar on Anxiety is
the place of the signifier, but also the place of apparitions.
There is a compass one must use in the whole first move
ment of the Seminar, and I can point out two principles.

The

authentic place of petit a is on the side of the subject, invisible to

him, and it is only through lures and fallacies that it is in the Other.

In the second movement of the Seminar, Lacan elaborates the place


of petit a in the Other. The objet petit a which is constructed there
remains a very ambiguous formation, which is on a side irreducible

lacanian ink

20

to symbolization and un-representable according to the normal laws


of the visual field, exterior to the Other, but nevertheless included
in the Other, but as different from the signifier.
This difficulty of articulation -the construction of alien
ation and of separation will attempt to resolve it-is mentioned in
the last lesson of the Seminar: "The object defined as an irreduc
ible remainder to symbolization in the place of the Other depends
nevertheless on this Other."13 The difficulty of the construction is
shown in this sentence.
Also, at the end of the Seminar Lacan insists that petit

is not a pure facticity, it is not simply an in-itself, and that the fact
that it is irreducible implies that an effort of reduction to the Other
is exercised on it. In this way it is relative to this reduction. This
will inspire also, in Lacan 's teaching, some continual comings and
goings: on the one hand the objet petit a as real, but at the same time
relative to the signifying elaboration. Thus it is not an absolute,
and it can even be the name of the moment in which the signifying
elaboration is stopped. Later, in "Radiophonie,"14 Lacan will speak
of the turn ofjouissance to accountability, to mak:e jouissance pass
to a signifier which counts, and to speech as well. The same logic is
present there; it is a matter of what cannot be made into signifier.
ANxIBTY, LOGICAL MOMENT
I previously commented on the aphorism that I found in the Semi
nar on

Anxiety:

"Only love allows

jouissance

to condescend to

desire."15 This reveals thatjouissance and desire are two distinct


structures.
Why does Lacan insist in this Seminar on leaving petit a on
the side of the subject, on the other side of the Other? Because petit

a is in some way an expression, a transformation of the jouissance


of the body itself, of thejouissance in its autistic status, closed-it
became even more closed in the Freudian term das Ding-whil e
desire is related to the Other. There is an antinomy, a gap between

jouissance and desire. Jouissance, if we look at things in a simple

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

21

way, has the body itself as place, while desire is related to the Other.
It is still this antinomy which will inspire, ten years later, Lacan's
elaboration in

Encore.

W hat is amusing in the Seminar on Anxiety is to introduce


love there betweenjouissance and desire, to introduce it as media
tor. Love is mediator because it displaces or falsifies petit

a, by
agalma,
while anxiety is not mediator but rather midway between jouis
sance and desire, as Lacan says. If I wanted to paraphrase Lacan 's
aphorism, I would say that only anxiety trans formsjouissance into
making it show up in the aimed-for object, in making it

object-cause of desire.
Lacan develops and even constructs anxiety as the opera
tor which allows das

Ding to take the form of objet petit a. One

does not find it spelled out in the Seminar.

Anxiety functions

in this Seminar as an operator which produces the object-cause.


Lacanian anxiety is a productive anxiety. This is why Lacan says
at the end of the Seminar: "The moment in which the function of
anxiety is put into play is anterior to the transfer of the object." He
borrows an example of it in the case of the Wolf Man, when, in the
face of his repetitive dream, one can reconstruct the episode of an
anal agitation, of a defecation. Lacan says this once, and then a
second time, but it remains the essential model-that is, anxiety as
moderator which produces the object-cause. This is why anxiety
is essentially a logical, and not even experienced, moment here.

3 . APPARmONS, PERTURBATIONS AND SEPARATIONS


CERTITUDE OF ANXIETY
Let us try now to understand concretely, once the details are given,
the singular relationship betweenjouissance and anxiety. To do it
we need to go to Freud, who tells us that the first and most original
of conditions determining anxiety is the demand of the constantly
growing drive, before which the ego is in a state of distress. One
sees here how Lacan constructed the schema.

If you translate this

lacanian ink

22

sentence in Lacanian terms you will have to go through the relation


ship of jouissance to anxiety. For Freud it is an economic pertur
bation, a surplus-der Uberschuss-of unused libido and it is the
nucleus of danger to which anxiety responds. In Freudian terms, it
is the relationship ofjouissance with anxiety that is harmonized by
Lacan and, behind anxiety, the drive, since it wants to be satisfied,
since it is the will of unremittingly insistentjouissance. When this
insistence of the drive is in contradiction with the pleasure principle
there is the displeasure that one calls anxiety. This is why Lacan
says-only once but that's enough-that anxiety is the signal of the
real and index of the Thing, das Ding, and the formula "anxiety is
signal of the real" includes the notion, which became famous, of
anxiety as sign of the desire of the Other.
We must wait for the last lesson of the Seminar for Lacan to
take his explicit distance from the statement he posed at the begin
ning: "Anxiety is the proven sign of the desire of the Other." At
the beginning he presented a religious mantle and a personage who
wears a mask and who does not know if the religious mantle will
find its object. Thus anxiety, the anxiety of being and the anxiety of
what the religious mantle lacks. This is what makes Lacan remark
at the end of the Seminar, in some way pulling the rug from under
the feet of what will follow, that the apologue is only valuable at
the scopic level. This is the level of the mirror stage, the level in
which we are the same. It is par excellence at the scopic level that
the strangeness of the objet petit a is misrecognized and that this
object is the most masked. This is why this Seminar offers a con
tinual critique of the scopic level, which is the one in which Lacan
had elaborated his theory of desire ever since "The Mirror Stage,"
and of the optic schema, a schema which makes its last appearance
in this Seminar.
It is also this connection of anxiety with the real of jouis
sance that Lacan stresses as the certitude of anxiety and which con
trasts with the questionable character of the signifier-the signifier
is never certain. This is why the phenomenology of the obsessive

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

23

takes up so much space in this Seminar. The obsessive is the subject


who pummels the signifier while trying to reach the origin, that is,
the object-cause, but he also entertains doubt in the search for the
signifier, and so he maintains a distance from certitude.

In this Seminar the restoration of desire is accompanied by


that of the signifier. Since the relationship to the real as anxiety is
certitude, the signifier is only the possibility of symbolic deception.
We see then a restoration of desire, a restoration of the signifier.
All this will later be adjusted, tempered, displaced by Lacan, but
we are here at the moment in which an other dimension of the ex
perience emerges, which hadn't been opened until then. One even
finds here a critique of science: "Everything science has conquered
becomes an immense deception. To master phenomena through
thought is always to show how one can do it in a deceptive way;
it is to be able to reproduce it, that is to say, to make a signifier of
it."16 We must accept the perspective that affirms the certitude of
anxiety, but we see that we have here the beginning of what Lacan
will develop later as the notion of the signifier as

semblant.

We might add that what is stated here, in the dawn of the


twenty-first century, that the conquests of science accompanying the
ascent to the zenith of the social value of jouissance, of the right to

jouir, of the duty tojouir, happens precisely because the conquests


of science bring in themselves a deception which renders even more
insistent the call to a real, to the real of jouissance, which is not a
semblant. Juridical discourse itself is always more at the service of
the right to jouir, and one finds opposed to it only the imprescrip
tible right of tradition: "Leave us alone in our cocoon of tradition."
Certitude is on the side

ofjouir; it is certainly not in nature, which

is irresistibly falsified by science. There is no longer anyone who


could say that a man and a woman are necessary to produce an
infant. It is a relic from before the expert enters as a third party in
the

affair

The appeal to the Other as the Father, the appeal to the

master signifier of the Father can be even more exasperating since


certitude is always more on the side

ofjouissance.

lacanian ink

24

PRODUCTIVE ANxIETY
Let us return to Freud in relationship to Lacan. The repetition of
the key word, anxiety as a sign in the "I"-a slogan repeated often
by Freud and Lacan-makes us believe that anxiety comes down
to warning or connoting.

Or perhaps it is nothing like this.

In

Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, Freud does what Lacan does


in Anxiety: he revises his previous positions. The whole work
indicates that anxiety is active.

I'm not going to comment on it

in detail; I will content myself with giving you the formula which
inspires this whole Seminar of Lacan's: "Anxiety"-of castra
tion-"is the driving force of repression." This is what Freud said.
He wrote Inhibitions,

Symptoms and Anxiety to explain that he had

revised his conceptions in order to make anxiety the driving force


of repression. This is exactly what Lacan translates into the term
"object-cause," implying causality in the affair. Lacanian anxiety
is active, that is to say, productive.
What Lacan calls the cause of desire is its translation to the
driving force of repression , and this is why I chose the adjective
"repressed" to characterize desire. Freud speaks of the demand
of the

drive- Triebanspruch-of drive,

anxiety, repression. The

idea of the Seminar is not that anxiety is directly the cause, but that
it produces the cause. It is the operator which, from the demand
of the drive, constructs the object-cause of desire, which then is
inscribed at the moment in which the break of what Lacan calls the
primitive monad ofjouissance takes place. This monad is mythic,
but it is nevertheless necessary to pose. To correlate jouissance
to a unitary totality, to a body of jouissance means that the Other
does not immediately come into play here.
This is why Lacan is led to detail the anatomical separa
tions of the object, the natural separations of the object imposed
on the body, precisely without the intervention of an agent who is
the Other. This is what he calls, a term taken from Freud, separa
tion. Not castration, but the separation of objects, the separation
of organs. He even speaks of a moment of "separtition" in order to

Reading Jacques Lacau 's Seminar on Anxiety II

25

indicate that it is like a partition in the interior which concerns the


subject of the organism. There, the separation of an organ has its
paradigm in the anal object. This is why, for a second time, he poses
the question of the subjectivation of the object and its inscription in
the Other. Objetpetit a is already there characterized as what there
is of surplus myself in the exterior, because there was some "me"
cut, and this is what echoes in the last lesson of Seminar XI.
I have evoked Lacan 's classic doctrine of this side of
desire before. This doctrine passes through need and demand; it
takes need as primary and follows the passage from need through
demand. Desire, which is like a gap between need and demand, is
the result.

Need
Demand
Desire

This doctrine is again put into question in the Seminar on Anxiety,


where jouissance passes through anxiety and comes out in desire.
The term "demand" is the place of love, since, in this classic
doctrine, there is a doubling of the demand between demand for
satisfaction of need and demand for love. In this classic doctrine,
the signifier is of the Other at the beginning, since, in the vein of
the Seminar on Anxiety, there is a reference to a mythic monad of
jouissance. WhatLacan will clarify-ambiguous formulas remain
there-in "Du Trieb de Freud et du desir du psychanalyste" as
jouissance is on the side of the Thing, while desire is of the Other."17
You know then the connection made between love and
anxiety in this classic doctrine. The Other of demand holds onto the
objects of satisfaction, the object accrues value from its symbolic
attribute, from testimony of love, and if the Other does not give,
then there is distress, Hilflosigkeit, while there is anxiety because
of lack or loss of object.

lacanian ink

26

In the Seminar on Anxiety a completely different perspec


tive is justified by the same logic, the logic which implies that the
essential gift of love is love itself, that is to say, some object. This
is expressed as "Love is to give what one does not have:" the es
sential gift is the lack. Thus the articulation which figures in the
Seminar, at one of the rare times in which Lacan explicitly cites
Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety in order to oppose it. 18 Freud
says that anxiety is linked to the loss of the object, while Lacan
says it emerges when lack begins to lack, that is to say when the
object is there and when there are too many objects. While love
preserves the place of lack of the Other, anxiety comes to fill this
lack-as comes, in the same way, aphanisis of the Other, this
aphanisis of the Other which produces certitude. Suddenly love
dispenses with objects, but, as such, it is without object properly
speaking. Love which consists in giving what one does not have is
destitute, while anxiety is not without object. This is a preliminary
approach, Lacan says, because the object here precedes anxiety,
causes anxiety, while, in the second part of the Seminar, it is anxiety
which produces the object. The antinomy will be surmounted in
the surplus jouir (plus-de-jouir) object.
-

DISTURBED IMAGINARY
The first movement of the Seminar strives to introduce us to the
phenomenology of the object in anxiety, which is enthralling. It
occupies several lessons at the beginning, but it is not the most
profound phase of exploration, it is not his final word. Lacan will
look for this object of anxiety in Freud himself in The Uncanny,
where he says that he is exploring, that he is trying to find the ker
nel of anxiety. The second movement of the Seminar deals, on the
contrary, with an anxiety which produces the object.
The principle of phenomenology of the object in anxiety is
the notion that there is always a certain void to preserve, understood
in the visual field and in love, it is from its total filling that the dis
turbance in which anxiety is manifested emerges. Phenomenology

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

27

of the object in anxiety takes its departure from "The Mirror Stage"
and Lacan presents it in this way. In "The mirror stage as formative
of the function of the I" there is an object, the image of the body
itself, which produces for the subject a feeling of jubilation and
also involves a total misrecognition of the strangeness of the objet

petit a.

But what Lacan enumerates successively are the moments

when the object appears, which throws us into a completely differ


ent dimension.
In the first movement of the Seminar, one has appearances,
while, in the second movement, one has separations. These are two
totally different regimes. In the first part the imaginary is disturbed;

the mirror stage, the mirror stage modified in the optical schema,
is disturbed. It is disturbed because something of the

objet petit a

which should oniy remain on the side of the subject, to the left on
the optical schema, is manifested. It should not be there.
In the optical schema there is a mirror which separates a
bouquet in a vase. It is on the left side, the side of the real, the side
of the subject, the side one doesn't see, one sees it in the mirror, that
is to say the real image. On the other side, in the schema you find
in

Ecrits, you have the virtual image, i'

of

a,

which is the same.

All the schemata that I have reproduced in the Seminar on Anxiety


tend to make us believe that he deletes the id in order to indicate
that petit a, that is to say the bouquet, does not appear in the field
of the Other. Normally it should not appear there, there should be
a blank- a construction you find in the last lesson of the Seminar

28

on Le

lacanian ink

transfert-that we might call minus phi, that Lacan will call

x. It is on this condition that the whole narcissistic libidinal invest


ment will not pass through the field of the Other, which is where
the visual field is. One part of the narcissistic libidinal investment
remains, non-specularizable, to stabilize the visual field.
The whole first movement of the Seminar indicates how
a fallacious transference can happen in which this supplementary
investment disturbs the visual field and then the id causes anxiety.
You then have recourse to this optical schema in order to explain
the dimension of the uncanny.

Freud says that

Unheimlichkeit

belongs to the domain of anxiety. In the second movement, on the


contrary, it is no longer a matter of the object which causes anxiety,
but of the object that anxiety detaches in a surplus-jouir situation.
In other words , in the first movement you have apparitions and
disturbances, and in the second movement you have separations.
The Seminar directs you at first to a prevalence of the vi
sual field where the object in anxiety, an object which offends the
principle of the visual field which is, par excellence, the pleasure
principle, homeostasis , appears with its disturbance function. One
could state it in this way: only that which conforms to the pleasure
principle is specularizable. The forcing of surplus-jouir is thus nor
mally excluded. The visual field is, par excellence, what excludes
the forcing of surplus-jouir.
Lacan uses the optic schema in order to take account of
the liaison between anxiety and of the ego which Freud valorized.
But if there is a second movement, it is because there are two faces
in the discourse of psychoanalysts on anxiety, which Lacan points
out.19 We see the two movements distinctly. If, on the one hand,
anxiety is the sign of the ego, it is also referred to the real, a defense
against the absolute distress of birth. It is not a question of the ego
there; no one imagines that the ego is constituted there. In the first
part of the Seminar, anxiety reworked through the ego as sign of
what Lacan calls the infinitely faint dangers is introduced, while,
in the second, anxiety is referred to the real.

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

29

v. A BROKEN LINE
1 . LACANIAN RHOMBUS
DrsAccoRD
Now that I've produced this book, I would love to shut up. Silence
is par excellence oraljouissance which is, as we learn in this book,
not very nourishing. I am not going to perform this shocker for you,
nor will I comment much more on The Seminar on Anxiety before
you have read it. I'll leave you time to get to know it, to ingest it,
and eventually to digest it. My goal is to clear up its strengths and I
introduce, in order to do it, a broken line, something like the Roman
route Lacan refers to in his Seminar on

The Psychoses.20 A route

which does not cover all the countryside, but allows for travel on
it, allows for a trajectory. I propose to design a table of orientation
which leaves outside of its coordinates a thousand details, each one
of which needs to be measured with great attention.
I give this broken line the form of the Lacanian rhombus
which I show running in two paths. Between desire andjouissance,
the one passes through anxiety and the other through love. The
path of love is, classically, in Freud, as Lacan pointed out, a path
of deception, inasmuch as love is entrenched in narcissism. It is
on this basis that Lacan's aphorism, according to which anxiety is
what does not deceive, stands out.

Jouissance

Anxiety

Love
i (a)

Desire

30

lacanian ink

I've stated that the "this side of desire" was the topic of this Seminar.
You already know a "this side of desire: "the demand of love. On
reading and putting this Seminar in orcier in accordance with what
I believe to be its orientation, with certain scansions of paragraphs,
of parts at your disposal, you will discover another "on this side,"
the one that passes through anxiety, and one which Lacan will not
use subsequently.
On the slope of love, one finds on the horizon what we
can call a mirage, which is indicated as such by Lacan- that is to
say when he engages the symbolic and makes the imaginary pass
through the symbolic-in "The function and field of speech and
language in psychoanalysis," a work which we have agreed for a
long time to place at the beginning of his teaching. On the horizon
one finds perfect love, whose realization is accomplished through
an intersubjective agreement imposing its harmony on the tom
nature which supports it.21
On the slope of anxiety it is not a question of intersubjec
tive agreement, or of the imposition of any harmony. Disharmony
prevails all through this Seminar, in particular with what Lacan
presents as the object in anxiety, which he finds in Freud's The
Uncanny. It is thus not agreement that counts, but rather what
anxiety means, namely strangeness, disaccord, perturbation.
These two slopes of love and of anxiety are correlative
to two types of objects: the objet petit a as it is elaborated in this
Seminar; and, on the slope of love, the symbol used for the specular
image which stands for Lacan 's constructions in "The mirror stage
as formative of the function of the I" as revised, recast, simplified
from the optical schema, which you find in its complete form in
his "Remarque sur le rapport de Daniel Lagache: Psychanalyse et
structure de la personnalite." This specular image is presented by
Lacan as the formation of the ego; that is to say it implies what
one may make appear as a retroaction, in which we inscribe at first,
through convention, a mythical subject which, in the mirror, sees
the image of its presence, that is to say of its body. I will not take

31

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

up the demonstration that Lacan tries, even though this image has
a formative effect on the ego. Below is the schema which reflects
the mirror plan.

i (a)

LACAN's OLD REFERENCES

This image may attract aggressiveness- the schema inspires and

supports Lacan's "Aggressivity in psychoanalysis"22-inasmuch as


"I see myself as another," and this other completed in the mirror,
because it anticipates the state of my development, of my biologi
cal integration, would be master and would attract some negative
affects. Even when this image is implicated by Lacan in its tear
ings, even when he plays with its ambivalence for the subject, it
supports, not only love, but, until the Seminar on

Anxiety,

i of a

supports the world of objects, that is to say the world. In his text,
"The mirror stage," Lacan indicates that it is like the threshold of
the visible world. 23 In this image, in spite of the mixed sentiments
it can inspire, going from jubilation to rage, in the now classic
description Lacan gives it, rests the principle of my being in the
world, or at least of my being in the visual world.
Another reference in these old texts is "Propos sur la cau
salite psychique": "There is no antinomy between the objects that I
perceive and my body, whose perception is constituted by an accord

lacanian ink

32

with the most natural of them. "24 We find here this term "accord"
which shows the fundamental tonality of this imaginary rapport. In
other words, not only has this image always appeared to Lacan as
the principle of the formation of the ego, but also the principle of
what we will call here the objective reality, modeled, informed by
the specular image. At least-I' m wary of being responsible for it,
responsible as the one who speaks- this remains the basis on which
the phenomena described then by Lacan in the Seminar on Anxiety
are presented. I will add a reference to the text "Aggressivity in
psychoanalysis": "The space in which the imagery of the ego is
developed rejoins the objective space of reality."25 So that, whatever
the symbolic functions grafted by Lacan on this schema may be,
this i of a remains - we have several formulas in the Seminar on

Anxiety-the prototype or paradigm of objects, let us add of normal


objects, or regular objects. Petit a is the object constructed in the
Seminar on Anxiety, out of the experience of anxiety, an extremely
stylized experience. The affect of this object is shown. This is
not the most profound phase of the Seminar, but it is the way in
which, in the first movement, he launches presences into the visible
world which are in breach of the laws of the phenomenology of
perception. Am I right here to evoke Merleau-Ponty, since Lacan
makes a global reference to Kant's transcendental aesthetic in the
first part of the

Critique ofPure Reason, which enters this Seminar

only through allusions?

2. THE LURE OF POWER.


A NoN-SPECULARIZABLE OBJECT
What the first movement of the Seminar tries to substantiate is that
there is an experience of anxiety which is not sentimental. This
experience of anxiety is not substantiated by the statements of an
anguished subject, but it is supported by what may appear to be
anxiety. The word "appearance," which comes from the first move
ment of the Seminar, refers to the visible world, and what appears

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

33

are disturbances. A construction which tries to take account of the


experience of these disturbances is built on the data of this experi
ence. How? In one and only one way. These disturbances have a
principle which doesn't not appear clearly before the tenth lesson
of this Seminar, which I've titled "Of an Irreducible Lack in the
Signifier," where elementary topological figures, which could be
improved upon, are presented.
This principle is deduced from the fact that the thresh
old, the principle of the visible world, is the specular. This is the
thread of Lacan's teaching up until Seminar X. The disturbance
comes essentially from what is manifested and appears from the
non-specularizable. There is a paradox here, no doubt, but we are
already influenced by Lacan's formulas which show, for example,
that desire is not articulatable but articulated. The beginning of
the Seminar shows that when anxiety, the object of anxiety as anx
iogenic object, emerges, the non-specularizable is paradoxically
specularized, the invisible is nevertheless seen.
Lacan's elementary topology constructs an object called
non-specularizable. Lacan invents the non-specularizable in the
same way that he has privileged the specular, starting from when
the normal object seen in the mirror is reversed and undergoes an
inversion of symmetry -the left becomes the right and vice-versa.
Thus the difference between what you see when you look at yourself
in the mirror and when you lo<;>k at a photo of yourself. It implies
that.this object has two sides which are distinct.
Then Lacan puts into play and calls non-specular a non
rotatable object, an object for which this inversion cannot be pro
duced because the right and inverse sides, the top and bottom, are
continuous. Even reduced to its topological principle, even reduced
to a minimal surface, or even complicated, this is the Mobius strip.
And so I put this Mobius strip on the book's cover, simply, in a
modem, banal, but now classic presentation- Escher- where it
serves as a support for a column of small ants.

lacanian ink

34

FROM A.Nx:rOGENIC TO EROGENOUS


In the first movement of the Seminar, the accent is on describing
the disruptive irruption of the

objet petit a, inasmuch as it is not

rotatable in the visual field. It appears diversely in the modes of


intrusion, of an intrusion posed as anxiogenic. The chapter on a
class of phenomena is opened here. Correlatively to this disrup
tion of a non-specularizable anxiogenic object, the visual field is
described as especially anxiolytic throughout the Seminar. Of all
the fields enumerated in the function of objects, it is, says Lacan, in
the visual field that the objetpetit a is most concealed and normally
most unperceived. It is in visual perception that the subject is the
most reassured, the most secured in terms of anxiety. An anxiogenic
object makes an irruption in special cases, in a field where normally
it has no place because the objects are normalized in the specular
mode. Thus you are obliged, if you read this Seminar, to relearn
the optical schema, which Lacan will then reduce.
The charm of this Seminar is in the fourth part where the
optical schema has disappeared. But this Seminar is well-com
posed. One must pass through the

objet petit a as anxiogenic in

the visual field, following certain of its disruptive apparitions, into


a field which is not its own. One must give credence to this objet
petit a in order to be able to consider its function as such through
a certain number of erogenous separations. Through its most pro
found phase, the Seminar goes thus from anxiogenic apparitions
of the object to erogenous separations.
The first movement consists of the first two parts. The
second movement takes its force in the fourth part. In the third part
Lacan situates anxiety between jouissance and desire and shows
a certain conjunction of the anxiogenic and the erogenous, espe
cially concerning the affinities of the connections between orgasm
and anxiety. There is a totally ordered disposition there: from the
anxiogenic to the erogenous, with the balancing scale, the curse of
the scale, appearing in the conjunction of the anxiogenic and the
erogenous.

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

35

This is most evident in the way the Seminar puts into play
two different statuses of the body. In the first movement it is the
specular body, that of the mirror stage, in its totality, apprehended
as a form, a good form, and even the best of forms, since, if we
believe its construction, it imposes on the speaking being the percep
tive world of its objects. It's a

Gestalt. The first movement plays

on this gestalt, since it shows how it can be disturbed, doubled,


depersonalized, made strange by the incongruous irruption of an
object structured differently. But one finds the specular object in
the second movement having a different structure; somehow, one

objet petit a. These


objets petit a do not stop at five. In their proliferation, you find some

finds in its place and perfectly informed this

kinds that you might have trouble designating, which are certainly
not on the order of good form-like the placenta; the coverings of
the fetus; the gaze, which cannot be a good form except as falling
under the category of the eye; the voice, which is not inscribed in
the visual field. We are in a register in which it is not a matter of
form, but rather of zone. It is a matter of the body with erogenous
zones, which is not the visual body. It is, in the use Lacan makes of
it, the body as organism, comprehended completely outside of the
mirror, a body at the least a-specular, delivering objects conforming
to the topological structure presented through the irruption of the

objetpetit a in the visual field, that is to say the topological structure


of the Mobius strip, or more precisely of its minimal surface. It
is the body of erogenous zones, that is to say of surface zones, the
zones that Freud put into function in Three Essays on the Theory
ofSexuality. This is the body which returns. One forgets the form,
since the body in question is taken back to its fetal status, and for
the best reasons in the world, since the anxiety of birth has been
verified in analytic discourse.

A CORPORAL lMPosmoN
This is a body whose form I would say isn't known; one doesn't
know its limit. There is in fact, in this fourth part, something Lacan

lacanian ink

36

accomplishes in his teaching.

Until then, following Lacan, one

only knew the body as essentially implicated in the formation of


the ego. What was implicated in the constitution of the subject?
The signifier. And what appeared there was obviously heralded in
the relationship of the partial object and desire: the body, and more
precisely the object separated from the body, was involved in the
constitution of the subject. The body makes its entrance under the
category of the

objet petit a,

in the constitution of the subject of

the unconscious itself. We only need go to Seminar XI to see that


these are the structures that Lacan is going to reveal in the fourth
part, which will inspire him to reformulate the very concept of the
unconscious.
The concept of the unconscious, as it is presented at first in

The Four Fundamental Concepts ofPsychoanalysis, is constructed


to conform to the structure of the orifice as it is demonstrated in
the fourth part. This is why, throughout Seminar XI, for the best
reasons in the world, Lacan states that the drive is organized ac
cording to gaps homologous to that of the unconscious, precisely
because he constructed his concept of the unconscious in the fourth
part of the Seminar on Anxiety.
I said: this is a body whose limit is unknown. These are
the stakes in the fourth part. Where is the limit of the erogenous
body? How far can the body as organism go? As Lacan conceives
it, the organism consists of everything which allows the body to be
a living being, including what sustains it, nourishes it, and thus the
organism is shown as encroaching on the body of the Other. This is
indicated in a phrase in "Position de l'inconscient": "The organism
whose limits go beyond the body."26 This is what is demonstrated
there. And this is why, in "The Mirror Stage" and its variations, we
always have a face-to-face structure, the body itself and its image as
image of the other. But, in regard to this erogenous organism, the
face-to-face structure is replaced, it cedes its place to the structure
of encroaclunent, of ectopy. Then we see crossing Euler circles
emerge for the first time, at the level of this physiology, where one

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

37

must figure out where what is of the subject and what is of the Other
begin and end.
You can amuse yourself trying to follow the different solu
tions Lacan proposes, which are all good, or perhaps they 're not.
Sometimes one sees the petit a on the side of the subject, sometimes
one sees it on the side of the big 0, sometimes one sees it as ambo
ceptor (belonging to the subject and to the Other), accomplishing
a conjunction of the two. One sees it also as ectopic, or rather in
the forms of fetal parasitism, or even as the intrusion of the Other
in the corporal space of the subject. There is, in particular at the
end, a sensational presentation of the anxiety of birth due to intru
sion. It is supported by Ferenczi's lucubrations: the natal milieu of
the human species is aquatic-which is not in contradiction with
the fetal state- and its irruption into the air leads to an intrusion
from the Other space, to the interior, and to the formation of the
pulmonary organ. Lacan hesitates to put it in writing.
One can enumerate these different forms. Lacan also has
the voice function as more or less the voice of the Other. This is
why he brings the superego, in its most profound phase, to this

objet petit a, and he also saves the testing of it for the following
Seminar, the one he didn't give, the "Names of the Father."27 It is
the voice of the Other, a voice presented as embodied. You have,
in a hundred or so pages, all the modes of conjunction enumerated,
and then you have the separation, either on the side of the subject,
or on the side of the Other, or amboceptor, or ectopic, on the mode
of parasitism, of intrusion, of embodiment.
This can 't be formalized. I tried. Lacan presents it as an
attempt to use Euler 's circles functioning for different objects. He
doesn't return to it. This only explains one relatively small part of
the details which show the charm of his exploration. Lacan deliv
ers the solution to us in his "Position sur l'inconscient," where he
justifies what has come to us here in the biological plan by putting
Euler's circles in place, distinguishing especially, concerning the

objet petit a, the zone of intersection, that is to say what belongs

lacanian ink

38

to one and to the other. He modifies it dialectically by giving it the


value of "neither to one, nor to the other."

i (a)

(])

--- I

Neither to one I
nor to the other

After reading the Seminar on Anxiety, one can say that this is cer
tainly the most elegant solution: not to be fascinated by the topic
of this object, but on the contrary to understand it as functionally
separated. One topic - there is one, that of the imaginary, so des
ignated in Seminar I- obviously put us in a space where the efforts
are not conclusive.
This is the charm of the fourth part of the Seminar on

Anxiety. It shows what we have lost: a certain realism of the objet


petit a and even a certain materialism ofthe object, which is power
fully incarnated there in the organs; and even a certain naturalism
of the

objet petit a,

since we see Lacan leafing through works on

physiology and biology.


We have presented the object at first with the aspect of an
object of anxiety, triumphant in its strangeness, and then we took
you to the topological form of the reduced Mobius strip. And you
find it identified there with organs, with parts of the organism of
the subject and also parts of the organism of the Other.
This Seminar could be read, if we leave to the side some
important points, as substantialist. The objet petit a appears identi
fied with a substance. I saw some charm there. The charm that I
found there is that one comprehends the

objet petit a

in its emer

gence, before it emerges and is imposed on us in its sophisticated

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

39

form as pure logical consistency.28 In the Seminar on Anxiety, the

objet petit a is elaborated as a pure and simple corporal imposition.


At least this is what is most insistent in the fourth part. But even
there one cannot forget that the physiology of the

objet petit a

is

developed under the signifier of topology, that is to say that the

objet petit a has a topological consistency.


If I were to remember a law of discourse of Lacan's on
the

objet a,

even if it is more fugitive and if the patterns of what

is developed at the organic level make us forget, it is that only


examples and illustrations are given. One cannot give what Lacan
calls episodic substances, representations of it.
THE

0BJEI' A, FAILURE OF THE NAME-OF-THE-FATHER

Since then the objet petit a has become much more sophisticated.
One is so substantialist that, once a voice speaking of Lacan's objet

petit a has entered your ear, one cannot help but ask: what is my
objetpetit a? One must first believe that, if it is designated as objet
petit a, it is because it has no name. Petit a - one cannot designate
an index any more reduced. This is because the objet petit a, with
its little Lacanian letter, has no name to question the Name-of-the
Father, and so I could title the last lesson "From petit a to Names
of-the-Father." The father is, on the contrary, par excellence, he
who has a name, who gives the name, who establishes the symbolic
filiation. For that matter, we see these days a whole population, with
psychoanalysts at the top of the ladder, excited about defending the
Name-of-the-Father. Because of some advances in science and also
some dynamics of the right to jouir in their own way, they feel the
need to shore up the Name-of-the-Father, and a certain number of
thinkers have added some Freudian ideas formalized by Lacan to
reinforce themselves. This is a population of philosophers and of
theologians. Thus we see what Lacan predicted in his Seminar: a
sensational conjunction of psychoanalysts and theologians in de
fense of the Name-of-the-Father. This Seminar is like manna from
heaven for them.

One must still manage to decipher this theme

lacanian ink

40

which shakes the eternity of the Name-of-the-Father, to decipher


that this Seminar shows that the Father, his power, stumbles over
the

objet petit a.
It stumbles especially, obviously, because the maternal

Other is much more present in the illustrations which are given


at the level of birth, at the level of the oral object. There is, all
the same, the question of the breast, an imagined oral object, and
also the maternal Other comes on the scene there in regard to the
anal object. No doubt it is at the level of object that Lacan saves
for later the vocal object, the object supported or separated from
the commandments; this is where the figure of the paternal Other
comes into play. The fact remains that the paternal Other, its power,
stumbles over the objet petit a, inasmuch as it is an object that is not
nameable. I refer you to page 177 of L' envers de la psychanalyse.
To say that this

objet a is not nameable is to repeat

in another way

how Lacan deals with it in this Seminar, namely that the objet petit
a is irreducible to symbolization. In other words, the objet petit a
functions as the check on the Name-of-the-Father, inasmuch as the
Name-of-the-Father is the major operator of symbolization.
The paternal metaphor functions perfectly well with the
Bible. It is even a sensational formalization, which is fitting, and
which proves the justice of Lacan 's diagnostic concerning Freud,
that is that he had treated religion as an illusion without a future.
What Freud did in psychoanalysis was to save the Father, and thus
give religion a new foundation for new times: the Father whom
Freud dreamed, the all-powerful Father, the one invoked in this
Seminar. The capital word here is power, the power revealed in its
characteristic of lure. This is what is in question in this Seminar, in
which Lacan already announced that he was pu ng Freud's desire
in question and which will become more explicit i

eminar XI.

THE PATII OF ANALYSIS


Lacan touched on Oedipus essentially through the paternal meta
phor, that is to say through a linguistic reduction, a formalization

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

41

o f the myth. This formalization was well made t o show what it


contained of semblants. Now, the

blants are out there in the wo


occupied the scene, returning to a

semblants are strong, the sem

. This signifying artifice has so


eme of the Seminar on Anxiety,

Chapter III, that it has infiltrated the

rld, and one might say that,

as a precaution, it's better not to deal with it. But this is only a
precaution, for there is an innovation to be found there. And when
the innovation is already there and it has a social dynamic based on
logic and law, couldn't one think that it must be followed? Must one
dismiss the demand that a signifier, coming from tradition, comes
to baptize the jouissance of everyone.

Isn't this a transcendent

demand? A religious philosopher with whom Lacan associated


formerly in 1966 uttered a sentence that might make the theologian
raise an eyebrow: "No man is son of a man or of a woman, he is
son of God."
The paternal metaphor, as Lacan presents it classically,
takes its departure from an opaque term, that of the Desire of
the Mother, conceived at first as a signifier whose signification
is unknown. The operation of the paternal metaphor manages to
symbolize it by producing the phallic signification. The paternal
metaphor makes it work, which can be understood, in effect, as an
example of integral symbolization.
The Seminar on

Anxiety is developed outside of the pa

ternal metaphor and also takes its departure from an initial term,
opaque and mythical, which is not the Desire of the Mother, but

jouissance. The point of departure that Lacan proposes, when he


speaks of an irreducible remainder, is that no metaphor is capable
of symbolizing it integrally.

Petit a designates in this respect the

failure of the metaphor.


The libidinal, what the libido reveals, resists integral sym
bolization in its structure, and this is what petit a designates. Sud
denly the phallus as emblem of power, and of symbolic power, is
only narcissistic. There is, in the Seminar on Anxiety, a restoration
of desire as desire for power. On the contrary, it is argued there that

lacanian ink

42

it is the insistence of lack of power, the "not able to" determined by


the detumescence of the organ, which is sublimated in the category
of power.
Power does not belong to the libidinal field, but to the
narcissistic field. It delivers an Ideal, the Ideal of the ego, as Ideal
of all power, on the horizon of which is God himself. There is a
thesis in the Seminar on

Anxiety which is that the idea of God is

rooted in the sexuality of the male, in the inability to jouir. This


is something of a hapax for Lacan, while the critique of power as
illusion is a constant.
In

L' envers de la psychanalyse, you have, beginning with

hysteria, a reconstruction of the figure of the father, in which Lacan


formulates clearly that the father figures as castrated in this struc
ture. It is his lack of power which is dressed up in the emblems
. of power. In the same way you have a constant in Lacan 's teach
ing, in the same vein, which is the critique, the reconstruction of
the position of the master. From the beginning of his teaching,
psychoanalysis appears as another path which passes through a
renouncement of the illusions of power. Let us understand it at the
level of the voice: interpretation rather than commandment.
In all the final insights of the Seminar on

Anxiety, when

Lacan announces the Seminar of the Names-of-the-Father, he de


signs a new figure of the father, the one who knows that the objet a
is irreducible to symbol. A father who would not be the dupe of the
paternal metaphor, who would not believe that it could accomplish
an integral symbolization, and who would know on the contrary
how to relate desire to the objet petit a as its cause. We do not have
the final developments that Lacan might have given, but perhaps
it is already evident to you that he designed a father who would
be none other than the analyst. It is this figure who appears, since
it is the

objet petit a playing its part all alone between the subject

and the Other which is there at the center of the attention of the
Seminar itself.

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

43

VI. ARIADNE' s THREAD


1 . THE

TRJEBREGUNG

A SMALL MATRIX
I would like to leave Ariadne's thread in your hands so that you
can unwind it and take a Roman route to orient yourselves in the
labyrinth of the Seminar on

Anxiety.

I could leave you this me

mento to thwart the glitter and the lures which are multiplied by
Lacan, who doesn't say all he knows here, and of which we have
the trace in his contemporary writing, in particular the end of "The
subversion of the subject," which is simply how the function of
the

objet petit a

relates to what is presented of its substance, its

nature, its identity.


I ' ve created a small instrument which the schematic that
Lacan used in his "The agency of the letter in the unconscious
or.reason since Freud"29 inspired in me, and whose purpose is to
oppose metaphor and metonymy. Lacan redirects or modifies the
symbols of addition and subtraction: the plus and minus, enclosed
on this occasion in parentheses which indicate that we must take
them with the special value which is explained there.

(+) (-)
This is a typically Lacanian method of imposing mathematical
operations and of modifying them in order to make them function
in analytical discourse. It is no different from Lacan 's borrowing
the theory of the set of operations of joining and intersection in the
Seminar of The Four Fundamental Concepts

ofPsychoanalysis in

order to modify them, letting them function as operators, trans


formed to inscribe alienation and separation.
I've borrowed this plus and minus in parentheses to orient
myself in the Seminar on Anxiety. I give this plus the value of go
ing beyond a limit, a limit which is a barrier inasmuch as it offers a

44

lacanian ink

resistance. This value of the bar which separates the signifier from
the signified in "The agency of the letter," in the extent to which
the signifier is something material, at least materializable, would
be sensitive, in the form of the written trace, to the sonority which
can be measured, while the signified is on the contrary immaterial,
incomprehensible, except as an intrusion on the upper level.

(+) ( )

Sis

The minus is there to indicate that the element which figures in the
lower part remains there. Lacan writes the formula of metaphor
and metonymy with the aid of this symbol.

S
S

(+) /s
( ) /s
-

The plus indicates the breaching of the bar which separates the signi
fier and the signified and thus symbolizes the effect of succession,
the emergence of the signification such that it is crystallized in a
metaphor. The formula of metonymy indicates that the effect is not
produced, that the signification is elided, that the bar is maintained,
and that the signified slides, remains incomprehensible, supposed,
posed below. I am going to use this plus in parentheses as the sym
bol of an addition, which is also a breaching, and the symbol of the
minus in parentheses to indicate a non-breaching, a supposition,
which is, in the Seminar on Anxiety, also a subtraction.
I will begin by introducing you to my small matrix, a small
lamp to guide you in the darkness of this Seminar, which does not
lack clarity, but it also has some obscurity. I will place it then in
the imaginary, in the symbolic and in the real. I will begin with
what I dare to say is a word which is lacking in this book, whose
presence will render it more readable.

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

45

A DE-SYMMETRIZED MIRROR STAGE


Lacan displays a reticence in this Seminar. An emerging signi
fication is reserved, a metaphor is not completely developed, a
metonymy is suspended.
One can dream about it. This is a Seminar dedicated to an
audience of not such good will as the present one. Lacan gave the
Seminar at a time when a separation was about to happen, a scission
of the analytic group will take place shortly after the conclusion of
his Seminar. Various hints, potential lines indicate that he knew
quite well he would have to face what he doesn't name, which I
would place in parentheses. So I tell myself that he holds them in
suspense and he doesn't tell them everything.
I feel justified in saying that there is a missing word in
this book which is spoken nevertheless, but as an aside. A blank
space in what I myself spoke to you about as the appearance of the
anxiogenic object in the visual field: the cause of the appearance.
It is, moreover, this cause, if one names it, which allows for the
joining together with the second movement of the Seminar, and
that is the separation of the object.
"The mirror stage as formative of the function of the I"
obeys a principle of symmetry. Lacan explains it only to introduce
the symbolic function: this principle of symmetry may be enough
to be symbolized by the relationship a-a'. It figures thus, for ex
ample, in "On a question preliminary to any possible treatment of
psychosis."30 In this form, obviously symmetrical and reciprocal,
he indicates the transfusion and the commutations of the narcissistic
libido for the object and vice-versa. It is a lamp for reading Freud.
The libido circulates from the narcissism of the ego to the object; it
is distributed to the object or taken away from it. There are decant
ings, and the circuit of the libido happens in the imaginary plane so

thatjouissance, in Lacan's early teaching, has an imaginary status.


It is jouissance of the body and of the object as imaginary.
Lacan 's optical schema, the one he presented in his Seminar
I and published in his "Remarque sur le rapport de Daniel Lagache,"

lacanian ink

46

obeys this principle of symmetry rather well, in the form i(a), i(a).
Writing it close together in this way, it is homologous; it transfers the
previous a-a' and indicates the similitude of these two elements.

i (a)

i' (a ')

The first differential element that the optical schema introduces


that you find again in the Seminar on Anxiety is located elsewhere.
It is a scission which operates between petit

a and i of a- let us

give these symbols a value-which operates between the partial


object and the image of the form of the body itself. But it operates
in a special way, since it. is through the intermediary of another
mirror which operates on two material elements: the partial object
represented in the form of a visible bouquet and, hidden in a box,
a vase which this convex mirror allows to emerge as an image, as
fitting tightly against the bouquet. In the other mirror one sees a
completed image of the vase and the flowers inscribed.

a'

i (a)

i ' (a ')

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

47

The essential difference with the mirror stage pure and simple is
the valorizing of the two elements, the petit a of the partial object
and the hidden vase, often forgotten. It is there in order to display
the invisible reality of the body as a type of vase, a vase which
contains, a vase with its orifice, emblematic of the orifices of the
erogenous zones-the subject having little access to this reality of
the body, with which it has, according to Lacan, only an "obscure
intimacy."31 This is the body which tries to bring to light what is
deployed in the fourth part of the Seminar on Anxiety. You have the
visible vase, the one described as the i of a, which is the imaginary
body surrounding the reality of the partial object. You also have
some considerations about what talces place when this operation of
imaginary unification is not produced. It is there in particular that
Lacan tries to design the position of the schizophrenic.
I'm giving you this brief detour to emphasize the essential
modification that the Seminar on Anxiety introduces in the optical
schema, which is introduced beforehand in order to put the functions
of the ideal ego and the Ideal of the ego in place. There is nothing
of the like here, where a very precise modification is introduced in
this schema. Lacan begins by de-symmetrizing the mirror stage in
order to exploit what is then constructed in a topological way - that
the petit a properly speaking is not specular, that it does not appear
in the mirror, that it is not found on the right.

(- <p)

a
i(a)

i '(a)

lacanian ink

48

A LIBIDINAL REMAINDER
What justifies this astonishing de-symmetry, which is a sensational
correction of the classical mirror stage, is explained in all its details
in the Seminar on Le transfert.32 Lacan bases it on a passage from
Karl Abraham, the inventor of the function of the p;utial object,
using in particular the dream of an hysteric patient who sees the
image of the father censured at the phallic level by the absence
of pubic hair. Lacan gives to this the sense that everything that
is narcissistic libidinal investment of the subject is not decanted,
transferred to the object; that there is a part which remains on the
side of the subject, which does not enter into the imaginary. This
means that everything which can attract the desire of the subject in
the fine figure of the object, to the right, depends on what remains
on the left side, what is not represented. This contradicts the sub
stitutions of the libido. An element remains strange in the libidinal
dialectic where, in these reciprocal transfusions of the subject to
the object, one poses the question of how we know to which object
the libido is distributed, onto what other object it is displaced, if it
goes back to the side of the subject.
There is a libidinal remainder there, which already figured
in the Seminar on Le

transfert, which is designated by one word,


Triebregung,33 that fundamental Triebregung about which
Lacan says: "What constitutes the Triebregung functioning in de
sire is seated in the remainder." The Seminar on Anxiety makes us
the

understand what is happening in that "functioning in desire": it is


as cause. It is this Freudian word which has to be added on pages

50-53 of the Seminar on Anxiety. In Le transfert, the Triebregung


appears as the privilege of the phallus; in the Seminar on Anxiety,
this privilege is understood as objetpetit a. One goes from a limited
theory to a generalized theory. To the left, we have the supposed
reality ofthe organism, and to the right, its imaginary representation,
which is also the field of objectivity and the field of the Other.
This word figures in the Seminar on Anxiety from Chapter

1 , but only as an incident regarding its translation,34 at the moment

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

49

when, constructing his first signifying grid, Lacan stresses the word
"agitation" (emoi), saying: "The translation of Triebregung by drive
agitation is completely wrong." Agitation means "fallen power,"
while Regung is "stimulation, appeal to disorder, meaning to riot."
And that is all. He only uses it there as an aside. If he had put
this word in its place, that is to say if one perceived that what con
stitutes the Triebregung functioning in desire in place in the objet
petit a, precisely what is not said-that would make the whole of
the Seminar on Anxiety much more understandable . I would add
that the word Trieb, the drive, only intervenes in an intermittent
and discreet way in the Seminar on Anxiety, while it is obviously
a function that if put into play would simplify a great deal of what
Lacan presents to us . He clearly was saving the elaboration of
the drive for the Seminar on The Four Fundamental Concepts of
Psychoanalysis, I mean after the other side of the scission is ac
complished.
2. UNCANNY OBJECT

NOT WITHOUT OBJECT


This de-symmetrized mise-en-place lets us give, following in
Lacan's steps, a theory of the uncanny in the imaginary. When
does the uncanny as anxiogenic emerge? I really love the formula
which comes to Lacan, because it is an interrogative formulation
which demonstrates the structure of its construction. Is it not this
remainder, petit a, "which comes, through some detour, to mani
fest itself in the place where lack is anticipated"?35 Here is the
hypothesis that it is the irruption of the object which crystallizes or
condenses the Triebregung, the drive stimulation; that the paradox
of the appearance of an uncanny object is created precisely because
it doesn't conform to the laws of the visual field. It doesn't con
form to Lacan's construction because it can't be rotated; it has the
same structure as the Moebius strip. Its very presence introduces
a flawed mark which is the function of anxiety.

lacanian ink

50

This thesis, fundamental in this Seminar, figures also in


an assertive form: "Anxiety emerges when a mechanism makes
something appear in the place (-<p), which corresponds, on the right
side, to the place occupied on the left side by the a of the object of
desire."36 It is through this function of a libidinal remainder cut
from the imaginary that Lacan makes sense of the

Unheimlich.

Here is the principle of the uncanny object in the imaginary: it is the


appearance ofpetit a in x, correlative to perceptible perturbations.
In brief, I am explaining how Lacan can say that anxiety
is framed. The anxiogenic object doesn't appear just anywhere, it
appears in the place where the objet petit a is normally subtracted,
extracted, in order to allow for the normality of the visual field. This
appearance is anxiogenic because it is manifested as an infraction
to the laws of perception. This supposes that there is an element
which, structurally, does not respond to what the imaginary requires,
but nevertheless forces the entry of the imaginary field. Thus the
theory that there is anxiety when a supplementary quantum of libido,
of Triebregung, appears in the imaginary field, and it appears there
as an uncanny object.
We understand why Lacan takes the detour of the imaginary
in order to introduce anxiety, because, via the imaginary, the Freud
ian

Triebregung becomes, right in front of your eyes, an uncanny

object; it becomes an object. This is how Lacan formulates that


anxiety is not without object, and this formula, bypassed, "not
without," indicates that the object in question is not a normal object,
an object which belongs to the world of common objects, that it
is not homologous to them, but it is an object of another type. Its
most disturbing manifestation, the most an:xiogenic, happens in
personal experience, autobiographical, which Maupassant reports
in his novel, Le Horta, where the de-personalization goes so far as
to make the character appear to himself as seen from behind. This
is the extreme point. The disturbance of petit a as un-rotatable is
manifested: the inside is in continuity with the outside, where the
subject finds himself confronted in some way with himself in the

Reading Jacques Lacan 's Seminar on Anxiety II

51

form of an inside-out glove, an image which returns in various


reprises in this Seminar and in Lacan's teaching.
THE SCENE AND THE WORLD
Eventually, the emergence in the visual field of the dimension of
the gaze, as it brings a feeling of strangeness, is posed as the door
opened to anxiety. But one sees also through what other mechanism
this intrusion of petit a can have an erogenous, not anxiogenic,
value. These are the well-known examples that Lacan gives of the
coquette's black beauty spot, the adorable speck of beauty, which
is a stain, but at the same time eroticizes the image of the Other by
presenting a value, this time positive, of the

objet petit a.

So we have the opposition which structures this Seminar


between two types of objects: those of the specular type, objects
common to one and the other, which are not necessarily peaceful,
objects of concurrence but also of exchange, recognizable and
normal, specular and symbolizable at the same time; and objects of
another type, anterior to this imaginary community, which are not
regulated but are filled with

Triebregung, having a the weight of a

drive. This is what will become, much later in Lacan's teaching,

surplus-jouir. If Lacan had made the Freudian term Triebre


gung function in the Seminar on Anxiety, he would have had this
surplus-jouir on the table.

the

We h ave here some i m aginary obj ects and some


non-i objects, some objects which have the structure of i of a and
some objects structurally un-rotatable. The mirror of this optical
schema functions as a veil, which keeps the subject, in normal
conditions, from seeing the

objet petit a.

If we make the mirror

pivot, it is presented as a barrier which separates the

objet petit a

from the normal object. There are then two possible states accord
ing to which this barrier is maintained: the

objet petit a

remains

in its place-petit i, minus in parentheses, petit a-no disorder,


no rioting; or there is a breaching-petit i, plus in parentheses,
petit a- and then, there is perturbation, disorder, rioting.

lacanian ink

52

i(a)
a

i (-) a
i (+) a

This is a preliminary application in the imaginary of the matrix


which I told you about. It allows you to, for example, understand
why Lacan presents, at a particular moment and in a symmetrical
fashion, masochism and sadism, and why he takes care to show
a difference, in regard to Levi-Strauss, between the scene and the
world. The scene- above the bar in what is shown to the right of
this schema-is what is shown, what appears. The world, in the
optical schema, figures as the reality of the organism, it is hidden.
Thus there is a dialectic between the shown and the hidden that
Lacan uses in regard to masochism and sadism. We can use it as the
clinical characteristics concerning these two positions, but keeping
in mind that Lacan did not really use it elsewhere like that. It was
mainly useful for this matrix.

3. GRIEF AND MELANCHOLY


Acr AND UNcoNscrous
When Lacan introduces masochism and sadism in the Seminar on
Anxiety, it is in a game that he calls concealment in which what is
shown is there in order to hide the other dimension. Regarding the
masochist, who parades as a failure and who, far from reducing
concealment, presents himself as submissive to any mistreatment
that can come to him from the Other, one says:

voila, this is the objet

petit a. Not at all. It is a matter of a demonstration: a figuration of i


of a is on the stage. It is on the stage that the masochist at that point
makes a semblant, in reality of the objet petit a, which he exhibits
as failed, and which he flaunts in an effort to assure the jouissance
of the Other. Lacan indicates that the masochist is trying, under the
bar, to produce the anxiety of the Other. While, inversely, the sadist

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

53

on the scene shows himself killing himself to produce the anxiety of


the Other, while he is trying in fact to obtain thejouissance of the
Other, and even to find in the Other thepetit a, the most intimate of
hls jouissance, whlch is, as Lacan is compelled to state following
in the steps of the Marquis de Sade: "I had the skin of the cunt."
Thls is an application of the matrix that I have shown to you- the
word "matrix" not appearing inappropriate here. You understand
that what Lacan developed in the opposition of "acting out" and of
passing to the act, as the opposition of grief and melancholy derived
from Freud, responds strictly to this disposition. The concept of
scene- an imaginary scene but also the scene of the Other, since,
in relationship to the real, the imaginary and the symbolic are on
the same side- is essential here.
Acting out is the emergence of the objetpetit a on the scene,
with its unsituatable effects of perturbations and disorder. We must
infer here a subjective dynamic, which makes the subject bring thls
objet petit a on the scene, while, in the passage to the act, it is the
subject rejoining under the bar, outside of the scene, the objetpetit
a. The passage to the act does not deceive; it is an exiting the stage
whlch leaves no place for interpretation, whlch leaves no place for
the play of the signifier.

+a
acting

-a
passage a l 'acte

This is why it occurred to me to disconnect the function of the act


and that of the unconscious. There is in the passage to the act a
"wanting to know nothlng more." One exits the deception of the
scene because of the certainty that one rejoins it in an identification
in a by-pass to the objet petit a, an identification that Lacan calls an
absolute identification with the objet petit a as outside the scene.
In the passage to the act, there is a rejection of the scene
and rejection of any appeal to the Other, whlle acting out, whlch is

54

lacanian ink

Petit a mounts
Petit a not being speculariz

a mounting on the stage, is an appeal to the Other.


the stage and the subject shows it.

able as such, the subject shows it by acting out, always to the side.
The subject must lie. When the object comes on the stage acting
out, as when itcomes in masochism, it is always a fallacy. The
subject shows the pound of flesh, the fresh brains, but it is only
ever a grimace, to use one of Lacan's expressions in

Television, a

grimace in which the real escapes. Once it mounts the stage, it is


taken up with the deceptions of the demonstration, the deceptions
of the signifier, of the truth, and the real remains elsewhere.
THE REAL AGAINST THE TRUTH
The only interpretation of acting out is: what you say is true, but
does not deal with what the problem is. We're dealing with the
proposition that we can state with its general value: when one wishes
to make the real pass to the signifier, one only finds a lie. One can
not make it pass except through the lie, a mise-en-scene or a staging
of the lie, which expresses- what Lacan will develop afterward in
his teaching -the disjunction of the true and the real. This bar that
I've used below reflects the disjunction of the true and the real, and
in the disjunction, correlatively, desire

andjouissance.

Truth

Desire

Real

Jouissance

Lacan's teaching afterwards will explore precisely what disgusted


Freud, as the Seminar on Anxiety indicated: that desire lies, that the
real can only lie to the partner, that one cannot speak truth to the
real, the pass being the attempt to define it as closely as possible.
Thus a critique of desire as defined by Freud as desire for truth
emerges in this Seminar: "Freud refuses to see in the truth, which
is his passion, the structure of fiction at its origin. "37 Here we must
differentiate the Freudian passion for truth, which leads him to

Reading Jacques Lacan 's Seminar on Anxiety II

55

endorse mythology in spite of himself, and on the other hand the


Lacanian orientation toward the real, which should not be confused
with exactitude. Because Freud - as Lacan presents him- does not
allow for the inseparable truth of the lie; he torments his fiancee, his
wife, who hasn't told him everything. This is also why femininity
remains opaque to him, precisely because it is less embarrassed by
the truth and it has a more direct rapport withjouissance.
You also find on this matrix the opposition between grief
and melancholy which figures at the end of the Seminar. A ques
tion which was already tormenting Lacan at the end of Le trans
jert. Grief is essentially related to i of a, with the image, with the
object of love in its narcissistic structure. The work of grief is the
enumeration of imaginary details in order to make them pass to the
symbolic, but it is a work which is done essentially at the scopic
level, leaving petit a under the bar, even if the petit a is delimited
there by the imaginary. Grief responds to the loss of the objet pe

tit a through an imaginary and narcissistic carnival, while Lacan


tries to show melancholy as having a relationship to petit a. In the
passage to the melancholic act, the subject breaches the barrier
which separates it from petit

a, while this barrier is maintained in

grief. Thus the melancholy subject passes through his own image
in order to attain the

objet petit a. Lacan says that he transcends

it, that is to say that it is behind. I'm passing over the definition of
mania, as non-function ofpetit a, suppression of the ballast of objet

petit a, which shows how petit a is the secret of the anchoring point.

+a
acting
grief

-a
passage a l 'acte
melancholy

lacanian ink

56

4. OPERATOR OF SEPARATION
BETWEEN FAILURE AND ENCOUNTER
I have tried to show you the strange object in the imaginary by
referring to the stage/scene. Let us take the strange object in the
symbolic where the same schematism is operative.

A (+) a

A (-) a

1\vo positions of the strange object are left to be found in the


Seminar. Since the

objet petit a does not appear in the symbolic,

one has what we know classically from Lacan, that is the circuits
of the symbolic determination, which are formulated as the laws

of symbolic determination. This is how Ecrits begin. We have an


Other which is presented by a necessary design of logical formulas
which issues the laws. At the point at which the subject appears
essentially determined by these laws, I will write in the form Big

0 with an arrow to barred S. This expresses the dominance of the


signifier on the subject and makes a subject without any rapport
with the real emerge.

---

What was exciting in the emergence of Lacan's full structuralist


discourse was this entrance of a subject which appears conditioned
and ordered purely by the signifying order without any relationship
with the real. But a different function is revealed in the Seminar
on Anxiety, that of the cause, opposed to the law, and which, when
it emerges, has a disruptive effect.
What you find, in an evident way, in the visual field, in the
form of the strange, with phantoms which haunt, doubles which as
sail you, persons who are yourself and whom you do not recognize
in the symbolic, is this place which the function of the cause as
barely conceptualizable occupies, and that the philosophers have

Reading Jacques Lacan's S eminar on Anxiety II

57

never succeeded in putting in their place, and that Jung had the
audacity to eliminate as an illusion -for him the cause is the future
of an illusion. What is developed in the Seminar on Anxiety about
the cause is the correlation in the symbolic of what you have seen
emerge in perception in the form of the strange object.
This strange object is the object misrecognized in the clas
sic analysis of Freud's Fort-Da reworked by Lacan, in which the
bobbin is reduced to being only a signifier taken as the movement
of going and returning. In the Seminar on Anxiety, the bobbin as
object appears on the contrary as a paradigm of what the subject
separates from himself as a going and returning which goes from
acting out to a passage a l'acte. This shows that the bobbin is used
as an object and not only as signifier.
You have another famous example of this strange object in
the symbolic: it is the purloined letter. Thus the change of mean
ing given in the cure to repetition. On the side of the big 0 minus
petit a, when the cause does not appear, repetition is essentially
symbolic repetition, that is to say a circuit of signifiers in which one
can find constancy, intermittence, articulation. After the Seminar
on Anxiety, in The Four Fundamental Concepts ofPsychoanalysis,
you find another figure of repetition. It appears there, in regard to
the object, as always marked by a fundamental failure, that is as
not reaching what is under the bar. Repetition, far from being only
the monotonous repetition of the symbolic, appears held between
failure and encounter, except for what Lacan could find in his own
constructions of pluses and minuses, what he proposed as the causal
contour which signalled as pending the design of the cause.
The Seminar on Anxiety is led to the necessity of inserting
the object between the Other and the subject, that is to say in the
relation which seemed so fundamental, the relationship of signifying
determination which was the glory of psychoanalysis. This inser
tion does not stand alone. One sees the cuts in the Seminar, where
Lacan forces the entrance of this objetpetit a which now becomes
the support of what he calls a commandment. We know the signi-

lacanian ink

58

fying commandment, but there is a libidinal commandment of the


subject which takes him to the example of the obsessive, which he
tries to demonstrate. He tries to show the desire of the obsessive
ordered by an object, in the form of a desire to retain which, in fact,
leaves him with indefinite repetitions, which he may be obsessed
with, but it indicates that the object in question is on this side.

A-- a

--

MECHANICAL OBJECT
To give you an idea of the strange object in the real, its most pro
found status as connected to jouissance, here is the formula which
shows us two approaches to anxiety.

(J (+) a) anxiety (J (-) a)

excess

loss

What we see as the key to the Seminar on Anxiety, anxiety emerging


when lack does not lack, obviously implies what we have seen at
the imaginary level constitute itself as anxiogenic, the

objet petit a

inscribing itself in the place on the blank space. Under the rubric J

(+) a, we will inscribe what, for example, in Inhibitions, Symptoms


and Anxiety, figures as the surplus libido, the exigence of the drive,

the stimulation of the drive marked by excess, engendering anxiety.


Lacan goes so far as to say that anxiety brings in itself an element
of infinity, which entails a function to interrupt it. One finds, in
the Seminar on

Anxiety,

numerous references using this rubric.

We have here on the other hand the register of anxiety producing a


separated object, and thus producing the loss of the object. When

petit a passes to the imaginary, it is heterogenous.

It is an element

of drive which inscribes itself in a space which does not have the

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

same structure, and it introduces perturbations. When petit

59

in

scribes itself in the symbolic, it is also heterogenous, and one does


not locate it in its category as having to do with the cause. But petit

a in the real is of a confonning structure and its irruption is marked


by the separation, that is to say that the subject incarnated in the
body must lose something. This is Lacan's point, when he writes
in his text "Du

Trieb de Freud," and contemporarily in his Seminar

XI, when he speaks of the auto-mutilation of the subject.


This separation of e real object bears on the body, which
is not the imaginary body, but the libidinal body, which goes farther
than the limits of the imaginary body, which implies that of the
Other, and all the forms. It gives rise to what I called the naturalist
charm of the Seminar, which one must revisit in the details concern
ing each of the five forms that Lacan distinguishes, and that I kept
as titles of the last part. But it is an illusion; there is no naturalism
of the objetpetit a with Lacan. On the contrary, the most surprising
thing is perhaps the cultural.ism of this object. It can be replaced.
As he says: "The natural object can be replaced by a mechanical
object." In the case of the breast, it can be replaced by the bottle,
and even this object can be replaced "by some other object."
This is how the Seminar, which stresses the corporal roots
of the

objet petit a,

at the same time stresses that artificial objects

can be the equivalents of these natural objects. Thus the mention


which is made, already in 1 962, of organ transplants, or of removal
of the image in the form of the photograph, or the voice which can
be recorded and stored. And one well knows that we are today
in a frenetic, breathless economy in which objects of substitution
of the natural object themselves are everywhere. But this is emi
nently cultural also, since the example that Lacan gives of the objet

petit a and of its separation is the foreskin of circumcision, that is


to say an eminently cultural practice. And everything which is on
the order of the production of the object is inscribed in the rubric
of separation. Thus when one hastily hands over the copy of the
examination, at the moment when anxiety andjouissance have the

lacanian ink

60

potential to come together, it functions as

objet petit a. One also

finds the work, the act, in this function.38 So that Lacan challenges
the idea of a subjective realization, pure and simple, as only being
a personal myth, which he demonstrated in "The function and field
of speech and language of psychoanalysis."

MAJOR EFFECT OF LANGUAGE ON JowssANcE


The subjective realization, if one admits that petit

a is inscribed

between the Big A (the Other) and $ , passes through the produc
tion of objects which are, Lacan says, in the same series as petit
a. This is because this realization passes through works, acts and
the surmounting of anxiety which it implies; that is to say that it
passes through the passage under the bar, the breaching of the bar
rier. One must then denaturalize the objet petit a and desubstantify
it, otherwise one will not understand how the analyst herself, in
Lacan 's subsequent teaching, can be inscribed in the same series as
the

objet petit a.

I will concentrate on the retrospective gaze that

Lacan proposes in his construction in the Seminar on Anxiety, when


he improvises, while on the promenade of Le Pantheon: "At that
moment," he says, "in returning to the Seminar on

Anxiety, I had

not designated it this objet petit a as the term of surplus-jouir, which


proves that there was something to construct before I could name it
that way."39 Here one sees that, having eluded the Triebregung, the
jouissance of the drive, he had to wait for the emergence of what
resolved a certain number of problems of the Seminar, namely the
locating of the objet petit a as surplus-jouir. What counts here is
not the substance of the object, but its function.
Lacan makes anxiety the operator of separation only in his
summary. fu reading Seminar XI we perceive that this operator is
the pleasure principle, the principle of homeostasis above the bar,
which rejects the surplus-jouir below; and, beyond, this pleasure
principle is conditioned by language, so the objetpetit a is the main
effect of language, so that the name of anxiety in the Seminar on

Anxiety recovers the mortifying operation of the signifier.

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

61

Even if Lacan left behind some of the views expressed

Anxiety and they do not occupy a major place


in his later teaching, he reaffirms, nevertheless, in L'envers de la
psychanalyse, the central characteristic of the affect of anxiety, the
in the Seminar on

characteristic of an affect around which everything is ordered- a


unique affect. This i s the affect par excellence, the unique affect
inasmuch as it connotes the production of the objet a, that is to say,
the major effect of language

on jouissance. This is why he says:

"there is only one affect, correlated to the product of the speaking


being in a discourse." If there were but one page to refer to in the
Seminar on Anxiety, I would indicate to you page 1 64 of Seminar
XI, which disconnects the function of the object from its substance.
Lacan give us there the structure of surplus-jouir in the form of
the object whose drive turns around and indicates that this objet
petit a is only the presence of a hole, of a void, occupyable by any
old object, and it doesn't matter what object comes, in an intermit
tent fashion, to label the Seminar on Anxiety. This is why Lacan
could later make of the

objet petit a a simple logical consistency,

a topological form, that is to say a substance. Whatever the charm


of the representations of the

objet petit a and its forms, one must

disconnect the function. This is what Lacan announced at the end


of

Le transfert, the lesson I titled "The Analyst and his Grief."


Grief is expressed thus: there is no one object which has a

greater price than another. It means grief oflove and of its glamour,
grief of the unique object and also agreement with the inexorable
law of the drive and of the surplus-jouir. This is how the position
of the analyst pretends to have access to the other side of love.
If what is aimed for is accomplished, which is a grief of
love in order to move toward the law of the drive, so that the subject
is always happy, it indicates something concerning the direction of
the cure: the analyst is effective only on condition of responding
himself to the structure of the strange. He must give experience the
feeling of the strange.

If not, everything will show that, failing to

make himself subject to the strange, he cannot disrupt the defense.

lacanian ink

62

1.

Lacan, Jacques, Le Seminaire,


Le Seuil,

2.
3.

2004.

livre X, L'angoisse (1962-1963) , Paris:

Lacan, J., The Seminar, Book XI, The Four Fundamental Concepts
ofPsychoanalysis (1964), New York: W.W. Norton, 198 1 ; "Position
sur l'inconscient," Ecrits, Paris: Le Seuil, 1966.

Lacan, J. , "The agency of the letter in the unconscious or reason since


Freud,"

Ecrits: A Selection, New York: W.W. Norton; 1977.


Seminaire, livre VIII, Le transfert (1960-1 961), Paris:

4.

Lacan. J., Le

5.

Freud Sigmund, "Being in Love and Hypnosis," Group Psychology and

6.

Sartre, Jean-Paul, "Une idee fondamentale de la phenomenologie de

7.

Lacan, J., "Kant with Sade," transl. by J.B. Swenson Jr.,

Le Seuil,

2001.

the Analysis ofthe Ego, S.E. XVIII, London: The Hogarth Press, 1986.
Husserl: l'intentionnalite,"
Winter

8.
9.

1989.

Lacan, J., Le

Situations 1, Paris: Gallimard, 1947.


October 5 1 ,

transfert, op. cit.


op. cit.

Lacan, J . , L'angoisse,

Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety II

10. ibid
1 1 . Lacan, J .,

63

"The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire

in the Freudian unconscious,"

Ecrits: A Selection, op. cit.

12. Lacan, J., L'angoisse, op. cit.


13. ibid
14. Lacan, J., "Radiophonie," Autres ecrits, Paris: Le Seuil, 200 1 .
1 5 . Miller, Jacques-Alain, "Scansions dans l'enseignement de Lacan,"
L 'orientation lacanienne II, 1981-1982.
16. Lacan, J., L'angoisse, op.cit.
17. Lacan, J ., "Du Trieb deFreud et du desir du psychanalyste," Ecrits, op. cit.
1 8. Lacan, J., L'angoisse, op. cit.
19. ibid
20. Lacan, J., The Seminar, Book III, The Psychoses (1955-1956), New
York: W.W. Norton, 1993.
2 1 . Lacan, J., "The function and field of speech and language in psycho
analysis,"

22.
23.
24.
25.
26.
27.
28.
29.

Ecrits: A Selection, op. cit.

Lacan, J., "Propos sur la causalite psychique," Ecrits,

32.
33.
34.
35.
36.
37.
38.
39.

op. cit.

Lacan, J., "Aggressivity in psychoanalysis," Ecrits: A Selection, op. cit.


Lacan, J., "Position sur l'inconscient,"

Ecrits: A Selection, op. cit.

Lacan, J ., "Les noms-du-pere," Des noms-du-pere, Paris: Le Seuil, 2005.


Lacan, J., "L' acte psychanalytique. Compte rendu du Seminaire

1967-1968," Autres ecrits, op. cit.

Lacan, J., "The agency ofthe letter in the unconscious or reason since

Ecrits: A Selection, op. cit.

Lacan, J., "On a question preliminary to any possible treatment of


psychosis."

31.

op.cit.

Lacan, J., "The mirror stage as formative of the function of the I,"

Freud,"

30.

Ecrits: A Selection, op. cit.

Lacan, J., "Aggressivity in psychoanalysis," Ecrits: A Selection,

Ecrits: A Selection, op. cit.

Lac an, J ., "Remarque sur le rapport de Daniel Lagache," Autres ecrits,

op. cit.

Lacan, J .,

Le transfert, op. cit.

Lacan, J.,

L'angoisse, op. cit.

ibid

ibid
ibid
ibid
ibid

Le Seminaire, livre XVII, L'envers de la psychanalyse


(1968-1969), Paris: Le Seuil, 1 991.

Lacan, J.,

The Names-of-the-Father*

JACQUES-ALAIN MILLER
translated by BARBARA P. FULKS

In Buenos Aires, with a title reminiscent of Borges and also of


ltalo Calvino, I delivered the "Commentary of the Non-Existent
Seminar." And today I will have to return to some points I made
there, because they are on the route we return to this year with

On

the Nature of Semblances.


The semblance, in the way we use it, is on the order of
what Husserl called an operating concept. We will try to convert
it into a thematic concept, if we are permitted to redefine here a
distinction that, because it is properly phenomenological, needs to
be brought up for discussion.
THE SECRET OF THE NAME
There is a Lacanian seminar which does not exist, making its com
mentary simple. We don't run great risks. Obviously we don't run
the risk of having an error or inconsistency denounced: "Something
was left out!"

*L'orientation lacanienne, Paris, Fall 1991

The Names-of-the-Father

But how can we say that a seminar ofLacan's does not ex


ist? It's all there, in the distance between to have and to exist.

If

it's possible to affirm that there is something that does not exist, it is
because we have the name of the seminar, which is all we have ofit.
Lacan announced this name, "The Names-of-the-Father,"
in 1963, to initiate the 1963-1 964 university year and, after giving
his first lesson, he said he would stop there. Silence. From that mo
ment "The Names-of-the-Father" remained as an empty reference,
even more so considering I had wanted to publish this unique lesson
with the volume of Seminar XI:

The Four Fundamental Concepts


ofPsychoanalysis, which Lacan began in January of 1 964 with the
title "The Foundation of Psychoanalysis." When this occurred to
me, Lacan told me yes, but the following day he called to tell me
that he had changed his mind and that it wasn't necessary to publish
this lesson with

The Four Fundamental Concepts . . .

So, from then until now and forever there was a hole in his
teaching, in the series of his seminars, which over the years Lacan
liked to interpret. He liked to provoke his audience with it, he
used to say: "It wasn't by chance that I couldn't give my seminar
on 'The Names-of-the-Father,"' as if to give that seminar would
have been in some way impossible, as if it were prohibited to touch
on the Name-of-the-Father in psychoanalysis, as if the theme were
destined to remain under a veil, as if whoever would dare to touch
on that name might become a victim, as if there existed a curse of
the Pharaoh, similar to that which at the beginning of the century
was believed to affect Howard Carter and his companions. (This
episode was immortalized in

The Seven Crystal Balls, one of the

titles of Herge 's series. This is a curse which becomes active when
the pyramid, which is the tomb of the Pharaoh, is violated.)
But sometimes Lacan claimed something else: "I never
will tell them what I could tell them about the names of the father
because they don't deserve it! And they will never know it." This
is expressed in French at school age or preschool age with the pho
nemes "Na-na-na ! Na-na-na!" Apparently, in some way, Lacan

66

lacanian ink

wanted to carry the secret to the tomb. He thought he himself was


the Pharaoh or the pyramid that protects the mystery of the names
of the father, as if what was beneath the pyramid of his teaching
was there- that hole-forever covered.
And although it's a mattr of a secret, we could well ask
ourselves if in a certain way it cannot be deciphered from the name
itself of the non-existent seminar. The title "The Names-of-the
Father" shows that there is no "the Name-of-the-Father," that the
Name-of-the-Father as "the" - singular definite article- or, more
precisely, as unique, as absolute, does not exist. Perhaps the secret
is that the tomb of the father is empty, like that of Moses for Freud
or that of Christ for Hegel. As you know, Lacan makes these refer
ences in "The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire
in the Freudian unconscious" in order to clarify that the sacrifice
ofAbraham did not reveal its mystery to either of the two - neither
to Freud nor to Hegel - and suggests that for him it did.
Thus, the secret of the name would be in the title, so that
everyone can see it and hear it, as in "The Purloined Letter," where
the evidence itself protects the secret of the location of the letter.
But, at the same time, the father is, par excellence, the one walking

suppose
savoir of life and carries it to death. For that reason, one could
around with the secret, the one who assumes the secret

believe that the ultimate response will always remain hidden for
the subject, as was observed in a clinical case presented in Buenos
Aires about an analysand who in a dream saw himself sucking on
a lock. And this is what we undoubtedly do: we suck on the lock
of "The Names-of-the-Father."
It is possible to imagine that if we had asked Lacan why he
had not revealed the secret, he would have responded (something
that he did here and there in his public interventions): "In the first
place, because this secret cannot be revealed; second, because they
kept me from revealing it; and third, because I didn't want to do it."
Lacan's desire is presented here in its ambiguity: he goes against
the father, but, at the same time, does it in the Name-of-the-Father,

The Names-of-the-Father

67

in the name of Freud, and in the position of the father in which he


placed himself without being able to confirm that it wasn't what
he wanted.
This hole is reminiscent of the bar which Lacan came up
against; it repeats in some way that other hole in which he himself
was placed. And although it is somewhat anecdotal, Lacan gives it
the power of myth, even in its structure. In effect, precisely in the
wake of giving the first lesson of"The Names-of-the-Father" Lacan
was barred by his colleagues from the so-called Commission of
Teaching, in the French Society of Psychoanalysis, who responded
to precise orders of the executive committee of the International
Association of Psychoanalysis, Freud's heir. Thus, on the 20th of
November of 1963, after having said almost nothing, Lacan left
Sainte-Anne, the place in which he had taught since Freud's Papers
on Technique (1953-1954), his first seminar, and he was mute until

January of 1 964. This period of silence didn't last too long because

Louis Althusser invited him to continue his teaching in the Ecole


Normale Superieure, and, at the same time, the sixth section of
the Ecole des Hautes Etudes bestowed him with the modest title
of charge de

conferences.

I have already pointed out the precise meaning of the term

"excommunication" which Lacan stressed in his new first lesson of


the seminar of The

Four Fundamental Concepts . . .

and that I used

as the title of the chapter: it is as if he had been penalized, punished


for having touched on the Name-of-the-Father, for having put it in

doubt, punished for impiety; as if Freud's heirs had excommunicated


him for having wanted to touch the father constructed by Freud,
and also for having touched Freud as the father of psychoanalysis.
Then, instead of the seminar "The Names-of-the-Father,"
Lacan gives another one, about the foundations of psychoanaly
sis. This is the constitutive metaphor of the new seminar: Freud's
concepts submitted to discussion instead of the names of the father.
But, under the bar, one can read what was dealt with: discreetly,
Lacan continues examining Freud's desire to verify if it is possible

lacanian ink

68

or not to extract it from psychoanalysis; he realizes that what is


occurring is as if he were the son, a small but guilty Isaac, an Isaac
who was at the same time Spinoza and who could be sacrificed to
the choler of the father's heirs.
For Lacan there is a correspondence between the seminar
"The Names-of-the-Father" and what happens to him , what he calls
excommunication; it is as if the anecdote of his life responded to the
structure itself of the analytic movement, to its Oedipal structure,
and was evidenced in it; as if the bar placed on his name on the list
(the lucky list ! , there is no analyst without a list!) corresponded to
the one he himself placed on the Name-of-the-Father, and which
would necessarily be followed by another on the seminar "The
Names-of-the-Father."
B etween November of 1 963 and January of 1 964 the con
cepts replace the names: instead of religion, science, and instead
of critique of religion, an epistemology. Nevertheless-although
I won't elaborate on this point- along with the epistemological

investigation, the pursuit of Freud's desire continues, the discussion


of his role in psychoanalysis and of what remains in it of religion
(one more effort!) in order to make it ascend to the status of sci
ence. It is what is verified with all the letters at the beginning of

Seminar XI, where it's not only a matter of correcting the way of
understanding the Freudian concepts through a movement of return
that would conclude with a justification (so that in the end the origin
guarantees for us the authenticity of what Freud really said), but
also to know if in psychoanalysis the sacred respect with which
Freudian terms passed from generation to generation can be put to
scientific use.
The unconscious, repetition, transference and drive, names
we owe to Freud, are the names of the father in psychoanalysis.
Thus, not only is the substitution of names for concepts profiled, but
also, as I pointed out, the passage, the transmission, of the concepts
to mathemes, from the Freudian tradition to something completely
distinct. And if one thinks that this concludes only with the meta-

The Names-of-the-Father

69

phor that replaces Freud's name with Lacan 's, the latter would have
or has failed. That his own name has become unavoidable in our
myth of psychoanalysis is more his failure than his success. If $,

a, A, A and what follow were transformed into the new names of


the father, it was because of an irony to which Lacan became ac
customed, without much hope that someday psychoanalysis could
reach a scientific state.
FROM ONE TO THE MULTIPLE
At the same time, where that complete metaphor comes into exis
tence we find another which replaces the Name-of-the-Father, in
the singular, by the names of the father. How can we interpret this
passage from the singular to the plural? In the first place, by sus
taining that there mu st be more than one. And if we want to use a
symbol, let's take the quantifier of existence which is written with
an inverted E

( H)

and means 'at least one,' and does not exclude

more. Now let us modify it with an apostrophe in order to indicate


another meaning: 'at least one and one at the most'-that is, a unique
exists-and let us translate the names E,f the father through the bar
of negation placed over this symbol

( H').

Of course, this is to pass from One to the multiple, but, at the


same time, it is to submit to discussion the existence of one alone.
It could be that there was no correct one! If the mere passage of the
singular to the multiple is sacrilege in this context. . . (I say in this
context because the problematic of the names of God, in the plural,
is a religious problematic. The names of God are already enumer
ated in Judaism, in Christianity, in Islam). If here, in this context,
the passage from the singular to the plural seems a sacrilege, it is
because it has an effect of relativization: the Name-of-the-Father
as absolute passes to the Name-of-the-Father as relative (not only
one, but one among others !), until such point that the Father- with
a capital letter- far from being the only Name of Father, would
only be one among others. It could even happen (how can it be

70

lacanian ink

interpreted any other way?) that the Name-of-the-Father is only


the name of a function that one must write NP (x), where the x in
parentheses designates the variable and questions in each clinical
case what the role the Name-of-the-Father plays. This relativization
and this functionalization of the Name-of-the-Father is on the route
that will lead Lacau to invent the category of signifying master,
such that any signifier can sustain the function, including the objet a.
In this context, then, to pass from singular to plural, from
"the one" to "the plural," would be like passing from religion to
science. Religion-especially Christianity-gladly speaks of God
as of a father, as of Father par excellence; and the Name-of-the
Father figures in the benediction together with the Son and the Holy
Spirit. That's why Lacan always reminds us that he borrows this
concept from the tradition (in "L'etourdit," you will find, regarding
Schreber's psychosis, the indication that the Name-of-the-Father
"indicates that it is the responsible one according to tradition").
The figure of the father is not a concept born in psycho
analysis, but rather a figure inherited by psychoanalysis.

If the

plural is an allusion to the end of this cursed tradition, it is because


it is introduced in a logic of the Name-of-the-Father in which the
latter appears as a function that can be sustained by diverse state
ments, which, from then on, play the role of said name.

N F (x)
Thus the Name-of-the-Father, as one of these elements, should
not be the ultimate instance nor the ultimate response. It remains
to be given a status and distinguished as element and as function.
But, what function? If we refer to what Lacan denominated the
paternal metaphor, it is the function of metaphorizing the desire of
the mother, of barring it. In this sense, the Name-of-the-Father is,
par excellence, an operator of metaphorization, to such an extent
that, as element, it already is in itself the metaphor of the father, of
the presence of the father. Let us write it this way:

The Names-of-the-Father

71

NF
FF
The Name-of-the-Father can not only operate in the absence of the
father (this is why Lacan criticizes the theories that relegate psycho
sis to the lack of the father), but it can also make him absent. If it
is a matter of the father spoken through the mother, as a theme of
the discourse, it is well to stress that it is an empty reference there,
that he is made absent by the verb. And for that reason, without
myth, one can affirm that it is a matter of the dead father as the
subject of the signifier, which is written $.
The Name-of-the-Father is always the metaphorized father
and not only just metaphorizing. So we might ask ourselves what
metaphorizes, what is metaphorized in its presence. If we are to
give the Name-of-the-Father-in the singular- its rightful place in
Lacan, it is necessary to unite the Freudian Oedipus with the myth
of Totem and Taboo in order to show that what is barred there under
the form of the desire of the mother (OM) is none other than the
presence ofjouissance. The paternal metaphor in its classic version
should not make us be\ieve that with the metaphor of the Name
of-the-Father this jouissance that I write with a J

(Jouissance) in

parentheses after the symbol DM can be annulled.

NF

NF

FF

DM (J)

Totem and Taboo is truer, in that it shows that, in spite of this meta
phor, the J in parentheses is saved, but it passes to the upper level
and seems to become an attribute of the father.

NF(J)

1YM

lacanian ink

72

THE PROPER NAME


The Name-of-the-Father is also, in another vein, an element of the
general theory of the proper name in linguistics and in mathemati
cal logic. The Name-of-the-Father is divided into the theory of the
father and the theory of the name.
As Lacan often stressed in his approach, the proper name in
language is not translated, it is repeated. Certainly, when a language
uses another alphabet, there is a transliteration whose purpose is
to let the speaker produce the same sound, to pronounce it in the
same way. And this, as I pointed out, is what makes the relationship
between the proper name and the matheme: they demonstrate, one in
writing and the other in speech, a global transmission. Thus it is a
subtle operation figuring out to what extent the proper name belongs
to the language, and how it is distinguished in dictionaries as being
of the language and of proper names (those which one supposes
are worth the trouble to retain). Doubtless it is possible to know a
language without knowing the proper names familiar to those who
have the language as mother tongue. Of course, it is disputable,
since in general one learns with the language a minimum of proper
names. Yet given that they also belong to another language, to
which they are not really proper (the proper names are not proper
to the language), their pertinence leads to some variations.
If one wants to make words out of proper names-which
is doubtful-they would be in any case words whose meaning
is impossible to research, unless they were considered common
names. And we couldn't ask for their meaning except through their
reference. I could call myself, why not? Jacques-A lain Meunier

(meunier in French is the owner of a mill, a miller), since I've


been called a "mill of words" (un moulin a paroles) for some time.
And, in effect, knowing the French translation of this word-that
one supposes belongs to English- made me especially interested
in the song

Meunier, tu dors . . . (Miller, you are sleeping) when I

was young, which perhaps made me decide to stay awake.

The Names-of-the-Father

73

But we are dealing with the proper name, occupying itself


in the mode that desire assigns it, makes it signify, and as a word in
which the break between signification and reference is presented in
a crude manner. This is at least what obliges us to think that there
is more in a word than its signification.
As you know, the proper name needs a special logical
treatment; it presents a specific difficulty inasmuch as it resists
translation by functions and arguments or variables. It is not easily
presented by the formula f (x)-where an element x has the property
f- , because this x can be replaced everywhere, while the proper
name is unsubstitutable.
You also know (this is the point of departure of the modern
English, Anglophone philosophical school) how interested Bertrand
Russell was in this theme. In 1905 in his article "On Denoting,"
he explained how we refer to.ourselves through language and how
proper names cause difficulties because they don't refer to anything.

In this sense, the concept of the proper name should expand- no


tably -until it includes what he calls definite descriptions; that is,
expressions made with words from the language, which sometimes
include the proper name and which refer supposedly to a unique
person (for example, to the King of France in 1 905, who, unlike
that of England, in that epoch did not exist). This difficulty which
is, properly speaking, a difficulty about the nature of semblances,
motivated in him a construction which was discussed, and he
insisted on differentiating the extension of the concept from the
intention, resulting in the idea that a definition does not guarantee
existence at all .
We had to wait until Kripke's invention in 1972, soon
pointed out by Lacan, for the function of a pure signifier of the
proper name to emerge in mathematical logic itself; meaning that
the proper name is not the abbreviation of a list of properties. Here
the Leibnizian "possible," to which Lacan refers in "L'etourdit,"
allows us to understand that, if Walter Scott had not written Waver
ley-to take Bertrand Russell's famous example-nothing keeps

lacanian ink

74

us from conceiving a possible world in which he did, and in which


Walter Scott would exist as a proper name. The proper name Walter
Scott does not depend on the list of properties assigned to Walter
Scott. The proper name lives independently and passes immutably
through these possible worlds which are perhaps so many errors
which we make. Kripke called it a "rigid designator" in order to
indicate that it doesn't always depend on aleatory references or
on flexible significations. If tomorrow one found that

Waverley

was written by a teacher of Walter Scott, Walter Scott as proper


name would continue being equally operative. So that, thanks to
this focus, a function of the pure signifier which doesn't signify
anything emerges, whose signification-as Lacan indicates in "The
subversion of the subject . . . ," to which I can't avoid referring to
once more- is nothing other than its own enunciation.
Lacan attempted to write the specific operation that re
sponds to the proper name.

And it's clear that he effected this

small montage from the idea that it is a matter of a signifier whose


meaning has exactly the same value as the enunciation. Thus, as
you will recall, he wrote:

S (signifier)

s (enunciated)

s (signified)
This construction would offer the calculation of the signification
of the proper name. And it is understood then that it affirms that it
symbolizes its meaning from the barred Other, which would have
a value of minus one in respect to the wealth of signifiers; that is to
say, that it would be lacking there. The proper name is analogous
to this S

(J{),

which would be outside of the language, and this

affinity would be so close that, as Lacan points out in "The subver


sion of the subject. . . ", the proper names are par excellence what
come to occupy the place left empty by the absence of S

(A.).

This

refers to the proper names, to these semblances, in order to cover

The Names-of-the-Father

75

up what is lacking in the foundations, if not of psy choanalysis, at


least of discourse.
In "The signification of the phallus," Lacan writes that
"the subject designates his being only by barring everything he
signifies." For that reason one can think that his proper name,
which is separated from all signification and allows him to figure
in a list without anything being known about him (thus from lists
eventually he calls them to interviews in order to understand what
all this means), designates this being.
The proper name is a signifier of the barred Other [S (JC.)],
which can only be pronounced if transformed into signifier of the
Other not barred [S (A)]. Magister dixit is the support itself of
knowledge in the position of master. Thus began the University,
if one refers to its adornment, namely the Summa Theologica of
Saint Thomas of Aquinas; it begins by making lists of teachers.
This knowledge in position of master is sustained by its truth: the
signifying master of the proper name. This magister dixit does not
mean anything else but: he knows what he says. And in this way
the master as subject is covered, hidden, makes us forget that the
personal master hardly knew what he was say ing.
It's no small matter that there hasn 't been at least someone
who asked what could be said knowing that one didn 't know what
one was saying. And if later on the proper name ofLacan will cir
culate throughout the centuries (I will make the bet; if I'm wrong
I won't be here to pay it), it is because the one to whom we refer
ceaselessly-it is something which is parasitical for us and some
thing we can't undo-was the master who looked at this straight
in the eye, if you will. What to say, keeping the unconscious in
account? He seems to have concluded that it was not necessary to
say too much in this respect.
How can we designate his being without doing it for the
semblance of the proper name? To designate it as "I myself' is
insufficient, even when it is the neurotic solution thatLacan called
"position without name." Every designation by the proper name

lacanian ink

76

only designates the being of the subject as dead subject or as the


dead father, since it is also the name that will be on the tomb. This
is why Sade didn't want it, and it is why what interested him about
himself was thejouissance, which he thought was unending. Well,
it is absolutely necessary for the names to be in their place on the
tombs; if not, a pathology would follow that stood out in notorious
incidents that I heard about in Buenos Aires.
THE NAME OF JowssANCE
While he examines the proper name, Lacan introduces themati
cally for the first time in his writing the concept of jouissance.
At that time he was wondering how to designate the being of the
subject without doing the same for the proper name. How could
he designate the being of the subject not as dead subject but by
what remained alive in it? He speaks, then, of a "being who ap
pears in some way defective in the sea of the proper nouns" (see

"The subversion of the subject . . . "). Why does he say "the sea?" I
asked myselfthat for a long time. Lacan spes of the sea of proper
names precisely because the proper name doesn't belong in a very
clear way to the land of the Other; it is rather at the shores of the
place of the Other. The grammar which allows for the cartography
that is elaborated from language has a space for the category of
proper names but can say nothing about its articulation. From this
perspective, a proper name is not a syntactical articulation with
another proper name which can prescribe a grammar. And there
is no proper name which can designate what the subject as the "I"
of the enunciation doesn't know, because no proper name allows
us to know if the subject involved is alive or dead. When we cite
Lacan and affirm "Lacan says . . . " it doesn't matter at all if he is
alive or dead- although there are things that one would not say if
he were alive.
"Lacan says" for all eternity ! And here is the lacking name
which must be discovered, that is, the name ofjouissance, the name

The Names-of-the-Father

77

of my being as a being ofjouissance. We can't call it my objet a, it


is not a proper name, but in spite of everything . . . In the diagnostic a
subject is not designated, rather a clinical structure more or less elab
orated is classified, and one speaks then of an obsessive, an hysteric,
a phobic. However, the true proper names in the clinic include the
surplus ofjouissance of a subject, its objet a. When we refer to the
"Rat Man," when we speak of the "Wolf Man," we give them proper
names which have nothing to do with the Name-of-the-Father.
There is also Dora, of course, whom we call by her invented
name. This is because Freud didn't want to call her the Woman of
Men. And then there is Little Hans, the Little Horse Man. It isn't
by chance that in this name, and in each of these names - except
in that of Schreber, the Man of God-there is

an animal, since this

is, according to Freud, what escapes the lack in being. This is why
he dedicated himself to the supposedly primitive function of the
animal god. It is always a matter of animals: rats, horses, men and

objet a is perhaps a name which is not a metaphor, a


andjouissance are included together.
Consequently, after his seminar L' angoisse Lacan touched

women. The

name in which father

on the Name-of-the-Father. And there is an unavoidable logical


sequence which proceeds from
of-the-Father," passing through

L'identification
L'angoisse, in

question circulates: "what am I?"

to "The Names
which the same

You only have to read the

seminar "The Names-of-the-Father," which doesn't exist, to find

L'identification the reply


given differentiating the imaginary identification- i (a)-fro m

the question in many of his lessons. In


is

symbolic identification-I (A) - , whose symmetry is marked by


the identity of the letters which are distinguished only by being
small or capital. It is the response of the famous graph of desire,
where from the question "what am I?" -planted at the beginning
of the vector which begins below right, from the place of the barred
subject- one obtains the result I (A), the symbolic identification
which is justified by the extent to which the identifications in Freud
are determined by desire.

78

lacanian ink

The drive remains. That which can be name, even insignia,


for the subject of desire doesn't mean anything for the one situated
"at the level of the drive." For that reason, when the reply to the
question "what am I?" is given at the level of the drive on the graph
of desire, Lacan writes it S (.I{). There is something which doesn't
figure in the register of the Other. This is what he could say about
it as a stage on his route.
The question of anxiety reappears there, that is: what is
found, then, lacking in relationship with the structure itself of the
proper name? To what does S (},.) respond? Having cleared up
anxiety of objet a from affect, Lacan passes to the seminar "The
Names-of-the-Father" and remembers that, as always, Kierkegaard
corrected Hegel: the notion that the universal could without error
join with the particular, approach the place of the particular. On
this point also it is possible to go further than the limit that Freud
placed in the form of the myth of the assassination of the father-or
of the desire to assassinate him-following the steps of Kierkeg
aard, who to his The Concept ofAnxiety added Fear and Trembling,
which deals with Abraham's sacrifice. You know the chapters of
the seminar "The Names-of-the-Father" which deal with Fear and
Trembling and about the criticism of this inflated ideal, the belief
that God could be cause of himself. Then-and this is something
that Lacan repeats in diverse places in the Ecrits-Saint Augustine
does well to deny to God the name of cause of himself.
For some reason in "The Names-of-the-Father" Lacan
revisits and criticizes seriously the so-called ontological argument,
which states that it is possible to pass without difficulty from the uni
versal to the particular, that one can pass as someone who pretends
that the for every x(Vx) at least one ( Hx) exists. This ontological
argument is at the root of the error of the Cartesian cogito, which
doesn't mean giving carte blanche to the Kantian critique of the
passage from the concept to existence. In "The Names-of-the
Father" Lacan gives credit to Saint Anselm, who didn't have the
remotest idea of ontology but thought he could confirm a real God.

The Names-of-the-Father

79

What better to prove that the Name-of-the-Father is sem


blance than psychosis, where we see a real father operate, in a most
brutal manner? It's a matter of the real Un-father that the veil of
the semblance of the Name-of-the-Father avoids encountering. The
foreclosure of the Name-of-the-Father supposes that there is no
semblance of the Name-of-the-Father, that there is no semblance
of the father. Inasmuch as the father is impossible for a subject,
there can be the real of the father, and he can be found. But, be
calm, this is not something that occurs to Descartes, Malebranche
or Leibniz. He is presented as real precisely because the psychosis
is the failure of the semblance.
The next time we will attempt to read line by line the semi
nar "The Names-of-the-Father" to clarify how the final minutes
could be oracular.

,.

The Formulas of l 'Etourdit

ALAIN B ADIOU
translated by Scorr SAVAIANO

Clearly the word "formulas" in the title "The Formulas of l'Etourdif'


needs to be heard in two senses. The first is quite obviously as in
the mathematical formulas inherent to the expression "formulas of
sexuation." But then the second is as in Rimbaud's poetic sense:
"The place and the wording came to me"

(J'ai trouve le lieu et

la formule). The relation between these two meanings must be


thought through. How can a formula figure in the registers of both
the matheme and the existence of a subject?
It is often said that psychoanalysis in general, and Lacan
in particular, play on equivocations in the signifier. It is also said
that Lacan completely de-ontologizes the comprehension of lan
guage because the equivocation of the signifier, and the plurality
of interpretations that result, destroy one of the most fundamental
conceptions of philosophical ontology from Aristotle to Deleuze,
which holds that being is univocal. But formulas contradict this
point of view, because a formula is a univocal proposition so ab
solute that its literal universality is immediate.

The Formulas of l'Etourdit

Even though for Lacan the course of the analytic cure runs
through the realm of equivocation, we know its ultimate aim is a
knowledge (savoir) that is wholly transmissible, without remainder.
The aim is to heed a commandment to symbolize or, as he put it, to
fashion an "exact formalization," without a trace of equivocation.

I would like therefore to situate my remarks with respect


to a difficult question: How is the passage in psychoanalysis made
from linguistic equivocation to something-the formula, formal
ization-that is at once both its borderline and negation? What
precisely is this hole in equivocal language that beckons the void
of the univocal to the surface? I want to situate myself within this
question of the hole that formulaic univocality bores into the herme
neutics of equivocation, because I believe this is where

l'Etourdit

is also fundamentally situated.

A sizable portion of l'Etourdit is devoted to the question

of the matheme, and the issue or-mathematical relations. Lacan


is clearly touching upon the key point when he asks himself how,
in the cure, to make the passage from impotence (Imaginary) to
impossibility (Real). As the text makes clear, this relation is unin
telligible if we do not ask ourselves what a formalization is.
The only direct quote from

l'Etourdit I

shall make, and

which everything I am going to say will be a commentary on, is


on page 8 or 452, depending on the edition. Here it is:
Freud steered us onto the path to the effect that ab-sense
assigns sex: A topology in which the word is what is deci
sive is laid out when this ab-sex sense becomes inflated.

Freud nous met sur la voie de ce que l' ab-sens designe


le sexe : c 'est a la gonfle de ce sens ab-sexe qu 'une
topologie se deploie ou c'est le mot qui tranche
For the moment I shall leave this quotation to shine in the obscurity
of its letter, and will instead say what my guiding thread is going to
be. My guiding thread is going to be, as always, Lacan 's relation

lacanian ink

82

to philosophy. IBtimately this is the only thing that interests me.


This examination will be based on the following conceptual triplet:
truth, knowledge

(savoir), Real. My argument is that l'Etourdit is

a proposition that creates a disjuncture between analytic discourse


and philosophical discourse, based on their two entirely different
ways ofjoining together this grouping of truth-knowledge-Real- a
triplet which i n th could be said, assuming we keep it in the
right order, to be in itself common to the discourses of both the
philosopher and the analyst. This triplet is indeed the borderline
between two discourses.
What, in Lacan's eyes, is the true nature of how philosophy
operates? What does Lacan identify as "philosophical," in order
for his anti-philosophy to assume its full meaning? Philosophy
operates, in Lacan's eyes, by affirming that there is such a thing
as a 'meaning or sense of truth

(sens de la verite). But why would

philosophy maintain this? Because its objective, the consolation


it offers us, and which goes by the name "wisdom," is to be able
to assert that there is a truth of the Real. This is its implicit or ex
plicit axiom: there is a sense to truth because there is a truth of the
Real. However, in

l 'Etourdit Lacan argued, contrary to what he

judges to be the way philosophy operates, and against even what


he himself at times maintained prior to it, namely that there is no
sense to truth whatsoever because there is no truth of the Real.

L'Etourdit's main argument is that the Real serves as the basis of


a function of knowledge only, which exists but is not of the order
of the truth as such.
In

l 'Etourdit the Real is clearly definable based on the ab

sence of sense. The result of this is that the truth-knowledge-Real


triplet must be juggled around a bit with respect to the question of
sense, if we are to be able to think it through completely. In h<;r
brilliant commentary on Book Gamma of Aristotle's Metaphysics,
Barbara Cassin speaks of a "decision of sense," and it could be said

that l 'Etourdit is another kind of sense decision, different from the


Aristotelian one. With respect to this decision, the Real may be

The Formulas of l'Etourdit

83

defined as a sense which is ab-sense. The Real is ab-sense, and


therefore an absence of sense, but which absence of course implies
that sense does exist.
The point that needs to be understood, as concerns the
complex decision Lacan is formulating here, is that ab-sense must
be held absolutely distinct from nonsense. Lacan 's argument is not
absurdist or in a general sense existentialist. He is not asserting that
the Real is nonsense. He is asserting that an opening onto the Real
cannot be breached save through the presupposition that it is an
absence in sense, an ab-sense, or a subtracting of something from,
or out of, sense. Everything depends on this distinction between
ab-sense and non-sense.
Why does this entire issue impact the disentangling of
psychoanalysis and philosophy in the most fundamental way? Basi
cally because the distinction between absence and nonsense annot
be envisioned save in its correlation with sex, and more specifically
in its correlations with what constitutes the Real of the unconscious,
that there is no sexual relation. Sex determines, rather "nakedly"
I daresay, the Real as impossibility itself: the impossibility of the
relation. The impossible, the Real I mean, is thus correlated with
ab-sense, and in particular with the absence of any kind of relation,
meaning the absence of any kind of sense of sexuality (sens sexuef).
The entire process follows a logical genealogy: based on the fact
that sense is ab-sense, the Real may be designated as impossibility
itself, and this is why one of the synonyms for ab-sense in Lacan's
text is ab-sex sense. "Ab-sex sense" is a formula, the one which
says that there is no sexual relation. It is of tantamount importance
for it to be clearly understood that these negative expressions ("there
is no" and "there is ab-sense") are ultimately equivalent to the non
negative formula "ab-sex sense."
Absence defined as subtracting something away from sense,
or the classical decision of sense, (i.e. the sexual "relation" makes
no sense, and thus is not a relation), cannot be sidelined with respect
to sense or the Aristotelian kind of decision of sense, nor can it

lacanian ink

84

be used in a negation of the negation of non-sense. In reality it is


neither sense nor non-sense, but is instead the unique proposition,
free-floating and absolutely original, that is ab-sense, the absence
of sense. But absence is signified here in positive terms as ab-sex
sense, meaning in the end the Real as having an absence of sense
to the effect that there is no relation, in this case no sexual relation,
something that the syntactical formula "ab-sex sense" condenses
down to, in affirmative form. This is the central proposition of

l'Etourdit: the absence of sense is not non-sense, because it is

ab-sex sense.
The main reason this proposition is so important is that it
grounds the possibility of the matheme, of whole transmission or,
in short, the formula. It grounds it by positing that in affirmative
terms every function of the Real in knowledge involves absence.
What is wholly transmissible is always categorically an inscription
of absence as ab-sex sense. Basically, the general form the formulas
of knowledge assume is as follows: The function of knowledge in
the Real involves ab-sense, insofar as it is supported in positive
terms by ab-sex sense. It can therefore indeed be said that knowl
edge does make some sense. Knowledge defined as a function in
the Real is endowed with the unique sense of ab-sex sense, or ab
sense. Consequently the relation to the Real Lacan is proposing
as being that of the discourse of the analyst is going to be a sense
of knowledge as ab-sex sense; whereas the philosophical relation
to the Real is mired in the register of truth.
Because of this, philosophy is judged incapable of attaining
the sense of knowledge. Led astray by the fatal symptom of the
love of truth, philosophy misses the rule which holds that something
about sense is correlated with knowledge as a function of the Real,
the function that yields the formula "there is no sexual relation."
It misses this absolutely unique sense which is, properly speaking,
neither sense nor nonsense, but ab-sex sense instead. Obviously this
means philosophy is missing the Real (manque le reel), including
missing it in the mode of experiencing it that would yield a sense

The Formulas of

l'Etourdit

85

of knowledge. Philosophy would seem to be a bit rushed into the


truth. It is rushed into the truth, and its haste obscures or botches
the moment of the Real as absence, as a "knowing" relation to
ab-sex sense.
Putting it in another, and perhaps simpler, way: philosophy
is a prisoner of the duality sense-truth, which presupposes that
the opposite of sense is nonsense, and not ab-sense. This is why
philosophy is a quest for the meaning or sense of truth, whose only
goal is to avoid the existential drama of nonsense.
It is worthwhile to note in passing that this trial Lacan
conducts against philosophy is not the same one he conducts
against religion. Religion is not the infinite quest for the sense of
truth, because religion's main argument holds that, on one point at
least, truth and sense are indistinguishable. There is no sense of
truth that arises to ward off nonsense, instead there is a Supreme
Being whose formula is truth

sense. Philosophy does not heed

the imperative of religion to affirm that, on this one point at least,


sense and truth are indistinguishable. It may do so of course, but
this is not its essence. Philosophy is centered on a kind of face
to-face meeting between sense and truth. It does not necessarily
have to be about interpreting the truth as sense, nor about religi
osity. But it is impossible for it to dislodge the duality of sense
and truth because the only thing capable of jarring this duality is
the category of ab-sense or ab-sex sense as a function of the Real.
For philosophy the Real has no function in knowledge because of
this primordially undisturbed squaring off of sense and truth into
a face-to-face relation, the ultimate outcome of this being that the
all-important "there is not," in which the impossibility of the Real
comes to fruition, is circumvented.
If we were to now attempt to don the robe of philosophy's
advocate, (a robe that I daresay fits me like a glove), our defense
would likely begin with the following: Lacan 's entire anti
philosophical critique rests on the validity, pertinence or force of
the category of ab-sense or ab-sex sense. More precisely it rests

86

lacanian ink

entirely on the assertion that in its experience of sex, or ab-sex,


psychoanalysis encounters a Real that makes it possible to dislodge
the effects sense has, going so far as to be able to maintain that a
register of sense exists that is neither the affirmation nor negation
of sense. Analytic experience is presupposed as opening a space
between sense and non-sense that is required in order for the analytic
act itself to crystallize.
It should be recalled however that the analytic act's exis
tence may only be verified in the aftermath. But the aftermath of
what? The aftermath of the production of a transmissible knowl
edge. This production alone proves retroactively that analytic
act there was. There can be one without it, but it would remain
unproven. Yet a transmissible knowledge like this is obviously a
function of knowledge in the Real, which therefore involves ab-sex
sense or ab-sense, in one way or another. Regardless of whether we
approach things from the theoretical, anti-philosophical or clinical
point of view we stumble upon this absolute necessity, in Lacan 's
teaching, that a gap between sense and non-sense must be capable
of being opened. Indeed the Real as such adheres in this gap, the
Real of the "there is not," the Real as the impossible relation or, if
we dare formulate it in the form of a philosopheme, pure being as
unbound multiplicity.
What is more this is the issue that triggers so many argu
ments in the psychoanalytic schools concerning one of Lacan 's
greatest inventions: the pass. This procedure serves to verify that
an analytic act took place. It rests entirely upon the idea of trans
missibility, of transmissible knowledge. The procedure verifies,
through successive ordeals of transmission, that something like a
knowledge, and thus a function of the Real, was produced during
an analytic cure. Schematically speaking, someone generally tells
someone else something that took place, and this someone else then
tells it to a third someone. A potent kind of transmissibility thereby
filters through, cleansed of any traces of improbability by virtue
of the fact that it takes place over the course of multiple moments.

The Formulas of l'Etourdit

87

What I find interesting in all this business is that the opening of


the space between sense and nonsense, which makes it possible
for ab-sex sense to assume a position of minimal accessibility to
illumination, is revealed, in the aftermath, by the transmissibility
of the analytic act. As for the act itself, it can never be represented
in a proposition. It coincides with its own occurrence. Therefore
only what can be inscribed about it indirectly, in the form of a trans
missible knowledge, should be considered valid proof of the act
itself. The act is only attested to in the figure of this knowledge's
transmissibility. Why? Because this knowledge is about absence or
ab-sex sense. It can be said therefore that the pass is the transitive
organization of repeated absences that have registered in words. It
is an apparatus for rendering coherent, or not, (if things- a-fail
to "pass through"), accounts whose underlying consistency are held
to adhere in the place of ab-sex sense, for purposes of verifying
that the transmission at issue is indeed a knowledge functioning in
the Real.
Deep down, Lacan is convinced that philosophy is the pri
mary example of what does not pass through, of what could never
have a pass. Indeed this is why philosophy only has teachers and
disciples. After all no philosopher is going to recount his philosophy
to someone charged with then telling it to someone else, who would
then vouch before a committee that the original speaker is indeed
a philosopher, that a philosophical act took place somewhere. The
suit brought against philosophy charges that if you hold fast-as
philosophy claims to do, unaware that it is thereby part of the "there
is no relation" -to a face-to-face between sense and truth, you are
in no condition to produce a knowledge that is wholly transmissible
without remainder. You will not uncover the formula, because all
formulas require a know ledge that is as a function of the Real. For
the psychoanalyst, philosophy indeed does not pass through. In
fact we may even assert the inverse: the pass's rejects are probably
composed of philosophemes. If we fish around for them in the pass'
garbage can, we are likely to find several philosophical residues in

lacanian ink

88

more or less advanced stages of decay. The hard kernel of the pass
is something that reveals a Real in the guise of ab-sex sense, insofar
as an act has in some way come into contact with it. The pass's
residues are typically philosophemes that are poorly transmissible
and strewn along the borderline between sense and nonsense.
Lacan 's anti-philosophy may thus be stated in three differ
ent ways.
First, philosophy lacks a certain awareness with respect
to the register of ab-sense. Philosophy does not want to have to
know anything about this register. Philosophy always ends up with
something other than ab-sense or ab-sex sense. Thus, as Barbara
Cassin has demonstrated, Aristotle ends up with the principle of
non-contradiction.
Second, philosophy is unaware of the position of knowledge
in the Real. It glosses over it with the love of truth.
Third, philosophy has a specular quality to it, because it
mirrors sense and truth off one another, under the cover of stating
that there is potentially a sense of truth.
At this point we may now return to the knowledge-truth

Real triplet, as it functions in the formulas of l'Etourdit.

For Lacan there is no truth of the Real, as opposed to what


philosophy presupposes in one way or another. There is only truth
insofar as the Real functions in knowledge.
On the other hand there is no, properly speaking, knowledge
of the Real. The Real functions in knowledge, which is not at all
the same thing. The element of ab-sex sense is clearly the produc
tion of a knowledge, but not a knowledge of the sense of ab-sense
as such.
Finally, there is no knowledge of truth either. The most
we can say is that there is truthful knowledge proportionate to a
Real functioning within it. Let us assert, as one among many ways
of putting it, that the truthfulness of a knowledge is gauged by the
degree to which something of the Real of ab-sex sense functions
in it, but that a knowledge of truth as such there nonetheless is not.

The Formulas of l'Etourdit

89

Consequently for Lacan, and I believe this is the most


important and novel thesis in

l'Etourdit, the triplet knowledge

truth-Real cannot be segmented. It cannot be divided off into pairs.


It cannot be arranged into the couplings we have been calling the
truth of the Real, knowledge of the Real, or knowledge of the truth.
In psychoanalysis, according to Lacan, each time you speak about
the truth you have to invoke knowledge and the Real. Each time
you speak of knowledge you have to invoke truth and the Real.
And it is impossible to speak of the Real without invoking truth
and knowledge. The truth-knowledge-Real triplet cannot be de
compiled. If you are claiming something Real and true, you must
identify knowledge's function in it. If you possess some knowledge
of the Real you must presuppose an effect of truth, and when you
speak of the relations between truth and knowledge the Real must
be there as well.
Things become much clearer with this in mind. For Lacan,
in the end, the way philosophy operates is by dismembering the
triplet-by making the assertion that the triplet can be paired off
somehow. Why? Well because by presupposing that there can
be a truth of the Real, philosophy equally presupposes there can
be a knowledge of the truth, and in this way reconnects the three
pairs of the triplet after having first dismembered it. I could easily
show how it is always the case that whenever these questions arise,

l 'Etourdit-as well as the larger network of texts surrounding it that

Lacan wrote from 1 970- 1 975 -becomes about putting the triplet
back together again. It must be grasped anew at the point where
it evades these philosophical pairings. The truth-knowledge-Real
triplet's compactness needs to be restored by avoiding any possible
squaring-off of two of its terms into a face-to-face relation.
I would therefore like to propose the following Lacanian
definition of philosophy: Philosophy is a subversion of three by two.
Philosophy rejects the idea that three is irreducibly originary, and
that it is impossible to unfold it into twos. This in my opinion is
the underlying reason for the never ending and difficult controversy

lacanian ink

90

between Lacan and Hegel, because Hegel forwarded a position


concerning three whereby it was necessarily .engendered from two.
Which two? The two of contradiction, which is why Hegel is for
Lacan the most philosophical of all philosophers.
Only what needs to be added here, what constitutes the
ultimate mystery whose meaning we need to rationalize, is the fol
lowing: the debate about three and two is in the end a debate about
the One. We might be tempted to forward a Lacanian theorem here
which, though perhaps not exactly in Lacan, would still count as
an essentially anti-philosophical theorem. The theorem would be
stated thus: "Three is subverted by two because of a false idea of
the One." And how might this false idea of the One be stated in its
turn? No doubt by saying: "the One is !" As soon as you have said
"the One is," you are headed down the path towards subverting
three with two. Hegel already had to affirm the being of the Abso
lute as Position One of Spirit's becoming, in order to be able to set
the movement of negativity in motion, which in tum engendered
threeness out of simple contradiction. If you posit that "the One is"
you are headed down the path towards dismembering the originary
truth-knowledge-Real triplet, because saying "the One is" ends up
amounting to saying that there is truthfulness to the Real because
it is One. The Real is really true wherever it manifests the unity
of its Being. This is the first of the pairs extracted from the three.
Furthermore, saying "the One is" is also to maintain that there is
a knowledge of the Real, the knowledge of the One in the form of
the object, or objectivity- the second pair extracted from the three.
Thus as soon as you say "the One is" you find yourself in the space
of philosophy.
If on the contrary the Real is not that from which truth
stems, and if it is not what is known either, meaning if there is no
such thing as the following philosophical pairings extracted from
the triplet: truth of the Real, knowledge of the Real and truth of
this kl).owledge, then the statement concerning the One cannot be
"the One is." It would instead be the statement "there is Oneness"

The Formulas of l'Etourdit

(ii y a de l'Un).

91

"There is Oneness" i s a radical subversion of the

speculative, or philosophical, thesis "the One is."

An entire series of elaborations by Lacan are meant to show


that if we maintain there is Oneness, but not that the One is, we
are no longer engaged in the dismembering of the triplet. Three's
cohesion in the truth-knowledge-Real form may be sustained. Only
what must be understood is what is going to, in a way, secure the
triplet's undividable connection. And since this cannot be one its
elements like truth or knowledge, because then we would fall back
into philosophical couplings, the unavoidable result is that the
triplet's coherency is going to be staked on the interplay between
the Real, its "exceptional" or "out-of-place" point, and something
that, being neither truth nor knowledge, is necessarily of the dimen
sion of the act.
Because there is no knowing

(connaissance)

or truth of

the Real -because, on the contrary, the condition for there to be


truth is that it be inextricably enchained to the Real in the guise of a
knowledge function, there has to be a pure encounter with this Real.
Let us therefore call "act" this point of encountering the Real.
The Real must be given its due

(reconnaftre)

precisely

because it is in the "truth-knowledge-Real" triplet and yet cannot


be extracted in order to be paired-off with one of the other two
terms. In fact the Real must always be said to depose knowing

(le connaftre).

Lacan calls this deposition of knowing the Real's

demonstration. The word is rather strange b.ut very poignant. The


Real is not known, it is demonstrated.
But how then does Lacan escape Kantianism? Because if
the Real is at a remove from knowing, we enter the realm of the
critical gloss which holds that reality (the in-itself) is unknowable,
and that knowledge is limited to appearances. In the end reality
would be the experience of things in their appearances, and the Real
their point of inaccessibility to which we could only relate to via an
act, a practical relation. The relation to the Real would therefore
be prescriptive, and not at all cognitive. The Real is experienced

92

lacanian ink

through practical reason, in the categorical imperative, and not in


the theoretical reason that orders appearances. There are readings
of Lacan and Kant, Slovenian in particular (Zizek, Zupancic, Riha,
Sumic, etc.), that take this tack, and which are highly persuasive.
As far as I am concerned, I believe Lacan avoided the trap
of critique, and that he is not Kantian whatsoever.

His twist is

not at all to put forward that the Real is unknowable, nor that it is
knowable either. Lacan 's thesis is that the Real has an exteriority
to the antimony between knowing and being unaware, which arises
out of what he attempted to invent with the name "demonstrate."
"Demonstrate the Real" is being used here in two senses.
Naturally one usage concerns the completely classical doctrine in
Lacan to the effect that there is no science of the Real that is not
logical, or formal. In this sense the Real is to be defined as an
impasse to formalization. Clarified or wholly purified formaliza
tion is what the Real pertains to. The result is that the lone form
of transmissibility for ab-sex sense that is possible is found in the
figure of the matheme. There is no language of the Real, there are
only its formulas. The second usage of "demonstrate the real," as
already mentioned, is insofar as access to the Real is opened in the
dimension of the act. The supreme question therefore concerns the
"relations," inside all the scare quotes you like, between act and
matheme. Here lies the final destiny of, if not Lacan's work, then

at least his opposition with philosophy - in his aptitude for grasp

ing in a unique way of thinking a certain kind of common ground


between the matheme and the analytic act.

I have furthermore

already demonstrated how the pass is one aspect of this question.


Let us say that "some analysis" took place, or even that
there was a psychoanalyst, if someone stood firm when and where
the act authorized a matheme.
What remains is for us to wonder if there exists some kind

of guarantee that the process dictating the triplet's inseparability,


and that the Real may only be accessed via formulas and in the act,

has been gone through "in" truth. A guarantee that would constitute

The Formulas of l 'Etourdit

93

some sort of sign, a signal to the effect that we have really reached
the element of ab-sex sense, or ab-sense, and that the Real therefore
can be vouched for.
The answer is y es. According toLacan the sign of all this
has been there for a long time-anxiety. This affect functions like
a latent guarantee of the effect of truth produced by the function
of knowledge in the Real. Like Pascal, Rousseau and Kierkegaard
before him, Lacan maintained the thesis that there is no disjunc
tion between the primacy of the act and the potential transparency
of words. This is not a trivial affair concerning a miraculous ir
rationality of the act in opposition to the rational transmissibility
of words. It is rather the idea that there is a point, which is clearly
enigmatic and in any case always particular and always subject to
being revisited, never given in advance-for example forLacan the
experience of the cure, or the experience of the wager and conver
sion for Pascal, or Kierkegaard's experience of the various esthetic,
ethical and religious stages-there is therefore a point where the
cut of the act and the whole transmissibility of words are in a sort
of mysterious pairing, which is at the same time nothing other than
a moment in the becoming of thought. And this point is signaled
by an affect. An affect that cannot deceive us. AsLacan said early
on, "anxiety is what does not deceive."
The consequences of all this forLacan concern what can be
called the ethics of the cure. In the direction of a cure two demands
enter into tension with one another. The first demand is to direct,
or produce, what Lacan called an "exact formalization." An exact
formalization is defined as the elevation of impotence (Imaginary)
to impossibility (Real). For this y ou have to produce a field which
captures, meaning encounters, the Real. But to do this, in order
to reduce the Real down to one point, y ou have to have a system
of constraints, formalized, which designate it as a point of impos
sibility that is nonetheless to be arrived at in one way or another.
Thus Lacan goes on to say that there is another demand,
which concerns anxiety. I already referred to Lacan 's highly

94

lacanian ink

poignant formula about this point: anxiety is what does not deceive.
The problem is that this affect, which is basically the affect of the
Real-knowledge-truth triplet when submitted to the law of the Real,
this affect must be measured in its usage. Anxiety must b given out
in doses. It falls to the analyst to use in doses that which does not
deceive, that which signals we have reached the outskirts of ab-sex
sense, the outskirts of the opening between sense and nonsense as
a kind of novel virtuality, that which when it is without measure,
becomes deadening

(mortifiere ).

Thus in the cure you find two interlaced temporalities.


The first is the temporality of formalization, always tempted to be
precipitous, always tempted by haste, and the seduction of active
formalization. And then secondly you have the timing of the dosage
of anxiety, which for its part is forever tempted by interminability.
This is one connotation of Freud's famous title Analysis Terminable

and Interminable-the

temporality which consists in measuring

out anxiety is a temporality which may constantly defer the pay


ment due the Real, and remain forever on the fringes of sense and
nonsense, which end up being the same insofar as they both have
to avoid the ab-sense of sexuality. Inversely when formalization
is at issue the psychoanalyst's temptation is not to seek his own
destitution. It is easier for him to head straight towards the brilliance
of a hasty formalization. These two temporalities are entangled,
intertwined, arid the ethics of the cure is probably to withstand their
contradictory temporal injunctions, to withstand them until the act
is decisive. The act, which renders the triplet in its proper formula,
alone carries the potential to be decisive between the intermingled
times of the cure. This act which as we know the psychoanalyst
will emerge from as little more than a waste-product

(dechet).

So lo and behold we find we may conclude with what is no


doubt the most potent form of separation between psychoanalysis
and philosophy, the one for which

l'Etourdit provides

the formu

las. Because of its indispersible relation to the truth-knowledge


Real triplet, there is in the analytic cure an immanent relationship

The Formulas of l'Etourdit

95

between holding back and haste. This relation entails a dialectical


link between formulas, as products of the desire ofthe matheme (ex
act formalization), and affect, as a guarantor of the Real. Matherne
and anxiety are thus, through their temporal dialectic, contrasting
figures of deferred accesses to the Real. An access whose final
shape, like the latticework of a time forever suspended between
precipitation and stagnation. will be finally decided upon by the
figur of the act, by the analyzand himself.
For this exterior decision, in which the act becomes the
muted phrasing of an in situ truth, philosophy, this is the right
case to say it, has no cure. For the temporality belonging to phi
losophy holds that it has all the time it needs. Something which
has since time immemorial worked to insert into its discourse the
anti-dialectical connection it entertains with the eternity of the True.

On Giorgio Agamben 's

Profanations

MEHDI B ELHAJ KACEM


translated by JoRGE JAUREGID

There is a book by a certain Giorgio Agamben called Projanations.1


It seems to me that this category has to do with a certain spirit that
touches, if I may say so, on what it is called contemporary art. That
is to say that tonight I will proceed as though profanation were the
central category of modern aesthetic production. More precisely, I
am going to talk through the text that, within the book, condenses
what its enticing title signifies, namely an account of the concept
of profanation according to Agamben. This text is called "In Praise
of Profanation." Yet, in order to properly put forward this reflec
tion, I must tell you a little something about Agamben himself.
He is an Italian philosopher whose political thinking is perceived
as one of the most powerful of our time, and tonight I will show
you that his thinking unhurriedly glides towards the realm of the
political-aesthetic.
His major book is called Homo Sacer.2 So, what is then the
homo sacer? He is, Agamben tells us, an obscure character from
the Roman law. Accordingly, we deal with an obscure character
with an abstract definition, but we lack evidence of an empirical

lacanian ink

98

example, Nevertheless, this abstractness allows Agamben to reflect


on the way this character traverses the different phases of History.
"The sacred man is the one whom the people have judged on
account of a crime. It is not permitted to sacrifice this man, yet
he who kills him will not be condemned for homicide; in the first
tribunitian law, in fact, it is noted that if 'someone kills the one
who is sacred according to the plebiscite, it will not be considered
homicide' . This is why it is customary for a bad or impure man
to be called sacred."3 And elsewhere Agamben asserts: "It is an
ambiguity that seems inher.ent in the vocabulary of the sacred as
such: the adjective sacer, with a countersense that Freud has already
noted, means ' august, consecrated to the gods,' as well as 'cursed,
excluded from the community.'" It is not by chance that we find
here the name of Freud. Agamben concludes, "the ambiguity at
issue here does not arise solely out of a misunderstanding but is,
so to speak, constitutive of the profanatory operation (or inversely,
of that of consecration)."4 What took place here? A sacred man,
the property of the gods, has survived the rite that separated him
from the rest of men, and continues to live an apparently profane
life among them. What does this "apparently" mean here?
Agamben's political oeuvre consists in examining- as far
as he goes- the history of mankind and registering homo

sacer as

the paradox of the politics. He calls it the paradox of sovereignty, or


sometimes the structure of the ban. The structure of the ban means
that the sovereign throughout history- even when the sovereign is
"the people"-needs this sort of borderline character, homo sacer, to
frame (set up) the order of the State: the law is absolutely irrelevant
to

homo sacer.
Obviously the most extreme arrangement of this double

structure, which binds the sovereign to

homo sacer as in a mirror,

is Nazism and the concentration camps.

Let us not forget that

Jews were sent to the camps not as citizens, but only after a long
proceeding during which they were stripped of their citizenship and
reduced to what Agamben calls the "bare life." The sovereign, in

On Giorgio Agamben 's Profanations

99

detennining the meaning of the law, is thereby himself somehow


outside the law.

Homo sacer is the one for whom the law is immate

rial, which means that he is connected to the law, linked by the very
mode of this exclusion. This is what holds the two together. This
structure, which delivers homo sacer to senseless crime and to the
complete profanity of bare life, recurs in Agamben's work-in The

Open: Man and Animal 5 he addresses the question of animalization.


Here we can discern the aesthetics as a subject, both timeless and,
it seems to me, manifest in modern artistic production.
In considering the medieval character of homo

sacer, he
is the bandit, the one who is a-ban-donned (a-ban-donne, the one
to whom the ban is given). The structure of the ban alludes to the
bandit's exclusion from the community of men, while remaining
attached to the community by the very nature of his exclusion. This
corresponds with today's

banlieux, the bas-lieux (the low places)

and the ban-lieux (the banned places). ..The ban is essentially the
power of delivering something over to itself, which is to say, the
power of maintaining itself in relation to something presupposed as
nonrelational. What has been banned is delivered over to its own
separateness and, at the same time, consigned to the mercy of the
one who abandons it- at once excluded and included, removed and
at the same time captured."6 Think of the clandestine immigrants
from North Africa, shot as fair game at the Spanish border.
Let us now observe the life of the homo sacer, or of the
bandit. I . ./ He has been excluded from the religious com
munity and from all political life: he cannot participate in
the rites of his gens, nor (if he has been declared infamis et
intestabilis) can he perform any juridically valid act. What
is more, his entire existence is reduced to a bare life stripped
of every right by virtue of the fact that anyone can kill him
without committing homicide; he can save himself only in
perpetual flight or a foreign land. And yet he is in a continu
ous relationship with the power that banished him precisely
insofar as he is at every instant exposed to an unconditioned
threat of death. I . . ./ In this sense, no life, as exiles and
bandits know well, is more 'political' than his.7
.

100

lacanian ink

The aesthetic dimension is about to be revealed in that the medieval


character of the bandit originates in the legend of the

loup-garou,

the werewolf. Agamben devotes a fascinating chapter in which he


speaks of "the lupinization of man and humanization of the wolf."8
Actually, the legend of the werewolf predates the Middle Ages,
and a correct reading of the myth would considerably enlighten
the central question posited by Agamben's philosophy, namely the
political-aesthetic. Why political-aesthetic? Before going back to
the origins of the myth of the werewolf, let us read the beginning
of Agamben's chapter "In Praise of Profanation,"
The Roman jurists knew perfectly well what it means 'to
profane.' Sacred or religious were those things that in some
way belonged to the gods. / . . ./ And if 'to consecrate'
(sacrare) was the term that designated the exit of things from
the sphere of human law, 'to profane' meant, conversely, to
return them to the free use of men.9

Literally, sacrare meant separation. Agamben continues and gives


us an example in the tasteless gore that is dear to our times:
Thus one of the simplest forms of profanation occurs by
contact (contagione) during the same sacrifice that effects
and regulates the passage of the victim from the human to
the divine sphere. One part of the victim (the entrails, or
exta, the liver, heart, gall bladder, lungs) is reserved for the
gods while the rest can be consumed by men. 10

Today, far away from these barbarian rites, there is science. You heard
about the distressing story that took place in Palestine: Tsahal gunned
down a twelve-year old child who was playing with a water pistol.
The father, as soon as he learned of the death of his son, donated
his organs-heart, liver, lungs- to the Israeli health services, which
help to save the life of two Israelite and one Druze girls.
But let's go back to the imaginary of the werewolf.

On Giorgio Agamben's

101

Profanations

I n the bandit and the outlaw (wargus, vargr, the wolf and, in
the religious sense, the sacred wolf, vargry veum) Germanic
and Scandinavian antiquity gives us a brother of homo sacer
beyond the shadow of any doubt."11 And he adds: "What
had to remain in the collective unconscious as a monstrous
hybrid of human and animal, divided between the forest
and the city-the werewolf-is, therefore, in its origins the
figure of the man who has been banned from the city. I . . .I
The life of the bandit, like that of the sacred man, is not a
piece of animal nature without any relation to law and the
city. It is, rather, a threshold of indistinction and of passage
between animal and man, physis and nomos, exclusion and
inclusion: the life of the bandit is the life of the loup garou,
the werewolf, who is precisely neither man nor beast, and
who dwells paradoxically within both while belonging
to neither. 12

And I will add with regards to life and death, the medieval bandit
was the one considered "already dead," anyone could kill him.
Agamben touches upon the topic when he cites a pas
sage from Plato's

Republic, 13 where Plato prescribes the justice

of

transfonning the sovereign who went too far-"from protector to


tyrant" - into a wolf, a banned animal. The structure that binds
together the sovereign and the bandit speaks volumes about recent
events in France: the suburbs

(la banlieu)

and the Home Secretary

Nicolas Sarkozy. Last summer there was an article in

Technikart,

which annoyed me; the article paired Sarkozy and Tony Montana.
Tony Montana is the hero of Brian de Palma's

Scarface ( 1 983);

the character, played by Al Pacino, is a Cuban thug who immi


grates to the United States as a contracted murder. In Miami he
makes an astounding career presiding, particularly viciously, over
a drug-dealing gang, only to end badly in a sort of crucifixion a la

Kalashnikov. In the above mentioned article Sarkozy appears "cam


ouflaged" as Tony Montana, addressing the

cailleras de banlieu

(bosses) who spoke loudly of their esteem for the Home Secretary.
However, as the source of the troubles, the article signaled the most
sensitive question of nettoyage-the police cleansing at Sarkozy 's
request, of the banlieu bosses- instead of the well-known episode

102

lacanian ink

of the electrocution of two children generally thought to be the


triggering of the troubles.
All this reveals the obscure association that binds together
the sovereign and the bandit, the paradox between the sovereign
and the structure of the ban. It is this specter, Derrida would say,
that haunts every political-state system, even a democratic one. The
sovereign is the one who asserts the exception to which the law
becomes irrelevant; this is the state of exception. The ban is needed
as a guiding principle in order to determine the law for "normal"
citizens. Accordingly, there is always an illegal gesture emanating
from the sovereign that somehow ties him to the bandit: to determine
the contents of the law, one must consider oneself to be outside the
law. It so happens that after the events of last autumn the possibil
ity of the state of exception was raised in France for the first time
since the Algerian War of Independence. The law that establishes
the curfew dates from fift)' years ago and takes place within the
boundaries of the state of democracy. For that reason Sarkozy &
Co. cannot exceed the limits of what is socially acceptable. Even
so, nowadays the figure of the sovereign is back with a vengeance:

G.W. Bush, Vladimir Putin, Silvio Berlusconi, all proclaim the


state of exception when it suits them politically, under the alleged
reason of tracking contemporary outlaws, terrorists. In this sense
the conflict Israel-Palestine is a symptom of the everlasting state
of exception: it conveys crucial political issues for the future.
In his "In Praise of Profanation" Agamben writes:
Religion can be defined as that which removes things, places,
animals, or people from common use and transfers them
to a separate sphere. Not only is there no religion without
separation, but also every separation contains or preserves
within itself a genuinely religious core. The apparatus that
effects and regulates separation is sacrifice: through a series
of meticulous rituals, sacrifice always sanctions the passage
of something from the profane to the sacred. / I That which
has been ritually separated can be returned from the rite to
the profane sphere. 14
. . .

On Giorgio Agamben's Profanations

103

And then he goes on alluding to the body's sacred organs that are
reserved to the gods (liver, heart, gall bladder, lungs) : "The par
ticipants in the rite need only touch these organs and they become
profane and can simply be eaten.
Agamben defines religion as the sphere of separation:
consequently every kind of separation seems to be religious. His
rationale roughly follows that of Walter Benjamin, who declared
that the religion of our times was capitalism, and that capitalism has
raised the category of separation to its utmost degree of perfection.
Capitalist nihilism is a religious cult of the purest kind-formal- its
contents being the empty forms of separation and sacredness. We
may easily surmise where he is leading us: profanation is the logical
solution to the hegemonic curse of the commodity; the pure and
empty form of separation -sacrare-rules among men. Still we
will run up against a difficulty.
. What sort of difficulty?

Firstly, Agamben indicates the

means and ways by which we could be granted access to capital


ism's grand profanation: it is playing. "Most of the games with
which we are familiar derive from ancient sacred ceremonies, from
divinatory practices and rituals that once belonged, broadly speak
ing to the religious sphere. Ring-around-the-rosy was originally a
marriage rite; playing with a ball reproduces the struggle of the gods
for possession of the sun; games of chance derive from oracular
practices; the spinning top and the chessboard were instruments for
divination."15 So far so good: the difficulty arises when he states
that " . . . play frees and distracts humanity from the sphere of the
sacred, but without simply abolishing it."16 This means that play
ing becomes a parody of the sacred rites emptied of their contents:
capitalism. "Children, who play with whatever old thing that falls
into their hands, transform into toys things that also belong to the
sphere of economics, war, law and other activities that we are used
to thinking as serious. All of a sudden, a car, a firearm, or a legal
contract is turned into a toy."17 Agamben evokes here the proverbial
cruelty of children vis-a-vis their toys; then capitalism's profanation

lacanian ink

104

by way of playing "opens the gate to a new happiness. "18 What


is this new happiness? Not only the objects, but also the bodies
disconnected by the "sacred" sphere of the commodity - what in
Marxism is termed the exchange -will be returned to the use of

religio that is not longer observed, but played


with, opens the gate to use, so the powers (potenze) of economics,
men. "Just as the

law and politics, deactivated in play, become the gate to a new hap
piness. [ . . ] Profanation entails a neutralization of what it profanes.
.

Once profaned, that which was unavailable and separated loses its
aura and is returned to use. "19
We do not need to underline the affinity of Agamben's
description with what we call, maybe improperly, contemporary
art. Since Agamben's account consists in the maximal conjunction
between playing and profanation, I will only mention something,
which I deem of great import, namely the singularity of the sphere
where you work, where you are going to work. In the work of con
temporary artists, known and unknown, the conjunction between
playing and profanation is but evident, the attempt the return use
is everywhere at work.
The second observation, still more significant, concerns
the dimension of parody, which Agamben describes as being that
of playing, in truth his own infantile and cruel re-appropriation. It
was actually Jean-Yves Jouannais who brought up the use of re
appropriation when he prompted idiocy as a subject matter.20 The
tone is parody, that of profanatory imitation: everything which
deems itself intelligent, important, true is but apparent, pretentious,
illusory; it is from this "idiotic imitation" that truth will arise. Since
it is not possible to deceive indefinitely, to feign intelligence, to
fabricate "illusion," as the last resort intelligence-in its parodic
mood-becomes an illusion. In his book on simulacra and simula
tion, which was influential to people concerned with contemporary
art, Jean Baudrillard says: "To dissimulate is to pretend; in pretend
ing, one imitates something real and thus affirms it: one leaves the
principle of reality intact. To simulate, on the other hand, is to feign

On Giorgio Agamben's Profanations

105

to have what one doesn't have. "21 This evokes the controversy, some
years ago, which opposed Baudrillard to contemporary art. He was
labeled a "fascist" for calling art "a big conspiracy" (I would have
rather called it "a big play"), and for stating that the purpose of most
artists was to permanently exhibit a kind of profane articulation of
worthlessness: "I'm worthless, I'm worthless," then Baudrillard
adds, "it's really worthless," and asks himself, "how long will it
last?" he was, in fact, wrong, but the controversy is illuminating.
These artists try very hard to impress their worthlessness, which
does not mean that they invariably succeed in persuading us of
their intelligence, and this irritates Baudrillard. Yet Baudrillard is
wrong on account of both contemporary art and himself, on his main
concept of simulacrum. One may say, they pretend to be worthless,
and they do not deceive me, they are really worthless. They affect
to possess something they lack. But what is it? Here precisely is
where Baudrillard is mistaken. They never tell us what it is that they
simulate possession of; they show it, they overbid their pretence.
They show and the showing of something genuinely profane is
highlighted. They show off their worthlessness. So according to
Baudrillard, they try to make us believe in their worthiness when
they are actually worthless. They do not simulate being worthless,
which would mean that they are not, that is they do not pretend to
lack that which in fact they have. They pretend to pretend to be
worthless. Again, it is here that Baudrillard is mistaken and where
simulacrum doesn't hold. We are not dealing with simulation; w.e
are dealing with something else. When simulation is repeated,
when simulation itself is simulated, what is it that this or that artist
delivers? We can only answer individually, case by case. Nobody
can pretend for a long time to possess something he does not have.
1bis is precisely the issue with nihilism, of being and seeming: How
is it that by way of seeming -the simulacrum-there appears the
void of being? How it is that we are this or that?
This is the same trouble Agamben runs into. In his "In
Praise of Profanation" he describes the religious-nihilist form

lacanian ink

106

of capitalism as a world of profanation with nothing much left.

"Capitalism as Religion is the title of one of the most penetrating


posthumous fragments of Benjamin's. According to Benjamin, cap
italism does not represent solely a secularization of the Protestant
faith, as in Weber, but is itself essentially a religious phenomenon,
which develops parasitically from Christianity onward. As such, as
the religion of modernity, it is defined by three characteristics:

( 1) It

is a cultic religion, perhaps the most extreme and absolute one that
has ever existed. In it everything has meaning only in reference to

(2)
sans treve et

the fulfillment of a cult, not in relation to a dogma or an idea.


This cult is permanent; it is 'the celebration of a cult

sans merci.'

Here it is not possible to distinguish between work

days and holidays; rather, there is a single, uninterrupted holiday,


in which work coincides with the celebration of the cult. (3) The
capitalist cult is not directed toward redemption from or atonement
for guilt, but toward guilt itself. "Capitalism is probably the first
instance of a cult that creates guilt, not atonement I . ./ A monstrous
.

sense of guilt that knows no redemption becomes the cult, not to

atone for this guilt but to make it universal I . ./ and at once and
.

for all include God in this guilt

. ./ God is not dead: he has been

incorporated into the destiny of man . "22

Agamben's impasse is found in the second half of the text,


where he explains the nihilist cult as one that is centrally, essen
tially and permanently profanatory. Profanation is at the heart of
the capitalist apparatus. Hence the singularity of the gesture of the
contemporary artist, yet this singularity is the conjunction already
mentioned between play and profanation.
In the empire of media pretence we have, on one hand,
the profanatory rite essentially warranted by comedians, imitators,
clowns, and on the other games. Marx is quoted to have said that
religion is the opiate of the people . My question, and Agamben's,
is why playing is the opiate of the people without religion? "The
Wheel of Fortune" and these sorts of games, sports and reality shows
populate our everyday life. Doubtless, in the societe du spectacle,

On Giorgio A gamben's Profanations

107

reality shows are the ones which come closest to the conjunction
between play and profanation . Many contemporary artists have
been fascinated, and artworks, and I mean artworks in museums as
well as in commercial galleries, from Bruce Nauman's to Joseph
Beuys', have largely anticipated the impact reality shows now exert
on the masses.
In its extreme form, the capitalist religion realizes the pure
form of separation, without anything left to separate. An
absolute profanation without remainder now coincides
with an equally vacuous and total consecration. I . . .I What
cannot be used is, as such, given over to consumption or to
spectacular exhibition.23

Agamben argues that in the capitalist cult everything is profaned,


yet at the same time everything is useless so that use itself has
become impossible. To describe the cultural emptiness of capi
talist profanation A gamben resorts to pornography and fashion.
The affinities between contemporary art and these two spheres of
production are quite obvious. In Fuerbach's terms, pornography
is defined by sex as the identity of the profane and truth, whereas
fashion is defined by money as the identity of the sacred and the
illusion. All this seems fairly clear, and nevertheless why does
Agamben target pornography as the potential and elective object
of profanation rather than fashion? In a sense, fashion would be
more entitled, and would certainly be likely disposed, to profana
tion than pornography, despite the fact that the latter is prone to
profanation as well.
Roughly speaking, Agamben tells us: "The profanation of
the unprofanable is the political task of the coming generation,"24
For instance, he implies that pornography is not blamable in itself,
and that "there is often nothing reprehensible about the individual
behavior (the partners in a X-rated film) in itself, and it can, indeed,
express a liberatory intent /. .I
.

It is this profanatory potential

that the apparatus of pornography seeks to neutralize / . . ./ These


behaviors thus opened themselves to a different possible use."25

108

lacanian ink

With regard to profanation there are, I think, crucial consid


erations that Agamben apparently fails to take into account. Pagan
rites always honored the separation of the human from the animal;
also in paganism the gods were often depicted as half human and
half animal. Here we come about the Jewish question.

In Moses and Monotheism, Freud contends that the Jewish


people was not a race, an ethnic group, but a social class that attained
its identity as a result of a memorable founding act. Jews were
Egyptian slaves, when in approximately fourteen centuries B.C. a
young Pharaoh named Akhenaton came to power, his poems bear
witness to the first trace of monotheist thought in human history.
Akhenaton's monotheism was so violent for the Egyptian way of
thinking that after his death his name was erased as well as the evi
dence of his religion. Akhenaton first forbade the animalistic repre
sentation of the gods, he then insisted on being himself represented
realistically, as a human being thus rejecting the traditional repre
sentation of the Pharaohs, half human and half animal. Akhenaton 's
initiative amounted to a sacrilege, a profanation to the mores of his
time; his was a crucial event that fell victim to a brutal repression.
Return of the repressed; Judaism was the return of the
repressed monotheist subversion ofAkhenaton 's cult. Freud's shock
ing hypothesis was that Moses was probably a bastard, a disgraced

meteque who fell out of favor after the death of Akhenaton, a homo
sacer, an outlaw. He was the political governor of the Eastern prov
inces of the empire during Akhenaton 's reign and a willful follower
of his cult; a religious cleansing took place after the Pharaoh's death
and Moses' life was put in mortal danger. Determined to save him
self he resolved then to ra,dicalize Akhenaton's subversion by asso
ciating himself with the lowest stratum of Egyptian social classes:
the slaves. He became their commander and declared: "You have
been abandoned by the gods and by men, you must leave Egypt, I
will lead you." Moses and his people were chosen by an empty god,
an egalitarian god, the monotheistic God who rescues those who
have been abandoned by the pagan gods and the pagans themselves.

On Giorgio Agamben's

Profanations

109

The significance of abandonment reaches the philosophi


cal and the political, and certainly affects Heidegger's historical
montage. To him, the history of the West and its metaphysics is
the history of nihilism. Religion is nihilism, philosophy is nihil
ism, science and technology are nihilism.

He posits a return to

the Greeks, to the Greeks before Socrates and Plato, because


they had an understanding of the central question of philosophy,
the question of being, which was deeper than the one corrupted
first by Plato and then by Christianity. The word "nihilism" was
a fabrication made by Nietzsche and Heidegger. For Nietzsche
the primal event is "the death of God," and it means nihilism.
Heidegger drops the religious issue, "the death of God," and
holds on to nihilism. When he talks of the pre-Socratics, there is
always an element that he constantly avoids: the pagan cult of the
Greek polis, for a Greek before Plato, the gods were omnipresent.
It is also interesting to see the way Nietzsche unleashes his anti
Semitism against the Christians, especially against Saint Paul. On
the other hand, Nietzsche greatly admires the Old Testament and
the Jewish people. But when he deals with Christians he remarks
that in reading the

Act of the Apostles we

need to be cautious, "it

is not ready money, these are Jews," and an insane bad faith is set
unloose. Yet Nietzsche thinks highly of the Romans - neither the
Greeks nor the Egyptians -because they made gods in their own
image: supermen, idols fashioned in the image of the powerful, of
the richest, of those worthy of note, the leaders.
The Jewish subversion of the Roman city not only implied
a political subversion but also entailed a philosophical subversion
as well-the question of being
question of "that which exists"

(das Sein) was superseded by the


(das Seinde). The pagan gods, the

supermen made in the image of the powerful are substituted for a

(das Sein) is
(das Seinde). For Heidegger the history of
is the oblivion of being (das Sein). Belief is centered on

unique God, imageless, empty and egalitarian; being


replaced by "beings"
nihilism

"that which exists" and is deprived of being. In place of the body

1 10

lacanian ink

(its intricate affects, its thoughts, its truth) there is flesh. In lieu of
Nature, its being, there is science's nihilism that transforms Nature
in instrumental pieces of "beings." To Heidegger nihilism means
that "beings" are abandoned by being: "Only a God can save us."
Yet Moses states the opposite to his people: "you, slaves,
are abandoned by the other "beings," gods as well as men. There
is no other life than the one you are being abandoned, a-ban-doned
to "God," to emptiness.
As to the monotheist caesura, every right-wing post-Nazi
organization centers its apparatus on the question of paganism. Not
so long ago these right-wing organizations were instead nationalis
tic, Christian and against progress. Nazism, more than capitalism,
was the first nihilist religion. In the history of philosophy, nihilism
is Nietzsche's and Heidegger's invention.
Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy rightly
detected in National Socialism a national aestheticism of sorts.26
Nazism considered itself its own work of art, and today we find
this aesthetic fascination in Spielberg's films: an SS officer may
still look interestingly alluring. However, Nazism did not leave
behind any significant artistic production: Nazism aspired to be
itself aesthetized, it desired to be the aesthetics of itself and therefore
left no room for art. This is the main difference between Nazism
and Italian fascism and especially with the Bolshevik revolution,
which before Stalin messed up everything produced a beautiful
poetry, talented artists and a new form of cinema that Hollywood
would eventually appropriate and apply differently. Alain Badiou
is right when he states that the question is not "is it possible?" but
rather "are we capable?" Nazism's only legacy to posterity in the
field of aesthetics is the work of Leni Riefensthal: the sports of
contemporary masses' carry on with this same brand of aesthetics.
The manufacturing of historical anti-Semitism begins in
German philosophy with Hegel who asserted that Jews as well as
Africans do not belong to History. Feuerbach also declares that
the God of the Jews is an egotistical God, which is a distortion of

On Giorgio Agamben's

Profanations

111

historical becoming. We' ve already mentioned Nietzsche. As for


Heidegger, there is something truly troubling with him, namely the
fact that he never discussed a single Jewish philosopher: no allusion
to Spinoza nor to S aint Paul, only hatred toward Freud and Marx,
who for him represent the ultimate symptoms of nihilism. The only
one is Husserl, the mentor who teaches him everything, Husserl
the inventor of phenomenology to whom his masterpiece,

Being
and Time, is dedicated. Yet the appeal is somehow lessened when
we remember Heidegger's behavior toward his former teacher.
He turned his back on him during the Nazi persecutions, he even

wrote Husserl 's name on documents that barred him from teach
ing. If Nietzsche's foremost passion was hatred, Heidegger's was
loathing.

Hatred and loathing vis-a-vis Jean-Jacques Rousseau

arid the French Revolution, who were considered to be primordial


symptoms of nihilism for them both.
To conclude:

1 . Profanation is the absolute singularity of our times. If


capitalism is a cult-the most extreme ever- our age then reveals
something very precise: for the first time in the history of mankind
iconoclasm and iconolatry are exactly the same thing.

2. There is a thread running from the Pagan representation


of the gods to the bizarre animals that fill contemporary art and the
repetitive rites portraying puerile idiocy. What I mean here is to get
away from the nihilist discourse that depicts our age as desecrating
everything and therefore being in a kind of "perpetual present"
wherein there is no place for History. Quite the contrary, our age is
characterized by an absolute singularity of aesthetic, philosophical
and political forms inscribed in a specific type of History that as
such is recognizable, describable and decipherable.
3. What then is the omnipresent and nihilist profanation of

the media, of reality-shows, of comedians? What is the essence of


this cult, of this religion? It is quite simple if we take into account
what Guy Debord told us. This is the cult that celebrates the event
of equality, the entrance of the masses into History by way of the

1 12

lacanian ink

French Revolution. The profanatory rites that celebrate equality


display the pageant of equality but only this spectacle because we
forgot our real historical becoming, equality.

Baudrillard once

said that in appearance we are iconophiles but secretly we are


iconoclasts. This is fine but still somehow "old school." Actually
we are the first generation to realize that henceforth iconoclasm
and iconodulism are the same cultural phenomenon. We are the
generation that grew up under a specific cultural form: the identity
of iconoclasm and iconodulism in the permanency of profanation.
The gigantic apparatus of the media consists in an enduring cultural
celebration of equality.

4.

Profanation is not an event. The event is a tangential

profanation in that it implies profanation, but the latter never makes


up for an event. As such, profanation is a cult, the most fundamental
cult carried out today.

5 . Nihilism is not an event nor is the Death of God.


Nietzsche went mad because he believed it to be the primordial
event when in fact the event was the . French Revolution and the
coming of the masses and equality.

Nietzsche thought of himself

as the Christ of nihilism but there is no Messiah of nihilism: in truth


there is no nihilism at all and never was. Nihilism is a historical
montage made up by Nietzsche and Heidegger, who dated it from
monotheism and Plato. And Christianity is by way of Saint Paul
the synthesis of the egalitarian Jewish subversion and the Platonic
subversion of Pagan philosophy, namely the question of being.

6. Marx and Freud produced the only great egalitarian


doctrines of our times, which so far have not been superseded.
They argue that all manifest inequalities are comprehensible when
measured against the inhuman equality of money and sex.

For

money and sex have an autonomous functioning. The contemporary


nihilist just repeats time and again this message, and in doing so he
corrupts the message. Yet the mechanics of this repetition and of
this perversion may be completely improved, and to that end we
should find a concept that replaces the concept of nihilism.

On Giorgio Agamben's Profanations

113

1 . Agamben, Giorgio, Profanations, New York: 7.one Books, forthcoming.


2. Agamben, G., Homo Sacer, Stanford University Press, 1998.
3. ibid, p. 7 1 .
4. Agamben, G., "In Praise of Profanation," transl. by Kevin Attell in
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.
21 .

Profanations, op. cit.


Agamben, G., The Open: Man andAnimal, Stanford Univ. Press, 2004.
Agamben, G., Homo Sacer, op. cit., p. 109.
ibid, p 1 83.
ibid, p. 104.
Agamben, G., "In Praise of Profanation," op. cit.
ibid
Agamben, G., Homo Sacer, op. cit., p. 104.
ibid, p. 105.
ibid, p. 108.
Agamben, G., "In Praise of Profanation," op. cit.
ibid
ibid
ibid
ibid
ibid
Jouannais, Jean-Yves, L'idiotie: Art, vie, politique et methode, Ed.
Magazine des Beaux-Arts, 2003.
Baudrillard, Jean, Simulacra and Simulation, Ann Arbor: Univ. of
Michigan, 1994.
Agamben, G., "In Praise of Profanation," op. cit.

22.
23. ibid
24. ibid
25. ibid
26. Nancy, Jean-Luc and Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe, Le mythe nazi, Paris:
L' Aube, 2005.

The Fundamental Perversion:


Lacan, Dostoyevsky, Bouyeri

S LAVOJ ZIZEK
Dostoyevsky provided the most radical version of "If God doesn't
exist, then everything is permitted" idea in Bobak, his weird short
story which even today continues to perplex interpreters. Is this
bizarre fantasy simply a product of the author's own mental dis
ease? Is it a cynical sacrilege, an abominable attempt to parody the
truth of the Revelation? The very beginning of the story involves
a strange denial of Rimbaud'sje est un autre: "This is not me; this
is an entirely other person." Here is the outline of the narrative:
Ivan lvanovich, an alcoholic literary man, is suffering from audi
tory hallucinations:
"I am beginning to see and hear strange things, not voices exactly,
but as though someone beside me were muttering, 'bobok, bobok,
bobok!'
What's the meaning of this bobok? I must divert my mind.
I went out in search of diversion, I hit upon a funeral."

So he attends the funeral of a distant relative; he remains in the


cemetery where he unexpectedly overhears the cynical, frivolous
conversations of the dead:
"And how it happened I don't know, but I began to hear things of
all sorts being said. At first I did not pay attention to it, but treated
it with contempt. But the conversation went on. I heard muffled

The Fundamental Perversion . . .

115

sounds as though the speakers' mouths were covered with a pillow,


and at the same time they were distinct and very near. I came to
myself, sat up and began listening attentively."
He discovers from these exchanges that human consciousness goes
on for some time after the death of the physical body, lasting until
total decomposition, which the deceased characters associate with
the awful gurgling onomatopoeia "bobok." One of them comments:
"The great thing is that we have two or three months more of life and
then-bobok ! I propose to spend these two months as agreeably as
possible, and so to arrange everything on a new basis. Gentlemen !
I propose to cast aside all shame."
The dead, realizing their complete freedom from earthly conditions,
decide to entertain themselves by telling tales of their existence
during their lives:
"'/ . ../ meanwhile I don 't want us to be telling lies. That's all I care
about, for that is one thing that matters. One cannot exist on the
surface without lying, for life and lying are synonymous, but here
we will amuse ourselves by not lying. Hang it all, the grave has
some value after all ! We' ll all tell our stories aloud, and we won't
be ashamed of anything. First of all I'll tell you about myself. I
am one of the predatory kind, you know. All that was bound and
held in check by rotten cords up there on the surface. Away with
cords and let us spend these two months in shameless truthfulness !
Let u s strip and b e naked! '
'Let us be naked, let u s be naked! ' cried all the voices."
The terrible stench that Ivan Ivanovich smells is not the smell of
the decaying corpses, but a moral stench. Then Ivan Ivanovich
suddenly sneezes, and the dead fall silent; the spell is lost, we are
back into ordinary reality:

1 16

lacanian ink

"And here I suddenly sneezed. It happened suddenly and unin


tentionally, but the effect was striking: all became as silent as one
expects it to be in a churchyard, it all vanished like a dream. A real
silence of the tomb set in. I don't believe they were ashamed on
account of my presence: they had made up their minds to cast off
all shame! I waited five minutes - not a word, not a sound."
Mikhail Bakhtin saw in Bobok the quintessence of Dostoevsky's art,

a microcosm of his entire creative output which renders its central


motif: the idea that "everything is permitted" if there is no God
and no immortality of the soul. In the carnivalesque underworld
of life "between the two deaths," all rules and responsibilities are
suspended. Dostoyevsky's main source was Emanuel Swedenborg's

On Heaven, the World ofSpirits and on Hell, as They Were Seen and
Heard by Swedenborg (translated into Russian in 1863). According
to Swedenborg, after death the human soul goes through several
stages of purification of its internal content (good or evil) and as
a result finds its deserved eternal reward: paradise or hell. In this
stage, which can last from a couple of days to a couple of months,
the body revives, but only in consciousness, in the guise of a spectral
corporeality: "When in this second state spirits become visibly just
what they had been in themselves while in the world, what they
then did and said secretly being now made manifest; for they are
now restrained by no outward considerations, and therefore what
they have said and done secretly they now say and endeavor t<? do
openly, having no longer any fear of loss of reputation, such as they
had in the world." The undead can now cast aside all shame, act
insanely, and laugh at honesty and justice. The ethical horror of this
vision is that it displays the limit of the "truth and reconciliation"
idea: what if we have a perpetrator for whom the public confession
of his crimes not only does not give rise to any ethical catharsis in

him, but even generates an additional obscene pleasure?


The "undead" situation of the deceased is opposed to that
of the father from one of the dreams reported by Freud, who goes

The Fundamental Perversion . . .

1 17

on living (in the dreamer's unconscious) because doesn't know that


he is dead: the deceased in Dostoyevsky's story are fully aware that
they are dead - it is this awareness that allows them to cast away
all shame. So what is the secret the deceased carefully conceal
from every mortal? In Bobok, we do not hear any of the shame
less truths -the specters of the dead withdraw at the very point at
which they should finally "deliver their goods" to the listener and
tell their dirty secrets. So what if the solution is the same as that
at the end of the parable of the Door of the Law from Kafka's The

Trial, when, at his deathbed, the man from the country who has
spent years waiting to be admitted by the guardian, learns that the
door was here only for him? What if, in

Bobok also, the entire

spectacle of the corpses promising to spill out their dirtiest secrets is


staged only to attract and impress the poor Ivan Ivanovich? In other
words, what if the spectacle of the "shameless truthfulness" of the
living corpses is only a fantasy of the listener-and of a religious
listener, at that? We should not forget that the scene Dostoyevsky
paints is NOT that of a godless universe. What the talking corpses
experience is their life after (biological) death which is in itself a
proof of God's existence- God is here, keeping them alive after
death, which is why they can say everything.
What Dostoyevsky stages is a religious fantasy which has
nothing whatsoever to do with a truly atheist position - although
he stages it to illustrate the terrifying godless universe in which
"everything is permitted." So what is the compulsion that pushes
the corpses to engage in obscene sincerity of "saying it all"? The
Lacanian answer is clear: superego -not as the ethical agency, but
as the obscene injunction to enjoy. This provides the insight into
what is perhaps the ultimate secret that the deceased want to keep
from the narrator: their impulse to shamelessly tell all the truth is
not free, the situation is not "now, we can finally say (and do) all
that we wanted, but were prevented by the rules and constraints of
our normal lives." Instead, their impulse is sustained by a cruel
superego imperative: the specters have to do it. If, however, what

1 18

lacanian ink

the obscene undead hide from the narrator is the compulsive nature
of their obscene enjoyment, and if we are dealing with a religious
fantasy, then there is one more conclusion to be made: that the
"undead" are under the compulsive spell of an evil God. Therein
resides Dostoyevsky's ultimate lie: what he presents as a terrifying
fantasy of a godless universe is effectively a Gnostic fantasy of evil
obscene God. A more general lesson should be drawn from this
case: when religious authors condemn atheism, they all too often
construct a vision of the "godless universe" which is a projection
of the repressed underside of religion itself.
Such a compulsive spell is clearly discernible in today's
religious fundamentalism. When, on November 2 2004, the Dutch
documentary filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered in Amster
dam by an lslamist extremist (Mohammad Bouyeri), a letter was
found stuck into a 19tlfe hole in his belly, addressed to his friend
Hirshi Ali, a female Somalian member of the Dutch parliament
known as a bitter fighter for the rights of Muslim women.1 If there
ever was a "fundamentalist" document, this is one. It begins with
the standard rhetorical strategy of imputing terror to the opponent:
"Since your appearance in the Dutch political arena you have been
busy criticizing Muslims and terrorizing Islam with your statements."
In Bouyeri's view, she is the "unbelieving fundamentalist," and
in fighting her, one fights fundamentalist terror. This letter dem
onstrates how the sadistic stance, generating suffering and terror
in its addressee, is only possible after the subject (writer-sender)
makes himself the object of another's will. Let us look in more
detail at the key passage of the letter which focuses on death as the
culmination of human life:
"There is but one certainty in our entire existence, and that is that
everything comes to an end. A child who comes into this world
and fills the universe with his first cries of life, will finally leave

The Fundamental Perversion . . .

1 19

this world with a death rattle. A blade of grass which can stick out
of the dark earth and is touched by the sunlight and fed by falling
rain, will finally rot into dust and disappear. Death, Mrs. Hirshi
Ali, is a shared theme of everything in creation. You, I, and the
rest of creation cannot get loose from this truth.
There will come a Day when one soul will not be able to help
another soul. A Day of horrible tortures and painful tribulations
which will go together with the terrible cries being pressed out of
the lungs of the unjust. Cries. Mrs. Hirshi Ali, which will cause
chills to run up someone's spine, and cause the hair on their head to
stand straight up. People will appear to be drunk (with fear) even
though they aren't drunk. On that Great Day the atmosphere will
be filled with fear."
The passage from the first to the second part is crucial here, of
course; from the general platitude on how everything passes and
disintegrates, how all living ends in death, to the much more con
strained, properly apocalyptic, notion of this moment of death as
the moment of truth, the moment at which every creature confronts
its truth and is isolated from all its links, deprived of all solidary
support, absolutely alone facing the merciless judgement of its
Creator-this is why the letter goes on quoting the description of
the Judgment Day from Kuran:
"On that day man will flee from his brother. And the mother from
the father. And the woman from her children. And everyone of
them on that Day shall have an occupation which is enough for
them. Faces (of the unbelievers) will be covered with dust on that
Day. And they will be ringed in darkness. These are the sinful
unbelievers."

(Kuran 80:34-42)

Then comes the key passage, the staging of the central confrontation:
"Of course you as an unbelieving extremist don't believe in the

lacanian ink

120

scene which is described above. For you this is just a fictitious


dramatic piece out of a Book like many. And yet, Mrs. Hirshi Ali,
I would bet on my life that you will break into a sweat of fear when
you read this.
You, as unbelieving fundamentalist, of course don't believe
that there is a Higher Power who runs the universe. You don't
believe in your heart, with which you repudiate the truth, that you
must knock and ask this Higher Power for permission. You don't
believe that your tongue with which you repudiate the Direction
of this Higher Power is subservient to His laws. You don't believe
that this Higher Power grants life and Death.

If you really believed in all of this, then you will not find
the following challenge a problem. I challenge you with this letter
to prove that you are right. You don't have to do much for that,
Mrs. Hirshi Ali: wish death if you are really convinced that you
are right. If you do not accept this challenge, you will know that
my Master, the Most high, has exposed you as a bearer of lies. "If
you wish death, then you are being truthful". But the wicked ones
"never wish to die, because of what their hands (and sins) have
brought forth. And Allah is the all-knowing over the purveyors of
lies." (2:94-95). To prevent myselfofhaving the same wish coming
to me as I wish for you, I shall wish this wish for you: Master give
us death to give us happiness with martyrdom." (Italics added.)
Each of these three paragraphs is a rhetorical pearl in its own. In
the first one, it is the direct jump from the fear we humans will
experience when, at the moment of death, we will face God's final
judgment, to the fear the addressee of this very letter (Hirshi Ali)
will experience while reading it. This direct short-circuit between
the fear instigated by the direct confrontation with god in the
moment of truth, and the fear engendered here and now by read
ing this letter, is a trademark of perversion: Hirshi Ali's concrete
fear of being killed, aroused by Bouyeri's letter, is elevated into a
direct embodiment of the fear a mortal human being is expected

The Fundamental Perversion . . .

1 21

to feel when directly confronted with the divine gaze. The pearl
in the second paragraph is the precise example used to evoke the
omnipotence of god: it is not only that Hirshi Ali doesn't believe
in god - what she should believe is that even her very slander of
god (the tongue with which she is doing it) is also determined by
god's will. However, the true pearl is hidden in the last paragraph,
in how the challenge addressed at Hirshi Ali is formulated: in its
brutal imposition of (not only the readiness to die, but) the wish
to die as the proof of one's truthfulness. We get here an almost
imperceptible shift which signals the presence of the perverse logic:
from Bouyeri's readiness to die for the truth to his readiness to die
as direct proof of his truthfulness. This is why he not only does not
fear death, but actively wishes to die: from "If you are truthful, you
should not fear death," a pervert passes to "if you wish death, you
are truthful." This section ends in an unbelievable taking-over of
another's wish: "I shall wish this wish for you." Bouyeri's underly
ing reasoning is here complex and yet very precise: he will do what
he has to do "to prevent myself of having the same wish coming
to me as I wish for you"- what can this mean? Is it not that, by
wishing death, he is doing precisely what he wanted to prevent?
Doesn't he accept the same wish (that of death) that he wishes for
her (he wishes her dead)?
The letter does not challenge Hirshi Ali on her false be
lieves; the accusation is rather that she does not really believe what
she claims to believe (her secular slanders), that she doesn't have
what is called "the courage of her own convictions": "If you really
believe what you claim to believe, then'accept my challenge, wish
to die!" This brings us to the subjective position of the pervert as
defined by Lacan: the pervert subject displaces division onto the
Other. Hirshi Ali is a divided subject, inconsistent with herself,
lacking the courage of her own beliefs; to avoid getting caught in
such a division, the letter's author will embrace the death wish,
thereby taking upon himself what she should have believed. The
letter's final proclamation should then not surprise us:

122

lacanian ink

"This struggle which has burst forth is different then those of the
past. The unbelieving fundamentalists have started it and the true
believers will end it. There will be no mercy shown to the purveyors
of injustice, only the sword will be lifted against them. No discus
sions, no demonstrations, no petitions: only DEATH will separate the
Truth from the Lies."
The situation is brought to extreme here: there is no space left
for symbolic mediation, for argumentation, reasoning, proclama
tions, preaching even- the only thing that separates Truth from
Lie is death, the truthful subject's readiness and wish to die. No
wonder Michel Foucault was fascinated by the Islamic political
martyrdom. In it, he discerned the contours of a "regime of truth"
different from the West's, a regime in which the ultimate indicators
of truth are not factual adequacy, the consistency of reasoning, or
the sincerity of one's confessions, but the readiness to die.2 The
late Pope John Paul II propagated the Catholic "culture of Life"
as our only hope against today's nihilist "culture of death," whose
manifestations are unbridled hedonism, abortions, drug addiction,
blind reliance of scientific and technological development, etc.
Religious fundamentalism (not only Muslim, but also Christian)
confronts us with another morbid "culture of death" which is much
closer to the very heart of the religious experience than believers
are ready to admit.
The question we should confront here is what, then, does the
pervert miss, in his endeavor to absolutely separate the Truth from
Lies? The answer is, of course: the Truth of the Lie itself, the truth
that is delivered in and through the very act of lying. Paradoxically,
the pervert's falsity (lie) resides in his very unconditional attach
ment to truth, in his refusal to hear the truth resonating in a lie. It
was Shakespeare whose plays, long ago, provided a breathtakingly
refined insight into the entanglement of truth and lies. In his All's

Well That Ends Well, Count Bertram, who on the King's orders
was forced to marry Helen, a common doctor's daughter, refuses

The Fundamental Perversion . . .

123

to live with her and consummate the marriage, telling her that he
will agree to be her husband only if she removes the ancestral ring
from his finger and bears his child; at the same time, Bertram tries
to seduce the young and beautiful Diana. Helen and Diana concoct
together a plan to bring Bertram back to his lawful wife. Diana
agrees to spend the night with Bertram, telling him to visit her
chamber at midnight; there, in full darkness, the couple exchange
their rings and make love. However, unknowingly to Bertram, the
woman with whom he spent the night was not Diana but Helen, his
wife-when they are later confronted, he has to admit that both of
his conditions for recognizing the marriage are met. Helen removed
his ancestral ring and bears his child. What, then, is the status of
this bed-trick? At the very end of Act III, Helen herself provides
a wonderful definition:
Why then to-night
Let us assay our plot; which, if it speed,
Is wicked meaning in a lawful deed
And lawful meaning in a wicked act,
Where both not sin, and yet a sinful fact:
But let's about it.

We are effectively dealing both with a "wicked meaning in a lawful


deed" (what can be more lawful than a consummated marriage, a
husband sleeping with his wife? And yet the meaning is wicked:
Bertram thought he is sleeping with Diana . . . ) and a "lawful mean
ing in a wicked act" (the meaning-Helen's intention-is lawful,
to sleep with her husband, but the act is wicked: she deceives her
husband, who does it thinking he is cheating on her)- their affair
is thus "not sin, and yet a sinful fact": not sin, because what hap
pened is merely a consummation of marriage; but a sinful fact,
something that involved intentional cheating from both partners.
The true question here is not merely if "all's well that ends well,"
if the final outcome (nothing wrong effectively happened, and
the married couple is reunited, the marriage bond fully asserted)

1 24

lacanian ink

cancels the sinful tricks and intentions, but a more radical one:
what if the rule oflaw can only be asserted through wicked (sinful)
meanings and acts? What if, in order to rule, the law has to rely
on the subterranean interplay of cheatings and deceptions? This,
also, is what Lacan aims at with his paradoxical proposition il n 'y
a pas de rapport sexuel (there is no sexual relationship): was not
Bertram's situation during the night of love effectively the fate of
most married couples? You make love to your lawful partner while
"cheating in your mind," fantasizing that you are doing it with
another partner? The actual sex-relationship has to be sustained
by this fantasmatic supplement.
As You Like It proposes a different version of this logic of
double deception. Orlando is passionately in love with Rosalind
who, in order to test his love, disguises herself as Ganymede and,
as a male companion, interrogates Orlando about his love. She
even takes on the personality of Rosalind (in a redoubled masking,
she pretends to be herself, i.e., to be Ganymede who plays to be
Rosalind) and persuades her friend Celia (also disguised as Aliena)
to marry them in a mock ceremony. In this ceremony, Rosalind
literally feigns to feign to be what she is: truth itself, in order to win,
has to be staged in a redoubled deception - in a homologous way to
All's Well that Ends Well in which marriage, in order to be asserted,
has to be consummated in the guise of an extramarital affair.
The same overlapping of appearance with truth is often at
work in one's ideological self-perception. Recall Marx's brilliant
analysis of how, in the French revolution of 1 848, the conserva
tive-republican Party of Order functioned as the coalition of the
two branches of royalism (orleanists and legitimists) in the "anony
mous kingdom of the Republic.''3 The parliamentary deputies of
the Party of Order perceived their republicanism as a mockery: in
parliamentary debates, they all the time generated royalist slips
of tongue and ridiculed the Republic to let it be known that their
true aim was to restore the kingdom. What they were not aware
of is that they themselves were duped as to the true social impact

The Fundamental Perversion . . .

1 25

of their rule. What they were effectively doing was to establish


the conditions of bourgeois republican order that they despised so
much (by for instance guaranteeing the safety of private property).
So it is not that they were royalists who were just wearing a re
publican mask: although they experienced themselves as such, it
was their very "inner" royalist conviction which was the deceptive
front masking their true social role. In short, far from being the
hidden truth of their public republicanism, their sincere royalism
was the fantasmatic support of their actual republicanism- it was
what provided the passion to their activity. Is it not, then, that the
deputies of the Party of Order were also feigning to feign to be
republicans, be what they really were?
What, then, is, from the Lacanian perspective, appearance
at its most radical? Imagine a man having an affair about which
his wife doesn't know, so when he is meeting his lover, he pretends
to be on a. business trip or something similar; after some time, he
gathers the courage and tells the wife the truth that, when he is away,
he is staying with his lover. However, at this point, when the front
of happy marriage falls apart, the mistress breaks down and, out
of sympathy with the abandoned wife, starts to avoid meeting her
lover. What should the husband now do in order not to give his
wife the wrong signal? How not to let her think that the fact that
he is no longer so often on business trips means that he is return
ing to her? He has to fake the affair and leave home for a couple
of days, thus generating the wrong impression that the affair is
continuing, while, in reality, he is just staying with some friend.
This is appearance at its purest: it occurs not when we put up a
deceiving screen to conceal the transgression, but when we fake
that there is a transgression to be concealed. In this precise sense,
fantasy itself is for Lacan a semblance: it is not primarily the mask
which conceals the Real beneath, but, rather, the fantasy of what
is hidden behind the mask. Say, the fundamental male fantasy of
the woman is not her seductive appearance, but the idea that this
dazzling appearance conceals some imponderable mystery.

126

lacanian ink

In order to exemplify the structure of such redoubled decep


tion, Lacan evoked the anecdote about the competition between
Zeuxis and Parrhasios, two painters from the ancient Greece, about
who will paint a more convincing illusion. First, Zeuxis produced
such a realistic picture of grapes that birds were lured into picking at
it to eat the grapes. Next, Parrhasios won by painting on the wall of
his room a curtain, so that Zeuxis, when Parrhasios showed him his
painting, asked him: "OK, now please pull aside the veil and show
me what you painted!" In Zeuxis's painting, the illusion was so
convincing that the image was taken for the real thing; in Parrhasios'
painting, the illusion resided in the very notion that what we see in
front of us is just a veil covering up the hidden truth. This is also
how, for Lacan, feminine masquerade works: she wears a mask to
make us react like Zeuxis in front of Parrhasios' painting - OK, put
down the mask and show us what you really are ! In a homologous
way, we can imagine Orlando, after the mock wedding ceremony,
turning to Rosalind-Ganymede and telling her: "OK, you played
Rosalind so well that you almost made me believe to be her; you
can now return to what you are and be Ganymede again . . . " And
it is not an accident that the agents of such double masquerade
are always women: a man can only pretend to be a woman; only
a woman can pretend to be a man who pretends to be a woman, as
only a woman can pretend to be what she is (a woman). This is
why Lacan refers to a woman who wears a concealed fake penis
in order to evoke that she 1s phallus:
Such is woman concealed behind her veil: it is the ab
sence of the penis that makes her the phallus, the object
of desire. Evoke this absence in a more precise way by
having her wear a cute fake one under a fancy dress,
and you, or rather she, will have plenty to tell us about.4

The logic is here much more complex than it may appear: it is


not merely that the obviously fake penis evokes the absence of
the "real" penis; in a strict parallel with Parrhasios' painting, the

The Fundamental Perversion . . .

127

man's first reaction upon seeing the contours of the fake penis is
"OK, put this ridiculous fake off and show me what you've got
beneath!" The man thereby misses how the fake penis IS the real
thing: the "phallus," that the woman is the shadow generated by
the fake penis, i.e., the spectre of the non-existent "real" phallus
beneath the cover of the fake one. In this precise sense, the femi
nine masquerade has the structure of mimicry, since, for Lacan,
in mimicry, I do not imitate the image I want to fit into, but those
features of the image which seem to indicate that there is some
hidden reality behind -as with Parrhasios, I do not imitate the
grapes, but the veil: "Mimicry reveals something in so far as it is
distinct from what might be called an itself that is behind."5 The
status of phallus itself is that of a mimicry: phallus is ultimately a
kind of stain of the human body, an excessive feature which does
not fit the body and thereby generates the illusion of another hidden
reality behind the image.
This brings us back to perversion: for Lacan, a pervert is
not defined by the content of what he is doing (his weird sexual
practices, etc.). Perversion, at its most fundamental, resides in the
formal structure of how the subject relates to truth and speech. The
pervert claims direct access to some figure of the big Other (from
God or history to the desire of his partner), so that, dispelling all
the ambiguity of language, he is able to act directly as the instru
ment of the big Other's will. In this sense, both Osama bin Laden
and President Bush, although politically opponents, share a pervert
structure: they both act upon the presupposition that their acts are
directly ordered and guided by the divine will.
It is against this background that one should judge the rise
ofreligious fundamentalism in the US: around half of the US adults
have beliefs than can be considered "fundamentalist."

A fundamen

talist does not believe, he KNOWS it directly. Both liberal-sceptical


cynics and fundamentalists share a basic underlying feature: the
loss of the ability to believe in the proper sense of the term. What
is unthinkable for them is the groundless decision which installs

1 28

lacanian ink

every authentic belief, a decision which cannot be grounded in


the chain of reasons, in positive knowledge. Think of Anna Frank
who, in the face of the terrifying depravity of the Nazis, in a true
act of credo

qua absurdum asserted her belief that there is a divine

spark of goodness in every human being, no matter how depraved


he or she is -this statement does not concern facts, it is posited
as a pure ethical axiom. In the same way, the status of universal
human rights is that of a pure belief: they cannot be grounded in
our knowledge of human nature, they are an axiom posited by our
decision. (The moment one tries to ground universal human rights
in our knowledge of humanity, the inevitable conclusion will be that
men are fundamentally different, that some have more dignity and
wisdom than others . . . ) At its most fundamental, authentic belief
does not concern facts, but gives expression to an unconditional
ethical commitment.
For both liberal cynics and religious fundamentalists,
religious statements are quasi-empirical statements of direct knowl
edge: fundamentalists accept them as such, while skeptical cynics
mock them. No wonder religious fundamentalists are among the
most passionate digital hackers, and always prone to combine
their religion with the latest results of sciences: for them, religious
statements and scientific statements belong to the same modality of
positive knowledge. The occurrence of the term "science" in the
very name of some of the fundamentalist sects (Christian Science,
Scientology) is not just an obscene joke, but signals this reduction
of belief to positive knowledge. The case of the Turin shroud (a
piece of cloth that was allegedly used to cover the body of the dead
Christ and has stains of his blood) is indicative here: its authentic
ity would be a horror for every true believer (the first thing to do
then would be to analyze the DNA of the blood stains and thus
resolve empirically the question of who Jesus's father was), while
a true fundamentalist would rejoice in this opportunity. We find
the same reduction of belief to knowledge in today's Islam where
hundreds of books by scientists abound which "demonstrate" how

The Fundamental Perversion . . .

1 29

of Koran: the divine prohibition of incest is confirmed by recent


genetic knowledge about the defective children born of incestuous
copulation, etc. (Some even go so far as to claim that what Koran
offers as an article of faith to be accepted because of its di vine
origin is not finally demonstrated as scientific truth, thereby reduc
ing Koran itself to an inferior mythic version of what acquired its
appropriate formulation in today's science.) The same goes also
for Buddhism, where many scientists vary the motif of the "Tao of
modern physics," i.e., of how the contemporary scientific vision
of reality as a substanceless flux of oscillating events finally con
firmed the ancient Buddhist ontology.6 One is compelled to draw
the paradoxical conclusion: in the opposition between traditional
secular humanists and religious fundamentalists, it is the humanists
who stand for belief, while fundamentalists stand for knowledge.
This is what we can learn from Lacan with regard to the ongoing
rise of religious fundamentalism: its true danger does not reside in
the fact that it poses a threat to secular scientific knowledge, but in
the fact that it poses a threat to authentic belief itself.

I.

2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Available at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/320.
See Janet Avery and Kevin B. Anderson, Foucault and the Iranian
Revolution, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 2005.
See Karl Marx, "Class Struggles in France," Collected Works, Vol.
10, London: Lawrence and Wishart 1978, p. 95.
Lacan, Jacques, Ecrits. A Selection, translated by Bruce Fink, New
York: W.W.Norton & Company 2002, p. 3 10.
Lacan, J., The Seminar, Book XI, The Four Fundamental Concepts of
Psycho-Analysis, (1964}, Hannondsworth: Penguin Books 1979, p. 99.
One of the ridiculous excesses ofthis joint venture of religious funda
mentalism and scientific approach is taking place today in Israel where
a religious group convinced in the literal truth of the Old Testament
prophecy that the Messiah will come when a calf with totally red is
born, is spending enormous amounts of energy to produce, through
genetic manipulations, such a calf.

BLAKE RAYNE- Untitled 29 (for Julia ButteT:fly Hill)-oil and collage on canvas, 44' x 34", 2006

The Cunning of Reason:


Lacan as Reader of Hegel

SLAVOJ

ZIZEK

The question of the tennination of an analysis is that of the


moment at which the subject's satisfaction is achievable in
the satisfaction of all-that is, of all those it involves in a
human undertaking. Of all the undertakings that have been
proposed in this century, the psychoanalyst's is perhaps the
loftiest, because it mediates in our time between the care
ridden man and the subject of absolute knowledge. 1

This i s in nuce Lacan' s program of the early 1950s- a program that,


without any doubt, every professional philosopher would dismiss
as nonsense: to bring together Heidegger (who defines "care" as
the fundamental feature of the finite

Dasein) and Hegel (the phi

losopher of the infinite absolute knowledge in which the Universal


and the Particular are fully mediated)2

The Lacanian analyst as

a figure of Absolute Knowing? Is this thesis not constrained to a


specific historical moment (early 1950s), when Hegel's influence
on Lacan (mediated by Alexandre Kojeve and Jean Hyppolite)
was at its peak? Is it not that, soon afterwards, Lacan moved from
Hegel to Kant, insisting on the inaccessible ("impossible") charac-

132

lacanian ink

ter of the Real that forever resists symbolization, on the subject's


unsurpassed separation from the cause of his/her desire? Is not
the best description of Lacan's central project that of a critique of
pure desire, where the term "critique" is to be understood in its
precise Kantian sense: maintaining the gap that forever separates
every empirical ("pathological") object of desire from its "impos
sible" object-cause whose place has to remain empty? Is not what
Lacan calls "symbolic castration" this very gap which renders every
empirical object unsatisfactory?

And, indeed, in the following

paragraphs of the very rapport de Rome, Lacan already outlines


the "limits within which it is impossible for our teaching to ignore
the structuring moments of Hegel's phenomenology":

But ifthere is still something prophetic in Hegel's insistence


on the fundamental identity of the particular and the univer
sal, an insistence that reveals the extent of his genius, it is
certainly psychoanalysis that provides it with its paradigm
by revealing the structure in which this identity is realized as
disjunctive of the subject, and without appealing to the future.
. Let me simply say that this, in my view, constitutes
an objection to any reference to totality in the individual,
since the subject introduces division therein, as well as
in the collectivity that is the equivalent of the individual.
Psychoanalysis is what clearly relegates both the one and
the other to the status of mirages.3
We are thereby back into familiar waters: the Hegelian self-con
sciousness, the subject of absolute notional self-mediation which
supersedes/devours every alterity versus the Lacanian divided
subject of the unconscious, by definition separated from its Cause?
However, it is not enough to reduce Hegel to his big formulas (the
Absolute not only as Substance, but also as Subject; the actuality of
the rational; Absolute Knowing; the self-canceling force of negativ
ity; etc.), and then to quickly reject him as the utmost expression of
the modern delirium of total subjective-notional mediation-appro
priation of all reality. One should display, apropos Hegel himself,
what the author of one of the best books on Hegel, Gerard Lebrun,

Lacan as Reader of Hegel

called the "patience of the notion"

(La. patience du concept,

1 33

the

book's title): to read Hegel en detail, to follow the miniatures of


his theoretical practice, of his dialectical cuts and turns. The wager
of such an operation is double: it can ground the (only serious)
critique of Hegel, the immanent critique of measuring Hegel with
his own standard, of analyzing how he realizes his own program;
but it can also serve as a means to redeem Hegel, to unearth the
actual meaning of his big programmatic maxims as opposed to the
standard understanding of them.
Where, then, do we effectively stand with regard to Abso
lute Knowing? When, in his writings around the rapport de Rome,
Lacan himself defines the conclusion of a treatment as the position
of the Hegelian Absolute Knowing, how are we to read this together
with Lacan's insistence on human finitude, on the irreduciblefitture
anterieur that pertains to the process of symbolization (every con
clusion involves a gesture of precipitation, in never occurs "now,"
but in a now viewed backwards)? See the following passage:
What is realized in my history is neither the past definite as
what was, since it is no more, nor even the perfect of what
has been in what I am, but the future anterior as what I will
have been, given what I am in the process of becoming.4

But the same goes for Hegel- when he adopts the position of the
"end of history," presenting us with a coherent narrative about the
entire history, he does not simply look at the past from the present
position; although he prohibits to philosophy speculations about
the future and constrains it to comprehending what IS the case, past
and present, the position from which he enacts the final "reconcili
ation" has a future dimension of its own, that of a "future perfect"
from which the present itself is seen from a minimal distance, in
its accomplished form:

lacanian ink

134

It is a present that raises itself, it is essentially reconciled,


brought to consummation through the negation of its imme
diacy, consummated in universality, but in a consummation
that is not yet achieved, and which must therefore be grasped
as future - a now of the present that has consummation be
fore its eyes; but because the community is posited now in
the order of time, the consummation is distinguished from
this 'now' and is posited as future.5

This "future perfect" is that of accomplished symbolization, which


is why, in his rapport de Rome, Lacan systematically identifies the
conclusion of the analytic treatment with the Hegelian "absolute
knowing": the aim of the treatment is to achieve the same "future
perfect" of accomplished symbolization.

Each day's edition of

Le Monde, the most prestigious (and proverbially haughty) French


daily newspaper, appears in the early afternoon of the previous
day (say, the issue for July

4 is on sale around 3 PM on July 3),

as if the editors want to signal a simultaneous move of precipita


tion and delay: they write from eternity, observing events from
the point which comes later than that of other daily newspapers
caught in immediate "live" reporting; however, simultaneously,
they are able to see the present itself from its immediate future
(i.e., in its true potentials, not only the way it appears in its chaotic
immediacy)-there, you can learn already in the afternoon of July

3 how things look from the perspective of July 4. . . No wonder


Le Monde is accused of arrogance: this coincidence of delay and
precipitation effectively betrays its pretense to stand for a kind of
"absolute knowing" among the (other) daily newspapers which
merely report fleeting opinions . . .
So when, in his

rapport de Rome, Lacan refers to Hegel's

"Absolute Knowing," one should read closely his indications of


how he conceives this identification of the analyst with the Hegelian
master, and not succumb to the temptation of quickly retranslating
the "Absolute Knowing" into the accomplished symbolization.
For Lacan, the analyst stands for the Hegelian master, embodiment
of "Absolute Knowing," insofar as he renounces all enforcing

Lacan as Reader of Hegel

135

(jor<;age) of reality and, fully aware that the actual is in already


itself rational, adopt the stance of a passive observer who does
not intervene directly into the content, but merely manipulates
the scene so that the content destroys itself, confronted with its
own inconsistencies-this is how one should read Lacan's precise
indication that Hegel's work is "precisely what we need to confer a
meaning on so-called analytic neutrality other than that the analyst
is simply in a stupor"6-it is this neutrality which keeps the analyst
"on the path of non action."7 The Hegelian wager is that the best
way to destroy the enemy is to give him the free field to deploy his
potentials, and that his success will be his failure, since the lack of
external obstacles will confront him with the absolutely inherent
obstacle of the inconsistency of his own position:
Cunning is something other than trickery. The most open
activity is the greatest cunning (the other must be taken in
its truth). In other words, with his openness, a man exposes
the other in himself, he makes him appear as he is in and for
himself, and thereby does away with himself. Cunning is
the great art of inducing others to be as they are in and for
themselves, and to bring this out to the light of conscious
ness. Although others are in the right, they do not know
how to defend it by means of speech. Muteness is bad,
mean cunning. Consequently, a true master !Meister! is
at bottom only he who can provoke the other to transform
himself through his act.8

The wager of the Hegelian Cunning of Reason is thus not so much


the trust in the power of Reason (we can take it easy and with
draw - Reason will take care that the good side will win), as the
trust in the power of "unreason" in every determinate agent which,
let to itself, will destroy itself: "If reason is as cunning as Hegel
said it was, it will do its job without your help. "9
This (not the ridiculous notion of some mysterious Spirit
which secretly pulls the strings and guarantees the happy outcome of
our struggles) is what the Hegelian "cunning of reason" amounts to:
I hide nothing from you, I renounce all "hermeneutics of suspicion,"

136

lacanian ink

I do not impute any dark motifs to you, I just let the field free for
you to deploy your potentials and thus destroy yourself. It is easy
to discern here the unexpected proximity of the Hegelian master
to the analyst, to which Lacan alludes: the Hegelian Cunning of
Reason means that the Idea realizes itself in and through the very
failure of its realization. It is worth recalling the sublime reversal
found, among others, in Charles Dickens' The Great Expectations?
When, at his birth, Pip is designated as a "man of great expecta
tions," everybody perceives this as the forecast of his worldly
success; however, at the novel's end, when he abandons London's
false glamour and returns to his modest childhood community, we
become aware that he did live up to the forecast that marked his
life - it is only by way of finding strength to leave behind the vain
thrill of London's high society that he authenticates the notion of
being a "man of great expectations". We are dealing here with a
kind of Hegelian reflexivity: what changes in the course of the hero's
ordeal is not only his character, but also the very ethical standard
by which we measure his character.

This is what "negation of

negation" is: the shift of perspective which turns failure into true
success - and does the same not go for the Freudian Fehlleistung

(acte manqul)-an act which succeeds in its very failure?


In the Russian joke from the late Soviet era, Rabinovitch
wants to emigrate from the Soviet Union; he goes to the appropri
ate office and informs the bureaucrat in charge of it that he wants
to do it for two reasons: "First, I fear that, if the socialist order will
disintegrate, all the blame for the communist crimes will be put on
us, the Jews." To the state bureaucrat's exclamation "But nothing
will ever change in the Soviet Union ! Socialism is here to stay for
ever!", Rabinovitch calmly answers: "This is my second reason!"
This is how false doxa is inherent to truth: one cannot directly pass
to Truth, i.e., one does not face directly the alternative doxa!fruth;
the first choice is necessary that of doxa, and Truth emerges only
after we become aware of the deadlock of our choosing the doxa.
The same goes for the failure of the Crusades: the commonplace

Lacan as Reader of Hegel

1 37

about Hegel is that he criticized the idea of the Crusades for con
founding the possession of the spiritual Truth of Christianity with
the possession of the physical site of Christ's tomb, the place of
his Crucifixion and Resurrection; however, here, again, the choice
is not an immediate one: in order for us to experience the spiritual
Truth of Christianity one HAS first to occupy the tomb and then
experience its emptiness - it is only througp. this disappointment,
thr6ugh this failure-in-triumph, that one gets the insight into how,
in order to "live in Christ," one does not have to go far and occupy
empty tombs, since Christ is already here whenever there is Love
between his followers. So, to retell the experience in the terms of
the Rabinovitch joke: "We are going to Jerusalem for two reasons.
First, we want to find Christ's tomb, to dwell in the presence of
divinity."

"But what you will discover in Jerusalem is that the

tomb is empty, that there is nothing to find there, that all you have
is yourself, only Christians . . . " "Well, this community of spirit 1s
the living Christ, and this is what we were really looking for!"
One can retell in these terms even the remark allegedly
made by Brecht apropos of the accused at the Moscow show tri
als in the 1 930s: "If they are innocent, they deserve all the more
to be shot." This statement is thoroughly ambiguous- it can be
read as the standard assertion of the radical Stalinism (your very
insistence on your individual innocence, your refusal to sacrifice
yourself for the Cause, bears witness to your guilt which resides
in giving preference to your individuality over the larger interests
of the Party), or it can be read as its opposite, in a radically anti
Stalinist way: if they were in a position to plot and execute the

killing of Stalin and his entourage, and were "innocent" (i.e., did
not grasp the opportunity and do it), they effectively deserved to die
for failing to rid us of Stalin. The true guilt of the accused is thus
that, instead of rejecting the very ideological frame of Stalinism
and ruthlessly acting against Stalin, they narcissistically fell in love
with their victimization and either protested their innocence or got
fascinated by the ultimate sacrifice they delivered to the Party by

138

lacanian ink

confessing their non-existent crimes. So the properly dialectical


way of grasping the imbrication of these two meanings would have
been to start with the first reading, followed by the common sense
moralistic reaction to Brecht: "But how can you claim something so
ruthless? Can such a logic which demands the blind self-sacrifice
for the accusatory whims of the Leader not function only within a
terrifying criminal totalitarian universe-far from accepting these
rules, it is the duty of every ethical subject to fight such a universe
with all means possible, including the physical removal (killing)
of the totalitarian leadership?" "So you see how, if the accused
were innocent, they deserve all the more to be shot-they effective
WERE in a position to organize a plot to get us rid of Stalin and his
henchmen, and missed this unique opportunity to spare humanity
from terrible crimes!" One can also discern the same ambiguity
in the infamous statement usually (although wrongly) attributed
to Hermann Goering: "When I hear the word 'culture,' I reach for
my pistol . " Goering's intended meaning was probably that he is
ready to defend the high German culture with arms, if necessary,
against the Jews and other barbarians, however, the true meaning is
that he himself is the barbarian who explodes with violence when
confronting true works of culture . . . 10
This reversal is more complex than it may appear: at its
most radical, it is not only the reversal of a predicate (the reason
against shifts into the reason for), but the shift of the very predicate
into the position of subject. Let us clarify this key feature of the
Hegelian dialectic apropos the well-known male-chauvinist no
tion of how, in contrast to man's firm self-identity, "the essence of
woman is dispersed, elusive, displaced"; the thing to do here is to
move from this claim that the essence of woman is forever dispersed
to the more radical claim that this dispersion/displacement AS SUCH
rs the "essence of femininity." This is what Hegel deployed as the
dialectical shift in which the predicate itself turns into the subject
- a shift which, again, can be retold as a version of the Rabinovitch
joke: "I found the essence of femininity." "But one cannot find it,

Lac an as Reader of Hegel

1 39

femininity is dispersed, displaced . . . " "Well, this dispersion IS the


essence of femininity . . .

"

And "subject" is not just an example here, but the very


formal structure of it: subject "as such" is a subjectivized predicate;
subject is not only always-already displaced, etc., it IS this displace
ment. The supreme case of this shift constitutive of the dimension
of subjectivity is that of supposition. Lacan first deployed to no
tion of the analyst as the "subject supposed to know" which arises
through transference (supposed to know what? The meaning of the
patient's symptoms). However, he soon realizes that he is dealing
with a more general structure of supposition, in which a figure of
the Other is not only supposed to know, but can also believe, enjoy,
cry and laugh, or even NOT know for us (from the Tibetan praying
mills to TV canned laughter).
This structure of presupposition is not infinite: it is
strictly limited, constrained by the four elements of the discourse.

S I - Subject-supposed-to-believe; S2 - SUbject-SUpposed-to-know;

a subject-supposed-to-enjoy . . . And what about g ? Do we get a


"subject supposed to be subject"? What would this mean? What if
we read it as standing for the very structure of supposition: it is not
only that the subject is supposed to have a quality, to do or undergo
something (to know, enjoy . . . ) - the subject itself is a supposition,
i.e., the subject is never directly "given," as a positive substantial
entity, we never directly encounter it, it is merely a flickering void
"supposed" between the two signifiers. (We encounter here again
the Hegelian passage from subject to predicate: from the subject
supposed to . . . To the subject itself as a supposition.) That is to
say, what, precisely, is a "subject"?
Let us imagine a proposition, a statement-how, when, does
this statement get "subjectivized"? When some reflexive feature
inscribes into it the subjective attitude - in this precise sense, a
signifier "represents the subject for another signifier." The subject
is the absent X that has to be supposed in order to account for this
reflexive twist, for this distortion. (The link with self-declaratory

140

lacanian ink

mechanism . . . ) And Lacan goes here to the end: it is not only that
the subject is supposed by the external observer-listener; it is IN
ITSELF A SUPPOSITION

And this brings us back to Hegel: when Hegel writes that


the concept is "free subjective concept that is for itself and therefore
possesses personality-the practical, objective concept determined
in and for itself which, as person, is impenetrable atomic subjectiv
ity,"11 he may appear to make a meaningless short-circuit between
the abstract-logical domain of concepts, of notional determinations,
and the psychological domain of personality, of actual persons.
However, upon a closer look, one can clearly perceive his point:
personality in its "impenetrable atomic subjectivity," the abyss/void
of the "I" beyond all my positive properties, is a CONCEPTUAL singu
larity: it is the "actually existing" abstraction of the Concept, i.e., in
it, in the "impenetrable atomic subjectivity" of the I, the negative
power of the concept acquires actual existence, becomes "for itself."
And Lacan's $ , the "barred subject," is precisely such a conceptual
singularity, a singularity devoid of any psychological content. It
is to the vicissitudes of this subject-not our fellow neighbor, but
a monstrous Thing - that we should now turn our attention.

Lacan as Reader of Hegel

l.

2.

3.

4.
5.
6.
7.
8.

9.
10.

11.

141

Lacan, Jacques, "Function and Field of speech and language," Ecrits:

A Selection, NY: W.W. Norton, 1977.

If, measured by today's standards this goal of uniting Hegel and Hei
degger cannot but appear blatantly inconsistent, one should remember
the crucial role of Alexandre Kojeve in Lacan's development-to
his end, Lacan referred to Kojeve as his maitre (the only other maitre
being the psychiatrist Clerambault), Kojeve's central tenet was pre
cisely to bring together Hegel and Heidegger, i.,e., to read Hegel's
motifs of negativity and, exemplarily, the struggle-to-death between
the (future) Master and Slave, through Heidegger's topic of being
towards-death.
Lacan, J., Ecrits: A Selection, op. cit. Significantly, these paragraphs
were rewritten for Ecrits-it would be interesting to analyze in detail
how, in his rewriting of the rapport for its publication in Ecrits in
1966, Lacan desperately tried to erase (or, at least, dilute) the traces
of his Hegelianism.

ibid

G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, vol. III, Los

Angeles: University of California Press


Lacan, J., Ecrits: A Selection, op. cit.

ibid

1987, p. 1 88.

G.W.F. Hegel, "Jenaer Realphilosophie," Werke 5-6, Hamburg: Mei


ner Verlag 1967, p. 199. Incidentally, the text goes on: "Through
cunning, the willing becomes feminine . . . " -the "feminine passivity"
is thus for Hegel not inferior to man's, but superior to it: it is a pas
sivity that let's the (male) other undermine itself.
Lacan, J., Ecrits: A Selection, op. cit.
Although the same reversal also works in the opposite direction. Re
cently in Slovenia, the public prosecutor started a procedure against an
old Communist functionary involved in show trials and mass killings
without trial of the members of the Slovene anti-Communist units
imprisoned immediately after the end of the WWII. After the event
was announced in the media, I accidentally met another unrepentant
old Communist cadre and asked him for a reaction; to my surprise,
he told me that the accused functionary fully deserved the harshes"t
punishment, and he added: "Not for what he is accused, of course,
but for his true crime, decades later, of allowing the Communists to
lose power!"
G.W.F. Hegel, Science of Logic, London: Allen and Unwin 1969.

RoBBRT GoBBR- /978-2000- 1978-2000; set of 22


inches, 64 x 87 cm.

gelatin-silver prints; each sheet:

25 1/4 x 34 114

In J978-2000 (1978-2000), ROBERT GOBERuses almost forensic appli


cation of sequencing and erasure, and once again explores the agency of
water-in this case the sea. This work compiles rephotographed, grainy
snapshots taken during a 1978 drive from New York to Jones Beach and

.siahn1!r,,

ff t.hi i,
rt.mn! ;

).

Jni.ll tl!l? l

. iart
gitirnafP
al"tlnsrf
line 1ie1v.
rho;re v;I
rr-iirtmi

recent images, often appearing as overlays or insets, of beached flot


sam near the artist's studio on Long Island. In this way, three entangled
balloons might function, as the artists has suggested. as "stand-ins for
human bodies and lungs" that, alongside the indelible plastic detritus,

evoke a melancholy in which "these lost then returned objects knew an


other world that we'll never know anything about." In the central im
ages of the sequence, a fragment of a newspaper clipping about a man
who was murdered because he was believed to be gay, a published letter

appearing to condone another homophobic killing, followed by an image


of the Stars and Stripes reverberate to evoke a washed-up, washed-out
American journey of callousness and tenderness.

Catherine Opie

Cathy Lebowitz interviews Josefina Ayerza

CATHY LEBOWITZ:

How does this image evoke the concept of

Names-of-the-Father?
JOSEFINA AYERZA: Mother and baby child, while being fed at the

breast evoke the Names-of-the-Father if only because of the absence


of the father together with a strong presence of the father relative
to the paternal metaphor-to the proper name.
CL: I see the absence of the father here. Maybe here the name of

the father has not been imprinted and the intimacy of mother and
son is not interrupted. What is coming into the situation here is the
eye of the camera, the artist. Since this is a self portrait, the artist
is on both sides - the one who looks and the one looked at.
JA: The eye of the artist on both sides - the one who looks and

the one looked at-literally reproduces the structure of the gaze . . .


for the case crosswise, in that both, the one who looks and the one

Catherine Opie

151

looked at see . . . like in Paul Valery's poem about The Young Parca,
the eye of the artist sees itself seeing itself.

CL: Why do you think the artist has chosen this very intimate mo
ment to show to her audience?
JA: With Jacques Lacan intimacy ex-sists, that is, it has a rep
resentation outside or it doesn't exist at all. He even has a word
for it, "extimacy." If there is transgression in the event of giving

intimacy a name, with Catherine Opie it is giving intimacy an


image- a self-portrait. A very personal image, it is not a paint
ing - the virgin mother and child fed at the breast we are likely to

encounter-but a photograph. The sole fact of it being a photo


graph makes for transgression to reach further. I think this is her
leitmotiv: transgression.
CL: Is the photo of the woman nursing that you think is transgres
sive? Or is it the photo of this woman, whose appearance does not
conform to the madonna and child tradition?
JA: I think both. The image of a woman nursing a child is not
in itself transgressive, but the photograph is. Again, the fact that
the photograph is not conforming to the madonna and child tradi
tion- the tatoo is an unsual detail, also the mother's nakedness,
the tan in her arms, from the elbow down -brings about the trans
gressive as well . . .
CL: Yes, at first I didn't see the necessity of invoking the madonna
and child, but she does seem to be intentionally playing with that
trope. The rich red backdrop, the formality of the composition
and her posture and gaze. Especially compared to the other pho
tographs of the little boy Harper and Joanna, Betsy and Olivia in
the house.

Catherine Opie

153

JA: She could be a Virgin, you know, today there's many ways
for a woman to become pregnant without going through sexual
intercourse. What else could the red rich backdrop imply? And
do we have a Holy ghost here? With Lacan the Holy spirit stands
for the entry of the signifier into the world. And this is a phallic
signifier and the cause of the desire-we enter another life beyond
the biological one.
CL: I don't understand. "You enter another life beyond the bio
logical one"? And what could the signifier be?
JA: You enter the paternal symbolic Law: the mother 's desire is
screened through the paternal Law. There are two levels here.
Whether directly through sexual intercourse or in a laboratory tube,
in the biological, to make a woman pregnant, you need the sperm.
The "signifier" corresponds instead with the world of words, of Law.
The Holy spirit, a dove, makes the Virgin pregnant- from where a
concept was born-this world is beyond the biological life.
CL: Is there a Holy ghost signifier here?
JA: As a signifier the Holy ghost stands for the overflow of mean
ing, or the potentiality of meaning that eludes every determinate
signification. A phallic signifier, here we could identify the Holy
ghost with phallic jouissance as the symbolization /normalization
of this pre-symbolic excessive (M)

CATHERIN!! Orre-Harper-C-print, 40"

Other'sjouissance.

30", 2004, courtesy Regent Projects, Los Angeles

PSYCHOANALYTICAL NOTEBOOKS
A Review of the London Society of the New Lacanian School

(Formerly: the London Circle of the European School of Psychoanalysis)


No 1 3 : I.A.CAN WITH JOYCE
Jacques-Alain Miller Lacan with Joyce; Pierre Theves - Ou est
ton cadeau espcece d'imbecile?; Rene Rasmussen - On Joyce and
Psychosis; Bogdan Wolfe - Joy Joys Joyce . . . How to Work with
the Sinthome?; Marie-Helene Roch 21st century M-A-N; Yas
mine Grasser - M-A-N, basic M-A-N, M-A-N; Rik Loose - Joyce 's
Administration; Philip Dravers - Joyce and the Sinthome; Adrian
Price Lacan 's Sinthommage to The Artist; Parveen Adams - The
Sexual Relation in Joyce; Pierre Skriabine - Does the Father Say
Knot?; Helene Deltombe - The Child and Lalangue; Vincent Dachy
- Remarks on Psychoanalysis and Literature
-

No 1 4 : RESPONSES FROM PSYCHOANALYSIS


Marie-Helene Brousse Separation Anxiety: A New Light Cast on
Feminine Anxiety; Pierre Skriabine - Anxiety and its 'Beyonds',
Richard Klein - From Church and State to Psychoanalysis; Alan
Rowan - Anxiety and the Push to Action: Clinical Consequences;
Beata Wolf -Anxiety and Psychosis; FranS(ois Sauvagnat - Psychot
ic Anxiety and its Correlate in Bodily Experiences; Bogdan Wolf
-

Between Jouissance and Desire: Truths and Lies about Anxiety;

Anxiety and the Search for Happiness;


Maria-Cristina Aguirre
Guy Trobas - Alleviating the Anxiety of a Mother; Maire Jaanus
- The Passa_e-to-the-Act in Anna Karenina; Kirsten Hyldgaard
-

- Heidegger s Anxiety Versus Lacan 's

PN 5 (200 1 ) : FANTASY AND CASTRATION


PN 6 (200 1): REPRESENTATION AND CASTRATION
PN 7 (200 1): SYMPTOMS
PN 8 (2002): JACQUES LACAN 1901-2001
PN 9 (2002): FICTIONS AND PSYCHOANALYSIS
PN 1 0 (2003): FORMATION OF THE ANALYST
PN 1 1 (2003): SEXUATION AND SEXUALITY
PN 1 2 (2004): PSYCHOSIS
To SUBSCRIBE SEND YOUR ORDER ro: The London Society of the NLS
Individual: 2 issues UK 20 I EU 3 3 I Outside EU $ 36
Institution: 2 issues UK 42 I EU 72 I Outside EU $ 75
Credit Card : payment on-line at LSNLSNotebooks @aol.com
Single issue: UK 10 I 1 6 I $ 16.
Tu.E LoNDON SOCIETY OP TIIE NLS, l 7b Granville Rd. London N4 4ET
www.londonsociety-nls.org.uk