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Death

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French: mort

The term "death" occurs in various contexts in Lacan's work.


Symbolic Death

Death is constitutive of the symbolic order, because the symbol, by standing in place of the thing which it symbolizes, is equivalent to the death of that thing:

"The symbol is the murder of the thing."[1]

Death of the Subject

It is only by virtue of the signifier that the subject has access to and can conceive of his own death:

"It is in the signifier and insofar as the subject articulates a signifying chain that he comes up against the fact that he may disappear from the chain of what he is."[2]

Subject Beyond Death

The signifier also puts the subject beyond death, because "the signifier already considers him dead, by nature it immortalizes him."[3]

Dead Father

Death in the symbolic order is related to the death of the Father (i.e. the murder of the father of the horde in Totem and Taboo[4]); the symbolic father is always a dead father.

Second Death

First Death

In the seminar of 1959-60, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, Lacan talks about the "second death."[5]

The first death is the physical death of the body.

The first death ends one human life but which does not put an end to the cycles of corruption and regeneration.

The second death is that which prevents the regeneration of the dead body, "the point at which the very cycles of the transformations of nature are annihilated."[6]

Beauty, Being, Pain

The concept of the second death is used by Lacan to formulate ideas on various themes:

  • beauty - "It is the function of beauty to reveal man's relationship to his own death."[7]
  • the direct relationship to being;[8] and
  • the sadistic fantasy of inflicting perpetual pain[9]

Between the Two Deaths

The phrase "zone between-two-deaths" (l'espace de l'entre-deux-morts) designates "the zone in which tragedy is played out."[10]

Philosophical Death

Hegel and Heidegger

Death plays an important role in the philosophical systems of Hegel and Heidegger, and Lacan draws on both of these in his theorisation of the role of death in psychoanalysis.

"Absolute Master"

From Hegel (via Kojève), Lacan takes the idea that death is both constitutive of man's freedom and "the absolute Master."[11] Death plays a crucial part in the Hegelian dialectic of the master and the slave where it is intimately linked with desire, since the master only affirms himself for others by means of a desire for death.[12]

"Being-For-Death"

From Heidegger, Lacan takes the idea that human existence only takes on meaning by virtue of the finite limit set by death, so that the human subject is properly a "being-for-death". This corresponds to Lacan's view that the analysand should come, via the analytic process, to assume his own mortality.[13]

Psychoanalytic Death

Dead Analyst

In his comparison between psychoanalytic treatment and the game of bridge, Lacan describes the analyst as playing the position of the "dummy" (in French, le mort; literally, "the dead person").

"The analyst intervenes concretely in the dialectic of analysis by pretending that he is dead. . . he makes death present."[14]

The analyst "cadaverises" himself (se corpsifiat).

Obsessional Neurosis

The question which constitutes the structure of obsessional neurosis concerns death; it is the question "Am I dead or alive?"[15]

See Also

References

  1. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 104
  2. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book VII. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-60. Trans. Dennis Porter. London: Routledge, 1992. p. 295
  3. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p. 180
  4. Freud, Sigmund. Totem and Taboo, 1912-13. SE XIII, 1
  5. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book VII. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-60. Trans. Dennis Porter. London: Routledge, 1992. p. 211
  6. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book VII. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-60. Trans. Dennis Porter. London: Routledge, 1992. p. 248
  7. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book VII. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-60. Trans. Dennis Porter. London: Routledge, 1992. p. 260, 299
  8. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book VII. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-60. Trans. Dennis Porter. London: Routledge, 1992. p. 285
  9. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book VII. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-60. Trans. Dennis Porter. London: Routledge, 1992. p. 295
  10. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre VIII. Le transfert, 1960-61. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 120
  11. Kojève, Alexandre Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, trans. James H. Nichols Jr., New York and London: Basic Books, 1969. [1933-39] p. 21
  12. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 105
  13. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. pp. 104-5
  14. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 140
  15. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. pp. 179-80