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The term "dialectic" originated with the Greeks, for whom it denoted (among other things) a discursive procedure in which an opponent in a debate is questioned in such a way as to bring out the contradictions in his discourse.
However, just as Socrates then proceeds to draw out the truth from the confused statements of his interlocutor, so also the analyst proceeds to draw out the truth from the analysand's free associations.
Although the origin of dialectics goes back to the Greek philosophers, its dominance in modern philosophy is due to the revival of the concept in the eighteenth century by the post-Kantian idealists Fichte and Hegel, who conceived of the dialectic as a triad of thesis, antithesis and synthesis.
Each confrontation is resolved by an operation called the Aufhebung (usually translated as "sublation") in which a new idea (the synthesis) is born from the opposition between thesis and antithesis; the synthesis simultaneously annuls, preserves and raises this opposition to a higher level.
Following Kojève Lacan puts great emphasis on the particular stage of the dialectic in which the master confronts the slave, and on the way that desire is constituted dialectically by a relationship with the desire of the Other.
Progression Toward Truth
Lacan also makes use of a concept of Aufhebung to show how the symbolic order can simultaneously annul, preserve and raise an imaginary object (the imaginary phallus) to the status of a signifier (the symbolic phallus); the phallus then becomes "the signifier of this Aufhebung itself, which it inaugurates by its disappearance."
For Lacan, there is no such thing as a final synthesis such as is represented by Hegel's concept of absolute knowledge; the irreducibility of the unconscious represents the impossibility of any such absolute knowledge.
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre VIII. Le transfert, 1960-61. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 140
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 216
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54. Trans. John Forrester. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p. 278
- Lacan, Jacques. "Some Reflections on the Ego," Int. J. Psycho-Anal., vol. 34, 1953 [1951b]. p. 12
- Lacan, Jacques. "Intervention sur le transfert", in Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. pp. 215-26 ["Intervention on the Transference", trans. Jacqueline Rose, in Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose (eds), Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the École Freudienne, London: Macmillan, 1982 [1951a]. pp. 61-73
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 288
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p. 79
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 837