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Love

From No Subject - Encyclopedia of Lacanian Psychoanalysis
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French: amour

Jacques Lacan

Symbolic

Lacan argues that it is impossible to say anything meaningful or sensible about love.[1] Indeed, the moment one starts to speak about love, one descends into imbecility.[2] Given these views, it might seem surprising that Lacan himself dedicates a great deal of his seminar precisely to speaking about love. However, in doing so, Lacan is merely demonstrating what the analysand does in psychoanalytic treatment, for "the only thing that we do in the analytic discourse is speak about love."[3]

Imaginary

Love is located by Lacan as a purely imaginary phenomenon, although it has effects in the symbolic order.[4] Love is autoerotic, and has a fundamentally narcissistic structure since "it's one's own ego that one loves in love, one's own ego made real on the imaginary level."[5] The imaginary nature of love leads Lacan to oppose all those analysts who posit love as an ideal in psychoanalytic treatment.[6]

Love involves an imaginary reciprocity, since "to love is, essentially, to wish to be loved."[7] It is this reciprocity between "loving" and "being loved" that constitutes the illusion of love, and this is what distinguishes it from the order of the drives, in which there is no reciprocity, only pure activity.[8] Love is an illusory fantasy of fusion with the beloved which makes up for the absence of any sexual relationship.[9] This is especially clear in the asexual concept of courtly love.[10]

Love is deceptive. "As a specular mirage, love is essentially deception."[11] It is deceptive because it involves giving what one does not have (i.e. the phallus); to love is "to give what one does not have."[12] Love is directed not at what the love-object has, but at what he lacks, at the nothing beyond him. The object is valued insofar as it comes in the place of that lack.

Love and Desire

One of the most complex areas of Lacan's work concerns the relationship between love and desire. On the one hand, the two terms are diametrically opposed. On the other hand, this opposition is problematized by certain similarities between the two:

Opposition

As an imaginary phenomenon which belongs to the field of the ego, love is clearly opposed to desire, which is inscribed in the symbolic order, the field of the Other.[13] Love is a metaphor, whereas desire is metonymy.[14] It can even be said that love kills desire, since love is based on a fantasy of oneness with the beloved and this abolishes the difference which gives rise to desire.[15]

Similarity

On the other hand, there are elements in Lacan's work which destabilize the neat opposition between love and desire.

  1. Firstly, they are both similar in that neither can ever be satisfied.
  2. Secondly, the structure of love as "the wish to be loved" is identical to the structure of desire, in which the subject desires to become the object of the Other's desire.
  3. Thirdly, in the dialectic of need/demand/desire, desire is born precisely from the unsatisfied part of demand, which is the demand for love.

Lacan's own discourse on love is thus often complicated by the same substitution of "desire" for "love" which he himself highlights in the text of Plato's Symposium.[16]

Courtly Love

Courtly love "is an altogether refined way of making up for the absence of sexual relation by pretending that it is we who put an obstacle to it." Courtly love is a love of the impossible, a love for the obstacle which forever thwarts love - an elegant way of coming to terms with the absence of sexual relations.

See Also

References

  1. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre VIII. Le transfert, 1960-61. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 57
  2. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p. 17
  3. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p. 77
  4. (one of those effects being to produce "a veritable subduction of the symbolic") 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. 142
  5. 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. 142
  6. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book VII. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-60. Trans. Dennis Porter. London: Routledge, 1992. p. 8
  7. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p. 253
  8. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p. 200
  9. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p. 44
  10. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p. 65
  11. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p. 268
  12. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre VIII. Le transfert, 1960-61. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 147
  13. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. pp. 189-91
  14. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre VIII. Le transfert, 1960-61. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 53
  15. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p. 46
  16. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre VIII. Le transfert, 1960-61. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 141