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Seminar XV

From No Subject - Encyclopedia of Lacanian Psychoanalysis
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1967 - 1968 L'acte psychanalytique
The Psychoanalytic Act
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1967-1968 Le séminaire, Livre XV: L'acte psychanalytique.
French: unpublished.
English: unpublished.

Since La logique du fantasme, where he states that there is not "sexual act," Lacan questions the difference between the act, l'acte and a mere action, agir. To make love would be an action, un agir, and to get married an act, un acte, because there is a commitment and a recognition, which entail repetition and the inscription in the Other. The signifier will appear soon: the absence of contradiction between Saint John's "In the beginning was the Word," and Goethe's "In the beginning was the action." Lacan then asserts "the irreducibility of the sexual act to any truthful relation." Since love is itself purely narcissistic, a social pact is what remains of a possible rapport between the sexes.

As to the different types of acts in psychoanalysis, there is the founding act: before, the effects of the unconscious existed, but nobody knew that they existed. There is the entrance into analysis and the fact of becoming an analyst, which are decisions and commitments. On the side of the analysand, there are slips and failures, which lead Lacan to give an Éloge de la connerie, Praise of Folly. In analysis it is almost impossible to answer simply to the injunction "render unto truth the things that are truth's and unto folly the things that are folly's," because the two overlap and then one finds "the folly of truth even more often than the truth of folly." The passage à l'acte and the "acting out" are activities that, although they fill a distressing hole, reproduce the past instead of remembering it in words. On the side of the analyst, "outside the manipulation of transference, there is no psychoanalytic act." In order for the analysand to move to the function of analyst, the latter - while pretending to be the upholder of the subject-supposed-to-know - must accept being "reduced to the function of cause of a process in which the subject-supposed-to-know is undone." Moreover, in the end the analyst must accept to be "nothing more than a waste of the operation represented by the objet a," which will produce an effect of truth. The position of the analyst is untenable, and this is why he opposes "the most violent misconstruction, méconnaissance, as to the analytic act itself." Besides, the analysand who experiences désêtre discovers, when becoming an analyst, that he is forced to restore for another the subject-supposed-to-know. The transmission would thus be compleed, very different from the passe itself. The psychoanalytic act, a "setting into act of the subject" and a "setting into act of the unconscious," is like a tragedy where the hero falls in the end as a piece of trash.

"In the beginning of psychoanalysis is transference," without any intersubjectivity, because between the two partners the subject-supposed-to-know acts as a third, as "the pivot from where everything that goes on in transference is articulated." This pivot is the signifier introduced in the discourse instituted by it, a formation as though detached from the analysand, which has nothing to do with the analyst's person. It is "a chain of letters that leads the not-known to frame knowledge," which concerns desire. The Graph of Desire still guides the analysis but an identity is asserted between the matheme of the subject-supposed-to-know and the agalma of Plato's The Symposium, which presents "the pure angle of the subject as the free rapport to the signifier, a signifier from which both the desire of knowledge and the desire of the Other are isolated."
Lacan wants to establish, as to the passage from the analysand to the analyst, "an eaquation whose constant is the agalma" (this term being a sort of compromise between objet a and the phallus). Once "the desire that, in its functionning, uphelds the analysand has been resolved, the analysand no longer wants to remove the possibility of such desire, the remainder which, insofar as it determines his division, makes him fall from his fantasy and destitutes him as subject." Lacan interprets the depressive position often noticed as the end of the analysis in terms of désêtre and "subjective destitution. "The subject sees its assurance sink, a self-assurance that comes from the fantasy in which everybody's opening onto the real is constituted." The subject realizes that the grasp of desire is nothing other than that of a désêtre. "In this désêtre what is unveiled is the nonessential nature of the subject-supposed-to-know; the analyst-to-be is dedicated to the agalma of the essence of desire, even if it means that the analyst-to-be has to be reduced to an ordinary signifier, since the subject is the signifier of the pure signifying relation." Does going through the fantasy, then, mean going toward the drive or toward a confrontation with the signifier? Thus Lacan answers: "The being of desire meets the being of knowledge to be reborn from their knot in a strip formed by the only side on which only one lack is inscribed, that which upholds the agalma." The agalma becomes the signifier of the bar that is put on the Other (A); the gap of (- </font>F) opens in the Other; and the (a) falls from the Other.

Slavoj Zizek argues that "here we find the inescapable deadlock that defines the position of the loved one: the other sees something in me and wants something from me, but I cannot give him what I do not possess - or as Lacan puts it, there is no rapport between what the loved one possesses and what the loving one lacks. The only way for the loved one to escape this deadlock is to stretch out his hand toward the loving one and to return love, that is to exchange, in a metaphorical gesture, his status as the loved one for the status of the loving one. This reversal designates the point of subjectivization: the object of love changes into the subject the moment it answers the call of love. And it is only by way of this reversal that a genuine love emerges: I am truly in love not when I am simply fascinated by the agalma in the other, but when I experience the other, the object of love, as frail and lost, as lacking 'it', and my love none the less survives this loss."