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Subject supposed to know

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French: sujet supposé savoir

Jacques Lacan

Translation

The term sujet supposé savoir can be translated as the "subject supposed to know" or as the "supposed subject of knowledge".

Transference

In 1964, Lacan defines transference as the attribution of knowledge to a subject.

"As soon as the subject who is supposed to know exists somewhere there is transference."[1]

It is the analysand's supposition of a subject who knows that initiates the analytic process rather than the knowledge actually possessed by the analyst. The term subject supposed to know does not designate the analyst, but rather a function which the analyst may come to embody in the treatment. It is only when the analyst is perceived by the analysand to embody this function that the transference can be said to be established.[2]

Signification

When this occurs, what kind of knowledge is it that the analyst is presumed to possess?

"He is supposed to know that from which no one can escape, as soon as he formulates it - quite simply, signification."[3]

In other words, the analyst is often thought to know the secret meaning of the analysand's words, the significations of speech of which even the speaker is unaware. This supposition alone (the supposition that the analyst is one who knows) causes otherwise insignificant details (chance gestures, ambiguous remarks) to acquire retroactively a special meaning for the patient who "supposes".

Practice

It may happen that the patient supposes the analyst to be a subject who knows from the very first treatment, or even before, but it often takes some time for the transference to become established. In the latter case, "when the subject enters the analysis, he is far from giving the analyst this place of the subject supposed to know."[4] The analysand may initially regard the analyst as a buffoon, or may withhold information from him in order to maintain his ignorance.[5] However, "even the psychoanalyst put in question is credited at some point with a certain infallibility."[6]

Sooner or later some chance gesture of the analyst is taken by the analysand as a sign of some secret intention, some hidden knowledge. At this point the analyst has come to embody the subject supposed to know; the transference is established. The end of analysis comes when the analysand de-supposes the analyst of knowledge, so that the analyst falls from the position of the subject supposed to know.

Position of the Analyst

The term "subject supposed to know" also emphasizes the fact that it is a particular relationship to knowledge that constitutes the unique position of the analyst; the analyst is aware that there is a split between him and the knowledge attributed to him. In other words, the analyst must realize that he only occupies the position of one who is presumed (by the analysand) to know, without fooling himself that he really does possess the knowledge attributed to him. The analyst must realise that, of the knowledge attributed to him by the analysand, he knows nothing.[7]

Training

However, the fact that it is a supposed knowledge that is the mainstay of the analytic process, rather than the knowledge actually possessed by the analyst, does not mean that the analyst can therefore be content with knowing nothing; on the contrary, Lacan argues that analysts should emulate Freud in becoming experts in cultural, literary and linguistic matters.

See Also

References

  1. 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. 232
  2. 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. 233
  3. 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
  4. 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. 233
  5. 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. 137
  6. 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.234
  7. Lacan, Jacques. "Proposition du 9 octobre 1967 sur le psychanalyste de l'École," 1967, Scilicet, no. 1 (1968) p. 20