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Superego

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French: surmoi

Sigmund Freud

The term "superego" does not appear until quite late in Freud's work, being first introduced in The Ego and the Id (1923).

It was in this work that Freud introduced his so-called "structural model", in which the psyche is divided into three agencies: the ego, the id and the superego.

However, the concept of a moral agency which judges and censures the ego can be found in Freud's work long before he locates these functions in the superego, such as in his concept of censorship.

Jacques Lacan

Lacan's first discussion of the superego comes in his articule on the family.

In this work he distinguishes clearly between the superego and the ego-ideal, terms which Freud seems to use interchangeably in The Ego and the Id.

He argues that the primary function of the superego is to repress sexual desire for the mother in the resolution of the Oedipus complex.

Following Freud, he argues that the superego results from Oedipal identification with the father, but he also refers to Melanie Klein's thesis on the maternal origins of an archaic form of the superego.[1]

Symbolic Law

When Lacan returns to the subject of the superego in his 1953-4 seminar; he locates it in the symbolic order, as opposed to the imaginary order of the ego: the superego is essentially located within the symbolic plane of speech.[2]

The superego has a close relationship with the Law, but this relationship is a paradoxical one.

On the one hand, the Law as such is a symbolic structure which regualtes subjectivity and in this sense prevents disintegration.

On the other hand, the law of the superego has a "senseless, blind character, of pure imperativeness and simple tyranny.[3]

Thus "the superego is at one and the same time the law and its destruction."[4]

The superego arises from the misunderstanding of the law, from the gaps in the symbolic chain, and fills out those gaps with an imaginary substitute that distorts the law.[5]

Philosophy

More specifically, in linguistic terms, "the superego is an imperative."[6]

In 1962, Lacan argues that this is none other than the Kantian categorical imperative.

The specific imperative involved is the command "Enjoy!"; the superego is the Other insofar as the Other commands the subject to enjoy.

The superego is thus the expression of the will-to-enjoy (volonte de jouissance), which is not the subject's own will but the will of the Other, who assumes the form of Sade's "Supreme Being-in-Evil."[7]

The superego is an "obscene, ferocious Figure"[8] which imposes "a senseless, destructive, purely oppressive, almost always anti-legel morality" on the neurotic subject.[9]

The superego is related to the voice, and thus to the invoking drive and to sadism/masochism.

See Also

References

  1. Lacan, Jacques. Les complexes familiaux dans la formation de l'individu. Essai d'analyse d'une fonction en psychologie, Paris: Navarin, 1984 [1938]. p. 59-60
  2. 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. 102
  3. 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. 102
  4. 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. 102
  5. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 143
  6. 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. 102
  7. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 773
  8. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 256
  9. 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. 102