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Talk:Desire

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Desire, Need and Demand=

Lacan distinguishes between three related concepts:

Need

The human infant is born with certain biological needs that require (constant or periodic) satisfaction.

The human infant has certain biological needs which are satisfied by certain objects.

Need is a biological instinct that requires (constant or periodic) satisfaction.

Need emerges according to the requirements of the organism and abates completely (even if only temporarily) when satisfied.

The human infant is born into a state of helplessness, and is unable to satisfy its own biological needs.

The infant, unable to satisfy its own needs, must depend on the Other to help it satisfy them.

The Other can help to satisfy the needs of the infant.

The Other can provide the objects which the subject requires to satisfy his needs.

Demand

The function of demand is to serve as an articulation of need.

The infant, in order to get help from the Other, must articulate (express) its needs (vocally) in (the form of a) demand.

The demand serves to bring the Other to help satisfy the needs of the infant.

Demand is also a demand for love (beyond the satisfaction of need).

The presence of the Other (becomes important in itself) symbolizes the Other's love.

The biological needs of the infant becomes subordinated to the demand for the recognition and love of the Other.

The needs which are articulated in demands are satisfied.

The Other can provide the objects which the subject requires to satisfy his needs, but cannot provide that unconditional love which the infant craves.

The Other (can satisfy the needs that are articulated in the demands of the infant but) cannot satisfy the infant's demand for love.

Even after the needs which are articulated in demands are satisfied, demand (as the demand for love) remains unsatisfied

This leftover is desire.

Desire

Desire is what remains of demand after the needs which are articulated in that demand are satisfied.

"Desire is neither the appetite for satisfaction, nor the demand for love, but the difference that results from the subtraction of the first from the second."[1]

Desire is the surplus produced by the articulation of need in demand.

"Desire begins to take shape in the margin in which demand becomes separated from need."[2]

Desire, unlike need, can never be satisfied.

A need (that is satisfied) ceases to motivate the infant until another need arises.

Desire is constant in its pressure, and eternal.

Desire of the Other

Lacan asserted that desire is the desire of the Other.

Desire is human when it is directed toward another desire.

"Man's desire is the desire of the Other.[3]

The statement provides the basis for our consideration of desire in Lacan’s conception of subjectivity and points to the fundamentally social character of desire.

Object of the Other's Desire

Desire is the desire for the Other's desire, that is, the desire to be the object of the Other's desire.

Desire is a desire for "recognition" (by another).

The Oedipus complex illustrates the desire of the subject to be the phallus for the mother.

Object Desired by Others
"The object of man's desire ... is essentially an object desired by someone else."[4]

The object is desirable (not due to any intrinsic quality but) because others desire it.

It is qua Other that the subject desires.[5]

It is human to desire what others desire because they desire it.

Desire for the Other

Desire is desire for the Other.

The fundamental desire is the incestuous desire for the mother, the primordial Other.[6]

Impossible Desire
Desire is always "the desire for something else," because it is impossible to desire what one already has.[7]

The object of desire is continually deferred, which is why desire is metonymy.[8]

Social Desire

Desire emerges originally in the field of the Other, that is, in the unconscious.

Desire is a social product.

Desire is not the private affair it appears to be, but is always constituted in a dialectical relationship with the perceived desires of others.

The most important point to emerge from Lacan’s phrase [that the object of man’s desire […] is essentially an object desired by someone else] is that desire is a social product. Desire is not the private affair it appears to be but is always constituted in a dialectical relationship with the perceived desires of other subjects."[9]

OBJET A The objet petit a is represented by a variety of partial objects in diffent partial drives.

The objet petit a is not the object towards which desire tends, but the cause of desire.

Desire is not a relation to an object, but a relation to a lack.


Desire and Prohibition

The law (or prohibition) "creates desire in the first place by creating interdiction. Desire is essentially the desire to transgress, and for there to be transgression it is first necessary for there to be prohibition."[10]

The law gives rise to desire as that which circulates endlessly around a prohibited core (of jouissance).

(The prohibition establishes desire as the ultimate motivational force in subjectivity.)


Desire and Language

Desire is created at the moment of the infant's accession to the symbolic order.

Desire is inseparable from the symbolic order and thus inhabits all (inheres in) signification (as such).

Desire is inscribed in the signifying chain in its essential metonymy.

"Man’s desire is a metonymy. [...] Desire is a metonymy."[11]

The perpetual reference of one signifer to another in an eternal deferral of meaning is a formulation of the ceaseless movement of desire.

Impossible Desire

According to Lacan, desire is by its very nature insatiable; it can never be fulfilled.

Any attempt to satisfy desire is always undercut by a residue that remains unattainable.

Desire designates the impossible relation that a subject has with objet petit a.

The core around which desire circulates is prohibited.

Desire and Impossibility

The important aspect of the paternal interdiction that inaugurates the infant’s traumatic accession to the symbolic order is that what the word-of-the-father interdicts is in fact an impossibility.

The infant’s sought-after direct identification with the mother is impossible.

The paternal interdiction only formalises this impossibility as a prohibition, covering it over with the compensation of symbolisation.

The prohibitive aspect of the law is merely a socially institutionalised form of the fundamental impossibility at the heart of desire.

No object can ever fulfil desire.

Desire and the Death Drive

Lacan posits a distinction between desire and drive.

It is important to distinguish between desire and the drives.

The drives are the particular (partial) manifestations of a single force called desire.




Desire is the heart of human existence, fundamental to every aspect of the psychic life of the individual and to the social system in which the individual finds him or herself embedded.

Desire provides the subject with its primary motivation and frustration.


Lacan is very careful to distinguish between a 'need' and 'desire'. A need such as hunger or thirst can be satisfied. Desire on the other hand refers to something beyond basic human needs that cannot be satisfied. For Lacan, desire is a much broader and more abstract concept than either libido or 'wish' in Freud; in seminar XI he describes it, following Spinoza, as 'the essence of man' (1979 [1973]: 275). Desire is at the very core of our being and as such it is essentially a relation to lack; indeed, desire and lack are inextricably tied together. Lacan defines desire as the remainder that arises from the subtraction of need from demand:

Thus desire is neither the appetite for satisfaction, nor the demand for love, but the difference that results from the subtraction of the first from the second, the phenomenon of their splitting (Spaltung). (1977d [1958]: 287)

Desire and the unconscious are founded through the recognition of a fundamental lack: the absence of the phallus. Desire, therefore, is always the manifestation of something that is lacking in the subject and the Other - the symbolic order. It is through the Other that the subject secures its position in the symbolic, social, order. The Other confers upon the subject its symbolic mandate, as it is through the desire of the Other that the subject's own desire is founded:

In the child's attempt to grasp what remains essentially indecipherable in the Other's desire - what Lacan calls the X, the variable, or (better) the unknown - the child's own desire is founded; the Other's desire begins to function as the cause of the child's desire. (Fink 1995:59)

The infant's earliest experiences are characterized by an absolute dependence upon the (m)Other, as she fulfils the child's needs of feeding, caring and nurturing. In this scenario the infant fantasizes that the (m)Other can fulfil all its needs and desires and, as it is the centre of attention, the infant assumes that it equally fulfils the mother's desire. Gradually, the infant realizes that the mother is not as dependent upon it as he/she is upon her and that a part of her desire is directed elsewhere. Faced with this dilemma Lacan suggests that the child poses a series of questions to itself: what does she want from me? What am I for her? What does she desire? The infant is forced to recognize that not only is he/she a split and lacking subject but also that the (m)Other is a desiring subject and therefore lacking something. The (m)Other is never perfect and the infant's demand for love goes beyond the objects that satisfy its needs. For Lacan it is this irreducible 'beyond' of the demand that constitutes desire.

As with the subject the Other is also lacking; the Other is also 'barred'. There remains something essentially unfathomable in the desire of the Other for the subject. What Lacan calls separation is this encounter with the lack in the Other and the 'want to be', more than merely lack. Separation involves the coincidence, or overlapping, of two lacks: the lack in the subject and the Other. The interaction between these two lacks will determine the constitution of the subject. Separation, therefore, takes place at precisely the point that the subject can formulate the question: what am I in the Other's desire? and can thus differentiate itself from the desire of the Other. While the desire of the Other always exceeds or escapes the subject, there nevertheless remains something that the subject can recover and thus sustain 'him or herself in being, as a being of desire' (Fink 1995:61), or a desiring subject. That remainder is the objet petit a, the object-cause of desire (see Chapter 5).



Freud spoke of the unconscious as '(an)other scene' - the immutable realm of human desire. Lacan speaks of the unconscious as quite simply the 'discourse of the Other' (1977e [1960]). There is an important distinction being made here by Lacan between the little other and the capitalized big Other. The lower case 'other' always refers to imaginary others. We treat these others as whole, unified or coherent egos, and as reflections of ourselves they give us the sense of being complete whole beings. This is the other of the mirror phase who the infant presumes will completely satisfy its desire. At the same time the infant sees itself as the sole object of desire for the other (see Chapter 1). The big Other, on the other hand, is that absolute otherness that we cannot assimilate to our subjectivity. The big Other is the symbolic order; it is that foreign language that we are born into and must learn to speak if we are to articulate our own desire. It is also the discourse and desires of those around us, through which we internalize and inflect our own desire. What psychoanalysis teaches us is that our desires are always inextricably bound up with the desires of others. In the first instance these are the desires of our parents, as they place upon the newborn infant all their hopes and wishes for a prosperous and fulfilled life, but also in the sense that they invest in their children all their own unfilled dreams and aspirations. These unconscious desires and wishes of others flow into us through language - through discourse - and therefore desire is always shaped and moulded by language. We can only express our desire through the language we have and we must learn that language through others. According to Lacan, just as there is no such thing as the unconscious without language, it is through language that desire comes into being. Unconscious desire, therefore, emerges in relation to the big Other - the symbolic order. It is the discourse of the Other, insofar as we are condemned to speak our desire through the language and desires of others. As Fink writes, 'we can say that the unconscious is full of such foreign desires' (1995:9).



def

Desire (dEsire; Wunsch, Begierde, Lust) THe Standard Edition translates Freud's Wunsch as 'wish', which corresponds closely to the Germna word. Frued's French translators, however, have always used 'desire' rather than 'voeu', which corresponds to 'Wunsch' and 'wish', but which is less widely used in current French. The crucial distincition betwen 'Wunsch' and 'wish', on the one hand, and 'desire', on the other, is that the German and English words are limited to individual isolated acts of wishing, whle the French has the much stronger implication of a continuous force. It is this implication that Lacan has elaborated and placed at the centre of his psychoanalytic theory, which is why I have rendered 'dEsire' by 'desire'. Furthermore, Lacan has linked the concept of 'desire' with 'need' (besoin) and 'demand' (deamnde) in the following way.

The human individual sets out with a particular organism, with cetain biological needs, which are satisfied by certain objects. What effect does the acquisition of language have on these needS? All speech is demand; it presupposes the Other to whom it is addressed, whose very signifiers it takes over in its formulation. By the same token, that which comes from the Other is treated no so much as a particular satisfaction of a need, but rather as a response to an appeal, a gift, a token of love. There is no adequation between the need and the demand that conveys it; indeed, it is the gap betwen them that costitutes desire, at once particular like the first and absolute like the second. Desire (fundamentally in the singular) is a perpetual effect of symbolic articulaton. It is not an appetite: it is essentially excentic and insatiable. That is why Lacan co-ordinates it not with the object that would seem to satisfy it, but with the object that causes it (one is reminded of fetishism).


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In the Lacanian cosmology desire is fundamental to every aspect of the psychic life of the individual and to the social system in which the individual finds himself or herself embedded. It is endemic to the symbolic order (since it is at base a quest for presence, the possibility of which is precluded by the mechanism of signification), and thus inhabits all signification, providing the subject with its primary motivation and frustration. The chief elements of the Lacanian conception of desire as I will outline it here are its origins in the master/slave dialectic of G.W.F. Hegel (as explicated by Alexandre Kojève), its fundamentally social dimension, its relationship to the death drive, and finally its focus on the chief bugbear of all Lacan’s thought, the objet a.

a) Hegel: Back to the top. As with Lacan’s conception of the symbolic order, his conception of desire is most fruitfully conceived in light of its antecedents and sources. For desire, Lacan draws almost exclusively on the work of Hegel as it was popularised through Kojève’s lectures in Paris in the 1930s. The central Hegelian text for Lacan is the Phenomenology of Spirit, particularly the section which elaborates the master/slave dialectic as a dawning moment of individual self-consciousness: "Hegel […] provided the ultimate theory of the proper function of aggressivity in human ontology, seeming to prophecy the iron law of our time. From the conflict of the Master and Slave, he deduced the entire subjective and objective progress of our history" (Ecrits 26). The connection between aggressivity and desire is so fundamental that Lacan does not even mention it in this passage, though it turns up repeatedly in his work, perhaps most obviously in his formulation of the infant’s aggressive rivalrous response to his or her specular image in the very moment of recognising it as an object of desire (as that with which he or she would like to be identified).

The basic steps in Hegel’s dialectic of the master and the slave are as follows: In a primal moment and place (not unlike that in which Freud situated the primal act of the originary parricide) before the advent of any human community whatever, two individuals encounter one another. Prior to this encounter each thinks of himself as unique and supreme in his uniqueness – this uniqueness and supremacy is the very foundation of each individual’s identity. When the two individuals confront one another, then, each is faced with the apparition of another individual that is seemingly of the same sort. Each experiences the confrontation as a threat to his position of uniqueness and supremacy in the world. Thus faced with the prospect of having the two axes of their identities disrupted, the two individuals are unable to acknowledge each other as creatures of the same order without abandoning their own identities. To do so would be to suspend the desire for recognition which forms the basic motivation of each interlocutor in this situation. Each seeks recognition of his supremacy from the other, but neither will grant it to the other, since to do so would amount to ceding the claims to supremacy.

The next step in this vignette is that each individual sets about asserting his uniqueness and supremacy by attempting to destroy the other. This fight is the Hegelian primal fight to the death which can have only two possible outcomes. In the first and more sterile possibility, neither individual cedes his claim to supremacy and one eventually succeeds in slaying the other. The victor is thus returned to his position of uniqueness and supremacy, at least until he encounters yet another individual and the drama plays itself out all over again. The second possibility is that one of the individuals will succumb to the instinct for self-preservation and surrender to the other. The chief consequence of this surrender is that the loser of the battle agrees to recognise the victor’s supremacy and to come under his control. This is the point at which we are now able to speak of the master (the victor) and the slave (the loser). An irony also occurs at this point in the drama, however, in that the only recognition which the master will recognise or accept is that from an equal. The recognition of the slave, falls short of this requirement since his subjection deprives him of the equality vital to a meaningful recognition.

The master thus finds himself in a tautological position of pure self-referentiality, demanding recognition from the slave (as a creature he knows intuitively to be of the same kind as himself) and yet unable to accept the worth of that recognition since it comes from a creature whose innate inferiority he has already established. As a consequence of his victory, however, the master does not simply execute the slave, but persists in his total domination by putting the slave to work producing objects for his consumption. Thus, for example, whereas the master had previously eaten whatever food may have come to hand, he now demands that the slave prepare the food in such a way as to make it more desirable and more completely consumable. Whereas he may previously have had to eat whatever apples he found, the master now demands an apple pie of the slave, compelling him to produce an object of desire that will be completely obliterated in its enjoyment; the master utterly absorbs that which he enjoys in this fashion, thanks to the work of the slave in transforming the objects in the phenomenal world to render them more assimilable.

The central feature of this domination is the effect it has on the slave. In being forced to prepare objects in the world for the master’s consumption, the slave experiences the ultimate abasement of having to defer the satisfaction of his own desire (an unpleasant experience hitherto unknown to the slave) in order to gratify the desire of the master. That is, he is forced to repeat the act of recognition over and over as he concedes the master’s right of desire for a given object over his own. Even though he may be just as desirous of the apples as the master, the slave nonetheless must repeat the drama of recognition in recognising the superiority of the master’s desire for the apples. The repeated drama of recognition is given its stalemate conclusion each time the master consumes the object of desire prepared by the slave, utterly negating the material evidence of the slave’s recognition of the supremacy of his desire and re-setting the conditions for yet another repetition of the whole process.

The slave’s deferral of his own desire in preparing objects of desire for the master’s consumption is absolutely vital to the development of the slave’s consciousness, as he gradually overcomes his fear of nature (the fear of death that lead him to capitulate in his battle with the master) by altering nature through the suspension of his desire and the application of his labour. Whereas the master exists in pure self-referentiality, then, the slave learns to interact with his world, elevating that which he finds around him by transforming it, and governing desire by suspending it. As the master becomes more and more dependent upon the slave’s production for the gratification of his desire, a dialectical process takes place whereby the slave comes to control the master and each moves beyond his designation in the binary master/slave. As the producer of the master’s objects of desire, the slave gradually comes to govern the satisfaction or suspension of the master’s desire, and thus to control the master’s desire in a roundabout way. Whereas the master remains in an ignorant relation to the natural world in which he moves and desires, the slave has learned to master that world and thus to master desire. That is, in suspending his immediate urge for satisfaction (pleasure), the slave has learned how to increase the value of that desire by deferring it and displacing it. The end result of this drama is that the master expires in a well of self-referentiality, while the slave rises beyond his slavish state to master the very nature of which his fear (i.e. his fear of mortality) lead him to surrender in the primal confrontation – human community is born in the repeated suspension and deferral of desire.

This drama sets the stage for our understanding of Lacan’s conception of desire and its central role in the formation and function of subjectivity. The first important feature of the master/slave drama is that the nature of the relationship between the master and the slave is only nominally that of establishing a right of precedence over a given object of desire. What is more to the point is that the struggle between the two is a struggle for the other’s desire. What makes the master’s control over the slave gratifying, beyond the various objects of desire he produces, is that he controls the slave’s desire. In forcing the slave to transform a natural object into an object of desire, the master merely succeeds in obtaining a desirable object (an apple pie, to keep with our example). What makes this process existentially satisfying to the master is that he knows that the slave desires the apple pie as much as he does. This knowledge of the slave’s desire (whether actual or merely supposed) makes the pie all the more desirable, as it is now an emblem of the slave’s (the other’s) desire. Moreover, the more the slave must suspend his desire in order to produce a given object for the master’s consumption, the more the final product may be said to contain the sublimation of that desire. It becomes more than itself as a result of the process by which it is transformed, effectively absorbing the slave’s suppressed and sublimated desire as added value. The model of desire that emerges from Hegel’s drama, and which Lacan adopts, is thus one in which desire exceeds both demand and need. Whereas demand and need can both be met, desire is an existential condition which no object or series of objects can ever satiate; it is a "lack of being" as opposed to a "lack of having" (Evans 95).

Returning thus to desire as a constitutive feature of human existence, we find a ready expression of how the desire for the other’s desire functions in the mirror stage. As I have shown above, the infant enters the imaginary through a process of identification with a specular image, an "other" with which it longs to be identified. The essential component to such identification, however (and the aspect that renders it impossible), is the necessity for the other similarly to desire identification with the infant. This desire for the other’s desire is not a simple matter of mutual desire such as that experienced in erotic love, but a more all-encompassing demand for total recognition; the infant wants not some part (however large) of the other’s desire, but all of it – he or she wants to be the be-all and end-all of the other’s desire. The impossibility of such a total identification is what keeps subjectivity moving from object to object in its quest for an object that will represent and capture the other’s desire and by possession of which the individual can absorb and utterly subjugate the other’s desire. Most simply put, desire is always a desire for the other’s desire; only the other’s desire for a given object transforms it from an object of demand or need into one of desire.

The second aspect of desire which Lacan exploits from Hegel’s model is that of desire as an aggressive drive not simply to possess an object, but to assimilate it completely, to negate it beyond all redemption. This aspect of desire is most clearly represented in the case of the apple pie, which the master seeks not merely to possess, but to make a part of his identity by consuming it. The act of negating the pie by eating it is also a display of mastery over the other’s desire, since the object is to some degree always also cathected with the desire of the other (whether because he produced the object or simply because he also desires it). And while the process is nowhere near as clear-cut with objects that are not so literally consumed, the basic dynamic remains the same. Just as the infant in the mirror stage perceives his or her specular image as an object of desire, but also as a rival which must be encountered and vanquished in the process of identification, so all desire is fundamentally aggressive and annihilating. Insofar as desire is a drive to possess, it is also always a drive to obtain the absolute right of life and death (or being and non-being) over the object: "This is my (car, house, plant, book, sno-cone, etc.) and I’ll do what I want with it."

Clearly this is an extremely basic version of desire, and one which does not take into consideration such variations on the theme as are generated by the desire for objects that are desirable only because they render a more desirable object attainable or objects which can never be completely possessed by one individual and are thus subject to distribution and distortion. Nonetheless, it provides the basis for our consideration of desire in Lacan’s conception of subjectivity, and points to the fundamentally social character of desire: "The most important point to emerge from Lacan’s phrase [that "the object of man’s desire […] is essentially an object desired by someone else" (qtd. in Evans 38)] is that desire is a social product. Desire is not the private affair it appears to be but is always constituted in a dialectical relationship with the perceived desires of other subjects" (Evans 39). And while this aspect of desire is certainly important to keep in mind, it is not simply "the perceived desires of other subjects" which motivates desire, but the prohibition on fulfillment of desire which provides the most stimulus for its reproduction.

If we recall Lacan’s reliance on the insights of structural anthropology, and the dialectical nature of his thinking on desire, we can see that the establishment of human community and the formalisation of desire is as dependent on its prohibition as it is on the perception of what is desirable. As with the slave’s necessary suspension of his desire in the production of objects for the master’s consumption, each subject is governed by a series of prohibitions that make desire the ultimate motivational force in subjectivity. Analogous to the master’s prohibition of the slave’s enjoyment, the law (inaugurated by the paternal prohibition from enjoying the mother’s body) actually "creates desire in the first place by creating interdiction. Desire is essentially the desire to transgress, and for there to be transgression it is first necessary for there to be prohibition" (Evans 99). Interdiction effectively seals off certain objects of desire or kinds of desire as unlawful, thus endowing them with a mystique that allows for their conception as the final answer to desire. Tantamount to the curiosity-arousing command not to look in the one locked room in a many-roomed mansion, the law thus participates in the generation of desire as that which circulates endlessly around a prohibited core.

Yet simply to conceive of the core around which desire circulates as prohibited is to miss a vital condition of that prohibition, the fact that it is simply the articulation of a pre-existing impossibility, since desire is by its very nature insatiable. The important aspect of the paternal interdiction that inaugurates the infant’s traumatic accession to the symbolic order is that what the word-of-the-father interdicts is in fact an impossibility. The infant’s sought-after direct identification with the mother is impossible; the paternal interdiction only formalises this impossibility as a prohibition, covering it over with the compensation of symbolisation. Likewise, the prohibitive aspect of the law is merely a socially institutionalised form of the fundamental impossibility at the heart of desire. In the name of the social good a society may prohibit certain kinds or objects of desire, but the reality is that no object can ever fulfil desire. The belief that desire is a desire for something is perhaps the greatest misperception of all, and one which makes even less sense if we consider the intimate link between desire, subjectivity, and language.

The fact that desire is born at the moment of the infant’s accession to the symbolic order (i.e. at the same moment as the infant becomes a subject) leads Lacan to maintain that it is part and parcel of the signifying chain in its essential metonymy: "man’s desire is a metonymy. […] desire is a metonymy" (Ecrits 175). The perpetual reference of one signifier to all others in an eternal deferral of meaning as content, as "consisting" in any one sign, as present in any way, is but another formulation of the ceaseless movement of desire. The full-blown outgrowth of the drive to identification governing the mirror stage, desire is more sophisticated than that drive, bound up with an awareness of the absence at the core of subjectivity and vulnerable to complex strategies of deferral, displacement, and sublimation in ways to which imaginary drives are impervious. Inseparable from the symbolic order, desire is fundamentally metonymic and inheres in signification as such. Just as the signifying capacity of any individual signifier is always subverted by its failure to coincide precisely with that which it signifies, so any attempt to satisfy desire is always undercut by a residue that remains unattainable. "Although the truth about desire is present to some degree in all speech, speech can never articulate the whole truth about desire; whenever speech attempts to articulate desire, there is always a leftover, a surplus, which exceeds speech" (Evans 36). This innate incapacity of language fully to articulate desire extends to subjectivity insofar as it, too, is a function of the symbolic order. The surplus which is left over after every attempt to articulate desire, to bring it to a halt and see it coincide once and for all with some particular object or configuration of objects (or signifier or configuration of signifiers), however frustrating, is also the very lifeblood of subjectivity, as it forestalls the necessary corollary to the fulfillment of desire, the dissolution of the subject.


def

desire (dÈsir)


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In Lacanian psychoanalysis, the term desire designates the impossible relation that a subject has with objet petit a. According to Lacan, desire proper (in contrast with demand) can never be fulfilled.

==

Desire is the Desire of the Other

It is on the basis of this fundamental understanding of identity that Lacan maintained throughout his career that desire is the desire of the Other. What is meant by him in this formulation is not the triviality that humans desire others, when they sexually desire (an observation which is not universally true). Again developing Freud's theorisation of sexuality, Lacan's contention is rather that what psychoanalysis reveals is that human-beings need to learn how and what to desire. Lacanian theory does not deny that infants are always born into the world with basic biological needs that need constant or periodic satisfaction. Lacan's stress, however, is that, from a very early age, the child’s attempts to satisfy these needs become caught up in the dialectics of its exchanges with others. Because its sense of self is only ever garnered from identifying with the images of these others (or itself in the mirror, as a kind of other), Lacan argues that it demonstrably belongs to humans to desire- directly- as or through another or others. We get a sense of his meaning when we consider such social phenomena as fashion. As the squabbling of children more readily testifies, it is fully possible for an object to become desirable for individuals because they perceive that others desire it, such that when these others' desire is withdrawn, the object also loses its allure. Lacan articulates this 'decentring' of desire when he contends that what has happened to the biological needs of the individual is that they have become inseparable from, and importantly subordinated to, the vicissitudes of its demand for the recognition and love of other people. Events as apparently 'natural' as the passing or holding back of stool, he remarks in Ecrits, become episodes in the chronicle of the child's relationship with its parents, expressive of its compliance or rebellion. A hungry child may even refuse to eat food if it perceives that this food is offered less as a token of love than one of its parents' dissatisfaction or impatience. In this light, Lacan's important recourse to game theory also becomes explicable. For game theory involves precisely the attempt to formalise the possibilities available to individuals in situations where their decisions concerning their wants can in principle both affect and be affected by the decisions of others. As Lacan's article in the Ecrits on the "Direction of the Treatment" spells out, he takes it that the analytic situation, as theorised by Freud around the notion of transference (see Part 2), is precisely such a situation. In that essay, Lacan focuses on the dream of the butcher's wife in Freud's Interpretation of Dreams. The said 'butcher’s wife’ thought that she had had a dream which was proof of the invalidity of Freud's theory that dreams are always encoded wish-fulfilments. As Freud comments, however, this dream becomes explicable when one considers how, after a patient has entered into analysis, her wishes are constructed (at least in part) in relation to the perceived wishes of the analyst. In this case, at least one of the wishes expressed by the dream was the woman's wish that Freud’s desire (for his theory to be correct) be thwarted. In the same way, Lacan details how the deeper unconscious wish expressed in the manifest content of the dream (which featured the woman attempting to stage a dinner party with only one piece of smoked salmon) can only be comprehended as the coded fulfilment of a desire that her husband would not fulfil her every wish, and leave her with an unsatisfied desire.


The same goes for the mother — Lacan no longer talks of a real mother, but simply of desire, which is a desire to return to the undifferentiated state of being together with the mother, before the interference through the Name-of-the-Father. This desire necessarily lacks something, i.e. it is a desire of lack.


Index
analysis and, 5, 6, 11, 32, 34-37, 92-4, 99, 126
cause and, 6
demand and, 100
lack and, 6
language and, 127
love and, 4, 6, 72
man's desire as (for) the Other's desire, 4n
object a and, 6, 72, 80, 92-93, 95, 99-100, 126, 136
Other and, 4, 69, 80, 92, 98-100, 121, 126
satisfaction and, 6
See also Demand; Jouissance; Object a

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