The term "existence" is employed by Lacan in various ways:
This sense of existence is to be understood in the context of Freud's discussion of the "judgement of existence," by which the existence of an entity is affirmed prior to attributing any quality to it.
"Woman Does Not Exist"
In other words, everything that exists in the symbolic order only exists by virtue of its difference to everything else.
"There is in effect something radically unassimilable to the signifier. It's quite simply the subject's singular existence."
Subject of the Unconscious
This second sense of the term existence is exactly the opposite of existence in the first sense.
Lacan coins the neologism ex-sistence to express the idea that the heart of our being (Kern unseres Wesen) is also radically Other, strange, outside; the subject is decentered, his center is outside of himself, he is ex-centric.
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p. 33
- Lacan, Jacques. Télévision, Paris: Seuil, 1973. Television: A Challenge to the Psychoanalytic Establishment, ed. Joan Copjec, trans. Denis Hollier, Rosalind Krauss and Annette Michelson, New York: Norton, 1990]. p. 60
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p.392
- Saussure, Ferdinand de. (1916) Course in General Linguistics, ed. Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye, trans. Wade Baskin, Glasgow: Collins Fontana.
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p.179
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.194
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p.11
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.264