The second position is called the other.
The third position is called the product.
The four position is called the truth.
The four discourses are shown in the figure to the right.
In 1972, Lacan inscribes two arrows in the formulas instead of one; one arrow (which Lacan labels "impossibility") goes from the agent to the other, and the other arrow (which is labelled "powerlessness") goes from production to truth.
Whenever Lacan uses the term "discourse" (rather than, say, "speech") it is in order to stress the transindividual nature of language, the fact that speech always implies another subject, an interlocutor.
Thus the famous Lacanian formula, "the unconscious is the discourse of the Other" designates the unconscious as the effects on the subject of speech that is addressed to him from elsewhere; by another subject who has been forgotten, by another psychic locality (the other scene).
From this point on the term designates "a social bond, founded in language."
What distinguishes the four discourses from one another is the positions of these four symbols.
There are four positions in the algorithms of the four discourses, each of which is designated by a different name.
The top-left position ("the agent") is the dominant position which defines the discourse.
In addition to the four symbols, each algorithm also contains an arrow going from the agent to the other.
The four discourses are shown in the figure below.
In 1972, Lacan inscribes two arrows in the formulas isntead of one; one arrows (which Lacan labels "impossibility") goes from the agent to the other, and the other arrow (which is labelled "powerlessness") goes from production to truth.
The Discourse of the Master
The discourse of the master is the basic discourse from which the other three discourses are derived.
The dominant position is occupied by the master signifier (Si), which represents the subject (S) for another signifier or, more precisely, for all other signifiers (S2); however, in this signifying operation there is always a surplus, namely, objet petit a.
The point is that all attempts at totalisation are doomed to failure.
The discourse of the master "masks the division of the subject."
The discourse also illustrates clearly the structure of the dialectic of the master and the slave. The master (S1) is the agent who puts the slave (S2) (O WOrk; the result of this work is a surplus (a) that the master attempts to appropriate.
The Discourse of the University
The discourse of the university is produced by a quarter turn of the discourse of the master (anticlockwise).
The dominant position is occupied by knowledge (savoir).
This illustrates the fact that behind all attempts to impart an apparently 'neutral' knowledge to the other can always be located an attempt at mastery (mastery of knowledge, and domination of the other to whom this knowledge is imparted).
The discourse of the university represents the hegemony of knowledge, particularly visible in modernity in the form of the hegemony of science.
The Discourse of the Hysteric
The discourse of the hysteric is also produced by a quarter turn of the discourse of the master, but in a clockwise direction.
It is not simply 'that which is uttered by a hysteric', but a certain kind of social bond in which any subject may be inscribed.
The dominant position is occupied by the divided subject, the symptom.
This discourse is that which points the way towards knowledge..
Psychoanalytic treatment involves 'the structural intro- duction of the discourse of the hysteric by means of artificial conditions'; in other words, the analyst 'hystericises' the patient's discourse.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag
The fact that this discourse is the inverse of the discourse of the master emphasises that, for Lacan, psychoanalysis is an essentially subversive practice which undermines all attempts at domination and mastery.
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX: Encore, On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge 1972-1973. Trans. Bruce Fink. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1998.
- Discourse, 26, 37, 44, 114
- analytic, 2, 3, 6-7, 9-11, 12-13, 14, 16-17, 21, 2629, 30, 32, 34-37, 39, 41, 42-44, 48, 50, 68, 83, 88, 91, 95, 108, 116-17, 126, 131, 137, 139, 144
- change in, 54-55, 58-60, 65
- four types, 16-17, 78
- hysteric's, 16-17, 41
- love and, 12, 16-17, 39-40, 66-68, 83
- master's, 16-17, 29, 31-32, 39, 69
- science and, 29, 33, 36, 81-82, 83, 86, 88, 117, 137, 138-39, 141-42
- subject in, ] 6-17
- university (academic), 16-17, 48
- See also Language
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