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 ). 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.
When Lacan first begins to use the term, in the 1930s, it is not very salient, and refers simply to 'other people'.
Lacan seems to have borrowed the term from Hegel
Little Other versus the Big Other
This distinction remains central throughout the rest of his work.
Lacan asserts that an awareness of this distinction is fundamental to analytic practice: the analyst must be 'thoroughly imbued' with the difference between A and a, so that he can situate himself in the place of Other, and not of the other.
For a more detailed discussion of the development of the symbol a in Lacan's work, see object petit a.
The little other
The big Other
"The Other must first of all be considered a locus, the locus in which speech is constituted."
The Unconscious is the Discourse of the Other
It is the mother who first occupies the position of the big Other for the child, because it is she who receives the child's primitive cries and retroactively sanctions them as a particular message. (see punctuation).
Lack in the Other
The Other Sex
The Other is also 'the Other sex' (S20, 40).
- Little other
- Big Other
- Specular image
- Object petit a
- 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.
- Other, (A), 7-8, 9, 10, 17, 23-24, 28, 39-40, 45, 49, 68, 77, 81, 86, 87, 93, 96-97, 99, 116, 122, 128, 129, 131
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