Disappearance of Desire
The literal meaning of this Greek term is disappearance. It was first introduced into psychoanalysis by Ernest Jones, who uses it to mean "the disappearance of sexual desire." For Jones, the fear of aphanisis exists in both sexes, giving rise to the castration complex in boys and to penis envy in girls.
Disappearance of the Subject
Lacan takes up Jones's term, but modifies it substantially. For Lacan, aphanisis does not mean the disappearance of desire, but the disappearance of the subject. The aphanisis of the subject is the fading of the subject, the fundamental division -- or split -- of the subject which institutes the dialectic of desire.
Lacan also uses another term, "fading," in a way that makes it synonymous with the term aphanisis. Fading (a term which Lacan uses directly in English) refers to the disappearance of the subject in the process of alienation.
The term is used by Lacan when describing the mathemes of the drive and of fantasy: the subject "fades" or "disappears" in the face of demand and in the face of the object, as is shown by the fact that the subject is barred in these mathemes.
- Jones, Ernest. 1927. "Early Development of Female Sexuality" in Papers on Psychoanalysis (5th edn), Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1948.
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p. 208
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p. 221
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre VIII. Le transfert, 1960-61. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 271