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Consciousness

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consciousness (conscience) In the so-called 'topographical model',

Freud isolates consciousness as one of the parts of the psyche, along with the

UNCONSCIOUs and the preconscious. Lacan finds Freud's remarks on conscious-

ness far weaker than his formulations on the unconscious; 'while he [Freud]

can give a coherent, balanced account of the majority of other parts of the

psychic apparatus, when it's a question of consciousness, he always encounters

mutually contradictory conditions' (S2, l 17). According to Lacan, Freud's

problems with discussing consciousness return again and again to haunt his

theory: 'The difficulties which this system of consciousness raises reappear at

each level of Freud's theorising' (S2, 117). In particular, Lacan rejects the

apparent attempts in Freud's work to link the consciousness-perception system

to the EGo, unless this link is carefully theorised. If there is a link between the

ego and consciousness, it is in terms of a lure; the illusion of a fully self-

transparent consciousness is subverted by the whole psychoanalytic experience

(see cociro). 'Consciousness in man is by essence a polar tension between an

ego alienated from the subject and a perception which fundamentally escapes

it, a pure percipi' (S2, 177).

In 1954 Lacan gives 'a materialist definition of the phenomenon of con-

sciousness' (S2, 40-52). However, matter is not to be confused with nature;

Lacan argues that consciousness does not evolve from the natural order; it is

radically discontinuous, and its origin is more akin to creation than to

evolution (S7, 213-14; 223).

In the 1960s Lacan rethinks the illusion of a self-consciousness (Selbstbe-

wufltsein) fully present to itself in terms of his concept of the SUBJECT SUPPOSED

TO KNOW.
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