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death (mort) The term death occurs in various contexts in Lacan's work.
l. Death is constitutive of the symbolic order, because the symbol, by -
standing in place of the thing which it symbolises, is equivalent to the death -
of the thing: 'the symbol is the murder of the thing' (E, 104). Also, the 'first -
symbol' in human history is the tomb (E, 104). It is only by virtue of the -
signifier that man has access to and can conceive of his own death; 'It is in the -
signifier and insofar as the subject articulates a signifying chain that he comes
up against the fact that he may disappear from the chain of what he is' (S7,
295). The signifier also puts the subject beyond death, because 'the signifier
already considers him dead, by nature it immortalises him' (S3, 180). Death in
the symbolic order is related to the death of the Father (i.e. the murder of the
father of the horde in Totem and Taboo; Freud, 1912-13); the symbolic father
is always a dead father.
2. In the seminar of 1959-60, 'The Ethics of Psychoanalysis', Lacan talks
about the 'second death' (a phrase which he coins in reference to a passage
from the Marquis de Sade's novel Juliette, in which one of the characters
speaks of a 'second life', see Sade, 1797: 772, quoted in S7, 211). The first
death is the physical death of the body, a death which ends one human life but
which does not put an end to the cycles of corruption and regeneration. The
second death is that which prevents the regeneration of the dead body, 'the
point at which the very cycles of the transformations of nature are annihilated'
(S7, 248). The concept of the second death is used by Lacan to formulate ideas
on various themes: beauty (S7, 260] it is the function of beauty to reveal man's
relationship to his own death - S7, 299); the direct relationship to being (S7,
285); and the sadistic fantasy of inflicting perpetual pain (S7, 295). The phrase
'zone between-two-deaths' (l'espace de l'entre-deux-morts), which was ori-
ginally coined by one of Lacan's students (see S7, 320), is taken up by Lacan
to designate 'the zone in which tragedy is played out' (S8, 120).
3. Death plays an important role in the philosophical systems of Hegel and
Heidegger, and Lacan draws on both of these in his theorisation of the role of
death in psychoanalysis. From Hegel (via KojËve), Lacan takes the idea that
death is both constitutive of man's freedom and 'the absolute Master' (KojËve,
1947: 21). Death plays a crucial part in the Hegelian dialectic of the MASTER
and the slave where it is intimately linked with desire, since the master only
affirms himself for others by means of a desire for death (E, 105). From
Heidegger, Lacan takes the idea that human existence only takes on meaning -
by virtue of the finite limit set by death, so that the human subject is properly a -
'being-for-death'; this corresponds to Lacan's view that the analysard should
come, via the analytic process, to assume his own mortality (E, 104-5).
4. In his comparison between psychoanalytic treatment and the game of .
bridge, Lacan describes the analyst as playing the position of the 'dummy' (in -
French, le mort; literally, 'the dead person'). 'The analyst intervenes concre-
tely in the dialectic of analysis by pretending that he is dead . . . he makes
death present' (E, 140). The analyst 'cadaverises' himself (se corpsifiat).
5. The question which constitutes the structure of OBSESSIONAL NEUROSIS
concerns death; it is the question 'Am I dead or aliveT (S3, 179-80).
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