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Death

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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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