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Symbolic

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{| align="[[right]]" style="line-height:2.0em;text-align:right;margin-left: 10px;background-color:#fcfcfc;border:1px solid #aaa" | [[French]]: ''[[quilting point|point de capitonsymbolique]]''
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In [[Lacan]]ian [[psychoanalysis]], the "[[symbolic]]" is one of [[three]] [[order]]s that [[structure]] [[human]] [[existence]], the [[others]] [[being]] the [[imaginary]] and the [[real]].
 
==History==
The term "[[symbolic]]" appears in adjectival [[form]] in Lacan's earliest [[psychoanalytic]] writings. The adjectival "[[symbolic]]" is often used by [[Lacan]] in a fairly conventional [[sense]], but in the 1950s he begins to use the [[word]] as a substantive, and it rapidly becomes the cornerstone of his [[theory]]: the [[subject]]'s [[relationship]] with the [[symbolic]] is the heart of [[psychoanalysis]]. It now becomes one of the three [[orders]] that remain central throughout the rest of Lacan's [[work]]. Of these three orders, the symbolic is the most crucial one for psychoanalysis; [[psychoanalysts]] are essentially 'practitioners of the symbolic function'.<ref>{{E}} p. 72</ref>
 
==Structuralism==
Lacan incorporates into [[psychoanalysis]] the [[linguistics]] of [[Saussure]] and the [[anthropology]] of [[Lévi-Strauss]]. [[Lacan]]'s [[concept]] of the [[symbolic|symbolic order]] owes much to the anthropological work of [[Claude Lévi-Strauss]].<ref>[[Claude Lévi-Strauss|Lévi-Strauss, Claude]]. 1949a: 203</ref> In [[particular]], [[Lacan]] takes from [[Claude Lévi-Strauss|Lévi-Strauss]] the [[idea]] that the [[social]] [[world]] is [[structured]] by certain [[law]]s which regulate kinship relations and the [[exchange]] of gifts. In his work on kinship [[Lévi-Strauss]] argues that any culture can be seen as a set of [[symbolic]] [[structure]]s such as the rules governing kinship and alliance, [[language]] and [[art]]. He also demonstrates that in [[primitive]] societies the [[ritual]] exchange of gifts has an important [[role]] in the creation and perpetuation of social [[stability]]. The application of [[Saussure]]'s theory of the [[sign]] allows these structures and exchanges to be [[analyzed]] as exchanges of [[signifier]]s. The emergence of [[symbolic]] [[structure]]s is an essential feature of the human transition from [[nature]] to [[culture]].
 
==Culture==
Adapting [[Lévi-Strauss]]'s study of how kinship rules and exogamy govern exchanges between human groups to the field of [[psychoanalysis]], [[Lacan]] now describes the [[Oedipus complex]] as a [[process]] which imposes [[symbolic]] [[structure]]s on [[sexuality]] and allows the [[subject]] to emerge. [[Pre-oedipal|Pre-oedipal sexuality]] is likened to a [[state]] of [[nature]] and unbridled sexuality; the role of the [[Name-of-the-Father]] is to disrupt the [[dual relation]]ship in which the [[child]] tries to fuse with the [[mother]] in an incestuous union, and to establish a legitimate line of descent ("son of...", "daughter of..."). [[Culture]] and the [[symbolic]] are thuse imposed upon [[nature]]. The [[subject]] gains access to the [[symbolic]], to a [[name]] and a lineage, but does so at the cost of a [[symbolic|symbolic castration]]. Although the exchange of [[signifier]]s in [[speech]] is an obvious example of [[symbolic|symbolic exchange]], [[Lacan]]'s [[symbolic]] is not simply synonymous with [[language]], and should be [[understood]] as comprising the entire [[domain]] of [[culture]].
 
==Language==
Since the most basic form of exchange is [[communication]] itself (the exchange of [[words]], the [[gift]] of [[speech]]);<ref>{{S4}} p. 189</ref> and since the [[concepts]] of [[law]] and of [[structure]] are unthinkable without [[language]], the [[symbolic]] is essentially a [[linguistic]] [[dimension]]. Any aspect of the psychoanalytic [[experience]] which has a [[linguistic]] [[structure]] thus pertains to the [[symbolic order]]. The [[symbolic]] dimension of [[language]] is that of the [[signifier]]; a dimension in which elements have no positive [[existence]] but which are constituted purely by virtue of their mutual differences.
 
==Alterity==
The [[symbolic]] is also the realm of radical [[alterity]] which [[Lacan]] refers to as the [[Other]]. The [[unconscious]] is the [[discourse]] of this [[Other]], and thus belongs wholly to the [[symbolic order]]. The [[symbolic]] is the realm of the [[Law]] which regulates [[desire]] in the [[Oedipus complex]]. It is the realm of [[culture]] as opposed to the [[imaginary]] [[order]] of [[nature]]. Whereas the [[imaginary]] is characterised by [[dual relation]]s, the [[symbolic]] is characterised by [[triad]]ic [[structures]], because the [[intersubjective]] relationship is always "mediated" by a [[third]] term, the [[big Other]].
 
==Death==
The [[symbolic order]] is also the realm of [[death]], of [[absence]] and of [[lack]]. The [[symbolic]] is both the [[pleasure principle]] which regulates the distance from the [[Thing]], and the [[death drive]] which goes "[[pleasure principle|beyond the pleasure principle]]" by means of [[repetition]];<ref>{{S2}} p. 210</ref> in fact, "the [[death drive]] is only the mask of the [[symbolic order]]."<ref>{{S2}} p. 326</ref>
 
==Autonomy==
The [[symbolic order]] is completely [[autonomous]]: it is not a superstructure determined by [[biology]] or [[biology|genetics]]. It is completely [[contingent]] with respect to the [[real]]: "There is no [[biological]] [[reason]], and in particular no genetic one, to account for exogamy. In the human order we are dealing with the [[complete]] emergence of a new function, encompassing the [[whole]] order in its entirety."<ref>{{S2}} p. 29</ref> Thus while the [[symbolic]] may seem to "spring from the real" as pre-given, this is an [[illusion]], and "one shouldn't [[think]] that [[symbols]] actually have come from the real."<ref>{{S2}} p. 238</ref> The totalising, all-encompassing effect of the [[symbolic order]] leads [[Lacan]] to [[speak]] of the [[symbolic]] as a [[universe]]: "In the symbolic order the [[totality]] is called a universe. The symbolic order from the first takes on its [[universal]] [[character]]. It isn't constituted bit by bit. As soon as the [[symbol]] arrives, there is a universe of symbols."<ref>{{S2}} p. 29</ref> There is therefore no question of a gradual continuous transition from the [[imaginary ]]to the [[symbolic]]; they are completely heterogeneous domains. Once the [[symbolic order]] has arisen, it creates the sense that it has always been there, since "we find it absolutely [[impossible]] to speculate on what preceded it other than by symbols."<ref>{{S2}} p. 5</ref> For this reason it is strictly [[speaking]] impossible to conceive the origin of [[language]], let alone what came before, which is why questions of [[development]] lie [[outside]] the field of [[psychoanalysis]].
 
==Psychoanalysis==
[[Lacan]] criticises the [[psychoanalysis]] of his day for [[forgetting]] the [[symbolic order]] and reducing everything to the [[imaginary]]. This is, for [[Lacan]], [[nothing]] less than a [[betrayal]] of [[Freud]]'s most basic insights; "Freud's discovery is that of the field of the effects, in the nature of man, produced by his relation to the symbolic order. To ignore this symbolic order is to condemn the discovery to oblivion."<ref>{{E}} p. 64</ref> [[Lacan]] argues that it is only by [[working]] in the [[symbolic order]] that the [[analyst]] can produce changes in the [[subjective]] [[position]] of the [[analysand]]; these changes will also produce [[imaginary]] effects, since the [[imaginary]] is [[structure]]d by the [[symbolic]].
 
 
==See Also==
{{See}}
* [[Communication]]
* [[Death drive]]
* [[Imaginary]]
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* [[Language]]
* [[Law]]
* [[Linguistics]]
||
* [[Name-of-the-Father]]
* [[Oedipus complex]]
* [[Other]]
||
* [[Order]]
* [[Real]]
* [[Signifier]]
||
* [[Structure]]
* [[Unconscious]]
{{Also}}
 
==References==
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{{OK}}
[[Category:Symbolic]]
 
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