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The term 'counterpart' (French:semblable) denotes other people in whom the subject perceives a (visual) likeness to itelf.

The counterpart plays an important part in Lacan's work from the 1930s on, in the mirror stage and in the intrusion complex.

Mirror Stage

The child identifies with its image on the basis of the recognition of bodily similarity.

It is this identification that gives rise to the "imago of the counterpart."[1]

The imago of the counterpart is interchangeable with the image of the subject's own body, the specular image with which the subject identifies in the mirror stage, leading to the formation of the ego.

This interchangeability is evident in such phenomena as transitivism, and illustrates the way that the subject constitutes his objects on the basis of his ego.

The image of another person's body can only be identified with insofar as it is perceived as similar to one's own body, and conversely the counterpart is only recognised as a separate, identifiable ego by projecting one's own ego onto him.

In 1955 Lacan introduces a distinction between 'the big Other' and 'the little other' (or 'the imaginary other'), reserving the latter term for the counterpart and/or specular image.

The counterpart is the little other because it is not truly other at all; it is not the radical alterity represented by the Other, but the other insofar as he is similar to the ego (hence the interchangeability of a and a' in schema L).

See Also


  1. Lacan, 1938: 35-9

counterpart 278 Seminar XI