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The relation of the subject to desire.

Desire is grounded in lack. Desire is always metonymic. Desire is always directed toward something other than what demand can convey.

Desire finds its signifying material is demand. Desire expresses beyond demand, the unconscious truth of the subject, spoken without knowing it.

Desire, articulated as speech in the demand is constructed through the process of language.

because of its logical anteriority to the discursive sequence that actualizes it, all of language itself remains caught in the net of the unconscious determinants of desire.

here is no meaning in itself; the only meaning is a metaphorical one. Meaning never emerges except from the substitution of one signifier for another in the signifying chain.

the primacy of the signifier over the signified is what is most important. This is demonstrated in an anecdote Lacan ( 1957a) recounts:

   A train arrives at a station. A little boy and a little girl, brother and sister, are seated in a compartment face to face next to the window through which the buildings along the station platform can be seen passing as the train pulls to a stop: 'Look,' says the brother, 'we're at Ladies!' 'Idiot,' replies his sister, 'Can't you see we're at Gentlemen.' [p. 152]

signifier takes on meaning only through its inevitable reference to another signifier. The signifier cannot represent the signified. "Gentlemen" and "Ladies" are two different signifiers, for the two children only insofar as they are associated with the same signified as a function of other signifiers

Jacques Lacan asserts the primacy of the signifier over the signified.

The anchoring point stops the endless sliding of signification.

It's quite clear, for example, that if I start a sentence you won't understand its meaning until I've finished it, since it's really quite necessary for me to have spoken the last word of the sentence if you are to understand where its first one was. [ Lacan 1957-1958, seminar of November 6, 1957 ]

The anchoring point is at the basis of the Graph of Desire.

The Graph of Desire was gradually developed by Lacan in the course of two successive seminars: "Lesformations de l'inconscient" [The Formations of the Unconscious] ( 1957-1958) and "Le Désir et son interprétation" [Desire and its Interpretation] ( 1958-1959). He refers to the basic schema once again in "Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire in the Freudian Unconscious" ( 1960b).

The basic constitutive element of the graph is given in the following schema, which plots the anchoring point.


Vector represents the anchoring operation, the pinning down of the signifying chain represented by vector SS'.    


is thus the vector of the signifieds. Vector-signified.jpg

The metaphor of anchoring characterizes a double intersection that illustrates a specific property of discourse, namely that it is from the last term of a spoken sequence that the first one and those that follow derive their meaning.

Metaphor.jpg In other words, the backwards movement of the anchoring vector is a metaphor, on the above graph, for the value of the Saussurian sign, that is, the determination of meaning retroactively, "each term being anticipated in the construction of the others, and, inversely, sealing their meaning by its retroactive effect" ( Lacan 1960b, p. 303). The retroaction illustrated by the reverse movement of anchoring thus takes into account the most salient lesson of analytic experience concerning the discourse of the "speakingbeing."

Although the anchoring point clearly demonstrates the principle of the link between the signified and the signifier in the process of language, this link cannot be reduced to a simple process of intersection such as we find on the above graph. Lacan ( 1957-1958) presented a more structured version of it, and it is to this one that we shall refer from now on. Here, once again, is the graphic representation of the anchoring point. Remember that the mark ▲ always represents the beginning of the trajectory, and the arrow represents its end:


In this new figure, the signifying chain is represented by the vector    ;'.


Because of the primacy of the signifier over the signified, this chain is a favorable site for metaphoric and metonymic operations, since, as we have previously seen, metaphors and metonymies are always based on substitutions of signifiers.


Moreover, this vector is substantially made up of phonemes, that is, of the smallest linguistic units, without meaning, whose combination produces signifiers. Each language consists of a definite but limited number of these minimal distinctive units that are easy to discern by switching two of them in the same context of a spoken sequence. If the substitution produces two different meanings, we are dealing with phonemes.

Example: "He has a bat" / "He has a bag"

The commutation of /t/ and /g/ produces two different meanings, and thus /t/ and /g/ are authentic phonemes. In other words, phonemes are specified by the code of each language, and it is by the system of phonemic opposition that messages can be distinguished from one another. Because of its phonemic structude, vector can therefore potentially actualize a multitude of signifying effects.


The representation of the anchoring point is completed by a new circuit, Oßß'γ.