The Subversion of the Subject

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In this essay Lacan formally addresses a colloquium not of psychoanalysts but of philosophers, gathered at Royaumont (September 1960), under the leadership of J ean Wahl, to discuss the theme "Dialectic." It is altogether appropriate, then, that Lacan take for his own theme the issue of "dialectic" in Freud and, indeed, the aspect most specific to the Freudian discovery, namely, the nature of the unconscious. For philosophers, dialectic implies movement through a series of negations, each of which is followed by a sublation (Aufhebung), which assumes the negated moment into a higher synthesis. Since the basic dynamism of the subject for Lacan arises from desire, it is not surprising that he focuses attention on the "dialectic of desire," nor should it be surprising that negation and negativity come to playa crucial role in the discussion.

As the essay develops one gets the impression that Lacan has moved to a new level of reflection - not because the essay is probably the most enigmatic of this particular collection, but rather because over the years his thought has led him into deeper and deeper waters. We know that his doctoral dissertation (1932) left Lacan with a dual interest: in the role of image and the role of milieu in personality formation. The former interest is explored in the first two essays of this collection, "The Mirror Stage" (Chapter 1) and "Aggressivity in Psychoanalysis" (Chapter 2). The latter interest is developed in the essays that begin to elaborate Lacan's conception of the unconscious as "the Other" that is "structured like a language," namely, "The Function and Field of Speech and Language" (Chapter 3), "The Freudian Thing" (Chapter 4) and "The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious" (Chapter 5). The discussion of the Schreber case in "On a Question Preliminary to Any Possible Treatment of Psychosis" (Chapter 6) raises in a general way the question about the relation between the subject and the unconscious insofar as this is conceived as the Law of the Father and what happens if the subject is somehow "foreclosed" from this Law. Here for the first time in these essays the importance of the phallus in the oedipal resolution becomes explicated. The next two essays in the collection, "The Direction of the Treatment" (Chapter 7) and "The Signification of the Phallus" (Chapter 8), both address with increasing subtlety the problems involved in the castration complex. In the present essay this issue receives a still further refinement on a new level of complexity, insofar as the role that the phallus plays in a dialectical assumption by the subject of his own desire now becomes thematized. Be that as it may, the obscurity of this essay almost defies paraphrase without support from a complementary text, "Position de l'inconscient" (1966, pp. 829-850), delivered one month later at Bonneval, as well as from the text of the seminars (still unpublished) on which both papers are based. Without these supports we must content ourselves with a kind of make-do coherence which is forced to take its bearings from a few relatively clear points of reference that peek through the shifting clouds from time to time, but then must poke along as best it can through the long, foggy night.

But the fog does not descend really until we put out to sea.

At the beginning of the essay there is, so to speak, only the babble of greetings and farewells along the dockside. Lacan greets his audience of philosophers with appropriate allusions to the philosophy of science, to the dialectic of Hegel, to the status of Freud as a scientist (at least of ambi tion). His "farewells" are to the "empiricist" conception of science (1977, p. 293/795), to Hegel's "immanentism" (the march of the conscious subject to complete identity with itself in total self-awareness) as an account of the vagaries of the history of science (1977, p. 296/798), to the alleged radicality of the so-called "Copernican revolution" that still left man conceiving of himself as a conscious subject, i.e., in the sense of the Cartesian cogito.

Since these early passages may be taken as introductory, we shall not delay over them. Rather, let us disregard the order of the text and cull a few propositions that seem to us to articulate the essence of what Lacan is trying to say. "The praxis that we call psychoanalysis," he tells us, "is constituted by a structure" (1977, p. 292/793), so his fundamental question is: What is the nature of this structure that makes psychoanalysis possible? He chooses for special focus in this essay the structure of the subject, the traditional conception of which has been "subverted" by psychoanalysis. He will attempt to discuss this "subversion proper" and explain how radical it is. Fundamentally at issue is the subversion (i.e., the overthrow) of the Cartesian subject (i.e., the presumed identity of subjectivity and conscious thought). Freud's assault on man's conception of himself as subject was more radical than either the "revolution" of Copernicus (1977, p. 296/798) or that of Darwin (1977, p. 295/797). The overthrow took place through Freud's discovery of the unconscious as "a chain of signifiers that somewhere (on another stage, on another scene, he wrote) is repeated, and insists on interfering in the breaks offered it by the effective [i.e., conscious] discourse and the cogitation that it informs" (1977, p. 297/799). Here "the crucial term is the signifier, brought back to life from the ancient art ofrhetoric by modern linguistics" but unavailable as such to Freud because of the dislocations of history. Nonetheless, "the mechanisms described by Freud as those of 'the primary process', in which the unconscious assumes its role, correspond exactly to the functions that this school [of linguistics] believes determines the most radical aspects of the effects of language, namely metaphor and metonymy" (1977, pp. 297-298/799).

The conception implied here of a divided subject received direct treatment in "The Agency of the Letter in the U nconscious" (see Chapter 5, pp. 167-168), where we saw that "the place that I occupy as the subject of a signifier [is] ... excentric, in relation to the place that I occupy as subject of the signified" (1977, p. 165/517). Such a conception obviously is incompatible with that of any simplistic psychology that takes as its criterion the "unity of the subject" or assumes that "the psychical had to obtain its credentials as a double of the physical organism" (1977, p. 294/795).

What is significant for Freud, then, is not any "state" of mind (1977, p. 294/795) or "some archetypal, or in any sense ineffable, experience" of the subject (1977, p. 295/796), even though such phenomena might offer some auxiliary "illumination." What really matters - even in the case of the hysteric - is not the "phenomena associated with hysteria" but rather the patient's "discourse" (1977, p. 294/795; italics added). An emphasis of this kind on the discourse of the subject in psychoanalysis leads us to the question that will polarize the remainder of the essay: "Once the structure of language has been recognized in the unconscious, what sort of subject can we conceive for it" (1977, p. 298/800)?

Lacan now makes his first assay at answering that question. Whatever the answer turns out to be, it must take account of the relationship between the unconscious and the "I" who speaks. Lacan begins with a certain "methodological rigor" by recalling what the linguists have said about "I" as a "shifter," i.e., a double structure that functions both as a signifier within the spoken discourse (hence, as "subject of the statement," the "spoken I") and as a designation of the subject as "now speaking" (1977, p. 298/800) by reason of what Barthes calls an "existential bond" (1964, p. 22) (hence, as "subject of the enunciation," the "speaking I"). Now it is obvious enough that the speaking subject may not be represented in the spoken discourse by any signifier at all, or may be signified in only the most subtle ways, as, for example, in the nuances of the expletive ne (1977, p. 298/ 800). Fair enough, but the question we are pursuing is: " 'Who is speaking?', when it is the subject of the unconscious that is at issue" (1977, p. 299/800). The unconscious itself cannot answer if the subject of the unconscious "does not know what [it] is saying, or even if [it] is speaking, [which] the entire experience of analysis has taught us" (1977, p. 299/800).

This unconscious is both immanent and transcendent to individual subjects, and marks the frontier beyond which the traditional subject, presumed to be "transparent" to himself, loses the self-transparency and begins to "fade," with all the consequent effects that lead to those characteristic manifestations of unconscious processes, such as slips of the tongue, witticisms, etc. In more technical terms, what happens here is that the "cut" (coupure) in the discourse, i.e., the bar between the signifier and signified - a fundamental principle of linguistics and basic ingredient of the law of the language - begins to have its effect. The result is that the irruptions of unconscious processes into conscious discourse become more manifest - and these are the focus of psychoanalysis. Hence, "the paradox of conceiving that the discourse in an analytic session is valuable only in so far as it stumbles or is interrupted" (1977, p. 299/801). Paradox or not, the fact remains: "If linguistics enables us to see the signifier as the determinant of the signified, analysis reveals the truth of this relation by making 'holes' in meaning the determinants of its discourse" (1977, p. 299/801).

In this context Lacan comes again to the familiar words of Freud: "Wo Es war, sol! Ich werden"(cf. 1977, pp. 128-129/417-418). He underlines the fact that the tense of Freud's war corresponds not to the French past historical tense but to the imperfect, designating an incomplete action/state-of-being in past time. The point is important and worth stressing. Lacan makes it again, and more clearly, in the complementary essay "Position de l'inconscient" (1966, pp. 829-850). There he is discussing the nature of the subject (barred, of course) as definable only in terms of its relation to the signifying chain in which the signifier is understood essentially as that which "represents the subject for another signifier" (1966, p. 840; our translation). Speaking of the subject in this sense, Lacan clarifies: "What [i.e., the subject who] was there ready to speak [has] the double sense that the imperfect tense in French gives to [the expression] there was." Here Lacan is referring "to the moment preceding (e. g., "he was here but is no longer") and to the moment following (e.g., "a little longer and he was there"). In other words, he adds, "what was there disappears insofar as it is no longer anything but a signifier" (1966, p. 840; our translation). What is important here is not so much the conception of the subject that is at stake (we shall return to this below) but Lacan's use of the double sense of the French imperfect to interpret the "was" (war) in Freud's formula. In any case, the complementary text permits a better understanding of his remark in the essay we are presently considering: "There where it was just now, there where it was for a while, between an extinction that is still glowing and a birth that is retarded, I [no quotes] can come into being [as the speaking subject] and [yet] disappear from what I say" (1977, p. 300/801).

This disappearance is what we take to be the "fading' of the subject. To illustrate what he has in mind, Lacan recalls a dream related by Freud:

A man who had once nursed his father through a long and painful mortal illness, told me that in the months following his father's death he had repeatedly dreamt that his father was alive once more and that he was talking to him in his usual way. But he felt it exceedingly pairiful that his father had really died, only without knowing it [1911a, p. 225]. Now for Lacan, what the father did not know was the fact "that he was dead" (1977, p. 300/802). What life the father had, then, was only in the signifying chain of the dreamer's psyche. But does the dreaming/speaking subject fare any better? The dreaming subject, too, withdraws from the signifying chain of his dream/discourse. "[T]hat is how I as subject comes on the scene, conjugated with the double aporia of a true survival that is abolished by knowledge of itself, and by a discourse in which it is death [of the speaking subject in his withdrawal] that sustains existence [in the discourse]" (1977, p. 300/802).

How does a subject conceived in this way compare with the subject as conceived by Hegel? In fact the two conceptions are separated by a "gap" that can be seen most clearly if we compare them in terms of the way the subject in each case relates to knowing (savoir). Traditionally and in the most general terms, knowing has always been considered to be some kind of union between one being (the knower) and another being (the known) that involves a "presence" of the known to the knower and reciprocal "awareness" in the knower of the known that is not purely physical, which often has been called (for want of a better term) "intentional." Traditionally, too, knowledge is considered true if the awareness in the knower corresponds to the object known, and in that sense the knower depends on the object known as a standard to which the knowledge must conform in order to guarantee its truth. With Descartes, however, truth came to be conceived not merely as conformity of knower to known but as certitude in the knowing subject (i.e., "knowing' that he knows). Henceforth, in order to be true the knowing depended not only on its objects but on its own assurance of itself. Now when a Hegel talks about knowledge as "absolute," this must be understood in the most radical sense of"absolute"-at least so one astute co~mentator (Martin Heidegger [1950, p. 124]), namely, suggests - in the Latin sense (ab-solvere) of "to loosen." In other words, if truth is conceived as stated here, then knowing is absolved (loosened) from its complete dependence on the object in the process of truth. The more the nature of self-assurance is explored, the more the object, if it remains part of the process at all, becomes a matter of indifference. To the extent that knowing is released from dependence on the presentation of objects and becomes more aware of itself as knowing, the subject becomes "absolute." In any case, what matters for Hegel is Knowing's knowing itself, i.e., as absolute.

The entire thrust of Hegel's The Phenomenology of Mind (1807a) consists in the process by which Knowing comes to know itself. Initially, indeed, what the subject knows is an object (an sich), say, of sense perception. In a second moment, however, the subject becomes aware of itself as knowing the object (fur sich), and then becomes aware of its own role in constituting the object for itself (an undfur sich), thereby "loosening' itself (in whatever small degree) from dependence on this object to assure itself of the truth of its knowledge.

This, then, is the basic movement of the dialectic. The knowing subject passes from an initial moment of "affirmation" of its object to an awareness of the inadequacy of this perception (hence, negation) to a new moment of reconciliation of these two previous moments in a higher (or deeper) view of the process, which then becomes the starting point of a new cycle of the dialectic. This movement of affirmation-negation-synthesis on the part of the subject is called "mediation," i.e., the means by which the initial immediate experience (affirmation) is processed through negation into synthesis. The initial, un-mediated moment of knowing is what we understand by knowledge-asconnaissance. Through the mediation it is assumed into the ongoing process of savoir coming to know itself. To the extent that the mediation is also a process of self-assurance on the part of the subject, it is also a moment of truth, which, of course, yields to synthesis within a higher truth as the dialectic moves on. What propels the dialectic for Hegel, however, is not some hidden thrust within knowing itself but fundamentally desire.

Now for Freud, the relation between truth and savoir, as we find it in Hegel, is broken. There is indeed in Freud a desire, but it must be understood as desire of the Other. If one wishes to call this a desire of savoir, that may be possible, provided that one understands savoir in a very special sense, i.e., not as "knowledge" in any traditional sense of intentional union between knower and known but as a "knowing" that takes the form of an inscription in the discourse of the subject, "of which, like the 'messenger-slave' of ancient usage, the subject who carries under his hair the codicil that condemns him to death knows neither the meaning nor the text, nor in what language it is written, nor even that it had been tatooed on his shaven scalp as he slept" (1977, p. 302/803).

Such a conception of the unconscious has nothing to do, of course, with Freud's so-called biologism. This does not gainsay the fact that this biologism, properly understood, plays an important role in Freud's thought. One form of it is the death instinct, and "to ignore the death instinct in his doctrine is to misunderstand that doctrine entirely" (1977, p. 301/803). For example, the "return to the inanimate" that characterizes the death instinct is a metaphor for "that margin beyond life that language gives to the human being by virtue of the fact that he speaks"another way of talking about the Freudian unconscious savoir. Another form of biologism is the role ascribed to the phallus in the dialectic of desire, as we shall see in more detail below.

But to recognize the central role of biologism in Freud is not to correlate the unconscious with physiology, and the translation of Trieb as "instinct" is very misleading. A much better choice would be "drive" (pulsion). "Instinct" might imply "knowledge" (connaissance) of some sort, the way a bird has "knowledge" of how to build a nest, but in no way can "knowledge" of this type be identified with savoir in the sense we have explained (1977, pp. 301-302/803).

At this point Lacan begins his attempt to describe precisely how desire functions with regard to this subject who is "defined in his articulation by the signifier" (1977, p. 303/805) like the messenger-slave just alluded to. He does so by resorting to a series of graphs that aim to map out "the most broadly practical structure of the data of our experience" (1977, p. 303/804-805) and thereby takes us out to sea in heavy fog.

Graph I is the "elementary cell" of this series. We take it to be a kind of general statement of the nature of the subject "defined in his articulation by the signifier" (1977, p. 303/805). We recall that for Lacan signifiers do not refer to any specific signified in a one-to-one correspondence but rather to other signifiers so as to constitute a signifying chain. As a result we "are forced ... to accept the notion of an incessant sliding [glissementJ of the signified under the signifier" (1977, p. 154/502). But there are certain privileged moments when the signifying chain comes to fix itself to some signified, and these are "anchoring points" (points de capiton), "points like buttons on a mattress or intersections in quilting, where there is a 'pinning down' (capitonnage) of meaning, not to an object but rather by 'reference back' to a symbolic function" (Wilden, 1968, p. 273).

N ow Graph I diagrams one of these anchoring points "by which the signifier stops the otherwise endless movement (glisse- - ment) of signification" (1977, p. 303/805). The vector S.SI indicates the signifying chain posed by the speaking subject. We may think of it in both diachronic and synchronic terms. "The diachronic function of this anchoring point is to be found in the sentence, even if the sentence completes its signification only with its last term, each term being anticipated in the construction of the others, and, inversely, sealing their meaning by its retroactive effect" (1977, p. 303/805). In other words, the meaning~ed to the end of the sentence, must be read backwards into the preceding words once the sentence is finished. As for the synchronic structure of the anchoring point, it is less obvious. This consists in the symbolic order itself that in its most elemental form may be seen in the primordial division of the phonemes. It is this basic pattern of the symbolic order that permits even a child to transpose the bark of a dog perceived as sign into a phoneme-signifier, utilizing the latter in the process of signification in the form of a nursery rhyme. We are taking the diagram to suggest, then, that in the progressive-regressive movement of the anchoring point in which signification emerges, the vector S]t represents the progressive movement of the diachrony, and the vector A. S represents the regressive movement of contextualized meaning that is made possible by the synchrony of the symbolic order.

Graph II introduces several new elements into Graph I, principally a place in which to locate the Other. Given the interpretation we have offered of the synchronic structure of the anchoring point, it is perfectly understandable that the Other as "treasure of the signifier" be located precisely where the two vectors cross at the beginning of the reverse trajectory at point 0, and that the effect of the Other on the eventual signified be indicated there where a given assertion, ending on "its own scansion," receives its final punctuation at point s(O).

The circularity of this process is evident. But who (and where) is the subject of it all? If the subject here means the individual, real subject, then he "is constituted only by subtracting himself" (1977, p. 304/806) in the fading of the "I" from the discourse as spoken. But if the Other is considered the subject, it is "simply the pure subject of modern games theory" (1977, p. 304/ 806). Lacan adds that this Other as "locus of Speech, imposes itself no less as witness to the Truth" (1977, p. 305/807). The reason is that if, according to a tradition at least as old as Aristotle, the locus of truth is in the judgment and presupposes a correspondence between the judgment and what is affirmed in the judgment, then truth thus understood (as also falsehood) supposes the symbolic order. To be sure, there is a kind of "pretence to be found in physical combat and sexual display" that is essentially a matter of "imaginary capture," and we find this in animals, too. An animal "does not pretend to pretend," however, nor does he "make tracks whose deception lies in the fact that they will be taken as false." Pretense of this kind implies a passage to the order of the signifier, and "the signifier requires another locus-the locus of the Other, the Other witness, the witness Other than any of the partners - for the Speech that it supports to be capable of lying, that is to say, of presenting itself as Truth" (1977, p. 305/807). But if this much can be said about the subject of the discourse, what can be said about the ego? Recall what we know about Lacan's conception of the ego. As he tells us in his description of the "mirror stage," it is the "specular image" the child jubilantly assumes at the irifans stage, while still sunk in his "motor incapacity and nursling dependence." Here the "I" is "precipitated in a primordial form" that "would have to be called the Ideal-I, if we wished to incorporate it into our usual register, in the sense that it will also be the source of secondary identifications, under which term [Lacan] would place the functions of libidinal normalization" (1977, p. 2/94). How the ego thus conceived is victimized by a "paranoiac alienation" (1977, p. 5/98) that affects all its knowledge, how it defends itself by "the armour of an alienating identity" (1977, p. 4/97), how its aggressivity is "a correlative tension of [this] narcissistic structure" (1977, p. 22/116)-all this we have seen already. What Lacan seems to add here is the reminder that the ego thus conceived in its origins must now be dealt with by the (presumably adult) subject: "At this point the ambiguity of a failure to recognize that is essential to knowing myself (un meconnaitre essentiel au me connaitre) is introduced. For, in this 'rear view' (ritrovisee), all that the subject can be certain of is the anticipated image coming to meet him that he catches of himself in [the] mirror" (1977, p. 306/808). This is the ego that Descartes discovered and that Kant analyzed in terms of a "transcendental ego," though the analysis was inevitably relativized by the fact that there, too, the ego was "implicated ... in the meconnaissance in which the ego's identifications take root" (1977, p. 307/809). When all is said and done, the emphasis since Descartes on consciousness as essential to the subject is for Lacan "the deceptive accentuation of the transparency of the I in action [en acte] at the expense of the opacity of the signifier that determines the I" (1977, p. 307/809), i.e., (as we understand it) the opacity of the symbolic order that, beyond the transparency of consciousness to itself, silently permeates all discourse.

At this point Lacan digresses into Hegel (out of deference to his philosophy audience?). His intention, it appears, is to suggest how the early development of the ego follows the classical dialectical master-slave struggle between the ego and its counterpart that "is rightly called a struggle of pure prestige, and the stake, life itself, is well suited to echo that danger of the generic pre maturation of birth" that sets the stage for the mirror phase (1977, p. 308/810). He suggests, too, how the same master-slave struggle offers an appropriate paradigm for understanding the neurotic patterns of the obsessional, who simply waits out the Master's death (1977, p. 309/811). Implicit here, of course, is the supposition that the dynamic of this dialectical struggle is desire, hence the remonstrance that "philosophers should not make the mistake of thinking that they can take little account of the irruption that Freud's views on desire represented" (1977, p. 309/811).

What, then, were Freud's views on desire? They are not to be understood in terms of familiar cliches about "repressed wishes," or discerned in the kind of aberration that, according to Lacan, passes for psychoanalytic practice today. Nor are they to be grasped by overlooking the subtleties that differentiate desire from need and demand. If the meaning of desire for Freud is to be sought under the guise of sexuality, then this should be done in terms of certain "structural elements" that transcend those common vagaries of sexuality that led Freud to admit that it "must bear the mark of some unnatural split" (1977, p. 310/ 812). These "structural elements" are most clearly seen in the Oedipus complex.

Central to the Oedipus complex, of course, is the role of the Father. Freud himself saw the paradigm for this in the dead Father of his own hypothetical myth, but Lacan has interpreted the role in terms of the Name-of-the-Father. What is at stake clearly is not the real father but the "paternal function," which for Lacan is grounded in "the Other as the locus of the signifier" (1977, p. 310/812-813). The Other here is Law and, as such, ultimate-"there is no Other of the Other" (1977, p. 311/813). But the "fact that the Father may be regarded as the original representative of [ the] authority of the Law requires us to specify by what privileged mode of presence he is sustained beyond the subject who is actually led to occupy the place of the Other, namely, the Mother" (1977, p. 311/813). This opens up new difficulties.

The fundamental issue that now comes more and more into focus (however circuitously) is the relationship between desire and the Other (i.e., the Law, the Name-of-the-Father). The difficulty of this issue will be compounded by the fact that the desiring subject is also related to the one who occupies the place of the Other in terms of need and demand. These are the parameters within which the play of the dialectic will be contained.

Let us begin with what is already familiar. Just as we have been told that the unconscious is "the discourse of the Other," where "of" is to be understood in the sense of the Latin de (i.e., discourse "from" the Other), so, too, we have heard before (1977, p. 264/628) that "man's desire is the desire of the Other," i.e., "it is qua Other that he desires (which is what provides the true compass of human passion)" (1977, p. 312/814). The subject's desire, then, is in fact the Other's desire. That is why the question coming from the Other to the subject in the form of "What do you want?" leads him more surely "to the path of his own desire," provided he is able to respond to it-and for this the help of a psychoanalyst may be necessary - not in terms of "What do I want?" but rather "What does he [i.e., the analyst] want of me?" (1977, p. 312/815). It is through collaboration with the analyst that he comes to recognize the otherness of desire and is able to invert the original question so as to ask of the Other, "What do you want of me?" (1977, p. 335/908).

If the subject is able to appreciate the sense of such a question, he may become aware of the alienation of which he has been the victim by reason of his own ego. Thus, quite possibly, "what he [as subject] desires presents itself to him as what he [as ego] does not want" (1977, p. 312/815). That leaves us with the delicate task of understanding the relationship between subject and ego, and this is where "fantasy" plays an important role in the process. Laplanche and Pontalis define fantasy in the following classical terms: "imaginary scene in which the subject is a protagonist, representing the fulfillment of a wish [i.e., desire] (in the last analysis, an unconscious wish [desire]) in a manner that is distorted to a greater or less extent by defensive proceses"; but they conclude their discussion more succinctly by saying that "the primary function of fantasy [is] the [imaginary] mise-en-scene of desire" (1967, pp. 314-318). Lacan here is more specific. We understand him to be saying something like this: When the subject becomes "barred" (g) at the moment of "primal repression" (i. e., "the splitting that [he] suffers from [his] subordination to the signifier") and subsequently comes to expression only in the "fading" of the speaking I from his spoken discourse, he maintains an essential liaison with some imaginary "object" called "fantasy" (1977, p. 313/816). This imaginary object has as its fundamental paradigm a body image that is homologous with the image of the infant perceived by itself in the mirror stage and designated by Lacan as the ego. This body image as paradigm of fantasy now serves as the "'stuff' of that'!, that is originally repressed" (1977, p. 314/816), i.e., the manner in which the speaking I, subject to desire, becomes manifest as it fades. At any rate, this relationship between the split/repressed/barred subject and fantasy is expressed ( in the algorithm gOo, where the 0 apparently expresses the relationship between the barred subject and the Other, presumably as a function of desire and its "cause."

The precise nature of this relationship is extremely difficult to articulate, for "the place that I occupy as subject of the signifi•ed," i.e., as subordinate to the Other, is "excentric" to "the place that I occupy as ... subject of a signifier" (1977, p. 165/ 517). Hence, it is difficult to designate the "subject of the unconscious" as "subject of a statement, and therefore as the articulator, when [the subject] does not even know that [it] is speaking" (1977, p. 314/816). It is all the more difficult to speak of the subject of the unconscious in terms of desire. Perhaps this accounts for the fact that this subject often has been spoken of in terms of "drive, in which [it] is designated by an organic, oral, anal, etc. mapping," "inhabiting," as it were, these organic functions (1977, p. 314/816-817). But the drive isolates from the sheer metabolism of these functions certain "erogenous zones" that are marked by what Lacan calls a "cut (coupure), expressed in the anatomical mark (trait) of a margin or border-lips ... the rim of the anus, the tip of the penis, [etc.]" (1977, p. 314/817). The full force of "cut" here is for the moment not clear to us, though we recall that Lacan spoke earlier of the "cut in discourse, the strongest being that which acts as a bar between the signifier and signified" (1977, p. 299/801). Perhaps the term is intended to suggest a sign of negativity (of discontinuity and therefore of lack, as basis for desire) in the human organism, the supreme form of which would be symbolic castration; perhaps, too, it is an anticipation on the level of the organism of the "bar between the signifier and signified" in the register of the symbolic order. Be that as it may, it is apparently organic parts such as these that coalesce to form the body schema serving as paradigm for the fantasies that become "stuff" through which the speaking I manifests itself as it fades. The "partial features" of these objects are rightly emphasized, of course, "not because [they] are part of a total object, the body, but because they represent only partially the function that produces them," i.e., the drive/desire of the subject (1977, p. 315/817).

By now Lacan is well into the exposition of his Completed Graph, which we shall not follow in detail. Let it suffice to say that as in Graph II he plotted the formulation of a meaningful statement in conscious discourse by "looping its signification" (1977, p. 316/818), so now he attempts to plot this "looping" of signification on the level of unconscious enunciation, presumably by the "subject of the unconscious." "If we are to expect [this looping] effect from the unconscious enunciation, it is to be found here in the S(Q'», and read as: signifier of a lack in the Other, inherent in its very function as the treasure of the signifier." The shock of this formulation is Soon mitigated when we are told that the "lack referred to here is indeed that which I have alrea:dy formulated: that there is no Other of the Other" (1977, p. 316/818). This says nothing about the existence or nonexistence of some higher being as specified in any particular religion - all it says is that the Other is not grounded in any order of signifiers beyond itself.

Proceeding to explain this enigmatic formula, Lacan focuses directly on the signifier of the Other-as-Iacking. Taking it in linguistic terms, he tells us: "My definition of a signifier (there is no other) is as follows: a signifier is that which represents the . subject for another signifier" (1977, p. 316/819). In the case of ding subject, for example, this subject is represented in its spoklfn discourse by a signifier that, in place of the speaking I, relates to other signifiers in the self-referential signifying chain. Here, however, there is question of the subject of the unconscious as such. Hence, the signifier in question, S(Q'» will be "the signifier for which all the other signifiers represent the subject: that is to say, in the absence of this signifier, all the other signifiers represent nothing" (1977, p. 316/819).

The whole battery of signifiers, then, is complete and self-contained. If this particular signifier is to be distinguished among the rest, it will have to be by some mark that will not separate it from the other signifiers, and Lacan chooses the sign - 1. If this signifier, with its corresponding signified, together yields the "statement" (enonce) articulated by the subject of the unconscious, then a simple algebraic operation will yield the result: s (unconscious statement) equals J ~ i-an irrational number that is otherwise quite "inexpressible," even "unthinkable," if we try to _ think it on the level of the conscious Cartesian cogito. If we are to 1 conceive it at all, it will have to be in terms of the faded subject that, through its withdrawal, undergoes a kind of death and therefore resides in a place "from which a voice is heard clamouring 'the universe is a defect in the purity of Non-Being' " (1977, p. 317/820).

Apparently this place to which the speaking I withdraws is where it can experience a form of boundlessness that Lacan calls jouissance. The term, though it has appeared in previous essays, has not been thematized heretofore, and we have very little data to help us understand its nature. We are told that jouissance is usually experienced as "forbidden" (1977, p. 317/820) - not because of "a bad arrangement of society," nor because of some fault of the Other (as if it existed), nor because of a consequence of some "original sin" (1977, p. 317/820). Rather, jouissance is limited by an interdiction imposed by the Law. We take this to mean that when the subject enters into the symbolic order, i.e., when the subject submits to the law of the signifier and becomes barred through primal repression, the subject must accept the consequences of his finitude that are never more apparent than in the limits imposed upon jouissance (1977, p. 319/821).

In any case, this lets us see that the limitations of jouissance are closely connected with the barring of the subject in primal repression. Since these are intimately connected with the castration complex, it would be impossible to exaggerate the importance of this complex as "structural of the subject" (1977, p. 318/ 820). With r~gard to it, Lacan suggests a second meaning for the term "subversion" of the subject. "In the castration complex we find the major mainspring of the very subversion that I am trying to articulate here by means of its dialectic" (1977, p. 318/ 820).

Castration involves a sacrifice of the phallus, "image of the penis." We must distinguish, however, "between the principle of sacrifice, which is symbolic, and the imaginary function that is devoted to that principle of sacrifice, but which, at the same time, masks the fact that it [the imaginary function] gives it [the principle] its instrument [of sacrifice]" (1977, p. 319/822). We take this to mean that Lacan wants to distinguish clearly between the phallus as symbolic (hereafter capital Phi [<P]) and as image (hereafter small phi [<t>]). According to our understanding of the matter, the phallus as imaginary is (on the psychic level) the bond with the Source of All, which, like the umbilical cord, must be severed in order to enter into human existence in the symbolic order (though at the cost of the irreparable loss of jouissance). As image, the phallus forms part of the body schema perceived in the specular image that, for Lacan as well as for Freud, "is the channel taken by the transfusion of the body's libido towards the object" and serves as paradigm for fantasy (1977, p. 319/822).

The detachability of the phallus may be understood in a broad sense, for insofar as the phallus is erectile (hence also detumescent and in that way "detachable"), it may be experienced as "lacking" to, or "negatived" in, the body image (1977, pp. 319-320/822). As a result of this negative quality, it bears a certain affinity with the negativity of the signifier ( - 1) as with the negavity of its signification (,,';--=-1). Since "the erectile organ comes to symbolize the place of jouissance," there is a natural correlation between the phallus imagined as castratable and the limitation of jouissance, by reason of which the erectile organ may be said to "bind [nouer] the prohibition of jouissance" (1977, p. 320/822).

The transformation of the phallus as imaginary and detachable ( - ¢) {implying a castration equally imaginary) into \ the phallus as symbolic (<P) is a step forward in the emergence of the subject and in that sense "positive," even though it may be correlated with the filling up of some lack (1977, p. 320/823) and, as signifier of the Other's desire, signifies the lack in the Other. However that may be, the castration of the phallus brings into play some kind of object on the level of fantasy that Lacan refers to as objet a. How this may be understood admits of various interpretations. After scrutinizing relative texts in Lacan, Lemaire suggests two possible ways of understanding the objet a: the first sense would be to take objet a as "the first image to fill in the crack of separation" from the mother, hence necessarily referring to the phallus "in the symbolic sense of the hyphen, par excellence, of the impossible unification" with her that in the separation is severed; a second (broader) sense would take objet a as the "representative of the object of lack," i.e., "the metonymic object of desire" (1970, p. 174).

As a case in point, an example of objet a would be the "inestimable treasure" that in Plato's Symposium Alcibiades fantasizes as contained in hidden fashion within Socrates. Recall how Alcibiades had projected onto Socrates the ideal of the "perfect master" (1977, p. 323/826). Yet because Socrates refuses to respond to any of his advances, Alcibiades fantasies Socrates as deprived of the imaginary phallus ( - 1» and in that sense as "castrated," hence, "ideal Master" or not, as "completely imaginarized." This does not make Socrates any less "the object of desire," however, for, like "the woman concealed behind her veil, it is the absence of the penis that turns her into the phallus, the' object of desire" (1977, p. 322/825). We understand this to mean that the absent penis in the woman makes her desirable tothe subject, i.e., the object of the subject's desire, in the sense that, not having the phallus, she can now be the phallus for/to him, i.e., the object of his desire. Phallus in this case, however, is obviou"sly used in the symbolic sense (<I» as signifier of desire or oflack. Similarly, Socrates remains the "symbolic" phallus for Alcibiades, even though (or rather precisely because) he is castrated of the imaginary phallus ( - 1». In all this, Lacan claims that Alcibiades (though he may well be a lecher and a lush) "is certainly not a neurotic," for he is par excellence [one] who desires," i.e., is in touch with his own desire. Socrates, "the precursor of psychoanalysis," is shrewd enough to discern the true focus of Alcibiades' desire, "object of the transference," i.e., Agathon (1977, p. 323/825-826), insofar as he matches (as homosexual object) the object in Alcibiades' unconscious fantasy, the object marked by the - 1> "as castrated" (1977, p. 323/825).

For the neurotic, the same issue is not so straightforward.

When the subject is split through primary repression (5), the neurotic's ego remains strong and, essentially imaginary itself, functions in the imaginary order. The phallus on this level, as also the castration of it, is equally imaginary. The neurotic's relation to the Other is such that "he imagines that the Other demands his castration" (1977, p. 323/826). But in his imaginary struggle against an imaginary castration, the neurotic fails to appreciate the genuine role of the symbolic phallus and the need for symbolic castration as the price of any satisfactory relationship of the subject to the Other. We understand this satisfactory relationship to involve the dialectic of desire through reciprocal recognition of:. subject and Other. In other words, it is as if the neurotic played out the scenario of the classic oedipal stereotype on the imaginary level and failed utterly to appreciate the symbolic significance of castration. In any case, what analytic experience shows us is that, whether in the normal or abnormal, castration is the "ondition for desire to become human. In that I' "governs" desire (1977, p. 32~/826). Reciprocally, it implies the forfeit ofjouissance of primordial union, which can then /- ;~' pproached only on "the inverted ladder ... of the Law of desire, i. e., by overturning the Law governing the articulation of desir (1977, p. 324/827). But all this, along with the tantalizing allusions to different kinds of neuroses (phobic, obsessional, hysterical) ~nd to perversion, suggests a clinical relevance to Lacan's reflections here that the paucity of clinical facts simply does not permit us to explicate further., In other words, we must be content with what few misty glimmers have been allowed us in the course of this long, foggy night.