Talk:Seminar XII

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1964-1965 (237 pp.)-SEMINAIRE XII: PROBLEMES CRUCIAUX POUR LA PSYCHANALYSE (SEMINAR XII: CRUCIAL PROBLEMS FOR PSYCHOANALYSIS)-ANONYMOUS VERSION, NO DATE Explaining themselves and their work at the beginning, the transcribers of this seminar headed it with a bold epigraph: "In all my opening addresses to what I have to calI my audience I have warned that psychoanalysis is a remedy against ignorance; it has no effect on fucking imbecility." A word to the wise is sufficient. We want to ask, What about its effects on those who are suffering? This seminar, coming after the foundations of psychoanalysis (55), would have originally been announced under a more philosophical title, "Les Posi�tions subjectives de \' existence et de \' clre" (The Subjective Positions of

The Wom of Jacques Llcan 117 Existence and of Being). Indeed, the theoretician psychoanalyst would be confronted with an alternative that he cannot admit: in his experience, the subject is the pivot of praxis (practice linked to theory) but, in all formaliza�tions, one usually tries to exclude the subject. For Lacan, the fundamental problem was that of the subject's relation to language. However, taking into account the Real in the trilogy of Symbolicl Imaginary/Real had transformed the problem. Thus, the crucial issues were the relations among identification, transference, and demand; we are already familiar with them from the previous seminars. The problem of problems then became "offering a form, an essential to�pology for analytic praxis." The signifier returned, structured on the Moebius strip with the three fundamental forms of the hole, the torus or ring, and the "cross-cap." Euler's circles also returned, as the maze of the torus or of the spirals of the demand on the surface of the Klein bottle, which was a new star in this seminar. These figures were said to be constructed in a simple and combinatory way, but the commentary, on the other hand, was complicated. Apparently, no doubt, this bottle contains the secret of desire "as the split whereby a surface is revealed as a-cosmic," which would explain the "turning away in horror" from Merleau-Ponty's glove turned inside-out and from the nylon stocking turned inside-out in which sexual difference would be read. Still, some assertions are puzzling; there would be a relation only of analogy between the existence of that surface (a projection in a three dimensional space) and the immersion in a space, the space of the Other as the locus of speech. The torsion of the famous bottle would stem from the intervention of the Name-of-the-Father, of the desire of this Other desired as desiring (47). This desire of the Other would be hidden at the heart of the objet a, which has to be opened with a pair of scissors, and in the proper way, so as to allow one to be the master of desires. The interior 8 would be the relation of the objet a to 0, the big Other. When I read that the subject's certainty "is located in the pure lack of the sex," in "the impossible relation between sex and knowledge," that "all knowledge is instituted in an impassable horror as re�gards the place where the secret of sex is located," that "the impossible real is on the side of sex," I begin to feel concerned and want to ask for some explanations about such aphorisms made under the cover of topological science. The seminar also included hundreds of comments on Pascal's Pari, "a des�perate attempt to solve the question we are trying to raise here, that of desire as the desire of the big Other [Grand Autre]"; on syllogism: "all men are mortal, Socrates is a man, hence Socrates is mortal"; and on the different relation to knowledge in psychosis (anxiety of the Other), in neurosis (demand to the Other), and in perversion (jouissance of the Other). I leave it up to the reader to fit these heterogeneous comments wherever he wants or can. 198 DOSS I ER Notc that, for thc first timc, La<.:an organizcd "doscd scminars" whcrc onc was a<.:<.:cptcd at onc's own rcquest, thanks to a card ccrtifying the Master's acccptan<.:c. "Critical" studcnts su<.:h as Duroux and Miller gave talks there, later publishcd in Calliers pOllr I'Allalyse. In short, this seminar had two gcars and two spccds, which <.:orrcspondcd fairly well to the principles of the orga�nization of the E.F.P. (57). The ecole was said to be "something where a life style must be formed." And between the Name-of-the Father and the impos�sible Real, do we find the "throbbing gap of the unconscious" I beallce pal�pitallfe de l'illcolI.l'ciellfj'! Doesn't all this lack modesty and humor?


Introduction

For Lacan the fundamental problem is that of the subject's relation to language. However, taking into account the Real - from the trilogy of the Symbolic, the Imaginary and the Real - modifies the situation. Previously, the crucial issues were the rapports between identification, transference and demand; now the queston "will entail the holding out of a form, of an essential topology for analytic praxis." The signifier returns as structured on the Moebius strip with three forms of the hole, the torus or ring, the cross-cap, and Euler's circles as the maze of the torus or of the spiral of the demand on the surface of the Klein bottle. These figure though constructed in a simple and combinatory way, are nevertheless complicated to comment. The torus ia a ring, a three dimensional object formed by taking a cylinder and joining the two ends together. The topology of the torus illustrates some analogies against the structure of the subject: its centre of gravity falls outside its volume, just as the centre of the subject is outside, being decentered (ex-centric). The "peripheral and central exteriority of the torus constitutes one single region." Psychoanalysis posits the distinction between container and contained much as the unconscious is not a purely interior psychic system but an intersubjective structure, "the unconscious is outside" - extimité. A common concept of structure implies the opposition between directly observable contingencies and deep phenomena, which are not the object of immediate experience. Lacan disagrees with such an opposition as implicit in the structure. He rejects the notion of observable contingencies, since observation is always already theoretical; and he also rejects the idea that structures are somehow distant from experience, since thay are present in the field of experience itself: the unconscious is on the surface and looking for it in the dephts is to miss it. As the two sides of the Moebius strip are continuous, so structure is continuous with phenomena. Thus, the Moebius strip subverts our normal (Euclidean) way of representing space, for it seems to have two sides but in fact has only one. The two sides are distinguished by the dimension of time, the time it takes to traverse the whole strip. The figure illustrates how psychoanalysis problematizes binary oppositions (love/hate, inside/out, signifier/signified, truth/appearance): the opposed terms rather than be radically distinct, are viewed as continuous with each other. For instance, the Moebius strip helps to understand the traversing of fantasy (la traversée du fantasme): only because the two sides are continuous it is possible to cross over from inside to outside. Yet, when passing a finger round the surface of the strip, it is impossible to determine the precise point where one has crossed over from inside to outside. With Slavoj Zizek, the traversing of the fantasme implies to accomplish an act that disturbes the subject's fundamental fantasy, unhinging the level that is even more fundamental than basic symbolic identifications. For Lacan, "fantasy is not simply a work of imagination as opposed to hard reality, meaning a product of the mind that obfuscates the approach to reality, the ability to perceive things as they really are." Against the basic opposition between reality and imagination, fantasy is not merely on the side of the latter, it is rather that little piece of imagination by which the subject gains access to reality - the frame that guarantees the sense of reality. Thus when the fundamental fantasy is shattered, the subject sustains a loss of reality. Then, traversing the fantasme has nothing to do with a sobering act of dispelling the fantasies that obscure the clear perception of the real state of things or with a reflective act of achieving a critical distance from daily ruminations (superstitions). Fantasy intervenes as support when a line is drawn between what is simply our imagination and "what really exists out there." On the contrary, "traversing the fantasme involves the subject's over-identification with the field of imagination: in it, and through it, the subject breaks the constrains of fantasy and enters the terrifying, violent territory of pre-synthetic imagination, where disjecta membra float around, not yet unified and domesticated by the intervention of a homogenizing fantasmatic frame." As for Lacan's assertion of the subject's constitutive decentrement, subjective experience is not regulated by objective unconscious mechanisms decentred with regard to the subject's self-experience and as such beyond control, but by something more unsettling. For a standard view the dimension that is constitutive of subjectivity is that of phenomenal self-experience. In Lacan's perspective the analyst is the one who can deprive the subject of the very fundamental fantasy that regulates the universe of self-experience. The subject of the unconscious emerges only when the subject's fundamental fantasy becomes inaccessible, is primordially repressed, argues Zizek. Thus, the unconscious is the inaccesible phenomenon, not the objective mechanism that regulates phenomenal experience. When the subject displays signs of a fantasmatic self-experience that cannot be reduced to external behaviour, what characterizes human subjectivity proper is the gap, la béance, that separates the two: fantasy becomes unattainable; it is this inaccessibility that makes the subject empty, Lacansem1b1.gif. The rapport totally subverts the standard notion of a directly self-experiencing subject. Instead, there is an impossible rapport between the empty, non-phenomenal subject and the phenomena that remain inaccessible. This actual rapport is registered by Lacan's articulation of fantasy, Lacansem1b1.gif <> a, developed in Seminar XIV, La logique du fantasme. Lacan's interest in topology arises since he sees it as providing a non-intuitive, purely intellectual means of expressing the concept of structure. His topological models "forbid imaginary capture": unlike intuitive images in which perception eclipses structure, here "there is no hidden of the symbolic." Hence, topology replaces language as the main paradigm of structure: it is not a mere metaphor for structure, it's structure itself.


Bibliography

  • Le séminaire, Livre XII: Problèmes cruciaux pour la psychanalyse, 1964-1965.

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