aphanisiS The literal meaning of this Greek term is 'disappearance'. It was
first introduced into psychoanalysis by Ernest Jones, who uses it to mean 'the
disappearance of sexual desire' (Jones, 1927). For Jones, the fear of aphanisis
exists in both sexes, giving rise to the castration complex in boys and to penis
envy in girls.
Lacan takes up Jones's term, but modifies it substantially. For Lacan,
aphanisis does not mean the disappearance of desire, but the disappearance
of the subject (see S11, 208). The aphanisis of the subject is the fading of the
subject, the fundamental division of the subject (see SPLIT) which institutes the
dialectic of desire (see S11, 221). Far from the disappearance of desire being
the object of fear, it is precisely what the neurotic aims at; the neurotic
attempts to shield himself from his desire, to put it aside (S8, 271).
Lacan also uses another term, 'fading', in a way that makes it synonymous
with the term aphanisis. Fading (a term which Lacan uses directly in English)
refers to the disappearance of the subject in the process of alienation. The term
is used by Lacan when describing the MATHEMEs of the drive and of fantasy: the
subject 'fades' or 'disappears' in the face of demand and in the face of the
object, as is shown by the fact that the subject is barred in these mathemes.