From No Subject - Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis
Revision as of 22:41, 31 May 2006 by Riot Hero (talk | contribs)
Jump to: navigation, search


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."[1]

For Jones, the fear of aphanisis exists in both sexes, giving rise to the castration complex in boys and to penis envy in girls.

Aphanisis and Jacques Lacan

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.[2]

The aphanisis of the subject is the fading of the subject, the fundamental division - or split - of the subject which institutes the dialectic of desire.[3]

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.[4]

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.


  1. Jones, 1927
  2. see S11, 208
  3. S11, 221
  4. S8, 271