beautiful soul (belle ‚me) The beautiful soul (Ger. schˆne Seele) is a
stage in the dialectic of self-consciousness which Hegel describes in the
Phenomenology of Spirit (Hegel, 1807). The beautiful soul projects its own
disorder onto the world and attempts to cure this disorder by imposing 'the law
of the heart' on everyone else. For Lacan, the beautiful soul is a perfect
metaphor for the ego; 'the ego of modern man . . . has taken on its form in
the dialectical impasse of the belle ‚me who does not recognise his very own
raison d'Ítre in the disorder that he denounces in the world' (E, 70). In a more
extreme way, the beautiful soul also illustrates the structure of paranoiac
misrecognition (see M…CONNAISSANCE) (Ec, 172-3).
The concept of the beautiful soul illustrates the way that neurotics often
deny their own responsibility for what is going on around them (see AcT). The
ethics of psychoanalysis enjoin analysands to recognise their own part in their
sufferings. Thus when Dora complains about being treated as an object of
exchange by the men around her, Freud's first intervention is to confront her
with her own complicity in this exchange (Ec, 218-19; see Freud, 1905e).