Difference between revisions of "Ethics"

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Lacan asserts that ethical thought 'is at the centre of our work as analysts' (S7, 38), and a whole year of his seminar is devoted to discussing the articulation of ethics and psychoanalysis (Lacan, 1959-60).
ethically neutral posItIOn. The analyst cannot avoid, then, having to face ethical questions.
An ethical position is implicit in every way of directing psychoanalytic treatment, whether this is admitted or not by the analyst. The ethical position of the analyst is most clearly revealed by the way that he formulates the goal of the treatment (S7, 207). For example the formulations of ego-psychology about the adaptation of the ego to reality imply a normative ethics (S7, ~02). It is in opposition to this ethical position that Lacan sets out to formulate h,is own analytic ethic.
The analytic ethic that Lacan formulates is an ethic which relates action to desire (see ACT). Lacan summarises it in the question 'Have you acted in conformity with the desire that is in you?' (S7, 314). He contrasts this ethic with the 'traditional ethics' (S7, 314) of Aristotle, Kant and other moral philosophers on several grounds.
Firstly, traditional ethics revolves around the the concept of the Good, proposing different 'goods' which all compete for the position of the Sover­eign Good. The psychoanalytic ethic, however, sees the Good as an obstacle in the path of desire; thus in psychoanalysis 'a radical repudiation of a certain ideal of the good is necessary' (S7, 230). The psychoanalytic ethic rejects all ideals, including ideals of 'happiness' and 'health'; and the fact that ego­psychology has embraced these ideals bars it from claiming to be a form of psychoanalysis (S7, 219). The desire of the analyst cannot therefore be the desire to 'do good' or 'to cure' (S7, 218).
Secondly, traditional ethics has always tended to link the good to pleasure; moral thought has 'developed along the paths of an essentially hedonistic problematic' (S7, 221). The psychoanalytic ethic, however, cannot take such an approach because psychoanalytic experience has revealed the duplicity of pleasure; there is a limit to pleasure and, when this is transgressed, pleasure becomes pain (see JOUlSSANCE).
Thirdly, traditional ethics revolves around 'the service of goods' (S7, 314) which puts work and a safe, ordered existence before questions of desire; it tells people to make their desires wait (S7, 315). The psychoanalytic ethic, on the other hand, forces the subject to confront the relation between his actions and his desire in immediacy of the present.
After his 1959-60 seminar on ethics, Lacan continues to locate ethical questions at the heart of psychoanalytic theory. He interprets the soli in Freud's famous phrase Wo es war, soli /ch werden ('Where id was, there ego shall be', Freud, 1933a: SE XXII, 80) as an ethical duty (E, 128), and argues that the status of the unconscious is not ontological but ethical (S 11, 33). In the 1970s he shifts the emphasis of psychoanalytic ethics from the question of acting ('Have you acted in accordance with your desire?') to the question of speech; it now becomes an ethic of 'speaking well' (l'hhique du Bien-dire) (Lacan, 1973a: 65). However, this is more a difference of emphasis than an opposition, since for Lacan to speak well is in itself an act.
It is fundamentally an ethical position which separates psychoanalysis from SUGGESTION; psychoanalysis is based on a basic respect for the patient's right to resist domination, whereas suggestion sees such resistance as an obstacle to be crushed.

Revision as of 03:56, 31 August 2006