Existence in the symbolic
This sense of existence is to be understood in the context of Freud's discussion of the 'judgement of existence', by which the existence of an entity is affirmed prior to attributing any quality to it.
It is in this sense that Lacan argues that 'woman does not exist' (Lacan, 1973a: 60); the symbolic order contains no signifier for femininity, and hence the feminine position cannot be fully symbolised.
Nothing exists except insofar as it does not exist.'
Existence in the real
'There is in effect something radically unassimilable to the signifier.
It's quite simply the subject's singular existence.'
This second sense of the term existence is exactly the opposite of existence in the first sense.
Lacan coins the neologism ex-sistence to express the idea that the heart of our being (Kern unseres Wesen) is also radically Other, strange, outside (Ec, l1); the subject is decentred, his centre is outside of himself, he is ex-centric.
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p.33
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p.392
- Saussure, 1916
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p.179
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.194
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.264