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The laws and restrictions that control both your desire and the rules of communication, according to Lacan. The Name-of-the-Father is closely bound up with the superego, the Phallus, the symbolic order, and the Oedipus complex. Note that, according to Lacan, the Name-of-the-Father has a shadow double in the Father-of-Enjoyment. See the Lacan module on the structure of the psyche.

Prohibitive role

When the expression ‘the name of the father’ first appears in Lacan’s work, in the early 1950s, it refers generally to the ‘’’prohibitive role’’’ of the father as the one who lays down the incest taboo in the Oedipus Complex (i.e. to the ‘’’symbolic father’’’). “It is in the ‘’name of the father’’ that we must recognize the support of the symbolic function which, from the dawn of history, has identified his person with the figure of the law.”[1]

Lacan plays on the homophony of ‘’le nom du pEre’’ (the name of the father) and ‘’le ‘non’ du pEre’’ (the ‘no’ of the father), to emphasize the legislative and prohibitive function of the symbolic father.

In his seminar on the psychoses, the expression becomes capitalized and hyphenated. The Name-of-the-Father Is now the fundamental signifier which permtis signification to proceed normally. This fundamental signifier both confers identity on the subject (it names him, positions him within the symbolic order) and signifies the Oedipal prohibition, the ‘no’ of the incest aboo. If this signifier is foreclosed (not included in the symbolic order), the result is psychosis.

The Name of the Father refers to the laws and restrictions that control both desire and the rules of communication, according to Lacan.

The Name-of-the-Father is closely bound up with the superego, the Phallus, the symbolic order, and the Oedipus Complex.

The Name-of-the-Father has a shadow double in the Father-of-Enjoyment.

The Name of the Father (Fr. ‘’Nom du père’’) , or the names of the father is the signifier associated with the signified concept of the father. The name of the Father is a symbolic formation.


French theorist and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan revised the Oedipus Complex in line with his structuralist attempt to combine psychoanalysis and linguistics. The infant must identify with the father, in order to participate in sexual relations. However Lacan claimed that the position of the father could never be held by the infant. The infant could never become the father as this would imply sexual relations with the mother. {Through the dictates on the one hand to be the father and on the other not to, the father is elevated to an ideal.}

He is no longer a real father, but a function of a father.

Lacan terms this the Name of the Father.

The same goes for the mother — Lacan no longer talks of a real mother, but simply of desire, which is a desire to return to the undifferentiated state of being together with the mother, before the interference through the Name-of-the-Father.

This desire necessarily lacks something, i.e. it is a desire of lack.

The father and accordingly the phallus (not a real penis, but a representation of mastery) can never be reached, thus he is above or outside the language system and cannot be spoken about. All language relies on this absence of the phallus from the system of signification. According to this theory, without a phallus outside of language, nothing in language would make sense or could be differentiated. Thus Lacan remodels the linguistic theory of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. It is this idea that forms the basis of much contemporary thought, especially poststructuralism. Nothing can be thought that is outside of language, but the phallus is there and therefore structures the whole system of thought accordingly. Oedipus could also be thought of the theme of the story.

Freud vs Lacan

In Totem and Taboo, Sigmund Freud uses a theory of the history, based on Darwin's theory of evolution, in which there was first a terrible father that the brothers had to kill. Feeling guilty about it, the brothers began to pay homage to the father and founded monotheism.

In Lacan's theory, the learning of language leads the child to kill his father as a symbol. Lacan does not use any historical theory.

This concept allows a new understanding of neurosis.


Nevertheless, Jacques Lacan developed this concept with the ultimately unsuccessful aim of curing psychosis.

  1. E 67