From No Subject - Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis
Revision as of 12:10, 25 April 2006 by Riot Hero (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

The Name of the Father (French 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. Lacan claimed that the position of the father could never be held by the infant. On the one hand the infant must identify with the father, in order to participate in sexual relations. However the infant could also 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 material 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.