Paternal metaphor

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Paternal Metaphor

The phrase "paternal metaphor" is introduced by Lacan in 1957.[1]

In 1958, he goes on to elaborate the structure of this metaphor; it involves the substitution of one signifier (the Name-of-the-Father) for another (the desire of the mother).[2]

The paternal metaphor thus designates the metaphorical (i.e. substitutive) character of the oedipus complex itself.

It is the fundamental metaphor on which all signification depends: for this reason, all signification is phallic.

If the Name-of-the-Father is foreclosed (i.e. in psychosis), there can be no paternal metaphor, and hence no phallic signification.

See Also


  1. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre IV. La relation d'objet, 19566-57. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 379
  2. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.200