semblance (semblant) Running throughout Lacan's work is the idea
that appearances are deceptive, an idea that is closely connected to the
classical philosophical opposition between appearance and essence (see Sll,
of underlying structures which cannot be observed but which must be
This opposition informs all scientific enquiry, a basic presupposition of
which is that the scientist must attennpt to penetrate through false appear-
ance into the hidden Reality. Similatrly, in psychoanalysis, as in science,
'only he who escapes from false appearances can achieve truth' (S7, 310).
However, false appearance in psychoanalysis is different from false
appearance in the natural sciences. For the natural scientist, the false
appearance (e.g. a straight stick that appears to be bent when half
submerged in water) lacks the dimension of deliberate deception, which
is why Lacan states that the axiom of natural science is the belief in an
honest, non-deceitful God (S3, 64). 11owever, in the conjectural sciences,
and in psychoanalysis, there is always the problem that the falsity of the
appearance may be due to deception,.
Lacan uses two terms to refer to fal se appearances. The term apparence is
that used in philosophical discussions of the distinc:ion between essence and
appearance. The term semblant is less technical, but acquires a growing
importance in Lacan's work over tire years. It appears as early as 1957
(e.g. Ec, 435; S4, 207), and is used several times in the seminar of 1964
(S11, 107), but it is not until the early 1970s that the term comes to occupy
an important place in Lacan's theoreti.cal vocabulary. At first Lacan uses the
term to refer to such issues as feminine sexuality, which is characterised by a
dimension of masquerade (see RiviËre, 1929). Later on, Lacan uses the term
to characterise general features of the Symbolic order and its relations to the
discourse that would not be semblance", in which he argues that TRUTH iS
not simply the opposite of appearance, but is in fact continuous with it; truth
and appearance are like the two sides of a moebius strip, which are in fact
only one side. In the seminar of 1972-3, Lacan goes on to state that objet
petit a is a 'semblance of being' (S20, 84), that love is addressed to a '
semblance (S20, 85), and that jouiss.ance is only evoked or elaborated on
the basis of a semblance (S20, 85).