Semblance

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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,

103ff.). The very distinction between the Imaginary and the Symbolic implies



this opposition between appearance and essence. The Imaginary is the Realm

of observable phenomena which act as. bres, while the Symbolic is the Realm

of underlying structures which cannot be observed but which must be

deduced.

     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

Imaginary and the Real. Thus Lacari devotes his 1970-1 seminar to 'a

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).


References