Lacan's discussion of 'the Thing' constitutes one of the central themes in the seminar of 1959-60, where he uses the French term la chose interchangeably with the German term das Ding. There are two main contexts in which this term operates.
1. The context of Freud's distinction between 'word-presentations' (Wort- vorstellungen) and 'thing-presentations' (Sachvorstellungen). This distinction is prominent in Freud's metapsychological writings, in which he argues that the two types of presentation are bound together in the preconscious-conscious system, whereas in the unconscious system only thing-presentations are found (Freud, 19l5e). This seemed to some of Lacan's contemporaries to offer an objection to Lacan's theories about the linguistic nature of the unconscious. Lacan counters such objections by pointing out that there are two words in German for 'thing': das Ding and die Sache (see S7, 62-3, 44-5). It is the latter term which Freud usually employs to refer to the thing-presentations in the unconscious, and Lacan argues that although on one level Sachvorstellungen and Wortvorstellungen are opposed, on the symbolic level 'they go together'. Thus die Sacheis the representation of a thing in the sym˛olic order, as opposed to das Ding, which is the thing in its 'dumb reality' ($7, 55æthe thing in the real, which is 'the beyond-of-the-signified' (S7, 54) The thing-presentations found in the unconscious are thus still linguistic phÈnomena, as opposed to das Ding which is entirely outside language, and outside the unconscious. 'The Thin is characterised by the fact that it is impossible for us to imagine it' (87, 12 . Lacan's concept of the Thing as an unknowable x, beyond symbolisation, has clear affinities with the Kantian 'thing-in-itself'.
2. The context of JOUISSANCE. As well as the object of language, das Ding is the object of desire. It is the lost object which must be continually refound, it is the prehistoric, unforgettable Other (S7, 53) - in other words, the forbidden object of incestuous desire, the mother (S7, 67). The pleasure principle the law which maintains the subject at a certain distance from the Thing (S7, 58, 63), making the subject circle round it without ever attaining it (S7, 95). The Thing is thus presented to the subject as his Sovereign Good, but if the subject transgresses the pleasure principle and attains this Good, it is experienced as sufferinglevil (Lacan plays on the French term mal, which can mean both suffering and evil, see S7, 179), because the subject 'cannot stand the extreme good that das Ding may bring to him' (S7, 73). It is fortunate, then, that the Thing is usually inaccessible (S7, 159).
After the seminar of 1959-60, the term das Ding disappears almost entirely from Lacan's work. However, the ideas associated with it provide the essential features of the new developments in the concept of the objet petit a as Lacan develops it from 1963 onwards. For example the objet petit a is circled by the drive (Sll, 168), and is seen as the cause of desire just.asdas Ding is seen as 'the cause of the most fundamental human passion' (S7, 97). Also, the fact that the Thing is not the imaginary object but firmly in the register of the reaL(S2, l 12), and yet is 'that which in the real suffers from the signifier' (S7, 125), anticipates the transition in Lacan's thought towards locating objet petit a mcreasingly in the register of the real from 1963 on.
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