Time

From No Subject - Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis
Revision as of 02:16, 18 May 2006 by Riot Hero (talk | contribs)
Jump to: navigation, search

time (temps) One of the most distinctive features of Lacanian psycho-

analysis is Lacan's approach to questions of time. Broadly speaking, Lacan's

approach is characterised by two important innovations: the concept of logical

time, and the stress on retroaction and anticipation.



   e Logical time        In his paper entitled 'Logical time' (1945), Lacan under-
   mines the pretensions of logic to timelessness and eternity by showing how
   certain logical calculations include an inescapable reference to a temporality.
   However, the kind of temporality involved is not specificiable by reference to
   the clock, but is itself the product of certain logical articulations. This
   distinction between logical time and chronological time underpins Lacan's
   whole theory of temporality.
      The fact that logical time is not objective does not mean that it is simply a

question of subjective feeling; on the contrary, as the adjective 'logical'

   indicates, it is a precise dialectical structure which may be formulated rigor-

ously in mathematical terms. In the 1945 paper, Lacan argues that logical time

   has a tripartite structure, the three moments of which are: (i) the instant of

seeing; (ii) the time for understanding; (iii) the moment of concluding. By

   means of a sophism (the problem of the three prisoners) Lacan shows how
   these three moments are constructed not in terms of objective chronometric
   units but in terms of an intersubjective logic based on             a tension between

waiting and haste, between hesitation and urgency. Logical time is thus 'the

intersubjective time that structures human action' (E, 75).

      Lacan's notion of logical time is not just an exercise in logic; it also has

practical consequences for psychoanalytic treatment. The most famous of

   these consequences, historically speaking, has been Lacan's use of sessions
   of variable duration (Fr. sÈances scandÈes), which             was regarded by the
   International Psycho-Analytical Association (IPA)    as sufficient grounds for

excluding him from membership. However, to focus exclusively on this

particular practice is to miss various other interesting clinical dimensions of

   the theory of logical time, such as the way in which Lacan's concept of 'the
   time for understanding' can throw light on the Freudian concept of working-

through. (See Forrester, 1990: ch. 8.)

      Lacan's concept of logical time anticipates his incursions into Saussurean

linguistics, which is based on the distinction between the diachronic (or

temporal) and the synchronic (atemporal) aspects of language. Hence Lacan's

increasing stress, beginning in the 1950s, on synchronic or timelesS STRUCTURES

   rather than on developmental 'stages'. Thus when Lacan uses the term 'time',
   it is usually to be understood not as a fleeting diachronic moment but as a
   structure, a relatively stable synchronic state. Similarly, when he speaks of 'the
   three times of the Oedipus complex', the ordering is one of logical priority
   rather than of a chronological sequence. Change is not seen as a gradual or
   smooth move along a continuum, but as an abrupt shift from one discrete
   structure to another.
      Lacan's emphasis on synchronic or timeless structures can be seen as an
   attempt to explore Freud's statement about the non-existence of time in the
   unconscious. However, Lacan modifies this with his proposal, in 1964, that the
   unconscious be characterised in terms of a temporal movement of opening and
   closing (Sll, 143, 204).



   e    Retroaction and anticipation        Other forms of psychoanalysis, such as

ego-psychology are based on a linear concept of time (as can be seen, for

   example, in their stress on a linear sequence of developmental stages through
   which the childaaturally passes; see DEVELOPMENT). Lacan, however, comple-
   tely abandons such a linear notion of time, since in the psyche time can equally
   well act in reverse, by retroaction and anticipation.


   e    Retroactiom(Fr. aprËs coup)       Lacan's term aprËs coup is the term used
   by French analyts to translate Freud's Nachtr‰glichkeit (which the Standard
   Edition renders 'deferred action'). These terms refer to the way that, in the
   psyche, presentevents affect past events a posteriori, since the past exists in
   the psyche only as a set of memories which are constantly being reworked and
   reinterpreted in the light of present experience. What concerns psychoanalysis
   is not the real past sequence of events in themselves, but the way that these
   events exist now in memory and the way that the patient reports them. Thus
   when Lacan argues that the aim of psychoanalytic treatment is 'the complete
   reconstitution ofthe subject's history' (Sl, 12), he makes it clear that what he
   means by the term 'history' is not simply a real sequence of past events, but
   'the present synthesis of the past' (Sl, 36). 'History is not the past. History is
   the past in    so far as it is historicised in the present' (Sl, 12). Hence the
   pregenital stages are not to be seen as real events chronologically prior to
   the genital stage, but as forms of DEMAND which are projected retroactively
   onto the past (E, 197). Lacan also shows how discourse is structured by
   retroaction; only when the last word of the sentence is uttered do the initial
   words acquire their full meaning (E, 303) (see PUNCTUATION).


   ï Anticipation        If retroaction refers to the way the present affects the past,
   anticipation refers to the way the future affects the present. Like retroaction,
   anticipation marks the structure of speech; the first words of a sentence are
   ordered in anticipation of the words to come (E, 303). In the mirror stage, the
   ego is constructed    on the basis of the anticipation of an imagined future
   wholeness (which never, in fact, arrives). The structure of anticipation is
   best illustrated linguistically by the future-perfect tense (E, 306). Anticipation
   also plays    an important role in the tripartite structure of logical time; the
    moment of concluding' is arrived         at in haste, in anticipation of future

certainty (Ec, 209).

def

Time The notion of time in psychoanalysis intersects several other concepts such as repetition, regression, fixation, and rhythm, though Freud also discussed the idea of time directly. He began by emphasizing the atemporality of unconscious processes: The unconscious ignores time, and he suggested that the origin of the representation of time could be found in the discontinuous relation the preconscious-conscious system maintained with the external world, the time dimension then being associated with acts of consciousness. He related the