In this article, we plunge into the heart of the thought of Lacanian psychoanalysis. More precisely, and essentially, we will reflect on Jacques Lacan’s concepts. Perhaps you have already heard of this concept: the mirror stage. However, it is not the only part of Lacanian concepts. In this article, we have kindly selected some striking and accessible concepts of Lacanian psychoanalysis. We present you with more details 8 Lacanian concepts.

1 – Jacques Lacan and Other, Small Other, Large Other

We find in Freud the distinction between der Andere (the other person) and das Andere (otherness, being different); but it is probably from Hegel, at least read in the manner of Kojeve, that Jacques Lacan is inspired, when he produces in 1955, between the “little other” and the “great Other”, the distinction which will remain central all the time along with his work. This distinction takes on a fundamental meaning in his practice of psychoanalysis: the analyst must know how to discern the great Other from the little other and put himself in the place of the Other (sometimes noted simply A) and not the other (simply noted a).

“The little other” is not really the other, but a reflection and a projection of the ego. It fits in the order of the imaginary. On the other hand, “the great Other” designates radical otherness, which transcends the illusory otherness of the imaginary because the subject cannot assimilate it by identification. Jacques Lacan poses the identity of this radical otherness of the great Other with language and the law; in this way, the great Other is in the order of the symbolic. According to the small a or the great A of his name, the other thus has a double status, relatively indistinct in a phenomenology like Sartre’s, where the other is both the other individual and what, in a kind of anonymity, is deeper in me than me myself.

Of these two distinct senses of otherness, the sense of the other as another subject is second in relation to the sense of the Other as a symbolic order; thus the Other is fundamentally what from which the discourse is constituted. It is not impossible to retain the phenomenological and Sartrean meaning of the other provided that it is relativized from a more fundamental symbolic otherness, which is only incarnate in the first.

In presenting that the discourse originates not in the ego, nor in the subject, but in the Other, Jacques Lacan emphasizes that speech and language are beyond conscious control; by considering the Other as a sort of place, Jacques Lacan refers to the Freudian concept of “psychic place”, the unconscious being described as “the other scene”. Finally, as an illustration of the character of function fulfilled by the Other, very distinct from that which characterizes the other, we can mention the Lacanian thesis maintained in the Writings, according to which the Other sex is always the woman, at the both for the male subject and the female subject, the man then acting as the relay through which the woman becomes this Other for herself, as she is this Other for him.

2 – Speech (The Four)

In 1969, in book XVII of the Seminar, Jacques Lacan shows that there are four possible basic forms of discourse, which are all forms of intersubjectivity; because we must understand the discourse in a broader sense than what the linguist says in order to understand the formula that Jacques Lacan forged in 1953: “The unconscious is the discourse of the other. Speech is neither language nor speech.

To understand the discourse in its structural aspects, it is necessary to relate four terms: the signifier, the knowledge, the subject and the more-to-enjoy.

The master’s discourse is the fundamental form from which all other forms derive: the discourse of the academic, the discourse of the hysteric, and the discourse of the analyst. It is, quite in accordance with the Hegelian dialectic that appears in the famous pages of the Phenomenology of the Mind, the one by which the master puts the slave to work and tries to grab the surplus of enjoyment that results from this work. His fallacy is that he gives the other the illusion that if he were a master if he could become so, he would no longer be in the division.

In the discourse of the academic, knowledge occupies the dominant place. Behind all efforts to instill seemingly neutral knowledge is an attempt to master the other (through what he is taught). The discourse of the academic represents the hegemony of knowledge, particularly visible in the form of the current hegemony of science over all other cultural forms. He joins that of the master in that he too gives the impression to the one who listens to him that, if he knew, he would overcome, by that very fact, the division of the subject. He makes use of knowledge or, rather, of his appearances, to falsely attain the objectives of the master: to make “that works” (XVII, 24), without any other aim of truth.

Neither must the master’s speech be pronounced by a master in the flesh (an imperative can serve and be more effective than a master in the guise of a real individual), nor the discourse of the university must necessarily be pronounced by the one who has the titles conferred by the institution, the speech of the hysteric is a speech uttered by a hysteric. It is a social bond in which any subject can be involved. The dominating position is, this time, occupied by the divided subject, the symptom. The discourse is held by one who seeks the path of knowledge. Jacques Lacan clearly distinguishes the desire to know (which uses knowledge as a decoy) from knowledge itself: “The desire for knowledge is not what leads to knowledge. What leads to knowledge is precisely the discourse of the hysteric “(XVII, 23).

The discourse of the analyst, even the analyst himself, becomes, during the course of treatment, the cause of the desire of the analysand, who will discover that the knowledge of his own desire is not, strictly speaking, held by the analyst. analyst, as if to take it back from him. The analyst is in no position of power or academic knowledge; this makes its position so difficult to identify from both points of view.

3 – the Imaginary

In the direct line of classical conceptions of the imagination which insisted, as Pascal did, on both its deceptive power and its constitutive power, Jacques Lacan recognizes in the imagination its power of illusion, fascination, seduction, that it relates to the specular image and the constitution of the ego by identification, on the one hand, and its effect in the Real, on the other hand. Like Hume, Jacques Lacan sees in the Imaginary the origin of all sorts of illusions: that of embracing the totality, that of making syntheses, of posing autonomies, in particular that of the self, to believe in dualities ( subject / object, exterior / interior, real / unreal), to identify similarities and similarities, to form associations with them. By the Imaginary, we imagine ourselves and we hide the reality. But the Imaginary is not self-sufficient; its affirmative and constitutive dimension is itself braced on the symbolic order.

Jacques Lacan considers the relation of the Imaginary to the Symbolic as, in language, that of the signified to the signifier. Without doubt, because the signified of the linguistic signs is of the order of the Imaginary, unlike the signifier; but also because of the very broad meaning that Jacques Lacan gives to the term “meaning”. Thus, affect can be treated as pertaining to the Imaginary, its signifier structuring it and standing somewhat out of it. The Imaginary is the mode on which we see this plot, whose existence we do not suspect without analytic work; it is the specular inversion, though never immediately understood as such, of the Symbolic.

4 – Enjoyment

This term should not be taken as equivalent to pleasure; he must even be opposed to it, in the manner in which Kojeve noted the difference between Genuss (which is properly enjoyment) and Lust (pleasure).

The pleasure principle functions as a limitation of enjoyment; it is the law that commands the subject to enjoy as little as possible; but, at the same time that he seeks his pleasure by limiting it, the subject tends, no less constantly, to exceed the limits of the pleasure principle. However, this does not result in the expected “more pleasure”, for there is a degree of pleasure that the subject can no longer bear, a painful pleasure that Jacques Lacan calls jouissance (VII, 218). Enjoyment is not a pleasure; she is suffering.

Thus, we understand that, from his symptom, which is suffering, the subject can draw a paradoxical pleasure. “Masochism is the major of the jouissance that gives the Real” (The sinthome, page 90). This concept of jouissance, conceived in this way, gives impetus to three types of considerations.

The first holds the death drive, an expression forged by Freud and attributed by Jacques Lacan, in the seventh book of the Seminary, to the constant desire to go beyond the limits set by the pleasure principle in order to join The Thing and win, thereby, a surplus of enjoyment. Enjoyment is then the “path to death” (XVII, 17-18).

The second is the relationship that enjoyment has with the symbolic structure. No doubt this comparison seems strange, especially if one persists, in Jacques Lacan’s eyes, to understand the drive as an instinct or as a natural force rather than a knowledge. Now “this path, this road, we know it, is ancestral knowledge. And what is this knowledge? If we do not forget that Freud introduces what he calls beyond the pleasure principle, which is not overthrown. Knowledge is what makes life stop at a certain limit to enjoyment. (…) There is a primitive relation of knowledge to jouissance, and it is there that comes to be inserted what arises at the moment when the apparatus appears of what it is of the signifier “.

The third is extremely important to complete the discourse on the difference between the sexes. This difference is basically identification. Man and woman are roles in which the subject is to identify, but the concept of jouissance makes it possible to go beyond what could be considered a rather banal nominalism. No doubt, in the wake of Freud, Lacan posits that jouissance is essentially phallic (XX, 14); However, Jaques Lacan recognizes, in the woman, an additional jouissance, which is held beyond the phallic enjoyment, an ineffable enjoyment of the Other, “which is tested and of which we know nothing” (XX, 71).

5 – Reality, Real

It would be wrong to be narrowly doctrinaire in wanting the word Real to have a single and definite meaning in Lacan; First, as long as Jacques Lacan is Hegelian or believes himself to be such, he admits and repeats that “all that is real is rational” (Writings, 226). However, as early as 1953, when Lacan opposed the Real to the other two orders, the Symbolic and the Imaginary, the Real took on a different meaning; it does not only oppose the Imaginary; it is also what stands beyond the Symbolic. It can well magnetize the Symbolic and be apprehended only through the Symbolic (II, 122): no symbol can fit itself to it. While the Symbolic is composed of terms which oppose each other, according to a game of presence and absence, “there is no absence in the real”; “There is absence only if you suggest that there may be a presence where there is none” (II, 359). While the opposition of absence and presence implies the permanent possibility that something is missing in the symbolic order, the Real, “it is something found in the same place, that one does not have. have not been there or have always been there “(II, 342). Unlike the Symbolic, which is the order of “what can change place”, “for the real, some upheaval that can be brought, it is always and in any case, in its place, it l “take away stuck to his sole, without knowing anything that can exile him” (Writings, 25).

While the Symbolic is a set of discrete and differentiated elements, the Real is, in itself, undifferentiated. “The real is absolutely without cracks” (II, 122). He does not even know the differentiation of the interior and the exterior – “this distinction has no meaning at the level of the real” (II, 122). It is the Symbolic that introduces all sorts of cuts in the real. Thus, the object is the product of the Symbolic. It is in a Berkeleyian spirit, moreover claimed on one of the most subtle points defended by the Bishop of Cloyne (XX, 130), that Jacques Lacan declares: “It is the world of words that creates the world things, at first confounded in the hic et nunc of everything in the making “(Writings, 276).

Through his triad (real-imaginary-symbolic), Jacques Lacan considerably displaces the classical and phenomenological analyzes that impose the subject-object distinction. It appears that this way of thinking will not change much since 1953. The Real is what absolutely resists symbolization or, referring to the Writings, “it is the domain of what remains outside of symbolization” (388). ). Even if Lacan posits that the Real is constituted by “expulsion from the subject” (Writings, 388), the Real should not be confused with the outside world. Jacques Lacan presents the Real as “noise where one can hear everything, and ready to overwhelm with its splinters what the principle of reality builds under the name of the outside world”. Therefore, we understand why the notion of Real will evolve in the sense of impossible. The Real is the impossible, says Book XI of the Seminary, because it is impossible to imagine, to integrate in the order of the symbolic, to reach in one way or another.

However, we must recognize the equivocation of what he calls the Real, especially since, situated beyond the symbols, loving the ethics of desire, it is also at the principle of materialism: “Meaning, nobody does worry about it. This emphasizes the fact that I emphasize, and always forget, that language, that language which is the instrument of speech, is something material “(II, 105). The material substratum of the symbolic and the imaginary is less the biological reality, although it is sometimes so than that of language.

Generally speaking, even if Lacan’s vocabulary is, on this point, rather fluctuating, we must not confuse the Real with the reality of the “reality principle”: “The reality principle is generally introduced by this simple remark that To look too much for pleasure, all sorts of accidents happen. (…) We are told that the pleasure principle is opposed to the reality principle. From our perspective, this obviously takes on another meaning. The reality principle is that the game lasts, that is to say, that the pleasure is renewed, that the fight does not end for lack of fighters. The principle of reality is to take care of our pleasures, those pleasures whose tendency is precisely to arrive at cessation “(II, 107).

6 – Sign

Jacques Lacan owes much of his theory of the sign to Saussure, who held, as we know, the sign for the association resulting from a signifier (acoustic image) and a signified (concept) and represented it in the form of a relation whose signifier is the denominator, and the signified, the numerator. However, this presentation of the isolated sign hardly corresponded to the essential of his teaching, since the sign exists only by difference with other signs, in spite of the illusion that we have spontaneously that the sign can hardly draw its meaning only from his referral to things out of it.

To understand his use of Saussure, which is very out of step with the teaching of the Cours de Linguistique Générale (General Linguistics Course), we must start from the illusion of transcendence that words give and denounce. The illusion that we have the meaning of words related to things is related to the basis of the differentiation of signs from each other in the system of language. This misleading impression is the indication of a more general illusion which makes me falsely attribute meaning to what works in me, believing that it is the situations and things that impose on me; it implies, to be understood in all its extent, a certain number of inflections of the doctrine of the Genevan linguist, of which Freud never makes use, but which nevertheless will allow Lacan’s original reading of Freud. We can take an inventory of these trips.

First, the major opposition is not that of the signifier and the signified, but that of the sign to the signifier. The signified is an effect, more imaginary than symbolic, of the structure of the signifiers. From then on, language is less a system of signs, as Saussure had defined it, than a system of signifiers. The signifiers (denoted S, to which we subscribe an index) are the basic units of language because they are subject to the double condition of being reducible to the ultimate differential elements and to combine according to the laws of a closed order ( IV, 289). There exists, in Lacan, a primacy of the signifier over the signified that did not exist in Saussure (Writings, 467). Thus, Jacques Lacan, while paying homage to Saussure for his formalization, overturns the famous relation of the signified and the signifier and asks that we read “S / s as: signifier on signified, on responding to the bar which separates the two stages (Writings, 497). The game of arrows by which Saussure represented the link between the acoustic image and the concept no longer has any place, since it has become precarious and slippery: the signified has lost all autonomy with respect to the signifier whereas, by a Pleasant inversion, we tend to give him the full meaning. “The signifier actually comes into the signified” (Writings, 500). The signified accompanies the signifier in the most floating manner and it can not constitute the reason for the signifier as the signifier gives the reason of the signified (Writings, 502-503). It is impossible in psychoanalysis to stick to the signified; the meaning is imaginary; it is the production and the toy of the symbolic gear: “The signifier has the effect, in language, of the signified” (XI, 278). It is in this sense and to the extent that “the signifier is not immaterial” (Écrits, 500, 301), that one can speak of a Lacan materialism, claimed by the author, moreover.

In forging the sign, the signifier, and the signified, Saussure intended to give a strict account of the linguistic sign; he was aware that linguistics was only a region of the wider domain of a general science of the sign. Now, in Lacan, this apparatus, reinterpreted as we have seen, allows a prodigious generalization: it is not the only acoustic images or traces on paper that can become signifiers; all that is likely to enter into a closed system and to behave differentially can become signifying: “object, relation, symptomatic acts” (IV, 289). No doubt it is through language that the signifiers are best tracked, but the signifiers of which Jacques Lacan speaks are neither exclusively nor essentially linguistic. Any representation can take the status of signifier; It is thus that the objects of desire, which seem to us to be the magnet, are in fact riddled with representations of a “signifying chain” which makes the subject constantly turn in the same cycles without to perceive it; then, perhaps, by noticing it; finally, trying otherwise to escape the circular process, at least to increase the radius of the circles a little.

This does not mean, of course, that desire, or any other act and psychic movement, is language; rather, it is a methodological position, emphasized by Jacques Lacan, who insists on the revolution introduced in the sciences of his time by linguistics (Writings, 496-497). But the signifiers and their chain are not mere methodical representations either, as can the topological fictions of the author. They have a “real” consistency in the psyche of which they constitute nature, which does not mean that they signify something by themselves, without their opposition to others: “Every signifier is, as such, a signifier that does not mean anything “(III, 210). But the symbolic order does not exhaust the reality of things and psyche, of what Jacques Lacan calls the Real: it is even by the symbolic order that appears everywhere, in things, this emptiness that must be managed. to conceal themselves, to create, to recreate, by interminably and indefinitely taking all kinds of figures, all kinds of subjective forms. Moreover, when Lacan speaks of “signifying chain”, one is actually far from the Saussurian model: even though the language evolves historically in Saussure, it does not fail to behave globally, at each moment of time, as a system closed. Now, how would this be the case of the signifying chain? Although it turns on itself, it remains open at every moment for new elements to come to add to it, in an indefinite sequence, the reason of which is, for the ordinary, an astonishing stability.

7 – Subject

The term is one of the most interesting to follow in Lacan’s work. No doubt it does not mean more than “to be human” or, more specifically, it means the analysand, in the first works. But, as early as 1945, Jacques Lacan distinguished three meanings of the word “subject” which he made play between them. “The first, which expresses itself in the” on “of” we know that … “, gives only the general form of the noetic subject. (…) The second (…) introduces the form of the other as such, that is to say, as pure reciprocity, since one recognizes oneself only in the other “; he is “the” I “, subject of the conclusive assertion” or, as Lacan says, “the essential (rather than existential) logical form of the psychological ” I “.

“Finally, the assertive judgment is manifested by an act” (Writings, 207-208). It is essentially this third meaning that Lacan will now deepen, to bring him a first major distinction, which logically appears when the author emphasizes the division of the subject: that of the ego and the subject of the ‘unconscious.

The subject is never what he imagines himself to be; the ego is the product of these imaginary or specular illusions. The human being can not undergo anything or do anything without imagining the principle of what he undergoes and does as if this condition of imaginary possibility could explain anything of what he undergoes or does. The ego is produced to defend against a threatening inconsistency and to substitute a coherence of fiction. The subject is the symbolic part, quite insensitive and unconscious, but really active to produce unity. The true subject, then, is not the fantastic ego which beliefs itself to be constitutive, but which is actually produced by the successive images of these alienations; it is the subject of the unconscious, which is produced by language or, more exactly, by the signifiers of language. The signifiers are not produced by the subject, although he can imagine it; they are what constitutes it: “The unconscious desire is what the one wants, that which holds the unconscious discourse” (Brussels Conferences, p.6); and, a little further, p. 19: “What the unconscious shows, indeed, is that this signifying structure is already there before the subject speaks and, with it, makes itself a bearer of any truth, nor claiming any recognition. This subject finds its cause in the effect of language. “By this effect, he is not the cause of himself, he carries within himself the worm of the cause that breaks it. For its cause is the signifier without which there would be no subject in the Real. But this subject is what the signifier represents, and it can represent nothing but for another signifier, from which the listener is reduced. This subject, therefore, we do not talk to him. It speaks of him, and it is there that he apprehends, and all the more inevitably because before that it is addressed to him, he disappears as a subject under the signifier that he becomes, he does not was absolutely nothing “(Writings, 835, Seminaire XI, 142). Subjectivity is the figure that what Lacan calls “the passion of the signifier” [(Writings, 688, see the comparable expression, Brussels Conferences [BC], 19].

For the other, imaginary subject, the one that “contemporary psychology – egopsychology – considers as a function of synthesis at a time and of integration” [CB, 3], it is only too obvious that it functions in mirror and that it could not be the base of an ethics: “It is autonomous! This one is very good “(Writings, 421). It’s not that the ego is unusable in the analysis; there can be no analysis without this game on the becoming of the ego (Writings, 305); but his autonomy is fallacious.

Thus, Lacan is a very little case of autonomy, it refers to the imaginary. It falsely creates meaning; Now it is proper to observe that, perhaps, it is as discourse is more deprived of intention that it can be confused with one, the truth, the very presence of the truth in the Real, in an impenetrable form “[CB, 7].

But then, if the autonomy is imaginary, how does one hear the famous formula of Freud: Wo Es war, soll Ich Werden [Where was the Id, the I must become]? Jacques Lacan emphasizes, in his Writings (416-417), the topical character of the sentence and makes appear as a misinterpretation the call to autonomy that one often wanted to see there: “It appears here that it is instead: Wo, where Es, subject devoid of any das or another objectifying article, war, was, it is of a place of being that it is and that in this place: soll, it is a duty in the moral sense that it announces, (…) Ich, I, there must I (as one announced: it is I, before one says: it is me) werden, become, c that is to say, not to arise, nor even to come, but to come to the day of this very place as it is a place to be. It is these topical considerations which will be studied a little further and which will allow Lacan to say, against the philosophical Cogito, “which makes modern man so sure of being self in his uncertainties about himself” (Writings, 517), that “I think where I am not” (effect that language realizes at all times), “therefore I am where I do not think” (the existence of the subject becoming a kind of blind spot of language ).

It is important to note that, as early as 1957, Jacques Lacan bar the symbol S to produce the crossed-out subject, intended to represent the fact that the subject is essentially divided.

8 – Symbolic

Unlike Freud who, in The Interpretation of Dreams, had restricted the use and interpretation of symbols to a very limited part of psychoanalysis, and confined them to a rather poor function of lexicon, which corresponds to symbols of very stereotyped meanings, Lacan gives a prodigious extension to the symbolic, following an indication of Levi-Strauss who, in Structural Anthropology, held the unconscious “reducible to the symbolic function”. “Is it not sensible that a Levi-Strauss, by suggesting the implication of the structures of language and of that part of the social laws which regulates the alliance and the kinship, already conquers the very ground where Freud sits the unconscious? (Writings, 285). The change of extension and modality is perceptible in the passage of an adjective use of the word (when it admits that the symptoms have a symbolic meaning or, with Mauss, that the structures of society are symbolic) to its nominal use or substantive. The Symbolic then becomes one of the three orders, with the Real and the Imaginary; perhaps the most crucial of these three orders, since the Real will be little more than an unspeakable beyond of the Symbolic and the Imaginary than a below, in that all the manifestations of the Imaginary are explicable and determined by the Symbolic. This is why psychoanalysis cannot be satisfied with an upheaval of the Imaginary, which is certainly effective, but which it intends to pursue to the symbolic order which is the foundation of the subject.

The Symbolic is of the order of language, but it is in the sense that Levi-Strauss thought that kinship relations and the exchange of goods were structured like a language. From this language, Jacques Lacan retains the identifying elements and extends, beyond the elements of the language, the possibility of treating as signifiers all that can be constituted as a game of oppositions and to be characterized by a kind of autonomy.

The symbolic order is not founded in nature or in a subject. It is he who is the foundation of nature, of the subject, as of the Imaginary, although it does not appear to us as such. The Symbolic has the effect of the Real and is taken for such reason, on the one hand, of its systematic and structural character, on the other hand, of its independence from the Real, which it seeks to seize and that he tries to chant, according to his own rhythm and his own oppositions. The externality effect of the Symbolic with respect to the subject is obtained by the fact that the Symbolic is radically related to the Other.

It must not be said, however, that the Real is entirely linguistic; the reverse of the Symbolic, it is not, on the contrary, not at all. Simply Jacques Lacan thinks that there is a kind of illusion of the Symbolic that pushes the subject to attribute existence to what he imagines through words, which encloses the subject in a universe from which he cannot escape (II, 43), because it is closed and seems without history, seems to turn it in cycles bordered by death, emptiness, lack. “The error – as Lacan describes it – Is to believe that what science constitutes by the intervention of the symbolic function has always been there, that it is given. Now the given is only the projected shadow of the Symbolic on the Real. “This error exists in all knowledge, as long as it is only a crystallization of symbolic activity, and once constituted it forgets it” (II, 29). Jacques Lacan notes subtly that it is safe to forget it in most sciences; “But we analysts, we cannot forget, who work in the dimension of this truth in the nascent state” (ibid).

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