Should We Re-Study Lacan?

I have never trusted Lacan and I still suspect he is not worth the investment it would take to understand him, but then again my first intellectual question ever was about the mutual influence of language and thought in the field of consciousness. Were language and thought two aspects of one thing, or two discrete things imbricated with one another? I tended to think there was thought before language, but noted that when I had acquired language, my thoughts had changed profoundly. I perceived that my consciousness had experienced both gains and losses in this process: there were awarenesses I had lost, but also perceptions and thoughts I could not have produced without language.

This was my research question when I about three. I gave some thought as to which adult I should ask, and decided on my father. My mother, I had observed, was closely associated with things, whereas my father had expertise in words. He said he did not know the answer, but that this was question I could pose in my disseration research. There was a good deal of source material on this question in French, he said. I might consider learning French as part of my pursuit of it.

I learned French and wrote a rather different dissertation which was, nevertheless, at least obliquely related my original question. And we can certainly see the Lacanian resonances in my original inquiry. But I did not take Lacan seriously because of his authoritarianism and his emphasis on the “phallus.” Also, becoming a true expert in him and reading all of his texts would have extended my time to degree beyond the funding period.

However, we can read a few things now:

What is the role of perspective [syntax] and the language in psychoanalysis? In Lacan and Kristeva human beings are characterized as subjects who must operate in a field of signs that will influence them to adopt particular identities and linguistic conventions. Both see this positionality and our acquired social habits as profound determinates for thought and action. Kristeva argues that, in the case of language, our concepts are formed at least in part by the language we use to describe our experiences of being. Our conscious and unconscious work in harmony to provide a coherent description of the world that helps us to navigate through multiple social roles.

And:

1. Explain Lacan’s idea of syntax in your own words.

2. What does Lacan mean when he states that the subject is always “in process?”

3. How does the symbolic order influence subjects?

And:

The knowing the analyst listens to issues from the articulation of what the analysand says, not of what he thinks. Don’t we read a text without paying too much attention to what the author thinks about it? If the author is an effect of the text, this is because the latter is a product.

Language produces a text of which the author is the effect. In Jacques Lacan the old ideology of expression is subverted, that of imitation and reflection as well. Unconscious knowledge, the articulation of desire in language, implies that the word does not express the subject any more than it reflects the world.

Starting from the idea that language is an instrument, one was forced to conclude that language should communicate knowledge, should express the subject, should reflect reality. The discovery that language does not communicate knowledge imposes the idea that language is badly made; the discovery that the subject does not express itself implies that the subject is deceitful; the discovery that language does not reflect reality leads one to the ineffable. At once, evil, falsehood, and mystery are introduced. Wouldn’t such bitter conclusions imply that the premises are false? In fact, language jouis. And what is worse, it jouis behind the speaker’s back, with no concern for his well-being.

Sleep, delirium, lapse: discourse of the unconscious that has no other purpose — says Freud — but satisfaction. It raves about what it jouis as much as it jouis that about which it raves, even though the subject ought to repress it. Does the suggestion that the poet is devoured by the verse not come from Plato?

Axé.

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4 Responses to Should We Re-Study Lacan?

  1. scratchy888 says:

    It’s a very off conclusion that Lacan and the postmodernist ilk draw.

    I think that they start off with a leftwing analysis of personal powerlessness, and end up with a right wing reconciliation of this condition, through religion.

    Perhaps this all stems from the fact that Lacan was a bad scholar of Bataille, and misappropriated Bataille’s concept of ‘nonknowledge’ – a term which he used in the sense that Nietzsche uses terms (ironically) in order to entice people away from the dominant social order and its lures of power through ‘knowledge’. Bataille was semi-humorously proclaiming, “Let’s prefer not to know, so that we can avoid buying into a system of mastery which only ends up with us being mastered by our own reason.”

    So Bataille tried to invent a religion which he called an “unfinished system of nonknowledge’. It would be kind of like the Yin to society’s masterful Yang — people lying down or acting up and saying, “I don’t want to know about your knowledge!” This could be revolutionary.

    But Lacan kind of turns the whole thing back towards the right, with the kind of gesture: “Well we are impotent, sure — but hey, it’s a religious experience!”

  2. profacero says:

    This is astute and it shows, once again, that I have to read Bataille.

  3. profacero says:

    THIS, BY THE WAY, DESCRIBES REEDUCATION:

    It’s a very off conclusion that Lacan and the postmodernist ilk draw.

    I think that they start off with a leftwing analysis of personal powerlessness, and end up with a right wing reconciliation of this condition, through religion.

    But Lacan kind of turns the whole thing back towards the right, with the kind of gesture: “Well we are impotent, sure — but hey, it’s a religious experience!”

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