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The Seminars of Jacques Lacan
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1959-1960
Le séminaire, Livre VII: L'éthique de la psychanalyse.
French: French: (texte établi par Jacques-Alain Miller), Paris: Seuil, 1986.
English: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis (edited by Jacques-Alain Miller), New York: Norton, 1992.

At the root of the ethics is desire, but a desire marked by the "fault". Analysis' only promise is austere: it is "the entrance into-the-I," l'entrée-en-Je. "I must come to the place where the Id was," where the analysand discovers, in its absolute nakedness, the truth of his desire. The end of the cure is then the purification of desire. Lacan makes three statements: one is only guilty of "having given in on one's desire"; "the hero is the one who can be betrayed with impunity"; goods exist, but "there is no other good than the one that can pay the price of the access to desire," a desire that is only valid insofar as it is desire to know. Lacan laudes Oedipus at Colonus who calls down curses before dying, and he associates him with Antigone, walled up alive, who has not given in at all. Both have rejected the right to live in order to enter the "in-between-two-deaths," - entre-deux-morts - that is immortality.
Since Le désir et son intépretation, the analysis of the son's passion (subject) has become more pressing. Who is the Father? Here is the terrible Father of the primal horde (Freud's Totem and Taboo); Luther's God with "his eternal hatred against men, a hatred that existed even before the world was born"; the father of the law who, as to Saint Paul, leads to temptation: "For me, the very commandment - Thou shall not covet - which should lead to life has proved to be death to me. For sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, seduced me and by it killed me." Lacan adds, "I have put the Thing in the place of sin," denouncing the complicity between the law and the Thing, "which is called Evil." But what is the Thing against which the Father cannot or does not know how to defend himself? It has nothing to do with the object, which is created by words. It is the outside signifier and also the hostile outside signified: a mute reality prior to primal repression that puts in its place the pure signifying web without being able to hide it. It is the center of the unconscious but it is excluded; it is the Real but always represented by an emptiness, the nonthing, l'a chose, the nothing, a hole in the Real from which the Word, the Signifier, creates the world. It is the place of deadly jouissance sanctioned by the prohibition of incest. It is associated with the mother who represents it by her manifest carnality, and with woman who, idealized in courtly love, speaks the truth: "I am nothing but the emptiness which is in my cloaca." The idea of a distorted sexuality meets the 70s mantra: "There is no such thing as a sexual rapport." Woman, who is the other, bears the burden of the curse, although the Thing is settled at the heart of all subjects who have to recognize it. Who am I? "You are the waste that falls in the world through the devil's anus." However, salvation holds on by a thread: the theme of the exquisiteness of the son's love for the father would be amplified in D'un Autre à l'autre. This father is a symbolic Father, he is all the more present for being absent, a Father without a body or the glorious body of signifiers, a father who can only be the object of an act of faith, for: there is no Other of the Other" to guarantee him. Sublimation is an attempt to confront the Thing: true love for one's neighbor consists in recognizing in him, as in oneself, the place and the wound of the Thing. As for disbelief, by rejecting the Thing it makes it reappear in the Real, which is the Lacanian definition of psychosis.
If ethical thought "is at the centre of our work as analysts," then, in the cure, ethics converges from two sides. On the side of the analysand is the problem of guilt and the pathogenic nature of civilised morality. Freud conceives of a basic conflict between the demands of civilised morality and the essentially amoral sexual drives of the patient. If morality takes the upper hand and the drives are too intense to be sublimated, sexuality is either expressed in perverse forms or repressed. Freud further develops this idea in his theory of an unconscious sense of guilt and in his concept of the superego, that interior moral agency which becomes crueler to the extent that the ego submits to its demands. The analyst, on the other hand, has to deal with the pathogenic morality and unconscious guilt of the patient and with the ethical problems that arise in the cure.
Lacan addresses the issue of how the analyst will respond to the patient's sense of guilt by arguing that he must take it seriously, for whenever the patient feels guilty it is because he has given way to his desire: "the only thing of which one can be guilty is of having given ground relative to one's desire." As to the pathogenic morality acting through the superego, Lacan asserts that psychoanalysis is not a libertine ethos. The ethical position of the analyst is revealed by the way that he formulates the goal of the cure. Ego-psychology, for instance, proposes a normative ethics in the adaptaion of the ego to reality. Lacan opposes this stance and devises an ethics relating action to desire: "Have you acted in conformity with the desire that is in you?"
Traditional ethics (Aristotle, Kant) revolves around the concept of the Good, where different goods compete for the position of Supreme Good. Lacanian ethics see the Good as an obstacle in the path of desire, thus "a repudiation of the idea of Good is necessary." It also rejects ideals, such as health and happiness. Traditional ethics tends to link the good to pleasure: moral thought has "developed along the paths of an hedonistic problematic." Lacan does not take such an approach because psychoanalytic experience has revealed the duplicity of pleasure: there is a limit to pleasure, and when it is transgressed, it becomes pain. Jouissance is the paradoxical satisfaction that the subject derives from his symptom, the suffering he derives from his satisfaction. Finally traditional ethics puts work and a safe, ordered existence before questions of desire by telling people to make their desires wait. Lacan forces the subject to confront the relation between his actions and his desire in the immediacy of the present.
Lacan introduces the notion of das Ding, the Thing, via the opposition between the pleasure principle and the principle of reality, this opposition, however, is deluding since the latter is but a modification of the former. Two are the contexts where das Ding operates. Firstly there is Freud's distinction between Wortvorstellungen, word-presentations, and Sachvorstellungen, thing-presentations. The two types are bound together in the preconscious-conscious system, whereas in the unconscious only thing-presentations are found. This seems to contradict the linguistic nature of the unconscious. Lacan counters the objection by pointing out that there are two words in German for "thing": das Ding and die Sache. Freud employs the latter to refer to the thing-presentations in the unconscious, and if at one level Sachvorstellungen and Wortvorstellungen are opposed, on the symbolic level they go together. Die Sache is the representation of a thing in the symbolic, whereas das Ding is the thing in the real, which is "the beyond-of-the-signified." Thing-presentations found in the unconscious are of linguistic nature, as opposed to das Ding, which is outside language and outside the unconscious. "The Thing is characterized by the fact that it is impossible for us to imagine it."
Yet,in relation to jouissance, as well as being the object of language, das Ding is the object of desire. It is the lost object which must be continually looked for, the unforgettable Other, the forbidden object of incestuous desire, the mother. The Thing appears to the subject as the Supreme Good, but if the subject trangresses the pleasure principle and attains it, it is experienced as suffering or/and evil because the subject "cannot stand the extreme good that das Ding may bring on him." It would seem then fortunately that the Thing is usually inaccessible.

 

1960-1961
Le séminaire, Livre VIII: Le transfert (dans sa disparité subjective).
French: (texte établi par Jacques-Alain Miller), Paris: Seuil, 1991.
English: unpublished

In La relation d'objet Lacan provided a way of understanding the paradoxical function of transference in the analytical cure. In its symbolic aspect (repetition) it helps the cure progress by revealing the signifiers of the subject's history. He argues that in its imaginary aspect (love and hate) it acts as a resistance. He uses Plato's The Symposium to illustrate the rapport between analysand and analyst: Alcibiades compares Socrates to a box enclosing a precious object, agalma. Just as Alcibiades attributes a hidden treasure to Socrates, so too the patient sees his object of desire in the analyst. Lacan articulates the objet a with agalma, the object of desire we seek in the other.
Before, the emphasis was placed on repetition, now it is placed on transference love, amour de transfert: both are inseparable, but the perspective changes. To insist on repetition means to refuse to see in the analytic situation an intersubjective rapport to be dealt with here and now. What speech constructed in the past can be deconstructed in the cure by speech: the cure is "pure symbolic experience." On the individual level, it allows for "the reshaping of the imaginary," on the theorethical level for an intersubjective logic to be constructed. Thus, analysis is described as a particular experience of desire, on the side of sexuality. Speech has an effect only after transference. For Lacan "it is from the position that transference bestows the analyst with that he intervenes in transference itself," and "transference is interpreted on the basis of and with the aid of transference itself." In "The direction of the treatment and the principles of its power" (Écrits: A Selection) Lacan presented countertransference as a resistance of the analyst and raised the problem of the analyst's desire. Here, subjective disparity becomes the rule establishing dissymmetry between the two protagonists vis-à-vis desire: what the patient will discover through the disappointment of transference love. Because in the cure one learns to talk instead of making love, in the end desire, which has been purified, is but the empty place where the barred subject accesses desire. We should note that training analysis does not put the analyst beyond passion; to believe that it does would mean that all passions stem from the unconscious, a notion that Lacan rejects. The better analysed the analyst is, the more likely he is to be in love with, or be quite repulsed by, the analysand. In training-analysis there will be a mutation in the economy of desire in the analyst-to-be: desire will be restructured, so that it will be stronger than passions. Lacan calls it the desire proper to the analyst.
In The Symposium the analyst's position is identified with Socrates', while Alcibiades occupies the position of the analysand, who after Socrates will discover himself desiring. "To isolate oneself with another so as to teach him what he is lacking and, by the nature of transference, he will learn what he is lacking insofar as he loves: I am not here for his Good, but for him to love me, and for me to disappoint him."
Alcibiades desires because he presumes Socrates is in possession of the agalma - the phallus as desirable. But Socrates refuses the position of loved object to assert himself as desiring. For Lacan desire never occurs between two subjects but between a subject and an overvalorized being who has fallen to the state of an object. The only way to discover the other as subject is "to recognize that he speaks an articulated language and responds to ours with his own combinations; the other cannot fit into our calculations as someone who coheres like us." Socrates, by shying away from Alcibiades' declaration, by refusing to mask his lack with a fetish, and by showing him Agathon as the true object of his love, shows the analyst how to behave: such is the other aspect of "subjective disparity" taking place in analysis. There is no rapport between what the one possesses and what the other lacks. The phallus, from being objet a, the imaginary object, emerges as the signifier of signifiers, as "the only signifier that deserves the role of symbol. It designates the real presence that permits identification, the origin of the Ideal-of-the-Ego on the side of the Other." There is a woman in The Symposium, Diotima, who speaks in the form of myth. In the fable where female lack is confronted with male resources, the feminine first has an active role before the desirable masculine. The reversal occurs because in love one only gives what one does not have: the masculine, by shying away from the demand, is revealed as a subject of desire. Later, Lacan would make Socrates the model of hysterical discourse, but also of analytic discourse because he attains the knowledge, the episteme, of love.
Having managed to provoke "a mutation in the economy of his desire," the analyst has access both to the unconscious and to the experience of the unconscious because, like Socrates, he has confronted the desire for death and achieved the "between-two-deaths" - entre-deux-morts. Having placed the signifier in the position of the absolute, he has abolished "fear and trembling." "One puts one's desire aside so as to preserve what is the most precious, the phallus, the symbol of desire." Desire is only its empty place.

 

1961-1962
Le séminaire, Livre IX: L'identification.
French: unpublished.
English: unpublished

In Le transfert Lacan describes symbolic identification as identification with the signifier. Here, he examines the rapport of the subject to the signifier. In the three types of identification isolated by Freud in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921, S.E. XVIII), he finds:

1. A primitive identification with the father as such based on a single feature: the matrix of the Ideal-of-the-Ego, a symbolic introjection of the father's mark, "An identity of body links the Father of all times to all those who descend from Him."
2. A regressive identification in love relations: the object refuses itself, therefore the subject identifies with the object (one centered around objet a and the phallus).
3. An hysterical identification where the subject recognizes in the other his global situation.

By asserting the identification of the signifier and the identification with the signifier, Lacan brings about a new category consisting in the first two and centered on the rapport to the Father and to the phallus. It becomes crucial to institute the subject in his rapport to the signifier - to the signifier alone. To mark the difference between the preverbal and the verbal Lacan points at his dog, Justine, who has speech but not language: insofar as she speaks, she never takes him for an other, she is not capable of transference and lives in the demand. In "The agency of the letter in the unconscious or reason since Freud" (Écrits: A Selection) he refers to the language of the affect and of the body as the "nonhuman" aspect of those who "do not have language." The only salvation lies in "the signifying identification" where the preverbal is articulated within the subject's relation to the word.
In "The agency of the letter..." the signifier is turned into an inscription in the unconscious, a seal, which in L'identification becomes the "unbroken line," trait unaire, a symbolic term which is to produce the ego-ideal. Though this trait may originate as a sign, it becomes a signifier when incorporated into a signifying system: identification raises the question of the identical. Can it be said that A = A? No, for there already is a difference due to repetition: hence A A. Against the One of totality, Lacan institutes the 1 as the single mark, the unbroken line, made by mere repetition. The signifier has a unity only insofar as it is that which all the other ones are not, insofar as it is pure difference: the One as such is the Other. There is no tautology in expressions such as "war is war" or "Lacan is Lacan." The real thing has nothing to do with this, it is the same signifier that functions to connote pure difference, for, in repetition, the signifier represents the subject for another signifier and not for some one. The identification of the signifier and the identification with the signfier closely mingle. Formal logic, the study of the proper name, the complex grammar of negation... everything works toward defining the unbroken line as "a return, the seizing of the origin of a counting before the number." The phallus as the symbolic mark is at the origin since "narcissism and incorporation should be located in the direction of the Father and not in the direction of the parasited mother's body." Lacan's response to the problem of the origin (the chicken or the egg?) is the rooster, the signifier that makes the rooster, the letter or unbroken line. His project is to create "a topological structure of the subject."
To whomever asks, "What is the truth of your discourse?", Lacan answers: "I am an analyst, and as such, I have to to disappoint you, I don't tell the truth about truth." "I can take you very far on the path of the 'who am I' without the truth of what I am telling you being guaranteed, but nevertheless, in what I am telling you, it is still a matter of truth."

 

1962-1963
Le séminaire, Livre X: L'angoisse.
French: (texte établi par Jacques-Alain Miller), Paris: Seuil, 2004.
English: unpublished.

Lacan states that in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety (1926, S.E. XX) Freud speaks of everything but anxiety just "to leave the emptiness in which there is anxiety." This affect, related to the structure of the subject, is not repressed but adrift; only the signifiers that anchor it are repressed. For Lacan anxiety, angoisse, is not without an object, but this object is unknown. Since anxiety is linked to desire, and fantasy is the support of desire, the starting point is the fantasme elaborated in the Graph of Desire in Les formations de l'inconscient: $<>a (Subject barred by the signifier/relation to/objet a, which is the object of desire, the imaginary part-object, an element imagined as separable from the rest of the body). He then proceeds to define objet a which relates anxiety with desire.
Objet a is the cause of desire, not its aim. On one hand, it is "the residue of division when the subject is marked by the 'unbroken line' of the signifier in the field of the Other." Objet a is different from the a of the mirror stage, it is not specular; neither is it "visible in what continues for the subject the image of his desire." It is what is lost during the original constitution of the subject where the Father is primary. If we consider the body, objet a is not created by the separation from the mother, but from the separation from the body proper. Objet a is the placenta, l'hommelette, and even the breast tied to the subject and detached from the mother. They are all objects of desire for us, and there is no anxiety for the woman. In a system centered on the signifier, objet a seems to be the irreducible Real, "a lack which the symbol does not fill in," a "real deprivation."
On the other hand, anxiety arises when lack comes to be lacking. It is not nostalgia for the material breast, but the threat of its imminence. Lacan uses Jone's analysis of the nightmare, "this being, the incubus, who weighs on our chest with his opaque weight of foreign jouissance," "who crushes the subject under his jouissance," and who is "a questioner." Anxiety, like desire, is linked to the Other, to the jouissance and to the demand of the Other. Lacan links it to the terrible commandment of the Father-God: "Jouis!" For instance, what or whose apparition does for the sudden gap of an opening window (The Wolf Man)? An uncanny strangeness or familiarity, it is the horror of the Thing against which only desire and law combined are able to protect us. This takes place when the subject loses the support of the lack that allows him to constitute himself: - Φ (the phallus as symbol of lack). It is difficult to situate - Φ and objet a in their mutual rapport. The phallus is sometimes the agalma, and sometimes an operating libidinal reserve that saves the subject from the fascination of the part object. Hence, the importance granted to symbolic castration in front of "the father's opaque and ungraspable desire," a castration at the origin of the law.
Anxiety, then, is an affect, not an emotion; the only affect which is beyond all doubt and which is not deceptive. Whereas Freud distinguishes between fear (focused on a specific object) and anxiety (which is not), Lacan posits anxiety as not without an object: it simply involves a different kind of object, one that cannot be symbolized as other objects are. This object is objet a, the object-cause-of-desire, and anxiety arises when something fills the place of it, when the subject is confronted by the desire of the Other and does not know what object he is for that desire. Also Lacan links anxiety to lack. All desire springs from lack, and anxiety appears when this lack is in itself lacking: "anxiety is the lack of a lack." Anxiety is not the absence of the breast, it is rather the possibility of its absence which saves the subject from anxiety. Acting out and passage to the act are last defenses against anxiety
And what happens in the cure? How can the analyst measure how much anxiety a patient can bear? How may the analyst deal with his own anxiety? The desire of the analyst is here involved and he has to institute, along with anxiety, the - Φ, an emptiness whose function is structural.

 

1964
Le séminaire, Livre XI: Les quatre concepts fondamentaux de la psychanalyse.
French: (texte établi par Jacques-Alain Miller), Paris: Seuil, 1973.
English: Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (edited by Jacques-Alain Miller), New York: Norton, 1978.

January 15 1964, marks the opening session of the seminars at the École Nationale Supérieure where, in the presence of celebrities (Lévi-Strauss, Althusser, Fernand Braudel) and a new younger audience, Lacan talks about the censorship of his teachings and his excommunication from official psychoanalytical circles. He wants to train analysts and, at the same time, address the non-analyst by raising the following questions: Is psychoanalysis a science? If so, under what conditions? If it is - the "science of the unconscious" or a "conjectural science of the subject" - what can it teach us about science?
Praxis, which "places the subject in a position of dealing with the real through the symbolic," produces concepts; four are offered here: the unconscious, repetition, transference and the drive. The 1973 title has often been contested in favor of the 1964's: Les fondements de la psychanalyse, which implies neither that it is a matter of concepts, nor that there are only four of them. Lacan is suspicious of the rapport between psychoanalysis, religion and science. Did they not have a founding father and quasi-secret texts? Freud was "legitimately the subject presumed to know," at least as to the unconscious: "He was not only the subject who was presumed to know, he knew." "He gave us this knowledge in terms that may be said to be indestructible." "No progress has been made that has not deviated whenever one of the terms has been neglected around which Freud ordered the ways that he traced and the paths of the unconscious." This declaration of allegiance contrasts with the study of Freud's dream about the dead son screaming "Father, can't you see I'm burning?" The main problem remains that of transference: the Name-of-the-Father is a foundation, but the legacy of the Father is sin, and the original sin of psychoanalysis is Freud's desire that was not analyzed. In "The Freudian thing" (Écrits: A Selection), Lacan presents the Name-of-the-Father as a treasure to be found, provided it implies self-immolation as a sacrificial victim to truth.
Of the four concepts mentioned, three were developed between 1953 and 1963. As to drives, whose importance has increased since the study of objet a in L'angoisse, Lacan considers them as different from biological needs in that they can never be satisfied. The purpose of the drive is not to reach a goal (a final destination) but to follow its aim (the way itself), which is to circle round the object. The real source of jouissance is the repetitive movement of this closed circuit. Freud defined Trieb as a montage of four discontinuous elements: "Drive is not thrust (Drang); in Triebe und Triebschicksale (1915, S.E. XIV) Freud distinguishes four terms in the drive: Drang, thrust; Quelle, the source; Objekt, the object; Ziel, the aim. Such a list may seem quite natural; my purpose is to prove that the text was written to show that it is not as natural as that." The drive is a thoroughly cultural and symbolic construct. Lacan integrates the aforementioned elements into the drive's circuit, which originates in an erogenous zone, circles the object and returns to the erogenous zone. This circuit is structured by the three grammatical voices:
1. the active (to see)
2. the reflexive (to see oneself)
3. the passive (to make oneself be seen).
The first two are autoerotic; only in the passive voice a new subject appears, "this subject, the other, appears in so far as the drive has been able to show its circular course." The drive is always active, which is why he writes the third instance as "to make oneself be seen" instead of "to be seen."
Lacan rejects the notion that partial drives can attain any complete organization since the primacy of the genital zone is always precarious. The drives are partial, not in the sense that they are a part of a whole (a genital drive), but in that they only represent sexuality partially: they convey the dimension of jouissance. "The reality of the unconscious is sexual reality - an untenable truth," much as it cannot be separated from death. "Objet a is something from which the subject, in order to constitute itself, has separated itself off as organ. This serves as symbol of the lack, of the phallus, not as such, but in so far as it is lacking. It must be an object that is separable and that has some rapport to the lack. At the oral level, it is the nothing; at the anal level, it is the locus of the metaphor - one object for another, give the feces in place of the phallus - the anal drive is the domain of the gift; at the scopic level, we are no longer at the level of demand, but of desire, of the desire of the Other; it is the same at the level of the invocatory drive, which is the closest to the experience of the unconscious." The first two relate to demand, the second pair to desire. Under the form of objet a, Lacan groups all the partial drives linked to part objects: the breast, feces, the penis, and he adds the gaze and the voice. Here, he asserts the split between the eye and the gaze when he analyzes Holbein's The Ambassadors as a "trap for the gaze" (piège à regards), but also as a dompte-regard (the gaze is tamed by an object) and a trompe-l'oeil. In the foreground, a floating object, a phallic ghost object gives presence to the - Φ of castration. This object is the heart of the organization of desire through the framework of the drives.
In "La Lettre vol�e" (Écrits) Lacan states that "the unconscious is the discourse of the Other," meaning that "one should see in the unconscious the effects of speech on the subject." The unconscious is the effect of the signifier on the subject - the signifier is what gets repressed and what returns in the formations of the unconscious. How then is it possible to reconcile desire linked to the signifier and to the Other with the libido, now an organ under the shape of the "lamella," the placenta, the part of the body from which the subject must separate in order to exist? A new conception of repetition comes into play, whose functionning stems from two forces: automatism on the side of the signifier and the missed yet desired encounter on the side of the drive, where objet a refers to the "impossible" Real (that as such cannot be assimilated). If transference is the enactment (la mise en acte) of the reality of the unconscious - what Lacan's deconstruction of the drive wants to bring to light - if desire is the nodal point where the motion of the unconscious, an untenable sexual reality, is also at work, what is to be done? The analyst's role is to allow the drive "to be made present in the reality of the unconscious": he must fall from the idealized position so as to become the upholder of objet a, the separating object.

 

1964-1965
Le séminaire, Livre XII: Problèmes cruciaux pour la psychanalyse.
French: unpublished.
English: unpublished.

For Lacan the fundamental problem is that of the subject's relation to language. However, taking into account the Real - from the trilogy of the Symbolic, the Imaginary and the Real - modifies the situation. Previously, the crucial issues were the rapports between identification, transference and demand; now the queston "will entail the holding out of a form, of an essential topology for analytic praxis." The signifier returns as structured on the Moebius strip with three forms of the hole, the torus or ring, the cross-cap, and Euler's circles as the maze of the torus or of the spiral of the demand on the surface of the Klein bottle. These figure though constructed in a simple and combinatory way, are nevertheless complicated to comment.
The torus ia a ring, a three dimensional object formed by taking a cylinder and joining the two ends together. The topology of the torus illustrates some analogies against the structure of the subject: its centre of gravity falls outside its volume, just as the centre of the subject is outside, being decentered (ex-centric). The "peripheral and central exteriority of the torus constitutes one single region." Psychoanalysis posits the distinction between container and contained much as the unconscious is not a purely interior psychic system but an intersubjective structure, "the unconscious is outside" - extimité. A common concept of structure implies the opposition between directly observable contingencies and deep phenomena, which are not the object of immediate experience. Lacan disagrees with such an opposition as implicit in the structure. He rejects the notion of observable contingencies, since observation is always already theoretical; and he also rejects the idea that structures are somehow distant from experience, since thay are present in the field of experience itself: the unconscious is on the surface and looking for it in the dephts is to miss it. As the two sides of the Moebius strip are continuous, so structure is continuous with phenomena.
Thus, the Moebius strip subverts our normal (Euclidean) way of representing space, for it seems to have two sides but in fact has only one. The two sides are distinguished by the dimension of time, the time it takes to traverse the whole strip. The figure illustrates how psychoanalysis problematizes binary oppositions (love/hate, inside/out, signifier/signified, truth/appearance): the opposed terms rather than be radically distinct, are viewed as continuous with each other. For instance, the Moebius strip helps to understand the traversing of fantasy (la traversée du fantasme): only because the two sides are continuous it is possible to cross over from inside to outside. Yet, when passing a finger round the surface of the strip, it is impossible to determine the precise point where one has crossed over from inside to outside. With Slavoj Zizek, the traversing of the fantasme implies to accomplish an act that disturbes the subject's fundamental fantasy, unhinging the level that is even more fundamental than basic symbolic identifications. For Lacan, "fantasy is not simply a work of imagination as opposed to hard reality, meaning a product of the mind that obfuscates the approach to reality, the ability to perceive things as they really are." Against the basic opposition between reality and imagination, fantasy is not merely on the side of the latter, it is rather that little piece of imagination by which the subject gains access to reality - the frame that guarantees the sense of reality. Thus when the fundamental fantasy is shattered, the subject sustains a loss of reality. Then, traversing the fantasme has nothing to do with a sobering act of dispelling the fantasies that obscure the clear perception of the real state of things or with a reflective act of achieving a critical distance from daily ruminations (superstitions). Fantasy intervenes as support when a line is drawn between what is simply our imagination and "what really exists out there." On the contrary, "traversing the fantasme involves the subject's over-identification with the field of imagination: in it, and through it, the subject breaks the constrains of fantasy and enters the terrifying, violent territory of pre-synthetic imagination, where disjecta membra float around, not yet unified and domesticated by the intervention of a homogenizing fantasmatic frame."
As for Lacan's assertion of the subject's constitutive decentrement, subjective experience is not regulated by objective unconscious mechanisms decentred with regard to the subject's self-experience and as such beyond control, but by something more unsettling. For a standard view the dimension that is constitutive of subjectivity is that of phenomenal self-experience. In Lacan's perspective the analyst is the one who can deprive the subject of the very fundamental fantasy that regulates the universe of self-experience. The subject of the unconscious emerges only when the subject's fundamental fantasy becomes inaccessible, is primordially repressed, argues Zizek. Thus, the unconscious is the inaccesible phenomenon, not the objective mechanism that regulates phenomenal experience. When the subject displays signs of a fantasmatic self-experience that cannot be reduced to external behaviour, what characterizes human subjectivity proper is the gap, la béance, that separates the two: fantasy becomes unattainable; it is this inaccessibility that makes the subject empty, $. The rapport totally subverts the standard notion of a directly self-experiencing subject. Instead, there is an impossible rapport between the empty, non-phenomenal subject and the phenomena that remain inaccessible. This actual rapport is registered by Lacan's articulation of fantasy, $ <> a, developed in Seminar XIV, La logique du fantasme.
Lacan's interest in topology arises since he sees it as providing a non-intuitive, purely intellectual means of expressing the concept of structure. His topological models "forbid imaginary capture": unlike intuitive images in which perception eclipses structure, here "there is no hidden of the symbolic." Hence, topology replaces language as the main paradigm of structure: it is not a mere metaphor for structure, it's structure itself.

 

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