Action of the Structure
Jacques-Alain Miller

Author’s Bio



This text was published in Cahiers pour l’analyst 9 (Généalogies des sciences), Summer 1968. It is a text that needs to be introduced by its circumstances. On June 27th 1964, Jacque Lacan founded l’École Freudienne de Paris and opened it to non-analysts. In order to join, a few students from the École normale got together and, as the statutes required, formed a “cartel” which went by the name of its object of interest: “Discourse Theory.” The following pages were meant to justify that title, a heading under which the members of this group thought to place those works tributary and dated to the same conceptual field. They were to appear in l’Annuaire de l’École Freudienne, which in the end was little more than a list of names, and so they remained astray.

If I publish them today, it’s because it seems to me that despite the time gone by, the seminars of all kinds held to decipher Freud, Marx, and Lacan, those that bring difficult truths within the reach of all intellects being few and far between, despite what les Cahiers pour l’Analyse has already made known—what was articulated in this text of the relations between the structure of the subject and science is not yet realized by so many.

Psychoanalysis, as with Marxism, sets out to organize anew the conceptual field. Which is why no one knows just yet how to hear it properly, how to understand it, why they have it silenced, or, suppression from the inside, welcome it in and ward it off by recitation in languages theoretically anterior, even those over and against which it’s detached itself—psychology, biology, the philosophy of spirit—its name is usurped and its truth exiled.

To call it up today is a demand forever untimely.

For our part, we intend to underwrite that reorganization, explicate the expenditure of its economy. Perhaps it is believed that we are blind to our limits, that our ignorance of psychoanalytic praxis necessarily narrows our discourse. But it seems to us that to have recognized those limits does not undermine the legitimacy we claim, on the contrary, it provides foundation and assures it against the possible intemperance of our presumptions. The discourse in which we envisage this project would restrict itself to a critical vocation within the Freudian field, experience, as such, appearing only in its conceptual form. Thus, our intervention hinges on the mediation of a discourse that precedes it, one we’ve identified from the beginning in that it alone takes its departure from an idea on the Freudian specificity of Lacan’s own discourse. Our first undertaking—not the least ambitious—was to comprehend it, to come to grips with it in furnishing a systematic exposition. Our thinking intends to extend the consequences of its object, to join it with intersecting discourse, to elaborate their unifying theory so that its power and its richness might diffuse in the various spaces in which some among us will already be circumscribed. On the whole, this work on concepts takes for watchword Georges Canguilhem’s definition: “…to work through a concept is to vary its extension and comprehension, to generalize it by incorporating its exceptions, to export it beyond its origins, to take it as a model, or inversely, to seek a model for it, in short to confer upon it, progressively in regulated transformations, the function of a form.” [1]

Naturally, critique may lay claim to free establishment: it is judged only by the measure of its own rigor. In this occurrence, however, it receives the blessing and sanction of its discourse-object; critique is brought swift before it to lend the means of its progress, the very concept of its exercise; it hazards that it’s not only authorized, but already thought by what it thinks, required and even already underway, that it is no way self-propagating: that it splits its object without exceeding it. Little by little, this uncovering becomes its theme. What is proper to the discourse of Jacques Lacan, to be the preceptor of its own critique, holds, first and foremost, to what it has created and implemented in the concept of the structure.


Here, structure belongs within scientific discourse.

Models gain on the distance to experience, and yet, to include what is irreducible in their definition, ensure the maintenance of the gap; this distance must now disappear and, in its place, operate an exact integration that proceeds from the lived to the structural.

Models gain on the distance to experience, and yet, to include what is irreducible in their definition, ensure the maintenance of the gap; this distance must now disappear and, in its place, operate an exact integration that proceeds from the lived to the structural.

When the structuralist operation finds itself rejecting temporality and subjectivity in the neutralized space of the cause, it is forced to guarantee its objects constituted beforehand, referring them to “social life”, “culture”, anthropology, biology, spirit. To fault, it pleads with linguistic structuralism to open its field by the preliminary exclusion of any relation maintained by the speaking subject, forbidding itself so much as a word on the matter. Until the alteration provoked by the exclusion of the speaking subject is made null and void, linguistic structures do not hold outside the area of its origin. Psychoanalytic structuralism, in our opinion, realizes their legitimate exportation insofar as its objects are experiences wherein an ineliminable subjectivity is situated and which proceed according to their own interior time, indiscernible from the progress of their constitution. Hence, the topology of the structure does not contradict its dynamic, a pulse matched to the rhythmic displacement of its elements.

Structure is what sets in place an experience for the subject it includes.

Two functions qualify our concept of structure: structuration, or the action of the structure, and subjectivity qua subjected (assujettie).

To take stock of the consequences of such a hypothesis engenders the structure.

To begin with, structuration must be repartitioned in two dimensions: the actual, in which it would offer to an observer, and in which its state will be constituted, and the virtual, according to which all of its states will be susceptible to deduction. Thus, it is necessary to distinguish between a structuring structure and a structured structure (structure structurante, structure structurée), between structurer and structured.

Thus far, the first belongs to the second as its immanent clause, that is: the point of view to be taken by an investigation that de- implicates itself in order to pass from description to knowledge. The two orders are in continuity with one another, their relation simple, their partition relative only to the method employed, there is no delay and so no structural time, and a movement established in the structure is only apparent.

If we now suppose an element that turns back on reality and perceives it, reflects upon it and signifies it, an element capable of redoubling reality on its own account, a general distortion follows which affects the whole structural economy and recomposes it following new laws. As soon as this element is introduced:

— its actuality becomes experience
— the virtuality of the structurer becomes an absence
— this absence is produced in the real order of the structure: the action of the structure comes to be supported by a lack.

The structurer, to disappear (pour n’y être pas), governs the real. Here we grab hold of the driving strife: the introduction of the reflexive element is enough to institute the dimension of the structured qua lived, as taking effect only of itself, lays down an imaginary ordinance, contemporaneous and different from the order of the real, but nevertheless co-ordinated with it, and henceforth, intrinsically taking part in reality. A tertiary structure, imaginary, constitutes itself within the real. As a result, the structural system, ideal to begin with, is redoubled and finally accomplished. This duplicity, in turn, afflicts the reflexive element that provoked it— insofar as it isn’t reflexive on the level of the structurer—which is what defines it as a subject, reflexive in the imaginary, non-reflexive in the structuring structure.

In the second case, its subjection reduces it to no more than a support. The relation of subject to structure is circular in that the two terms owe each other their definitions, but dissymmetric in that it’s an insertion, which turns out to be inconceivable without the mediation of méconnaisance reestablishing a continuous reality through the production of representations which themselves respond to the absence of the structurer, and compensate for the production of the lack. Structuration functions behind the curtain of representation, and in this sense, the imaginary is its means. But, at the same time, it is its effect: representations are staged by that which they hide (dérober)—what they hide as a matter of function, they exist only to conceal the reason for their existence. What is proper to their structuring structure is that they conceal, for the same that structures reality structures representation. That their reflection in subjectivity assures them a certain coherence, an inertia, constitutes them in systems, and works tirelessly to give them the appearance of being independent from the action of the structuring structure, implies that the lack, which they prepare and watch over, intimates these representations interiorly.

Cause is reflected among the effects it determines and which, as such, are ignored. It follows that their subordination to the formative transformations is necessarily indirect. The action of structuring, according the degree of resistance present in representations or systems of representations, exerts itself in measure upon the imaginary (and so upon the real), and differentiates and multiplies the levels of the structured as a whole. We call surdetermination the structuring determination which, in order to exert itself through the imaginary, is made indirect, unequal, and eccentric with respect to its effects.

To reconstitute the totality of the structure, effects and their lateral cause must be made to correspond within this space of permanent distortion, shifting, and gap. The incidence of the cause must be measured and brought back to the lack as to its principle.

And yet, the lack is never apparent; precisely in that the structured misrecognizes (méconnaît) the action that forms it, and is itself ostensibly coherent, homogenous. From this, we can deduce that at this place where the lack of the cause is produced in the space of its effects, an element intervenes to accomplish its suturing.

Hence, every structure includes a lure, taking the place of the lack, connected to what is perceived, but as the weakest link in the given sequence, a point of vacillation, which only belongs to the actual plan ostensibly: the whole of the virtual plan (the structuring space) erases it from the map. This element, exactly the irrational in reality, by inserting itself, denounces the place of the lack.

Of this element, which does not frame, but tricks the eye, through which all perception is méconnaisance, of this element we distinguish its function in naming its place the utopic point of the structure, its improper point, or its point at infinity.

Without a doubt, positivist investigation doesn’t miss the opportunity to bite the lure and to be eluded by it, for nothing falls into its trap that exceeds the flat surface over which its gaze meanders. Its apperception demands a conversion of perspective. This place, impossible to occupy, is announced by its singular allure, contradictory, unequal to the plan; the element that masks it now signals, by a kind flexion in its configuration, that its presence is undue, that it shouldn’t be there. But it is to this point, precisely here where the outspread space of the structured and the “transcendental” space of the structurer intersect and join together that its gaze must be led and fixed and the taking-place (tenant-lieu) be taken for the very principle of organization: soon enough that space will pivot on itself, accomplishing its division with a full rotation, discover what reigns on the inside of its law, the order that adjusts in secret what is offered up to the onlooker: the translation of the structure opens it to a diagonal reading. The topology that represents it must be constructed upon a space wherein its center joins with the exteriority of its circumscription in periodic convergence: its peripheral exterior is its central exterior. The outside passes into the in.

Every activity that does not simply play out in the imaginary, but transforms the state of the structure, begins at this utopic point, this strategic post specific to each of the levels where the structurer is lacking. It goes without saying that the subject concerting such a practice is not, for all that, relieved of the méconnaisance proper to its place.


The theory of the subject must be approached starting from the structure; the subject takes for granted his insertion therein. It is essential to preserve this order, from structure to subject: it’s enough to deny the very possibility of a discourse when foundation is sought in the sphere of immediate givenness, at the end – at the very beginning—of the historical or methodical course of a consciousness—self-consciousness (de soi), the detour being at once preambulatory and essential. But if structure alone is at origin, if no amount of self reflexivity could discover for consciousness its organization, then the immediate is no more ultimate than it is initial, it’s neither a matter of rediscovering it nor waiting for it, reality is neither to be unburied (désensevelir) nor passed over, it must be crossed, traversed, and in its withdrawal, occasion what sets it in place. If, against the philosophy of structuralism, we implicate subjectivity, it is not as monarch but subject of the kingdom. Subjectivity is required by representation, but not to the position of foundation with the causal function that implies. Its blank (lacune) repartitions conscious being along each of the levels induced by the imaginary in structured reality; as for its unity, subjectivity holds fast to its localization, its localization within the structuring structure. Thus, the subject in the structure retains nothing of the attributes of the psychological subject; it escapes definition, forever vacillating between the theory of knowledge, morality, politics, and law.

Tasks for a theory of the subject: To begin, it must refute the phenomenological attempt to recover the naïve, savage state of the world through an archeological investigation bearing on perception. In effect, phenomenology, proceeding with a reduction of the visible to the visible, hopes for the givenness of a secret support, the unchanged, ahistorical, underbelly of knowledge and of history; definitively, the invisible it encounters is nothing but the inverse of the visible of miracles. When, on the contrary, the invisible is taken to house a structure that systematizes and conceals the visible, when the invisible varies and transforms the visible, there begins a truly radical archaeology of perception, through and through historical, absolutely specialized, and structured like a discourse, which restores seeing and saying their principal identities (identité principielle). Of this archaeology, Michel Foucault’s work is today the first example. [2]

Second, the psychological analyses of the subject must be considered and worked through in detail. These intersect in that they assign the subject a position statutorily identical before the various objects of the world, the function of the subject coming down to grouping the objects together, gathering them between a parenthetical under the name reality. This reality, in turn, measures the correction of what is functionally subjective. On the contrary, the discourse of surdetermination leads us to recognize in the subject a spontaneous orientation towards the lure. Fundamentally, the subject is deceived, and the mistake is constitutive. This does not prohibit the subject from taking in, registering, and capitalizing on experience, from having a system of awareness and detection in reality whereby existence adapts and perseveres. But of the subject’s adaptation to the real, nothing can make native. The adaptation cannot be thought according to the models that apply in the animal world; it is executed only through the secondary intervention of a correctional system. Here, it is necessary to distinguish between two kinds of misrecognition (méconnaisance): one that is adequate and necessary to the action of the structure, and one that is inadequate, one harmful to the subsistence of the subject. At this point, perception and ideology, as well as what we can now call sensibility, are brought together in the single concept of méconnaisance.

Méconnaisance is not quite the opposite of knowledge (connaissance); it is not terminated with awareness (la prise de conscience), that is the operation whereby the lived becomes explicit, but, on the contrary, it takes part in it. The formation of conceptual systems, which are closed for all practical purposes, continues the dimension of the imaginary. The psychological sphere of volitions and appetites, which is to say motivations, derives from the functional misrecognition of the structurer, wherefrom it follows that men are always acting in view of an end, toward the useful insofar as they can make it out. For Claude Lévi-Strauss, the adequate systems that work out the misrecognition of cause comprise the object of ethnology, and so ethnology remains a psychology; only psychoanalysis is capable of delimiting the psychological field.

The theory of the subject leads to a doctrine of intersubjectivity that cannot be articulated in terms of simple reciprocity. The relationship established between one subject and another is no more reversible than it is exclusively dependent on one of the two: even this simple alterity, twins or binary fission, dwells in the imaginary, and deducing its organization from just one its terms is hopeless, a fact which qualifies it for the miraculous. What unites and arranges its links, what is only visible in the intimation of its effects, takes shape and is decided on an Other Scene and refers to an absolute alterity in absentia, exponentiated so to speak. It is never given in the present, and yet, there is no presence that does not pass through it, that is not constituted in it.

No relation between a subject and another subject, or between a subject and an object can fill up (combler) the lack, except in the imaginary formation that sutures it together, only to be found again on the inside. The contestation of reciprocity in the psychologies of intersubjectivity must come in corollary to the refutation of every politics of liberalism or humanism. These, it could be said, stem from reciprocity, and are perpetually in search of the object that will come and fill the stomach of human hunger, satisfy what they conceive of as human “dissatisfaction” (Locke’s uneasiness), and thus assure the transparence of all interhuman relations. Knowing that it’s not after a “having” that man has, but rather, after his “being” or, without the metaphor, that the imaginary determines a structure which includes and comports a subject, a politics of happiness, i.e. an adaptive politics (politique de l’ajustement) must be considered the surest means to reinforce the inadequacy that goes from subject to the structure.

Finally, the analyses must be grouped and gathered into a doctrine of alienation in open conflict with Hegel and neo-hegelianism. When reflexivity no longer suffices to define subjectivity, alienation cannot be treated as the hell out from which it must be freed to possess itself and jour his activity; all of that is conceivable only in the autonomous sphere of self-consciousness, not so with a subject reduplicated and so porous (lacunaire), the imaginary subject-agent of the structured structure, subject-support and element of the structuring structure, which only appears as a subject in the real on the condition that it’s misrecognized (méconnue) in the imaginary as an element in the structuring structure. But a kind of alienation is essential to the subject in that it only effects itself as agent in the imaginary to mistake for its own the effects of the structuring structure, wherein it’s already been counted.


Once the enterprises of the subject are brought back into their radical dependence with respect to the action of the structurer, and alienation is defined as constitutive of the subjected subject, the question becomes whether or not a discourse that takes up an adequate object and develops it set of norms is possible. Even before that we have to ask if the discourse of surdetermination is itself possible. The very fact that it is open to come up against, or better, in its advance necessarily gives rise to the problem of its own possibility, a problem, moreover, which is beyond the question of scientificness in general, manifests a singular circuit of a reflexive implication: it falls under a scientific doctrine based on reason, but it belongs to the discourse alone to assign its place therein, to constrain the concept, and dictate the categories. It is this problem, which comes both first and last, from which we intend to take our thematic departure and order our process.

If we consent to say that it is in the field of the statement where logic establishes itself, the field of speech being that of psychoanalysis – anticipating our aim, we will announce the need for a new position within the space of language, and we will put forth this proposition: that a field, which considers of cardinal importance the question of scientificness, is to be constituted under the heading: the field of discourse.

When logic constructs a formalized system, it writes in the alphabet of its symbols an initial set of formulas and rules for their subsequent formation and deduction, such that the statements produced are not doubled and a virtual dimension is avoided; when a logical activity attaches to systems that it didn’t itself engender, the resulting virtual dimension always remains reducible de jure. On the contrary, statements isolated in the linguistic field refer to a code whose virtuality is essential and, in effect, defines them as messages. But communication itself isn’t taken into account and emission, as well as reception, delimits the field more so than it takes part in it.

If, from the linguistic relation, we try to derive a subject capable of supporting it, it becomes clear that an undivided support, at once of message and of code is impossible. The subject cannot maintain an identical relationship with them both: the code, necessary to the production of speech, but absent from the word as the subject states it, does not belong to the subject that issues speech and so is not to be situated in his place; reception requires the code as well, and it’s there, in the exponentiated dimension of alterity that we’ve indicated above where it must be situated. The distribution of topics taking shape disjoins the plan wherein the subject, in first person, is effectuated and the place of the code where the subject ends up but precisely as subject-agent is elided. His speech can trace its origins to this same place where it turns over its utterance and to which it returns in definitive, for here is the place that guarantees its intellection and its truth. Together, the lack of the code on the level of speech and the lack of the subject-agent at the place of the code (the two being correlative) open, within language, the splitting (refente) of the unconscious. Thus, it can be said: the subject is capable of an unconscious.

To this splitting, psychoanalysis articulates that Other scene where speech is decided and structured, where the subject figures with a passive function as an element whose transitivity is commissioned by a quaternary combinatorial, an other Scene which brings the human animal into language, and towards which his word, left alone, turns as if to primordial and generate dependence.

But other circuits plug into this splitting. We concern ourselves with a speech constrained by the conscious aim of its end in truth, which we name discourse. The topology remains intact, but, here, the connection is only established by a secondary selection, in the Other scene, the primordial; said otherwise: according to the modes of language, the connection is made with other Other scenes grafted onto the place of the code. For example, the Other scene of the class struggle, wherein the combinatorial disposes of “class interests”. A specification of lacks is thus announced.

The articulation is fundamental; it structures discourse as constrained speech and prescribes a reading that is neither commentary nor interpretation. Not a commentary because it’s not in search of a sense-making that, owing to a misfortune inseparable from the verb itself, the text somehow abstains from. And yet the text calls for it, implicates it necessarily, calls for what could be restored and indefinitely multiplied with recourse to tacit foundations, for what is inexhaustible in all exploitation, for speech. Neither is it a matter of extracting the meaning from one text and applying it to another, for example, translating it into the vernacular of a philosophy constituted without excluding the possibility that another interpretation might come along reclaim its meaning; such a discourse is, with respect to the first, a neutral element and it latches on like a parasite. To pick up a statement through others supposedly closer to the mystery of its meaning presupposes the relationship to the letter that Spinoza critiqued in his biblical exegesis. In the end, a text cannot be restored to continuity, to logical simultaneity, by spelling out the surface. “Structuralism” at the level of statement can be no more than a passing moment for a reading that seeks, across its taking- place, the specific lack that supports the structuring function. For that reading, for the transgression that crosses the statement towards the stating, the name of analysis seems, to us, suitable.

The lack concerned is no dead word wherefore it’d suffice to bear unto the light of day, it’s not the impotency of the verb nor the ruse of the author, it is silence, the default that organizes stated speech, the concealed place which sheds no light nor lets light be shed for it is only in its absence that text is possible and that discourse is uttered: Other scene where the eclipsed subject sits, from whence he speaks, wherefore he speaks. The exteriority of the discourse is central, this distance interior. The reciprocal determination wherein the elements of an object confer in a structured network, must be broken: we are seeking an unequivocal determination—not only what it means to say but what it doesn’t say at all, insofar as it means not to say it. Thus, we consider the whole of a text to be the border of a lack, principal of the action of the structure, which bears the marks of the action it accomplishes: the suture. Beginning with the taking- place toward which the disorders of the statement of its contradictions converge, pivoting the plan of the statement will reveal the discourse of the subject as a discourse of misrecognition at the place where, qua element or support, it is situated in the structuring structure. The subject receives the very same discourse it issues; it’s just that determination is reversed so that it’s heard in first person. Thus, we will explore the space of determination displaced. At once unequivocal, suppressed and interior, withdrawn and declared, that space can only be qualified in terms of metonymical cause. Cause changes itself into a discourse, an in general, such is that case for all structures: for the necessary condition of functional structural causality is that the subject takes the effect for the cause. Such is the fundamental law of the action of the structure.

How then, is a discourse that only takes orders from itself, a flat discourse and adequate to its object, how is it possible? Clearly, it’s not the return to a reality beyond all discourse, a de-implicated attention and simple positivity that opens its field; once more, it is the singular state of the structurer, a position particular to the subject with respect to the place of truth, which closes speech on itself. This closing of scientific discourse is not to be conflated with the suture of non-scientific discourse, because that one shows the lack to the door, reduces its central exteriority, disconnects it from the other Scene. Thought of as being interior to the field it circumscribes, it will be named: cloture. But this is a circumscription with thickness, it has an outside, an exterior; said otherwise, scientific discourse is not struck with a simple lack, but the lack of a lack is also a lack.

This double negation confers a positivity on its field, but on its periphery one must recognize the structure that makes it possible, a structure whose development is not independent. Within scientific discourse, the lack of a lack leaves open the place of méconnaisance; the ideology that accompanies it, without being intrinsic to it: a scientific discourse, as such, includes no utopian element. It would be necessary to figure two spaces superimposed onto one another, without an anchor point (point de capiton), without slippage between them. Thus, the closure of science effectuates a repartition between a closed field, limitless when considered from the inside, and a foreclosed space. Foreclosure is the other side of cloture. The term is sufficient to indicate how all science is structured like a psychosis: the foreclosed returns in the form of the impossible.

This is, in fact, the old manner of the epistemological break (coupure épistémologique), but approached from the outside; we must recognize the privileged and the almost unheard of status of a discourse of surdetermination which constitutes its field outside of science in general; its injunction, theoretical as well as practical, is given in the Wo es war, soll ich werden, which, for us, convokes the scientific subject as it is to be grasped.

There are two discourses of surdetermination: the Marxist discourse and the Freudian. Louis Althusser has bailed out the first from the bad mortgage that weighed it down in the conception of society as a historical subject, just as Jacques Lacan has done for the second in the debunking of the notion of the individual as a psychological subject—to join the two now seems possible. We hold that the discourses of Marx and Freud are given to communicate by the means of regulated transformations and mutual reflection in a unified theoretical discourse.

September 1964

Note on the causes of science

The crucial problem for the Doctrine of science, the same that defines it, hinges on its proper status.

Science alone, in effect, has the power to confer that status, for unlike a particular science it has no outside: the principles that govern it fall under their own jurisdiction. Thus, the Doctrine cannot be asserted lest it be counted among its own objects; if it has no outside, it is interior to itself. As soon as it is established, it is subjected to an introjection and doomed to the phenomena of self- reflexivity.

The consequences of this property are as follows: the Doctrine doesn’t make sense, or at the least none that could be stated. As such, it cannot be said because it cannot be constructed. Right away, to expose it (that is unfurl, explain it, set it out) is impossible. If nothing is that cannot be said, it is because nothing is without name (our version of the principle of reason, and according to punctuation there are two ways to understand it – Heidegger demonstrated as much for Leibniz), [3] the project of a Doctrine of science is impossible, it has the name of the un-nameable: the “Anonymous Doctrine.”

Hence, every statement that aims at such a thing as a Doctrine of science would be perambulatory and peripheral, and at the same time, the thing itself is nothing but preamble and periphery, it is sucked up by what surrounds it. The discourse, which is adequate to it, is always beside it, for it is itself nowhere, and so too, everywhere.

Such marvelous properties follow from this alone: self-reflexivity, forbidding its statement to be divided, produces in its field the indiscernible meta-language of the language-object. To isolate the “Anonymous Doctrine” somewhere within the Universe of discourse runs counter to its very concept. To expose it amounts to missing it (la manquer), and exposing by entourage to produce its absence in language is an infinite enterprise.

No doubt, this is why Fichte, who was working towards exactly that, is first and foremost a philosopher who speaks, whose books comprise no more than the residue of his words. In a way, his was a discourse that couldn’t keep, uttered with a nod to its disappearance, and always including the clause of annulment which echoes in 6.54 of Wittgenstein’s Tractus: The Science of Knowledge of 1794 is “manual for its listeners”, every presentation of the Doctrine takes up again the conference at large. The Doctrine’s interior incompletion isn’t an accident: dispersion is the sole form of its possibility. There is no meta-language of the Doctrine and the essential is never said, or it is said at every instant, always present, but never there. Its listeners don’t amount to a public, each one before the work, confiding in his own solitary self. The discourse does not think for those who listen, in their place perhaps, or outside of them altogether; but for their own sakes, and each time as if it were the first, each among them must effectuate the annulment of the enunciation process, for the process can only end when it discovers itself unending, when the operator catches sight of the fact that he wasn’t constructing the Doctrine in himself, that it was the Doctrine in which he himself was constructed. Thus, it amounts to same thing to say that the Doctrine is impossible, that its exposition is infinite, that it precedes all that it concerns, that it envelops all that would seek to hem it in. And so for everything that lives and moves within it, everyone who seeks to speak it or to write it down, the Doctrine presents itself as a considerable effort: “not as something that exists, but as something that we ought to, and yet cannot achieve”. [4]

What is stated here depends on a law: a priori of reason, or a posteriori of the sign: a self-reflexive object, thus a self-reproducing object, takes for correlate an impossible construction, or an infinite activity.

Which is why you can say in the same breath that it doesn’t exist at all, or that it’s indestructible. Freud had to have some knowledge of this object (whose self-reproduction is not division, it’s indivisible, but repetition) to have recognized the indestructible in desire [5] and subtracted the unconscious on the principle of contradiction. As for analysis, its termination can have nothing in common with the end of a physical process; its movement is perpetual.

I add, to mark the spot for further developments, that Fichte’s proposition above is the point of departure for his conversation with Spinoza.

“If we go beyond the I am, we necessarily arrive at Spinozism”, [6] and hold to the I am as the Unconditioned returning to give the absolute Ego (Moi) the properties of substance, as indicates the young Schelling in Of the Ego as Principle of Philosophy: “Spinoza characterized the Unconditional perfectly, for everything he says about substance can be applied, word for word, to the absolute Ego.” Know this however: because God is not self-conscious, Spinoza’s theory is exposed definitively as a text.

Perhaps these coordinates for Fichte, somewhere between Spinoza and Freud, curb the laughter of he who senses right under his nose, in the aporia of Doctrine, an ideology.

To explain my position, that it is, in fact nothing of the ideological kind, we have to take up Fichte’s four problems in the opuscule of 94: Concerning the concept of Wissenchaftslehre [7] or of So-called Philosophy, take them back, hijack them for our own ends.

How can the Doctrine be sure to exhaust all science, including the science to come?—it must discover its causes. How is it to be distinguished from particular sciences?—in that the Doctrine thinks what the particulars cannot integrate into their fields, namely, the decisions that found their principles. How is it to be distinguished from logic?—as the logic of the signifier. How does it behave with respect to its object?—the Doctrine is antinomic to its object, that is, incompatible with it, the Doctrine absorbs it or the object fades into the Doctrine: they exist together only in a non-rapport, incommensurable with one another.

These responses are not to be mistaken for the Doctrine itself: I’m merely outlining what it must be. But it’s already clear that what is to be understood by science is not the indistinct sum of human knowledge (that is, what for Kant began experience without deriving from it), but the thinking that calculates, verifies and experiments, at the exclusion of perception, of consciousness, of all the modes of sentiment; there is room in the Doctrine for the history of the sciences insofar as it teaches the position of the subject that makes science possible.

To situate the position of a subject in all conjecture, the relations it undertakes must be known: relation to the instance of the guarantee, relation to its statements and relation to the objects thereof. If and only if we succeed in fixing the modes wherein the subject correlative to science relates to these three determinations, will we be capable of knowing the causes of science.


[1] Dialectique et philopsophie du non chez Gaston Bachelard”, Revue Internationnale de Philosophie, 1963.

[2] Such is the explicit theme in Birth of the Clinic. This is less about discrediting the phenomenological discourse (Maurice Merleau- Ponty’s work in particular), positivist discourse insofar as it blinds itself to the mutations of the structural invisible, than picking it up again to set it on a new foundation: as a rigorous discourse, in and of the imaginary.

[3] Tr. The French reads: Et si rien n’est qui ne peut être dit, c’est si rien n’est sans nom. Liebniz’s formulation is in Latin: nihil est sine ratione.

[4] Johann G. Fichte, Science of Knowledge, tr. Peter Heath and John Lachs (New York: Meridith Co., 1970) p. 102.

[5] Preservation in the sense that Spinoza gives the term is an identical effect

[6] Loc. cit.

[7] TR. The German word Wissenschaftslehre is rendered “Doctrine de la Science in French.” Literally, Wissenschaftslehre translates to “Science-teaching,” the teaching of science.