The Non-Existent Seminar
Jacques-Alain Miller

Author’s Bio

There is a simple way to present Jacques-Alain Miller, to call him Jacques-Alain Miller.  This name will be presented as a proper noun, that is as a proper name.

We are dealing here with a seminar by Lacan which does not exist.  There is an advantage in presenting a seminar that does not exist: nobody would be able to tell me afterwards that I have not talked about this or that.  The commentary will be necessarily complete.


Fundamentals of Psychoanalysis

Why can we say that there is a Lacan’s seminar that does not exist?  Because we have the name of the seminar, “The Names of the Father,” and as we have the name of the seminar, however we can say that there is no seminar of Lacan that corresponds to this name.  The fact that there is a name allows us to say that there is no corresponding seminar to this name.

The name “The Names of the Father’,” the title, was announced by Lacan in 1963 for the academic year 1963-1964.  We know that Lacan delivered the first lesson of this seminar and then came to a halt: silence …  Thus the title, the name “The Names of the Father,” remained as an empty reference.

I recall that I wanted to publish this only lesson, the first lesson of the non-existent seminar, within his Seminar XI The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, which is the seminar that Lacan began in 1964, after the interruption of that of “The Names of the Father.”  I proposed Lacan to include this lesson as prefacing the volume.  First he said yes, and next morning he called me and said that he had changed his mind: “No.”  So, the opening lesson has not been published, at least by me, ever since.  I think we should do it now.

Thus, “The Names of the Father,” the seminar for that title, was a hole in Lacan’s teaching.  I think Lacan liked that the series of his seminars had a hole, a lack, as a proof that you are not going to know everything.  And, over the years, he clearly had a great pleasure in interpreting that hole.  He used to say—and this is found in his seminars as well as in Écrits: “It is not by chance that I could not do my seminar on the Names of the Father.”

He regarded the fact that he couldn’t deliver the seminar on The Names of the Father as belonging to the realm of the impossible: “It is not by chance,” there is a need at work, that perhaps renders it impossible.  As if—we could venture into the “as if” raised by this hole—to meddle with the Name-of-the-Father in psychoanalysis was still impossible, as if the Name-of-the-Father should remain under a veil, as if those who dare to interfere with the Name-of-the-Father were doomed to some act of vengeance, as if some kind of curse was attached to the Name-of-the-Father, the curse of the Pharaoh.

Sometimes Lacan also said something else: “I will never say what might have been said about The Names of the Father because they don’t deserve it (ils ne le méritent pas!) and they will never know it!”  Sometimes he was a Pharaoh himself prone to retaliation…

So in this way, this curious object, “The inexistent seminar”—which mimics a title by Italo Calvino—seems to point to the fact that Lacan had in mind to take with him to the grave the secret of The Names of the Father, becoming the Pharaoh himself lying in the pyramid that protects the secret of “The Names of the Father.”  What secret?  Because we must first ascertain if there is a secret.  The secret would be what the very title of the seminar declares.  The secret is evident in the title itself, as evident as the purloined letter.  It can be read as if the whole seminar was in its title: the secret is that there is no Name-of-the-Father, that the name as such, as singular, as unique, the name as absolute, does not exist.  So, the secret would be that the grave of the father—of the father in the singular—is empty.

Lacan somehow comments on this in Écrits, in “The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire in the Freudian Unconscious,” that “Moses’ tomb is as empty for Freud as Christ’s was for Hegel.”  He then concludes: “Abraham revealed his mystery to neither of them.”  In similar fashion Lacan refrained from revealing his mystery to us, he didn’t want to.  In this regard Lacan positions Freud and Hegel on the same side and makes fun of both: there is something of the father they have not understood!  Whereas it is possible that Kierkegaard—who devoted a long essay to Abraham’s sacrifice—understood.  It is chiefly the father who makes off with the secret, who assumes the secret of life and goes down with such a secret, with the ultimate answer that is always locked for the subject.

There is a clinical case in which, in a dream, the subject keeps sucking a lock.  And here we are with “The Names of the Father” sucking the lock, the lock Lacan left behind.  And if we would have ask him why he hasn’t told us the secret, in all probability he would have responded as in the history of the Freudian cauldron: “I didn’t reveal the secret of ‘The Names of the Father,’ firstly because this secret cannot be said, secondly because I have been kept from saying it and, thirdly, because I didn’t want to say it, and I wouldn’t have been able to say it because I don’t know it.”

This would be the introduction of the inexistent seminar.  I’ll proceed with the story and the structure.

But first I would like to remind you that the issue between the Name-of-the-Father and “The Names of the Father” has always been for Lacan a clinical question.  And it seems appropriate to refer them to “The Function and Field of Speech of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis” where I think this the first written occurrence of the term “the name of the father.”  Lacan doesn’t write it as we usually do, with capital N and capital F, but all lowercase and in italics.

And this essay, when he first introduces the term, he wishes to emphasize that the recognition of the name of the father, i.e. the distinction between the symbolic father, the imaginary father and the real father, implies a strong impact on the actual direction of the treatment.  He  says: “This conception allows us to clearly distinguish, in the analysis of a case, the unconscious effects of this function from the narcissistic relations, or even real relations, that the subject has with the image and actions of the person who embodies this function; this results in a mode of comprehension that has repercussions on the very way in which interventions are made by the analyst.  Practice has confirmed the fecundity of this conception to me, as well as to the students whom I have introduced to this method.  And, both in supervision and case discussions, I have often have occasion to stress the harmful confusion produced by neglecting it.”

Distinctly, it presents the Name-the-Father as the principle of the method, the clinical method, and as a decisive factor in the direction of the treatment which he claims to have verified both in his own practice and in supervision.  This implies that the studying of the impact of the Name-the-Father in clinical cases appears in Lacan from the outset.

Now I will, among other texts—as an a anecdote of the inexistent seminar—refer, for example, to “Science and Truth,” where Lacan says, ”I am inconsolable at having had to drop my project of relating the function of the Name-of-the-Father to the study of the Bible”.  And in a footnote he refers: “We put on hold the seminar we had announced for 1963-64 on the Name-of-the Father, after having given the opening lecture (November 63).”

It is notable that he says “the Name-of-the-Father” in singular when, obviously, this is the Name-of-the-Father in plural.  It is fun to see how the same French edition writes the Name-of-the-Father in singular, when, in fact, he had announced it as “The Names of the Father.”  This can be interpreted.

The hole preserves the memory of the obstacle met by Lacan himself, precisely at the moment of the final showdown with the International Psychoanalytic Association.  On November 19, 1963 the name of Lacan is crossed out, deleted from the list of training analysts, by his colleagues of the French Committee of Training Analysts, according to the decree of the IPA.  And the next day, November 20, Lacan gives the opening lecture of his seminar “The Names of the Father” stating that this seminar would stop at the end of the lesson.  He also declared of having received the news the night before…  There are several stories about that moment.

There is a certain curse that befell on the five signatories of the decree.  I will not detail the life of each of them, but it seems that none of them really approved the act.  Recently one of these persons made known to us how he had signed that effacement: almost by mistake…

So, he gives the first lesson,  stops and leaves Sainte-Anne.  Althusser and Ferdinand Braudel soon pick him up and invites him to continue at the École Normale Supérieure, and there Lacan begins the seminar on the Fundamentals of Psychoanalysis.  Personally there, I listened to Lacan for my very first time on that day in January 1964 when he began the seminar on the Fundamentals of Psychoanalysis, which was published as his eleventh Seminar, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, because that is how the whole audience called it, and is the title we gave the book.

Lacan begins this seminar, as you well know, with an account of his excommunication, as if he had been punished for having soiled the Name-of-the-Father, for questioning the Name-of-the-Father, for impiety; as if the heirs of Freud at the IPA would have punished him for meddling with the father as constructed by Freud, and with Freud himself as the father of psychoanalysis.

There is a substitution.  In place of the seminar ”The Names of the Father” Lacan gives a seminar on the Fundamentals of Psychoanalysis, namely on the concepts of Freud.   One could almost write, why not, the concepts instead of the names, as a substitution, as a metaphor.

Is it not perhaps the same?  Would it not, the seminar on The Fundamentals of Psychoanalysis, just be the seminar “The Names of the Father” unde a different guise?  Although The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis is presented as a epistemologicical study, Lacan quietly continues arguing with Freud and his desire.  And more to the point on his desire of the Father to the extent that the IPA responds to the desire of Freud.  As if Lacan,  as a son, as a small Abraham, though a small and guilty Abraham, a Abraham that would also be Spinoza, should be sacrificed to the wrath of the Father.

For Lacan there is a correspondence between the seminar “The Names of the Father” and the excommunication, as if the story of his life is consistent with the structure of the psychoanalytic movement, as if the crossing out of his name, the bar on the name of Lacan concurs with the bar he puts on the Name-of-the-Father, as if the crossing out of his own name is reciprocated by his barring on “The Names of the Father.”

Now let’s go back to the following point: the metaphor of the name.

Alongside with the epistemological investigation of The Four Concepts of Psychoanalysis, Lacan continues his enquiry on Freud’s desire.  He tries to locate what has not been yet analyzed of Freud’s desire, thus submitting to discussion the part that Freud and his desire played in the development of psychoanalysis, be it it in the treatment or in the psychoanalytic movement itself.  In particular, he addresses the role of religion since he intends to bring psychoanalysis to the level of science, while holding that in its current state it still involves a great deal of religion.

And what he says in Seminar XI (in the first lesson, which is titled “Excommunication”) conveys a better understading of this background: “What are the formulae in psychoanalysis concerned with?  What motivates and modulates this ‘sliding-away’ (glissement) of the object?  Are there psycho-analytic concepts that we are now in possession of?  How were we to understand the almost religious maintenance of the terms proposed by Freud to structure the analytic experience?  Was Freud really the first, and did he really remain the only theoretician of this supposed science to have introduced fundamental concepts?  Were this so, it would be very unusual in the history of the sciences.  Without this trunk, this mast, this pile, where can our practice be moored?  Can we even say that what we are dealing with are concepts in the strict sense?  Are they concepts in the process of formation?  Are they concepts in the process of development, in movement, to be revised at a later date?”

This goes beyond the correction, the purification of our understanding of Freudian concepts.  This goes beyond the common interpretation of “the return to Freud” as a return to the source, to the authenticity of his teaching.  Lacan intends to move from a type of psychoanalysis that invests a religious respect onFreud’s set of notions, namely Freud’s expressions, the concepts he formulated, to a scientific use of the concept.

Unconscious, repetition, transference, drive: we owe these names to Freud.  And these four concepts are the Names of the Father.  In the same way Gracián could enumerate the names of God, in the same way those names could be registered (love, justice, charity, purity), we say, unconscious, repetition, transference, drive.

At precisely that point Lacan starts, with determination, to move from the concepts to the mathemes, to replace Freud’s Names of the Father with the mathemes, which are Lacan’s.  Sothat, while he is replacing the concepts with names, he is actually preparing to substitute the concepts with mathemes: he is negotiating the substitution of Freud himself.

We can also locate the first substitution, that of the Name with the Name.

The transition is from the singular to the plural.  How can this be interpreted?

To begin with, there is more than one.  But the fact that there is more than one changes everything, because we go from the one to the many, and the effect is clearly a relativization of the Name-of-the-Father.  It is not absolute but relative; it implies the idea that there is a Name-of-the-Father and another and another and so on.  That is, a kind of paganism, just what is prohibited by the God of Israel, who wanted to be partnerless and had no desire for a newcomer who would utter “Me too,” which clearly creates a problem of territorialization that has been going on forever…  Instead of being one, it means to be “one amongst others.”  I must say that it involves the castration of the God of Israel, the castration of God who in this way enters into a series.

But it also means that for Lacan, even if one believes that when the Name-of-Father is uttered the father is the only Name-of-the-Father capable of bearing the Name-the-Father, the father is a name “Name-of-the-Father” among others.  That The Woman, for example, The Woman may be a Name-of-the-Father too.

In this way he introduces two meanings for the father.  The Name-of-the-Father is only the name of a function.  This means that the Name-of-the-Father can be written as a function: NP (x), introducing in each case, in each clinical case, the question of what is that has been functioning for the subject as Name-of-the-Father.

Making from the singular to the plural implies proceeding from religion to science; this may be a prelude of the passage from religion to science.

Dealing with the name of God is a religious issue.  We don’t need to accumulate much evidence to support this: “Thou shall not take my name in vain,” indeed, in Judaism the name is the name we don’t know how to utter  Not knowing protects the name itself, that is to say that the name is protected by an encrypted internal secret, an essential cyphering, a silent signifier, a letter that no one knows or that no one is allowed to pronounce.

Every time Lacan refers to the Name-of-the-Father, he refers to the tradition that the Name-of-the-Father itself upholds.  This connection corroborates that the Name-of-the-Father was not invented by psychoanalysis, but that it is a legacy of a culture among other human cultures.  Roman Catholicism speaks of God as a father, the Father par excellence.

We also find in religion an issue with the names of God—I’ve already mentioned Gracián—where the attributes of God are sought, the names designating His essential qualities, and all this revolves around an essential unity.  Whereas with the pluralization of the Names of the Father—but not with a subordinate multiplicity surrounding the unicity of the name of God—when Lacan speaks of the Names of the Father, there is only a plurality surrounding a function.

Here we find a transition from religion to logics which implies that the Name-of-the-Father is a function that can be supported by various elements playing the role of the Name-of-the-Father; also the Name-of-the-Father, as was previously utilized and as Lacan himself did, is not the final answer.

This objection was persistently addressed by Lacan against himself, I read it with the expression “Lacan against Lacan.”  The development of Lacan’s teaching consists in contradicting, in continually objecting anything he said before.  Well, this is clearly the case.  The nonexistent seminar “The Names of the Father” is the objection made to the paternal metaphor and it also refers this metaphor as the basis for further reflection.

In the paternal metaphor the Name-of-the-Father performs the function of metaphorizing the Desire of the Mother.  But the Name-of-the-Father is already the metaphor of the father.

We write the Name-of-the-Father as the metaphorizing agent of the Desire of the Mother like this:

But we should remember that this Name-of-the-Father is, above all, the metaphor of the presence of the father.

The Name-of-the-Father works very well in the absence of the father and subsequently Lacan criticizes the theory of the lack of the father.  But the Name-of-the-Father makes the father himself absent.  The function of the Name-of-the Father makes the father absent because in the Name-of-the-Father we deal with—and this belongs to most popular Lacan—the father as spoken by the mother, that is, as a being of language.

This means that the Name-of-the Father exists in absence, it exists as something that is murdered by the signifier, as a subject, a topic, a reference of the discourse of the mother, as an empty reference.  To begin with, the Name-of-the-Father is the father metaphorized by the discourse of the mother and as such it is dead, killed by that same discourse.

As those who are bereft of father, whom never knew their father, the Name-of-the-Father has, in this case, acquired an even stronger force since it was unable to compare the Name-of-the-Father with the dejected husband of the mother.  As we see in analysis, they suffer not so much of the lack but of the presence since the paternal ideal holds extreme weight: they suffer of the Name-of-the-Father.  Sometimes there is a great relief in finding out that all this was a fabrication of the maternal myth.  The fall of the Name-of-the-Father as the support of the Ideal may indeed bring great solace.

Thus, in Lacan, the concept of the Name-of-the-Father links the Freudian Oedipus complex to the myth of Totem and Taboo in the paternal metaphor.  They fit together in a very elegant way, the Oedipus complex, the myth of Totem and Taboo—as far as it introduces the father as a deadfather—and the castration complex.  The strength of the paternal metaphor resides in uniting these three aspects of Freud’s teaching.

At the same time, the Name-of-the-Father is an element of the general theory of the name, linguistics and mathematical logic; it belongs to the general theory of proper names.  So that would it would have been possible to present “The Names of the Father”—I’ve thought about it—first as a theory of proper names and, second, as a theory of the father.


The Proper Name

Something should be said on proper names since, apparently, there is a chapter of the non-existent seminar that deals with proper names both in linguistics and mathematical logic.  All this seems like Borgean dream, an entire morning reading and studying a seminar that does not exist!

The proper name is, in language, what, par excellence, is not translated, that which is repeated.  Obviously, when it comes to writing and to a language that has a different writing, we have a transliteration; that is to say that we use different written signs to lead the reader into making the same sounds as in the original language.  It is very odd to see one’s name in Japanese…  But the fact that a proper name is what is not translated into another language makes it resemble to a matheme in so far as it susceptible of integral transmission; you don’t look for an equivalent.

Sometimes there are proper names that are common nouns, but they are not translated into another language.  For in that case I would call myself Meunier, because Miller does not exist in French as a common noun, whereas it has a meaning in English.  This would indicate that now I’m being Lacan’s miller and that in French I would be called Meunier.

Consequently, the proper name is equivalent to a matheme and its association with language becomes a downright issue.  With the proper name we don’t inquire about its meaning, but about its reference, for instance, we ask if Jacques-Alain Miller arrived on time or if he hasn’t.  You may inquire about its reference but not about its meaning.  If we wish to study its signification—we might work on the meaning of a proper name, for example, by separating its phonemes—we will bring it down to the level of a common noun.  For that reason, Lacan argues that the analyst accepts to turn his name into a common noun, thereby lending it to the analysand, and this name will eventually reappear as fragmented in the formations of the unconscious.  I will not go into that.

Also, proper names hold a connotational meaning.  For instance, they can locate an origin, which is what makes it so fun for an European who can track down in the diversity of names that are present in America and how they may indicate an origin: Irish, Italian , Central Europe, Middle East and so on.  Yesterday I bought a volume with three thousand proper names.  It looked fun, but it is only proper names…  Proper names are intended for names, however, in a proper name there are the first name and the family name and the weight is on the family name.  We must take this distinction into account since the “Names of the Father” are actually said in French.  Nobody ever thought that they are the “father’s names” (noms de famille).  In English there is the first and then there is the family name, and in French there are prénom and nom.  A proper name is made of a name and a last name, a nom and a prénom, the conjunction of the two, in both languages.

Proper names are words that don’t signify, instead they refer, which fall within Frege’s division between Sinn und Bedeutung, which Lacan used and which convey a specific difficulty to discursive reason.  For how do we deal, for example, with ordinary language?  We may manage, in the manner of Frege, by distinguishing between function and argument; that means opening a gap in the sentence, precisely where the proper names are, and the rest is worked out with a function.

The writing of the phallic function, namely, that which allows us to say “the element x has the property F,” F (x), “responds to the function F” or “has the property F,” all this leads to the disappearance of the proper names.  The x is not a proper name and it means that several elements can be replaced.  It means that x is essentially interchangeable, whereas the proper name is essentially irreplaceable.  In psychoanalysis we find these irreplaceable elements for the subject, for instance irreplaceable fantasms.

The logical treatment of the proper name started with Bertrand Russell in 1905, when he tried to elucidate the proper name utilizing the Fregean function.  In his a famous article, called “On denoting,” he deals with the theory of definite descriptions.  The problem he had to solve was how to explain the fact that a definite description, i.e. the description of a reference—which accounts for a proper name because it has to locate one and only one as, for instance, “the present King of France”—may not include anyone who falls under that expression.  How can we clean language from those expressions that are in themselves misleading because they make believe there is someone when in fact there is no one (there is no “the present King of France”)?

He chose this example because at the time there was a King in England and this well-known example is remind us of the seminar ”The Names of the Father.”  We say the seminar “The Names of the Father” when in truth there is no seminar “The Names of the Father.”

How to account for the fact that we have the concept of “the present king of France” and that nobody corresponds to this description, to this concept?  For him, this amounts to say, “I did not know that Walter Scott was the author of Waverley,” that is to say “I didn’t know that the description, the concept, ‘the author of the novel Waverley’has to do with the existence of Walter Scott’s proper name.”

Now, how to explain this?  The solution is in the fact that we need first to differentiate the concept or function, F (x), that is “the present king of France,” and then add another formula that says: “there is no element that corresponds to that description.”

There are two aspects: the concept and the existential dimension.  The answer, and this matters, lies in the disjunction between the intension of the concept, its definition, and the extension of the concept.  Intension doesn’t mean “wonderful” and extension doesn’t signify “low quality” as, I don’t know why, it has become common in psychoanalysis since the time Lacan spoke about intension and extension.  Intension is the definition of a concept, for example, the definition of psychoanalysis, the definition of the psychoanalyst.  Extension is what exists underneath, that is, the analysts and the apparatuses they make use of to operate.  All these belongs to the extension, and the rest involves the definition of psychoanalysis.

Russell’s solution, which since then has been addressed by a vast literature, somehow reveals the proper name as a set of properties.  It is as if someone’s proper name could be deciphered as the signifying agent of a set of properties.

It means that this “someone” responds to the property F (to be born on a specific day), plus the property F’ (to be mentioned in a biographical dictionary as having died on a specific date, at a particular place), plus the property F” and so on.

It’s an infinite list that would be shortened by the proper name.  This might lead us to consider whether this set of properties has always existed or hasn’t.  Let’s pass over this.  It looks like an infinite set.

Saul Kripke, in a noted article from 1972—an article which Lacan was prompt to cite when he introduced in logics the Leibnizian possible—considers the question differently.

“I do not know that Walter Scott wrote Waverley” can be translated as: “There is a possible world where he didn’t write Waverley,” or “There is a possible world where Walter Scott is known but where it is not known that he wrote Waverley.”  That does not prevent Walter Scott to exist as a proper name, which remains despite the fact that this property is not known to me.

With this argument you can eliminate all the properties of the name.  I thought Sir Walter Scott used to live in the seventeenth century.  We are mistaken mistaken by two centuries!  But that doesn’t prevent the proper name to prevail.

Therefore he infers that the proper name is not the summary of a list of properties but what he calls a rigid designator, that is, a pure signifier.  It is his way of saying that it’s a pure signifier, that it’ not a signification always fluid and flexible of concepts or properties.

Somehow, Kripke’s argues that the proper name deletes all properties.  We can write it in the Lacanian way:

This very well agrees with what Lacan states in ”The Subversion of the Subject…” where he declares that the proper name means nothing, that it has no other signification besides its utterance, which precisely defines the proper name as a rigid designator.  Earlier, in “The Signification of the Phallus,” Lacan declared that “The subject designates his being only by barring everything it signifies.” We should note that this would be the same term Kripke will use at a much later date.

What it’s been introduced in the problematics of the proper name—which is part of the problem of the Names of the Father—is how to designate its being.  I may designate this being by way of the proper name which is the Name-of-the-Father in the common usage; I may designate it either by the I or by a proper name whicht is the Name-of-the-Father.  Moreover, there are feminists who entirely reject the husband’s surname, choosing instead the surname of their own father, as if their father’s name would be closer to their own being.

But any classification based on the proper name in fact designates the subject as being already dead: it’s the name that will be engraved on its tomb.  Sometimes it is essential for the name to be on the gravesite.  I have heard the case in which a dead fetus, who had not been buried according to the accepted rites, returns in the symptoms of the subject until a symbolic burial takes place where the analyst holds a prominent position; before that the dead fetus kept returning in dreams as if something was missing in the pacification of the name.

I don’t want to speak against proper names, but the proper name categorizes the subject as always already dead.  In “The Subversion of the Subject…” Lacan calls into question the Name-of-the-Father: at the same time that he becomes suspicious of the mystery of Abraham—when he introduces the signifier A—he is looking for definitions other than the Name-of-the-Father or the proper name to designate the being of the subject as a living being, since the proper name, the Name-of-the-Father, doesn’t allow the naming for what is alive in the subject.

As a result Lacan introduces jouissance when in the above mentioned écrit he states: “a being who appears in some way missing from the sea of proper names.”  We will discuss why he writes “the sea.”

He writes “the sea” because he doesn’t write “set,” we don’t know where it stops, where it halts.  It’s something that the subject, as I (Je), doesn’t know: the subject, as subject of language, doesn’t known whether he is alive or dead.  This happens every time we quote Lacan.  How do we say?  “Lacan says…,” and again “Lacan says…,” and it makes no difference whether Lacan is alive or dead when we say it.  As if Lacan would keep saying for ever and ever…

Thus, the argument of “The Names of the Father” becomes the answer to the question: “What am I (Je)?”  We find it in “The Subversion of the Subject…,” namely that “I am in the place of jouissance.”  This is Lacan’s answer.

We may then sum up that what is set in motion with “The Names of the Father” is that, in analysis, I’m looking for my name of jouissance.  That is to say that I’m looking for a suitable name to designate the being in the sea of proper names.  The a is not a proper name, it’s its matrix; or we might say that it’s the proper name as reduced to a pure matheme.  We might guess that it’s this formula: a.  I would say that—at the same time—it’s not a proper name or that it’s the root of the proper name.  It’s the proper name as reduced to the pure matheme a.

Consequently, the writing a is fundamentally different from the writing (x).  Whereas the latter designates a variable, the former entails a constant.  And because of this, it’s “almost” equivalent to a proper name.  It’s s a constant.  The a is irreplaceable, and Lacan returns repeatedly to what at the end analysis could or should be articulated as “I am my a,” or “I am this a, beyond the Name-of-the-Father.”

When we attempt a diagnosis, what are we trying to do?  We try to classify the subject in the light of a clinical structure.  We say “an obsessional neurotic,” “a hysteric,” “a psychotic” and so forth.  It is not the proper name.  When the proper name shows up in the clinic, it’s more like the Rat Man or like the Wolf Man, where the proper name—in the clinic—is not the Name-of-the-Father.  The definite description of the Wolf Man has nothing to do with Sergei Petrov nor with the function of the Name-of-the-Father; it’s his name of jouissance.

The a would be, a name which is not a metaphor, as if it could designate the truth of jouissance of the subject.

For this reason, Lacan wanted to begin with his seminar “The Names of the Father” after that of “Anxiety,” since the latter was devoted to the objet a.  Accordingly, if there is objet a, we must conclude that there is no Name-of-the-Father, there are the Names of the Father, pluralized.  Eventually, the seminar “The Names of the Father” brings to a conclusion a series that he begun with “The Identification” (1961-2) and “Anxiety” (1962-3).

Identification answers to the question of what am I (Je).  Psychoanalysis first response is identification, that is, the distinction between the imaginary identification and the symbolic identification.

Lacan sets up his seminar upon the subject’s lack of identity, which is the point of departure to understand why it must identified, why identification is a must: the subject’s lack of identity.  Lacan differentiates the imaginary identification from the symbolic identification of the Ego Ideal.

But in that answer—which is the answer of the Graph of desire—we start with the S, and the whole circuit ends up answering the identification with an attribute of the Other.  This is the summary of the entire graph:

However, Lacan studies the identification to show that there is an element in excess, under tension, which is the objet a:

Then Lacan substitutes the answer with the identification with the answer with the being of jouissance:

If at the level of desire, the answer to “What am I (Je)?” might be an identification, then, concludes Lacan, identifications, since Freud, are determined by desire.  In “On Freud’s Trieb and  the Psychoanalyst’s Desire” he writes: “Identifications are determined by desire without satisfying the drive.”  The “without satisfying the drive”—an identification that doesn’t satisfy the drive—signifies that there is a name other than that which derives from the insignia of the Other.  And this is a and what the seminar “Anxiety” highlights: the deficiency of everything that pertains to the register of identification, even the symbolic identification.


The Names of the Father

I can now introduce the fourth point: “The Names of the Father.”

When Lacan introduces it, in the only session of the seminar, the opening lesson, he points out that the previous year he studied the objet a, and argues that Hegelian dialectics is false.

Why does he remind us about the falsity of Hegelian dialectics to begin with “The Names of the Father?”  It’s about something very specific: once one starts with the logic of the function, there is something one cannot reach.  From then on, it’s about attaining the particular from the universal; that is the inherent weakness of any writing of the type ” x F(x).

What is the weakness with this universal formula?  You may see it for example in the phrase “All unicorns are lovable.”  This is true because they all appeared in works of art and are generally lovable.  The unicorn has only a small defect: it doesn’t exist.  Therefore, it is impossible to take issue with it.  If you tell me that it’s not true, I will say, “Bring me a unicorn.”  This means that the universal proposition says nothing about the existential, which is a deficit of that logic; if we start with the universal we will never proceed immediately to the existential.

It’s different when you say: ”There are some that are in this way, and there are some other that are otherwise.”  So eventually Lacan introduces the exception that the universal needs to hold on to the existential.  But at the level of the universal we only have the description of a concept, at the level of the universal proposition we are in the intension, which is the same as taking the concept.  “Its Beauty” is a component of the concept unicorn and doesn’t allow the transferral into existence.

Thus the universal may correspond to an empty extension, for instance, “All the analysts know what the unconscious is.”  Thus Lacan notes the fact that the concept of analyst speaks nothing on whether there is or there isn’t an analyst.  We may think about the most elaborate concept of the analyst, but still we don’t know whether we deal with an empty or a full extension.  Many suspect that such extension might be empty…

The Hegelian illusion—the Hegelian deception—suggesting that the universal could be coupled with the particular; that is that it can reach the place of the individual.  At this point Kierkegaard’s objection is advanced against the master Hegel, who moves from the universal to the particular without difficulty.  Kierkegaard says: “Anxiety.”  He writes an essay on anxiety which declares: “Hegel, there is something that your dialectic will never get rid of, anxiety.  It’s the anxiety you live through.  All your logical constructions are helpless against the complaint it voices, the rebellion of the particular in me: my anxiety.”

And it’s the same Kierkegaard who inquires into the sacrifice of Abraham, who sets the scene for a God that doesn’t work quietly as the God of Descartes or the God of Malebranche.  The God of Descartes does all his work, meaning he keeps the law of the world or he creates the world and then allows it to go.  The God of Malebranche, by contrast, must hold the world continuously, that is, he creates the world but then it’s a continuous creation.  He’s always busy doing things.

The God of Abraham’s sacrifice is a different matter.  The God of Abraham’s sacrifice is not the God of the philosophers and sages, but the God of Isaac, Abraham and Jacob—this distinction is made by Pascal—it’s not a God as subject-supposed-to-know, but a God with a desire .

On the same line Lacan observes that we are not dealing with the Father as a figure of the law that he himself has made, it’s not a Father equivalent to the big Other, rather quiet, as a place.  Because the Father of the law is a place, like with chairs, to give a seat.  Thus, in the seminar The Psychoses, when he introduces the Name-of-the Father, Lacan speaks of the chair, of the stool to be seated.

However, God tells Abraham, “Arise.”  It doesn’t say “Sit down,” but “Get up and make the sacrifice of your son.”  This God is not the seat but the wandering in the desert, this God is coherent with the introduction of S(A) and its relation to the objet a, that is, with a figure of the Other without reason.  And Lacan can say that owing to Freud we can go beyond the boundary stone he placed in the guise of the myth of the father’s murder.

In similar fashion, Lacan praises St. Augustine who, in De Trinitate, declares that God is not causa sui, that is, God is not Self-caused.  Why is Lacan pleased with St. Augustine?  Because the category of cause and effect is inapplicable to the Infinite Being.  “But he who thinks that God is of such power as to have generated Himself, is so much the more in error, because not only does God not so exist, but neither does the spiritual nor the bodily creature; for there is nothing whatever that generates its own existence.”  For to posit that God is causa sui entails that God brings Himself into being through his own concept.  Causa sui means that from the essence, from the definition of the concept, one could come into existence.

Thus, there is a logical solidarity between Hegel’s dialectics, the Cartesian cogito and the ontological argument that is being challenged by “The Names of the Father.”  They have the same logical structure because they deem feasible to go from the concept into existence.  The Cartesian cogito, for instance, finds reasonable to move from a thought into existence, into Wirklichkeit, which in fact is the very structure of the ontological argument.  In ”The Subversion of the Subject…” Lacan says that “the proofs of the existence of God have killed Him,” because finds Himself reduced to a logical consequence.  To not kill God means to know that God exists if one loves Him.

This is a common truth.  No one has come to believe in God because of the ontological argument which suggests that based on the concept of God, the essence of God, there is a transition to existence; that one can move from essence to existence and that from something that exists in intellectu you can move onto something that exists in re, factually.

Actually, it was Kant who developed the impossibility to go from the concept to existence.  You can imagine a concept, a concept which is not contradictory, but being non-contradictory makes it only possible, never existing.  In this respect Lacan is Kantian and anti-Hegelian.

However, the ontological argument might be saved, for instance, by returning to St. Anselm.  I am sure that Lacan would have spoken of the ontological argument in the non-existent seminar “The Names of the Father,” because Saint Anselm’s quotation is almost a Name-of-the-Father: Aliquid Quo Nihil Maius Cogitari Possit, which is a partial quote translated into English as “a something, a greater than which cannot be conceived.”  With this passage he tries to give evidence that this “something” necessarily exists.  You may argue against the Kantian criticism by stating that this is not a real concept since it reveals a limitation of thinking—actually, it’s a sentence that goes way beyond the concept, over the limits of thinking.

That’s pretty interesting because the only way to challenge, against Kant, the ontological argument is to demonstrate that the definition, the description or the concept, which is taken as the starting point of cogitation, in fact describes an impossibility.  As a result, we get God not so much asexistence but as real.

And all those who advocate Kant’s ontological argument, they do so in the Lacanian way, that is, they make the case that there is an inability to think and from that apparent inability to think one can deduce a reason to think the real.  It’s from the impossible that the real arises.

So that Alexander Koyré, defender of the ontological argument, and Étienne Gilson—all friends who were read by Lacan—favored the ontological argument as an indirect evidence.  But we are not dealing with a concept here, the impossibility in thinking is just taken an as the starting point.

It can also be noted that Saint Anselm does not only speak of maius, the greater.  Elsewhere he speaks of melius, the best.  This “best” shows that the ontological argument is not only ontological—a word that comes long after Saint Anselm—but is also an ethical argument concerning the supreme good.

Saint Anselm said: Aliquid Quo Nihil Maius Cogitari Possit, “a something, a greater than which cannot be conceived.”  He speaks of it as that which is beyond thinking when he says: O immensa bonitas, quae sic omnem intellectum excedis, “Oh, immeasurable goodness, who exceeds all understanding.”  In fact Saint Anselm is addressing the goodness and putting goodness in lieu of the essence, therefore going beyond the concept.  We cannot really understand the ontological argument if we don’t give precedence to faith.  Saint Anselm’s title itself proves the case: Fides quaerens intellectum, “Faith Seeking Understanding.”  It is faith that wants to understand about what is going on.  Saint Augustine insists that lntelligere vis crede, “Whom do you want to understand?  First you must believe.”

What does the ontological argument keep saying?  That for every thing that exist, one can always think that there is something bigger, Φ(x), and yet one may find something for which nothing is bigger, for which nothing bigger can be tought.  This answers one of Lacan’s formulas of sexuation:

We should break this down a little to better see the subtlety therein, since verily the ontological argument states: ”Every thing might be thought, and might be thought always, with something bigger.”

To God there is something that can be thought and of which nothing bigger can be thought, the question resides in whether this is thinkable or not.  Is it an impossibility to think or may it be a possible thought?  Here the authors are divided: if it’s thinkable, then we start with a concept; if it’s an impossibility, then the description given by Saint Anselm is a quasi-concept, a pseudo-concept; in fact, it poses only the impossibility of thinking.

Lacan’s solution is very simple: it doesn’t matter if it’s unthinkable, it can be written.  And the writing of a stands for something, no matter how unthinkable, since it can be written.

Thus, Lacan posits that God is not causa sui.  To say that God is causa sui signifies that it’s possible to go from the concept to existence without a as a cause, as irreducible cause.  Causa sui, as the ontological argument, function as a reduction of a.  And every time Lacan comments the Cartesian cogito or the causa sui,  he re-establishes the a.

In “Science and Truth” he sets up the a in the Cartesian cogito and ponders as well over the causa sui.  On that account, he is against the Augustian translation of the imposing sentence that the God of Israel utters to Moses ehyeh ascher ehyeh, which Saint Augustine translates as Ego sum qui sum (I am who I am); Lacan says that it must be translated as “I am what I am,” as God appears as a real without concept.

The concept of God is not the Other of the concept, is not the Other of the signifier.  The God in question is a; it has the status of a real without concept, and around that revolve the Names of the Father, which seek to imprison it, to conceptualize it.

That is the aim of the investigation of the pass, to the analyst—as the God of Israel—to stand as a and say: “I am what I am,” and in this way be able to justify the access he has obtained to his name of jouissance.

To consider the idea that God is a instead of the Other may surprise you.  But you have to look into at what Freud tells us when he reflects on the totem as the primitive form of the divine, when he presents us with an animal God.  The animal so captivating, fascinating for the human religious because it escapes the lack of being of the speaking being.  For this reason in almost all of Freud’s cases, the names of being, as the subject’s name of jouissance, are animals: rats, wolves; and there is little Hans, the child of the horses.  There is also Dora though, who is “the woman of men,” another type of animal!  And of course, there is Schreber.  But in Schreber’s case, God himself makes an appearance.  Schreber is “the man of the gods,” because God comes forward with all of his names; we just know Hormuz and Ahriman, but we know there are others…

Now, perhaps, I can take on a fifth point: “Father and Jouissance.

I will highlight this sentence from “Subversion of the Subject…” where Lacan suggests: “But what is not a myth, although Freud formulated it as early on as he formulated the Oedipus myth, is the castration complex.”  This makes evident that after having made this extraordinary conjuction between the Oedipus complex, the castration complex and Totem and Taboo with the paternal metaphor, Lacan proceeds, however, from the disjunction of the Oedipus complex and castration.

In his notorious paternal metaphor Lacan maneuvers the terms offered by Freud, that is, the father, the mother and the child, to position a fourth term, namely castration, the phallus.  But we know that after that classic moment in his teaching, Lacan—he not only does the linguistic transcript of the Oedipus myth—conceives the Oedipus complex as myth through which Freud himself attempted to explain how jouissance was lost.  As if jouissance and its loss were capital.  And perhaps children, but surely the analysts also, had to construct a myth to explain why it was lost.

As the myths that recall the discovery of fire, as those which explain the existence of the earth, the sky, men and women, the myth of Oedipus was just, within psychoanalysis itself, a way to tell why there was something broken in jouissance, and so it reveals that it was because of a ban.

Lacan answers are different.  If there is loss of jouissance it’s not because of that remarkable story, the reason lies in that, first, pleasure itself sets limits to jouissance.  Ther body’s own homeostasis prevents jouissance to go beyond a certain point and that to go further implies the crossing of the barrier of pleasure towards pain, which is the Sadean way.

And one scheme to go further in the pursuit of pleasure, to go beyond the limits of pleasure for those who lack the vocation of the Marquis de Sade, is the symptom, which brings in suffering.  One “makes” symptom in order to experince suffering (on oneself), but the Marquis de Sade too.  The Marquis de Sade, who allegedly brought suffering to others, managed to be imprisoned for half of his life, and Lacan stresses that the secret of the Marquis de Sade was his masochism.

So, if it is pleasure that sets the limits to jouissance, what is the history of the law?  What is the story of the Father figure of the law?  We should call him by his name: it is a semblant.  Lacan, far from raising the law to a dimension where it becomes the final answer in psychoanalysis, makes of him a semblant.  Besides, it is not enough to say that pleasure sets the limits to jouissance, but that language as such has the same effect on the body of the speaking being: jouissance torments him.

So the structure of the signifier is enough, or the structure of the real, of the symbolic, of the imaginary, to account for the loss of jouissance.

And what comes to be that sort of surplus Name-of -the-Father?  The Name-of-the-Father designates the power of the word.  So that the Names of the Father, which you can look for, are all myths that narrate the loss of jouissance.  They tell about someone, someone in command, who steals jouissance.  It’s not the appropriation of the fire, as in the case of Prometheus, it’s the theft of jouissance: “While I was sleeping someone came and stole my jouissance.”

The Names of the Father are stories that can be look for, stories that attempt to explain the displacement, the transfer of jouissance towards the Other.

Lacan says that perhaps the most fundamental of The Names of the Father might be that of the Mother Goddess, which belong to the cults that precede the Names of the Father.  The Jewish cult of the Names of the Father superseded the Mother Goddess.  Perhaps the earliest of the Names of the Father is the name of the Mother and alludes to a book by Robert Graves, The White Goddess, which, I must say, I had given him.

This introduces the “logification” of the Name-of-the-Fathers, which we find in The Other Side of Psychoanalysis as the master signifier, which is the heir of the Name-of-the-Father and of the Names of the Father, but abstracted, sun-dried, as a pure logical function devoid of the myth.

Thus, Lacan board together the Oedipus complex, castration and Totem and Taboo with metapsychology, he explains how the libido has been evacuated from body, yet it stays as a.  So we may say that the a refers to what resists the universalizing operation of the Name-of-the-Father and, in that sense, the Name-of-the-Father covers a.  This doesn’t mean that the Name-of-the-Father is under a veil, the Name-of-the Father itself is the veil that covers the loss of jouissance and the residue of jouissance that resists to the universalizing exertioin, which says no to the fact of “jouissance to be in your body.”

This appears, grossly I might say, in the prohibition of masturbation, when we declare: “Do not look for your jouissance in your own body but in the body of the other sex.”  The prohibition of masturbation says so rudely because actually jouissance on oneself doesn’t exist.  What would be jouissance on oneself?  It would be phallic jouissance, but it would appear outside the body, independently, since any body marked by the Name-of-the-Father becomes the site of the signifier, the site of this mark, the big Other, emptied of jouissance.

So a appears always detached from the Other.  Sometimes in neurosis it can only be found in clandestinity with respect to the Other, and the subject may inadvertently get lost in the task of embodying what the Other lacks.  In paranoia, instead, the Other and a meet and becomes manifested in the awareness that the Other jouit of me, whereas in schizophrenia it’s the jouissance that returns to the body which destroys the very limits of the body.  Here, we might talk about feminine dementia and the paradox that woman be the Other to herself.

In conclusion I would like to stress that the metapsychology of the Name-of-the-Father is not only a metaphor, is not only expressed through the metaphor, that is through the metaphor of the Other’s jouissance.

Next to the metaphor of jouissance, recurrent in the paternal metaphor, there is the metonymy of jouissance.  The metaphor is a substitution, a deletion, and we obtain an effect of meaning.

Then, why is metonymy more suited to jouissance?  Because it entails displacement, a place-shifting function.

Freud introduced the libido to explain that jouissance is untransferable; it’s transferable but cannot be annulled since it moves elsewhere.  In “The Subversion of the Subject…” Lacan suggests that jouissance can only be said in between the lines, which is the function of metonymy.  He develops this further, clearly and without ambiguity, in “Radiophonie” where he contrats the metaphor, which operates on meaning, and the metonymy, which functions on jouissance.

Lacan conceives the unconscious as an extractive mechanism, which takes from jouissance, that is, conveying jouissance to the unconscious. He then envisages the analytical work as transferring jouissance to the signifier.  As he puts it, “The business of shifting jouissance to the unconscious necessitates a crafty movement.”

At this juncture, we might inquire into whether the signifier of A. would or wouldn’t be the name of the objet a.

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