The Classical Roots of Poststructuralism: Lacan, Derrida, and Foucault Author(s): Paul Allen Miller Source: International Journal
of the Classical Tradition, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Fall, 1998), pp. 204-225 Published by: Springer Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30222818 . Accessed: 30/08/2011 02:00
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Poststructuralism: Lacan, Derrida, and Foucault*
This paper argues that French poststructuralisttheory does not represent a movement antitheticalto Classics and the Classical Tradition,but should be read as its extension. thought are articulatedat the beginning of the Majorrecurringthemes of poststructuralist Derrida's 1960's in Lacan'scommentarieson Sophocles'Antigoneand Plato's Symposium. as reading of the Phaedrus well as his citationof the Platonictraditionin his dispute with de Foucaultover the latter'sHistoire lafolie furtherconfirm the importanceof the Hellenic traditionto poststructuralism's engagementwith occidentalphilosophy.Finally,Foucault's late turn to Stoicism and the philosophersof the Roman imperialperiod can be seen as a response to and criticismof the positions establishedby Lacanand Derrida.The Classics are not only relevant to understandingpoststructuralist theory and philosophy, but actually define the terms of its debates.
this paper, I will argue that the popular conception of French poststructuralist theory as representing an intellectual movement antithetical to Classics and the Classical Traditionis rooted in a profound misreading of the texts of its most influential exponents. Such a misreading is not found just, or even primarily, among classicists, but often is performed and publicized by poststructuralism'sown advocates.' This paper will demonstrate that the works of Lacan,Derrida,and Foucault,however revolutionary their intent, cannot be properly understood outside the context of their own profound indebtedness to classical and particularlyHellenic culture. Thus, rather than offering a rationalefor ignoring the classics, these thinkerspresent a mandate for
A version of this paper was originallydelivered as a plenaryaddress at the FourthMeeting of the InternationalSociety for the Classical Tradition (ISCT)held in Tiibingen July 29August 2, 1998.Thanksare due to the Society and to the Office of the Provost at Texas Tech University for making this possible. A portionwas also presentedat the 1999meeting of the Classical Associationof the Middle West and South in Cleveland. The author would like to acknowledge the helpful commentsand revisionssuggested by ProfessorsWolfgang Haase, BruceClarke,and SharonDiane Nell. All remainingfaults are stubbornlymy own. See for example Richlin'saccount (1998:165-67) of how many of Foucault'sstrongest feminist advocates view the last two volumes of Foucault's Historyof Sexuality,which refer respectively to Greece and Rome, as unimportantif not aberrant.As Richlin and Jameson both note, the denial of history has been a common strain in much Anglo-American work (Jameson1991:405-6). poststructuralist
Paul Allen Miller, Program in Comparative Literature,Departmentof French and Classics, Universityof South Carolina,Columbia,SC 29208,USA. InternationalJournalof the Classical Tradition,Vol. 5, No. 2, Fall 1998, pp. 204-225.
their continued status as privileged interlocutors in serious intellectual debate. The philosophy of the present, as they demonstrate, is most authentic when thought in relation to its past. Indeed, as Foucaulthimself has argued, it is precisely in order to remake one's relation to the world, to think again, to transformthought radically,that the confrontationwith the genealogy of the present is necessary (1994b:580-81; 1994c: 1985:247, 251-52, 261, 277-78). Poststructuralism,then, is better 612; Kremer-Marietti thought of as continuing our dialogue with antiquitythan as repudiatingit. This is not to say that the readings of classical texts offered by these thinkers are necessarily the best or the most importantfrom a philological perspective. Their goal is not simply to transmit the past. Indeed, their readings are partial and often avowedly part of a larger social, political, and philosophical agenda. But this is hardly unique to poststructuralism.It is, in fact, the story of the reception of Classical Antiquity from Callimachus to Hegel, Sartre,and Camus. We do not in the first instance read Racine's imitations of Euripides, Pope's of Horace, or Pound's Homageto Sextus to Propertius learn about the inherentnature of their ancientmodels, but to see how the Classical Traditioncontinues to serve as a source, provocation and touchstone against which subsequent western intellectual and literary creations are tested. The French poststructuralistsstand in much the same relation to the founding texts of occidental civilization as Racine, Pope, or Pound: adopting a stance at once critical, contemporary, and self-consciously in dialogue with tradition. Before examining the texts themselves, however, a word or two on the origins and characteristicsof poststructuralism are in order.2 As the name itself indicates, poststructuralismis less a coherent school or body of doctrine than a reaction to, and critical revision of, Saussurian linguistics and the structuralistliterary criticism and anthropology founded on it that dominated Frenchthought in the late fifties and early sixties. Indeed, in one early, influentialAmericanaccountof their work, Lacan,Derrida, and Foucault are themselves labeled structuralists(Jameson1972: 101-216). One reason for this identification was their concern with discourse and the regularities of language, an important feature of structuralism.Yet all three soon rejected this tag. The reasons for their aversion to the structuralistlabel go beyond a simple unwillingness to be categorized under a generalizingrubric.For,while accepting structuralism's focus on the determining power of language as well as its rejectionof Sartreanexistentialist humanism, the poststructuralistssaw discourse not as an atemporal,synchronic system, in the manner of Saussure, but as a set of historically specific, and thus contestable, norms (Flynn 1994: 29, 31; J. Miller 1993: 135, 148, 161; Palmer 1990: 25; Jameson 1972: 139; 1991: 12). Poststructuralism,therefore, has a political and ethical vocation that was often found wanting in classical structuralism. Thus in the case of Foucault, for example, his rejection of humanism and other models of the self as the origin of meaning did not lead him to embracestructuralism's apolitical scientism, but rather to foster various forms of local resistance to power wherever they might be found. He was thus active in supporting those who sought to resist the coercive powers of the penal system, the normalizing discourse of psychiatrists, psychologists, and sexologists, as well as the sclerotic and self-perpetuating "revolutionary"parties and states of Eastern Europe (Macey 1993: 203-31, 257-352, 378-414, 436-56; J.Miller 1993:165-207;Jameson 1991:203;Taylor 1989:488). For him,
2. For two accessibleintroductionsto poststructuralism, Eagleton(1996:11048) and Newsee ton (1997:112-41).
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unlike for structuralistssuch as Todorov, Greimas, or Genette, knowledge and power were deeply intertwined. Scholarshipcould not be above the fray. A further area of disagreement between the poststructuralistsand structuralism lies in the fact that where the structuralistssought to map out total systems of abstract possibility (langue) that could account for all actual variations in concrete practice (parole)-whether in literature,fashion, or kinship patterns--the poststructuralistsconsistently refused to endorse any form of totalization, preferringto concentrate on the local and the particular.They refused to propound teleologies showing history's inevitable path to the present and explicitly rejected what they viewed as the hegemonic subtext underlying structuralism'stotalizing vision. Ratherthan representing a simple continuation of the structuralistenterprise, the rejection of both master subjects and master narrativesby poststructuralistslike Lacan,Derrida,and Foucault reveals much in common with those decentered and contingent forms of thought that Jean Frangois Lyotard sees as characteristicof the "postmoderncondition" (Lyotard1984: 10, 37-41; Flynn 1994: 43; Taylor 1989: 463, 489).3 Poststructuralismseeks not to categorize human culture and behavior, but to define the limits of those categoriesper se. I. Lacan,Antigone, and the Ethics of Pure Desire Jacques Lacanis chronologically the first of the thinkers labeled poststructuralist. His seminars, begun in the 1950s, drew up to eight hundred people and influenced all the major intellectuals of the 1960s and 1970s in France.One could agree or disagree with him, accept or reject his teaching, but one could not ignore his provocative rereadings of both the classics of western culture in terms of psychoanalysis and of Freud in terms of the history of literature,philosophy, and art.4 Indeed, Lacan revolutionized the practice of psychoanalysis in Franceby reading Freud's corpus not as a manual of interpretationthat provided potted answers to pre-existing questionss but as a grammarthat made it possible to begin the long labor of decoding the rhetoric of desire. Lacan was the first to apply the findings of linguistics to the study of psychoanalysis, and from the beginning his work had a strong affinity with philology. Lacan's concept of desire, moreover, finds its roots in the Platonic corpus. His work on both and love and transference,as MicaelaJananindicates, draws heavily on the Symposium and the Platonicconcept of love as the effort to return to the Phaedrus (1994:7-21, 144), a lost-but somehow dimly remembered-unity figures prominentlyin his work (Lacan 1973: 119; 1975: 67-68; 1986: 341; Julien 1990: 112, 186; Janan 1994:27; Halperin 1994: 48). Thus in 1959, Lacanpresented the paradigm of Sophocles' Antigoneas a model of pure desire for his seventh seminar on TheEthicsof Psychoanalysis:
to For a good treatmentof the relationof postmodern "antifoundationalism" contemporary classical studies, see Fowler (1994). On the influence of the seminars, see Schneiderman (1983: 28-30); on his multi-faceted involvement with the majorintellectual figures of the century, see Ragland-Sullivan(1986: 87, 91) and Roudinesco (1997: 31, 98-101); and on his largely correct assertion to have see anticipatedDerrida'sclaims in Of Grammatology, Lacan(1966:11). Such a cookie-cutterstyle of interpretationis the problem with most of the psychoanalytic Lloydinvestigations examined by Hugh Lloyd-Jonesin his dismissive account(1985=1990). Jones is unaware of Lacan'swork.
the Antigone presents herself as autonomos, pure and simple relationship of
a humanbeing to thatwhichit miraculously findsitselfcarrying, is the that
rupture of signification, that which grants a person the insuperable power of being--in spite of and against everything-what he [sic] is.... Antigone all but fulfills what can be called pure desire, the pure and simple desire of death as such [i.e., of that which is beyond the pleasure principle].6 She incarnatesthis desire. (1986:328-29)7 Lacan's commentary on the Antigone,however, is not well known. His allusive and convoluted style has proven a significantbarrier to the dissemination of his work in the Classics community, while his close readings of canonical texts have failed to appeal to many of his less learned,postmodern successors." Lacan'schoice of Antigone as his model for elaboratingan ethics of pure desire is triply motivated. First, he notes the obvious interest of all facets of the Oedipus myth for psychoanalysts. Second, he observes the relationship of the Freudian concept of catharsisto its Aristotelianprecursorin the Poetics. Tragedyin general, and the Antigone in particular,he argues, must occupy a central place in any satisfying psychoanalytic account of culture and ethics. Accordingly, Lacanbegins his commentary on Antigone with an explication of catharsis as defined by the Stagirite.The purgation of pity and fear, he notes, does not merely posit the representationof such emotions. Indeed, as he observes, Antigone herself exhibits neither. But rather the phenomenon of catharsis evokes the existence of a position that transcendsboth pity and fear, a position beyond conventional categories of emotion, which he in turn links with Antigone's unconditional pursuit of an object of desire that is itself beyond the bounds of a strictly normative or utilitarianreason (Lacan1986:285-90, 300, 372;Julien 1992:112).9 Finally, Lacan notes that the Antigone itself has long played a central role in
westernethicalthought.He arguesthat,whetherwe realizeit or not, the play forms
part of our implicit morality (1986:330), I did not by some decree make Antigonea central point in the matter that concerns us, ethics. For a very long time this has been known, and even
6. See Moi (1985: 101), "If we accept that the end of desire is the logical consequence of satisfaction(if we are satisfied, we are in a position where we desire no more), we can see why Freud in Beyondthe Pleasure Principle, posits death as the ultimate object of desire-as Nirvana or the recapturingof the lost unity, the final healing of the split subject." 7. All translationsare my own unless otherwise noted. 8. As Roudinesco notes, the many mistakes in the Greek in the published version of the seventh seminar are as much a function of Jacques-AlainMiller's refusal to accept the suggestions of PierreVidal-Naquetas of Lacan'sown ignorance(1997:423). 9. Lacan,moreover, frames the whole of his investigation of the ethics of psychoanalysis and of the Antigonewith a series of trenchantcomments on the Nicomachean Ethics.The next year he would qualify this work as a decisive step in the development of Western ethical thought (1991:14). Lacan,however, is anythingbut Aristotelian.Aristotle'sethics, he notes, representa discipline of happiness based on the reasoned pursuit of communally acknowledged goods, in the context of what Lacan, and later Foucault, would label an ethos of mastery inextricablybound to the subjectposition of members of the Greekruling class. In its stead, Lacanoffers Antigone as the model of an ethics that transcendsthe historicallyand politicallyorderedrealm of the pleasureprinciple,an ethics that therebyrevealsthe limits of any sociallyconstitutednotionof the good (1986: 39,281, 338-39,363;Julien1992:109). 32,
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its thosewho have not acknowledged presence knowthatit plays a partin thediscussions the learned. of (1986: 285) In the contextof this evocationof the traditionof erudite,philosophically innote formedreadingsof the play, Lacan makesparticular of the famedinterpretations that offeredby Hegel and Goethe.He remarks Hegel is mistakenin his reductionof bethe conflictbetweenCreonand Antigoneto a mereallegoryof the contradiction tween the discoursesof the polisand the oikos(1986:276).10 Lacanalso objectsto at Hegel'spositingof a finalreconciliation the play'send betweenthe two competing discursivemodes (1986:292). Antigone'ssplendid isolationin her choice of death by presentsher as a figurewhose ethicalact can neverbe recuperated the civic dishimselfas the sole legitimate course,of which Creonperceives (Lacan representative Zizek1989: Tothatextent,Lacan's is closerto Goethe'sthat 1986: 117). reading 300-01; but--a conflictbetween a principles posits-not an oppositionbetweentwo abstract of his representative the state,who oversteps boundsand triesto forceeven the dead to conformto the normsof civic life, and the victim,or ratherthe agent,of an all1986: 297). consuming passion(Lacan decisionto defy Creonand buryPolynicesis an act Lacannotes thatAntigone's actionsnor to thatconsciously seeks death.She makesno effortto defendPolynices' the that and Creon'sargument Eteocles Polynicesshouldnot be accorded same deny
honors (Lacan1986:290, 323-25; Guyomard 1992:106).1 Her choice takes her beyond
it the realm of rationaldiscourseand the collectivenorms of satisfaction implies, beyond an yin beyondthe Freudian and yang of the pleasureand realityprinciples, 1986: 281;Zizek1991: Julien1990:109). Aristotelian 78, 25; conceptof the good (Lacan the Hers is a positionthat transcends comfortable binaryoppositionsthat structure daily life. As such, becausethe choiceof death cannotbe understoodaccordingto some simple antithesisof norms,she cannotbe readas representing strictlyrational 1986: Zizek1989: to or freedomto tyranny, theindividual thestate(Lacan 281; 116-17; decree she In fact,as she acknowledges, had chosendeathbeforeCreon's 1992: 77-78). andshe definesherselfto Ismene had againsttheburialof Polynices beenpromulgated, as one alreadybelongingto the realmof the dead:"Youlive on! My soul has long
since died so that it might serve the dead" (l. 559-60; see Lacan 1986: 315, 326; Guyomard 1992: 106). Creon does not represent the tyrant who forces Antigone to make an impossible choice between life and freedom, but embodies the civic norms that her pursuit of a desire beyond the bounds of those articulatedwithin the realm of common life both requires and transcends.Her choice thus represents a pure ethical act that is shaped neither by the banality of a self-interestedselection among communally recognized goods nor the self-loathing of conforming to a code that is both
10. In this objection,Lacanis echoed by PatriciaJohnson'srecentpsychoanalyticreading of the character of Antigone throughout the Sophoclean corpus. Johnson notes that Antigone cannot be conceived of as the representativeof the oikostout courtsince her allegiance is exclusively to the male members of the household. Thus she rejectsher sister even when Ismene offersto share Antigone'spunishmentalthoughshe did not share the crime (Johnson 1997:369-72). For anotherrecent psychoanalyticaccountof tragedy that makes mention of Lacan,though not of his commentaryon the Antigone,see Caldwell (1994) (and for a brief skepticalreportSchmidt1997/98:442). 11. See Johnson (1997:374) on "the excessive, or at least self-destructive,nature of her attachobservedby every readerof the play." ment to Polynices in Antigone,
recognized and despised (Julien 1990: 112; Zizek 1992: 77). Such an ethical choice, as
in Lacanimplicitlyacknowledges, Kantian its devotionto a pure conceptof duty, is in on but psychoanalytic its predication a highlyindividualized desirethatcannotbe with regardto its content, into a universal ethicalmaximof the kind that generalized, 1986: 365-66). Kantrequired 68, (Lacan Antigone'schoice,her desire,is pure preciselyto the degree that it ultimately in rejectsall claims of othernessand enclosesitself in what PatrickGuyomard, his as an incestuousnarcissism. this recentcriticalresponseto Lacan's For reading,sees
latter day French psychoanalyst, it is precisely Creon's bitter ability to learn from his mistakes, rather than Antigone's suicidal purity, that presents the real ethical model (1992:45, 52, 62-64, 75). But for Lacan,it is the beauty of Antigone's choice of a Good beyond all recognized goods, beyond the pleasure principle, that gives her character its monumental status and makes her a model for an ethics of creation as opposed to conformity (1991: 13). It is for this reason that he cites Antigone's self-comparison to Niobe as the central axis around which the play turns (1. 823-33):for in this one image we see brought together the themes of beauty, monumentality,and death in a singular apotheosis of tragic transgression(Lacan1986:311, 315, 327). Beauty for Lacan represents the perfect moment between life and death, a moment both articulatedby and beyond time and desire, a moment whose true achievement can only be imagined as the incarnationof a pure desire beyond any recognizable object (1986:291, 344; 1991: 15, 154;Julien 1990: 114-15; Zizek 1989: 135). For Lacan, then, as will be the case for Foucault in his turn to antiquity, the search for an ethics leads above all to an aesthetics of existence, to the search for the beautiful life (Foucault1994d:415; 1994c:617). II. Lacan,the Symposium, and Transference The year following Lacan's fascinating, if controversial, commentary on the Antigone,his seminar continued its engagement with Classical Antiquity by focusing on Plato's Symposium. Socrates, like Antigone, represents for Lacan a kind of purity that exceeds the bounds of communally acknowledged goods. His atopia,as Alcibiades terms it (215A2),places him beyond the bounds of the order defined by the Athenian is polis, and that singularity in tumrn the basis of his purity (Lacan 1991: 18-19, 126-27; 1973:287).12 Thus, in the wake of Lacan'sencounter in the Antigonewith an ethics of creation that sought an authentic beauty and monumentality beyond all conventional to representations,the Parisian psychoanalyst turned to Socrates and the Symposium find a model for elaboratinga theory of love as a response to the fundamental lack in our being that Freudiantheory sees as the root of human desire. As Jeffrey Carnes has noted, the Symposiumis a natural choice for Lacan: Aristophanes'myth reads as if the Parisiananalyst himself wrote it himself. In it, "The
of impulse toward sex has its origin in the recognition castration--ofthe loss (or of fullness.Zeus,thephallicfather, punishesandsays 'no'yet alsogives impossibility) us sex (while hiding his own desire).Indeed,this coupure cut gives rise to the or individual himself,who is a symbolon-a self, subject tally,a half of his former but also a symbolon the sense of a signifier.This individuation, freely chosen, is the in not sourceof sexualdesire,a markof our mortality imperfection..." (Carnes1998: and
12. On atopiaas a trope in ancient philosophy, see Davidson (1995:23) and Hadot (1987:205; 1995:57).
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114-15). It is Aristophanes, Lacannotes, who introduces the concept of the splitting of the subject, or Spaltung, which played a central role in Freud's etiology of desire (Lacan 1991: 108, 144; Cames 1998: 115). Lacan goes on in his eleventh seminar to develop Aristophanes' myth further by adding the concept of the lamelle,Le. a "thin blade or membrane." 13 The lamellerepresents both the effective agent that splits the initial dyadic unity of self and other-emblematically portrayed in psychoanalysis as the infant's relation with the mother-and that which remains after the splitting of the subject,i.e., the desire that pushes us to seek what we have lost, but also that which, as desire, guarantees that we will never find it. This, Lacanobserves, is the crucial differ-
in and accounts: Aristophanes' ence between the Aristophanic Freudian speechsubin seek their"sexualcomplements," psychoanalysis seek thatwhich is gone they jects 1973: 221,223,229;Zizek1996: forever(Lacan 211, 192-93). What Lacanis investigatingin his readingof the Symposium, however, is not in desireor love. He is interested a specialkind of love, thatwhich a patient merely
feels for his or her analyst. This is known as transference,since it is believed to be a metaphoricalkind of love in which the analyst comes to occupy the place of the object of desire in the patient's extra-clinicaluniverse. The essence of the transferentialrelationship thus is the possibility of substitution, and the fundamental model for this substitutive relationship, according to Lacan, can be found in the complex interplay between Socrates and Alcibiades at the end of the Symposium.Two different, but complementary, levels of substitutabilityare present in this passage: the well known inversion of roles wherein erastesand eromenos exchange places, as Socrates becomes the object of Alcibiades' desire; and the possibility of substituting Agathon for the object of desire of both Socrates and Alcibiades, so that each comes to occupy for the other the logically necessary, but empty, third position that makes Symbolic relationships of equivalence, and hence substitutability,possible.14This third position is precisely that occupied by the analyst in the typical psychoanalytic scenario. Nonetheless, transference is not a phenomenon limited to the analyst's couch. It is, as Lacan observes, in the nature of love and of Symbolic relationshipsper se (Julien1992:74, 120; Henderson 1993:125-26). The psychoanalyticrelationshipis only a specific instance of this more general phenomenon. The purpose of Lacan's commentary on the Symposium is not to psychoanalyze Plato, nor to apply Freudian concepts in an ahistorical fashion to ancient philosophy, but to demonstrate why psychoanalysts should read Plato (Lacan 1991: 129). His reading thus escapes the sometimes well-deserved condemnations of facile applications of psychoanalytic typologies to ancient authors and cf. the charactersin their texts (H. Lloyd-Jones1985=1990; 1997/98: 605). and the erastesand the eromenos, hence The first level of substitution, that between between Socratesand Alcibiades, is the most apparentin Plato's text and the easiest to elucidate. Alcibiades tells us that it is well known that Socrateswas his first lover, but
13. The related English term, 'lamella', does not really translate the French lamelle,which retains the notion that it is the diminutive of lame,the blade of a knife or sword, as well as signifying a membranebetween cells. 14. The logical necessity of a third position to make any determination of value, and hence comparison and exchange or substitutability,possible was first demonstrated in modern times by Hegel (1980: 63-70 and passim; 1977: 58-66 and passim), and then specifically elaborated upon by Marx (1991:37-82; 1976:125-77) in his notion of the universal equivalent. On the relation of these dialecticalsystems of thought to Freud and Lacan, see Goux (1968;1969;1990:9-63).
when he sought for Socrates to affirm his desire for him directly the philosopher always evaded the question. Alcibiades therefore sets out on the path of seduction hoping to come to possess Socrates'wisdom--the agalmaor image of divine essence locked inside his Silenic exterior-by allowing Socrates to possess him in the more conventional pederastic sense. Yet theirs is anything but a normal pederastic relationship since the older lover has become the objectof pursuit and the younger beloved, the pursuer (215A4-222A6).The unusual nature of this situation is highlighted by the fact that many commentatorshave felt that the eruption of the drunken Alcibiades on the scene of the Symposium's orderly exchange of speeches in praise of Love constituted a breech in the stylistic and thematic unity of the dialogue. Indeed, Lacan remarks, the dialogue's first Frenchtranslator,Louis Le Roy, chose to end his text with Socrates' recounting of the lesson of Diotima, believing that the Alcibiades passage was a joking coda that was neither integral to the dialogue nor appropriate reading matter for a Christian nation (1991:30-31, 36; K. Lloyd-Jones1996: 100-101; Le Roy 1558:180r). Yet, as Lacan also notes, the theme of substituting the lover for the beloved is present from the earliest speech in the dialogue, where Phaedruspraises both Alcestis' dying in place of Admetus and Achilles' taking the place of Patroclusafter the latter's death (179B4-180B5). The first is an example of simple substitution along the lines of Alcibiades and Socrates. Alcestis assumes the role of Admetus, without any relationship to a possible third position that would make a more general equivalence possible. The case of Achilles, however, as Phaedrus observes, is worthy of greater praise and wins him the reward of spending the hereafterin the Isles of the Blessed. In it, the eromenos does not merely take the place of the erastes actually becomes a subject of but desire in his own right. "Achilles, having come to the aid of and having avenged his erastes,Patroclus,not only dared to prefer to die in place of, but also in additionto, the one whose life had already ended" (179E5-180A2,emphasis mine). In short, Achilles can occupy the vacant place of the erastesand die in turn, precisely because Patroclus himself has died, has moved to the vacant third position. It is the transformationof Achilles into a lover, into one who actually occupies the place of Patroclus, that is so miraculous (Lacan1991:69): Aeschylus talks nonsense when he says that Achilles desires Patroclus.He was more beautiful not only than Patroclusbut than all the heroes, and he was still beardless, since he was much younger, as Homer says. Truly, this is why the gods greatly honored his virtue in love, moreover they wonder, admire, and esteem it more when the eromenos fond of the erastesthan is when the erastesis fond of the boy: for such a boy is more godlike than the lover of boys; he is divinely inspired. On account of these things, the gods honored Achilles more than Alcestis, sending him to the Isles of the Blessed. (180A4-B85) Achilles does not simply mirrorPatroclus,in the manner of Alcestis and Admetus, but actually assumes his position, suffers what he suffers. As Lacanshrewdly notes, such a transformationmust assume that one of the two positions in the essentially dyadic love relationship has become vacant, so that the necessity of a third position (in this case death) must be posited (1991:63). The existence of this more complex triadic love relationship,in turn, looks forward to that of Socrates,Alcibiades, and Agathon.
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Alcibiades' attempt to seduce Socrates, we find out, fails. The merely dyadic pattern of substitution comes up short. Socrates refuses to adopt the passive position because he refuses to admit the existence in himself of a positive substance that is the object of Alcibiades' desire (Lacan 1991: 185, 188). Rather he recognizes that what Alcibiades in fact desires is Socrates' desire, that is to realize his own desire through the desire of the Other, in Lacan's hermetic vocabulary (Lacan 1991: 202-03; Julien 1992:122).It is for this reason that Alcibiades must paradoxicallyseek signs of Socrates'
known that Socrates was his first lover. love, while confessingthat it is universally Why does he need signs of that which is alreadybeyond question?He seeks not so
much to confirm Socrates'love but to possess it as an object(Lacan1991:185). Socrates
a that but in his recognition Erosis not a positivesubstance rather daimonicmediator the between presenceand absence,mortaland immortal, ugly and the beautiful,as in desireby refusing demonstrated Diotima's speech,can only trulygrantAlcibiades' Lacan1991:144;Clarke1995:13, 19-20;Carnes1998:115).This him (201D1-204C6; lack the of recognition desireas a fundamental constitutes essentialkernelof Socrates' erotic mastery(1991:185-86).This in fact is the agalma Alcibiadesseeks and that if only Alcibiades in refusingthe latter'sadvances, could recognizeit Socrates, grants, of 1994: lack 7; 107).It is the recognition the constitutive at (Zizek1991: see also Berger itselfpossiblebut alsoinfinite, as Diotima for theheartof desirethatmakessubstitution what is desired in the and in the Symposium Socratesinthe Phaedrus demonstrate, is not that which the individualpossessesbut the possibilityof individualbeloved for seeingin the individualthatgood whichis lackingor lost fromthe self. Theagalma Lacan,thus,standsfor the "lost"object(or objet petita) whose absenceis constitutive 1991:190-91,201-02;1973:119, of both humandesireand individualidentity(Lacan 283-84; Julien1992:121-22). We are now in a betterpositionto see how Socratesoccupiesthe place of the 1992:118).The goal of Lacanian relationship analystin the transferential psy(Julien of examination its ethicsthroughthe as choanalysis, we have alreadyseen in Lacan's or figureof Antigone,is not to providepatientswith interpretations answers,but to in relationto allow them to realizetheirown desiresas constituted theirambivalent 1991: Schneiderman 1983:94; the world of conventionally 18; (Lacan goods recognized Lacandid not seek to normal1986: As Foucault 81-82). recognized, Ragland-Sullivan ize his patients,but to found a theoryof the desiringsubject(1994e: 204).The end of bonum which the subjectmust to of analysiswas not the acceptance a singlesummum of lack but submitor be labeledperverse, therealization one'sown constitutive (Lacan 1986:347).It is this emptyplaceof desire,whichis occupiedand made visibleby the summed up by Lacanin the relationship analyst,that engendersthe transferential of and the ambiguity the objective sub"thedesireof analyst," punningupon phrase lessonis mostto be takento heart: jectivegenitive.And it is herethatthe Socratic or It is not to say that the analystought to be a Socrates, pure, or a saint. like Withouta doubt these explorers Socrates... can give us some indicaThisis an understatement.... Rather tionsconcerning field in question. the
it is exactly because they have done the exploration that we are able to define.., the coordinates that the analyst ought to be able to recognize simply to occupy the place that is his, i.e., that vacant place that he ought to offer to the desire of the patient in order that he might realize himself as the interests us. desire of the Other. It is for this reason that the Symposium (Lacan1991:128)
Thus it is through the empty space of Socrates' desire that Alcibiades can realize his own, but only insofar as Socrates presents himself as one who desires but does not yield to false satisfactions, that is only insofar as Socrates remains an erastes and refuses the seduction of becoming Alcibiades' eromenos, which paradoxically he could only become by declaringhis desires in the manner of a conventional erastes. To return to the paradigm offered in Phaedrus' speech at the beginning of the dialogue, the challenge is for Alcibiades to become Achilles. He must transformhimself from an eromenos into a true erastesby occupying the vacant place of the desire of the Other. Instead, what he has desired to this point is merely to remain at the level of Alcestis, who took the place of her lover while staying the beloved. It is the more complex, triadicsubstitutiverelation--exemplified Achilles-that is glimpsedin Alcibiades' by to Agathon, as mediated through the desire of Socrates(222B4-223B2). relationship The Symposium leaves the actual consummationof this ultimate transformationan open question since at the very moment when Socratesis to praise Agathon in front of Alcibiades a second crowd of revelers bursts in, bringing the evening's orderly proceedings to a close. But, as Lacanhimself notes: That Socrates should praise Agathon is the response not to a past, but present demand of Alcibiades. When Socrates praises Agathon, he gives satisfaction to Alcibiades. He gives satisfaction through his actual act of public declaration,of putting on the plane of the universal Other that which happened between them behind the veils of shame. The response of Socrates is this-you can love the one I am going to praise because praising him I, Socrates,will know how to show the image of you as a lover, insofar as it is through the image of you as a lover that you are going to enter onto the road of higher identificationsthat the way of beauty traces (1991:189-90). In his evocation of the way of beauty and of the road of higher identifications, Lacan here clearly alludes to the centralmyth of the Phaedrus, which, as Phillipe Julien notes, features a perfect description of the mutual identification of erastesand eromenos, and the consequent possibility of a substitution of places through their recollection of, and identification with, a vacant third position, the lost realm of the forms (1992: 121).1s The role of the analyst, like that of Socrates, is to be the midwife that makes this intellectualbirth--through the power of recollectionin the field of desire-possible. III. Derrida, the Phaedrus, and the Pharmakonof Writing Plato, however, was not of interest to Lacan alone. The Platonic corpus, particularly those texts that interrogate the relation between desire and truth, and between love and transcendence, are a central concern for all the major figures in postthus, is a crucial text for Derrida as well, himself a frestructuralism.The Phaedrus, quent audience member at Lacan's seminars (Schneiderman1983:28). With Derrida, though, the lens through which Plato is read is no longer psychoanalysis but philosophy. In his essay, "Plato's Pharmacy," the ambiguous figure of the pharmakos/ functions as the instantiation of the problematic status of writing, intenpharmakon16 15. On the parallelsbetweenPlato'sdescription desire in the Phaedrus Freud's,see of and
Ferrari(1987:156-61). 16. On the relationbetween these terms,see Culler (1982:142-49).
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tionaliry,and meaning that Derrida sees as structuringthe subsequent western meta-
of as Plato'saversionto writingis interpreted symptomatic a more physicaltradition. in philosophyto banishthe externaland the materialfrom the esgeneraltendency 1972:182-83; Levin1997: sence of meaningand value,or the logos(Derrida 412).This Platonicattemptat metaphysical closure,at the creationof a finite system of fixed can of letter, in turnbe seen as meanings beyondthecontingencies themerelymaterial and to the system of preexistinginterpretations conventionally recognized parallel theethicsof psychoanalysis. of sees as the antithesis whatconstitutes goods thatLacan
In each case, it is assumed that meaning preexists the acts of enunciation and interpre-
and tationthatmakesignification possible.Boththe pottedanalyticinterpretation the universeare, in the last analysis,designed to establisha closed logocentric attempt more to limit the realmof possiblemeaningsthanto createnew possibilitiesof selfand creation understanding. of in shouldrecognize Platothe chiefinstantiation such a systemof ThatDerrida to closure,or at leastof the attempt createsucha system,and Lacanthe metaphysical traceof a path beyond the closed worlds of the pleasureand the realityprinciples and of the describes major betweencontemporary interpreters thePhaedrus Derrida split failedattemptto createa closedsystem, sees a necessarily himself: whereDerrida for, of many critics see a self-consciousacknowledgment the necessity of that failure In placeof an unfulfilled 1994b: strivingfor metaphysical 8). monological (Shankman of ironyas recogniclosure,they see the dialogue'smultileveled deployment Socratic tion of the ultimateopennessof the dialectical process.Thus,while the basic logic of of the Derrida's readingof the dialogueas exemplifying impossibility such closureis ever called into question,the issue is whetherPlato,in the words of David hardly avantla lettre" can (1994:62; see Halperin, be viewed "as a kind of deconstructionist 1987:207,220).In pointof fact,the issue is largelymoot since, as Berger also Ferrari interestis less in Plato than in Platonism(Berger and othershave noted, Derrida's
1994: 76, 97).17 His focus is on the role of the Platonic texts in the establishment of systematic western philosophy (Derrida1972:182-83; Ferrari1987:214);his argument is that, if we are to grasp the subsequent history of occidental thought, we must first understand how the logosis constituted at philosophy's beginnings. Hence, whether or not the historical Plato was aware of the contradictions of reason in ways that his successors were not is largely irrelevant to Derrida's argument. Indeed, as we shall see, it is precisely Foucault's failure to recognize the determining influence of the traditionof post-Socraticphilosophy on the understandingof the nature of reason that de constitutes one of Derrida'smajorcritiquesof Histoire lafolie. in his reading of the Phaedrus an imminently philological fashion. Derrida begins He notes that the dialogue has been the topic of many debates concerning both its date and quality. The final disquisition on the origin and history of writing, he observes, has often been felt to be extraneous to the main argument of the dialogue and has hence been taken as a sign of either juvenile ineptitude or creeping senescence. Thus the traditional understanding of both the quality and the date of the dialogue are shown to be dependent on the relationship of the final characterizationof writing to the body of the work as a whole. Derrida's thesis is that this final section forms a crucial part of the dialogue and that writing, and its metaphoricalrepresentationin the
17. Bruce Clarke'sdistinction between Socraticand Neoplatonic allegory marks the same historical/conceptual division (1995:25-44).
the that hold figureof thepharmakon, represent keyphilosophemes simultaneously the 1972: 6674-75;Halperin1994: dialoguetogetherand divide it againstitself(Derrida
67; Clarke1995:3). The word pharmakon first used to describe writing in the Phaedrus reference in is to the copy of Lysias' speech that Phaedrus uses to lure Socratesbeyond the walls of is Athens (230D8;Derrida 1972:78-79). Pharmakon also the term used by Theuth at the end to describe to Ammon his invention of writing (274E7) and again by dialogue's Ammon in his reply (275A7). Derrida notes that Plato deliberately plays upon the inherent ambiguity of the word: for while Theuth presents writing as a remedy or
beneficial Ammonsays it is in factjust the opposite drug,one meaningof pharmakon,
(tounantion, 275A2) and thus deploys the equally common meaning of poison or harmful drug. This play on the different senses of the word, as Derrida observes, is almost always lost in translation,where a choice must be made either to translate the same word two differentways, in which case Plato's "anagrammatic" is lost, or to accept jest one of the two possible meanings, in which case the point of the repetition is lost only (1972: 109-11). The use of the term pharmakon (poison/remedy/charm) to describe both Lysias' speech, which is an example of dishonorablewriting, and the invention of the technology of inscription itself is, Derridanotes, not an accident. It shows that the same basic suspicion not only envelops both writing and medicine but also that the is fundamental ambiguity denoted by the equation of writing and the pharmakon one of the most basic philosophemes structuring the dialogue (Derrida 1972: 77, 81). Inis deed, Plato's punning use of the word pharmakon an illustrationof the fundamental he is addressing in the Phaedrus: divorce between the external inscription the problem of the signifying substance in both writing and seduction and the presumed internality of meaning and love in relation to the logositself.'" The final discussion, then, on the origin, history and value of writing is not merely an extraneousexcrescence,or a mark of the dialogue's imperfection, but rather its fitting climax. In this context, Derrida or observes that the question of what exactly is the nature of logographia speechwriting--a term whose combination of logos with graph!neatly sums up the issues evoked by the dialogue as a whole--is posed, in terms of its total number of lines, at the exact mathematicalcenter of the work (257C-E; Derrida 1972:76). These formal considerations are not the only indication of the importance of the to figure of the pharmakon the institution of the Platonic logos.Derrida remarks that in Socrates'jesting, rationalist accounting of the myth of the abduction of Oreithyia by Boreas, Oreithyia is said to be playing outside the city walls with another young girl named Pharmakeia, "poisoner," at the time she is swept into the abyss (229C10; or Derrida 1972: 78). Thus, Derrida notes, the motifs of the pharmakon, externality, and death, as well as the opposition between a traditionalmuthosand a rationalizing logos, are in play from the moment Socratesis enticed by the lure of Lysias' speech to come out of Athens into the Attic countryside.19Socrates'humorous account of the myth, which he himself promptly rejects,is reminiscentof the probabilisticmanner of argument typical of the sophists. And they, like Lysias, are subsequently stigmatized as
18. On the theme of internality versus externality,see Ferrari(1987:38-39) and Berger (1994: 94). 19. "[J]ustthis, I believe, is Plato's point in 'doing philosophy' in this dialogue through two distinct and strikingly juxtaposed verbal paths of myth and dialectic. He allows neither 1987:34). path to reacha satisfactorygoal; ratherone leads only to the other" (Ferrari
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dealing only with the externalitiesor appearancesof knowledge, in the same way that writing is criticized by Ammon as a mere simulacrum of the logos (Ferrari1987: 10, 234n.12;Halperin 1994:52-53).20 Pharmakeia, however, is not the only potential poisoner on the Platonic scene of is the Pharmakeios, masculine form of Pharmakeia, applied to Eros in the Sympowriting. sium (203D8).Elsewhere in the same dialogue, the verb pharmattein used by Agathon is of Socrates'attemptto charm,bewitch,or seduce him with the promise of the audience's expectations concerning the former's speech in praise of love (194A5; Derrida 1972: in 135-35). Writing, rhetoric, and the pharmakon the Platonic corpus are clearly portrayed as simultaneously seductive and dangerous, attractive and disruptive. In the of Socratesuses pharmakon lies or fictions that he qualifies as both potentially Republic, dangerous to the polis and useful when dealing with enemies or educating the young (382A-D, 387A-D; Berger 1994:83). But, while Plato, according to Derrida, strives in the Phaedrus create a clear opposition between writing and the Socratic dialectic of to and demonstrate that this truth, the pharmakon Socrates'status as potential pharmakeios opposition is in constant danger of collapsing. Socrates'speech both is and is not of the order of the pharmakon (Derrida 1972: 105, 142-43), just as Plato both is opposed to writing and the author of beautifully craftedworks. What writing and the pharmakon have in common is that both belong to the realm of externality. They are supplements to the logosand the body and as such represent their contaminationby forces that are properly outside them (Stoekl 1992:201; Derrida 1972:112-17). Like the pharmakos scapegoat, they are the foreign agents that must be or if a realm of internal purity is to be established in both the person and the expelled polis (Derrida 1972: 149; Stoekl 1992: 204). Writing does not, Ammon responds to Theuth, actually improve memory but rather degrades it by substituting a mere facactive recollection, we simile of knowledge for its vital presence. In place of mnbnm, have hypomndsis, dead letter of the passive reminder (274E-275B3).21 place of the In the living logos, we have the mindless repetition of muthos (Derrida 1972: 84, 98, 126). what on one level appears to be a remedy, on Thus, as in the case of the pharmakon, another proves to be a poison. Yet the externalityof writing is ultimately indissociable from knowledge and memory per se (Stoekl1992:202).This is perhaps nowhere clearer than at the end of the Phaedrus when Socratesconcludes that what dialectic demands is not the dead letter of logographoi like Lysias but a kind of writing on the soul (276A6-11, 278A3;Halperin 1994:51, 61-62). "Afterhe complains at some length of the inferiority of the written word to the best kind of speech, he goes on to speak of the good discourse as 'another sort of writing' in which the dialectical speaker directly inscribes his auditor's soul" (Berger 1994: 76). The metaphor here is telling because, even at the level of the most profound internality,the presence of the logosin the soul or can only be conceived of as a form of othemrness externality that has penetrated it (Derrida 1972: 105). If that were not the case there would be no need for philosophy and dialectic, since the logos would be fully present to each and all of us. A supplement is always required. It is for this reason, Derrida suggests, that epistim8or knowlin edge of the order of the logos is itself described as a pharmakon both the Critiasand
20. On the sophists, like writing and the pharmakon, being both inside and outside the as charmed circle of Platonism,see Derrida(1972:123). 21. On the homology of the relation between these two terms with the opposition between rhetoric and dialectic and their subsequent deconstruction in the dialogue, see Halperin (1994:72n18).
the Channrmides (10685-6, 155D-157A;Derrida1972:142-43).The status of the logographoi, whether writing on paper or the soul, is thus shown to be the central problem in the inaugurationof Western reason. "Plato'sPharmacy"was published by the journal Telquelin 1968, four years after Lacan's revisiting of the Symposium his eleventh seminar. This, however, was not in the first time Derrida had raised the issue of the constitution of the interiority of Platonic reason in relation to a fallen, but logically necessary, outside. In 1963, the young Derrida had addressed the Colligephilosophique22 concerning the recently puba l'flgeclassique, his former teacher at the lished Folieet Draison, Histoirede la folie by EcoleNormaleSuprieure, Michel Foucault. The lecture, later revised and published as "Cogito et histoire de la folie," is a searching critique of the basic philosophical assumptions underlying Foucault'sproject.For our purposes, however, only one aspect of Derrida's argument is relevant:his charge that Foucault ignores the profound ties between reason as constituted in the seventeenth century-when Foucault argues that the modemrn concept of madness as rationality's opposite was first formed-and the of Socraticand Platonic philosophy. Foucault'sclaim, advanced in his preface, is logos that the Greek logos knew no opposite. As Derrida notes, such a reading is not only untrue to the text of Greek philosophy but a logical impossibility necessitated by Foucault'sthesis that western reason was produced by the seventeenth century's mass internment of the mad and the socially marginal (Derrida 1967:62-66; Larmouret al. 1998b:6-9). It is Derrida's thesis that the history of both western reason and its other can only be understood in relation to reason's initial constitution in the opposition of muthosand logosthat characterizesPlatonicphilosophy (1972:98). IV. Foucault, Stoic Ethics, and the Dialogics of Response As we have seen in the cases of Derrida and Lacan, poststructuralism-far from in constituting itself in opposition to Classics and the ClassicalTradition-was bomrn a the meaning and significance for modem thought of Greek series of debates about tragedy and philosophy. More recent and better known is Foucault'sengagement with ancient philosophy in general and Stoicism in particularas he attempted to found an ethics of self-fashioning in the last two volumes of the Historyof Sexuality.Foucault's effort to discover in ancient philosophy and medicine a way of thinking about ethics founded not on a juridical, authoritarian,or disciplinary structure but on what he refers to as an art or stylization of existence has already received extensive comment from classical scholars and is more familiar than the corresponding work of Derrida and Lacan (J.Miller 1993:323-22, 340, 346-47; Larmouret al. 1998b:22-33; Vizier 1998: 67-68, 71). In particular,Foucault sees in the work of such philosophers as the Stoics, Seneca and Epictetus, and the Platonist Plutarch, a turn to the self that, through various practices of examination and study, seeks to fashion a beautiful existence in which the subjectattainsperfectmastery over itself (Foucault1994f:356)23:
22. A philosophicalassociationheaded by JeanWahl. 23. On the convergence of the various philosophical schools of the imperial period in their focus on philosophy as an askesis, technology of the self, see Davidson (1995:30-31) and or Hadot (1987:206; 1995:59). Hadot 1995 is ostensibly a revised English translationof Hadot 1987.The revisions, however, are in some cases quite extensive and the reader is generally advised to consult both texts.
International oftheClassical Tradition 1998 / Fall Journal
In the philosophical traditioninauguratedby Stoicism, askesis,far from denoting self-abnegation,implies the progressiveconsiderationof the self, the mastery of the self-a mastery one attains not by renouncing reality,but by acquiring and assimilating the truth. The ultimate goal of the askesisis not to prepare the individual for anotherreality,but to permit him to accede to the reality of this world. In Greek, the word that describes this attitude is ("to paraskeuaz6 prepare oneself").The askesisis a set of practicesby means of which the individual is able to acquire, to assimilate the truth, and to transformit into a permanentprinciple of action. Alitheiabecomes ethos.It
is a processof intensifying 800) (Foucault 1994g: subjectivity. whichoftenborrowsmanyof the Stoicaskesis-as opposedto laterChristian practice, same techniques self-surveillance-isnot designedto root out hiddendesires,nor of but to decipherthe realityof who we are beneathappearances, as a device to mold in is behavior.This self-surveillance less disciplinary, the sense of being designedto make the individualconformto a single pre-established end, than shaping.It is a technologyof the self that allows the subjectto attain masteryover its thoughts, 1994c: 615,626-27;1994f: to events(Foucault 610, 359, feelingsand reactions external on P. Miller1998:184-88).Self-mastery, this view, is an end in itself. Stoic 364-65; to of of definition ethicsas the "mindful as askesis, such,conforms Foucault's practice or freedom"(1994h: 711-12).It is less a purelycognitiveact than a practice, in the
words of PierreHadot, a "spiritualexercise"(1987:15-16; 1995:82-83).24 None of the above should come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the reception of the last two volumes of the Historyof Sexualityby professional classicists. What is far less well understood in the Classics community is the larger intellectual dialogue to which Foucault'slater work constituted a response. Indeed, that some of his supporters have seen Foucault's turn to antiquity at the end of his life as an aberrationratherthan something centralto his largerintellectualproject(Richlin1998: 167; Macey 1993: 467; J. Miller 1993: 322-33) is a misreading. As Roy Boyne makes clear, the turn to the study of ancient philosophies of the self can be seen as part of Foucault'scontinuing attempt to come to terms with Derrida'scritique of Histoirede la folie. That Derrida's criticism of Foucaulthad struck home can be seen in the fact that he waited over nine years to respond and that, when he did, he ignored those parts of Derrida'sargument that dealt directly with the constitution of Westernreason. Instead he dropped from the 1972 edition of the book the original preface in which he had made the claim that the Greek logos knew no opposite (Boyne 1990: 74-76, 118). Indeed, as Foucault himself admitted at the beginning of Volume Two of the Historyof Sexuality,it had become clear to him that his genealogies of modernity could only be valid if theirdifferencefromand groundingin antiquitywere established(1984a:11-14).
to shouldhardlybe seenas a mereconcession the Nonetheless, History Sexuality of
Derrida. Rather,one of its purposes is to answer Derrida's criticisms while also demonstratingthe superiorityof Foucault'sown approach.In his initialresponse to Derrida's essay, Foucaulthad argued that Derrida'sperspective was too exclusively philosophical, that it sought to reduce history to a system enclosed within the Socraticlogos,and
24. On Hadot's importance to Foucault's project, see Davidson (1994: 121-23; 1995: 1). On Hadot's subsequent criticismof Foucault'sreading of the Stoics as too narrowly focussed, see Davidson (1995:24-25) and Hadot (1987:229-33; 1995:206-213). For a good in-depth see discussion of the practiceof Stoic meditatio, Newman (1989).
embeddeddiscursive as that it treatedsociallyand historically practices meretextual own work on ancientphitraces(1972: 584,602).Twelveyearslaterwhen Foucault's so as of losophyandethicswas published(anyone credulous to believethatthe History the is aboutsex is boundto be mightilydisappointed), more strictlyphiloSexuality or of by sophicaldiscourses a Plato,an Aristotle, a Senecaare recontextualized being manuals domestic of conductsuchas Xenophon's readin thelightof ancient medicine, of such as the Letters the youngerPliny. and Oikonomikos, personalcorrespondence
Thus while Foucault finishes his career by granting Derrida's contention that it is impossible to do a genealogy of modem, western reason without a thorough consideration of its earliest exemplars, he simultaneously demonstratesthe virtues of his own method of examining discursive practicesas opposed to texts. In addition, there is also in his privileging of the Stoics throughout his later that published in interviews, occasionalessays, and the transcripts work---particularly of lectures--a subtle retort to Derrida's focus on Plato and the latter's suspicion of writing. Foucault observes that in the Stoics, and indeed all the philosophers of the imperial period, the exclusion of writing is completely discarded (Foucault1994f:361). Philosophical pedagogy had changed, he notes, so that the truth became something one received from a master or professor. The Platonic culture of the dialogue cede[d] its place to a culture of silence and the art of listening (Foucault1994g:796). In making this case, Foucaultimplicitly argues that there is a counter-philosophical tradition to the Platonic one from which Derrida derives, a tradition whose primary focus is ultimately on practice ratherthan the logos,and whose chief concern is the ethics of self-fashioningratherthan the metaphysics of presence.25 Indeed, while Derrida is never mentioned, the careful reader of Foucault's various dits et &crits discover a careful rebuttal of all the major points made in "La can recalled, symbolizes writing's suspect status as something outside, yet also integral to, that the logos itself. Thus Plato has Ammon argue that writing is a pharmakon allows to appear to know more than they do by repeating the discourses of others, as people Phaedrus does in the case of Lysias, ratherthan coming to real knowledge through an active engagement in dialectic. In contrast,Foucaultpoints out, in the imperial period even a Platonist such as Plutarch recommends learning the discourses of others as a or pharmakon, drug, that guards the soul against illness (Foucault1994f:360). What the one sees as harmful, the other views as beneficial. Where Plato rejectswriting, accordinstead of mnim, the philosophers of the empire, ing to Derrida, as mere hupomndsis or Foucaultobserves, directly advocated the keeping of hupomnimata,27 notebooks, not
25. On Foucault'santi-Platonic project,see Flynn (1991:112). 26. In at least one case, Foucault'sinterviewersclearly invite him to situate his work relative to Foucault'sresponse is to switch the problematicinvestigatedby Derridain "LaPharmacie." a immediately to a discussion of the history and technicalstatus of hupomnmata, move that appears to refuse the engagement with Derridawhile simultaneously accepting it on his own terms (Foucault1994c:624-25). 27. The importanceof the hupomnimata a genre of philosophic writing that was designed to as serve as a spiritualexercise, and hence a technology of the self, is discussed by PierreHadot in referenceto MarcusAurelius' Meditations (1992:40-49; Davidson 1995:10-11).
The it will de beginningwith the pharmakon pharmacie Platon," itself.26 pharmakon, be
International / Fall Tradition 1998 Journal theClassical of
as a substitute for memory--conceived of by Plato as vital and interior to the soulbut as a form of practice,a technology of the self (Foucault1994d:417-19; 1994f:36161). Writing,ratherthan underminingthe presence of the logosto itself or representing a form of discourse whose author is never present to defend the integrity of his intentions, actually renders the absent party present, according to Seneca (Foucault 1994d:425). The grapheme is not the foreign element that threatensthe interiority of the soul, but ratherthe technology that makes interioritypossible.28Foucaultstates: The hupomntmata ought to be resituated in the context of a very palpable tension during this period: inside this culture that was so affected by tradition, by the recognized value of the quotation, by the recurrence of discourse, by the practiceof "citation"under the seal of age and authority, an ethics was in the process of developing that was very openly oriented by the care of the self toward some very precise objects:the retreatinto oneself; the interior life; independence;the taste for oneself. Such is the objective of to the hupomnhmata: make the memory of a fragmentarylogos transmitted by teaching, listening or reading, a means of establishing a relation with oneself as adequateand perfectas possible. (1994c:625-26) Thus Foucault carefully and unobtrusively takes up each of Derrida's major themes with regard to the role of writing in the constitutionof western philosophical reasonversus hypomnisis,presence versus absence, interiority versus the pharmakon, mnhmn demonstrates the existence of a counter-traditionthat Derrida igexteriority-and like Foucaulthimself in his response to Derrida'sattack nores. That counter-tradition, on Histoirede lafolie, privileges practiceover the abstractionsof pure reason, and selffashioning over textualityin a vacuum.
At the same time, it would also be hard to imaginehow Foucault's attempt-
through an examination of Greco-Romanmoral philosophy-to elaborate an antiauthoritarian,antidisciplinaryethics, based on a creative art of existence, could not take place in the shadow of Lacan'sown endeavor to do the same in his commentaries on the Antigoneand the Symposium (Davidson 1994:117-18). Indeed, Lacan himself saw Stoic ethics as anticipating those he outlined for psychoanalysis (1973: 283). A response to Lacan's reading of ancient philosophy was made all the more necessary
as conceivedit, since one of the basicchallengesof the History Sexuality, Foucault of
was to elaboratea way of thinking about the genealogy of sexuality that did not rely, at least implicitly, on a Freudian model (Foucault1994c:610; 1994i:215; Butler 1990: 72-73;Jameson 1991:12;Black1998). In fact, there are numerous echoes between Foucault's and Lacan's texts, more
than thereis roomto tracein this essay.Two briefexamples, however,will indicate of the seminaron the of the importance this relation.First,in the openingpages in Foucault's Lacananticipates arguments VolumeOne of the Historyof Antigone,
is Sexualitywhen the formercontends that "genitality" an ideological construction,not a biological reality, and that psychoanalysis in striving to produce a scientiasexualis has neglected the establishmentof an ars erotica(Lacan1986:17-19, 182;see also 1973:
28. For writing as that which makes the creation of highly interiorized lyric consciousness possible in the period immediatelypreceding the time Foucaultis discussing, see P. Miller (1994).
we 213;Foucault 1976:71-98, 204-05). Second, in the seminar on the Symposium, find a discussion of how the ethics of pederasty differed from one community to the next in ancient Greece, immediately followed by a comparison of the eromenos the beloved to in the Medieval courtly tradition. Both ideas are closely paralleled by a series of pas211-12, 216-17, sages in Foucault's L'usagedes plaisirs(Lacan1991:42; Foucault.1984a: In short, a number of the concepts that Foucaultwould later develop in more 235-36). detail and from the standpoint of a different philosophical agenda can already be found in ovo in the seminars of Lacan. Most important from our perspective, however, is that Foucault chooses to close Volume Two of the Historywith his own extended reading of the Symposium. Where Lacan focuses on transference, the problematics of desire, and the nature of erotic substitution, Foucault argues that the Platonic text represents a historical mutation in the development of Greek pederastic discourse, wherein the seeker of truth is described as the erastesand the role of the eromenos disappears (Foucault 1984a: 266; Carnes 1998: 110; Nicholson 1998:26-28). In its place, a regime of erotic symmetry is instituted based on a new discourse concerningthe ontology of love, as opposed to the more traditional debates on the proprieties of the pederastic relationship that focused on questions such as to whom, how often, and under what circumstancesa boy should grant his favors to a suitor (Foucault 1984a:259-64). What Socrates introduces is not the figure of the desire of the analyst but that of the master of truth who reduces others to amorous slavery in their pursuit of wisdom and who wins this position through the power that he exercises over himself as demonstrated in his relation to Alcibiades (Foucault 1984a: 265). Foucault's reading of the Symposiumthus differs from Lacan's in two crucial fashions. First, Foucault historicizes Lacan's reading by within the larger discourse of pederasty in classical recontextualizing the Symposium Greece. Second, the gesture of historicization renders impossible any easy identification with the figure of Socrates.Hence, while for LacanSocrates serves as a precursor for the psychoanalyst, Foucault himself explicitly rejectedthe role of maftre la vrit de (Stoekl 1992:197;Poster 1989:34-52; Macey 1993:458, 468). V. Conclusion What I have presented here is only a small sample of the whole topic. A more complete understanding of the role of antiquity in poststructuralismwould have to include: an examination of Derrida's use of Plato's letters in La cartepostaleas part of his response to Lacan'sreading of Poe's "PurloinedLetter";Luce Irigaray'streatment of the Myth of the Cave in her Speculum l'autrefemme, text which constituted her de the break with Lacan;Julia Kristeva's exploration of the Timaeus' concept of the chorain her Revolution langage du and Michel Serre'sRome: livredesfondations, part le as po~tique; of his more general project to produce a philosophy of time. Finally any such larger projectwould have to look at the interrelationsbetween the poststructuralistsand the leading classical thinkers in France.It is known that both Georges Dumdzil and Paul Veyne had close intellectual and personal friendships with Foucault and that Pierre Vidal-Naquet was familiar with Lacan'swork. A complete survey would also have to examine the relations between poststructuralismand the thought of scholars such as Marcel Detienne, Jean-PierreVemant, and Nicole Loraux. But at this point we have crossed well beyond the bounds of an individual essay and are looking instead at a projectthat would be of monographicproportions.
/ Fall International Tradition 1998 Journal theClassical of
What even this brief survey shows, however, is that French poststructuralist thought, far from being opposed to the study of Classics and the Classical Tradition, offers new ways of thinking about traditionaltexts. The works of Lacan,Derrida,and Foucault rather than constituting a warrant for presentism, demand a knowledge of the Classics if they are themselves to be fully understood. Yet this is only the most superficial level on which the case for the classical roots of poststructuralismcan be made: for, as we have seen, not only do these thinkersand writers comment upon the literature of antiquity, but their very debates are often couched in terms of those commentaries. The way antiquity is understood functions as one of the central problematicsaround which the various strands of poststructuralistthought have been elaborated.
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