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An Introduction to the Ideas of Jacques Lacan

The French psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (1901-1981) started his exploration of the human mind ecause durin! his "or# he disco$ered that there "ere certain cases that could not e explained somatically% &n order to understand psychiatrist patients' it "as not enou!h to understand the human ody' ut also the condition in !eneral% (s that other doctor' Freud' had encountered the same pro lems' Lacan decided to reread Freud attenti$ely% )specially the later studies cau!ht his attention% &n these studies the analyst*s focus shifted from a search of *a real truth* to conceptions of a complex and multilayered idea of truth' in "hich the lin!uistic representation pre$ailed o$er a reality eyond lan!ua!e that is !one fore$er' lost to oth spea#er and listener% +radually' Lacan then de$eloped his notions of the ,ym olic order' the &ma!inary -rder' and the .eal% /e called this enterprise a *.etour 0 Freud*% This differs from the manifold interpretations of Freud some later psychoanalysts' such as the e!opsycholo!ists' ha$e !i$en% Lacan is also inde ted to structuralism' ut he adds some stri#in! chan!es to the theory% 1e can say that he loo#ed at Freud throu!h structuralist !lasses' "hich resulted in a unique theory' "ith as uildin! stones the three -rders mentioned a o$e% The central idea is that man is a cultural ein!' and that this culture is in essence sym olic% The coordinates if man*s life are sym ols' are lin!ual' not the thin!s lan!ua!e refers to%

Some notes on Structuralism
& "ill no" explain the asic ideas and presuppositions of structuralism insofar as they are rele$ant to understand Lacan% From the nineteenth century on"ards' lin!uistics ecame increasin!ly important% 1ith 2e ,aussure and his structuralism a "hole ne" paradi!m in the science of lan!ua!e had een orn% 3ut the notion of structure ecame' under the influence of lin!uistics' also increasin!ly important in other ranches' li#e anthropolo!y% Lacan is influenced y this as "ell' ut "hether he can e called a true structuralist or not "ill e discussed later% To ein! "ith' some of the theory*s asic notions ha$e to e explained% 2e ,aussure has made a asic difference et"een langue' "hich is the system of lan!ua!e' and parole' "hich is the use of lan!ua!e y a particular person% -nly langue is the o 4ect study of lin!uistics ' and is primary to parole% 1hen "e consider the nature of the si!n' it has t"o elements5 the si!nifier' the material form' the sound' and the si!nified' the conceptual meanin! (not the meanin! in reality' ut in the dictionary)% The relation et"een these t"o is ar itrary% The sound is defined throu!h the difference "ith other sounds and the meanin! throu!h the difference "ith other meanin!s% The sound and the meanin! are closely lin#ed' so that the content of the meanin! is defined throu!h the relation of the sound to other sounds% ,o there is an external difference (sound $s% sound' meanin! $s% meanin!) and an internal difference (sound $s% meanin!)% This is called differential definition% Lan!ua!e also has t"o axes' "hich ha$e to do "ith relations% The relation of conti!uity is called syntagmatic and of similarity is called paradigmatic% The


aussurian theory of the lin!uistic si!n contains a differential definition% /e also insists on the unity of sound and meanin!% Lacan "ill do a"ay "ith oth the differential definition and the unity of sound and meanin!% For him' the chain of 1 ( metonymy (+ree# for *"ord chan!e*) is a fi!ure of speech in "hich one "ord is su stituted for another "ith "hich it is closely associated% For example' in the expression The pen is mi!htier than the s"ord' the "ord pen is used for 9the "ritten "ord': and s"ord is used for 9military po"er%: ( metaphor is a fi!ure of speech in "hich an expression is used to refer to somethin! that it does not literally denote in order to su!!est a similarity' for example *the Lord is my .67 .eal' the &ma!inary and the .first has to do "ith com inin! and is called a metonymical1 process' and the second has to do "ith ma#in! choices and is called a metaphorical process% The Imaginary Order (s said efore' Lacan has made a distinction et"een the .ym olic% 3ecause the &ma!inary -rder precedes the .ym olic' temporary in the de$elopment of the child' and structurally' "e "ill first say somethin! a out the mirror ima!e and the introduction of the child in the &ma!inary order% (s /enri 1allon has o ser$ed' a $ery youn! child li$es in a #ind of *spatial realism*% &t does not #no" yet the ans"er to the question *1here am &*% &t has no idea of itself as a "hole% 1hen it sees itself in the mirror' ho"e$er' it does see itself as a "hole' ut it is only an ima!e of the "hole% The other in the mirror is &ma!inary% The child "ill no" identify itself "ith the ima!e% This is called a dual #ind of relation% (s "ill e ar!ued later' this is not yet a real relation' ecause therefore a third element is needed% This is also not only a sta!e in the de$elopment of the child' ut "ill e important for the rest of its life' nota ly in relation to *the other "ho is the same*% The same identification "ill play a role here' and so "e can account for' say' 4ealousy% .hepherd*% .omeone "ill only e 4ealous of another person insofar as this other is similar' not totally different% 1e can lin# this up "ith the notion of the e!o in Freud% &n the de$elopment of the e!o he discerns se$eral phases% First there is the auto-erotic phase' and then the narcissistic phase' "here the li ido is attached to the e!o% /ere the e!o is orn% Freud calls the e!o the "hole of representations and the representation of the "hole% /e does not explain' ho"e$er' ho" this representation of the "hole comes a out% Lacan can account for this throu!h his analysis of the mirror sta!e5 &t happens throu!h the identification "ith the mirror and "ith the other% Throu!h the mirror ima!e the child is introduced into the &ma!inary -rder% This is' ho"e$er' a delusion% Thus "e can say here that lacan radicalises the idea of Freud% The Symbolic Order Lacan' as does 2e .aussure' sees the lin!uistic system and not the su 4ect as primordial% 8an has to *su 4ect* himself to the order lan!ua!e imposes on the "orld% 3ut he also considers narrati$es as part of the system' "hich 2e .aussure does not% /e calls this field of lan!ua!e and stories the -ther' the .ym olic -rder' represented as (% For Lacan' there is no real distinction et"een spea#in! and lan!ua!e' et"een langue and parole' ecause spea#in! can only e spea#in! "hen it "ants an ans"er' and therefore the -ther is already implied% 3ecause spea#in! is demandin!' ( is also the -ther as a person' ie% The community "hich is addressed and "ithout "hich there "ould e no spea#in!% (s mentioned a o$e' the .

ym olisation is thus the loss of the primordial o 4ect' the o 4ect a' the o 4ect of desire% 1hat remains is an emptiness' a trace' somethin! remindin! of a fullness% 1e "ill say more a out this "hen "e discuss *the . The Idealich is' on the contrary' &ma!inary and present5 it is a reality "hich one is not' in the present% The identification "ith this Idealich is moreo$er total' "hereas the identification "ith the ichideal is partial' limited to somethin! "hich has .ym olic -rder is *imposed* on the child' it has ecome su 4ect' ut this su 4ect is su 4ect to the la"' to lan!ua!e% The !enesis of the su 4ect means also the split of the su 4ect% To spea# a out thin!s means to e silent a out other thin!s and therefore the su 4ect that is spo#en' that appears in speech' is not the same as the su 4ect that spea#s% &n the identification of a su 4ect throu!h its narrati$e not all thin!s are said% The thin!s not said may e 4ust as important% (s said efore' a relation' strictly spea#in!' needs a third term to introduce the difference' and no" that the child is introduced in the .ym olic representation' and this lea$es and emptiness% The phallus' the .ym olic $alue% ?67 .% Thus the child is introduced in the .eal*% For Lacan' the unconscious has the same structure as lan!ua!e' and is also constituted of a chain of si!nifiers% Therefore it is also called the -ther' (% .ym olic -rder' a real relation' no lon!er the &ma!inary one et"een mother and child' is possi le% There is a separation et"een the unity of t"o' et"een the relation and the .ym olic -rder% &t is su 4ect to the la"' to lan!ua!e and has an o"n position% .o' the .o the immediacy is lost% The price that is paid for the .ym olic -rder% (t first the mother and the child ha$e an &ma!inary relation% The child fulfills the desire of the mother% (t a certain point ho"e$er' the father appears% The La" of the Father for ids an incestuous relation% This is called castration% The child is for idden an immediate desire of the mother' and can no" ha$e a desire of its o"n% &t also !ains a position of its o"n5 the position as =hild (and not as identified "ith 8other and Father)% The child' that has een the o 4ect of desire' the phallus of the mother' no" realises that it cannot 3) a phallus ut there is a promise that it can /(>) one% This is the formation of the Ichideal "hich is al"ays in the future' a!nifiers is the constituti$e element% The meanin!' the si!nified' is not !i$en in ad$ance' ut comes into ein! throu!h the !ame of the si!nifiers' so the meanin! has to e found on the le$el of the sentences' and is determined y the context% The procedures of selection and com ination' of metaphor and metonymy' are used y Lacan to disco$er the la"s that !o$ern the chain of si!nifiers to process meanin!% They are also for Lacan fundamental procedures in the formation of lan!ua!e and si!nificance% 1hat does Lacan say a out reference in his theory< The si!ns mediate a reference to a reality' ut this reality is not present in the .ym olisation' ut is re-presented% .ym olic -rder "ith all its rules and o li!ations is this third .ymptoms such as dreams are si!nifiers' and therefore !o$erned y metaphor and metonymy' the Freudian Verdichtung and Verschiebung% The formation of sym ols is mainly a metaphorical process' "hereas the structure of desire is metonymical% &t is a desire for somethin! that is lost' that cannot e o tained' as "e "ill see later' and it is pro4ected' deferred to somethin! that can e o tained' ut "ill not' in the end' !i$e satisfaction% This deferrin! "ill !o on and on% The Lacanian su 4ect is a split one' and lan!ua!e is the cause of this% 1e ha$e seen that a youn! child is introduced throu!h the mirror ima!e in the &ma!inary -rder% 3ut to ecome a su 4ect' it has to e introduced in the .

eal is arred from the .ym olic -rder is loc#ed' the child has not ecome a su 4ect' and this can lead to psychosis% There are no rules' no identity' no desire' and the person has no ans"er to the question *1ho am &<*% This pro$es that it is not only the La" of the Father that is important ut also the "illin!ness of the mother to o ey to the rules% .ym olisation' "e lose the o 4ect of our desire' and only si!nposts to"ards "holeness remain% These are called *l'objet petit a*% &n the &ma!inary construction of phantasy "e learn ho" to li$e "ith this% &n phantasms' the o 4ect a appears as "ithin reach5 it can e dealt "ith in day dreams% The Lacanian formula for this relation is @ ◊ a% -ur desire is deferred ut it !ets si!nifiers% The .ym olic -rder% Aaradoxically' it "ill ne$er e possi le to put it into "ords completely5 a !ap "ill remain% Therefore' exactly ecause communication is someho" doomed to fail (the !ap cannot e expressed) "e #eep on spea#in!% 1ith Lacan' "e find a core that cannot e .ym olisation* can e represented as follo"s5 B67 .o' ecause of .eal in the .he plays an equally important role and can loc# the de$elopment of the child% &n sum "e can say that the !enesis of the su 4ect co-occurs "ith the entrance into lan!ua!e' "hich has to e paid "ith the price of ecomin! a split su 4ect and the loss of the o 4ect that causes our desire% The order of the Real This is the most difficult -rder to tal# a out' exactly ecause it is the -rder "hich cannot e expressed in lan!ua!e% (s "e ha$e seen' lan!ua!e introduces differences and thus creates order% ( stri#in! example of this is the difference et"een man and "oman% &n social and emotional' sometimes e$en physical reality' there are no clear-cut characteristics that "ould differentiate a man from a "oman% ( certain man can ha$e more female characteristics than a specific "oman% The only thin! on "hich the difference is ased is a meanin!less si!n' the phallus% (nother metaphor for this is the creatio ex nihilo5 +od created order y /is 1ord' the order "as not inherent ut imposed% This is exactly the "ay lan!ua!e "or#s% 1hat is thus lost is an immediate relation "ith reality% =ulture is fore$er cut off from nature% There is a loss' a !ap at the centre of the .ym olic -rder possi le as it calls for an endless flux of si!nifiers to !enerate meanin!% The si!nifiers constantly try to si!nify the .ym olic -rder5 it is rooted in a difference that has no essential *meanin!*% The -rder "hich comes efore e$ery .term' it also introduces the dimension of time' of history' the present and the promise of the future' and ta#es a"ay the immediate representation% To accept the discrepancy et"een representation and represented is the asis of e$ery human community% &f there has not een such .ym olic -rder ut it also ma#es the .eal% &n this respect' also man himself can ne$er e fully #no"n5 e$ery man has a certain emptiness at the core of his ein!5 "hat is it to e not "hole' ut a man or a "oman< This loss of "holeness' the impossi le state of *undifferentiality* is the o 4ect of our desire% .ym olisation or &ma!ination is called the -rder of the .ym olised% This *mo$ement of .ym olic castration' for instance ecause the mother does not ac#no"led!e any la"' and the entrance to the .

ym olic -rder is decei$in! him% 3ecause he cannot accept that the .&ma!inary .ym olic -rder 1e all ha$e to li$e "ith the fact that there is somethin! missin! in the .ym olisation is the loss of the primordial o 4ect a' at "hich the su 4ect*s desire is pointed% &n sum' "e can say that the .ym olic -rder has someho" failed% Therefore his relationship "ith this -rder is not sound% )$erythin! in the "orld has to e interpreted' has to fit in a plan% Thus the . the .ym olic -rder and thus manipulates it% Aaranoiac constructions such as the Doppelgänger or the e$il pursuer are &ma!inary examples of this% For a !ood introduction in Jacques Lacan*s thin#in! try this5 CiDe# .ym olic -rder (.eal The arro"s do not indicate a causal relation' ut a process of .ym olic -rder is not fully *closed* he "ill elie$e that there is an *-ther of the -ther* responsi le for this deceit% This *-ther of the -ther* is a #ind of marionette player5 he holds the strin!s of the .eal% 3ut this has to fail5 there "ill al"ays e thin!s that escape . (( 666))% There is no final fixed meanin! or truth that "ould offer a !uaranteed support to the entire system% The -ther seems to e a closed' consistent system' ut there is al"ays a !ap% 1e ha$e to elie$e' ho"e$er' that our culture corresponds to some truth' in order to li$e a normal life% For a psychotic person the introduction in the .la$o4' Looking !ry" n Introduction to #ac$ues Lacan through %opular &ulture% =am rid!e' 8&T Aress' 1991% 188p% 767 .ym olic Object a .ym olisation' and "hich pro$o#es desire% 1hen it is approached too closely' it is a horrifyin! reality' ut it also ma#es .ym olic -rder ecomes apparent% For Lacan' this is typically situated in the openin!s of the ody% The $oice and the mouth are therefore examples par excellence of the object a% Throu!h his loo# and throu!h his $oice the su 4ect !ets in touch "ith others% 3ut at the same time' he loses his loo# or his $oice5 he can ne$er see or hear it himself% Thus the price that has to e paid for communication6.ym olic -rder refers ac# to the .ym olisation% Throu!h the object a.ym olisation possi le% The psychotic and the deceit of the .ym olic -rder can only e realised on the le$el of fantasy% Asychotics ta#e this phantasm for .eal is that "hich comes efore .ym olic -rder is used in an &ma!inary "ay5 the phantasm of a closed .ym olisation% 1hen his attempts to *understand* the "orld #eep failin!' the psychotic "ill elie$e that the .eal -rder% &t is the place "here the * ro#enness* of the su 4ect '"here the !ap in the .