Muller and William J. Note: These give the availability of references for which a name and date is given. For citations with no date see above. From now on, it is impossible not to make a general theory of the symbol the axis of a new classification of the sciences where the sciences of man will once more take up their central position as sciences of subjectivity.
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P of John P. Muller and William J. Availability of Notes to Text, , at www. P84 Richardson a : Richardson William J. Lacan and the subject of psychoanalysis. In Interpreting Lacan , ed. Joseph H. Smith and William Kerrigan, Psychiatry and the Humanities, vol. New Haven: Yale University Press. Laplanche, Jean and J. The language of psychoanalysis. New York: Norton. Originally published : quotes:. Like neurones, ideas are discrete, discontinuous elements in a chain. The significance of ideas, like that of neurones, depends upon the complex which, along with other elements, they help constitute.
P The concept of the experience of satisfaction has no wide currency in psychoanalysis, but it seemed to us that defining it would cast light on some Freudian views which are, for their part, classical and essential.
At such an early stage, of course, the subject is not equipped to determine that the object is not really there. This experience as a whole-the real satisfaction and the hallucinatory one -constitutes the basis of desire. In fact the wish, though it originates with a search for actual satisfaction, is constituted on the model of the primitive hallucination. From the start, and independently of any attachment to some supposedly causal bond, the symbol already plays, and produces by itself, its necessities, its structures, its organisations.
That is indeed what occurs in our discipline, in so far as it consists in getting to the bottom of the significance of the symbolic order for the world of the human subject. Within this perspective, what is immediately clear is what I have called the inmixing of subjects. I will illustrate it for you, since chance has offered it to us, with the story of The Purloined Letter, from which we took the example of the game of even and odd. This depends upon the idea that there is a way of distinguishing the understanding of the idiot from that of the intelligent man.
I have stressed how fragile this point of view is, even how completely alien it is to what is at issue, for the simple reason that the intelligent thing to do, in this case, is to play the idiot. However, Poe is a prodigiously alert man, and all you have to do is read the whole of the text to see the extent to which the symbolic structure of the story far surpasses the scope of this reasoning, so attractive for a moment, but excessively weak, and whose sole function here is as a booby trap.
There is also the imaginary scene at the end, in which we see the enigmatic character of the story meeting his end, this ambitious character, so singularly etched out, of whom one wonders what his ambition actually is. Is he simply a gambler? He gambles with a challenge, his aim — and that is what would make him an ambitious man — seems to be to show how far he can go.
Where he goes is of no importance to him. The aim of his ambition is dissipated by the essential fact of its exercise. Who are the characters? We could count them on our fingers. There are the real characters — the King, the Queen, the minister, Dupin, the prefect of police and the agent provocateur who shoots in the street. There are also those who do not appear on stage and make back-stage noises.
These are the dramatis personae, in general one has a list of them at the beginning of a play. The characters in question can be defined differently. They can be defined beginning with the subject, more precisely beginning with the relation determined by the aspiration of the real subject through the necessity of the symbolic linking process. The letter is here synonymous with the original, radical, subject.
What we find here is the symbol being displaced in its pure state, which one cannot come into contact with without being immediately caught in its play.
One can say that, when the characters get a hold of this letter, something gets a hold of them and carries them along and this something clearly has dominion over their individual idiosyncracies. Whoever they might be, at this stage of the symbolic transformation of the letter, they will be defined solely by their position in relation to this radical subject, by their position in one of the CH3s.
In so far as they have entered into the necessity, into the movement peculiar to the letter, they each become, in the course of successive scenes, functionally different in relation to the essential reality which it constitutes. In other words, to take this story up again in its exemplary form, for each of them the letter is his unconscious.
It is his unconscious with all of its consequences, that is to say that at each point in the symbolic circuit, each of them becomes someone else. This is not due to the ingenuity of Dupin, but to the structure of things. The purloined letter has become a hidden letter.
Every legitimate power always rests, as does any kind of power, on the symbol. And the police, like all powers, also rest on the symbol. Only what belongs to the order of truth can be hidden. It is truth which is hidden, not the letter. In contrast, besides his remarks about the game of even and odd, Dupin makes linguistic, mathematical, religious observations, he constantly speculates about the symbol, even going so far as to speak of the nonsense of mathematics — for which I apologise to the mathematicians present here.
He really would have to be a man without any principles whatsoever, without even this, the last principle, the one which for the most part remains to us, which is simply the shadow of stupidity. If he falls prey to pure and simple hatred, he will try to strike his blow in an efficient manner.
It really only if his Dasein has become completely detached from any inscription in any kind of order, including that of intimacy, that of his desk, his table, it is really only if that is the case that he will have to drink the bitter cup to the dregs. We could write all of this with small alphas, betas, gammas. Everything which could serve to define the characters as real — qualities, temperament, heredity, nobility — has nothing to do with the story.
At every moment each of them, even their sexual attitude, is defined by the fact that a letter always reaches its destination.
The subject adopts a mirror position, enabling him guess the behaviour of his adversary. Nonetheless, even this method already presupposes the dimension of intersubjectivity, in that the subject has know that he is faced with another subject, in principle homogeneous with him. The variations to which he may be subject have far less importance than the possible scansions of the position of the other.
There is no other ground for psychological reasoning. What are these scansions? There is a first period [temps] in which I suppose the other subject to be in exactly the same position as me, thinking what I am thinking at the very moment I am thinking it.
Let us suppose that it seems me, for my part, that it would be more natural for the other to change theme, for him to switch from even to odd, for instance. In the first period [temps], I believe that this is what he will do. The important thing is that there may be a second period [temps], in which a less partial subjectivity is manifested.
The subject is in fact capable of making himself other, and end up thinking that the other, being himself an other, thinks like him, and that he has to place himself in the position of a third party, get out of being this other who is his pure reflection. But after this second period [temps], you can suppose a third, which makes it extremely difficult to pursue the same analogical reasoning. After all, someone of superior intelligence can in fact understand that the trick is, notwithstanding the fact that one seems to be very intelligent, to play like an idiot, that is to return to the first formula.
What does that mean? It may be that something like a divination, which, however, is problematic, is put into effect, a divination by the subject who has a certain sympathetic rapport with the opponent. But the heart of the matter lies in a completely different register from that of imaginary intersubjectivity. That the subject should think the other to be similar [semblable] himself, and that he, reasons as he thinks the other must reason — the first period [temps] like this, in the second period like that — is a fundamental point of departure failing which nothing can be thought, yet is nonetheless totally inadequate in helping us penetrate in any degree to where the key to success might be found.
Within this framework, the experience is one which fades away. It cannot be made logical. Take another look at the dialectic of the game of black and white discs placed on the backs of the three characters who have to work out what their own sign is on the basis of what they see on the two others.
You will be in a position to discover something of the same order. We will take the other path, the one which can be made logical, the one which can be upheld in discourse. Obviously it imposes itself as soon as your partner is the machine. Inversely, the machine has no means of placing itself in a reflexive position in relation to its human partner. Earlier on we referred to The Purloined Letter. Everything in this tale revolves around the problems of signification, of meaning, of received opinion, and precisely because received opinion is held in common, the truth is at stake in it.
You know the theme of the story. The prefect of police is charged with the recovery of a letter which was stolen by someone of considerable distinction, who is perfectly amoral.
The letter came from another person of distinction whose relations with her she had reason to hide. She acts as if nothing had happened, and places the letter in plain view. The Queen realises full well what is happening, but she is bound by the exact conditions of the three-sided game.
The point is to find the letter. The house of the minister is searched inch by inch, numbering each cubic foot. Everything is looked at through the microscope, long needles passed through cushions, all the scientific methods are employed.
On the contrary, signification as such is never where one thinks it must be. The merit of the apologue is of this order. It is on the basis of the analysis of the symbolic value of the different moments in the drama that its coherence, and even its psychological motivation, can be discovered. We will take further steps in that direction today. The very notion of cause, when viewed as being capable of bringing with it a mediation between the chain of symbols and the real, is established on the basis of an original wager — will it be this or not?
The wager lies at the heart of any radical question bearing on symbolic thought. But presence as absence connotes possible absence or presence.
Lacan and the Formula of the “Purloined Letter”
Jacques Lacan. Preliminary Analytic Principles. The Meaning of the Signifier. Symbolic, Imaginary, Real. Two diagonals intersect:. The imaginary rapport links a the ego to a' the other ;. The line going from A the Other to S the subject, the Freudian id is interrupted by the first one.
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Jacques Lacan Und wenn es uns gluckt, Und wenn es sich schickt, So sind es Gedanken. Our inquiry has led us to the point of recognizing that the repetition automatism Wiederholangszwang finds its basis in what we have called the insistence of the signifying chain. We have elaborated that notion itself as a correlate of the ex-sistence or: eccentric place in which we must necessarily locate the subject of the unconscious if we are to take Freud's discovery seriously.
Topic for #75: Lacan & Derrida on Literary Criticism: Poe’s “The Purloined Letter”
In general, Lacan sees this story as revolving around problems of signification, meaning, received opinion and truth. How does this displacement of series take place? As Lacan reminds us, the letter itself is a character. At the same time, it is the presence-absence that allows the series to be composed as such around which the King, Queen, Minister and Dupin revolve. If the signifier has priority over the signified 20 this is due to the fact that Lacan believes that the signifier is what represents the subject for another signifier. These chains come to symbolically structure the intersubjective relations among subjects by definition because the same master signifier the letter dominates both chains. Lacan uses the phrase symbolic formula because of the strict correlation between the displacements in the series.
Listen to the episode. What can philosophy get out of literary criticism? We've had some past episodes like this and this where we discussed some philosophical issues brought up by a piece of fiction, but that's different then the act of doing philosophy through literary criticism, which is supposed to reveal something about our relationship to language, to ideas, to culture. The tradition of criticism coming from Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida and this is not to minimize the differences between them considers not just how an author creates an effect or what themes he or she is trying to convey, but the relationship of a text or other creative work to the human psyche. Lacan in particular used literature not uncommonly, following Freud and others to help explain points of his psychoanalytic project. A story, like a dream, is fodder for analysis to learn about the psyche of its creator, whose characteristics will in many cases be generalizable to the rest of us.