Everything revolves around the question of whether we are to be Freudians or whether we are to be Lacanians. By Freudians, of course, I am referring to Freudian determinism or the manner in which childhood is taken to determine adulthood. Lacan, in his development of the logic of apres coup, already seemed to move away from this position, for insofar as subsequent events can recode past events, it follows that there is no primacy of the past over the present. As Deleuze will put it in his articulation of Lacan, “We do not repeat because we repress, we repress because we repeat. Moreover– which amounts to the same thing –we do not disguise because we repress, we repress because we disguise, and we disguise by virtue of the determinant centre of repetition. Repetition is no more secondary in relation to a supposed ultimate or orginary fixed term than disguise is secondary in relation to repetition. For if the two presents, the former and the present one, form two series which coexist in the function of the virtual object which is displaced in them and in relation to itself, neither of these two series can any longer be designated as the original or the derived. They put a variety of terms and subjects into play in a complex intersubjectivity in which each subject owes its role and function in the series to the timeless position that it occupies in relation to the virtual object. As for this object itself, it can no longer be treated as an ultimate or original term: this would be to assign it a fixed place and an identiity repugnant to its whole nature. If it can be ‘identified’ with the phallus, this is only to the extent that the latter, in Lacan’s terms, is always missing from its place, from its own identity and from its representation. In short, there is no ultimate term– our loves do not refer back to the mother; it is simply that the mother occupies a certain place in relation to the virtual object in the series which constitutes our present, a place which is necessarily filled by another character in the series which constitutes the present of another subjectivity, always taking into account the displacements of that object = x” (DR, 105).
Deleuze here, of course, is referring to Lacan’s conception of objet a, which serves the function of the “dark precursor”, “empty square”, or “esoteric object” in Deleuze’s early work on subjectivity and social organizations. If objet a significantly transforms Lacan’s earlier work, then this is because we can no longer see psychoanalytic praxis in historicist terms, which amount to imaginary terms anyway. The concern surrounding Lacan’s conception of avowing one’s desire is that ultimately this submits us to the Law. As Lacan thematizes the production of desire in seminars 4-6, desire is produced through a metaphorical substitution that engenders the metonymical displacement of the object of desire. Everything ultimately refers back to the origins of the law and submitting to the law as the essence of desire. As Lacan will claim elsewhere, the Law and desire are one and the same thing.
Everything changes with the invention of objet a. For some time now I’ve found myself wondering how one accounts for the emergence of symptomatic phenomena in day to day life or in the clinical setting. How is it that at this particular time, at precisely this moment, this or that slip of the tongue appears? How is it that on this particular day I happened to leave my umbrella at the office? Why does such and such a dream occur on this particular night? Were there other possibilities? My thoughts are still murky on these issues, yet a suggestive passage in Lacan’s 11th seminar gives me pause. There Lacan writes that, “It is not enough that the analyst should support the function of Tiresias. He must also, as Apollinaire tells us, have breasts. I mean that the operation and the manipulation of the transference are to be regulated in a way that maintains a distance between the point at which the subject sees himself as lovable– and that other point where the subject sees himself caused as a lack by a, and where a fills the gap constituted by the inaugural division of the subject. The petit a never crosses this gap. Recollect what we learned about the gaze, the most characteristic term for apprehending the proper function of the objet a. This a is presented precisely, in the field of the mirage of the narcissistic function of desire, as the object that cannot be swallowed, as it were, which remains stuck in the gullet of the signifier. It is at this point of lack that the subject has to recognize himself” (S11, 270).
What fascinates me in this passage is Lacan’s reference to objet a as causing the subject ($). In Lacan, of course, the subject is not the ego or the sense of consciousness, but that which disappears the moment it appears, leaving only a trace of its passage in the parapraxis or symptom. When Lacan talks about objet a he is not talking about the object desired, but the cause of desire… That which functions as a lure of desire or an occasion for desire to take effect. Can we not discern something of Deleuze’s virtual at work in this conception of objet a? As Delanda theorizes it, the virtual is composed of both differential relations and singularities, yet these singularities serve the function of attractors presiding over the long term actualization of a particular material state. For instance, a pendulum is governed by a fixed point attractor that tends towards a single point of equalibrium. However, there are other attractors that aren’t attracted to a single point but which can be actualized in a variety of ways depending on the initial conditions presiding over the actualization.
As I said initially, my thoughts are still murky here, but couldn’t we think of objet a in terms of the relationship between fixed point attractors and “strange attractors”? Here I worry that my musings sound a bit trendy, but it is clear that change takes place over the course of analysis. In his work with dissapative structures, Prigogine discovered that some systems can shift from being governed by fixed point attractors that tend to be actualized in a single way– the monotonous repetition of everyday life, where we tragically experience ourselves as falling into the same folly over and over again without noticing it except retroactively… As in the case of the proverbial woman who always seems to find that one man who beats and abuses her –to actualizations that have multiple attractors when functioning far from equalibrium (as in the case of heating up a system where a new organization emerges). Indeed, we know that some systems can even be thrown out of their basis of attraction by a significant shock to the system (this seemed to occur in the U.S. with 9-11) that engenders a new set of attractors and organizations. Similarly, trauma as the “missed encounter” can signicantly transform the organization of a person’s life, generating a new set of repetitions differing qualitatively from the old. As I suggested in a previous post, something of the sort seems to take place in analysis as well. The analyst occupies the position of objet a in a purified state, absent the ordinary conventions that govern interpersonal relations. If change takes place in analysis, then could this not be due to the intensification of a basin of attraction transforming the analysand’s relation to objet a? For instance, what is it about an analytic intervention that might lead an analysand who constantly suffers from constipation when attending important business functions, meeting his lover, visiting family, etc., to suddenly experience a dissipation of this repetitive pattern (one that clearly relates to objet a as anal drive)?
What is suggested here is not simply a submission to the Law or desire as Lacan had it in Seminar 7, where all we can do is tragically accept our fate, but rather the possibility of the emergence of an entirely new order. As Harari (to whom I’m greatly indebted here) puts it in his brilliant essay “The sinthome: Turbulence and Dissipation”, “…the ‘disinvestment’ of the unconscious– there was an investment, a site fixed through repetition, but no longer –marks the limit of the dependence on metaphor, supporting with no regrets the ab-sence of the sexual relation. Instead of any regret, addressed to the Other as a demand for sense, resulting in the ‘moral cowardice’ known as sadness, the ab-sence of the sinthome embodies what Lacan terms a gay savoir. This last phrase, punning on savoir, could be read as ca a voir, ‘it/id to see.’ This, in contrast to sadness, constitutes a ‘virtue’ to the extent that it seeks not to understand or chew over meaning, but to ‘crush it as much as is possible.’ Thus, for the Lacan of the third period, there is no knowledge (savoir) but in non-sense, opening onto a space of the scopic and an undefined future, far from the closed circuits and anticipations of the Imaginary. For this reason, gay scavoir –the Nietzschean root of which is patent –is for the corollary of the stochastic, the unpredictable. Gay scavoir is the affect that authorizes the invention of the sinthome” (Re-Inventing the Symptom: Essays on the Final Lacan, Luke Thurston ed., 52-3). One must pass through the logic of not giving way to his desire, but there is a beyond to this alienation, a separation, that promises something very different.