I dream of a Lacanian philosophy. The Lacanian philosophy I dream of would not be modeled on his theory of the subject, signifier, desire, drive, unconscious, language, etc, so much as on the ethics of the Lacanian clinic. That ethics outlines how the analyst should position herself with respect to the analysand or patient.

The analyst is not a master, nor an authority. She does not tell the analysand what her symptom means or is “really” saying (given the singular nature of every unconscious, how could she?). She does not reveal a diagnosis like “hysteric”, “obsessional”, “phobic”, etc in the clinical setting, alienating her analysand in a generic category. The point is to discover the singular desire of the analysand, not subsume under a generic type. She is not a guru that dispenses knowledge of how to achieve happiness, success, wealth, health, a good relationship, etc.

Rather, an analyst is a sort of truth-attractor for the analysand’s desire. The analysand’s symptom is expressive of a desire. Through the enigmatic way in which she conducts herself, the analyst helps the analysand to articulate this desire in speech, to avow it, rather than to live it through symptoms and parapraxes. All analysis offers is a more direct and honest relation to the unconscious desire that animates ones life.

But above all, an analyst does not conduct herself as a master. She does not act as if she knows the meaning of her analysand’s symptoms and parapraxes, but rather asks questions and gives interpretations that assist the analysand in articulating that meaning and truth. She does not claim to have answers to the pain and misery of life (gurus). She does not set herself up as a moral tribunal, praising or condemning the analysand’s desire. No, she just functions as a locus of the analysand’s speech. In operating as an analyst, she sets her own desires to the side.

The Lacanian clinic, then, is based on a profound respect for the singularity of each subject. It attempts to open a space where that singularity might speak itself. Given the lures of the imaginary and our will to mastery, this is a very difficult space to maintain and endure for both analyst and analysand to endure. Analysands often want a master to tell them the way and are terrified that they will be condemned or “do it wrong”. Analysts can’t help but harbor desires as to what their patients will decide, what life they will pursue, but must set these aside as the aim is for the analysand to articulate their being, what animates them, for perhaps the first time in their lives.

A Lacanian philosophy, of course, would be different than the clinic as it is not dealing with the desire that animates a subject. Rather, if there is a parallel between a Lacanian philosophy and a Lacanian clinic, it would lie in both refusing to occupy the position of master. Just as the Lacanian analyst refuses to comport herself as a master that knows the truth of her patient, a Lacanian philosopher would refuse to present herself as a judge and tribunal of other practices and disciplines. It would refuse the position of legislator.

This is what I take from Badiou and Deleuze and Guattari. Badiou argues that philosophy has no truths of its own, but that truths always come from elsewhere: art, science, politics, and love. Philosophy’s vocation is to think the compossibility of these truths as they appear in the present. Deleuze and Guattari argue that philosophers create concepts, but are careful to point out that while these concepts are inventions unique to philosophy, they are nonetheless extracted from encounters with non-conceptual modes of thought such as art (which makes precepts and affects) or science (which makes functives). Each of these practices can influence one another, but in a way proper to their own medium. Thus, for example, science can be influenced by philosophical concepts, but in such a way as to create functives. Deleuze is transformed by cinema, but where directors invent new images, Deleuze creates concepts proper to those images. Those concepts can then, in turn, produce effects in other practices: literature can write like Hitchcock directs, politics can devise political strategies like Aronofsky develops with his images.

In all of these thinkers there is a profound respect for other practices and disciplines. Rather than setting themselves up as masters whose vocation is to regulate other practices, they instead listen to these other practices, take them as competent in their own terms, and try to extract something from them that pertains to their own philosophical practice. They refuse to be Socrates interrogating the slave boy. To be sure, like the Lacanian analyst that points out slips of the tongue, bungled actions, polysemy in speech, etc, the Lacanian analyst can draw attention to knots or symptoms in other practices, but always with the aim of intensifying those practices. Such would be a Lacanian philosophy.