co-op-20th-eyes-february-112eyes1The epigraph to the second section of Lacan’s “Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis” reads “Advice to a young psychoanalyst: Do crossword puzzles” (Ecrits: The First Complete Edition in English, 220). If this is good advice for the psychoanalyst, then it is because formations of the unconscious– dreams, slips of the tongue, jokes, bungled actions, symptoms, etc. –are often themselves encrypted like the hints of a crossword puzzle. The hints of a crossword puzzle– roughly equivalent to formations of the unconscious in this analogy –are organized around a lacuna or the missing signifier that is to be found. These hints are traces of that signifier. However, in successfully completing a crossword puzzle it is often necessary to practice a horizontal or lateral relationship to language, an associative relationship, where one draws on equivocations, homonyms, and other figures of rhetoric to discover the missing signifier. Freud gives a nice example of how the symptom is organized around a lacuna or a missing signifier when discussing the case of a young woman during the initial stages of schizophrenia in his article “The Unconscious”:

A patient of Tausk’s, a girl who was brought to the clinic after a quarrel with her lover, complained that her eyes were not right, they were twisted. This she herself explained by bringing forward a series of reproaches against her lover in coherent language. ‘She could not understand him at all, he looked different every time; he was a hypocrite, an eye-twister, he had twisted her eyes; now she had twisted eyes; they were not her eyes any more; now she saw the world with different eyes. (SE XIV, 197 – 198)

Part of the significance of the schizophrenic from a metapsychological perspective is that processes that are ordinarily unconscious are all there on the surface. Where the neurotic might have a deep phobia of having his eyes “twisted”, this woman experiences her eyes as being literally twisted, as being unable to see the world as she would normally be able to see it. Granting that there is nothing physiologically wrong with her, the mystery then becomes why she has come to experience the world in this way. Taken literally, her words are unintelligible and have the feel of nonsense. The symptom makes no sense. But when we adopt a floating, horizontal, or lateral relationship to her speech, the lacuna or hidden signifier organizing the symptom begins to come into view. The key signifier in her speech is “eye-twister”. In German, the young woman’s language, the word for “eye-twister” is ‘Augenverdreher‘, which figuratively means “deceiver”. Through the work of the unconscious, the woman had “literalized” her relationship to her lover in a series of symptoms effecting her eyesight. Her symptom was a trace of the “desire of the Other”, a materialization of the desire of the Other– in this case the desire of her boyfriend –insofar as it was a set of symptoms embodying her lover’s desire to deceive her.

read on!

narcissusMuch to my surprise and delight, I have been exceedingly pleased by the discussion my post “The Monstrosity of Christ” has generated. For me, Jesus is an incredibly important political thinker who proposes a new vision of communal relations. What has been so great about this discussion, apart from a few bumps here and there, is the manner in which the religious and the atheist have been able to discuss these issues, without the question being one of debunking the other. Towards the end of the comments, Guavatree asks a couple of questions which, I believe, get right to the heart of the issue. First, Guavatree remarks that,

By explaining the difference between interpretations: traditional (Jesus and God above all things) and “radical and revolutionary” — I think you clarify what I think the blog dispute is about. Is Jesus “Resolving” the Imaginary or “Challenging” it?

More than whether Jesus is really asking you to hate your family or not, I’m interested in how you think the Imaginary can be challenged. Is this even possible? To what extent does challenging the bonds of the tribe/family/Imaginary involve the Real and the Symbolic?

Guavatree is responding to a comment I made earlier clarifying my position on Luke 14:26 where Jesus claims that in order to follow Jesus one must hate their mother, father, brother, sister, etc. I have read this, following the findings of ethnographers, as a devaluation of the role of familial or kinship relations as a foundation of social and political structure.

Thanks for the additional passages (here Guavatree provides numerous Gospel references to Jesus making injunctions similar to that found in Luke 14:26), Guavatree. Based on your remarks, I wonder if I haven’t missed the point of some of Kevin’s criticisms. You write:

So in terms of this argument on the blog, hating your family and loving Jesus and God hardly strikes me as a textual oddity.

The real question is whether Jesus’ “dissolution of “the law” into two vast identifications (God/neighbor)” as kvond puts it is a resolution of the imaginary OR a “challenging of this dimension of the imaginary” as larval subjects puts it.

If I’m following your gloss correctly Guavatree, then the dispute revolves around Jesus’ declaration to love one’s neighbor as ourselves and his charge to hate our parents, where it is being claimed that there is a contradiction between these two positions. With respect to the second command, it had never occurred to me to read the demand to hate our family literally. That would be a bizarre reading of the Gospels no matter how you cut it, so I’m surprised to discover that others might have read me as claiming such a thing. Rather, I am interpreting Jesus’ charge as the injunction to cease privileging familial relations or tribal identifications. As such, this separation from the primacy of kinship structures would be a precondition for love of the stranger or the neighbor. This is also why I’ve drawn attention to the story of the Good Samaritan because here we have an instance of a love extended to the other that falls outside the tribal community.

I reject, of course, the remainder of the traditional interpretation of Jesus’ injunction to “hate” one’s family, where it is argued that we are to place Jesus and God above all other things. First, I reject this reading because I think it covers over the whole socio-political issue that he’s getting at with respect to the role that kinship relations play in his historical setting. Second, however, I don’t think this reading is very well supported given how cagey he always is about identifying himself as the son of God (doesn’t he only directly say this in the book of John?). I think this traditional reading places too much emphasis on the person or figure of Jesus, turning him into a screen as described in the post above, thereby allowing us to ignore the truly radical and revolutionary form of social organization that he seems to be proposing.

read on!

depression-paintingw300h235It is not unusual to hear Lacanians snicker when references to Guattari come up, joking about how the La Borde clinic eventually resorted to giving its patients insulin shots. I’ve certainly made jokes like this in the past. It is almost a requirement within Lacanian circles. The subtext of this joke is that schizoanalysis had failed and that they could only have recourse to chemical straight jackets in treating their patients. I do not know the details of La Borde’s insulin treatments, but if this is a particularly stupid joke then this is because it is both reductive, suggesting that this is all that was taking place at La Borde, and because it assumes that treatment with psychotropics is inherently a failure. With respect to this latter point, what is reflected is a sort of idealistic, anti-materialist tendency within the theory community that would like to disavow the body and anything neurological, instead treating the signifier as the only legitimate approach to treatment.

As many who read this blog know, I spent about seven or eight years in Lacanian psychoanalysis with one of the foremost analysts in the United States. In addition to this, I myself practiced for about four or five years and underwent a training analysis as well. I certainly got a lot out of my analysis in terms of general self-knowledge, though I don’t know that this analysis had much in the way of efficacy where symptoms were concerned.

I’m hesitant to write this post and almost a bit embarrassed by what I’m about to say, but about a year or so ago I was overcome by a very serious depression. Despite the fact that things were going well, that I was getting all sorts of requests for work, that I was getting recognition, that my classes were going well, and all the rest, I was in a very black place. Suicidal fantasies would plague my thoughts. It was not that I was contemplating or planning killing myself. Rather it was as if certain images, fantasies, would flash through my mind, giving me thoughts of driving into oncoming traffic or of slipping downstairs in the middle of the night to slit my throat with my butcher’s knife. My thoughts became extremely persecutory, perpetually telling me how awful I am as a person, how my work is rotten, how I’m trapped in my life, and all the rest. I was no longer able to take pleasure in anything, nor concentrate on anything. I no longer enjoyed cooking. Movies and televisions shows were unable to capture my interests. All books seemed bland and without interest. It was a very black time.

read on!

scotland-ezine-may2005-francis-bacon-imageIn a very nice response to my post on Schizoanalysis and Psychoanalysis, Ian writes,

Point taken, I hope my response was not taken too strongly, perhaps my wording of it was poor. I agree with you that portraying lack as simply a production of the analyst is inadequate and the remarks on fascism in Anti-Oedipus would seem to suggest that Deleuze and Guattari would agree. But I can’t help but wonder, and this is a personal thought, that the absence of any real mechanical discussion concerning the production of castrated subjects is not a low-point on the part of Deleuze and Guattari, but is rather their resistance towards any kind of metapsychology. No doubt they play some favor towards a kind of transcendental field, but, at least in Anti-Oedipus, I’m not as convinced that this transcendental field exists apart from the social field in any defined sense; the transcendental field (say, the body-without-organs) does not transcend the social field created from it. I would be very skeptical towards the idea that Deleuze and Guattari are after some kind of reinvigorated Plato or Kant.

That said, and possibly this is in part due to personal bias, I don’t see it as any fault of Deleuze and Guattari that this metapsychology is not accounted for; I think it rather a strength. Much of Guattari’s “clinical” work is based around stripping from analysis any kind of metapsychology that would give instruction as to the manner within which affirmative desires are coded into repressive desires, instead being concerned with how to provided an arena for the expressions of desire as political action. I would guess (and this is always dangerous) that Deleuze and Guattari would hastily resist any kind of metapsychology of this process or interaction between analysand and analyst, as if to finally diagnose the real problem. Thus my question, do you think the metapsychology or ‘transcendental analysis’ you are looking for can contain the intersection between Deleuze and Guattari and Lacan that you wrote about, or might it, rather, “cross out” the ‘avec’ between schizoanalysis and psychoanalysis? Could this transcendental analysis of the creation of castrated subjects in fact be a recoding attempting to produce a universal trajectory for a process that has formally the same outcome, but might always takes place in highly “individualized,” contextualized means?

Despite this all, I think you’re on to something and my personal biases towards the aims of the book shouldn’t detract from admitting its shortcomings. Even suggesting that castration could be intimately contextual still sidesteps the question of the mechanics of that production. Very interested in your thoughts.

I suppose, for the sake of clarity, I should explain just what I mean by the transcendental, just so it’s clear that we’re talk about the same thing. The great enemy of Deleuze’s thought, of course, was the transcendent. In his earliest work, this can be seen in his critique of anything resembling Platonic form or unchanging essences, but also of his critique of the self-identical subject as in the case of Descartes’ cogito. Deleuze’s thought begins from the position that, on the one hand, all being is becoming and therefore is the result of a production or a process of individuation. In Difference and Repetition he will perpetually emphasize that individuation is not the individual insofar as individuation is the differential process by which the individual is produced. Likewise, he will staunchly oppose any position that begins from an unchanging identity whether in the form of the subject or God, as well as any position that posits invariant and ahistorical forms. Deleuze is, above all, a process philosopher.

However, the transcendental is not the transcendent. Rather, the transcendental, following Kant, refers to a set of conditions thoroughly immanent to being. While it is certainly the case that Kant is one of Deleuze’s philosophical enemies, there is nonetheless a deep Kantian inspiration or influence in Deleuze’s thought. However, Deleuze radicalizes or transforms the Kantian position in three ways: First, where Kant’s transcendental merely conditions the field of sensibility, imposing a priori (and invariant) forms on the matter of sensation, Deleuze’s transcendental conditions are genetic conditions. As Deleuze will emphasizes endlessly, the virtual or transcendental, unlike Kant’s transcendental, does not resemble the actual, but instead as a set of genetic potentials that produces something entirely new in the course of being actualized. Deleuze will take Kant and many other transcendental philosophers to task for “tracing the transcendental from the empirical”, which amounts to both a circular argument (the conditions are supposed to account for the conditioned, yet we arrive at the condition by tracing them from the conditioned), and to arriving at the transcendental based on its resemblance to the actual or the condition. fractal_4-blueThus we get a strange sort of operation where we begin with the actualized object of experience, trace its abstract form from this object, and then treat this abstract form as an a priori, invariant, ahistorical necessity, effectively covering over any process of production, becoming, or genesis and treating philosophy as an apologetics for the status quo. Only a genetic account of the relation between the transcendental and the field of material being can, according to Deleuze, break out of this vicious circle. In this connection, the transcendental will share no resemblance to individuated entities.

Second, where Kant locks the transcendental or condition in a transcendental subject (the ultimate form of identity), Deleuze instead theorizes the existence of a transcendental field where, as you rightly point out, subjects are actualized, individuated, or produced, rather than presiding over actualization emerging from subject’s as in the case of Kant. The transcendental field is something anterior to the subject and far more extensive than the domain of the subject. If, as Meillassoux argues in After Finitude, correlationism is intrinsically tied to a subject of some sort such that the world would not exist were there not a subject, Deleuze’s transcendental fields would exist regardless of whether there were any humans or living entities. Finally third, and in a closely related vein, Deleuze’s transcendental genetic conditions (the virtual) are not a product of mind, but rather belong to being or existence itself (I develop this thesis in greater detail in my forthcoming article “Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism: Notes Towards a Transcendental Materialism” in Thinking Between Deleuze and Kant: A Strange Encounter with Continuum, edited by Edward Willat and Matt Lee). You can find a more thorough development of Deleuze’s transcendental field and the difference between the transcendent and the transcendental in my book Difference and Givenness: Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism and the Ontology of Immanence, Northwestern University Press.

venus-in-furs01An excellent example of the necessity of the transcendental and the transcendental field can be found in Deleuze’s essay on Masoch and Sade, Coldness and Cruelty. There, Deleuze, like Lacan (Lacan actually praises this book as the finest study of sadism and masochism yet to be written in seminar 13 or 14), rigorously argues against the thesis that the sadist and the masochist are complementary, such that the perfect partner for any masochist is the sadist and the perfect partner for any sadist is a masochist. Deleuze skillfully demonstrates that sadism and masochism are completely different assemblages and have entirely different geneses through which they are actualized. However, here’s the key point: So long as we remain at the level of actualized entities– at the level of what Deleuze had referred to as “species, parts, and qualities” in Difference and Repetition –this is impossible to see or understand. When we look at the sadist and masochist we will note that the one likes giving pain and the other likes receiving it (empiricist positivism), and will therefore conclude that the structure of the two is complementary. Based on their spatialized resemblances to one another– that they both appear to belong to the common species “human” –we will assume they belong to the same relational network, embody the same singularities, and embody the same differential relations. It is only when we reach the dimension of the virtual or transcendental field, the dimension of singularities (potentials) and their differential relations, that we can begin to discern that these two forms of life and desire are entirely different assemblages with very different organizations that are in no way complementary.

fig181If beginning with the actualized entities leads to this impasse, then this is because, as Deleuze had carefully argued in chapter 4 of Difference and Repetition (and elsewhere), difference erases or veils itself in the process of being actualized, such that we’re left with species, parts, and qualities (the end results of the process of indi-different/ciation), rather than the process of individuation or differentiation through which these elements are formed. Another way of putting this would be to say that we fall into spatialized difference or multiplicities, where everything resembles everything else. Deleuze consistently charges Kant (as well as a number of the phenomenologists), with tracing the transcendental from the empirical and then finding resemblances where there are none. Only the virtual, he argues, can save us from this fate. What is revealed in his study of Sacher-Masoch and Sade is that the two occupy entirely different topological spaces. This is part, I think, of what interests Deleuze in Francis Bacon in texts like The Logic of Sensation. It could be said that Bacon attempts to directly paint the virtual field of forces and singularities rather than the empirical objects among which we dwell.

blue-velvet-earWith this caveats in mind, I would argue that Deleuze and Guattari’s Deleuze’s three synthesis– the syntheses of connection, disjunction, and conjunction –constitute the beginnings of a transcendental analysis. Indeed, these syntheses Kant’s three syntheses of apprehension, reproduction, and recognition in the “A” edition of the Deduction in the Critique of Pure Reason, however, beginning from difference rather than identity. Moreover, where Kant’s syntheses pertain to operations of the mind, Deleuze and Guattari’s three syntheses belong to being as such. It is on the ground of these distinctions that Deleuze and Guattari are able to unfold their critique in the five paralogisms, for each of these paralogisms pertains to an illicit tracing of the transcendental from the empirical, where fully actualized objects are projected back into the machinic unconscious as forms. Deleuze and Guattari, by contrast, will show how desiring-machines only operate on partial objects, not fully formed persons, thereby undercutting a number of claims from orthodox psychoanalysis. In this regard, Deleuze and Guattari enact their own “return to Freud”, though one which certainly transforms Freud. As Freud had argued, the unconscious knows no negation, contradiction, opposition, or objects, but instead only knows connections and productions. This was the surprising result he had already attained in his early unpublished Project essay, where the functioning of the primary process becomes unmoored from any sort of representational realism or instinctual and natural relation to sexuality. Yet somehow all of this falls apart with the introduction of the Oedipus where, instead of relating to partial objects and flows, the primary attachment becomes an attachment to fully formed objects (the father, mother, brother, sister, etc.). Nonetheless, Deleuze and Guattari do not give much in the way of an analysis of just how these paralogisms are possible from the standpoint of active and affirmative desire. Here we would need to look to Nietzsche and Philosophy, as well as, I believe, the work of Lacan. We can thus think of the relationship between schizoanalysis and Lacanian psychoanalysis as being like two sides of a severed egg. The latter explores the domain of the actual and all of its illusions, coupled with their genesis and strategies for escaping these sad passions premised on an installed lack and castration (for Lacan it was always a question of moving beyond these things as I argue in my post on the Borromean knots), whereas Deleuze and Guattari explore the productive realm of the unconscious and its desiring-machines perpetually manufacturing the real.

Ecosophy over at Soft Subversions has written a very interesting riff on my post about the relationship between Guattari and Lacan:

In his personal diary (published in The Anti-Œdipus Papers) the self-styled schizoanalyst Felix Guattari details a meeting with Jacques Lacan (whose method of psychoanalysis Guattari trained in) prior to the publication of Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Œdipus. In the meeting, Guattari articulated his concerns about psychoanalysis: “The point is to know if analysts will be agents of the established order or if they will stand up to their political responsibilities.” According to Guattari, Lacan replied: “I don’t care if there are any analysts. I’ve spent my whole life denouncing them.” Lacan’s point was that, by making this demand, Guattari was revealing his desire for a political form of psychoanalysis. What we find in Guattari’s work is not a desire to cure (a desire met with disapproval in Lacan’s essay ’Variations on the Standard Treatment’), but a desire to militate.

In schizoanalysis we are not, of course, negating the dominance of the effects of the castration complex. For Freud, this complex is desire that blocks itself, scares itself… But blocks itself on what? The body… Neurotics hang onto remainders, recompose rites, on their own bodies, and the Oedipus. (The Anti-Œdipus Papers, p.123-4)

The political responsibility which Guattari places on the analyst is to not allow the neurotic patient to recompose Oedipal rites on their bodies. This view can be easily translated back into Freud’s own vocabulary of binding and primary and secondary processes. If primary processes are bound on the body of Oedipus in a secondary process, then the analyst’s political responsibility is to avoid reifying Oedipus into a transcendent structure within which the individual finds a position. This is a political responsibility because it is the reification of Oedipus which then allows capitalism to suppress desire for its own purposes. For this reason, Guattari places the concept of “assemblage” (which implies a temporary, nomadic formation) in opposition to Freud’s use of the term “complex”. Perhaps a productive dialogue may begin between Guattari’s work and recent, psychoanalytically-informed political theory (Laclau, Zizek, Butler et cetera) if we found a way to talk of an Oedipal assemblage, but not a reified Oedipal complex.

Read the rest here.

Ecosophy puts the issue brilliantly– truly brilliantly –when he remarks that perhaps it would be possible to open a more fruitful dialogue between psychoanalytically inflected political theories and schizoanalysis were the question to be posed in terms of Oedipal assemblages (or in my language, networks) rather than Oedipal structures (cf. my post on this distinction here). One of the major accomplishments of Anti-Oedipus was both the linkage of Oedipal networks to the broader social and historical context, showing how the formation of subjectivity is not a private family affair, and their demonstration in chapter 3 that kinship and socio-political organization take on very different structures, are organized by very different machines, in different periods.

Here Deleuze and Guattari are targeting a central psychoanalytic dogma surrounding the transcendence and eternality of Oedipal structure. If this issue is of crucial importance, then this is because where the Oedipus is treated as a transcendent structure, were faced with what Lacan called a “forced vel of alienation”. That is, we’re faced with an either/or alternative where either choice is bad and the only choice is the lesser of two evils. In the case of treating Oedipus as a structure, were faced with a choice where, just as we must choose our life when the mugger says “your money or your life”, therefore sacrificing our jouissance, Oedipal structure gives us the stark alternative of neurotic resignation to castration or incoherent psychosis. In other words, we can choose meaning (the order of the signifier and the social) or being (jouissance), but cannot have both. As a consequence, the Oedipus becomes an apologetics for both capitalist structure and a support for the reigning status quo: “Either you accept neurosis and the reigning social order or you fall into anarchic and mute psychosis!”

I have encountered this myself in discussions with Lacanians. Thus, a year ago I got into it with two prominent Lacanians over whether or not other discourses beyond Lacan’s four were possible, and whether or not there were other forms of social organization not premised on the masculine and feminine graphs of sexuation with respect to the real and jouissance. Much to my surprise I was informed that these structures are eternal– like Platonic forms –and then that “other structures are not needed even if they are possible”, despite clear textual evidence to the contrary that Lacan himself envisioned the possibility of other discourse relations and saw neurosis as something unique to contemporary kinship structures. In other words, there was an extreme hostility to the treatment of these things as assemblages that, by virtue of being assemblages, could be changed and reorganized in a variety of ways.

In my view, the advantage of treating the Oedipus as an assemblage rather than as a structure is two-fold. On the one hand, it opens the possibility of other social formations, significantly increasing the number of political possibilities on the table. On the other hand, it responds to certain shortcomings I believe to be at work in Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus. Based on my understanding, Anti-Oedipus poses the right question– “why do people will their own oppression” –and even gives the right answer– because of Oedipal or paranoid social structure –but it fails to give an adequate genetic or morphological account of just how subjects come to be Oedipalized or to accept the Oedipal order. If, as Deleuze and Guattari rightly argue, desire is productive, affirmative, and perpetually mobile, how does it come to occur that desiring-machines come to experience themselves as subjects, experience themselves as lacking, experience themselves as castrated, and yearn for a master? I’ve read Anti-Oedipus up and down and I simply can’t, for the life of me, find an answer to this question. The closest we get is something that sounds as if it is blaming theorists that discuss lack, castration, and the self-identical subject for these things. However, if 1) we can theorize Oedipal assemblages, and 2) we can give an account of how lack is manufactured or produced within affirmative and connective desire, then we can begin to build such an account and develop strategies for undermining this structure. The mistake, which is all too common among Deleuzians, lies in thinking that the illusions of lack and negation do not nonetheless have real effects and consequences. No doubt this mistake arises from a failure to read Kant on the topic of transcendental illusions.

In response to my post “Deleuze and Guattari avec Lacan“, Reid asks “What is the Borromean Clinic?” I confess that I am working through this myself, so I do not have a completely adequate answer. In many respects, this is the most and dense and difficult period of Lacan’s teaching, but it is also a period where he completely exceeds what he had developed in prior years, developing both an entirely new diagnostic system and new possibilities for the end of analysis.

In his Borromean period, Lacan shifts to a topology of the subject based on the borromean knot:


The first thing to notice with this curious knot is that no two of the rings are directly tied together as in the case of a Hopf chain:


Consequently, in the borromean knot, if any one of the rings are severed the other two rings fall away as well. In short, the consistence of the borromean knot arises only from the knotting of the three and the manner in which the strings pass over and under one another in the proper way. Lacan equated each of the three rings with one of his three orders– the real, the symbolic, and the imaginary (RSI) –corresponding to the order of ex-sistence (the real) or that which exists outside the symbolic, the order of the hole or lack introduced into being (the symbolic), and the order of consistency (the imaginary). However, it will be noted that each of the rings overlaps with the others forming points of intersection with the other rings like a Venn diagram:


Consequently, we can think the different orders together getting various combinations between the elements. Thus, for example, there can be a hole in the real, just as there is an ex-sistence in the symbolic (the letter as opposed to the signifier). Likewise, there can be a consistence in the symbolic (meaning), just as there can be a hole in the imaginary. And so on. As I said, I am still working through this myself, so I have not yet worked out the implications of all this.

Read on


I came across the following passage from Mark Twain’s Eve’s Diary: Translated from the Original MS in Roberto Harari’s brilliant How James Joyce Made His Name: A Reading of the Final Lacan.

Twain tells the story in Eve’s words. Having caught sight of the male creature, she thinks “it” must be a reptile, and tries to attract its attention by throwing clods of earth:

One of the clodes took it back of the ear, and it used language. It gave me a thrill, for it was the first time I had ever heard speech, except my own. I did not understand the words, but they seemed expressive. When I found it could talk, I felt a new interest in it, for I love to talk; I talk all day, and in my sleep, too, and I am very interesting, but if I had another to talk to I could be twice as interesting, and would never stop, if desired.

…She goes on: “I think it would be a he. I think so. IN that case, one would parse it thus: nominative he; dative him; possessive, his’n. Well, I will consider it a man and call it he until it turns out to be something else.”

Eve now goes on to the subject of nomination. “I have taken all the work of naming things off his hands, and this has been a great relief to him, for he has no gift in that line, and is evidently very grateful.” (41 – 42)

What a marvelous illustration of Lacan’s mysterious feminine jouissance… An enjoyment in language as such without the need for the phallic dimension of totality. At any rate, Harari’s book is well worth the read. He deftly navigates Lacan’s theory of the borromean knots, the sinthome, the different orders of jouissance, and proposes a new end of analysis beyond traversing the fantasy in identification with the sinthome, where the process of analysis is conceived as an untying and retying of the three orders and the formation of a purified symptom, an inexchangeable singularity, from which the subject draws its jouissance. This is a far more optimistic account of the end of analysis than that of traversing the fantasy where the subject undergoes subjective destitution and lives on in a sort of tragic and masochistic position with respect to the jouissance circumscribed by the fundamental fantasy. Compared to Harari’s book on The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis and Seminar 10: Anxiety, both of which presuppose a strong background knowledge in Lacanian theory and which are replete with mathemes (a boon, I think), this text is very accessible… Though all the books of the Argentinian analyst are valuable and illuminating, and well worth the read.

Surplus-jouissance, Desire, and Fantasy

In Seminar 6: Desire and its Interpretation, Lacan articulates fantasy as the frame of desire. The fundamental fantasy does not imagine a particular satisfaction, but is rather the frame through which our desire is structured. In this respect, fantasy answers the question of what the Other desires.


As I remarked in my previous post, the desire of the Other is enigmatic and opaque. Fantasy is what fills out this enigma, articulating it, giving it form, such that it embodies a determinate demand. Lacan persistently claimed that “desire is the desire of the Other”. This polysemous aphorism can be taken in four ways. First, at the most obvious level, it can be taken to signify that we desire the Other. Second, and more importantly, it can be taken to entail that we desire to be desired by the Other. Third, it can be taken to signify that we desire what the Other desires. For example, a petite bourgeois might desire a particular car not because of the intrinsic features of the car, but because it will generate envy in his neighbor. Likewise, someone might mow their lawn not because they see an intrinsic virtue in doing so, but because they fear that their neighbor will become angry if they don’t. Finally, fourth, insofar as the unconscious is the “discourse of the Other”, the thesis that desire is the desire of the Other indicates the manner in which desire is articulated through the network of signifiers that haunt our unconscious, producing all sorts of symptomatic formations based on the signifier.

Read on

Between Drive and Signifier

The first post on sexuation and the logic of sexuation can be found here.


Between The Interpretation of Dreams and the Three Essays on Sexuality there was a great tension within Freud’s thought, almost as if there were two entirely different psychoanalytic theories. On the one hand, the Three Essays developed the theory of the drives (trieb) and the various forms that they could take over the course of development and beyond. Freud’s early drive theory was a thoroughly embodied theory pertaining to the baroque displacements the drives can undergo in order to satisfy themselves. By contrast, The Interpretation of Dreams unfolded almost entirely in the order of the signifier, the semiotic, and its vicissitudes, with little that directly pertained to the drives. In certain respects, Freud’s work here was prescient. In his final essay, Analysis Finite and Infinite, Freud would wonder whether it was possible for analysis to come to an end. Despite the fact that interpretation would go as far as it could go over the course of analysis, despite the fact that the transference would have been thoroughly worked through, Freud would find that something in the analysand’s psychic system continued to repeat. In other words, there was something other at work in the analysand’s psychic system that could not be resolved through interpretation alone. No doubt it was observations such as these that led Freud to theorize a death drive in contrast to the pleasure principle and instincts.

Lacan’s thought underwent a very similar trajectory. Up through Seminar 6, Lacan focused primarily on the order of the signifier, ignoring almost entirely the order of drive or jouissance. During this period, Lacan optimistically argued that the symptom could be entirely resolved through analytic interpretation, even defining the symptom as a metaphoric condensation of signifiers. This is the period where Lacan believes that the big Other exists. During this period, as can be observed in the graph of desire, Lacan assimilates drive to the signifier, to the symbolic, rather than seeing it as belonging to the order of the real. It is not until Seminar 10, L’angoisse, that Lacan will begin to develop a rich account of drive as that which both accounts for signifying formations in the unconscious (an animating principle), and as a real and jouissance entirely other than the order of the signifier.

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The Real, Repetition, Incompleteness, and Inconsistency

As I remarked in a previous post, Lacan’s graphs of sexuation can be understood as two ways in which the totalization of language fails and the jouissance that emerges as a result of this failure of totalization.


According to Lacan, there is a masculine and feminine way in which this failure occurs. The masculine failure of totalization and the jouissance this failure produces can be found on the left side of the graph, while the feminine failure of totalization and the failure it produces can be found on the right side of the graph of sexuation. We can refer to the upper portion of the graph of sexuation where the equations are located as “the logic of the signifier”, while we can refer to the lower portion of the graph with the arrows as “the logic of jouissance. The left or masculine side of the graph of sexuation can be referred to as failure as incompleteness. That is, the masculine way of attempting to totalize the symbolic or the big Other leads to a constitutive incompleteness calling for a supplementary element or term. Likewise, the feminine way of attempting to totalize or complete the symbolic leads to a constitutive inconsistency.

It is important to note that biologically gendered subjects can occupy either side of the graph of sexuation or neither side of the graph of sexuation. Thus, for example, you can have a male body that is structured according to the feminine side of the graph of sexuation. Likewise, psychotic subjects occupy neither side of the graph of sexuation. In this respect, it comes as no surprise that postmodernity, where the name-of-the-father is largely foreclosed in the social field (the structural failure in the borromean knot that generates psychosis), is also accompanied by a plurality of sexes and sexual identities. This is exactly what we would expect in the absence of Oedipal structure. In this connection, I believe that the debates between Copjec and Žižek directed at Deleuze and Guattari, Foucault, and Butler premised on the real of sexual difference are poorly formed because the two sides of the debate are dealing with very differently structured systems at the level of the logic of the signifier.

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