Archive for November, 2009


November 30, 2009



Desire and the picture.

The function of the eye may lead someone who is trying to enlighten you to distant explorations. When, for example, did the function of the organ and, to begin with, its very presence, appear in the evolution of living beings?


The relation of the subject with the organ is at the heart of our experience. Among all the organs with which we deal, the breast, the faeces, etc., there is the eye, and it is striking to see that it goes back as far as the species that represent the appearance of life. You no doubt eat oysters, innocently enough,
without knowing that at this level in the animal kingdom the eye has already appeared. Such discoveries teach us, it should be said, all manner of things. Yet we must choose from among
these things those that are most relative to our search.


Last time, I think I said enough to enable you to grasp the interest of this small, very simple triangular schema that I have reproduced at the top of the blackboard.


It is there simply to remind you in three terms of the optics used in this operational montage that bears witness to the inverted use of perspective, which came to dominate the technique of painting, in particular, between the end of the fifteenth and the end of the seventeenth centuries. Anamorphosis
shows us that it is not a question in painting of a realistic reproduction of the things of space—a term about which one could have many reservations.


The little schema also allows me to remark that certain optics allow that which concerns vision to escape. Such optics are within the grasp of the blind. I have already referred you to Diderot’s Letire, which shows to what extent the blind man is capable of taking account of, reconstructing, imagining,
speaking about everything that vision yields to us of space. No doubt, on this possibility, Diderot constructs a permanent equivocation with metaphysical implications, but this ambiguity animates his text and gives it its mordant character. For us, the geometral dimension enables us to glimpse how
the subject who concerns us is caught, manipulated, captured, in the field of vision.


In Holbein’s picture I showed you at once—without hiding any more than usual—the singular object floating in the foreground, which is there to be looked at, in order to catch, I would almost say, to catch in its trap, the observer, that is to say, us. It is, in short, an obvious way, no doubt an exceptional one,
and one due to some moment of reflection on the part of the painter, of showing us that, as subjects, we are literally called into the picture, and represented here as caught.


For the secret of this picture, whose implications I have pointed out to you, the kinships with the vanitas, the way this fascinating picture presents, between the two splendidly dressed and immobile figures, everything that recalls, in the perspective of the period, the vanity of the arts and sciences—the secret of this picture is given at the moment when, moving slightly away, little by little, to the left, then turning around, we see what the magical floating object signifies. It reflects our own nothingness,
in the figure of the death’s head. It is a use, therefore, of the geometral dimension of vision in order to capture the subject, an obvious relation with desire which, nevertheless, remains enigmatic.


What is the desire which is caught, fixed in the picture, but which also urges the artist to put something into operation? And what is that something? This is the path along which we shall try to move today.


In this matter of the visible, everything is a trap, and in a strange way—as is very well shown by Maurice Merleau-Ponty in the title of one of the chapters of .L.€ Visible ci l’invisible—
(interlacing, intertwining). There is not a single one of the divisions, a single one of the double sides that the function of vision presents, that is not manifested to us as a labyrinth. As we begin to distinguish its various fields, we always perceive more and more the extent to which they intersect.


In the domain that I have called that of the geometral, it seems at first that it is light that gives us, as it were, the thread. In effect, you saw this thread last time linking us to each point of the object and, in the place where it crosses the network in the form of a screen on which we are going to map the image,
functioning quite definitely as a thread. Now, the light is propagated, as one says, in a straight line, this much is certain. It would seem, then, that it is light that gives us the thread.


Yet, reflect that this thread has no need of light—all that is needed is a stretched thread. This is why the blind man would be able to follow all our demonstrations, providing we took some trouble in their presentation. We would get him, for example, to finger an object of a certain height, then follow the stretched thread.


We would teach him to distinguish, by the sense of touch in his finger-ends, on a surface, a certain configuration that reproduces the mapping of the images—in the same way that we imagine, in pure optics, the variously proportioned and fundamentally homological relations, the correspondences from one point to another in space, which always, in the end, amounts to situating two points on a single thread. This construction does not, therefore, particularly enable us to apprehend what is provided by light. How can we try to apprehend that which seems to elude us in this way in the optical structuring of space?


It is always on this question that the traditional argument bears. Philosophers, going back from Alain, the last to have concerned himself with it, and quite brilliantly, to Kant, and even to Plato, all expatiate on the supposed deceptiveness of perception—and, at the same time, they all find themselves once again masters of the exercise, by stressing the fact that perception finds the object where it is, and that the appearance of the cube as a parallelogram is precisely, owing to the rupture of space that underlies our very perception, what makes us perceive it as a cube. The whole trick, the hey presto!, of the classic dialectic around perception, derives from the fact that it deals with geometral vision, that is
to say, with vision in so far as it is situated in a space that is not in its essence the visual


The essence of the relation between appearance and being, which the philosopher, conquering the field of vision, so easily masters, lies elsewhere. It is not in the straight line, but in the point of light—the point of irradiation, the play of light, fire, the source from which reflections pour forth. Light may travel in a straight line, but it is refracted, diffused, it floods, it fills— the eye is a sort of bowl—it flows over, too, it necessitates, around the ocular bowl, a whole series of organs, mechanisms,
defences. The iris reacts not only to distance, but also to light, and it has to protect what takes place at the bottom of the bowl, which might, in certain circumstances, be damaged by it. The eyelid, too, when confronted with too bright a light, first blinks, that is, it screws itself up in a well-known grimace.


Furthermore, it is not that the eye has to be photo-sensitive—we know this. The whole surface of the tegument —no doubt for various reasons that are not visual—may be photo-sensitive, and this dimension can in no way be reduced to the functioning of vision. There is a certain adumbration of photo-sensitive organs in the pigmentary spots. In the eye, the pigment functions fully, in a way, of course, that the phenomenon shows to be infinitely complex. It functions within the cones, for
example, in the form of a rhodopsin. It also functions inside the various layers of the retina. This pigment comes and goes in functions that are not all, nor always immediately discoverable and clear, but which suggest the depth, the complexity and, at the same time, the unity of the mechanisms concerned with light.


The relation of the subject with that which is strictly concerned with light seems, then, to be already somewhat ambiguous. Indeed, you see this on, the schema of the two triangles, which are inverted at the same time as they must be placed one upon the other. What you have here is the first example of this functioning of interlacing, intersection, chiasma, which I pointed out above, and which structures the whole of this domain.


In order to give you some idea of the question posed by this relation between the subject and light, in order to show you that its place is something other than the place of the geometral point defined by geometric optics, I will now tell you a little story.


It’s a true story. I was in my early twenties or thereabouts— and at that time, of course, being a young intellectual, I wanted desperately to get away, see something different, throw myself into something practical, something physical, in the country say, or at the sea. One day, I was on a small boat, with a few people from a family of fishermen in a small port. At that time, Brittany was not industrialized as it is now. There were no trawlers. The fisherman went out in his frail craft at his own risk. It was this risk, this danger, that I loved to share. But it wasn’t all danger and excitement—there were also fine days.


One day, then, as we were waiting for the moment to pull in the nets, an individual known as Petit-Jean, that’s what we called him—like all his family, he died very young from tuberculosis, which at that time was a constant threat to the whole of that social class—this Petit-Jean pointed out to me something
floating on the surface of the waves. It was a small can, a sardine can. It floated there in the sun, a witness to the canning industry, which we, in fact, were supposed to supply. It glittered in the sun. And Petit-Jean said to me—You see that can? Do you see it? Well, it doesn’t see you!


He found this incident highly amusing—I less so. I thought about it. Why did I find it less amusing than he? It’s an interesting question. To begin with, if what Petit-Jean said to me, namely, that the can did not see me, had any meaning, it was because in a sense, it was looking at me, all the same. It was looking at me at the level of the point of light, the point at which everything that looks at me is situated—and I am not speaking metaphorically.


The point of this little story, as it had occurred to my partner, the fact that he found it so funny and I less so, derives from the fact that, if I am told a story like that one, it is because I, at that moment—as I appeared to those fellows who were earning their livings with great difficulty, in the struggle with what for them was a pitiless nature—looked like nothing on earth. In short, I was rather out of place in the picture. And it was because I felt this that I was not terribly amused at hearing myself addressed in this humorous, ironical way.


I am taking the structure at the level of the subject here, and it reflects something that is already to be found in the natural relation that the eye inscribes with regard to light. I am not simply that punctiform being located at the geometral point from which the perspective is grasped. No doubt, in the depths
of my eye, the picture is painted. The picture, certainly, is in my eye. But I am not in the picture.


That which is light looks at me, and by means of that light in the depths of my eye, something is painted—something that is not simply a constructed relation, the object on which the philosopher lingers—but something that is an impression, the shimmering of a surface that is not, in advance, situated for me in its distance. This is something that introduces what was elided in the geometral relation—the depth of field, with all its ambiguity and variability, which is in no way mastered by me.


It is rather it that grasps me, solicits me at every moment, and makes of the landscape something other than a landscape, something other than what I have called the picture. The correlative of the picture, to be situated in the same place as it, that is to say, outside, is the point of gaze, while that which forms the mediation from the one to the other, that which is between the two, is something of another nature than geometral, optical space, something that plays an exactly reverse role, which operates, not because it can be traversed, but on the contrary because it is opaque—I mean the screen. In what is presented to me as space of light, that which is gaze is always a play of light and opacity. It is always that
gleam of light—it lay at the heart of my little story—it is always this which prevents me, at each point, from being a screen, from making the light appear as an iridescence that overflows it. In short, the point of gaze always participates in the ambiguity of the jewel.


And if I am anything in the picture, it is always in the form of the screen, which I earlier called the stain, the spot.




November 28, 2009


The optics of the blinds

We can apprehend this privilege of the gaze in the function of desire, by pouring ourselves, as it were, along the veins through which the domain of vision has been integrated into the field of desire.


It is not for nothing that it was at the very period when the Cartesian meditation inaugurated in all its purity the function of the subject that the dimension of optics that I shall distinguish here by calling ‘geometral’ or ‘flat’ (as opposed to perspective) optics was developed. I shall illustrate for you, by one object among others, what seems to me exemplary in a function that so curiously attracted
so much reflection at the time.


One reference, for those who would like to carry further what I tried to convey to you today, is Baltrusaitis’ book, Anamorphoses.


In my seminar, I have made great use of the function of anamorphosis, in so far as it is an exemplary structure. What does a simple, non-cylindrical anamorphosis consist of?


Suppose there is a portrait on this flat piece of paper that I am holding. By chance, you see the blackboard, in an oblique position in relation to the piece of paper. Suppose that, by means of a series of ideal threads or lines, I reproduce on the oblique surface each point of the image drawn on my sheet of paper. You can easily imagine what the result would be—you would obtain a figure enlarged and distorted according to the lines of what may be called a perspective.


One supposes that I take away that which has helped in the construction, namely, the image placed in my own visual field—the impression I will retain, while remaining in that place, will be more or less the same. At least, I will recognize the general outtlines of the image—at best, I will have an identical


I will now pass around something that dates from a hundred earlier, from 1533, a reproduction of a painting that, I think, you all know—Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors. It will serve to refresh the memories of those who know the picture well. Those who do not should examine it attentively. I shall come back to it shortly.


Vision is ordered according to a mode that may generally be called the function of images. This function is defined by a point-by-point correspondence of two unities in space. Whatever optical intermediaries may be used to establish their relation, whether their image is virtual, or real, the point-by-point correspondence is essential. That which is of the mode of the image in the field of vision is therefore reducible to the simple schema that enables us to establish anamorphosis, that is to say, to the relation of an image, in so far as it is linked to a surface, with a certain point that we shall call the ‘geometral’ point. Anything that is determined by this method, in which the straight line plays its role of being the path of light, can be called an image.


Art is mingled with science here. Leonardo da Vinci is both a scientist, on account of his dioptric constructions, and an artist. Vitruvius’s treatise on architecture is not far away. It is in Vignola and in Alberti that we find the progressive interrogation of the geometral laws of perspective, and it is around
research on perspective that is centred a privileged interest for the domain of vision—whose relation with the institution of the Cartesian subject, which is itself a sort of geometral point, a point of perspective, we cannot fail to see. And, around the geometral perspective, the picture—this is a very important function to which we shall return—is organized in a way that is quite new in the history of painting.


I should now like to refer you to Diderot. The Lettre sur les aveugles a l’usage do ceux qui voient (Letter on the Blind for the use of those who see) will show you that this construction allows that which concerns vision to escape totally. For the geometral space of vision—even if we include those imaginary parts in the virtual space of the mirror, of which, as you know, I have spoken at length—is perfectly reconstructible, imaginable, by a blind man.


What is at issue in geometral perspective is simply the mapping of space, not sight. The blind man may perfectly well conceive that the field of space that he knows, and which he knows as real, may be perceived at a distance, and as a simultaneous act. For him, it is a question of apprehending a temporal
function, instantaneity.


In Descartes, dioptrics, the action of the eyes, is represented as the conjugated action of two sticks. The geometral dimension of vision does not exhaust, therefore, far from it, what the field of vision as such offers us as the original subjectifying relation. This is why it is so important to acknowledge the inverted use of perspective in the structure of anamorphosis.


It was Durer himself who invented the apparatus to establish perspective. Durer’s ‘lucinda’ is comparable to what, a little while ago, I placed between that blackboard and myself, namely, a certain image, or more exactly a canvas, a trellis that will be traversed by straight lines—which are not necessarily rays, but also threads—which will link each point that I have to see in the world to a point at which the canvas will, by this line, be traversed.


It was to establish a correct perspective image, therefore, that the lucinda was introduced. If I reverse its use, I will have the pleasure of obtaining not the restoration of the world that lies at the end, but the distortion, on another surface, of the image that I would have obtained on the first, and I will dwell, as on some delicious game, on this method that makes anything appear at will in a particular stretching.


I would ask you to believe that such an enchantment took place in its time. Baltrusaltis’ book will tell you of the furious polemics that these practices gave rise to, and which culminated in works of considerable length. The convent of the Minims, now destroyed, which once stood near the rue des Tournelles, carried on the very long wall of one of its galleries and representing as if by chance St John at Patmos a picture that had to be looked at through a hole, so that its distorting value could be appreciated to its full extent.


Distortion may lend itself—this was not the case for this particular fresco—to all the paranoiac ambiguities, and every possible use has been made of it, from Arcimboldi to Salvador Dali. I will go so far as to say that this fascination complements what geometral researches into perspective allow to escape from vision. How is it that nobody has ever thought of connecting this with. . . the effect of an erection?


Imagine a tattoo traced on the sexual organ ad hoc in the state of repose and assuming its,
if I may say so, developed form in another state. How can we not see here, immanent in the geometral
dimension—a partial dimension in the field of the gaze, a dimension that has nothing to do with vision as such—something symbolic of the function of the lack, of the appearance of the phallic ghost?


Now, in The Ambassadors—I hope everyone has had time now to look at the reproduction —what do you see? What is this strange, suspended, oblique object in the foreground in front of these two figures?


The two figures are frozen, stiffened in their showy adornments. Between them is a series of objects that represent in the painting of the period the symbols of vanitas. At the same period, Cornelius Agrippa wrote his .De Vanitate scientiarum, aimed as much at the arts as the sciences, and these objects are all symbolic of the sciences and arts as they were grouped at the time in the trivium and quadrivium. What, then, before this display of the domain of appearance in all its most fascinating forms, is this object, which from some angles appears to be flying through the air, at others to be tilted? You cannot know—for you turn away, thus escaping the fascination of the picture.


Begin by walking out of the room in which no doubt it has long held your attention. It is then that, turning round as you leave—as the author of the Anamorphoses describes it—you apprehend in this form. . . What? A skull.


This is not how it is presented at first—that figure, which the author compares to a cuttlebone and which for me suggests rather that loaf composed of two books which Dali was once pleased to place on the head of an old woman, chosen deliberately for her wretched, filthy appearance and, indeed, because
she seems to be unaware of the fact, or, again, Dali’s soft watches, whose signification is obviously less phallic than that of the object depicted in a flying position in the foreground of this picture.


All this shows that at the very heart of the period in which the subject emerged and geometral optics was an object of research, Holbein makes visible for us here something that is simply the subject as annihilated—annihilated in the form that is, strictly speaking, the imaged embodiment of the minus-phi [(—#)] of castration, which for us, centres the whole organization of the desires through the framework of the fundamental drives.


But it is further still that we must seek the function of vision. We shall then see emerging on the basis of vision, not the phallic symbol, the anamorphic ghost, but the gaze as such, in its pulsatile, dazzling and spread out function, as it is in this picture.


This picture is simply what any picture is, a trap for the gaze. In any picture, it is precisely in seeking the gaze in each of its points that you will see it disappear. I shall try to develop this further next time.




November 27, 2009


The privilege of the gaze as objet a
But what is the gaze? I shall set out from this first point of annihilation in which is marked, in the field of the reduction of the subject, a break—which warns us of the need to introduce another reference, that which analysis assumes in reducing the privileges of the consciousness.

但是什麼是凝視?我將先從毀滅力量這一點先講起。一個斷裂發生在主體的處境場域,就是毀滅的力量。這個毀滅的力量警告我們,有需要介紹精神分析學從事的另一個命題, 將意識的特權規範一下。

Psycho-analysis regards the consciousness as irremediably limited, and institutes it as a principle, not only of idealization, but of méconnaissance, as—using a term that takes on new value by being referred to a visible domain—scotoma. The term was introduced into the psycho-analytic vocabulary by the French School. Is it simply a metaphor? We find here once again the ambiguity that affects anything that is inscribed in the register of the scopic drive.


For us, consciousness matters only in its relation to what, for propaedeutic reasons, I have tried to show you in the fiction of the incomplete text—on the basis of which it is a question of recentring the subject as speaking in the very lacunae of that in which, at first sight, it presents itself as speaking. But I am
stating here only the relation of the pre-conscious to the unconscious.


The dynamic that is attached to the consciousness as such, the attention the subject brings to his own text, remains up to this point, as Freud has stressed, outside theory and, strictly speaking, not yet articulated.


It is here that I propose that the interest the subject takes in his own split is bound up with that which determines it—namely, a privileged object, which has emerged from some primal separation, from some induced by the very approach of the real, whose name, in our algebra, is the objet a.


In the scopic relation, the object on which depends the phantasy from which the subject is suspended in an essential vacillation is the gaze. Its privilege—and also that by which the subject for so long has been misunderstood as being in its dependence—derives from its very structure.


Let us schematize at once what we mean. From the moment that this gaze appears, the subject tries to adapt himself to it, he becomes that punctiform object, that point of vanishing being with which the subject confuses his own failure. Furthermore, of all the objects in which the subject may recognize his dependence in the register of desire, the gaze is specified as unapprehensible.


That is why it is, more than any other object, misunderstood (méconnu), and it is perhaps for this reason, too, that the subject manages, fortunately, to symbolize his own vanishing and punctiform bar (trait) in the illusion of the consciousness of seeing oneself see oneself, in which the gaze is elided.
If, then, the gaze is that underside of consciousness, how shall we try to imagine it?


The expression is not inapt, for we can give body to the gaze. Sartre, in one of the most brilliant passages of L’Etre et le Xéant, brings it into function in the dimension of the existence of others. Others would remain suspended in the same, partially conditions that are, in Sartre’s definition, those of
objectivity, were it not for the gaze. The gaze, as conceived by Sartre, is the gaze by which I am surprised—surprised in so far as it changes all the perspectives, the lines of force, of my world, orders it, from the point of nothingness where I am, in a sort of radiated reticulation of the organisms. As the locus of the relation between me, the annihilating subject, and that which surrounds me, the gaze seems to possess such a privilege that it goes so far as to have me scotomized, I who look, the eye of him who sees me as object. In so far as I am under the gaze, Sartre writes, I no longer see the eye that looks at me and, if I see the eye, the gaze disappears.


Is this a correct phenomenological analysis? No. It is not true that, when I am under the gaze, when I solicit a gaze, when I obtain it, I do not see it as a gaze. Painters, above all, have grasped this gaze as such in the mask and I have only to remind you of Goya, for example, for you to realize this.


The gaze sees itself—to be precise, the gaze of which Sartre speaks, the gaze that surprises me and reduces me to shame, since this is the feeling he regards as the most dominant. The gaze encounter— you can find this in Sartre’s own writing—is, not a seen gaze, but a gaze imagined by me in the field
of the Other.


If you turn to Sartre’s own text, you will see that, far from speaking of the emergence of this gaze as of something that concerns the organ of sight, he refers to the sound of rustling leaves, suddenly heard while out hunting, to a footstep heard in a corridor. And when are these sounds heard? At the moment when he has presented himself in the action of looking through a keyhole. A gaze surprises him in the function of voyeur, disturbs him, overwhelms him and reduces him to a feeling of shame


. The gaze in question is certainly the presence of others as such. But does this mean that originally it is in the relation of subject to subject, in the function of the existence of others as looking at me, that we apprehend what the gaze really is? Is it not clear that the gaze intervenes here only in as much as it is not the annihilating subject, correlative of the world of objectivity, who feels himself surprised, but the subject sustaining himself in a function of desire? Is it not precisely because desire is established here in the domain of seeing that we can make it vanish?

我們所討論的這個凝視,確實是因為別人作為凝視的存在。但難道這就意味著,凝視原先是主體與主體的關係,是別人作為觀看我的存在的功用,是我們理解凝視的真正的內涵? 凝視的介入,不是在它作為與客觀世界相對時,使自己感受驚嚇的無常的主體,而是在藉欲望的功用維持自己的主體,這難道不是顯而易見?難道不就是因為在看到我們能夠使凝視消失的場域,欲望才在此被建立?



November 26, 2009



Of the foundation of consciousness. 意識的基礎
The privilege of the gaze as objet a 凝視作為小客體的特權
The optics of the blinds 瞎子的光學
The phallus in the picture 圖畫中的陽具

In vain your image comes to meet me
And does not enter me where I am who only shows it
Turning towards me you can find
On the wall of my gaze only your dreamt-of shadow.


I am that wretch comparable with mirrors
That can reflect but cannot see
Like them my eye is empty and like them inhabited
By your absence which makes them blind.


You may remember that, in one of my earlier lectures, I began by quoting the poem, Contrechant, from Aragon’s Le Fou d’Elsa. I did not realize at the time that I would be developing the subject of the gaze to such an extent. I was diverted into doing so by the way in which I presented the concept of
repetition in Freud.


We cannot deny that it is within the explanation of repetition that this digression on the scopic function is situated —no doubt by Maurice Merleau-Poiity’s recently published work, Le Visible et l’invisible.


Moreover, it seemed to me that, if an encounter were to be found there, it was a happy one, one destined to stress, as I shall try to do today, how, in the perspective of the unconscious, we can situate consciousness. You know that some shadow, or, to use another term, some ‘resist’ —in the sense one speaks of ‘resist’ in the dying of material—marks the fact of consciousness in Freud’s very discourse.


A. 你知道,在佛洛伊德的學說,意識是由某個陰影,或換個用詞,某個「抗拒」顯示出來。這個「抗拒」的意義指的是人及物不願意被消滅。

B. 你们知道,在佛洛伊德的学说,意识的事实由某种陰影标示。或者换个术语,某种的「无法被渲染的东西」,容用染料的比喻来说。

But, before taking things up again at the point we left them last time, I must first clear up a misunderstanding that appears to have arisen in the minds of certain members of the audience
concerning a term I used last time. Some of you seem to have been perplexed by a word that is simple enough, and which I commented on, namely, the tychic. Apparently, it sounded to some of you like a sneeze. Yet I made it quite clear that it was the adjective formed from tuché just as psychique (psychical) is the adjective corresponding to psuché (psyche). I used this analogy at the heart of the experience of repetition quite intentionally, because for any conception of the psychical
development as elucidated by psycho-analysis, the fact of the tychic is central. It is in relation to the eye, in relation to the eutuchia or the dustuclzia, the happy encounter and the unhappy encounter, that my lecture today will be ordered.

但是在重新開展這個上一次遺留下來的命題之前,我必須首先澄清一個某些聽眾似乎已經產生的誤解,關於我上一次所用的術語。有些人似乎對我所評論的那個詞語,看來簡單,卻不免令人困惑,那就是「tychic邂逅 」。顯然,對於你們有些人,它聽起來像個一個噴嚏。可是,我表達得很清楚,那是一個tuche 邂逅所形成的形容詞,如同「psychical 心理的」是個「psyche心理」的 形容詞。我相當刻意地使用這個類比,在重複經驗的核心,因為由心理分析學所闡明的任何心理的發展的觀念,tychic 存在的事實是很重要的。就在跟眼睛的關係,跟eutuchia 及 dustuclzia的關係,快樂的邂逅跟不快樂的邂逅,就是我今天的演講主題。
I saw myself seeing myself, young Parque says somewhere. Certainly, this statement has rich and complex implications in relation to the theme developed in La Jeune Parque, that of femininity—but we haven’t got there yet. We are dealing with the philosopher, who apprehends something that is one of the essential correlates of consciousness in its relation to representation, and which is designated as I see myself seeing myself.


What evidence can we really attach to this formula? How is it that it remains, in fact, correlative with that fundamental mode to which we referred in the Cartesian cogito, by which the subject apprehends himself as thought?


What isolates this apprehension of thought by itself is a sort of doubt, which has been called methodological doubt, which concerns whatever might give support to thought in representation.
How is it, then, that the I see myself seeing myself remains its envelope and base, and, perhaps more than one thinks, grounds its certainty?


For, I warm myself by warming myself is a reference to the body as body—I feel that sensation
of warmth which, from some point inside me, is diffused and locates me as body. Whereas in the I see myself seeing myself, there is no such sensation of being absorbed by vision.


Furthermore, the phenomenologists have succeeded in articulating with precision, and in the most disconcerting way, that it is quite clear that I see outside, that perception is not in me, that it is on the objects that it apprehends. And yet I apprehend the world in a perception that seems to concern the immanence of the I see myself seeing myself. The privilege of the subject seems to be established here from that bipolar reflexive relation by which, as soon as I perceive, my representations belong to me.


This is how the world is struck with a presumption of idealization, of the suspicion of yielding me only my representations. Serious practice does not really weigh very heavy, but, on the other hand, the philosopher, the idealist, is placed there, as much in confrontation with himself as in confrontation with
those who are listening to him, in an embarrassing position.


How can one deny that nothing of the world appears to me except in my representations? This is the irreducible method of Bishop Berkeley, about whose subjective position much might be said— including something that may have eluded you in passing, namely, this belong to me aspect of representations, so reminiscent of property. When carried to the limit, the process of this meditation, of this reflecting reflection, goes so far as to reduce the subject apprehended by the Cartesian meditation
to a power of annihilation.


The mode of my presence in the world is the subject in so far as by reducing itself solely to this certainty of being a subject, it becomes active annihilation. In fact, the process of the philosophical meditation throws the subject towards the transforming historical action, and, around this point, orders
the configured modes of active self.consciousness through its metamorphoses in history. As for the meditation on being that reaches its culmination in the thought of Heidegger, it restores to being itself that power of annihilation—or at least poses the question of how it may be related to it.


This is also the point to which Maurice Merleau-Ponty leads us. But, if you refer to his text, you will see that it is at this point that he chooses to withdraw, in order to propose a return to the sources of intuition concerning the visible and the invisible, to come back to that which is prior to all reflection,
thetic or non-thetic, in order to locate the emergence of vision


For him, it is a question of restoring—for, he tells us, it can only be a question of a reconstruction or a restoration, not of a path traversed in the opposite direction—of reconstituting the way by which, not from the body, but from something that he calls the flesh of the world, the original point of vision
was able to emerge. It would seem that in this way one sees, in this unfinished work, the emergence of something like the search for an unnamed substance from which I, the seer, extract myself. From the toils (rets), or rays (rais), if you prefer, of an iridescence of which I am at first a part, I emerge as eye,
assuming, in a way, emergence from what I would like to call the function of seeingness


A wild odor emanates from it, providing a glimpse on the horizon of the hunt of Artemis—whose touch seems to be associated at this moment of tragic failure in which we lost him who speaks.


Yet is this really the way he wished to take? The traces that remain of the part to come from his meditation permits us to doubt it. The reference-points that are provided in it, more particularly for the strictly psycho-analytic unconscious, allow us to perceive that he may have been directed towards some search, original in relation to the philosophical tradition, towards that new dimension of meditation on the subject that analysis enables us to trace.


Personally, I cannot but be struck by certain of these notes, which are for me less enigmatic than they may seem to other readers, because they correspond very exactly to the schemata —with one of them, in particular—that I shall be dealing with here. Read, for example, the note concerning what he
calls the turning inside-out of the finger of a glove, in as much as it seems to appear there—note the way in which the leather envelops the fur in a winter glove—that consciousness, in its illusion of seeing itself seeing itself, finds its basis in the inside-out structure of the gaze.




November 25, 2009


The Eye and the Gaze
In our relation to things, in so far as this relation is constituted by the way of vision, and ordered in the figures of representation, something is transmitted, from stage to stage, and is always to some degree eluded it—that is we call Gaze.


You can be made aware of this in more than one way. Let me describe it, at its extreme point, by one of the enigmas that the reference to nature presents us with. It is a question of nothing less than the phenomenon known as mimicry.


A lot has been said about this subject and a great deal that is absurd—for example, that the phenomenon of mimicry can be explained in terms of adaptation. I do not think this is the case. I need only refer you, among others, to a short work that many of you may already know, Roger Caillois’ Méduse et compagnie, in which the reference to adaptation is criticized in a particularly perspicacious way.


On the one hand, in order to be effective, the determining mutation of mimicry, in the insect, for example, may take place only at once and at the outset. On the other hand, its supposed selective effects are annihilated by the observation that one finds in the stomach of birds, predators in particular, as many insects supposedly protected by mimicry as insects that are not.


But, in any case, the problem does not lie there. The most radical problem of mimicry is to know whether we must attribute it to some formative power of the very organism that shows us its manifestations. For this to be legitimate, we would have to be able to conceive by what circuits this force might itself in a position to control, not only the very form of the imitated body, but its relation to the environment,- from which it has to be distinguished or, on the contrary, in which it has to merge.


In short, as Caillois reminds us very pertinently, on the subject of such mimetic manifestations, and especially of the manifestation that may remind us of the function of the eyes, that is, the ocelli, it is a question of understanding whether they impress—it is a fact that they have this effect on the predator or on the supposed victim that looks at them—whether they impress by their resemblance to eyes, or whether, on the contrary, the eyes are fascinating only by virtue of their relation to the form of the ocelli. In other words, must we not distinguish between the function of the eye and that of the gaze?


This distinctive example, chosen as such—for its location, for its facticity, for its exceptional character—is for us simply a small manifestation of the function to be isolated, the function,
let us say the word, of the stain. This example is valuable in marking the pre-existence to the seen of a given-to-be-seen.


There is no need for us to refer to some supposition of the existence of a universal seer. If the function of the stain is recognized in its autonomy and identified with that of the gaze, we can seek its track, its thread, its trace, at every stage of the constitution of the world, in the scopic field. We will then
realize that the function of the stain and of the gaze is both that which governs the gaze most secretly and that which always escapes from the grasp of that form of vision that is satisfied
with itself in imagining itself as consciousness.


That in which the consciousness may turn back upon itself—grasp itself; like Valery’s Young Parque, as seeing oneself seeing oneself—represents mere sleight of hand. An avoidance of the function of the gaze is at work there.


This much we can map of this topology, which last time we worked out for ourselves on the basis of that which appears from the position of the subject when he accedes to the imaginary forms offered him by the dream, as opposed to those of the waking state.


Similarly, in that order, which is particularly satisfying for the subject, connoted in psycho-analytic experience by the term narcissism—in which I have striven to reintroduce the essential structure it derives from its reference to the specular image—in the satisfaction, not to say that diffuses from it, which gives the subject a pretext for such a profound meconnaissance—and does its empire not extend as far as this reference of the philosophical tradition represented by plenitude encountered by the subject in the mode of contemplation— can we not also grasp that which has been eluded,
namely, the function of the gaze?


I mean, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty points this out, that we are beings who are looked at, in the spectacle of the world. That which makes us consciousness institutes us by the same token as speculum mundi. Is there no satisfaction in being under that gaze of which, following Merleau-Ponty, I spoke just now, that gaze that circumscribes us, and which in the first instance makes us beings who are looked at, but without showing this?


The spectacle of the world, in this sense, appears to us as all-seeing. This is the phantasy to be found in the Platonic perspective of an absolute being to whom is transferred the quality of being all-seeing. At the very level of the phenomenal experience of contemplation, this all-seeing aspect is to be found in the satisfaction of a woman who knows that she is being looked at, on condition that one does not show her that one knows that she knows.


The world is all-seeing, but it is not exhibitionistic—it does not provoke our gaze. When it begins to provoke it, the feeling of strangeness begins too.


What does this mean, if not that, in the so-called waking state, there is an elision of the gaze, and an elision of the fact that not only does it look, it also shows.? In the field of the dream, on the other hand, what characterizes the images is that it shows。


It shows—but here, too, some form of ‘sliding away’ of the subject is apparent. Look up some description of a dream, any one—not only the one I referred to last time, in which, after all, what I am going to say may remain enigmatic, but any dream—place it in its co-ordinates, and you will see that this it shows is well to the fore. So much is it to the fore, with the characteristics in which it is co-ordinated—namely, the absence of horizon, the enclosure, of that which is contemplated in the waking state, and, also, the character of emergence, of contrast, of stain, of its images, the intensification of their colors—that, in the final resort, our position in the dream is profoundly that of someone who does not see.


The subject does not see where it is leading, he follows. He may even on occasion detach himself, tell himself that it is a dream, but in no case will he be able to apprehend himself in the dream in the way in which, in the Cartesian cogito, he apprehends himself as thought. He may say to himself, It’s only a dream. But he does not apprehend himself as someone who says to himself—After all, I am the consciousness of this dream.


In a dream, he is a butterfly. What does this mean? It means that he sees the butterfly in his reality as gaze. What are so many figures, so many shapes, so many colors, if not this gratuitous showing, in which is marked for us the primal nature of the essence of the gaze? Good heavens, it is a butterfly that is not very different from the one that terrorized the Wolf Man—and Maurice Merleau-Ponty is well aware of the importance of it and refers us to it in a footnote to his text.


When Choangtsu wakes up, he may ask himself whether it is not the butterfly who dreams that he is Choang-tsu. Indeed, he is right, and doubly so, first because it proves he is not mad, he does not
regard himself as absolutely identical with Choang-tsu and, secondly, because he does not fully understand how right he is. In fact, it is when he was the butterfly that he apprehended
one of the roots of his identity—that he was, and is, in his essence, that butterfly who paints himself with his own colors—and it is because of this that, in the last resort, he is Choangtsu.


This is proved by the fact that, when he is the butterfly, the idea does not occur to him to wonder whether, when he is Choang-tsu awake, he is not the butterfly that he is dreaming of being. This is because, when dreaming of being the butterfly, he will no doubt have to bear witness later that he represented himself as a butterfly. But this does not mean that he is captivated by the butterfly
—he is a captive butterfly, but captured by nothing, for, in the dream, he is a butterfly for nobody. It
is when he is awake that he is Choang-tsu for others, and is caught in their butterfly net.


This is why the butterfly may—if the subject is not Choangtsu, but the Wolf Man—inspire in him the phobic terror of recognizing that the beating of little wings is not so very far from the beating of causation, of the primal stripe marking his being for the first time with the grid of desire.


Next time, I propose to introduce you to the essence of scopic satisfaction. The gaze may contain in itself the objet a of the Lacanian algebra where the subject falls, and what specifies the scopic field and engenders the satisfaction proper to it is the fact that, for structural reasons, the fall of the subject always remains unperceived, for it is reduced to zero.


In so far as the gaze, qua objet a, may come to symbolize this central lack expressed in the phenomenon of castration, and in so far as it is an objet a reduced, of its nature, to a punctiform, evanescent function, it leaves the subject in ignorance as to what there is beyond the appearance, an ignorance so characteristic of all progress in thought that occurs in the way constituted by
philosophical research.




November 24, 2009


It is there that—free as I am to pursue, in the path in which I am leading you, the way that seems best to me—threading my curved needle through the tapestry, I jump on to the side
on which is posed the question that offers itself as a crossroads, between us and all those who try to conceive of the way of the subject.


In so far as it is a search for truth, is this way to be forged in our style of adventure, with its trauma seen as a reflection of facticity?


Or is it to be located where tradition has always placed it, at the level of the dialectic of truth and appearance, grasped at the outset of perception in its fundamentally ideic,
in a way aesthetic, and accentuated character as visual centering?


It is not mere chance—belonging to the order of the pure psychic—if this very week I have received a copy of the newly published, posthumous work of my friend Maurice Merleau- Ponty, Le Visible ci l’invisible.


Here is expressed, embodied, what made the alternation of our dialogue, and I remember so clearly the Congres de Bonneval where his intervention revealed the nature of his path, a path that had broken off at one point of the oeuvre, which left it nevertheless in a state of completion, prefigured in the work of piety that we owe to Claude Lefort, to whom I would like to pay homage here for the kind of perfection which, in a long and difficult transcription, he seems to me to have achieved.


This work, Le Visible ci l’invisible, may indicate for us the moment of arrival of the philosophical tradition—the tradition that begins with Plato with the promulgation of the idea, of which one may say that, setting out from an aesthetic world, it is determined by an end given to being as sovereign good, thus attaining a beauty that is also its limit. And it is not by chance that Maurice Merleau-Ponty recognized its guide in the eye.


In this work, which is both an end and a beginning, you will find both a recapitulation and a step forward in the path of what had first been formulated in Merleau-Ponty’s La Phénomenologie de la perception.


In this work, one finds a recapitulation of the regulatory function of form, invoked in
opposition to that which, as philosophical thinking progressed, had been taken to that extreme of vertigo expressed in the term idealism—how could the ‘lining’ that representation then
became be joined to that which it is supposed to cover?


La Phénoménologie brings us back, then, to the regulation of form, which is governed, not only by the subject’s eye, but by his expectations, his movement, his grip, his muscular and visceral emotion—in short, his constitutive presence, directed in what is called his total intentionality.


Maurice Merleau-Ponty now makes the next step by forcing the limits of this very phenomenology. You will see that the ways through which he will lead you are not only of the order of visual phenomenology, since they set out to rediscover—this is the essential point—the dependence of the visible on that which places us under the eye of the seer. But this is going too far, for that eye is only the metaphor of something that I would prefer to call the seer’s ‘shoot’ (pousse) —something prior to his eye. What we have to circumscribe, by means of the path he indicates for us, is the pre-existence of a gaze—I see only from one point, but in my existence I am looked at from all sides.


It is no doubt this seeing, to which I am subjected in an original way, that must lead us to the aims of this work, to that ontological turning back, the bases of which are no doubt to be
found in a more primitive institution of form.


Precisely this gives me an opportunity to reply to someone that, of course, I have my ontology—why not?—like everyone else, however naive or elaborate it may be. But, certainly, what I try to outline in my discourse—which, although it reinterprets that of Freud, is nevertheless centered essentially on the particularity of the experience it describes—makes no claim to cover the entire field of experience.


Even this between the two that opens up for us the apprehension of the unconscious is of concern to us only in as much as it is designated for us, through the instructions Freud left us, as that of which the subject has to take possession. I will only add that the maintenance of this aspect of Freudianism, which is often described as naturalism, seems to be indispensable, for it is one of the few attempts, if not the only one, to embody psychical reality without substantifying it.


In the field offered us by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, more or less polarized indeed by the threads of our experience, the scopic field, the ontological status, is presented by its most factitious, not to say most outworn, effects.


But it is not between the invisible and the visible that we have to pass. The split that concerns us is not the distance that derives from the fact that there are forms imposed by the world towards which the intentionality of phenomenological experience directs us—hence the limits that we encounter in the experience of the visible. The gaze is presented to us only in the form of a strange contingency, symbolic of what we find on the horizon, as the thrust of our experience, namely, the lack that constitutes castration anxiety.


The eye and the gaze—this is for us the split in which the drive is manifested at the level of the scopic field.




November 24, 2009



Wiederholung—let me remind you once again of the etymological reference that I gave you, holen (to haul), of its connotation of something tiring, exhausting.


To haul, to draw. To draw what? Perhaps, playing on the ambiguity of the word in French, to draw lots (tirer au sort). This Zwang this compulsion, would then direct us towards the obligatory card—if there is only one card in the pack, I can’t draw another.


The character of a set, in the mathematical sense of the term, possessed by the play of signifiers, and which opposes it for example to the indefiniteness of the whole number, enables us to conceive a schema in which the function of the obligatory card is immediately applicable.


If the subject is the subject of the signifier—determined by it—one may imagine the synchronic
network as it appears in the diachrony of preferential effects. This is not a question, you understand, of unpredictable statistical effects—it is the very structure of the network that implies the returns.


Through the elucidation of what we call strategies, this is the figure that Aristotle’s automaton assumes for us. Furthermore, it is by automatisme that we sometimes translate into French the Zwang of the Wiederholuagszwang, the compulsion to repeat.

透過我們所謂策略的說明,這個人的主體就是亞力斯多德所說的機械裝置。而且,這個機械裝置,我們有時法文翻譯為 Zwang of Wiederholuagszwang,也就是欲念驅力的一再回轉。
Later, I shall give you the facts that suggest that at certain moments of that infantile monologue, imprudently termed egocentric, there are strictly syntactical games to be observed. These games belong to the field that we call pre-conscious, but make, one might say, the bed of the unconscious reserve—to
be understood in the sense of an Indian reserve—within the social network.


Syntax, of course, is pre-conscious. But what eludes the subject is the fact that his syntax is in relation with the unconscious reserve. When the subject tells his story, something acts, in a latent way, that governs this syntax and makes it more and more condensed. Condensed in relation to what? In
relation to what Freud, at the beginning of his description of psychical resistance, calls a nucleus.


To say that this nucleus refers to something traumatic is no more than an approximation. We must distinguish between the resistance of the subject and that first resistance of discourse, when the discourse proceeds towards the condensation around the nucleus. For the expression resistance of the subject too much implies the existence of a supposed ego and it is not certain whether—at the approach of this nucleus—it is something that we can justifiably call an ego.


The nucleus must be designated as belonging to the real—the real in so far as the identity of perception is its rule. At most, it is grounded on what Freud indicates as a sort of deduction, which assures us that we are in perception by means of the sense of reality that authenticates it. What does this mean, if not that, as fir as the subject is concerned, this is called awakening?


Although, last time, it was around the dream in chapter seven of The Interpretation of Dreams that I approached the whole question of repetition, it was because the choice of this dream—so enclosed, so doubly and triply enclosed as it is, since it is not analysed—is very revealing here, occurring as it does at the moment when Freud is dealing with the process of the dream in its last resort.


Is the reality that determines the awakening the slight noise against which the empire of the dream and of desire is maintained? Is it not rather something else? Is it not that which is expressed in the depths of the anxiety of this dream—namely, the most intimate aspects of the relation between the father and the son, which emerges, not so much in that death as in the fact that it is beyond, in the sense of destiny?


Between what occurs as if by chance, when everybody is asleep—the candle that overturns and the sheets that catch fire, the meaningless event, the accident, the piece of bad luck —and the element of poignancy, however veiled, in the words Father, can’t you see I’m burning—there is the same relation to what we were dealing with in repetition. It is what, for us, is represented in the term neurosis of destiny or neurosis of failure. What is missed is not adaptation, but tuché, the encounter.


Aristotle’s formula—that the tuché is defined by being able to come to us only from a being capable of choice, proairesis, that the tuche, good or bad fortune, cannot come to us from an inanimate object, a child or an animal—is controverted here. The very accident of this exemplary dream depicts this. Certainly, Aristotle marks the extreme limit of that point that stops it on the edge of the extravagant forms of sexual behaviour, which he can only describe as teriotes, monstrosities.


The enclosed aspect of the relation between the accident, which is repeated, and the veiled meaning, which is the true reality and leads us towards the drive—confirms for us that the demystification of that artefact of treatment known as the transference does not consist in reducing it to what is called the actuality of the situation. The direction indicated in this reduction to the actuality of the session, or the series of sessions, is not even of propedeutic value. The correct concept of repetition must be obtained in another direction, which we cannot confuse with the effects of the transference taken as a whole. Our next problem, when we approach the function of the transference, will be to grasp how the transference may lead us to the heart of repetition.


That is why it is necessary to ground this repetition first of all in the very split that occurs in the subject in relation to the encounter. This split constitutes the characteristic dimension of analytic discovery and experience; it enables us to apprehend the real, in its dialectical effects, as originally unwelcome. It is precisely through this that the real finds itself; in the subject, to a very great degree the accomplice of the drive—which we shall come to last, because only by following this way will we be able to conceive from what it returns.


For, after all, why is the primal scene so traumatic? Why is it always too early or too late? Why does the subject take either too much pleasure in it—at least, this is how at first we conceived the traumatizing causality of the obsessional neurotic—or too little, as in the case of the hysteric?

Why doesn’t it arouse the subject immediately, if it is true that he is so profoundly libidinal? Why is the fact here dustuchia? Why is the supposed maturation of the pseudo-instincts shot through, transfixed with the psychic, I would say—from the word tuche?


For the moment, it is our horizon that seems factitious in the fundamental relation to sexuality. In analytic experience, it is a question of setting out from the fact that the primal scene is traumatic; it is not sexual empathy that sustains the modulations of the analysable, but a factitious fact. A factitious fact, like that which appears in the scene so fiercely tracked down in the experience of the Wolf Man—the strangeness of the disappearance and reappearance of the penis.


Last time, I wanted to point out where the split in the subject lay. This split, after awakening, persists—between the return to the real, the representation of the world that has at last fallen back on its feet, arms raised, what a terrible thing, what has happened, how horrible, how stupid, what an idiot he was to fall asleep—and the consciousness re-weaving itself, which knows it is living through all this as through a nightmare, but which, all the same, keeps a grip on itself; it is I who am living through all this, I have no need to pinch myself to know that I am not dreaming.


The fact remains that this split is still there only as representing the more profound split, which is situated between that which refers to the subject in the machinery of the dream, the image of the approaching child, his face full of reproach and, on the other hand, that which causes it and into which he sinks, the invocation, the voice of the child, the solicitation of the gaze—Father can’t you see…



November 21, 2009


The Rat of the Maze

To change the subject, I will say that what is important in what has been revealed by psychoanalytic discourse—and one is surprised not to see it thread everywhere—is that knowledge, which structures the being who speaks on the basis of a specific cohabitation, is closely related to love. All love is based on a certain relationship between two unconscious knowledges.


If I have enunciated that the subject supposed to know is what motivates transference, that is but a particular, specific application of what we find in our experience. I’ll ask you to look at the text of what I enunciated here, in the middle of this year, regarding the choice of love. I spoke, ultimately, of recognition, recognition—via signs that are always punctuated enigmatically—of the way in which being affected qua subject of unconscious knowledge.


There’s no such thing as a sexual relationship because one’s jouissance of the other taken as a body is always inadequate—perverse, on the one hand, insofaras the Other is reduced to object a, and crazy and enigmatic, on the other, I would say. Isn’t it on the basis of the confrontation with this impasse, with this impossibility by which a real is defined, that love is put to the test?


Regarding one’s partner, love can only actualize what, in a sort of poetic flight, in order to make myself understood, I called courage—courage with respect to this fatal destiny. But is it courage that at stake or pathways of recognition? That recognition is nothing other than the way in which the relationship said to be sexual—that has now become a subject-to-subject relationship, the subject being but the effect of unconscious knowledge—stops not being written.


“ To stop not being written” is not a formulation proffered haphazardly. I associated it with contingency, whereas I delighted in (characterizing) the necessary as that which “ doesn’t stop being written,” for the necessary is not the real. Let us note in passing that the displacement of this negation raises for us the question of the nature of negation when it takes the place of a non-existence.


I have also defined the sexual relationship as that which “ doesn’t stop not being written.” There is an impossibility therein. It is also that nothing can speak it—there is no existence of the sexual relationship in the act of speaking. But what does mean to negate it? Is it in any way legitimate to substitute for the proven apprehension of the non-existence? That too is a question I shall merely raise here. Does the word “ interdiction” mean any more, is it any more permitted? That cannot be immediately determined either.


I incarnated contingency in the expression “ stops not being written.” For here there is nothing but encounter, the encounter in the partner of symptoms and affects, of everything that marks in each of us the trace of his exile—not as subject but as speaking—his exile from the sexual relationship.


Isn’t that tantamount to saying that it is owing only to the affect that results from this gap that something is encountered, which can vary infinitely as to level of knowledge, but which momentarily gives the illusion that the sexual relationship stops not being written? –an illusion that something is not only articulated but inscribed, inscribed in each of our destinies, by which, for a while—a time during which things are suspended—what would constitute the sexual relationship finds its trace and its mirage-like path in the being who speaks. The displacement of the negation from the “ stops not being written “ to the “ doesn’t stop being written,” in other words, from contingency to necessity—there lies the point of suspension to which all love is attached.


All love, subsisting only on the basis of the “ stops not being written,” tends to make the negation shift to the ‘ doesn’t stop being written,’ doesn’t stop, won’t stop.


Such is the substitute that—by the path of existence, not of the sexual relationship, but of the unconscious, which differs therefrom—constitutes the destiny as well as the drama of love.


Given the time, which is that at which I normally desire to take leave of you, I won’t take things any further here—I will simply indicate that what I have said of hatred is not related to the level at which the hold of unconscious knowledge is articulated.


The subject can’t desire not to know too much about the nature of the eminently contingent encounter with the other. Thus he shifts his focus from the other to the being that is caught up therein.


The relation of being to being is not the relation of harmony that was prepared for us throughout the ages, though we don’t really know why, by a whole tradition in which Aristotle, who saw therein only supreme jouisssance, converges with Christianity, for which it is beatitude. That gets us bogged down in a mirage-like apprehension. For it is love that approaches being as such in the encounter.


Isn’t it in love’s approach to being that something emerges that makes being into what is only sustained by the fact of missing each other ? I spoke of rats earlier—that was what was at stake. It’s no accident people chose rats. It’s because one can easily make a unit of it—the rat can be “ eradicated.” I already saw that a time when I had a concierge, when I lived in the rue de la Pompe—the concierge never missed a rat. His hatred for rats was equal to the rat’s being.


Doesn’t the extreme of love, true love, reside in the approach to being? And true love—analytic experience assuredly didn’t make this discovery, born witness to by the eternal modulation of themes on love—true love gives way to hatred.


There—I’m leaving you.
Shall I say, “ See you next year?” You’ll notice that I’ve never ever said that to you. For a very simple reason—which is that I’ve never known, for the last twenty years, if I would continue the next year. That is part and parcel of my destiny as object a.


After ten years, my podium was taken away from me. It turns out, for reasons wherein destiny played a part, as did my inclination to please certain people, that I continued for ten more ( encore ) years. I have thus closed the twenty-year cycle. Will I continue next year? Why not stop the encore now?


What is truly admirable is that no one ever doubted that I would continue. The fact that I am making this remark nevertheless raises the question. It could, after all, happen that to the encore I add—“ That’s enough.”


Well, I’ll leave it for you to place bets on. There are many who believe they know me and who think that I find herein an infinite satisfaction. Next to the amount of work it involves, I must say that seems pretty minimal to me. So place your bets.


And what will the result be? Will it mean that those who have guessed correctly love me? Well—that is precisely the meaning of what I just enunciated for you today—to know what your partner will do is not a proof of love.




November 20, 2009


The Rat of the Maze

It is on the basis of the notion of a kind of knowledge that is transmitted, integrally transmitted, that sifting occurred in the knowledge thanks to which the discourse called scientific discourse was constituted.


It wasn’t constituted without numerous misadventures. Hypotheses no fingo, Newton believed he could say, “ I assume nothing.” But it was on the basis of a hypothesis that the famous revolution—which wasn’t at all Copernican, but rather Newtonian—hinged, substituting “ it falls” for “it turns.” The Newtonian hypothesis consisted in positing that the astral turning is the same as falling. But in order to observe that—which allows one to eliminate the hypothesis—he first had to make the hypothesis.


To introduce a scientific discourse concerning knowledge, one must investigate knowledge where it is. That knowledge, insofar as it resides in the shelter of Ilanguage, means the unconscious. I do not enter there, no more than did Newton, without a hypothesis.


My hypothesis is that the individual who is affected by the unconscious is the same individual who constitutes what I call the subject of a signifier. That is what I enunciate in the minimal formulation that a signifier represents a subject to another signifier.. The signifier in itself is nothing but what can be defined as a difference from another signifier. It is the introduction of difference as such into the field, which allows one to extract from Ilanguage the nature of the signifier.


Stated otherwise, I reduce the hypothesis, according to the very formulation that lends it substance, to the following: it is necessary to the functioning of Ilanguage. To say that there is a subject is nothing other than to say that there is a hypothesis. The only proof we have that the subject coincides with this hypothesis, and that it is the speaking individual on whom it is based, is that the signifier becomes a sign.


It is because there is the unconscious—namely, Ilanguage, insofaras it is on the basis of the cohabitation with Ilanguage that a being known as speaking being is defined—that the signifier can be called upon to constitute a sign. You can take “ sign” here as you like, even as the English “ thing.”


The signifier is a subject’s sign. Qua formal medium, the signifier hits something other than what it is quite crudely as signifier, an other that it affects and that is made into a subject of the signifier, or at least which passes for such. It is in that respect that the subject turns out to be—and this is only true for speaking beings—a being whose being is always elsewhere, as the predicate shows. The subject is never more than fleeting and vanishing, for it is a subject only by a signifier and to another signifier.


It is here that we must return to Aristotle. In a choice guided by we know not what, Aristotle decided not to give any other definition of the individual than the body—the body as organism, as what maintains itself as one, and not as what reproduces. We are still hovering around the difference between the platonic idea and the Aristotelian definition of the individual as grounding being. The question that arises for the biologist is to know how a body reproduces. What is in question in any work in so-called molecular chemistry is to know how something can be precipitated thanks to the combination of a certain number of things in special soup—for example, the fact that a bacterium begins to reproduce.


What then is the body? Is it or isn’t it knowledge of the one?


Knowledge of the one turns out not to come from the body. The little we can say about knowledge of the one comes from the signifier “One.” Does the signifier “ One” derive from the fact that a signifier as such is never anything but one-among-others, referred to those others, being but its difference from the others? The question has been so little resolved to date that I devoted my whole seminar last year to accentuating this “ There’s such a thing as “ One”


What does “ There’s such a thing as One” mean? From the one-among-others—and the point is to know whether it is any old which one—arises an S1, a signifying swarm, a buzzing swarm. If I raise the question, “ Is it of them-two that I am speaking?” I will write this S1 of each signifier, first on the basis of its relation to S2. and you can add as many of them as you like. This is the swarm I am talking about.


S1 (S1(S1(S1-S2)))
S1, the swarm or master signifier, is that which assures the unity, the unity of the subject’s copulation with knowledge. It is in Ilanguage and nowhere else, insofar as Ilanguage is investigated qua language, that what a primitive linguistics designated with the term element—and that was no accident—can be discerned. The signifier “ One” is not just any old signifier. It is the signifying order insofar as it is instituted on the basis of the envelopment by which the whole of the chain subsists.


I recently read the work of a person who investigates the relation of S1 to S2, which that person takes to be a relation of representation. S1 is supposed ( by that person) to be related to S2 in sofar as it represents a subject. Whether that relation is symmetrical, antisymmetrical, transitive, or other, whether the subject is transferred from S2 to S3 and so on and so forth, these questions must be taken up on the basis of the schema that I am once again providing here.


The One incarnated in Ilanguage is something that remains indeterminate between the phoneme, the word, the sentence, and even the whole of thought. That is what is at stake in what I call the master signifier. It is the signifier One, and it was no accident that, in order to illustrate the One, I brought to our last meeting that bit of string, insofar as it constitutes a ring, whose possible knot with another ring I began to investigate.


I won’t pursue that point any further today, since we have been deprived of a class due to exams at this university.




November 19, 2009


The Rate in the Maze

How can being know? It’s amusing to see how this question is supposedly answered. Since the limit, as I have posited it, is constituted by the fact that there are beings who speak, people wonder what the knowledge of those who do not speak could be. They wonder about it. They don’t know why they wonder about it. But they wonder about it all the same. So they build a little maze (labyrinth) for rats.


They hope thereby to be on the right rack by which to determine what knowledge is. They believe a rat is going to show the capacity it has to learn. To learn to do what? What interests it, of course? And what do they assume interests it?


They do not take the rat as a being, but rather as a body, which means that they view it as a unit, a rat-unit. Now what thus sustains the rat’s being? They don’t wonder about that at all. Or rather, they identify its being with its body.


People have always imagined that being had to contain a sort of fullness that is characteristic of it. Being is a body. That is where people began in first approaching being, and they laboriously concocted a whole hierarchy of beings. Ultimately, they began with the notion that each one should know what keeps it in being—that had to be its good, in other words, what gives it pleasure.


What change thus came about in discourse in order for people to suddenly question that being regarding the means it might have to go beyond itself, that is, to learn more than it needs to know in its being to survive as a body?


The maze leads not only to nourishment but to a button or flap that the supposed subject of this being must figure out how to use to obtain nourishment. Or it has to recognize a feature, a lit or colored feature, to which the being is capable of reacting.


What is important is that the question of knowledge is transformed here into that of learning. If, after a series of trials and errors—“ trials and errors” was left in English ( in the translation ) considering the people who carved out this approach to knowledge—the rate diminishes sufficiently, they note that the rat-unit is capable of learning something.


The question that is only secondarily raised—the one that interests me—is whether the rat-unit can learn how to learn. Therein lies the true mainspring of the experiment. Once it has taken one of these tests, will a rat, faced with another test of the same kind, learn more quickly? That can be easily attested to by a decrease in the number of trials necessary for it to know how it must behave in such a montage—let us call the maze, taken in conjunction with the flaps and buttons that function here, a “ montage.”


The question has been so rarely raised, though it has been raised, that people haven’t even dreamt of investigating the differential effect of having the themes one proposes to the rat—by which it demonstrates its ability to learn—come from the same source or from two different sources, and of having the experimenter who teaches the rat to learn be the same or different.


Now, the experimenter is the one who knows something in this business, and it is with what he knows that he invents this montage consisting of the maze, buttons, and flaps. If he were not someone whose relation to knowledge is grounded in a relation to Ilanguage, in the inhabiting of Ilanguage or the cohabitation with Ilanguage, there would be no montage.


The only thing the rat-unit learns in this case is to give a sign, a sign of its presence as unit. The flap is recognized only by a sign and pressing its paw on this sign is a sign. It is always by making a sign that the unit accedes to that on the basis of which one concludes that there is learning.


But this relation to signs is external. Nothing confirms that the rat grasps the mechanism to which pressing the button leads. That’s why the only thing that counts is to know if the experimenter notes that the rat has not only figured it out, but learned how a mechanism is to be grasped, in other words, learned what must be grasped. If we take the status of unconscious knowledge into account, we must examine the maze experiment in terms of how the rat-unit responds to what has been thought up by the experimenter not on the basis of nothing, but on the basis of Ilanguage.


One doesn’t invent just any old labyrinthine composition, and whether it comes from the same experimenter or two different experimenters is worth investigating. But nothing that I have been able to gather to date from this literature indicates that any such question has been raised.


This example thus leaves the questions regarding the status of knowledge and the status of learning completely intact and distinct. The status of knowledge raises another question, namely, how it is taught.