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.



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