The Piagetic error •
Everything emerges from the structure of the signifier. This structure is based on what I first called the function of the cut and which is now articulated, in the development of my discourse, as the topological function of the rim.


The relation of the subject to the Other is entirely produced in a process of gap. Without this, anything could be there. The relations between beings in the real, including all of you animated beings out there, might be produced in terms of inversely reciprocal relations. This is what psychology, and a whole area of sociology, is trying to do, and may succeed in doing as far as the mere animal kingdom is concerned, for the capture of the imaginary is enough to motivate all sorts of behavior in the living being.


Psycho-analysis reminds us that human psychology belongs to another dimension. To maintain this dimension, philosophical analysis might have sufficed, but it has proved itself to be inadequate, for lack of any adequate definition of the unconscious. Psycho-analysis, then, reminds us that the facts of human psychology cannot be conceived in the absence of the function of the subject defined as
the effect of the signifier.


Here the processes are to be articulated, of course, as circular between the subject and the Other—from the subject called to the Other, to the subject of that which he has himself seen appear in the field of the Other, from the Other coming back. This process is circular, but, of its nature, without reciprocity.
Because it is circular, it is disymmetrical.


You will realize that today I am taking you on to the terrain of a logic whose essential importance I hope to stress. The whole ambiguity of the sign derives from the fact that it represents something for someone. This someone may be many things, it may be the entire universe, in as much as we have
known for some time that information circulates in it, as a negative of entropy. Any node in which signs are concentrated, in so far as they represent something, may be taken for a someone.


What must be stressed at the outset is that a signifier is that which represents a subject for another signifier. The signifier, producing itself in the field of the Other, makes manifest the subject of its signification. But it functions as a signifier only to reduce the subject in question to being no more
than a signifier, to the subject in the same movement in which it calls the subject to function, to speak, as subject. There, strictly speaking, is the temporal pulsation in which is established that which is the characteristic of the departure of the unconscious as such—the closing.


One analyst felt this at another level and tried to signify it in a term that was new, and which has never been exploited since in the field of analysis—aphanisis, disappearance. Ernest Jones, who invented it, mistook it for something rather absurd, the fear of seeing desire disappear. Now, aphanisis is to be
situated in a more radical way at the level at which the subject manifests himself in this movement of disappearance that I have described as lethal. In a quite different way, I have called this movement the fading of the subject.


I wish to dwell on this for a moment in order to convey to you to what extent it is always possible to find oneself again in concrete experience, and even in observation, on condition that this key is used to lift the veil of blindness. I will show you this by means of an example.


The Piagetic error—for those who might think that this is a neologism, I would stress that I am referring to Monsieur Piaget—is an error that lies in the notion of what is called the egocentric discourse of the child, defined as the stage at which he lacks what this Alpine psychology calls reciprocity. Reciprocity is very far from the horizon of what we mean at that particular moment, and the notion of egocentric discourse is a misunderstanding.


The child, in this discourse, which may be tape-recorded, does not speak for himself, as one says. No doubt, he does not address the other, if one uses here the theoretical distinction derived from the function of the l and the you. But there must be others there—it is while all these little fellows are there, indulging all together, for example, in little games of operations, as they are provided with in certain methods of so-called active education, it is there that they speak—they don’t speak to a particular person, they just speak, if you’ll pardon the expression, a la cantonade.1


This egocentric discourse is a case of hail to the good listener! What we find once again here is the constitution of the subject in the field of the Other, as I have designated it for you in this little arrow on the blackboard. If he is apprehended at his birth in the field of the Other, the characteristic of the subject of the unconscious is that of being, beneath the signifier that develops its networks, its chains and its history, at an indeterminate place.


More than one dream element, indeed almost all, may be the point at which we will variously situate him in interpretation. If one thinks that one may make him say whatever one wishes, one has understood nothing—but one must admit that psycho-analysts do not explain themselves very well. Interpretation cannot be bent to any meaning. It designates only a single series of signifiers. But the subject may in effect occupy various places, depending on whether one places him under one or
other of these signifiers.


I now come to the two operations that I intend to articulate today in the relation between the subject and the Other.



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