The Impotence of truth 6

The Impotence of truth 6
From The Other Side of Psychoanalysis
By Jacques Lacan

I am persuaded that there are five or six people here who will be very well able to displace what I am saying in such a way that it will have a chance of reemerging.


I won’t say that this is Archimedes’ lever. I will not tell you that this makes the slightest claim to a renewal of the world system, or of thinking about history. I am only indicating how it is that analysis places us on a footing to accept, through chance encounters, a number of things that may appear to be illuminating.


Myself, for example, I might easily have never encountered Kojeve. If I had never encountered him, it is highly likely that, like all French people educated over a certain period, I would never have suspected that there was anything in The Phenomenology of Spirit.


It would not be a bad thing if analysis enabled you to realize what the impossibility is due to, that is to say, what it is that stands in the way of grasping, of seizing the only thing that could perhaps ultimately introduce a mutation, namely, the naked real, without truth.


But there’s the rub. Between us and the real, there is truth. Truth, as I once told you one day in a flight of lyricism, is the dear little sister of jouissance. I hope that this has come back to mind, at least for some of you, at the moment when I am stressing the contrast between the first line and the second in each of the four formulas that I have given you.


The first line comprises a relation, indicated here by an arrow, which is always defined as impossible. In the master’s discourse, for instance, it is effectively impossible that there be a master who makes the entire world function. Getting people to work is even more tiring, if one really has to do it, than working oneself. The master never does it. He gives a sign, the master signifier, everybody jumps. That’s where you have to start, which is, in effect, completely impossible. It’s tangle every day.


With impossibility written on the first line, it is now a matter of seeing, as is already indicated by the place given to the term “ truth,” whether it might be at the level of the second line that one would have the last word.


However, at the level of the second line there is no suggestion of an arrow. And not only is there no communication, but there is something that acts as a block.


What is it that is blocking? It is what results from the work. And what a certain Marx’s discovery accomplished was to give full weight to a term that was already known prior to him and that designates what work occupies itself with—it’s called production.


Whatever the signs, whatever the master signifiers that come to be inscribed in the place of the agent, under no circumstances will production have a relationship to truth. One can do all one wants, one can say all one wants, one can try to conjoin this production with needs, which are the needs one fashions—there is nothing doing.
Between the existence of master and a production’s relation with truth, there is no way of getting it work.


Each impossibility, whatever it may be, between the terms that we put in play here is always linked to this—if it leaves us in suspense over its truth, it is because something is protecting it, which we shall impotence.


Take, for instance, in the university discourse, the initial term, the one that is articulated here under the terms S2 and is in this position of unheard-of pretension of having a thinking being, a subject, as its production. As subject, in its production, there is no question of it being able to see itself for a single instant as the master of knowledge.


This can be detected here, tangibly, but it extends much further back, back to the level of the master’s discourse which, thanks to Hegel, I allow myself to presuppose since, as you will see, we no longer know it now except in a considerably modified form.


This surplus jouissance that I have articulated this year is a construction, even a reconstruction, and I am putting it at the start as a support. It is a truer support. Let’s be careful, this is indeed what is dangerous about it, but all the same it does have the strength to be articulated in this way, as one can see by reading people like Aristotle,, principally, who have not read Hegel.


When we read Aristotle we have the suspicion that the master’s relation to the slave really presented him with a problem. He was looking for the slave’s truth, and it is really magnificent to see the way in which he tries to extricate himself in the three or four passages in which he deals with it—he only goes in a single direction, that of an essential difference from which the slave’s good would emerge.


He is not an academic. He is not a clever little fellow like Hegel. He senses that when he utters this or that, it gets away from him, it slides all over the place. He is neither very sure nor very passionate. He does not impose his own opinion. But then, he feels that this is where there might well be something that motivates the relationship between master and slave. Ah! If they were not the same sex, if they were man and woman, this would be truly sublime, and he hints that there would some hope. Unfortunately, that’s not how is, they are not of different senses, and he shrugs his shoulders. We can see clearly what is going on, it’s what , in the name of surplus jouissance. The master receives from the slave’s work.


It would seem that this has to be self-evident. And what is unheard of is that nobody seems to notice that there is, precisely, a lesson to be learned from the fact that it is not self-evident. The problems of ethics here, suddenly, start to abound—the Nicomachean Ethics, the Eudemian Ethics, and several other works of moral reflection


It’s irresolvable. Nobody knows what to do with this surplus jouissance. In order to successfully place a sovereign good at the heart of the world, you need to be as embarrassed as a fish with an apple. And yet the surplus jouissance that the slave brings us lies within arm’s reach.


What is demonstrated, attested to, by all the thought of Antiquity that Hegel makes us revisit with his wonderful sleight of hand and other acts, including the politicized masochism of the Stoics, is that to calmly set one-self up as the master’s subject cannot be done qua surplus jouissance.


Let’s now take the hysteric’s discourse, as it is articulated—place the $ on the top left-hand corner, the S1 on the right, the S2 underneath, the small a in the place of truth. It cannot be the case, either, that the hysteric’s division, symptomatic tearing apart, is motivated as the production of knowledge. Her truth is that she has to be the object a in order to be desired. The object a is a bit thin, at the end of the day, although, of course, men go crazy about it and they are unable even to suspect that they could get by with anything else—another sign of the impotence that coverts the subtle of all impossibilities.


Let’s move on to the level of the analyst’s discourse. Naturally, nobody has made the observation that it is fairly curious that what he produces is nothing other than the master’s discourse since it’s S1 which comes to occupy the place of production. And, as I was saying last time when I was leaving Vincennes, perhaps it’s from the analyst’s discourse that there can emerge another style of master signifier.


In truth, whether it is another style or not, it is not in two days’ time that we will learn what it is, and at least for the moment we are completely impotent when it comes to referring it to what is at play in the analyst’s position, namely, this seduction of truth that he presents in the fact that he would know a bit about what, in principle, he represents.


Am I adequately stressing the features of the impossibility of his situation?–insofar as the analyst puts himself in the position of representing, through being the agent, the cause of desire?



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