Unconscious 05 Jacques Lacan

Unconscious 05
Jacques Lacan

雅克 拉康


The Formations of the Unconscious
1957 – 1958

Seminar 1; Wednesday 6 November 1957

You should notice that in this schema you can see in a very (18) concrete way both what links and what distinguishes the truth that is perfectly and immediately accessible, from linguistic experience; this is something that the Freudian
experience of analysis rejoins with the distinction that exists originally between this “I” which is nothing other than the place of the one who speaks in the chain of discourse, and which does not even need to be designated by an “I”, and on the other hand the message, that is to say the thing that absolutely requires a
minimum of the apparatus of this schema to exist.


It is absolutely impossible to produce a message or any word whatsoever in a sort of concentric, radiating fashion coming from the existence of some subject or other, if there is not all this complexity.


No word is possible for the very good reason that the word presupposes precisely the existence of a signifying chain, which is something whose origins are far from simple to discover – we spent a year trying to arrive at it – and which
presupposes the existence of a network of uses, in other words of the usage of a tongue; and which presupposes besides all this mechanism which ensures that whatever you say, whether you think about it or not, whatever you formulate, once you’ve got caught in the wheel of this word-mill, your discourse always says more
than you are saying, and very obviously basing itself, by the simple fact that it is speech, on the existence somewhere of this term of reference that is the dimension of truth; of truth in so (19) far as it is distinct from reality and something that brings
into play the possible emergence of new meanings being introduced into the world, which the truth (realité) literally introduces into it – not the meanings that are there, but rather the meanings that it makes emerge.


Here you have, radiating out from the message on the one hand and from the “I” on the other hand, the meaning of these little wingtips that you see here; two diverging directions, one that goes from the “I” to the metonymical object and towards the
Other, to which corresponds in a symmetrical fashion the message by way of the return of the discourse, the direction of the message towards the metonymical object and towards the Other; all of this is provisional and I would ask you to take it down.


On the schema you will see that there is something which will be of great use to us and which might seem to you to require no explanation, the line that goes from “I” to the Other and the line that goes from “I” to the metonymical object, and you will see to what these two other extremely interesting lines correspond which go from the message to the code on the one hand, because in fact this return line does exist; if it did not exist, as the schema itself indicates, there would not be the slightest hope for the creation of meaning. It is precisely in the interplay between the message and the code, and also in the return of the code to the message, that the essential dimension into which the witticism immediately introduces us will have its effect. It is here I think we will remain for a certain number (20) of lectures in order to see all the extraordinarily suggestive and instructive things that can take place here.


In addition this will give us a further opportunity to grasp the relationship of dependence in which the metonymical object is, this famous object that never is, that object which is always situated elsewhere, that is always something else, and which we began to concern ourselves with last year.


Now let us approach this Witz. What does this Witz mean? It has been translated by le trait d’esprit and also by le mot d’esprit.


I will not go into the reasons why I prefer le trait d’esprit.


The Witz can also mean l’esprit. We must admit that l’esprit immediately introduces something that appears to be extremely ambiguous because in fact a witticism is something that is occasionally looked down on: it is frivolity, lack of seriousness, fantasy, capriciousness. But esprit by itself brings us up short, and we think twice before thinking of esprit in the same way. Nevertheless the spirit in the sense of un
homme spirituel has not got an excessively good reputation.


However it is around this that the centre of gravity of the notion of 1’esprit is to be found and it is better to allow it to keep all its ambiguities. This includes the spirit in the widest (21) sense, the spirit that all too often has the stamp of very shoddy goods, the spirit of spiritualism.


We can centre the notion of spirit on the witticism, that is to say on that which appears to be most contingent, most out of date, most open to criticism. It is really part of the genius of psychoanalysis to do something like this, and that is why we
should not be surprised that it is in fact the only point in the work of Freud where he mentions the Spirit, this time ornamented with a capital letter. Nevertheless there still remains this relationship between the two poles of the term spirit, and it has
always given rise to disputes about classification.


It really would be fun to evoke for you the English tradition in which the term used is wit, which is still more ambiguous than Witz and even than 1’esprit in French – the discussions on the true, the genuine spirit, the good spirit to call him by his name; and then of the bad spirit, the one with which charlatans amuse people. How can we distinguish all of this? The only thing that we must really take as a reference-point is the difficulty that all the critics have found themselves in, and this continues
after the 18th century with Addison, Pope, etc., up to the (22) beginning of the 19th century. In the English Romantic school the question of wit could not but be on the agenda and in a place of first importance, and in this respect the writings of Hazlitt are also very significant, and someone else that we will have to talk about, namely Coleridge, is the one who has gone farthest along this path.



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