Archive for January, 2012

The Psychoses 12

January 25, 2012

The Psychoses 12
Jacques Lacan






Those of you who attend my case presentations are aware that last time I presented quite a clear case of psychosis and will recall the amount of time I put into drawing from her the sign, the stigma, that proved we were indeed dealing with a delusional and not simply with a person of difficult character who quarrels with those around her.

你们参加我的个案讨论的那些人,都知道,上一次我呈现一个相当清楚的精神疾病的个案,让人想起我曾经花费许多时间从她那里获得这个讯息,这个羞辱。它证明我们确实是在处理一种幻觉,不仅是一个困难性格的人 她跟她周围的人物争吵。

The examination went well beyond the hour that it usually takes for it to appear clearly that, at the limits of this language that there was no way of making her go beyond, there was another one.


This is the language, which has a particular and often extraordinary savor, of the delusional. It’s a language in which certain words take on a special emphasis, a density that sometimes err, giving it this frankly neologistic character that is so striking in the creations of paranoia. From out of the mouth of our patient of the other day there finally emerged the word galopiner,4 which gave us the signature to everything that had been said up to that point.


This was something quite different from the frustration of her dignity, of her independence, of her daily affairs, of which the patient was the, victim. This term frustration has belonged to the vocabulary of decent people for some time now – who doesn’t go on all day long about the frustrations they have experienced or will experience or that others about them experience? She was obviously in another world, in a world in which this term galopiner, and doubtless many others that she hid from us, constitute essential reference points.


Let me pause here for a moment so you can appreciate how necessary are the categories of the linguistic theory that last year I was trying to make you feel comfortable with.


You recall that in linguistics there is the signifier and the signified and that the signifier is to be taken in the sense of the material of language. The trap, the hole one must not fall into, is the belief that signifieds are objects, things. The signified is something quite different – it’s the meaning, and I explained to you by means of Saint Augustine, who is as much of a linguist as Monsieur Benveniste, that it always refers to meaning, that is, to another meaning.


The system of language, at whatever point you take hold of it, never results in an index finger directly indicating a point of reality; it’s the whole of reality that is covered by the entire network of language. You can never say that this is what is being designated, for even were you to succeed you would never know what I am designating in this table – for example, the color, the thickness, the table as object, or whatever else it might be.5


Let us pause at this quite simple little phenomenon of galopiner that came from the mouth of the patient the other day. Schreber himself constantly underlines the oddness of certain terms in his discourse. When he speaks to us for example of the Nervenanhang, nerve contact, he makes it quite clear that this word was spoken to him by the tested souls or the divine rays.


These are key words, and he himself notes that he would never have found the
formula for them, for the original words, the full words, which are very different from the words he uses to communicate his experience. He himself makes no mistake about this, there are different levels here.6


At the level of the signifier, in its material aspect, the delusion is characterized
precisely by that special form of discordance with common language known as a neologism. At the level of meaning, it’s characterized by the following, which will appear to you only if you set out with the idea that a meaning always refers to another meaning, that is, precisely, that the meaning of these words can’t be exhausted by reference to another meaning.


This can be seen in Schreber’s text as well as in the presence of a patient. The meaning of these words that pull you up has the property of referring essentially to meaning as such. It’s a meaning that essentially refers to nothing but itself, that remains irreducible. The patient himself emphasizes that the word carries weight within itself. Before being reducible to another meaning it signifies within itself something ineffable, it’s a meaning that refers above all to meaning as such.


We can see this at the two poles of all the concrete manifestations of which these patients are the centre. However far the endophasia that covers the entire phenomena to which they are subject is taken, there are two poles where this characteristic is taken to its highest point, as Schreber’s text stresses, two types of phenomena where the neologism is displayed – the intuition and the formula.


The delusional intuition is a full phenomenon that has an overflowing, inundating character for the subject. It reveals a new perspective to him, one whose stamp of originality, whose characteristic savor, he emphasizes, as Schreber does in speaking of the fundamental language to which his experience introduced him.


There, the word – with its full emphasis, as when one says the word for, the solution to, an enigma – is the soul of the situation.


At the opposite pole there is the form that meaning takes when it no longer
refers to anything at all. This is the formula that is repeated, reiterated,
drummed in with a stereotyped insistence. It’s what we might call, in contrast to the word, the refrain.


These two forms, the fullest and the emptiest, bring the meaning to a halt,
it’s like lead in the net [plomb dans le filet], in the network, of the subject’s
discourse – a structural characteristic in which, once we approach it clinically,
we recognize the mark of delusion.


This is how this language we can let ourselves be taken in by in our first initial contact with the subject, sometimes even the most delusional subject, brings us to the point of going beyond his conception and positing the term discourse.

For, to be sure, these patients speak to us in the same language as ourselves. Without this component, we would be in total ignorance. It’s therefore the economy of discourse, the relationship between meaning and meaning, the relationship between their discourse and the common organization of discourse, that allows us to ascertain that delusion is involved.



The Psychoses 11

January 23, 2012

The Psychoses 11
Jacques Lacan

The Other and psychosis






The life of a psychoanalyst – as I was reminded by my analysands [analysis]
several times on the one day – isn’t rosy.


The comparison that can be made between the analyst and a rubbish dump
is justified. All day long in fact he has to endure utterances that, surely, are
of doubtful value to himself and even more so to the subject who communicates
them to him.


This is a feeling that the psychoanalyst, if he is a real one, has not only been accustomed to overcoming for a long time, but, to be honest, it’s one that he purely and simply abolishes within himself in the exercise of his practice.


I must on the other hand say that this feeling comes alive again with all its force when one is led to go over the sum total of works that make up what is called the analytic literature. There is no more disconcerting an exercise for scientific attention than to be made aware over a short space of time of the points of view that authors have elaborated on the same subjects. And nobody seems to perceive the flagrant and permanent contradictions that are brought into play whenever basic concepts arise.


You know that psychoanalysis explains the case of President Schreber, and paranoia in general, by portraying the subject’s unconscious drive as nothing other than a homosexual tendency.1 Drawing attention to all the facts grouped around such a notion was surely fundamentally new, and it profoundly changed our outlook on the pathogenesis of paranoia.


But as for knowing what this homosexuality is, at which point of subjective economy it acts, how it occasions the psychosis – 1 believe I can testify that, in this sense, all the outlines we have contain the most imprecise, even the most contradictory approaches.


People speak of defense against the supposed irruption – and why this irruption at this point? – of the homosexual tendency. But this is far from having been proved, if one is to give a meaning that is in any way precise to the term defense – which one is very careful not to do, so as to be able to continue cogitating in the dark. It’s nevertheless clear that there is a constitutive ambiguity here and that the defense maintains a far from univocal relation with the cause that provokes it. It’s thought either that the defense helps maintain a certain equilibrium or else that it provokes the illness.


We are also assured that the initial determinants of Schreber’s psychosis are to be sought in the moment of onset of the different phases of his illness.


You know that around 1886 he had his first crisis, whose co-ordinates people
try to show us by means of his Memoirs – at that time he had nominated for
the Reichstag, we are told.2 Between this crisis and the second, which covers
a period of eight years, Magistrate Schreber was normal, with the exception
that his hope of paternity was unfulfilled.


At the end of this period he happened to accede, in a way that up to a point was premature and certainly at an age at which it could not have been foreseen, to a very high function, that of Presiding Judge of the Leipzig Court of Appeal. This function, which was in the nature of an eminent distinction, conferred authority on him, so it’s
said, that elevated him to responsibility that, though not quite total, was at least greater and heavier than any he could have hoped for, which gives the impression that there was a relation between his promotion and the onset of the crisis.


In other words, in the former case one appeals to the fact that Schreber was unable to satisfy his ambition, and in the other that it was fulfilled from the outside, in a manner that is virtually consecrated as being undeserved.

换句话说,在前者的个案,我们诉诸于这个事实; 苏瑞伯不能够满足他的企图心。在后者的个案,它从外在被满足,使用的方式几乎是被奉献,作为不值得。

These two events are given the same value as trigger. It’s carefully noted that
the President had no children, so as to assign a prime role to the notion of paternity. But at the same time it’s claimed that because he finally accedes to the position of father, the fear of castration thus comes to life in him again, with a corresponding homosexual craving.


This is what is supposed to be directly at issue in the onset of the crisis and to entail all the distortions, pathological deformations, and mirages that progressively evolve into a delusion.


Surely the fact that the masculine characters in the medical entourage are present from the outset, that they are named one after the other and successively come to the centre of President Schreber’s extreme paranoid persecution, is enough to show their importance.


This is, in a word, a transference – which is undoubtedly not to be taken in quite the sense that we usually mean, but it’s something of that order, bound up in a special way with those in whose care he had been.


Undoubtedly this is an adequate explanation of the choice of characters, but before we become too satisfied with this overall arrangement it needs to be observed that, in providing its motivation, the proof by the contrary is neglected. People fail to realize that both fear of the struggle and premature success are given the value of a sign with the same positive sense in each case.


If by chance President Schreber had, between his two crises, become a father, this would be emphasized and much would be made of the fact that this paternal function would have been unbearable for him. In short, the notion of conflict is always played upon in an ambiguous manner – the source of conflict and, what is much less easy to see, the absence of conflict are placed on the same level. The conflict leaves an empty place, one might say, and it’s in the empty place of the conflict that a reaction, a
construction, a bringing into play of subjectivity, appears.

假如偶然地,苏瑞伯首席法官在他的两次危机之间,成为父亲,这将会被强调,这是事实将会被重视: 这个父亲的功用对于他而言,本来会上无可忍受的。总之,冲突的观念总是以一个模糊暧昧的方式被扮演。冲突的来源,更加不容易看出的,与冲突的欠缺,被放置在相同的层次。这种冲突留下一个空洞的位置,我们不妨说,这是在冲突的这个空洞的位置,一种反应,一种建构,一种主体性的运作会发生。

This suggestion is only designed to show you that the same ambiguity as the one our last lesson was about is at work, the ambiguity of the very meaning of a delusion, and which here is concerned with what is normally called the content and which I would prefer to call the psychotic statement [dire].


You think you are dealing with someone who is communicating with you because he speaks the same language as you. And then, what he is saying is so understandable that you get the feeling, particularly if you are a psychoanalyst, that here is someone who has penetrated, in a more profound way than is given to the common lot of mortals, into the very mechanism of the system of the unconscious. Somewhere in the second chapter Schreber expresses it in passing – Enlightenment rarely given to mortals has been given to me}

你们认为你们正在处理某个正在跟你沟通的人,因为他谈论跟你相同的语言。然后,他所正在说的,是如此可了解,以致于你获得这种感觉,特别是假如你是一位精神分析家,在此是某个曾经贯彻的人,以一种更加深刻的方式,超越有限生命的众生的命运,进入无意识的系统的机制。在第二章的某个地方,苏瑞伯偶然这样表达: 我获得到天启,是一般众生难得一见的。

My discourse today is about this ambiguity whereby the very system of the
delusional is supposed to provide us with the elements of its own understanding.



The Psychoses 10

January 23, 2012

The Psychoses 10
Jacques Lacan



On the other hand, an entire metabolic imagery is developed with extreme
precision regarding the nerves, according to which the impressions registered
by the nerves subsequenly become the primary material which, reincorporated
into the rays, nourishes divine action and may well be taken up again, reworked, and utilized in later creations.


The details of these functions matter enormously and we shall come back to them. But already it appears to be characteristic of these rays that they talk – they are obliged to, they have to speak. The nerves’ soul intermingles with a certain fundamental language defined by the subject – 1 shall show you with what subtlety when I read out the appropriate passages. It’s akin to a highly vigorous German, with an extremely developed use of euphemism) that includes using the ambivalent power of words – next time I shall give you a condensed reading to greater effect.


It’s quite exciting to recognize a striking likeness here to Freud’s famous article on the double meaning of primitive words.14 You recall that Freud thought he had found an analogy between the language of the unconscious, which admits no contradiction, and primitive words that are characterized by their ability to designate the two poles of a property or quality, good and bad, young and old, long and short, etc.


A lecture by M. Benveniste last year presented you with a convincing critique of that from the point of view of linguistics,15 but it remains no less true that Freud’s remark carries weight in our experience with neurotics, and if there were anything that guarantees its value it would be the emphasis that in passing Schreber confers on it.


This delusion, whose richness you will see, presents surprising analogies – not only through its content, the image’s symbolism, but also through its construction, its very structure – with certain schemas that we can ourselves be called upon to draw out of our own experience.


You may, in this theory of divine nerves that talk and may be integrated by the subject while remaining radically separate from him, vaguely see something that isn’t totally different from what I teach about the way one has to describe the functioning 37 of the unconscious.


The Schreber case objectifies certain structures supposed correct in theory – with the possibility of overturning that stems from this, which is in any case a question that arises concerning all species of emotional construction in these sensitive domains that we are habitually exploring.


This remark was made by Freud himself, who in some ways authenticates the
homogeneity I’m claiming. At the end of his analysis of the Schreber case he notes that he has never yet seen anything that so much resembles his own libido theory, with its disinvestments, separation reactions, influence at a distance, as Schreber’s theory of divine rays, which doesn’t bother him, since the drift of his whole exposition is to reveal a surprising approximation between Schreber’s delusion and structures of both interindividual exchange and intrapsychical economy.17


So, as you see, we are dealing with an advanced case of madness. His delusional introduction gives you an idea of the polished nature of Schreber’s lucubrations. And yet, owing to this exemplary case and to the intervention of such a penetrating mind as Freud’s, we find ourselves for the first time in a position to grasp structural notions which it’s possible to extrapolate to all cases – this vivid and at the same time illuminating novelty allows a classification of paranoia to be recast on completely new foundations.


We also find in the very text of the delusion a truth that isn’t hidden, as it is in the neuroses, but made well and truly explicit and virtually theorized. The delusion
presents it – one can’t even say from the moment one has the key to it, but as soon as one takes it for what it is, a double, perfectly legible, of what is explored by theoretical investigation.


This is where the exemplary character of the field of the psychoses, for which I have recommended that you reserve the greatest extension and the greatest suppleness, is located, and this is what justifies our giving special attention to it this year.
23 November 1955


The Psychoses 09

January 22, 2012

The Psychoses 09
Jacques Lacan






After a short illness between 1884 and 1885, a mental illness consisting of a hypochondriacal delusion, Schreber, who then occupied quite an important place in the German judiciary, left Professor Flechsig’s Psychiatric Clinic completely cured, it would seem, with no apparent aftereffects.

在1884年与1885年之间,一场短期的疾病,一场精神的疾病, 内容是忧郁症的幻觉,苏瑞伯,当时在德国的司法界居有举足轻重的地位。他离开弗列思格教授的精神分裂的诊所,似乎完全痊愈,没有明显的后余症。

For the next eight years or so he led an apparently normal life and he himself points out that the only shadow over his domestic happiness was the regret at not having had children.


At the end of these eight years he was named Presiding Judge to the Court of Appeal in the city of Leipzig. Having received the announcement of this extremely important promotion before the vacation period, he took up office in October. He was, it seems, as so often happens in many mental crises, a bit overwhelmed by his functions. At fifty one he was young to be presiding over a court of appeal of this importance
and the promotion unhinged him slightly.


He found himself among men far more experienced, more accustomed to dealing with such difficult matters, and for a month he overworked, as he himself says, and began to become disturbed again – insomnia, flight of ideas, the appearance of more and more disturbing themes in his thoughts, which led him to further consultations.


And once again he was confined. First in the same Psychiatric Clinic, Professor
Flechsig’s, then, after a short stay in the mental home of Dr. Pierson in Dresden, in the Sonnenstein Asylum, where he was to remain until 1901.


It was there that his delusion went through an entire series of phases of which he gives us an account that is, it seems, extremely trustworthy and extraordinarily composed, written during the last months of his confinement.


The book was to be published immediately upon his release. Therefore, at the time he claimed the right to leave he hid from no one that he would make his experience known to all humanity, with the view of informing everybody of the most important revelations for them that his experience contained.


This book, published in 1903, is the one Freud picked up in 1909. He spoke of it on his holidays with Ferenczi and it was in December 1910 that he wrote his “Psycho-Analytic Notes upon an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia.”15


We shall quite simply open Schreber’s book, Memoirs of My Nervous Illness.
The letter preceding the body of the work, which is addressed to Professor
Flechsig, private consultant, clearly shows the medium by which a
delusional’s critique of the terms he holds to most can be established.


This, at least for those of you who have no experience of these cases, is of a value
that deserves to be highlighted. You will observe that Dr. Flechsig occupies a central place in the construction of the delusion.


Lacan reads the letter, pp. vii-xii.


You will appreciate the courteous tone, the clarity and order. The first chapter is taken up with a whole theory concerning, at least in appearance, God and immortality. The terms at the centre of Schreber’s delusion consist in an admission of the prime function of nerves.


Lacan reads the first paragraph, pp. 6-7.

拉康阅读第一段 p6-7.

Everything is there. These rays, which exceed the bounds of recognized
human individuality, which are unlimited, form the explanatory network,
but which he also experiences, on which our patient spins his entire delusion
like a web.


The essential point stems from the relation between the nerves, principally
between the subject’s nerves and the divine nerves, which comprises an entire
series of vicissitudes, among which there is the Nervenanhang, or nerve-contact,
a form of attraction apt to put the subject in a state of dependence upon several characters, on whose intentions he decides in different ways over the course
of his delusion.


Initially these intentions are far from benevolent, if only because of their catastrophic effects upon him, but are found over the course of the delusion to be transformed, integrated, into a real progressiveness, like the one you see dominating the personality of Dr. Flechsig at the beginning of the delusion and, at the end, the structure of God. There is examination and even progress characteristic of the divine rays, which are the foundation of souls.


This is not to be confused with the identity of the said souls – Schreber strongly emphasizes that the immortality of these souls must not be reduced to the level of the person. The preservation of the ego’s identity doesn’t seem to him to require justification. All this is said with an air of likelihood that doesn’t render the theory unacceptable.


The Psychoses 08

January 22, 2012

The Psychoses 08
Jacques Lacan






In short, it’s precisely because there has always been a radical misrecognition of the dialectical dimension in the phenomenology of pathological experience that the clinical has gone astray. This misrecognition, it may be said, characterizes a class of mind.


It seems that from the entry into the field of human clinical observation a century and a half ago when, with the beginnings of psychiatry, this field as such was formed, from the moment we became concerned with man, we have radically misrecognized that dimension which everywhere else nevertheless seems to be alive, accepted, handled with ease in the sense of the human sciences, namely, that of die autonomy as such of the dialectical dimension.


Authors point to the integrity of the paranoid subject’s faculties. Will and action, as Mr. Kraepelin was saying just before, seem to us to be homogeneous in him with what we expect from normal beings.


There is no deficiency anywhere, no fault; there are no functional disorders. One forgets that the dialectical changeability of actions, desires, and values is characteristic of human behavior and that it makes them liable to change not only from one moment to the next but constantly and even that it makes them pass over to
strictly opposite values as a function of a change of direction in the dialogue.


This absolutely fundamental truth is present in the most popular of fables
that show what was loss and disadvantage at one instant becoming happiness
bestowed by the gods a moment later.


The ever-present possibility of bringing desire, attachment, or even the most enduring meaning of human activity back into question, the constant possibility of a sign’s being reversed as a function of the dialectical totality of the individual’s position, is such a common experience that it’s stupefying to see this dimension forgotten as soon as one’s fellow whom one wants to objectify is concerned.


It’s never completely forgotten, though. We find a trace of it whenever the observer allows himself to be guided by his feeling for what is going on. The term interpretation lends itself to all sorts of ambiguities in the context of this reasonable madness into which it’s inserted. Authors speak of combinatory paranoia – how fertile this term could have been had they been aware of what they were saying, that the secret effectively resides in the way the phenomena are combined.


The question that has been advocated frequently enough here to be of full value, that of Who speaks?, must dominate the whole subject of paranoia. I already pointed this out to you last time when I reminded you that verbal hallucination plays a central role in paranoia. You know how long it took to perceive what is nevertheless sometimes quite visible, which is that the subject himself utters what he says he hears – it took M. Seglas and his book Legons climques.12

这个问题在此曾经时常地被提出,足够具有充分的价值,是「谁在言说」的价值?它必须支配偏执狂的整个主体。我上一次已经指出这一点,当我提醒你们,文词的幻觉扮演一个中央的角色在偏执狂。你们知道,这需要多久的时间才能感觉到,有时完全可见的是什么。那就是主体本身表达他听到的他所说的话。请看一下西格拉斯及他的书「Legons climques」

By a sort of brilliant stroke at the beginning of his career he pointed out that there were people having verbal hallucinations who could be observed, by quite obvious signs in some cases and by looking slightly more closely in others, to be uttering the words they accused their voices of having spoken to them, whether or not they were aware of it, or did not want to know. It constituted a small revolution to observe that the source of auditory hallucination was not external.


This is because, or so it was thought, the source is internal, and what is more tempting than to think that this corresponds to the tingling of a zone itself called sensory? It remains to be known whether this can be applied to the domain of language. Are there verbal psychical hallucinations properly so-called? Are they not always more or less psychomotor hallucinations? Can the phenomenon of speech, in both its pathological forms and its normal form, be dissociated from the fact, which is nonetheless perceptible, that when the subject speaks he hears himself?


One of the essential dimensions of the phenomenon of speech is that the other isn’t the only person who hears you. The phenomenon of speech can’t be schematized by the image that serves a number of what are called communication theories – sender, receiver, and something that takes place in between. It seems to have been forgotten
that among many other things in human speech the sender is always a receiver
at the same time, that one hears the sound of one’s own words. It’s possible
not to pay attention to it, but it’s certain that one hears it.


Such a simple remark dominates the entire question of what is known as verbal psychomotor hallucination, and it’s perhaps because it’s too self-evident that in the analysis of these phenomena it has moved into the background.


Of course the little Seglasian revolution is far from having brought us a solution to the enigma. S6glas remained with the phenomenal exploration of hallucination, and he had to retract what was too absolute in his initial theory.


He restored their place to certain hallucinations that are untheorizable in this register, and he threw some new clinical light and contributed a subtlety of description, neither of which can be ignored – I advise you to have a look at him.


If many of these episodes in the history of psychiatry are instructive, it’s perhaps more by virtue of the errors they bring into focus than by the positive contributions that supposedly result from them. But it’s not possible simply to devote oneself to negative experiences of the field concerned and construct solely on the basis of errors. Errors are in any case so abundant as to be almost inexhaustible. We shall just have to take a few shortcuts to try to get to the heart of the matter.


We shall do this by following Freud’s advice and, with him, enter into the analysis of the Schreber case.


The Psychoses 07

January 20, 2012

The Psychoses 07
Jacques Lacan





Let’s return to the example we took last time.


We have, then, a subject for whom the world has begun to take on a meaning.
What does this mean? For some time he has been prey to strange phenomena
that consist in his noticing things going on in the street. But what things? If you question him you will see that some points remain mysterious to him while he will express himself about others. In other words, he symbolizes what is happening in terms of meaning.


Very often he doesn’t know, if you look closely, whether things are favorable or unfavorable towards him, but he looks for what is revealed by the way his counterparts act, or by some observed feature in the world, in this world which is never purely and simply inhuman since it’s man-made. In discussing the red car I was attempting, with respect to this, to show you the different import the color red can have, according as its perceptive, imaginary, or symbolic value is considered. In
normal behavior, too, features that have until then been neutral can take on value.


What is the subject ultimately saying, specially at a certain period of his delusion? That there is meaning. What meaning he doesn’t know, but it comes to the foreground, it asserts itself, and for him it’s perfectly understandable.


And it’s precisely because it’s situated at the level of understanding as an incomprehensible phenomenon, as it were, that paranoia is so difficult for us to grasp and, also, of such great interest.


What has made it possible here to speak of reasonable madness, of the preservation of clarity, order, and will, is the feeling that, however far into the phenomenon we go, we remain in the realm of the understandable.


Even when what one understands can’t even be articulated, named, or inserted by the subject into a context that makes it clear, it’s already situated at the level of understanding. It’s a question of things that in themselves already make themselves understood. And by virtue of this fact we ourselves feel that we are within reach of understanding. This is where the illusion starts to emerge 31 – since it’s a question of understanding, we understand. Well, no, precisely not.


Someone once pointed this out, but he didn’t go beyond this basic remark. It was Charles Blondel, who in his book on the troubled conscience observed that psychopathologies characteristically deceive the understanding.11


It’s a valuable work, even though Blondel has obstinately refused to understand anything of the subsequent development of ideas.


This is nevertheless an appropriate point at which to take the problem up again – it’s always understandable.


You will observe in the training we give to our students that this is always a good place to stop them. It’s always at the point where they have understood, where they have rushed in to fill the case in with understanding, that they have missed the interpretation that it’s appropriate to make or not to make.


This is generally naively expressed in the expression – This is what the subject meant. How do you know? What is certain is that he didn’t say it. And in most cases, on hearing what he did say, it appears that at the very least a question mark could have been raised which alone would have been sufficient for the valid interpretation, or at least for the beginnings of it.


Let me now give you an idea of the point on which this discourse is converging.
Whether some moment in the subject’s perception, in his delusional deduction, in his explanation of himself, or in his dialogue with you is more or less understandable isn’t what is important.


At some of these places something may occur that appears to be characterized by the fact that there is indeed a completely understandable kernel, if you really want to hold to this.


Whether there is or not, is of absolutely no interest at all. What, on the contrary, is altogether striking is that it’s inaccessible, inert, and stagnant with respect to any dialectic.


Take elementary interpretation. To be sure, this comprises an element of meaning, but it’s a repetitive one, it proceeds by reiteration. Sometimes the subject does elaborate on this element, but what is certain is that it will remain, at least for a while, being constantly repeated with the one interrogative sign that is always involved, without any answer, any attempt to integrate it into a dialogue, ever being made. The phenomenon is closed to all dialectical composition.


Take what is known as passional psychosis, which seems so much closer to what is called normal. If in this case the prevalence of litigiousness is stressed, it’s because the subject can’t come to terms with a certain loss or injury and because his entire life appears to be centred around compensation for the injury suffered and the claim it entails. Litigation moves into the foreground so much that sometimes it seems completely to dominate his interest in what is at stake. Here also the dialectic comes to a halt, centered of course in a totally different way from the preceding case.


I pointed out to you last time what the phenomenon of interpretation hinges on – it’s linked to the relation between the ego and the other, inasmuch as analytic theory defines the ego as always being relative. In passional psychosis what is known as the understandable kernel, which is in fact a kernel of dialectical inertia, is situated obviously much closer to the I, the subject.



The Psychoses 06

January 19, 2012

The Psychoses 06
Jacques Lacan





What is the ambiguity that surrounds the notion of paranoia due to? To many things, and perhaps to an inadequate clinical subdivision. I think that the psychiatrists among you have enough knowledge of the different clinical types to know for example that an interpretation delusion [dilire d’interpritation] isn’t at all the same thing as a litigious delusion [dilire de revendication].


Equally there is every reason to distinguish between paranoid psychoses and
passional psychoses, a difference that has been admirably emphasized by the
work of my master, de Clerambault, whose function, role, personality, and
doctrine I began pointing out to you last time.8 It’s precisely at the level of
psychological distinctions that his work is the most significant. Does this
mean that the clinical types have to be distributed more widely, that we have
in some way to break them up? I do not believe so. The problem that arises
for us bears on the framework of paranoia as a whole.


A century of clinical work has always just drifted around the problem. Every time psychiatry has made a bit of progress, advanced slightly, it has also lost the ground it has won through its very manner of conceptualizing what is immediately accessible to observation.


Nowhere is the contradiction between observation and theorization more apparent. It can almost be said that there is no more apparent and visible discourse of madness than the psychiatrist’s – and precisely on the subject of paranoia.


There is something here that, it seems to me, goes straight to the heart of the problem. If you read for example the work I wrote on paranoid psychosis, you will see that I emphasize what I call, borrowing the term from my master de Clerambault, the elementary phenomena and that I try to show how radically different these phenomena are in relation to what can be drawn from what he calls ideational deduction, that is, from what is understandable by everybody.9


Ever since that period I have strongly emphasized that the elementary phenomena
are no more elementary than what underlies the entire construction of a delusion.


They are as elementary as a leaf is in relation to the plant, in which a certain detail can be seen of the way in which the veins overlap and insert into one another – there is something common to the whole plant that is reproduced in certain of the forms that make it up.


Similarly, analogous structures can be found at the level of the composition, motivation, and thematization of a delusion and at the level of the elementary phenomenon.


In other words, it’s always the same structuring force, as it were, at work in a
delusion, whether it’s the whole or one of its parts that is under consideration.


What is important isn’t that the elementary phenomenon should be an initial nucleus, a parasitic point as de Cllrambault used to say, inside the personality, around which the subject supposedly constructs something, a fibrous reaction destined to envelop and enclose it in a cyst, and at the same time to integrate it, that is to explain it, as is often said.


A delusion isn’t deduced. It reproduces its same constitutive force. It, too, is an elementary phenomenon. This means that here the notion of element is to be taken in
no other way than as structure, differentiated structure, irreducible to anything
other than itself.


The source of this structure has been so profoundly misrecognized that the whole discourse on paranoia I was talking about before bears the mark of that misrecognition. You can test this while reading Freud, or almost any author – you will find pages, sometimes entire chapters, on paranoia.


Take them out of their context, read them out loud, and you will see the most wonderful descriptions of the behavior of everyone. It was touch and go whether what
I read out loud before from Kraepelin’s definition of paranoia defined normal


You will find this paradox time and again, and even among analyst authors, precisely when they put themselves on the level of what a while ago I called the pattern – a term whose domination of analytic theory is recent, but which has nonetheless been there potentially for a very long time.


To prepare for today’s meeting I was re-reading an already old article, from 1908, in which Abraham describes the behavior of a case of dementia praecox and his so-called lack of affectivity, starting with his relationship to objects.10


There he was for months on end, heaping up, stone by stone, the crude rocks
that for him were affected with the greatest good. Now, because he has stacked
them up on a plank, the plank breaks, there’s a great din in the room, everything
is swept out, and the character who seemed to attach such importance
to these rocks doesn’t pay the slightest bit of attention to what is going on,
doesn’t raise the slightest protest before the general evacuation of the objects
of his desires. He simply starts again, accumulating others. And that is dementia


It is tempting to make a fable of this little apologue, one that would show that this is what we all do all the time. I should go even further – to accumulate a stack of things without value, to have to consider them lost at a moment’s notice and start again is a good sign. Indeed, if the subject were to remain attached to what he loses, not being able to bear being deprived of it, it could be said that here you have a case of the overvaluation of objects.


These supposedly conclusive cases are so completely ambiguous that one wonders how it’s possible to maintain the illusion for one second, unless through a sort of eclipse of the critical sense that seems to seize all readers as soon as they open a technical work, specially where our experience and profession are concerned.


It’s surprising that the remark I made last time, that the understandable is an ever-fleeting and elusive term, is never assessed as being a lesson of prime
importance, as an obligatory formulation at the threshold of the clinical. Begin
by thinking you don’t understand. Start from the idea of a fundamental misunderstanding.


This is an initial attitude, failing which there is really no reason why you should not understand anything and everything. One author presents certain behavior as indicating a lack of affectivity in a certain context; for another it will be the contrary. Starting one’s work again after having acknowledged its loss may be understood in completely opposite senses.


Appeal is constantly made to notions that are thought to be commonly accepted,
while they are not commonly accepted at all.


This is the point I wanted to get to – the difficulty of addressing the problem of paranoia arises precisely because it’s situated on the plane of understanding.


The irreducible elementary phenomenon here is at the level of interpretation.



The Psychoses 05

January 19, 2012

The Psychoses 05
Jacques Lacan

The meaning of delusion





The more one studies the history of the notion of paranoia, the more significant it seems and the more one appreciates the lesson that can be drawn from the progress, or lack of progress – whichever you like – that characterizes the psychiatric movement.


No notion is in the end more paradoxical. If I took care last time to put madness in the foreground, it was because it’s quite possible to say that with the word paranoia authors have displayed all the ambiguity present in the use of the old term madness, which is the fundamental, common term.


The term doesn’t date from yesterday, nor even from the birth of psychiatry. Without giving way to a facile deployment of erudition, I shall simply remind you that reference to madness has always been part of the so-called language of conventional wisdom. In this respect, the celebrated Praise of Folly1 retains all its value for having identified it with normal human behavior – although this latter expression was not in use at that time.


What was then said in the language of philosophers, between philosophers, eventually
ended up being taken seriously and literally – a turning point that took place with Pascal, who formulated, with grave and meditative emphasis, that there is undoubtedly a necessary madness, that it would be another form of madness not to be mad with the madness of everybody.2

当时所被说的事情,在哲学家及哲学家之间的语言,最后的结果会被认真而且实质地看待。这是一个发生在巴斯卡的转捩点,他以莊严而沉思的强调诠释: 无可置疑地,有一种必要的疯狂,那就是,假如对于每一个人的疯狂,你淡定不疯狂,那将也是另外一种疯狂。

These reminders aren’t useless, when you look at the paradoxes implicit in the premises of the theorists. It might be said that until Freud madness had been reduced to a number of modes of behavior, of patterns,3 while others thought of judging everybody’s behavior in this way. In the end the difference, pattern for pattern, isn’t obvious.


The emphasis has never been fully placed where it would enable an image to be formed of what normal, or even understandable, conduct is and how properly paranoid conduct may be distinguished from it.


Let us remain at the level of definitions. The dissection of paranoia was incontestably much more extensive during the whole nineteenth century than it has been since the end of the last century, that is around 1899, at the time of the fourth or fifth edition of Kraepelin.4


For a very long time Kraepelin remained attached to the vague notion that on the whole the man of experience knows, by a sort of sense, how to recognize natural signs.


The true medical gift is to be able to perceive the signs that correctly dissect reality. It
was only in 1899 that he introduced a finer subdivision. He brings the old paranoias back within the framework of dementia praecox by creating the paranoid sector and he puts forward quite an interesting definition of paranoia, distinguishing it from other modes of paranoid delusions with which it had until then been confused.


Paranoia is distinguished from the others because it is characterized by the gradual
development of internal causes and according to a progressive evolution of a
stable delusional system that is impossible to disturb and establishes itself with total
preservation of clarity and order in thought, will, and action,5


This definition, coming as it does from the hand of an eminent clinician, is remarkable in that point by point it contradicts all clinical material. There isn’t a word of truth in it.


Its development isn’t gradual, there are always surges and phases. It seems to me, but I’m not absolutely sure of this, that it was I who introduced the notion of fertile moment. This fertile moment is always visible at the beginning of a paranoia. There is always a break in what Kraepelin goes on to call the progressive evolution of a delusion dependent on internal causes.


It’s obvious that the evolution of a paranoia can’t be limited to internal causes. To be convinced of this one only has to go to the chapter “Aetiology” of his textbook and also read the contemporary authors, Serieux and Capgras, whose work dates from five years later.6 When one looks for the triggering causes of a paranoia, one always observes, with the required question mark, an emotional element in the subject’s life, a life crisis that in fact does involve his external relationships, and it would be astonishing were one not led to do this with respect to a delusion that is essentially characterized as a delusion of reference [ddlire de relation] – the term isn’t Kretschmer’s but Wernicke’s.7


I read – . . . progressive evolution of a stable delusional system that is impossible
to disturb . . . Nothing could be more false – the delusional system varies,
whether it has been disturbed or not. As a matter of fact this question
seems secondary to me. The variation comes from interpsychology, from
external interventions, from the preservation or disruption of a certain orderliness
in the world around the patient. He is very far indeed from not taking
this into account and seeks, over the course of his delusion’s evolution, to
incorporate these elements into the composition of his delusion.


. . . which establishes itself with total preservation of clarity and order in thought,
will, and action. Sure. But it’s a question of knowing what clarity and order
are. While something meriting these names can be discovered in the account
the subject gives of his delusion, it still needs to be stated what this means,
and this will by its very nature call into question the notions concerned. As
for thought, will, and action, we are here to attempt to define them in terms
of a number of specific forms of behavior, one of which is madness, rather
than treat them as acquired notions at the outset. To us it seems that academic
psychology has to be recast before it’s capable of yielding concepts
rigorous enough to be exchanged, at least at the level of our experience.



The Psychoses 04

January 19, 2012

The Psychoses 04
Jacques Lacan

There is a close relation between, on the one hand, negation and the reappearance in the purely intellectual order of what has not been integrated by the subject and, on the other, Verwerfung and hallucination, that is, the reappearance in the real of what the subject has refused. Here we have a range, a series, of relations.


What is involved in a hallucinatory phenomenon? This phenomenon has its own source in what we shall provisionally call the subject’s history in the symbolic. I don’t know whether I shall retain this combination of terms, because all history is by definition symbolic, but let’s keep to this formula for the moment.


The essential distinction is this – the origin of the neurotic repressed is not situated at the same level of history in the symbolic as that of the repressed involved in psychosis, even if there exists the closest of relations between their contents. This distinction alone provides a key that allows the problem to be raised in a much simpler fashion than up till now.


The same thing goes for the diagram from last year concerning verbal hallucination:


23 Our schema, I remind you, represents the interruption of full speech between
the subject and the Other and its detour through the two egos, o and o’y and
their imaginary relations.

我们的基模,我提醒你们,代表主体与大他者之间的充分言说的被中断,及它的迂回通过两个自我,0 及0’Y ,以及它们的想象的关系。

Here it indicates triplicity in the subject, which overlaps the fact that it’s the subject’s ego that normally speaks to another, and of the subject, the subject S in the third person. Aristotle pointed out that one must not say that man thinks, but that he thinks with his soul. Similarly, I say that the subject speaks to himself with his ego.

在此,它指示著主体的三重性,跟这个事实重叠: 主体的自我,正常而言,是针对另外一个主体言说,属于主体的三重性,在第三人称的主体。亚里斯多德指出,我们一定不要说,人在思想,而是要是,人用他的灵魂思想。同样地,我说,主体用他的自我,跟他自己言说。

However, in the normal subject, speaking to oneself with one’s ego can never be made fully explicit. One’s relationship to the ego is fundamentally ambiguous, one’s assumption of the ego always revocable. In the psychotic subject on the other hand certain elementary phenomena, and in particular hallucinations, which are their most characteristic form, show us the subject completely identified either with his ego, with which he speaks, or with the ego assumed entirely along instrumental lines.


It’s he who speaks of him, the subject, the S, in the two equivocal senses of the term, the initial S and the German Es.n This is what presents itself in the phenomenon of verbal hallucination.


The moment the hallucination appears in the real, that is, accompanied by the sense of reality, which is the elementary phenomenon’s basic feature, the subject literally speaks with his ego, and it’s as if a third party, his lining, were speaking and commenting on his activity.


This is where our attempt to situate the diverse forms of psychosis in relation
to the three registers of the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real will lead this year. It will enable us to get to the ultimate source of the function to give to the ego in the cure. The question of the object relation lies on the horizon.


The current handling of the object relation in the context of an analytic relation conceived as dual is founded on a misrecognition of the autonomy of the symbolic order.


This automatically introduces a confusion between the imaginary and real levels. But it doesn’t eliminate the symbolic relation however, since we continue talking and, indeed, do nothing else.


But it results from this misrecognition that what in the subject calls for recognition on the appropriate level of authentic symbolic exchange – which is not so easy to
attain since it’s always interfered with – is replaced by a recognition of the
imaginary, of fantasy.


Thus to authenticate everything of the order of the imaginary in the subject is properly speaking to make analysis the anteroom of madness, and we can only admire the fact that this doesn’t lead to a deeper alienation – no doubt this indicates sufficiently that to be mad some predisposition, if not some precondition, is necessary.


In Vienna a charming young man to whom I was trying to explain a few minor details asked me whether or not I believed that the psychoses were organic, so I said to him that the question was totally out of date, that for a very long time I had been making no distinction between psychology and physiology, and that, surely, nobody goes mad through wanting to, as I had stuck up on the wall of my medical quarters in those former, slightly archaic times.12


It remains true though that we must attribute the well-known cases of fairly rapid onset of more or less persistent and sometimes lasting delusion to a certain way of handling the analytic relation, which consists in authenticating the imaginary, in substituting recognition on the imaginary level for recognition on the symbolic level.


The fact that an analysis can, right from its first stages, trigger a psychosis is well known, but no one has ever explained why. It’s obviously a function of the subject’s disposition, but also of an imprudent handling of the object relation.


I believe that today I have done nothing but put before you the interest there is in what we are going to study.


We shall find it useful to investigate paranoia. However thankless and arid this may be for us, it involves purifying, elaborating, and applying Freudian notions, and therefore also involves our training in analysis. I hope I have made you feel how it is that this conceptual elaboration can have the most direct effect on the ways we shall think, or be careful not to think, what our daily experience is and must be.
16 November 1955



The Psychoses 03

January 19, 2012

The Psychoses 03
Jacques Lacan
Introduction to the question of the psychoses

The questions that arise touch upon exactly all the categories effective in our
field of operation.


It’s classically said that in psychosis the unconscious is at the surface, conscious.
This is even why articulating it doesn’t seem to have much effect.


Within this perspective, quite instructive in itself, we can observe first of all
that it’s not purely and simply, as Freud always emphasized, from the negative
trait of being an Unbezvusst, a nonconscious, that the unconscious derives
its efficacity.


Translating Freud, we say – the unconscious is a language. Its being articulated doesn’t imply its recognition, though. The proof of this is that everything proceeds as if Freud were translating a foreign language, even carving it up and reassembling it.


The subject is, with respect to his own language, quite simply in the same position as Freud. If it’s ever possible for someone to speak in a language that he is totally ignorant of, we can say that the psychotic subject is ignorant of the language he speaks.


Is this a satisfactory metaphor? Certainly not. The question is not so much
why this unconscious, which is articulated at ground level, remains excluded
for the subject, not adopted by him – but why it appears in the real.

这是一种令人满意的比喻吗?当然不是。 问题与其说是为什么这个无意识始终被排除不让主体知道,虽然它被表达属于基本的层次,不如说是,为什么无意识出现在实在界。

I hope that there are enough of you who remember the commentary that
M. Jean Hyppolite made for us here on Die Verneinung,9 and I regret his
absence this morning, which prevents me from being certain I’m not distorting
the terms he uncovered in it.


21 What emerged clearly from his analysis of this striking text is that in what
is unconscious not only is everything repressed, that is, misrecognized by the
subject after having been verbalized, but that behind the process of verbalization
there must be admitted a primordial Bejahung, an admission in the sense of the symbolic, which can itself be wanting.

从他分析这个引人注意的文本,清楚显现的是,在无意识的内涵里,每一样东西不但被压抑,换句话说,在它被文辞表达后,它被主体所误认。而且在文词表达的过程背后,有一个原初的 「肯定」必须被承认,从符号象征的意义被承认。它的本身是欠缺。

This point is borne out by other texts, and especially by a passage that is as explicit as can be where Freud admits a phenomenon of exclusion for which the term Verwerfung appears valid and from which Verneinung, produced at a much later stage, is distinguished.


It can happen that a subject refuses access to his symbolic world to something that he has nevertheless experienced, which in this case is nothing other than the threat of castration.


The subject’s entire subsequent development shows that he wants to know nothing about it, Freud literally says, in the sense of the repressed.10


What comes under the effect of repression returns, for repression and the return of the repressed are just the two sides of the same coin. The repressed is always there, expressed in a perfectly articulate manner in symptoms and a host of other phenomena. By contrast, what falls under the effect of Verwerfung has a completely different destiny.


It’s not pointless in this respect for me to remind you of the comparison I made last year between certain symbolic order phenomena and what happens in those machines, in the modern sense of the word, that do not quite talk yet but any day now will. One feeds figures into them and waits for them to give what would perhaps take us 100,000 years to calculate.

在这方面,我提醒你们去年我做的比较,对于某些符号象征秩序与那些机器所发生的事情,并非没有意义。用机器一词的现代意义来说,机器并不会说话,但是有一天他将会。我们将一些数字餵进它们,然后等待它们给予我们可能要花1 万年才算得出来的东西。

But we can only introduce things into the circuit if we respect the machine’s own rhythm – otherwise they won’t go in and can’t enter the circuit. We can re-use the
same image. Only it also happens that whatever is refused in the symbolic
order, in the sense of Verwerfung, reappears in the real.


Freud’s text is free of ambiguity on this point. It concerns the Wolf Man, as you know, who gives evidence of psychotic tendencies and qualities, as is demonstrated by the brief paranoia he enters between the end of Freud’s treatment and when he is taken under observation again.


Well, the fact that he has rejected all means of access to castration, which is nevertheless apparent in his conduct, all access to the register of the symbolic function, the fact that any assumption of castration by an / has become impossible for him, has
the closest of links with his having had a brief hallucination in childhood, of
which he recounts extremely precise details.


The scene is as follows. While playing with his knife he cut his finger, which was left hanging on by only a small piece of skin. The subject recounted this episode in a style traced from lived experience. All temporal reference points seem to have disappeared.

这个场景如下: 当他在玩弄小刀时,他割伤他的手指。手指垂挂著,仅剩一层皮。主体描述这个轶事,从活生生的经验被追踪的风格。所有的时间的指称点似乎已经都消失。

Then he sat on a bench, beside his nurse, who was precisely the confidant of his early experiences, and he didn’t dare mention it to her. How significant is that suspension of all possible speech! – and precisely with the person he used to recount everything to, and especially things of that order!


There is an abyss here, a temporal submersion, a rupture in experience, following which it turns out that he has nothing at all wrong with him, it’s all over, let’s drop the subject.


The relation that Freud establishes between this phenomenon and this very special knowing nothing of the thing, even in the sense of the repressed expressed in this text translates as this – what is refused in the symbolic order re-emerges in the real.