Archive for November, 2012

Ethic 228

November 6, 2012

Ethic 228

The Ethics of Psychoanalysis
Jacques Lacan

XVII 第17章

The function of the good


We have now reached the crossroads of utilitarianism.


Jeremy Bentham’s thought is not the simple continuation of that gnoseology
to which a whole tradition tirelessly devoted itself in order to reduce the
transcendental or supernatural dimension of the progress of knowledge that
supposedly needed elucidating. Bentham, as that work of his which has recently
drawn some attention, The Theory of Fictions, shows, is the man who approaches
the question at the level of the signifier.


With relation to institutions in their fictive or, in other words, fundamentally
verbal dimension, his search has involved not attempting to reduce to
nothing all the multiple, incoherent, contradictory rights of which English
jurisprudence furnishes an example, but, on the contrary, observing on the
basis of the symbolic artifice of these terms, which are themselves also creators
of texts, what there is there that may be used to some purpose, that is to
say, become, in effect, the object of a division. The long historical development
of the problem of the good is in the end centered on the notion of how
goods are created, insofar as they are organized not on the basis of so-called
natural and predetermined needs, but insofar as they furnish the material of
a distribution; and it is in relation to this that the dialectic of the good is
articulated to the degree that it takes on effective meaning for man.


Man’s needs find their home on the level of utility, which involves that
portion of the symbolic text that may be of some use. At this stage there is
no problem; the greatest utility for the greatest number – such indeed is the
law in the light of which the problem of the function of goods is organized.
At this level we find ourselves, in effect, prior to the moment when the subject
puts his head through the holes in the cloth. The cloth is so made that
the greatest number of subjects possible may put their heads and their limbs
through it.


Yet all this talk wouldn’t mean anything if things didn’t start functioning
differently. Now in this thing, whether it be rare or not, but in any case a
made thing, in all this wealth finally – whatever its correlative in poverty –
there is from the beginning something other than use value. There is its
jouissance use.


As a result, the good is articulated in a wholly different way. The good is
not at the level of the use of the cloth. The good is at the level where a subject
may have it at his disposal.


The domain of the good is the birth of power. The notion of control of the
good is essential, and if one foregrounds this, everything is revealed concerning
the meaning of the claim made by man, at a certain point in his history,
once he has managed to achieve control of himself.


It was Freud, not me, who took upon himself the task of unmasking what
this has effectively meant historically. To exercise control over one’s goods,
as everyone knows, entails a certain disorder, that reveals its true nature,
i.e., to exercise control over one’s goods is to have the right to deprive others
of them.


There is, I think, no point in making you sense the fact that historical
destiny is played out around such a situation. The whole question concerns
the moment when one can consider that this process has come to an end. For
this function of the good engenders, of course, a dialectic. I mean that the
power to deprive others is a very solid link from which will emerge the other
as such.


Remember what I once told you concerning privation, which has subsequently
caused a problem for some of you. You will see clearly in this connection
that I don’t say anything by chance.


Opposing privation to frustration and castration, I said that it was a function
instituted as such in the symbolic order, to the extent that nothing is
deprived of nothing – which doesn’t prevent the good one is deprived of from
being wholly real. The important thing is to recognize that the depriving
agent is an imaginary function. It is the little other, one’s fellow man, he who
is given in the relationship that is half rooted in naturalness of the mirror
stage, but such as he appears to us there where things are articulated at the
level of the symbolic.


There is a fact observed in experience that one always
has to remember in analysis, namely, what is meant by defending one’s goods
is one and the same thing as forbidding3 oneself from enjoying them.
The sphere of the good erects a strong wall across the path of our desire.
It is, in fact, at every moment and always, the first barrier that we have to
deal with.

在精神分析经验,我们观察到一个事实: 在精神分析,我们总是必须记得,换句话说,替自己的善辩护的意义,同时也是禁止自己去享受那些善。善的领域竖立起一道坚固的墙壁,跨越我们欲望的途径。事实上,就在每个时刻,这总是我们必须要处理的第一道障碍。


Ethic 224

November 6, 2012

Ethic 224

The Ethics of Psychoanalysis
Jacques Lacan

XVII 第17章

The function of the good



The question of the good is situated athwart the pleasure principle and the
reality principle. There’s no possibility that from such a point of view we can
escape conflict, given that we have regularly shifted the center.


It is impossible at this point not to bear witness to the following fact, one
that is too little articulated in the Freudian conception itself, namely, that
reality is not the simple dialectical correlative of the pleasure principle. Or
more exactly, that reality isn’t just there so that we bump our heads up against
the false paths along which the functioning of the pleasure principle leads us.
In truth, we make reality out of pleasure.


This is an essential notion. It is wholly summed up in the notion of praxis
in the two senses that that word has acquired historically. On the one hand,
in the domain of ethics, it concerns action, insofar as action has not just an
έργον as its goal, but is also inscribed in an ενέργεια; on the other hand, it
has to do with making, with the production ex nihilo I spoke to you about
last time. It is no accident if these two meanings are subsumed under the
same term.

这是一个基本的观念。在实践的观念,这完全地被总结。它具有那个字词在历史上具有的这两种意义:一方面,在伦理学的领域,它跟行动息息相关,因为行动并不仅拥有一个目的「έργον」,作为它的目标,而且它也被铭记在过程「ενέργεια」。换句话说,它跟形成有关系,跟我上次跟你们谈到的「从空无中创造ex nihilo」的产生有关系。假日这两个意义被视为是相同术语的次标题,这并不意外。

We must see right away how crude it is to accept the idea that, in the
ethical order itself, everything can be reduced to social constraint, as is so
often the case in the theoretical writings of certain analysts – as if the fashion
in which that constraint develops doesn’t in itself raise a question for people
who live within the realms of our experience. In the name of what is social
constraint exercised? Of a collective tendency? Why in all this time hasn’t
such social constraint managed to focus on the most appropriate paths to the
satisfaction of individuals’ desires? Do I need to say anymore to an audience
of analysts to make clear the distance that exists between the organization of
desires and the organization of needs?


But who knows? Perhaps I need to insist after all.


Perhaps I would get a stronger reaction from an audience of school boys.
They at least would realize right away that the order imposed in their school
is not designed to enable them to jerk off under the best possible conditions.
I nevertheless assume that the eyes of an analyst are made to interpret that
which runs through a certain dream world, which we call, significantly enough,
Utopia. Take Fourier, for example, since reading him is by the way such fun.
The farcical effect his work generates is instructive. He shows how distant
what is called social progress is from whatever is done in the expectation, not
so much of opening up the flood gates, as of merely thinking through a given
collective order in terms of the satisfaction of desires. For the moment we
just want to know if we can see a little more clearly here than others.


We are not the first to have gone along this road. As for myself, there is
among those assembled here an audience of Marxists, and I assume that those
who are part of it can recall the intimate, profound relationship, a relationship
woven into the lines of the text, between what I am proposing here and
Marx’s fundamental discussions concerning the relations between man and
the object of his production. To hurry things along, that brings us back to that point at which I left you in a digression of my lecture before last, namely, with Saint Martin cutting in two with his sword the large piece of cloth in which he was enveloped for his journey to Cavalla.


Let’s take up the point as it stands, at the level of different goods, and let’s
ask ourselves the question of what that piece of cloth is.


Given that with it one can make a piece of clothing, the piece of cloth has
a use value with which others before me have been concerned. You would be
wrong to think that the relation of man to the object of his production at its
fundamental level has been completely elucidated – even by Marx, who took
things very far in this respect.


I am not going to offer here a critique of economic structures. Something
very interesting did happen to me, however, one of those things I enjoy because
their meaning is to be found at a level that is within our grasp but that is
always more or less mystifying. It seems that in my last seminar I am supposed
to have made an allusion to a given chapter of the latest book of Sartre,
to his Critique of Dialectical Reason. I like the idea, since I am about to refer
to it; the only problem is that the point in question has to do with thirty
pages that I read for the first time last Sunday.


I don’t know what to say about the work as a whole because I have only
read these thirty pages, but I must say that they are pretty good. They concern
precisely the original relations of man to the object of his needs. It seems
to me that it is in this particular register that Sartre intends to take things to
their final term, and if that is his purpose, if he does manage to be exhaustive,
the work will certainly prove useful.


This fundamental relationship is defined starting from the notion of scarcity
as that which founds man’s condition, as that which makes him man in
his relation to his needs. For a body of thought that aims for total dialectical
transparency, such a final term is certainly rather obscure, whereas we have
managed to introduce into this cloth, whether rare or not, a little breath of
air which sets it floating and enables us to describe it in less opaque terms.
Psychoanalysts have given themselves plenty of room in the effort to see
what this cloth symbolizes; they tell us what it both shows and hides, that
the symbolism of clothes is a valid symbolism, without our knowing whether
at any given moment what is being done with this cloth-phallus concerns
disclosure or concealment.


The profound bivalence of the whole of analytical theory on the subject of the symbolism of clothes enables us to evaluate the impasse reached with the notion of the symbol as handled up till now in psychoanalysis. If you are able to find the large volume of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis that was produced for Jones’s fiftieth birthday, you will see an article by Flugel on the symbolism of clothes in which you will find the same impasses I pointed to, in the last issue of our journal, in Jones’s own articulation of symbolism, but in an even more striking and almost caricatural form.


In any case, all the absurd things that have been said about symbolism do
nevertheless lead us somewhere. There is something hidden there, and it is
always, we are told, that damned phallus. We are brought back to something
that one might have expected would have been thought of right off, that is to
say, to the relationship of the cloth to the missing hair – but it’s not missing
everywhere on our body. At this point we do find a psychoanalytic writer
who tells us that all the cloth we are concerned with is nothing more than the
extrapolation or development of woman’s fleece, the famous fleece that hides
the fact that she doesn’t have what it takes. These apparent revelations of the
unconscious always have their comic side. But it’s not completely screwy; I
even think that it’s a nice little fable.


Perhaps it might even contain an element of phenomenology relative to the
function of nudity. Is nudity purely and simply a natural phenomenon? The
whole of psychoanalytic thought is designed to prove it isn’t. The thing that
is particularly exalting about it and significant in its own right is that there is
a beyond of nudity that nudity hides. But we don’t need to engage in phenomenology;
I prefer fables.


The fable on this occasion concerns Adam and Eve, with the proviso that
the dimension of the signifier also be present, the signifier as introduced by
the father in the benevolent directions he gives: “Adam, you must give names
to everything around you.” Here is Adam, then, and here is the famous hair
of an Eve that we hope is worthy of the beauty that this first gesture evokes.


Adam pulls out one of her hairs. Everything I am trying to show you here
turns on a hair, a frog’s hair.2 Adam pulls out a hair from the woman who is
given to him as his wife, who has been expected for the whole of eternity,
and the next day she comes back with a mink coat over her shoulders.


Therein lies the power of the nature of cloth. It’s not because man has less
hair than other animals that we have to check out everything that down the
ages will burst forth from his industry. If we are to believe the linguists, the
problem of different goods is raised within a structure. At the beginning
everything is structured as a signifier, even if only a chain of hairs is involved.


Textile is first of all a text. There is cloth, and – let me invoke the driest
of minds, Marx, for example – it is impossible to posit as primary some
producers’ cooperative or other, unless, of course, one wants to make a psychological
fable. In the beginning there is the producer’s inventiveness, namely, the fact that man – and why he alone? – begins to weave something, something that isn’t in the form of a covering or cocoon for his own body, but something that as cloth is going to take off on its own in the world, is going to move around. Why? Because this cloth has time value.


That’s what distinguishes it from any form of natural production. One can
come close to it in the creations of the animal world, but it is originated only
when it is fabricated, when it is open to the world, to age and to newness; it
is use value, time value; it is a reservoir of needs; it is there whether one
needs it or not; and it is around this cloth that a whole dialectic of rivalry and
of sharing is organized, wherein needs will be constituted.


In order to grasp this, simply set in the distance in opposition to this function,
the word of the Messiah according to the Gospel when he shows men
what happens to those who trust in the Father’s Providence: “They weave
not neither do they spin; they offer men an imitation of the robe of the lilies
and the plumage of birds.” This is a stupefying abolition of the text by the
word. As I pointed out last time, the chief characteristic of this world is that
one has to uproot it from its text if one is to have faith in it.


But the history of humanity takes place in the text and it is in the text that we have the cloth. Saint Martin’s gesture means in the beginning that man as such, man with
his rights, begins to be individualized as soon as one begins to make holes in
this cloth through which his head and his arms can emerge, through which,
in effect, he begins to organize himself as clothed, that is to say, as having
needs that have been satisfied. What can there be behind this? What in spite
of that can he continue to desire? – I say “in spite of that” because from that
moment on we know less and less about it.


We have now reached the crossroads of utilitarianism.


Ethic 222

November 3, 2012

Ethic 222

The Ethics of Psychoanalysis
Jacques Lacan

XVII 第17章

The function of the good





Let me just draw your attention to the fact that the conception of the pleasure
principle is inseparable from the reality principle, that it is in a dialectical
relationship with it. But one has to begin, and I would simply like to begin
by pointing out what Freud articulates exactly.


Notice how the pleasure principle is articulated from the Entwurf, where
we began this year, right up to the end in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. The
end illuminates the beginning, and one can already see in the Entwurf the
nerve center to which I want to draw your attention for a moment.


Apparently there is no doubt that the pleasure principle organizes the final
reactions for the human psyche, there is no doubt that pleasure is articulated
in relation to the presupposition of a satisfaction, and it is driven by a lack in
the order of need that the subject becomes caught up in its toils, until a
perception occurs that is identical to that which first gave satisfaction. The
crudest of references to the reality principle indicates that one finds satisfaction
along paths that have already procured it. But look a little closer: is that
all Freud has to say? Certainly not. The originality of the Entwurf resides in
the notion of facilitations that control the distribution of libidinal investments
in such a way that a certain level beyond which the degree of excitation is
unbearable for the subject is never exceeded.


The introduction of the function of facilitations opens on to a theme that
will become increasingly important as Freud’s thought develops, in light of
the fact that Freud’s thought is his experience.


I have been criticized for having said that, from the point of view of ethics,
our experience derives its exemplary value from the fact that it doesn’t recognize
the dimension of habit, in terms of which human behavior has customarily
been assumed to be a process of improvement, of training. In this
connection, the notion of facilitation has been used against me. I reject this


The recourse to facilitation in Freud has nothing at all to do with
the function of habit as it is defined when one thinks of a learning process.
With Freud, it is not a question of creative imprinting but of the pleasure
engendered by the functioning of the facilitations. Now the core of the pleasure
principle is situated at the level of subjectivity. Facilitation is not a
mechanical effect; it is invoked as the pleasure of a facility, and it will be
taken up again as the pleasure of a repetition or, more precisely, as repetition
compulsion. The core of Freudian thought as it is deployed by us as analysts,
whether we attend this seminar or not, is that the function of memory,
remembering, is at the very least a rival of the satisfactions it is charged with
effecting- It has its own dimension whose reach goes beyond that of a satisfying
finality. The tyranny of memory is that which is elaborated in what we
call structure.


Such is the originality, the breakthrough, one cannot avoid emphasizing,
if one wants to see clearly what is new in the conception of human behavior
introduced by Freudian thought and experience. No doubt if someone wants
to fill that fault line, he can always claim that nature involves cycles and
returns. Faced with that objection, I won’t affirm that he’s mad; I will just
suggest the terms you may use to respond.


A natural cycle is perhaps immanent in everything that exists. Moreover,
it is highly diverse in its registers and levels. But I ask you to consider the
break that, in the order of the manifestation of the real embodied in the cycle,
is introduced by the simple fact that man is the bearer of language.


His relation to a couple of signifiers is all it takes, such as, for example, to
make a traditional reference in the sketchiest of modes, yin and yang, that is
to say, two signifiers, one of which is assumed to be eclipsed by the rise and
return of the other -I don’t care particularly for yin and yang; you can choose
sine and cosine instead if you like. In other words, the structure engendered
by memory must not in our experience mask the structure of memory itself
insofar as it is made of a signifying articulation. If you omit it, you absolutely
cannot maintain the register that is essential in the articulation of our experience,
namely, the autonomy, the dominance, the agency of remembering
as such, and not at the level of the real, but of the functioning of the pleasure


This is not a Byzantine discussion. Thus if we create a fault line and an
abyss, alternatively we fill in elsewhere something that also had the appearance
of a fault line and an abyss. And it is here that one can see that the
subject as such is born, a subject, moreover, whose emergence is unjustified
by anything else.


As I have already pointed out, the finality of the evolution of matter toward
consciousness is a mystical, elusive notion, and one that is properly speaking
historically indeterminable. There is no homogeneity between the order of
the apparition of phenomena, whether they be premonitory, preliminary,
partial, or preparatory to consciousness, and any kind of natural order, because
it is through its current state that consciousness manifests itself as a phenomenon
whose activity is completely erratic and, I would even say, fragmented.
It is at levels that are very different from our relationship to our own real that
the mark or the touch of consciousness appears, but in the absence of any224 The ethics of psychoanalysis continuity or homogeneiety of consciousness. Freud came up against this fact more than once in his investigations, and he always emphasized the fact that consciousness cannot be functionalized.


With relation to the functioning of the signifying chain, on the other hand,
our subject has a place in history that is quite solid and almost beatable. The
function of the subject on its emergence, of the original subject, of the subject
that may be traced in the chain of phenomena, we have a completely new
formula for him, one that is capable of objective localization. A subject originally
represents nothing more than the following fact: he can forget. Strike
out that “he”; the subject is literally at his beginning the elision of a signifier
as such, the missing signifier in the chain.


Such is the first place, the first person. Here the appearance of the subject
is manifested as such; and it makes us directly aware of why and in what way
the notion of the unconscious is central in our experience.


If you start at that point, you will see the explanation of a great many
things, including that strange phenomenon that can be pinpointed in history
that we call rites. I mean those rites by which man in so-called primitive
civilizations believes he must accompany one of the most-natural things in
the world, namely, the return of natural cycles themselves.


If the Emperor
of China doesn’t start the ploughing at a given day in spring, the rhythm of
the seasons will be spoiled. If order is not preserved in the Royal House, the
domain of the sea will advance upon the domain of the land. We still find
echoes of this at the beginning of the sixteenth century in Shakespeare. What
is this, if it isn’t the essential relation, the one which binds the subject to the
production of meaning and which makes him from the beginning responsible
for forgetting?


What relation can there be between man and the return of the
sunrise, if it is not the case that as a speaking man he is sustained in a direct
relation to the signifier? To refer to myth, the original position of man in
relation to nature is that of Chantecler – which is a theme to be found in a
minor poet, who might be approached more sympathetically, if I hadn’t started
another seminar by denouncing the figure of Cyrano de Bergerac by reducing
him to a grotesque lucubration that had nothing to do with the monumental
structure of the character.

在人与太阳的回转之间,可能会有怎样的关系?它难道不就是这个情况:作为一位言说的人,维持他的就是跟这个能指的关系?提到神话,人跟自然的关系的这个原初的立场,那是公鸡的立场。这个主题在一位次要诗人那里能够被找到,虽然我们带着同情地探究这位次要诗人。假如我当时没有开始另外一个研讨班,抨击Cyrano de Bergerac的这个人物,将他化减成为一个古怪的精心钜作,跟这个人物的龐大的结构没有丝毫关系。

We have now reached the point where we must raise the question of the
good at this level.