Archive for December, 2012


December 29, 2012

Ethic 291


The demand for happiness and
the promise of analysis






The report I gave two years ago at Royaumont on “The Direction of the
Cure” is to appear in the next issue of our review. The text is somewhat
thrown together because I wrote it between two seminars I was giving here.
I shall keep its improvised form, although I will try to fill out and rectify
certain things to be found there.


I said somewhere that an analyst has to pay something if he is to play his

He pays in words, in his interpretations. He pays with his person to the
extent that through the transference he is literally dispossessed. The whole
current development of analysis involves the misrecognition of the analyst,
but whatever he thinks of that and whatever panic reaction the analyst engages
in through “the countertransference,” he has no choice but to go through it.
He’s not the only one there with the person to whom he has made a commitment.


Finally, he has to pay with a judgment on his action. That’s the minimum
demanded. Analysis is a judgment. It’s required everywhere else, but if it
seems scandalous to affirm it here, there is probably a reason. It is because,
from a certain point of view, the analyst is fully aware that he cannot know
what he is doing in psychoanalysis. Part of this action remains hidden even
to him.


And it is this that justifies the direction I have been taking you in this year,
the point to which I have suggested you follow me, namely, there where the
question of exploring the general ethical consequences involved in Freud’s
opening up of the relationship to the unconscious is raised.


I grant that there was the appearance of a detour, but it was necessary so
as to bring you closer to our ethics as analysts. A few reminders were neces-
sary before I could bring you closer to the practice of analysis and its technical
problems. In the present state of affairs, they can hardly be resolved through
such reminders.


In the first place, is it the end of analysis that is demanded of us? What is
demanded can be expressed in a simple word, bonheur or “happiness,” as
they say in English. I’m not saying anything new in that; a demand for happiness
is doubtless involved here.

首先,我们所被要求的是精神分析的目标吗?所被要求的东西,能够用一个简单的字词「幸福」 或是「快乐」来表达吗?,如同他们在英文所说的。我并没有说出任何新的东西,因为对于快乐的要求在这里,无可置疑地会被牵涉到。

In the report I referred to earlier – which, now that I see it in print, seems
a little too aphoristic, which explains why I will attempt here to lubricate its
hinges a little – I allude to the question without explaining it further. The
business is not helped by the fact that happiness has become a political matter.
I won’t go any further into this, but it is the reason why I ended the
lecture called “Dialectical Psychoanalysis” – a lecture in which I brought to
an end a certain period of activity in a group that we have broken with since
– with the words, “There is no satisfaction for the individual outside of the
satisfaction of all.”



To refocus analysis on the dialectic makes evident the fact that the goal is
indefinitely postponed. It’s not the fault of analysis if the question of happiness
cannot be articulated in any other way at the present time. I would say
that it is because, as Saint-Just says, happiness has become a political matter.
It is because happiness has entered the political realm that the question of
happiness is not susceptible to an Aristotelian solution, that the prerequisite
is situated at the level of the needs of all men. Whereas Aristotle chooses
between the different forms of the good that he offers the master, and tells
him that only certain of these are worthy of his devotion – namely, contemplation
– the dialectic of the master has, I insist, been discredited in our eyes
for historical reasons that have to do with the period of history in which we
find ourselves. Those reasons are expressed in politics by the following formula:
“There is no satisfaction for the individual outside of the satisfaction
of all.”


It is in such a context that analysis appears to be – without our being able
to explain why precisely it is the case in this context – and the analyst sets
himself up to receive, a demand for happiness.


I have set out to show you this year the distance traveled since Aristotle,
say, by choosing among some of the most crucial concepts. I wanted to make
you feel the extent to which we approach these things differently, how far we
are from any formulation of a discipline of happiness.

There is in Aristotle a discipline of happiness. He shows the paths along
which he intends to lead anyone who is willing to follow him in his problematic,
paths which in different spheres of potential human activity lead to the
realization of one of the functions of virtue. Such virtue is achieved through
μίσότης, something that is far from being a simple golden mean or a process
linked to the avoidance of excess; instead it is supposed to enable man to
choose that which might reasonably allow him to realize himself in his own


Please note that one finds nothing similar in psychoanalysis. Along paths
that would appear surprising to someone straight out of high school, we claim
to allow the subject to put himself in a position such that things mysteriously
and almost miraculously work themselves out right, provided he grasp them
at the right end. Goodness only knows how obscure such a pretension as the
achievement of genital objecthood (I ‘objectalité genitale) remains, along with
what is so imprudently linked to it, namely, adjustment to reality.


One thing only alludes to the possibility of the happy satisfaction of the
instinct, and that is the notion of sublimation. But it is clear that if one looks
at the most esoteric formulation of the concept in Freud, in the context of
his representing it as realized preeminently in the activity of the artist, it
literally means that man has the possibility of making his desires tradeable or
salable in the form of products. The frankness and even cynicism of such a
formulation has in my eyes a great merit, although it is far from exhausting
the fundamental question, and that is, How is it possible?


The other formulation consists of informing us that sublimation is the satisfaction
of the drive with a change of object, that is, without repression. This definition is a profounder one, but it would also open up an even knottier problematic, if it weren’t for the fact that my teaching allows you to spot where the rabbit is hidden.


In effect, the rabbit to be conjured from the hat is already to be found in
the instinct. This rabbit is not a new object; it is a change of object in itself.
If the drive allows the change of object, it is because it is already deeply
marked by the articulation of the signifier. In the graph of desire that I gave
you, the instinct is situated at the level of the unconscious articulation of a
signifying series and is for this reason constituted as fundamental alienation.
That is why, on the other hand, each of the signifiers composing this series
is joined by a common element.


In the definition of sublimation as satisfaction without repression, whether
implicitly or explicitly, there is a passage from not-knowing to knowing, a
recognition of the fact that desire is nothing more than the metonymy of the
discourse of demand. It is change as such. I emphasize the following: the
properly metonymic relation between one signifier and another that we call
desire is not a new object or a previous object, but the change of object in

在升华的定义,作为没有受到压抑的满足,无论是含蓄或是明确,都会从未知通过到已知,体认到这个事实: 欲望仅仅就是要求的辞说的换喻。欲望就是变化的本身。我强调如下: 在一个能指与另外一个能指之间的适当的换喻的关系,我们称为这种适当换喻的关系的欲望,并不是一种新的客体,或是一个先前的客体,而是客体本身的变化。

Let me cite as an example something that occurred to me when I was
preparing these comments for you, so that I could give an image of what I
mean by sublimation. Think of the shift from a verb to what in grammar is
called its complement or, in a more philosophical grammar, its determinative. Think of the most radical of verbs in the development of the phases of
the drive, the verb “to eat.” There is “eating.” That is how the verb, the
action, appears head-first in many languages, before there is any determination
as to who is involved. Thus one sees here the secondary character of the
subject, since we don’t even have the subject, the something that is there to
be eaten.


There is eating – the eating of what? Of the book.


When in the Apocalypse we read this powerful image, “eat the book,” what
does it mean? – if it isn’t that the book itself acquires the value of an incorporation,
the incorporation of the signifier itself, the support of the properly
apocalyptic creation. The signifier in this instance becomes God, the object
of the incorporation itself.

在圣经的「启示录」,我们阅读这个强而有力的意象:「吃这本书」。那是什么意思?难道不就是: 书的本身获得一种被融合的价值?这个能指本身的被融化,支持适当来说是世纪末的创造。在这个情况,这个能指变成上帝,被融合的本身的客体。

In daring to formulate a satisfaction that isn’t rewarded with a repression,
the theme that is central or preeminent is, What is desire? And in this connection
I can only remind you of what I have articulated in the past: realizing
one’s desire is necessarily always raised from the point of view of an absolute
condition. It is precisely to the extent that the demand always under- or
overshoots itself that, because it articulates itself through the signifier, it always
demands something else; that in every satisfaction of a need, it insists on
something else; that the satisfaction formulated spreads out and conforms to
this gap; that desire is formed as something supporting this metonymy, namely,
as something the demand means beyond whatever it is able to formulate. And
that is why the question of the realization of desire is necessarily formulated
from the point of view of a Last Judgment.


Try to imagine what “to have realized one’s desire” might mean, if it is not
to have realized it, so to speak, in the end. It is this trespassing of death on
life that gives its dynamism to any question that attempts to find a formulation
for the subject of the realization of desire. To illustrate what I am saying,
if we pose directly the question of desire on the basis of that Parminedean
absolutism, which eliminates everything that is not being, then we will say,
nothing is from that which is not born, and all that exists lives only in the
lack of being.

请你们尝试想像「已经实现自己的欲望」会是意味著什么?它难道不是在最后,所谓的终于实现了它?就是死亡对于生命的这种逾越,给予它的动力,对于企图要找到阐释的问题,给实现欲望的主体。为了举例说明我正在说的东西,假如我们直接提出欲望的这个问题,根据巴门尼底斯的绝对主义的基础,它减掉一切并不存在的东西。那么我们将会说:没有一样东西的存在,是出诸于没有被诞生的东西; 所有存在的东西,仅是在存在的欠缺中生活著。


December 27, 2012

One finds at this frontier another crossing point, which enables us to locate
Precisely an element of the field of the beyond-the-good principle. That element,
as I have said, is the beautiful.


I just want to introduce you to the problematic today. I will limit myself
to two articulations.


Freud was extremely prudent in this connection. On the nature of the
creation that is manifested in the beautiful, the analyst has by his own admission
nothing to say. In the sphere that calculates the value of the work of art,
we find ourselves reduced to a position that isn’t even that of schoolchildren,
but of pickers up of crumbs. Moreover, that’s not all, and Freud’s text is
very weak on the topic. The definition he gives of sublimation at work in
artistic creation only manages to show us the reaction or repercussions of the
effects of what happens at the level of the sublimation of the drive, when the
result or the work of the creator of the beautiful reenters the field of goods,
that is to say, when they have become commodities. One must recognize that
the summary Freud gives of the artist’s career is practically grotesque. The
artist, he says, gives a beautiful form to the forbidden object in order that
everyone, by buying his little artistic product, rewards and sanctions his daring.
That is a way of shortcircuiting the problem. And Freud is perfectly
aware of the limits he imposes on himself in a way that is perfectly obvious
when the problem of creation – which he leaves aside as outside the range of
our experience – is added to it.


We are thus brought back again to all the pedantic thoughts that in the
course of centuries have been expressed about the beautiful.


Everyone knows that in every field those who have something to say–that
is in this case the creators of beauty – are understandably the most dissatisfied
by pedantic formulas. Yet something that has been expressed by almost
all of them, especially by the best but also at the level of common experience,
does make the rounds, namely, that there is a certain relationship between
beauty and desire.


This relationship is strange and ambiguous. On the one hand, it seems that
the horizon of desire may be eliminated from the register of the beautiful.
Yet, on the other hand, it has been no less apparent – from the thought of
antiquity down to Saint Thomas who has some valuable things to say on the
question – that the beautiful has the effect, I would say, of suspending, lowering,
disarming desire. The appearance of beauty intimidates and stops desire.

这个关系是奇怪而暧昧。在一方面,欲望的这个领域似乎可能会从美的铭记被减少。可是,另一方面,它同样显而易见。从古代的思想,到圣、汤玛斯,关于这个问题,他有某些有价值的话要说: 我不妨说,美具有悬置,降低,解除欲望的效用。美的出现让欲望受到惊吓与阻止。

That is not to say that on certain occasions beauty cannot be joined to
desire, but in a mysterious way, and in a form that I can do no better than
refer to by the term that bears within it the structure of the crossing of some
invisible line, i.e., outrage. Moreover, it seems that it is in the nature of the
beautiful to remain, as they say, insensitive to outrage, and that is by no
means one of the least significant elements of its structure.


I will show it to you then in the detail of analytical experience, show it to
you with pointers that will enable you to be alert to it when it occurs in an
analytical session. With the precision of a Geiger counter, you can pick it up
by means of references to the aesthetic register that the subject will give you
in his associations, in his broken, disconnected monologue, either in the form
of quotations or of memories from his schooldays. You don’t, of course, always
deal with creators, but you do deal with people who have had a relationship
to the conventional sphere of beauty. You can be sure that the more these
references become strangely sporadic and peremptory with relation to the
text of the discourse, the more they are correlative of something that makes
its presence felt at that moment, and that belongs to the register of a destructive
drive. It is at the very moment when a thought is clearly about to appear
in a subject, as in the narration of a dream for example, a thought that one
recognizes as aggressive relative to one of the fundamental terms of his subjective
constellation, that, depending on his nationality, he will make some
reference to a passage from the Bible, to an author, whether a classic or not,
or to some piece of music. I mention this today to show that we are not far
from the very text of our experience.


The beautiful in its strange function with relation to desire doesn’t take us
in, as opposed to the function of the good. It keeps us awake and perhaps
helps us adjust to desire insofar as it is itself linked to the structure of the


You can see this place illustrated by the fantasm. If there is “a good that
mustn’t be touched,” as I was saying earlier, the fantasm is “a beauty that
musn’t be touched,” in the structure of this enigmatic field.


The first side of this field is known to us, it is the side that along with the
pleasure principle prevents us from entering it, the side of pain.


We must ask ourselves what it is that constitutes that field. The death
drive, says Freud, primary masochism. But isn’t that to take too big a leap?
Is the pain that denies access to the side the whole content of the field? Are
all those who express demands for this field masochists after all? And I can
tell you right off, I don’t think so.


Masochism is a marginal phenomenon and it possesses something almost
caricatural that moral inquiry at the end of the nineteenth century has pretty
much laid bare. The economy of masochistic pain ends up looking like the
economy of goods. One wants to share pain as one shares heaps of other
things that are left over; and one even comes close to fighting over it.


But isn’t there something there that involves a panicky return to the dialectic
of goods? In truth, the whole behavior of the masochist – and I mean by
that the perverse masochist – points to the fact that it is a question of a
structural feature in his behavior. Read Mr. Sacher-Masoch. He’s an
enlightening writer, although he doesn’t have the stature of Sade, and you
will see that in the end the point aimed at by the position of the perverse
masochist is the desire to reduce himself to this nothing that is the good, to
this thing that is treated like an object, to this slave whom one trades back
and forth and whom one shares.


But one shouldn’t after all proceed too quickly to break inventive homonymy, and the fact the masochism has been called by this name for so long by psychoanalysis is not without reason. The unity that emerges from all the fields which analytical thought has labeled masochism has to do with the fact that in all these fields pain shares the character of a good.


We will continue our inquiry next time with relation to a document.


It’s not exactly a new document. Down through the centuries longwinded
commentators have cut their teeth and sharpened their nails on it. This text
appeared in the field where the morality of happiness was theorized and it
gives us its underlying structure. It is there that its underlying structure is
the most visible, there where it appears on the surface. That which over the
centuries has caused the greatest problems, from Aristotle down to Hegel
and Goethe, is a tragedy, one that Hegel considered the most perfect, but for
the wrong reason, namely, Antigone.


Antigone’s position relates to a criminal good. One would have to have a
character that was deeply out of touch with the cruelties of our time to attack
the subject, if I may say so, by focusing on the tyrant.


We will, therefore, take up the text of Antigone together, since it will enable
us to point to a fundamental moment, to reach an essential reference point in
our investigation of what it is man wants and what he defends himself against.
We will see what an absolute choice means, a choice that is motivated by no
May 18, 1960




December 27, 2012

Ethic 231
The Ethics of Psychoanalysis

Jacques Lacan


The function of the beautiful





It seemed to me this morning that it wasn’t inappropriate to begin my seminar
by asking the question, Have we crossed the line?


I don’t mean in what we are doing here, but in what is happening out there
in the world in which we live. It isn’t because what is occurring there makes
such a vulgar noise that we should refuse to hear it.


At a time when I am speaking to you about the paradox of desire – in the
sense that different goods obscure it – you can hear outside the awful language
of power. There’s no point in asking whether they are sincere or hypocritical,
whether they want peace or whether they calculate the risks. The
dominating impression at such a moment is that of something that may pass
for a prescribed good; information addresses and captures impotent crowds
to whom it is poured forth like a liquor that leaves them dazed as they move
toward the slaughter house. One might even ask if one would allow the cataclysm
to occur without first giving free reign to this hubbub of voices.


Is there anything more disconcerting than the transmission via those little
machines that we all possess of what are known as press conferences? Or, in
other words, questions that are stupidly repeated to which the leader replies
with a false casualness, while he calls for more interesting questions and even
on occasion engages in witticisms.


There was one somewhere yesterday, in Paris or in Brussels, that told us
about our gloomy future. I swear it was absurd. Don’t you think that the
only way to adjust our hearing to what is proclaimed may be formulated along
the lines of “What does it mean? What is it aiming at?” Yet everyone falls
asleep on the soft pillow of “It’s not possible” – whereas, in fact, nothing is
more possible, the possible is above all that. That’s possible because the possible
is that which can answer man’s demand, and because man doesn’t know
what he is setting in motion with his demand.


The frightening unknown on the other side of the line is that which in man
we call the unconscious, that is to say the memory of those things he forgets.
And the things he forgets – you can see in which way – are those things in
connection with which everything is arranged so that he doesn’t think about
them, i.e., stench and corruption that always yawn like an abyss. For life
after all is rottenness.


And it is even more so recently, since the anarchy of forms, that second
destruction that Sade was talking about the other day in the quotation I read
you – the destruction that calls for subversion even beyond the cycle of generation-
corruption – are for us pressing problems. The possibility of a second
destruction has suddenly become a tangible reality for us, including the threat
of anarchy at the level of the chromosomes of a kind that could break the ties
to given forms of life. Monsters obsessed a great deal those who up to the
eighteenth century still attributed a meaning to the word “Nature.” It has
been a long time since we accorded any importance to calves with six feet or
children with two heads. Yet we may now perhaps see them appear in the


That is why when we ask what is beyond the barrier erected by the structure
of the world of the good – where is the point on which this world of the
good turns, as we wait for it to drag us to our destruction – our question has
a meaning that you would do well to remember has a terrifying relevance.


What is beyond this barrier? Don’t forget that if we know there is a barrier
and that there is a beyond, we know nothing about what lies beyond.

超越这个阻碍之外是什么呢? 不要忘记,假如我们知道有一个阻碍,有一个超越之外,我们对超越以外的东西一无所知。

It is a false beginning to say, as on the basis of our experience some have,
that it is the world of fear. To center our life, even our religion, on fear as a
final term is an error. Fear with its ghosts is a localizable defense, a protection
against something that is beyond, and which is precisely something unknown
to us.


It is at the moment when these things are possible but wrapped in the
injunction “Thinking about them is prohibited,” that it is appropriate to
point out the distance and the proximity that links this possible to those
extraordinary texts that I have chosen this year as the fulcrum of my proof,
namely, Sade’s works.


One doesn’t have to read very far for this collection of horrors to engender
incredulity and disgust in us, and it is only fleetingly, in a brief flash, that
such images may cause something strange to vibrate in us which we call perverse
desire, insofar as the darker side of natural Eros enters into it.


In the end, any imaginary or indeed real relationship to the research appropriate
to perverse desire only suggests the incapacity of natural desire, of the
natural desire of the senses, to go very far in this direction. On this path, this
desire quickly gives up, is the first to give up. It is no doubt understandable
if modern man’s thought seeks the beginning, the trace, the point of departure
there, the path toward self-knowledge, toward the mystery of desire,
but, on the other hand, all the fascination that this beginning exercises over
both scientific and literary studies – witness for example the revels to be
found in the works of the not untalented author of Sexus, Plexus and Nexus1
-founders on a rather sterile pleasure-taking. We must be lacking in the
proper method, if everything that has been elaborated on the topic by writers
or scientists was outdistanced in advance some time ago, was rendered thoroughly
outdated by the lucubrations of someone who was only after all a
country squire, a social example of the degeneration of the nobility at a time
when its privileges were about to be abolished.


It is nevertheless the case that Sade’s extraordinary catalogue of horrors,
which causes not only the senses and human possibilities but the imagination,
too, to flinch, is nothing at all compared to what will, in effect, be seen on a
collective scale, if the great and very real explosion occurs that threatens us
all. The only difference between Sade’s exorbitant descriptions and such a
catastrophe is that no pleasure will enter into the motivation of the latter.
Not perverts but bureaucrats will set things off, and we won’t even know if
their intentions were good or bad. Things will go off by command; they will
be carried through according to regulations, mechanically, down the chain of
command, with human wills bent, abolished, overcome, in a task that ceases
to have any meaning. That task will be the elimination of an incalculable
waste that reveals its constant and final dimension for man.


Let us not forget that that has, in effect, always been one of the dimensions
in which we can recognize what a fond dreamer once charmingly referred to
as “the humanization of the planet.” There’s never any problem in recognizing
man’s passage through the world, his footstep, mark, trace, touch; there
where one finds a huge accumulation of oyster shells, only man can have
manifestly been. The geological ages have left their waste, too, waste that
allows us to recognize order. But the pile of garbage is one of the sides of the
human dimension that it would be wrong to mistake.


Having sketched the outlines of this sepulchral mound at the limit of the
politics of the good, of the general good, of the good of the community, we
will pick up again where we left off last time.


What is the sphere of the search for the good composed of, once it has been
undeceived of the error of judgment that I cited by way of example in Saint


His reasoning is as follows: it is by the mental process of the subtraction
°f the good from the good that one ends up refuting the existence of anything
else but the good in being, given that that which remains, since it is more
perfect than that which previously was, can in no way be evil. Saint Augustine’s
reasoning here is calculated to surprise us, and we cannot help wondering
what the historical emergence of such a form of thought signifies. It’s a
question I will leave open.


Last time we defined the good in symbolic creation as the initium that is
the point of departure of the human subject’s destiny in his coming to terms
with the signifier. The true nature of the good, its profound duplicity, has to
do with the fact that it isn’t purely and simply a natural good, the response
to a need, but possible power, the power to satisfy. As a result, the whole
relation of man to the real of goods is organized relative to the power of the
other, the imaginary other, to deprive him of it.


Let us recall the terms around which, in the first year of my seminar devoted
to Freud’s Technical Writings, I organized the ideal ego and the ego ideal,
terms that I represented in my graph. The big I designates the identification
of omnipotence with the signifier, with the ego ideal. On the other hand, as
image of the other, it is the Urbild of the ego, the original form on the basis
of which the ego models itself, sets itself up, and operates under the auspices
of pseudomastery. We will now define the ego ideal of the subject as representing
the power to do good, which then opens up within itself the beyond
that concerns us today. How is it that as soon as everything is organized
around the power to do good, something completely enigmatic appears and
returns to us again and again from our own action – like the ever-growing
threat within us of a powerful demand whose consequences are unknown?
As for the ideal ego, which is the imaginary other who faces us at the same
level, it represents by itself the one who deprives us.


At these two poles of the structuralization of the world of goods, what is it
we see outlined?


On the one hand, starting with the unveiling with which the revelation of
classical philosophy terminates, that is to say, starting with the point at which
Hegel is said to have been stood on his feet, the social conflict proves to be
the thread which gives meaning to the enlightened segment of history in the
classical sense of the term.


On the other hand, at the other end, there appears something that looks to
us like a question offering hope.


Scientific research conducted in what is problematically referred to as the
“human sciences” has revealed that for a very long time, outside the domain
of classical history, man in non-historical societies has, it is believed, invented
a practice conceived to have a salutary function in the maintenance of intersubjective
relations. In my eyes this is like the little stone that was miraculously made to inform us that not everything is caught up in the necessary dialectic of the competition for goods, of the conflict between goods, and of the necessary catastrophe that it gives rise to, and that, moreover, in the world we are exploring, there have existed signs that positively show how men have thought that the destruction of goods as such might be a function expressive of value.


I assume you are all well enough informed so that I don’t have to remind
you what a potlatch is. Let me just note briefly that it concerns ritual ceremonies
involving the extensive destruction of a variety of goods, consumer
goods as well as luxury goods and goods for display. The practice is found in
societies that are now no more than relics, vestiges of a form of human social
existence that our expansion has tended to wipe out. The potlatch bears witness
to man’s retreat from goods, a retreat which enabled him to link the
maintenance and discipline of his desire, so to speak – insofar as this is what
concerns him in his destiny – to the open destruction of goods, that were
both personal and collective property. The problem and the drama of the
economy of the good, its ricochets and rebounds, all turn on this point.


Furthermore, as soon as that key is given us, we clearly see that it is not
simply the privilege of primitive societies. I couldn’t find today the piece of
paper on which I noted that at the beginning of the twelfth century – that
through courtly love marked the rise to the surface in European culture of a
problematic of desire as such – we see appear in a feudal rite the manifestation
of something wholly analogous. The rite in question occurred at a festival,
a meeting of barons somewhere in the region of Narbonne, and it involved
huge destruction, not only of the goods that were consumed directly as part
of the festivities, but also of animals and harnesses. Everything occurred as
if the foregrounding of the problematic of desire required as its necessary
correlative the need for ostentatious forms of destruction, insofar as they are
gratuitous. Those who in the community claim to be privileged subjects,
feudal Lords, those who set themselves up as such in this ceremony, throw
down challenges to each other, rival each other in attempting to destroy the


This is at the other extreme the only example we have of the order of
destruction that is carried out consciously and in a controlled way, that is to
say, in a very different way from that massive destruction which we have all
witnessed, given that we belong to generations that are relatively close to it.
This latter destruction seems to us to be an inexplicable accident, a resurgence
of savagery, whereas it is rather necessarily linked to the leading edge
of our discourse.


A new problem arises for us, one that even Hegel found obscure. For a
long time in The Phenomenology of Mind, Hegel tried to articulate the problem
of human history in terms of conflicts between discourses. The tragedy of Antigone especially appealed to him because he saw the clear opposition there between the discourse of the family and that of the state. But in my opinion things are much less clear.


As far as we are concerned, we find in the discourse of the community, of
the general good, the effects of a scientific discourse in which we see revealed
for the first time the power of the signifier as such. That question is our very
own. As far as we are concerned, the question raised is subsumed beneath
the order of thought that I am trying to present to you here.


The sudden, prodigious development of the power of the signifier, of the
discourse that emerged from the little letters of mathematics and that is distinct
from all previously existing discourses, becomes an additional alienation.
In what way? Insofar as it is a discourse that by reason of its structure
forgets nothing. That is why it is different from the discourse of primary
memorization, which carries on inside us without our knowledge, different
from the memorizing discourse of the unconscious whose center is absent,
whose place is identified through the phrase “he didn’t know,” that is precisely
the sign of that fundamental omission in which the subject is situated.
At a certain moment in time, man learned to emit and place the discourse of
mathematics in circulation, in the real as well as in the world, and that discourse
cannot function unless nothing is forgotten. It only takes a little signifying
chain to begin to function based on this principle, for things to move
forward as if they were functioning by themselves. So much so that we even
wonder if the discourse of physics, as engendered by the omnipotence of the
signifier, will reach the point of the integration of nature or its disintegration.


This fact strangely complicates the problem of our desire, even if it is
doubtless no more than one of its phases. Let us just say that, as far as the
man who is talking to you is concerned, it is there that one finds the revelation
of the decisive and original character of the place where human desire is
situated in the relationship of man to the signifier. Should this relationship
be destroyed?

这个事实奇特地让我们欲望的问题复杂化,甚至无可置疑地,它仅是它的其中一个部份。让我们仅是说: 就正在跟你们谈论的这个人而言,就在那里,我们发现这个启示,这个位置具有决定性与原创性的特性的启示。在那里,人类的欲望被定位在人跟能指的关系。这个关系应该被毁灭吗?

I take it that you might have heard in the report we had on the contribution
of one of Freud’s disciples – an open-minded and cultured man, but not
exactly a genius – that it is in that direction that the question of the meaning
of the death drive lies. It is insofar as this question is tied to history that the
problem is raised. It is a question of the here and now, and not ad aetemum.
It is because the movement of desire is in the process of crossing the line of
a kind of unveiling that the advent of the Freudian notion of the death drive
is meaningful for us. The question is raised at the level of the relationship of
the human being to the signifier as such, to the extent that at the level of the
signifier every cycle of being may be called into question, including life in its
movement of loss and return.


And it is this that gives a no less tragic meaning to something that we
analysts are the bearers of. In its own cycle the unconscious now appears to
us as the field of a non-knowledge, even though it is locatable as such. Yet in
this field where we have to function everyday, we cannot fail to recognize the
following fact that every child could understand.


The desire of the man of good will is to do good, to do the right thing, and
he who comes to seek you out, does so in order to feel good, to be in agreement
with himself, to identify with or be in conformity with some norm.
Now you all know what we nevertheless find in the margin, but also perhaps
at the limit of that which occurs on the level of the dialectic and progress of
the knowledge of the unconscious. In the irreducible margin as well as at the
limit of his own good, the subject reveals himself to the never entirely resolved
mystery of the nature of his desire.


The reference the subject makes to some other seems quite absurd, when
we see him continually refer to the other – and we certainly see more than a
few of these others – as if he were someone who lives harmoniously and who
in any case is happier than the analysand, doesn’t ask any questions, and
sleeps soundly in his bed. We don’t need to see this other come and lie down
on our couch, however solid and together he may be, to know that this mirage,
this reference of the dialectic of the good to a beyond that, by way of illustration,
I will call “the good that mustn’t be touched,” is the very text of our


I would even add that this register of a jouissance as that which is only
accessible to the other is the only dimension in which we can locate the strange
malaise that, if I’m not mistaken, only the German language has managed to
point to – along with other psychological nuances concerning the gap in man
– with the word Lebensneid.

我甚至要补充,「欢爽」jouissance的这个铭记,作为是仅有他者能够接近的东西。它是唯一的维度,我们能够找出这个奇怪的病痛的位置。假如我没有弄错的话,仅有德文的语言成功地指出它—带有其他的心理的细微差别,关于人身上的这个差距。那就是 lebensneid (妒忌)这个字词。

Lebensneid is not an ordinary jealousy, it is the jealousy born in a subject
in his relation to an other, insofar as this other is held to enjoy a certain form
of jouissance or superabundant vitality, that the subject perceives as something
that he cannot apprehend by means of even the most elementary of
affective movements. Isn’t it strange, very odd, that a being admits to being
jealous of something in the other to the point of hatred and the need to destroy,
jealous of something that he is incapable of apprehending in any way, by any
intuitive path? The identification of this other virtually in the form of a concept
may in itself suffice to provoke the movement of malaise concerned; and
I don’t think one has to be an analyst to see such disturbing undulations
passing through subjects’ behaviors.

Lebensneid 并不是普通的妒忌。它是出生于主体身上的妒嫉,由于他跟一位他者的关系。因为这个他者被认为是享有某种形式的「欢爽」jouissance, 或是丰沛澎湃的活力。主体感受到这个活力,作为是某件他无法理解的东西,甚至凭借最基本的情感活动。这难道不是很奇特,很古怪的吗?一个生命实存承认妒嫉某件在他者的东西,甚至到达妒恨与需要毁灭它的程度。他妒嫉某件他无论如何无法理解的东西,凭借任何直觉的途径?对于这个几乎是观念形态的他者的认同,它本身就足够引起相关的病痛的运动。我不认为我们必须是一位精神分析家,我们才会看出如此令人困扰的波浪起伏,在主体的各种行为中通过。

Now we have reached the frontier. What will enable us to cross it?



December 7, 2012




哲学家尼采在「苏鲁支语录」有更明确的比喻:「人是一条繫于野兽与超人之间的绳子,一条深渊之上的绳子。一个危险的越过,一个危险的途中,一个危险的回顾,一个危险的颤栗与停顿。人之伟大,在于他是一个桥梁,而非是目的。人之可爱,在于他是一个序曲,一个过渡。」Man is a rope between beast and superman—a rope over an abyss, a dangerous across, a dangerous on-the-way, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous shuddering and stopping. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end. What can be loved in man is that he is an overture and a going under.

但是他在「道德系谱学」研究苦行僧ascetic时的结论却是:「人宁可以空无为目标,不能没有目标」。Man would sooner have the void for the purpose than be void of purpose。


拉康在「精神分析四个基本观念」探讨冲动drive时,亦区分目的物object与目标aim。观看他所画的图形基模,所谓目标aim 倒像是环绕小客体的途中。文本是这样说的:「当你信任某个人一个任务时,目标aim并不是他带回来的东西,而是他必须旅行过的路线。目标就是被旅行过的途中。法文的but,可以被翻译成为英文的另外一个字目的物goal。在射弓箭时,目的物也并不是but。它并非是你射中的鸟,它曾经获得一个射中,因此获得你的but。」When you entrust someone with a mission, the aim is not what he brings back, but the itinerary he must take. The aim is the way taken. The French word but may be translated by another word in English, goal. In archery, the goal is not the but either, and thereby attained your but.