Archive for February, 2013

Ethic 142

February 24, 2013

Ethic 142

The Ethics of Psychoanalysis

Jacques Lacan






It is remarkable that the experience of what goes on in the neurotic caused
Freud to leap to the level of the poetic creation of art, to the drama of Oedipus,
insofar as it is something datable in the history of culture. You will see
this when we take up Moses and Monotheism, which I asked you to read during
our break. There is in Freud no distance from the facts of the Judeo-
Greek experience, and I mean by that those that characterize our culture in
its most modern everyday life.


It is equally striking that Freud couldn’t fail to pursue his reflection on the
origins of morality to the point of examining Moses’ action. When you read
the astonishing work that is Moses and Monotheism, you will see that Freud
cannot help revealing the duplicity of his reference, of the reference that I
have declared to you over the years to be the essential reference, namely, the
No / Name-of-the-Father in its signifying function.


From a formal point of view, Freud makes recourse to paternal power for
a structuring purpose that appears to be a sublimation. He emphasizes, in
the same text in which he leaves at a distance the primordial trauma of the
murder of the father – and without worrying about the contradiction – that
this sublimation emerges at a given historical date against the background of
a visible, evident fear that she who engenders is the mother. There is, he tells
us, genuine progress in spirituality in affirming the function of the father,
namely, of him of whom one is never sure. This recognition implies a whole
mental elaboration. To introduce as primordial the function of the father
represents a sublimation. But, Freud asks, how can one conceive of this leap,
this progress, since, in order to introduce it, it was necessary that something
appear that imposes its authority and its reality from outside?


He himself underlines the impasse constituted by the fact that sublimation
exists, but that such sublimation can only be motivated historically by means
of the myth to which it has recourse. At that point the function of myth
becomes evident. In truth, this myth is nothing other than something that is
inscribed in the clearest of terms in the spiritual reality of our time, namely,
the death of God. It is as a function of the death of God that the murder of
the father which represents it in the most direct way is introduced by Freud
as a modern myth.


It is a myth that has all the properties of a myth. That is to say that it
doesn’t explain anything, any more than any other myth. As I pointed out in
citing Levi-Strauss and especially in referring to that which buttresses his
own formulation of the issue, myth is always a signifying system or scheme,
if you like, which is articulated so as to support the antimonies of certain
psychic relations. And this occurs at a level which is not simply that of individual
anguish and which is not exhausted either in a construction presupposing
the collectivity, but which assumes its fullest possible dimension.


We suppose that it concerns the individual and also the collectivity, but
there is no such opposition between them at the level involved. For it is a
matter here of the subject insofar as he suffers from the signifier. It is in this
passion of the signifier that the critical point emerges, and its anguish is no
more than an intermittent emotion that plays the role of an occasional signal.
Freud brought to the question of the source of morality the invaluable
significance implied in the phrase Civilization and Its Discontents or, in other
words, the breakdown by means of which a certain psychic function, the
superego, seems to find in itself its own exacerbation, as the result of a kind
of malfunctioning of the brakes which should limit its proper authority. It
remains to be seen how within this breakdown in the depths of the psychic
life the instincts may find their proper sublimation.


But to begin with, what is the possibility we call sublimation? Given the
time at our disposal, I am not in a position to take you through the virtually
absurd difficulties that authors have encountered every time they have tried to give a meaning to the term “sublimation.” I would nevertheless like one of you to go to the Bibliothique Nationale, look up Bernfeld’s article in volume VIII of Imago entitled “Bemerkungen iiber Sublimierung,” [“Observations on Sublimation”], and give us a summary of it here.


Bernfeld was a particularly powerful mind of the second generation, and
in the end the weaknesses of his articulation of the problem of sublimation
are of a kind that will prove illuminating. He is first of all quite troubled by
Freud’s reference to the fact that the operations of sublimation are always
ethically, culturally, and socially valorized. This criterion, external to psychoanalysis,
certainly creates a difficulty, and on account of its extra-psychological
character clearly merits to be emphasized and criticized. But as we
will see, this character causes less difficulty than at first appears.


On the other hand, the contradiction between the Zielablenkung side of the
Strebung, of the Trieb or drive, and the fact that that takes place in a domain
which is that of the object libido, also poses all kinds of problems for Bernfeld
– problems that he resolves with the extreme clumsiness which characterizes
everything that has so far been said on the analysis of sublimation.

在另一方面,在冲动的Zielablenkung 的这一面,发生在客体力比多的领域的这个事实也通过各种的困难,对于博费德。他极端笨拙解决的这些问题,表现一切都特色,迄今曾经被说过的有关升华的分析的特色。

According to him, at the point he reached around 1923-1924, we must
start from the part of the instinct that may be employed for the ends of the
ego, for the Ichziele, in order to define sublimation. And he goes on to give
examples whose naivete is striking. He refers to a certain little Robert Walter,
who like many children tries his hand at poetry even before puberty. And
what does he tell us on the subject? That to be a poet is an Ichziel for the
boy. It is in relation to that choice fixed very early that everything that follows
will be judged, namely, the way in which at the onset of puberty the upheaval
of his libidinal economy, which is clinically perceptible although quite confused
in this case, will be seen to be gradually integrated into the Ichziel. In
particular, his activity as a little poet and his fantasms, which were quite
separate at the beginning, come to be progressively coordinated.


Bernfeld thus assumes the primordial, primitive character of the goal set
by the child to become a poet. And a similar argument is to be found in the
other, equally instructive examples he gives us – some of which concern the
function of the Vemeimmgen, of the negations that occur spontaneously among
groups of children. He was, in effect, very interested in this question in a
publication devoted to the problems of youth for which he was responsible
at the time.


The important point to note on the subject is the following, and it is something
that is to be found in all formulations of the problem, including Freud’s.
Freud points out that once the artist has carried out an operation on the level
of sublimation, he finds himself to be the beneficiary of his operation insofar
as it is acclaimed after the fact; it brings in its wake in the form of glory,
honor, and even money, those fantasmic satisfactions that were at the origin of the instinct, with the result that the latter finds itself satisfied by means of


That is all well and good as long as we assume that the already established
function of poet exists on the outside. It seems to be taken for granted that
especially among those whom Bernfeld calls eminent men, a little child might
choose to become a poet as an ego goal. It is true that he hastens to add
parenthetically that, in using the expression “hervorragender Mensch,” eminent
man, he is divesting it as much as possible of all connotations of value
– something that is very strange as soon as one starts to talk of eminence. To
be frank, the dimension of the eminent personality cannot be eliminated.
And we see that, in fact, in Moses and Monotheism it isn’t eliminated by Freud,
but thrust into the foreground.


What needs to be justified is not simply the secondary benefits that individuals
might derive from their works, but the originary possibility of a function
like the poetic function in the form of a structure within a social consensus.
Well now, it is precisely that kind of consensus we see born at a certain
historical moment around the ideal of courtly love. For a certain highly
restricted circle, that ideal is to be found at the origin of a moral code, including
a whole series of modes of behavior, of loyalties, measures, services, and
exemplary forms of conduct. And if that interests us so directly, it is because
its central point was an erotics.



Ethic 139

February 23, 2013

Ethic 139

The Ethics of Psychoanalysis

Jacques Lacan


Courtly love as anamorphosis






Why is this example of anamorphosis on this table?’ It is here to illustrate
my ideas.


Last Time I sketched out the meaning or the goal of art in the usual sense
we give that term – the fine arts, for example. I’m not the only psychoanalyst
to have been interested in that. I’ve already mentioned Ella Sharpe’s article
on the subject of sublimation, an article that starts out with the cave walls of
Altamira, which is the earliest decorated cave to have been discovered. Perhaps
what we described as the central place, as the intimate exteriority or
“extimacy,” that is the Thing, will help us to shed light on the question or
mystery that remains for those who are interested in prehistoric art, namely,
its site as such.


It is surprising that an underground cavern was chosen. Such a site only
creates obstacles to the viewing that one assumes is presupposed by the creation
and observation of the striking images which decorate the walls. The
production of images and their viewing could not have been easy given the
forms of lighting available to primitive men. Yet in the beginning those paintings
that we take to be the earliest productions of primitive art were thrown
up on the walls of a cavern.


One could call them tests in both senses of the word, subjective and objective.
Tests no doubt for the artist, for, as you know, these images are often
painted over each other; it’s as if in a consecrated spot it represented, for
each subject capable of undertaking such an exercise, the opportunity to draw
or project afresh what he needed to bear witness to, and to do so moreover
over what had already been done before. That suggests the idea of something
like the updating of a certain creative potential. Tests also in the objective
sense, for these images cannot fail to seize us as being deeply linked both in
a tight relationship to the world – and by that I mean to the very subsistence
of populations that seem to have been composed chiefly of hunters – and to
something that in its subsistence appears as possessing the character of a
beyond of the sacred – something that we are precisely trying to identify in
its most general form by the term, the Thing. I would say it is primitive
subsistence viewed from the perspective of the Thing.


There is a line which runs from that point to the other end, infinitely closer
to us, in the exercise of anamorphosis, probably around the beginning of the
seventeenth century. And I pointed out the interest that exercises of this kind
had for the constructive thought of artists. I tried to make you understand
briefly how the genesis of this tradition might be sketched.


In the same way that the exercise on the wall consists in fixing the invisible
inhabitant of the cavern, we see the link forged between the temple, as a
construction around emptiness that designates the place of the Thing, to the
figuration of emptiness on the walls of this emptiness itself – to the extent
that painting progressively learns to master this emptiness, to take such a
tight hold of it that painting becomes dedicated to fixing it in the form of the
illusion of space.


I am moving fast and I just throw out these crumbs so that you can put
them to the test of whatever you may subsequently read on the subject.


Before the systematic establishment of geometrical laws of perspective formulated
at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth centuries,
painting passed through a stage in which various artifices made it possible
to structure space. The double band that appears in the sixth and seventh
centuries on the walls of Santa Maria Maggiore is one way of treating certain
stereognoses. But let’s leave that aside. The important thing is that at a given
moment one arrives at illusion. Around it one finds a sensitive spot, a lesion,
a locus of pain, a point of reversal of the whole of history, insofar as it is the
history of art and insofar as we are implicated in it; that point concerns the
notion that the illusion of space is different from the creation of emptiness.
It is this that the appearance of anamorphoses at the end of sixteenth and the
beginning of the seventeenth centuries represents.

在十五世纪末与十六世纪初,被阐释的几何学的透视法的法则被系统化建立之前,图画经历一个阶段。在这个阶段,各种的人为的技巧让空间的架构成为可能。在十六与十七世纪,出现在桑塔、玛丽亚 玛吉奥瑞修女院的墙壁的这个双重的宽带,是一种处理立体触感的方式。但是让我们将那个放置一旁。重要的事情是,在某个特定时刻,我们获得幻象。环绕这个幻象,我们找到一个敏感的地点,一个病变地区,痛苦的焦点,整个历史的倒转点。因为它是艺术的历史,因我们被牵涉到它里面。那个点跟这个观念有关:空间的幻象不同于空洞的创造。在十六世纪末与十七世纪初的变形的出现,就是代表这个。

I spoke last time of a Jesuit convent; it was a mistake. I checked in Baltrusaitis’s
excellent dictionary of anamorphoses, and it is a convent of the Minim
Friars in Rome as well as in Paris. I don’t know why I also placed Holbein’s
Ambassadors in the Louvre, when the painting is in the National Gallery in
London. You will find in Baltrusaitis’s book a subtle study of that painting
and of the skull that emerges when, having passed in front of it, you leave
the room by a door located so that you see it in its sinister truth, at the very
moment when you turn around to look at it for the last time.

我上次谈到耶稣教会的修女院,那是个错误。我查阅Baltrusaitis 的优秀字典,有关变形。那是在罗马与巴黎的Minim修道院。我不知道为什么我也将霍宾Holbein的「大使」放置在罗浮宫,实际上,这幅图画是在伦敦的国家美术陈列馆。你们将会在Baltrusaitis的字典找到一个详细的研究,对于那幅图画,以及出现的头颅。当你们从它的前面经过,你们从当地的门边离开房间,你们以一个古怪的真相看见它,就在你们转过头,最后一次看见它。

Thus, as I say, the interest of anamorphosis is described as a turning point
when the artist completely reverses the use of that illusion of space, when he
forces it to enter into the original goal, that is to transform it into the support
of the hidden reality – it being understood that, to a certain extent, a work
of art always involves encircling the Thing.


This also allows us to approach a little closer to the unanswered question
on the ends of art: is the end of art imitation or non-imitation? Does art
imitate what it represents? If you begin by posing the question in those terms,
you are already caught in the trap, and there is no way out of remaining in
the impasse in which we find ourselves between figurative and so-called abstract


We can only sense the aberradon that is articulated in the unyielding position
of the philosopher; Plato places art at the lowest level among human
works, since for him everything that exists only exists in relation to the idea,
which is the real. Everything that exists is already no more than an imitation
of a more-than-real, of a surreal. If art imitates, it is shadow of a shadow,
imitation of an imitation. You can, therefore, see the vanity of the work of
art, of the work of the brush.


That’s a trap one must not enter. Of course, works of art imitate the objects
they represent, but their end is certainly not to represent them. In offering
the imitation of an object, they make something different out of that object.
Thus they only pretend to imitate. The object is established in a certain relationship
to the Thing and is intended to encircle and to render both present and absent.


Everybody knows this. At the moment when painting turns once again
upon itself, at the moment when Cizanne paints his apples, it is clear that in
painting those apples, he is doing something very different from imitating
apples – even though his final manner of imitating them, which is the most
striking, is primarily oriented toward a technique of presenting the object.
But the more the object is presented in the imitation, the more it opens up
the dimension in which illusion is destroyed and aims at something else.
Everyone knows that there is a mystery in the way Cezanne paints apples,
for the relationship to the real as it is renewed in art at that moment makes
the object appear purified; it involves a renewal of its dignity by means of
which these imaginary insertions are, one might say, repetitively restated.
The fact is, as has been noted, such insertions cannot be detached from the
efforts of earlier artists to realize the ends of art in their own way.


Obviously, the notion of historicity should not be used here without great
caution. The expression “history of art” is highly misleading. Every appearance
of this way of proceeding consists in overthrowing the illusory operation
so as to return to the original end, which is to project a reality that is not that
of the object represented. In the history of art, on the other hand, by virtue
of the necessity that supports it, there is only substructure. The relation of
the artist to the time in which he appears is always a contradictory one. It is
against the current, in opposition to reigning norms – including, for example,
political norms, or indeed, systems of thought – that art attempts to operate
its miracle once more.


With the anamorphosis I have here, we find ourselves faced with a game
that may seem futile to you, when you think of the sophisticated operational
techniques required for the success of such a little artifact. And yet how can
one not be touched or even moved when faced with this thing in which the
image takes a rising and descending form? When faced with this sort of syringe
which, if I really let myself go, would seem to me to be a kind of apparatus
for taking a blood sample, a blood sample of the Grail? But don’t forget that
the blood of the Grail is precisely what is lacking.


The argument I have been developing thus far in my lecture should be
interpreted only in a metaphorical way. I have only been following this line
of argument because I want to discuss today that form of sublimation which
appeared at a certain moment in the history of poetry, and which interests us
in an exemplary way in connection with something that Freudian thought
has placed at the center of our interest in the economy of the psyche, namely,
Eros and eroticism.


I just wanted to point it out to you at the beginning: you might almost
structure around this anamorphosis the ideas I am sketching out for you on
the subject of the ethics of psychoanalysis. It is something that is wholly
founded on the forbidden reference that Freud encountered at the terminal
point of what in his thought one might call the Oedipus myth.



Ethic 134

February 21, 2013

Ethic 134
The Ethics of Psychoanalysis

Jacques Lacan
χ Marginal comments
第十章 边缘的评论


Es 的原初性

Neither science nor religion is of a kind to save the Thing or to give it to us,
because the magic circle that separates us from it is imposed by our relation
to the signifier. As I have told you, the Thing is that which in the real suffers
from this fundamental, initial relation, which commits man to the ways of
the signifier by reason of the fact that he is subjected to what Freud calls the
pleasure principle, and which, I hope it is clear in your minds, is nothing else
than the dominance of the signifier – I, of course, mean the true pleasure
principle as it functions in Freud.


In brief, it is the effect of the influence of the signifier on the psychic real
that is involved, and it is for this reason that the activity of sublimation is not
purely and simply senseless in all its forms – one responds with whatever is
at hand.


I wanted to have here today, so as to be able to show it to you at the end
of the Seminar, an object that to be understood, if not to be described, demands
a long commentary on the history of art. That one managed to construct such
an object and to find pleasure in it requires that we make a significant detour.
I will describe it to you. It is an object that embodies an anamorphosis. I
assume that many of you know what that is. It is any kind of construction
that is made in such a way that by means of an optical transposition a certain
form that wasn’t visible at first sight transforms itself into a readable image.
The pleasure is found in seeing its emergence from an indecipherable form.
Such a thing is extremely widespread in the history of art. Just go to the
Louvre; you will see Holbein’s painting of The Ambassadors and at the feet
of one of the two men, who is just as well built as you or I, you will see an
enigmatic form stretched out on the ground. It looks roughly like fried eggs.
If you place yourself at a certain angle from which the painting itself disappears
in all its relief by reason of the converging lines of its perspective, you
will see a death’s head appear, the sign of the classic theme of vanitas. And
this is found in a proper painting, a painting commissioned by the ambassadors
in England, who must have been very pleased with his work; and what
was at the bottom must have amused them a lot, too.

为了要在这个研讨班结束时,能够跟你们显示它,今天在此我想要拥有一个目标。为了被理解,估且不说是被描述,这个目标要求对于艺术的历史从事漫长的评论。我们成功于建构这样一个目标,并且在它里面找到快乐,要求我们应该从事一个重要的迂迴。我将跟你们描述它。这一个目标具体表现一个变形图像。我假定你们许多人都知道那个变形图像是什么。这是任何种类的建构以这样一种方式形成。凭借着视觉的调换,乍然一看,某种无法看见的形式,转变自己成为可阅读的意象。这种快乐被找到,当我们看见它以无法解释的形式出现。在艺术的历史上,这样一种事情是极端广泛的。你们只要前往罗浮宫,你们就会发现霍宾的「大使」画像。在两位大使的其中一位,他们跟你们或我一样身体魁梧。你们将会看出一个谜团一般的形状伸展在地上。它看起来有点像是煎蛋。假如你们放在自己处于某个角度,从那个角度,图像本身消失,以它所有的浮雕,由于它的透视法的汇集的线条。你们将会看见一个死人的头颅出现。这是「浮世绘」vanitas 的古典的主题的迹象。在典型的浮世绘图画都可发现,在英国,大使们委任的一幅图像。这些大使当时对他的作品一定非常满意。对于图像底端的东西,他们一定也颇感興趣。

This phenomenon is datable. It was in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
that things reached this point of heightened interest and even of fascination.
In a chapel built by order of the Jesuits in Descartes’s time, there
existed a whole wall some eighteen meters long that represented a scene from
the life of the saints or a nativity scene, and that was completely unreadable
from any point in the room, but if one entered by a certain corridor, you can
see for a brief moment the extraordinarily dispersed lines come together and
perceive the body of the scene.


The anamorphosis I wanted to bring here is much less voluminous. It belongs
to the collector I have already referred to. It is formed of a polished cylinder
that has the function of a mirror, and around it you put a kind of bib or flat
surface on which there are also indecipherable lines. When you stand at a
certain angle, you see the image concerned emerge in the cylindrical mirror;
in this case it is a beautiful anamorphosis of a painting of the crucifixion
copied from Rubens.


This object could never have been produced, never have had a necessary
meaning without a whole preceding development. There is behind it the whole
history of architecture as well as that of painting, their combination and the
history of this combination.


To put it briefly, primitive architecture can be defined as something organized
around emptiness. That is also the authentic impression that the forms of a cathedral like Saint Mark’s give us, and it is the true meaning of all architecture. Then subsequently, for economic reasons, one is satisfied with
painting images of that architecture, one learns to paint architecture on the
walls of architecture; and painting, too, is first of all something that is organized
around emptiness. Since it is a matter of finding once more the sacred
emptiness of architecture in the less marked medium of painting, the attempt
is made to create something that resembles it more and more closely, that is
to say, perspective is discovered.


The following stage is paradoxical and quite amusing; it shows how one
strangles oneself with one’s own knots.


From the moment when perspective was discovered in painting, a form of
architecture appears that adopts the perspectivism of painting. Palladio’s art,
for example, makes this very obvious. Go and see Palladio’s theater in Vicenze,
a little masterpiece of its kind that is in any case instructive and exemplary.
Neoclassical architecture submits itself to the laws of perspective, plays with
them, and makes them its own. That is, it places them inside of something
that was done in painting in order to find once again the emptiness of primitive


From that point on one is entangled in a knot which seems to flee increasingly
from the meaning of this emptiness. And I believe that the Baroque
return to the play of forms, to all manner of devices, including anamorphosis,
is an effort to restore the true meaning of artistic inquiry; artists use the
discovery of the property of lines to make something emerge that is precisely
there where one has lost one’s bearings or, strictly speaking, nowhere.


Rubens’ painting that suddenly appears in the place of the unintelligible
image reveals what is at issue here. At issue, in an analogical or anamorphic
form, is the effort to point once again to the fact that what we seek in the
illusion is something in which the illusion as such in some way transcends
itself, destroys itself, by demonstrating that it is only there as a signifier.
And it is this which lends primacy to the domain of language above all,
since with language we only ever have to do with the signifier in all cases.
That is why in raising the problems of the relationship of art to sublimation,
I will begin with courtly love. One finds there texts which show in an exemplary
way its conventional side, in the sense that language always involves
artifice relative to anything intuitive, material or lived.


This phenomenon is all the more striking since we see it develop at a period
of uninhibited fucking. I mean that they didn’t attempt to hide it, didn’t
mince their words.


The coexistence of two styles on the subject is the remarkable thing.
You introduce the idea of the Thing and the Non-Thing. It is, if you like,
true that the Thing is also the Non-Thing. In reality, the Non- as such is
certainly not individualized in a significant way. Exactly the same problem is
posed by the Freudian notion of Todestrieb, whereas Freud tells us at the
same time that there is no negation in the unconscious.

在主体身上, 两种风格的共存是明显的事情。你们介绍物象与这个「非存在物象」的这个观念。不妨说,这个物象确实是「非存在物象」。实际上,这个「非存在」的本身,确实没有以重要的方式个体化。确实是相同的问题被提出,作为浮洛依德的死亡冲动Todestrieb 的观念。虽然浮洛依德同时告诉我们,在无意识并没有否定。

We don’t make a philosophy out of it. I remind you of the notion that I
modified the other day, so as not to give the impression that I don’t accept
my responsibilities: when I talk about the Thing, I am certainly talking about
something. But I am, of course, talking operationally, with reference to the
place that it occupies in a certain logical stage of our thought and of our
conceptualization, with reference to its function in what concerns us.

我们并没有将死亡冲动形成一门哲学。我提醒你们这个观念,我前天修正的这个观念。为了不要给予这个印象: 我没有接受我的责任,当我谈论这个物象。我确实是谈论到某件东西。但是当然,我是运作性地谈论,提到它佔据的位置,以我们思想与我们的观念的某个逻辑的阶段,提到它的功用,在跟我们相关的东西。

Yesterday evening I referred to and denounced the substitution for Freud’s
whole classic topology of the term “ego” – something that is particularly
regrettable in someone as deeply immersed in analytical thought as Spitz.
It is indeed difficult to recognize in that concept the essential function with
which analytical experience began, that was its shock value as well as its echo
and suite. Let us not forget that Freud, in effect, immediately countered it
with the invention of the term das Es. That primacy of the Es is now completely

昨天晚上,我提到并且抨击,弗洛依德的整个的古典的「自我」这个术语的拓扑图形的升华。这是某件特别令人遗憾的东西,在某人身上,作为是深深陶醉于像史匹兹的精神分析的思想。这确实是困难的,要在那个观念体认出这个基本的功用,精神分析经验以它作为开始的功用,那就是它的惊吓价值,以及它的迴响与配套。让我们不要忘记,实际上,弗洛依德立即反驳它,用「本我das Es.」的这个术语的杜撰。这个本我Es」 优先性现在完全被忘记。

To some extent, the Es is not sufficiently emphasized by the way it is
presented in the texts of the second topic. It is to remind us of the primordial
and primary character of this intuition in our experience at the level of ethics
that this year I am calling a certain zone of reference “the Thing.”


Mr. Laplanche: I would like to ask a further question on the relationship of
the pleasure principle to the play of the signifier.


This relationship is founded on the fact that the pleasure principle basically
involves the sphere of investment, Besetzung, and its Bahnungen, and it is
facilitated by the Vorstellungen and even more by what Freud calls the Vorstellungsreprasentanzen- a term that appears very early, before the article on
the Unconscious. Each time a state of need arises, the pleasure principle tends
to provoke a reinvestment in its content – in inverted commas, that is, since
at this metapsychological level clinical practice is not involved – an hallucinated
reinvestment of what had previously been a satisfying hallucination.

这个关系的基础是这个事实:快乐原则基本上牵涉到投注佔领Besetzung的领域,及其神经的便利Bahnungen 。这是由于想象Vorstellungen 给予的便利,甚至是由于弗洛依德所谓的幻想再现 Vorstellungsreprasentanzen。这一个术语出现很早,在探讨无意识的文章之前。每次,一种需要的状态出现,快乐原则就倾向于召唤一种重新投注于它的内容,用倒转的引号。换句话说,因为在形上心理学的层次,临床的实践并没有被牵涉–一种幻觉化的重新投注,对于先前曾经令人满足的幻觉的东西。

The diffuse energy of the pleasure principle tends toward this reinvestment
of representation. The intervention of the reality principle can only therefore
be a radical one; it is never a second stage. Naturally, there is no adaptation
to reality that doesn’t involve a phenomenon of tasting, of sampling, by means
of which the subject manages to monitor, one might almost say with his
tongue, that which enables him to be sure that he isn’t dreaming.


This is what constitutes the originality of Freud’s thought and no one,
moreover, has been mistaken about that. It is both paradoxical and provocative.
Before Freud no one has ever dared articulate the functioning of the
psychic apparatus in that way. He describes it on the basis of his experience of the irreducible element he saw emerge at the core of hysterical substitutions;
the first thing that poor, defenseless man can do when he is tortured
by need is to begin to hallucinate his satisfaction, and after that he can only
monitor the situation. Fortunately, he more or less makes at the same time
the gestures required to attach himself to the zone in which this hallucination
coincides with the real in an approximative form.


If the basic texts are to be respected, that’s the miserable beginning from
which the whole dialectic of experience is articulated in Freudian terms. That’s
what I told you when I discussed the relationship between the pleasure principle
and the signifier.


Thus the Vorstellungen have right from the beginning the character of a
signifying structure.

因此这个想象Vorstellungen 从一开始,就拥有能指的结构的这个特性。


Ethic 131

February 13, 2013

Ethic 131
The Ethics of Psychoanalysis

Jacques Lacan
χ Marginal comments
第十章 边缘的评论




Es 的原初性
I would like now to make sure that today’s meeting might be of some use to
those who have travelled some distance to get here.


Given the point we have reached in my Seminar, it seems likely that some
of you may have questions to ask me or answers to give, so as to suggest the
meaning for them of some element or other in my argument.


I know that it is never easy to break the silence in a crowd, to ring one’s
little bell, so to speak. I will, therefore, give you the opportunity to ask me a
written question. The only disadvantage there is that I am free to read it as I
see fit.


At the same time we are going to do something unexpected that strikes me
as a good idea. Some of you attended the scientific meeting of our Society
yesterday. I don’t know how it ended because I had to leave after having
responded at some length to the lecturers, people for whom I have the greatest
affection, and after I had expressed my deep interest in their work. They
are here today and I would like to ask Smirnov for some clarification on the
subject of Spitz’s “No and Yes.”1‘


Why did you not tackle the “Yes”? [Mr. Smirnov’s answer.]

Let me explain to those who do not know the text that it is a book belonging
to a series of investigations founded on the direct observation of newborn
babies or more precisely of infants, that is to say, up to the point of the
appearance of articulated language as such. Within this dimension, Spitz claims
to find the “No” as a “pattern,” as a semantic form in a certain number of
gestures and expressions, and primarily in “rooting” – that is to say, in the
oscillating gesture of the head that the infant makes in its approach to the
breast. The word is very difficult to translate into French, but there is a
correlative in the English text in the word “snout,” which clearly indicates
what is involved.


I am far from being critical of Spitz. I intend rather to defend him. I don’t
mean he is right, but the work is good and sharply articulated. And I would
fault you with failing to have brought out the fact that the phenomenon is
analogous to what occurs in traumatic neurosis – it is, he says, the last memory
before the emergence of the catastrophic reaction.


I embarrassed you by asking you to comment on Spitz’s other works, namely,
his fiction on The Primal Cavity or at the very least his references to the
screen of the dream.


Spitz doesn’t on the whole elaborate on the fact that a form of reaction
deriving from an earlier stage may be used in a critical situation. That seems
to be a very useful idea, however, something that should always be emphasized.
I think you made the point, unless it was Laplanche.


Spitz is reduced to having a mechanism as passive as that of traumatic
neurosis intervene. He thus implies some preceding frustration of the infant.
He considers the act of “rooting” to be a trace which remains inscribed after
something like the refusal or withdrawal of the breast that immediately precedes
it. It is surprising that he expresses it in an isolated form, on the basis
of a given case, and not in general.


[Statements by Mr. Smirnov and Laplanche; a question from Mr. Audouard:
“Why do you speak to us about the Thing instead of simply speaking about


To answer you briefly right away, I note that you have always been attentive
to the note of what one might call Hegelian reinterpretations of analytical
experience. We are concerned here with the Freudian experience as an ethics,
which is to say, at its most essential level, since it directs us towards a therapeutic
form of action that, whether we like it or not, is included in the register
or in the terms of an ethics. And the more we deny this, the more it is
the case. Experience demonstrates this: a form of analysis that boasts of its
highly scientific distinctiveness gives rise to normative notions that I characterize
by evoking the curse Saint Matthew utters on those who make the
bundles heavier when they are to be carried by others. Strengthening the
categories of affective normativity produces disturbing results.


It is clear that we put the accent on the irreducible element in the instinct,
on that which appears at the limit of a mediation and that reification is unable
to encompass. But in encircling that something whose limits we explore, we
are encircling the empty image.


The deliberate intention to emphasize this notion has never been absent
from what I have said thus far. If you look up the texts I referred you to on
this subject, you will see that there is no ambiguity. That Hegelian radicalism
that was rashly attributed to me somewhere by a contributor to Les Temps
Modemes should in no way be imputed to me. The whole dialectic of desire
that I developed here, and that I was beginning at the very moment the rash
individual was writing that particular sentence, is sharply distinguished from
such Hegelianism. It is even more marked this year. The inevitable character
seems to me to be especially marked in the effect of sublimation.

这个刻意的意图,要强调这个观念,从来没有欠缺,从迄今我曾经说过的东西。假如你们查阅我跟你们推荐有关这个主题的文本。你们将会看出,并没有模糊暧昧。一位投稿给Les Temps Modemes的作者,轻率地将黑格尔的激进主义归属于我。我根本就不应该承受这个归属。我在此发展的欲望的整个的辩证法,我逐渐开始的辩证法,在那个轻率的作者写出那个特别的句子的时刻,明显地不同于黑格尔的辩证法。今年,这个现象更加显著。我觉得这个无可避免的特性,在探讨升华的影响时,特别显著。

Mr. X: The formula for sublimation that you have given us is to raise the
object to the dignity of the Thing. This Thing doesn’t exist to start with,
because sublimation is going to bring us to it. The question I have is, therefore,
isn’t this Thing not really a thing, but on the contrary a Non-Thing,
and isn’t it through sublimation that one comes to see it as being the Thing (. . .)?

X 先生:你曾经给予我们的升华的公式,就是要将客体提升到「物象」的尊严。这个物象并没有一开始就存在,因为升华将会带领我们去它那里。我的问题因此是,这个物象其实并不是一个东西,而是相反地,是一个「非物象」。难道不是通升华,我们逐渐看见它,作为是这个物象?

What you are saying strikes me as on the right track; it’s obvious you follow
my presentation of these questions without difficulty. Something is offered
to us as analysts, if we follow the sum of our experience and if we know how
to evaluate it. You state that the attempt at sublimation tends in the end to
realize the Thing or to save it. It’s true and it’s not true. There’s an illusion



Ethic 128

February 12, 2013

Ethic 128
The Ethics of Psychoanalysis

Jacques Lacan
χ Marginal comments
第十章 边缘的评论





Es 的原初性

I am not this morning in the state of readiness I consider necessary for me to
conduct my seminar in the usual manner. And this is especially the case,
given the point we have reached, when I particularly want to be able to present
you with some very precise formulas. You will thus allow me to put it
off until next time.


The break caused by my absence of two weeks comes at a bad time, since
I would have liked to go beyond what I announced last time that I would be
dealing with – after having dealt with it, of course.


Courtly love is, in effect, an exemplary form, a paradigm, of sublimation.
We only have essentially the documentary testimony of art, but we still feel
today the ethical ramifications.


If on the subject of courtly love, apart from the lively archaeological interest
in the matter, we still only have the documentary testimony of art in a
form that is almost dead, it is obvious that its ethical ramifications are still
felt in the relations between the sexes.


The long-lasting influence of the effects of a phenomenon that one might
think is little more than an issue of aesthetics is thus of a kind to make us
aware of the importance of sublimation – something that psychoanalysis has
specifically foregrounded.


I would like to be at the top of my form in order to show you how the
question has been posed historically, and how it is posed from the point of
view of method, for I believe that there again we are in a position to throw
some light on admitted difficulties that historians, Romance scholars, philologists,
and various specialists who have approached the problem have
encountered. They apparently recognize that they have in no way managed
to reduce the phenomenon of courtly love in its historical emergence to an
identifiable form of conditioning.


The recognition of the fact is common, and I would say almost uniform.
One encounters a paradoxical phenomenon, one that is almost taken for
granted; in every example of this kind scholars have often been led to examine
influences – something that in many cases is only a way of displacing the
problem. They tell us that the origin of the problem is to be found in the
transmission of something that happened somewhere else. Yet we still need
to know how that happened somewhere else. But in the event that is precisely
what gets lost.


In this case, the recourse to influences is far from having illuminated the
problem. We will try to approach the problem at its very center, and we will
see that Freudian theory is of a kind to shed a certain light there. Thus in
this way I take up the problem not only for its value as example but also for
its value relative to method.


To start out from this very specific point doesn’t mean that everything that
concerns sublimation is to be considered from the perspective developed here,
namely, from the point of view of the man / woman relation, of the couple. I
do not claim to reduce sublimation to that, nor even to center it on that. I
believe on the contrary that to start out from this example is essential in order
to arrive at a general formula, whose beginnings we can find in Freud, if we
know where to look for it – and I don’t mean search for this or that detail.


If I proceed sometimes by emphasizing one of Freud’s sentences, an isolated
formula, or, I was about to say, some gnomic proposition, then I am
very conscious of making that gnomic proposition work for me. When I give
you a formula such as “The desire of man is the desire of the Other,” it is a
gnomic formula, although Freud didn’t seek to present it as such. But he
does so from time to time without doing it on purpose. Thus I once quoted
a very short formula which brought together the respective mechanisms of
hysteria, obsessional neurosis and paranoia with three forms of sublimation,
art, religion and science. At another point he relates paranoia to scientific
discourse. These clues will help us articulate in all its generality the formula
in which we will in the end order the function of sublimation with reference
to the Thing.


This Thing is accessible in very elementary examples, which are almost of
the type of the classic philosophical demonstration, including a blackboard
and a piece of chalk. I referred last time to the schematic example of the vase,
so as to allow you to grasp where the Thing is situated in the relationship that
places man in the mediating function between the real and the signifier. This
Thing, all forms of which created by man belong to the sphere of sublimation,
this Thing will always be represented by emptiness, precisely because
it cannot be represented by anything else – or, more exactly, because it can only be represented by something else. But in every form of sublimation, emptiness is determinative.


I will point out right away three different ways according to which art,
religion and the discourse of science turn out to be related to that; I will point
this out by means of three formulas that I don’t say I will retain at the end,
when we have completed our journey together.


All art is characterized by a certain mode of organization around this emptiness.
I don’t believe that that is a vain formula, in spite of its generality, in
guiding those who are interested in explaining the problems of art; and I
believe I have the means of illustrating that to you in a variety of striking


Religion in all its forms consists of avoiding this emptiness. We can illustrate
that in forcing the note of Freudian analysis for the good reason that
Freud emphasized the obsessional traits of religious behavior. Yet although
the whole ceremonial phase of the body of religious practices, in effect, enters
into this framework, we can hardly be fully satisfied with this formula. A
phrase like “respecting this emptiness” perhaps goes further. In any case, the
emptiness remains in the center, and that is precisely why sublimation is


As for our third term, the discourse of science, to the extent that it finds
its origin in our tradition in the discourse of wisdom or of philosophy, the
term Freud uses in connection with paranoia and its relation to psychic reality,
the term, Unglauben, finds its full meaning there.

至於我们第三个术业,科学的辞说,甚至它找到它的起源,在我们智慧或哲学的辞说的传统。弗洛依德使用的术语,关于偏执狂与它跟心灵现实的关系,Unglauben(不信仰) 这个术语在那里找到它的充分的意义。

I emphasized this fact in passing in a recent Seminar; Unglauben is not the
negation of the phenomenology of Glauben, of belief. Freud never returned
to the subject in a comprehensive and definitive way, yet it nevertheless runs
throughout his work, and he gives extreme importance to this function in the
Entwurf. The phenomenology of belief remained for him an obsession to the
end; thus Moses and Monotheism is constructed in its entirety in order to
explain the fundamental phenomena of belief.

在最近的研讨班,我顺便强调这个事实:「不信仰」并不是「信仰」的现象的否定。弗洛依德从来没有回到这个主题,用完整而明确的方式。可是它仍然偏佈在他的著作里。他非常重视Entwurf (架构)的这个功用。对于他而言,信仰的现象学始终是一种著迷。因此「摩西与单一神教」完整地被建构,为了解释信仰的基本现象。

More profound and more dynamically significant for us is the phenomenon
of unbelief. It is not the suppression of belief, but it has to do with man’s
relationship to the world and to truth that is specific to man, a relationship
he inhabits.


In this connection you would be wrong to trust in summary oppositions or
to think that history has known sensational turning points, such as the supposed
passage from the theocratic age to so-called humanist forms of liberation
of the individual and of reality. The conception of the world is not decisive
here. On this occasion, it has nothing to do with something resembling a
Weltanschauung – and certainly not mine. I am only pointing the way here, I
am only trying to help you orientate yourself in the bibliography of significant
works on the subject, works by specialist who in their different fields are
equipped with some talent for analysis. I advise you to look up the work of
an historian, Lucien Febvre, who is the author of the widely accessible, The
Problem of Unbelief in the Sixteenth Century. It is a work that enables you to
see how the thoughtful use of historical methods allows us to pose more precisely
the question of the forms of development of thinking on the subject of
problems of faith.


If you have the time and you would like to read something amusing, you
should read a little book by the same author that is supplementary but not
secondary, not a little boat bobbing in the wake of a ship; it is called Concerning
the Heptameron. The author of the Heptameron is Marguerite de Navarre,
whom, I hope, you will not mix up with Queen Margot, the wife of Henry
IV. She is not just a libertine author, but turns out to have written a treatise
that is mystical in kind. But that is not something which excites the astonishment
of the historian.


He tries to show us what the collections of tales that go under the title of
the Heptameron might mean in the context of the time and of the psychology
of their author. And he does it in such a way as to allow us to read that work
with not so much a more informed eye as an eye that doesn’t censure the text
or, in particular, the reflections of each of the characters after each of the
tales that are supposed to be true, and that certainly are for the most part.
The thoughts of the respondents that belong to the register of moral and even
formal religious reflection are usually censured because one assumes at the
beginning that they are no more than the accompanying sauce. But that is
something it is important not to get wrong – in any dish it is the sauce that
is the essential ingredient. Lucien Febvre teaches us how to read the Heptameron.
Yet if we knew how to read, we wouldn’t need him.


As far as unbelief is concerned, it is from our point of view a place in
discourse that is to be conceived precisely in relation to the Thing – the
Thing is repudiated or foreclosed in the proper sense of Verwerfung.


In the same way that in art there is a Verdrangung, a repression of the
Thing, and in religion there is probably a Verschiebung or displacement, it is
strictly speaking Verwerfung that is involved in the discourse of science. The
discourse of science repudiates the presence of the Thing insofar as from its
point of view the ideal of absolute knowledge is glimpsed, that is, something
that posits the Thing while it pays no attention to it. As everyone knows, this
point of view has historically proved in the end to be a failure.


The discourse of science is determined by this Verwerfung, and, in the light
of my formula that what is foreclosed in the symbolic reappears in the real,
this is probably why it leads to a situation in which, at the end of physics, it
is something as enigmatic as the Thing that is glimpsed.


I will postpone until next time a discussion of my paradigm of courtly love,
an example of sublimation in art whose vital effects we still come across. We
will take note of them after I come back from my trip; we will take a sampling of these traces, of the indisputable effects of the primary signifying construction that is determinative in the phenomenon of courtly love. And we will attempt to recognize in contemporary phenomena something that can only
be explained through recourse to such an origin.


Since I am engaged in marginal commentary today, let me point out in
passing that you would be wrong to think that this concept of the Thing to
which I am giving a new development this year wasn’t, in fact, immanent in
our discussions of previous years.


Moreover, since there are those who question certain characteristics of my
style, let me remind you for example of the expression “The Freudian Thing”
that was the title of something I wrote, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea for you
to look it up. That text and that title surprised because if one starts to analyze
my intentions from a philosophical point of view, one comes to relate them
to a concern that was very popular at one time, namely, the resistance to
reification. Of course, I never said anything about reification. But intentions
can always be wrapped around a discourse. It is clear that if I chose such a
title, I did so deliberately. If you reread the text, you will see that I am
essentially speaking of the Thing. And I speak about it in a way that was
evidently the cause of the undoubted discomfort the text provoked at the
time. The fact is I sometimes make the Thing itself speak.


February 3, I960


Ethic 113

February 7, 2013

Ethic 113

The Ethics of Psychoanalysis

Jacques Lacan


The object and the thing


I will end today with a little fable in which I would like you just to see an
example, albeit a paradoxical and demeaning one, that is yet significant for
what goes on in sublimation. Since we have remained today on the level of
the object and the Thing, I wanted to show you what it means to invent an
object for a special purpose that society may esteem, valorize, and approve.
I draw on my memories for this fable, that you can, if you like, place in
the psychological category of collecting. Someone who recently published a
work on collectors and those sales thanks to which collectors are presumed
to get rich, has long asked me to give him some ideas on the meaning of
collecting. I didn’t do it because I would have had to tell him to come to my
seminar for five or six years.


There’s a lot to say on the psychology of collecting. I am something of a
collector myself. And if some of you like to think that it is in imitation of
Freud, so be it. I believe my reasons are very different from his. I have seen
the remains of Freud’s collections on Anna Freud’s shelves. They seemed to
me to have to do with the fascination that the coexistence of [. . .]’ and of
Egyptian civilization exercised over him at the level of the signifier rather
than for the enlightened taste of what is called an object.


What is called an object in the domain of collecting should be strictly distinguished from the meaning of object in psychoanalysis. In analysis the object
is a point of imaginary fixation which gives satisfaction to a drive in any
register whatsoever. The object in collecting is something entirely different,
as I will show in the following example, which reduces collecting to its most
rudimentary form. For one usually imagines that a collection is composed of
a diversity of elements, but it is not necessarily true at all.


During that great period of penitence that our country went through under
Petain, in the time of “Work, Family, Homeland” and of belt-tightening, I
once went to visit my friend Jacques Prévert in Saint-Paul-de-Vence. And I
saw there a collection of match boxes. Why the image has suddenly resurfaced
in my memory, I cannot tell.


It was the kind of collection that it was easy to afford at that time; it was
perhaps the only kind of collection possible. Only the match boxes appeared
as follows: they were all the same and were laid out in an extremely agreeable
way that involved each one being so close to the one next to it that the little
drawer was slightly displaced. As a result, they were all threaded together so
as to form a continuous ribbon that ran along the mantlepiece, climbed the
wall, extended to the molding, and climbed down again next to a door. I
don’t say that it went on to infinity, but it was extremely satisfying from an
ornamental point of view.


Yet I don’t think that that was the be all and end all of what was surprising
in this “collectionism,” nor the source of the satisfaction that the collector
himself found there. I believe that the shock of novelty of the effect realized
by this collection of empty match boxes – and this is the essential point –
was to reveal something that we do not perhaps pay enough attention to,
namely, that a box of matches is not simply an object, but that, in the form
of an Erscheinung, as it appeared in its truly imposing multiplicity, it may be
a Thing.

可是,我并不认为那就是最重要的目的,对于这种「收集狂」令人惊奇的东西,收集者在那找到的,也不是满足的来源。我相信,空洞火柴盒的这种收集,造成的这种效果的新奇的震撼,这才是基本的重点。这种新奇的震撼,是要揭露我们或许并没有充分注意的某种东西。换句话说,火柴盒不仅是一个客体,而是以一种Erscheinung 的形式,如同它出现,以它确实富丽的多重性,它可能是一个「物象」。

In other words, this arrangement demonstrated that a match box isn’t simply
something that has a certain utility, that it isn’t even a type in the Platonic
sense, an abstract match box, that the match box all by itself is a thing with
all its coherence of being. The wholly gratuitous, proliferating, superfluous,
and quasi absurd character of this collection pointed to its thingness as match
box. Thus the collector found his motive in this form of apprehension that
concerns less the match box than the Thing that subsists in a match box.


Whatever you do, however, you don’t find that in a random way in any
object whatsoever. For if you think about it, the match box appears to be a
mutant form of something that has so much importance for us that it can
occasionally take on a moral meaning; it is what we call a drawer. In this
case, the drawer was liberated and no longer fixed in the rounded fullness of
a chest, thus presenting itself with a copulatory force that the picture drawn
by Prévert’s composition was designed to make us perceive.


So now, that little fable of the revelation of the Thing beyond the object
shows you one of the most innocent forms of sublimation. Perhaps you can
even see something emerge in it that, goodness knows, society is able to find
satisfaction in.


If it is a satisfaction, it is in this case one that doesn’t ask anything of
January 20, 1960



Ethic 110

February 7, 2013

Ethic 110

The Ethics of Psychoanalysis

Jacques Lacan


The object and the thing



We are only stumbling along here, following the paths of analytical good
sense, which isn’t, in fact, a very different good sense of the common or
garden kind. What one finds at the level of das Ding once it is revealed is the
place of the Triebe, the drives. And I mean by that the drives that, as Freud
showed, have nothing at all to do with something that may be satisfied by
moderation – that moderation which soberly regulates a human being’s relations
with his fellow man at the different hierarchical levels of society in a
harmonious order, from the couple to the State with a capital S.

在此我们仅是跌跌撞撞前进,遵循精神分析明智的途径。事实上,这种明智跟通俗或是炫耀的那种明智迴然不同。我们在物象一旦被揭露的层次所发现的东西,就Triebe 的位置,冲动的位置。我的意思是指弗洛依德显示的那些冲动。它们跟某件靠着调节来满足的东西,没有丝毫关系。能在调节清醒地规范人跟他的同胞的关系,处于社会的不同的阶层的层次,依照和谐的秩序,从夫妻到用大写字母S标示的国家。

We must return now to the meaning of sublimation as Freud attempts to
define it for us.


He attaches sublimation to the Triebe as such, and that’s what makes its
theorization difficult for psychoanalysts.


Please forgive me if I don’t today read given passages of Freud that might
perhaps bore you and that I will take up at the right moment, when you will
understand the value of going in one direction or another, of confirming if
we are really aligned with Freudian theory. But I don’t believe I can hold the
interest of most of you here without explaining what my aim is or where I’m
taking you.


Sublimation, Freud tells us, involves a certain form of satisfaction of the
Triebe, a word that is improperly translated as “instincts,” but that one should
translate strictly as “drives” (pulsions) – or as “drifts” (derives), so as to mark
the fact that the Trieb is deflected from what he calls its Ziel, its aim.
Sublimation is represented as distinct from that economy of substitution
in which the repressed drive is usually satisfied. A symptom is the return by
means of signifying substitution of that which is at the end of the drive in the
form of an aim. It is here that the function of the signifier takes on its full
meaning, for it is impossible without reference to that function to distinguish
the return of the repressed from sublimation as a potential mode of satisfaction
of the drive. It is a paradoxical fact that the drive is able to find its aim
elsewhere than in that which is its aim – without its being a question of the
signifying substitution that constitutes the overdetermined structure, the ambiguity,
and the double causality, of the symptom as compromise formation.

弗洛依德告诉我们,升华牵涉某种的冲动Triebe的满足,这一个字词,很不适当地被翻译成为「本能」。但是它应该严谨地被翻译为「冲动」–或是「浮动」drifts,为了标示这个事实:冲动Trib 是从他所谓的它的Ziel ,它的目标,词类衍化,升华sublimation被代表,作为跟替代substitution的活动力不同。在替代那里,被压抑的冲动通常被满足。病征就是凭借能指的替代的回转,替代在目标的形式冲动的结束的东西。就是在此,能指点功用具有它的充分的意义,因为我们不可能没有提到那个功用,为了要区别被压抑的形式的回转,跟升华作为冲动的满足的潜在的模式。这是一个悖论的事实:冲动能够找到它的目标,在跟它的目标的东西的不同的地方。这必然会让它成为是能指化的替代的问题。这个能指化替代,将病症视为是妥协的形成,构成这个过分的决定的结构,这种模糊暧昧,这个双重的因果关系。

The latter notion has never failed to cause problems for theoreticians and
analysts alike. What can this change of aim mean? It is a matter of aim and
not strictly speaking of object, although, as I emphasized last time, the latter
soon enters into consideration. Don’t let us forget that Freud points out early
on that it is important not to confuse the notion of aim with that of object. And there is a special passage that I will read you at the appropriate moment,
but I will give you the reference right away. If I remember correctly, in
Einfiihrung des Narzissmus Freud emphasizes the difference that exists between
sublimation and idealization as far as the object is concerned. The fact is that
idealization involves an identification of the subject with the object, whereas
sublimation is something quite different.

后者的观念始终引起这些难题,对于理论家与精神分析家。目标的这个转变意味着什么?严格来说,这是目标aim的问题,而不是目的物object的问题。虽然我上次强调,后者不久就要列入考虑。请大家不要忘记,弗洛依德很早就提出,重要的是不要混淆目标的这个观念,跟目的物的这个观念。有一个特别的段落,我将在适当的时刻朗读给你们听,但是我将立即提到它。假如我记忆正确的话,在 Einfiihrung des Narzissmus,弗洛依的强调这个差异,存在于升华与理想化的差异,就目的物而言。事实上,理想化牵涉主体对于客体一种认同,而升华则是某件完全不同的东西。

To those who know German I suggest you read a little article by Richard
Sterba that appeared in Internationale Zeitschrift in 1930, “Zur Problematik
der Sublimierungslehre” [“On the Problematic of the Doctrine of Sublimation”];
it summarizes the difficulties that analysts found in the notion at the
time – that is after an essential article by Bernfeld on the subject and also
one by Glover in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis of 1931, “Sublimation,
Substitution and Social Anxiety.”

对于懂得德文的人,我跟你们建议一篇李察、史特巴的小文章,出现在1930年的Internationale Zeitschrift ,「论升华的难题与信条」。这篇文章总结精神分析家当时发现的那些困难—先前还有一篇重要的文章,博费德所写,探讨这个主题,以及格罗维的文章,在1931年的「国际精神分析杂志」,「升华,替代,与社会焦虑」。

This article in English will cause you much more difficulty. It’s very long
and difficult to follow because it literally parades the standard of sublimation
across all the notions known to analysis at that time in order to see how one
might apply it to this or that level of the theory. The result of this survey is
surprising. It gives rise to a review of the whole of psychoanalytic theory from
one end to the other, but it clearly shows, at least, the extraordinary difficulty
that exists in using the notion of sublimation in practice without giving rise
to contradictions, and this text is riddled with them.


I would like to try now to show you in what way we are going to posit
sublimation, if only so as to be able to allow you to appreciate its functioning
and value.


The satisfaction of the Trieb is, then, paradoxical, since it seems to occur
elsewhere than where its aim is. Are we going to be satisfied with saying, like
Sterba for example, that, in effect, the aim has changed, that it was sexual
before and that now it is no longer? That is, by the way, how Freud describes
it. Whence one has to conclude that the sexual libido has become desexualized.
And that’s why your daughter is dumb.


Are we going to be satisfied with the Kleinian register, which seems to me
to contain a certain though partial truth, and speak of the imaginary solution
of a need for substitution, for repair work with relation to the mother’s body?
These formulae will provoke anyone who is not content with verbal solutions
– that is, solutions without real meaning – into questioning more closely
what sublimation is all about.


You should sense immediately which direction I intend to take. The sublimation
that provides the Trieb with a satisfaction different from its aim –
an aim that is still defined as its natural aim – is precisely that which reveals
the true nature of the Trieb insofar as it is not simply instinct, but has a
relationship to das Ding as such, to the Thing insofar as it is distinct from the

你们应该立即感觉到我打算採取怎样的方向。升华供应冲动Trieb一种不同于它的目标的满足,这个目标依旧被定义为它的自然的目标—那确实就是揭露冲动的真实的特性。因为它不仅是本能,而且拥有跟物象das Ding本身的关系,跟这个物象的关系,它跟这个客体不同。

We have to guide us the Freudian theory of the narcissistic foundations of
the object, of its insertion in the imaginary register. The object that specifies
directions or poles of attraction to man in his openness, in his world, and
that interests him because it is more or less his image, his reflection – precisely
that object is not the Thing to the extent that the latter is at the heart
of the libidinal economy. Thus, the most general formula that I can give you
of sublimation is the following: it raises an object – and I don’t mind the
suggestion of a play on words in the term I use – to the dignity of the Thing.

我们必须引导我们,用弗洛依德的理论: 客体是自恋基础,被插入于想象的铭记。这个客体指明那些方向,或对于人的吸引的两极,在他的开放,在他的世。人对这个客体感到興趣,因为这是他的意象,他的省思。确实地,那个客体并不是这个物象,因为后者是处于力比多的活动的核心。因此,我能够给予你们的关于升华的最通用的公式如下: 升华提升一个客体,成为「物象」的尊严,在我使用的这术语,你们若用其他文字玩弄一下,我不在乎。

That is significant, for example, in relation to something that I alluded to
at the limit of our discussion, something I will get to next time, the sublimation
of the feminine object. The whole theory of the Minne or of courtly
love has, in effect, been decisive. Although it has completely disappeared
nowadays from the sociological sphere, courtly love has nevertheless left traces
in an unconscious that has no need to be called “collective,” in a traditional
unconscious that is sustained by a whole literature, a whole imagery, that we
continue to inhabit as far as our relations with women are concerned.


This mode was created deliberately. It was by no means a creation of the
popular soul, of that famous great soul of the blessed Middle Ages, as Gustave
Cohen used to say. The rules of polite conduct were articulated deliberately
in a small literary circle and, as a result, the celebration of the object
was made possible – the absurdity of which I will show you in detail; a German
writer who is a specialist of this medieval German literature has used the
expression “absurd Minne.” This moral code instituted an object at the heart
of a given society, an object that is nevertheless completely natural. Don’t
imagine they made love in those days any less than we do.


The object is elevated to the dignity of the Thing as we define it in our
Freudian topology, insofar as it is not slipped into but surrounded by the
network of Ziele. It is to the degree that this new object is raised to the
function of the Thing at a certain historical moment that one is able to explain
a phenomenon which, from a sociological point of view, has always struck
those who considered it as frankly paradoxical. We will certainly not be able
to exhaust the totality of signs, rites, themes and exchange of themes, especially
of literary themes, that have constituted the substance and effective
influence of this human relation, which has been defined in different terms
according to the times and places of its occurrence – courtly love, Minne, and
all the other forms. Just remember that the circle of male and female precieux
at the beginning of the seventeenth century is the last manifestation of the
phenomenon in our own cycle.


That is nevertheless not the last word on the subject, for it is not enough
to say, “They did that” or “That’s how it is,” for the matter to be solved, for
the object to come and play the required role. I am not concerned only with
giving you the key to that historical event; what I seek in the end, thanks to
that distant affair, is both to get a better grasp of something that has happened
to us, relative to the Thing, as the result of a collective education that
remains to be defined and is called art, and to understand how we behave on
the level of sublimation.


The definition I gave you doesn’t close the debate, first, because I must
confirm and illustrate it for you, and, second, because I have to show you
that, if the object is to become available in that way, something must have
occurred at the level of the relation of the object to desire; it is quite impossible
to explain it correctly without reference to what I had to say last year
on the subject of desire and its behavior.



Ethic 105

February 6, 2013

Ethic 105

The Ethics of Psychoanalysis

Jacques Lacan


The object and the thing





It is not just a matter of drawing close to das Ding, but also to its effects, to
its presence at the core of human activity, namely, in that precarious existence
in the midst of the forest of desires and compromises that these very
desires achieve with a certain reality, which is certainly not as confused as
one might imagine.


The demands of reality, in effect, present themselves readily in the form
of social demands. Freud cannot not consider them seriously, but one has to
indicate immediately the special approach he adopts; it permits him to transcend
the simple opposition between individual and society, in which the
individual is straightway posited as the eventual site of disorder.


Note right off that it is quite unthinkable nowadays to speak abstractly of
society. It is unthinkable historically, and it is unthinkable philosophically,
too, for the reason that a certain Hegel revealed to us the modern function of
the state, and the link between a whole phenomenology of mind and the
necessity which renders a legal system perfectly coherent. A whole philosophy
of law, derived from the state, encloses human existence, up to and
including the monogamous couple that is its point of departure.


I am concerned with the ethics of psychoanalysis, and I can’t at the same
time discuss Hegelian ethics. But I do want to point out that they are not the
same. At the end of a certain phenomenology, the opposition between the
individual and the city, between the individual and the state, is obvious. In
Plato, too, the disorders of the soul are also referred to the same dimension
– it’s a matter of the reproduction of the disorders of the city at the level of the psyche. All of that is related to a problematic that is not at all Freudian.


The sick individual whom Freud is concerned with reveals another dimension
than that of the disorders of the state and of hierarchical disturbances.
Freud addresses the sick individual as such, the neurotic, the psychotic; he
addresses directly the powers of life insofar as they open onto the powers of
death; he addresses directly the powers that derive from the knowledge of
good and evil.


Here we are then in the company of das Ding, trying to get along with it.
What 1 am saying should in no way surprise, for I am only trying to point
out to you what is going on in the psychoanalytical community. The analysts
are so preoccupied with the field of das Ding, which responds so well to the
internal necessity of their experience, that the development of analytic theory
is dominated by the existence of the so-called Kleinian school. And it is striking
to note that whatever reservations or even scorn another branch of the
analytic community may express for that school, it is the latter that polarizes
and orients the whole development of analytic thought, including the contribution
of our group.


Let me suggest then that you reconsider the whole of Kleinian theory with
the following key, namely, Kleinian theory depends on its having situated
the mythic body of the mother at the central place of das Ding.


To begin with, it is in relation to that mythic body that the aggressive,
transgressive, and most primordial of instincts is manifested, the primal
aggressions and inverted aggressions. Also in that register which currently
interests us, namely, the notion of sublimation in the Freudian economy, the
Kleinian school is full of interesting ideas – not only Melanie Klein herself
but also Ella Sharpe, insofar as on this point she follows Klein completely.
Recently, an American author, who isn’t at all Kleinian, has written on sublimation
as the principle of creation in the fine arts. In an article that I shall
come back to later, entitled “A Theory Concerning Creation in the Free Arts,”
after a more or less exhaustive critical examination of Freudian formulations
on sublimation and of Kleinian attempts to explain its full meaning, the author,
M. Lee, ends up attributing to it a restitutive function. In other words, she
finds there more or less of an attempt at symbolic repair of the imaginary
lesions that have occurred to the fundamental image of the maternal body.

首先,这个侵凌,逾越,与最原初的本能,被展示在跟神秘的身体的关系,这个原初的侵凌性与倒错的攻击性。我们目前感到興趣的那个铭记,换句话说,升华的观念, 在弗洛依德的力比多,克莱恩学派充满有趣的观念。不是梅兰妮、克莱恩自己,而是艾拉、夏普,因为在这一点,她完全遵循克莱恩。最近,一位美国的作者,她根本不是克莱恩学派,他曾经写到探讨升华,作为是高雅艺术的创造的原则。有一篇文章,我等一下会会头谈论,标题上「关于高雅艺术的创作理论」。这篇文章钜细靡遗地批判性检视弗洛依德的阐述升华,与克莱恩的企图解释升华的意义,作者,李先生的结论是归功于它具有一种恢复的功用。换句话说,她在那里发现相当多的企图,要用象征修复想象的病变。这些病变曾经发生在母亲的身体的基本的意象。

I will bring the texts involved, if you don’t know them. But I can tell you
right away that the reduction of the notion of sublimation to a restitutive
effort of the subject relative to the injured body of the mother is certainly not
the best solution to the problem of sublimation, nor to the topological,
metapsychological problem itself. There is nevertheless there an attempt to
approach the relations of the subject to something primordial, its attachment
to the fundamental, most archaic of objects, for which my field of das Ding,
defined operationally, establishes the framework. It allows us to conceive of the conditions that opened onto the blossoming of what one might call the
Kleinian myth, allows us also to situate it, and, as far as sublimation is concerned,
to reestablish a broader function than that which one necessarily arrives
at if one accepts Kleinian categories.


The clinicians who do on the whole accept them end up – I will tell you so
now and explain why later – with a rather limited and puerile notion of what
might be called an atherapy. All of that which is included under the heading
fine arts, namely, a number of gymnastic, dance and other exercises, is supposed
to give the subject satisfactions, a measure of solution to his problems,
a state of equilibrium. That is noted in a number of observations that are still
rewarding. I am thinking especially of Ella Sharpe’s articles, which I am far
from depreciating – “Certain Aspects of Sublimation and Delirium” or “Similar
and Divergent Unconscious Determinants, which Subtend the Sublimations
of Pure Art and Pure Science.”


To read these papers is to realize how such an orientation reduces the
problem of sublimation and yields somewhat puerile results. The approach
involves valorizing activities that seem to be located in the register of a more
or less transitory explosion of supposedly artistic gifts, gifts which appear in
the cases described to be highly doubtful. Completely left out is something
that must always be emphasized in artistic production and something that
Freud paradoxically insisted on, to the surprise of many writers, namely,
social recognition. These objects play an essential role in a question that Freud
doesn’t perhaps take as far as one would like, but which is clearly linked to
the championship of a certain progress – and God knows that such a notion
is far from being unilinear in Freud – to the celebration of something that
achieves social recognition. I won’t go any further for the moment. It is enough
to note that Freud articulates it in a way that may seem completely foreign
to the metapsychological register.


Note that no correct evaluation of sublimation in art is possible if we overlook
the fact that all artistic production, including especially that of the fine
arts, is historically situated. You don’t paint in Picasso’s time as you painted
in Velazquez’s; you don’t write a novel in 1930 as you did in Stendhal’s time.
This is an absolutely essential fact that does not for the time being need to be
located under the rubric of the collectivity or the individual – let’s place it
under the rubric of culture. What does society find there that is so satisfying?
That’s the question we need to answer.


The problem of sublimation is there, of sublimation insofar as it creates a
certain number of forms, among which art is not alone – and we will concentrate
on one art in particular, literary art, which is so close to the domain of
ethics. It is after all as a function of the problem of ethics that we have to
judge sublimation; it creates socially recognized values.


In order to refocus our discussion onto the level of ethics, one could hardly do better than to refer to that which, however paradoxical it may seem, has proved to be pivotal, namely, the Kantian perspective on the field.


Alongside das Ding, however much we may hope that its weight will be
felt on the good side, we find in opposition the Kantian formula of duty.
That is another way of making one’s weight felt. Kant invokes the universally
applicable rule of conduct or, in other words, the weight of reason. Of course,
one still has to prove how reason may make its weight felt.


There is always an advantage to reading authors in the original. The other
day I brought to your attention the passage on the theme of Schmerz, of pain,
as a correlative of the ethical act. I observed then that even some of you to
whom these texts were once familiar didn’t pick up on the reference. Well
now, if you open up The Critique of Pure Reason, you will see that in order to
impress upon us the influence of the weight of reason, Kant invents for his
didactic purposes an example which is magnificent in its freshness. A double
fable is involved that is designed to make us feel the weight of the ethical
principle pure and simple, the potential dominance of duty as such against
all, against all that is conceived as vitally desirable.


The key to the proof lies in a comparison between two situations. Suppose,
says Kant, that in order to control the excesses of a sensualist, one produces
the following situation. There is in a bedroom the woman he currently lusts
after. He is granted the freedom to enter that room to satisfy his desire or his
need, but next to the door through which he will leave there stands the gallows
on which he will be hanged. But that’s nothing, and is certainly not the
basis of Kant’s moral; you will see in a moment where the key to the proof
is. As far as Kant is concerned, it goes without saying that the gallows will
be a sufficient deterrent; there’s no question of an individual going to screw
a woman when he knows he’s to be hanged on the way out. Next comes a
situation that is similar as far as the tragic outcome is concerned, but here it
is a question of a tyrant who offers someone the choice between the gallows
and his favor, on the condition that he bear false witness against his friend.
Kant quite rightly emphasizes here that one can conceive of someone weighing
his own life against that of bearing false witness, especially if in this case
the false witness is without fatal consequences for the person bearing it.


The striking point is that the power of proof is here left to reality – to the
real behavior of the individual, I mean. It is in the real that Kant asks us to
examine the impact of the weight of reality, which he identifies here with the
weight of duty.


To follow him onto this ground is to discover that he misses something. It
is after all not impossible that under certain conditions the subject of the first
scenario will not so much offer himself up to be executed – at no point is the
fable taken to this point – but will at least consider doing so.


Our philosopher from Konigsberg was a nice person, and I don’t intend to
imply that he was someone of limited stature or feeble passions, but he doesn’t
seem to have considered that under certain conditions of what Freud would
call Ubersckatzung or overevaluation of the object – and that I will henceforth
call object sublimation – under conditions in which the object of a loving
passion takes on a certain significance (and, as you will see, it is in this direction
that I intend to introduce the dialectic through which I propose to teach
you how to identify what sublimation really is), under certain conditions of
sublimation of the feminine object or, in other words, the exaltation we call
love – a form of exaltation that is historically specific, and to which Freud
gives us the clue, in the short note I spoke to you about the other day, in
which he says that in the modern period the emphasis of the libido is on the
object rather than on the instinct (which is in itself something that poses an
important question, one that, with your permission, I will be introducing
you to, one that requires you to spend a few sessions on something in German
history whose form I referred to the other day in connection with Hamlet,
namely, the Mime, or, in other words, a certain theory and practice of courtly
love – and why wouldn’t we spend some time on that given the time we give
to ethnographic research? – especially if I assure you that it concerns certain
traces within us of the object relation that are unthinkable without these
historical antecedents), under certain conditions of sublimation, then, it is
conceivable for such a step to be taken. After all, a whole corpus of tales
stands for something from a fantasmic, if not from a strictly historical point
of view; moreover, there are a great many stories in the newspapers that are
relevant. All of which leads to the conclusion that it is not impossible for a
man to sleep with a woman knowing full well that he is to be bumped off on
his way out, by the gallows or anything else (all this, of course, is located
under the rubric of passionate excesses, a rubric that raises a lot of other
questions); it is not impossible that this man coolly accepts such an eventuality
on his leaving – for the pleasure of cutting up the lady concerned in
small pieces, for example.


The latter is the other case that one can envisage, and the annals of criminology
furnish a great many cases of the type. It is something that obviously
changes the facts of the situation, and at the very least the demonstrative
value of Kant’s example.


I have outlined then two cases that Kant doesn’t envisage, two forms of
transgression beyond the limits normally assigned to the pleasure principle
in opposition to the reality principle given as a criterion, namely, excessive
object sublimation and what is commonly known as perversion. Sublimation
and perversion are both a certain relationship of desire that attracts our attention
to the possibility of formulating, in the form of a question, a different
criterion of another, or even of the same, morality, in opposition to the reality
principle. For there is another register of morality that takes its direction
from that which is to be found on the level of das Ding; it is the register that
makes the subject hesitate when he is on the point of bearing false witness against das Ding, that is to say, the place of desire, whether it be perverse or sublimated.



Ethic 101

February 5, 2013

Ethic 101

The Ethics of Psychoanalysis

Jacques Lacan


The object and the thing






We are progressing this year around an axis that I take to be essential, namely,
that Ding, which is not without causing problems, indeed, not without causing
some doubts to emerge as to its Freudian legitimacy, at least among those
who reflect and who retain their critical intelligence, as they should, in the
presence of what I formulate here before you.


I take full responsibility for das Ding, whose exact importance you can
imagine to the extent that it has proved to be necessary if we are to make any
progress. You will be able to appreciate its merits in the use made of it. But
I will also be talking about it specifically again.


Some might say or think that I have only taken up a small detail of Freud’s
text in the Entwurf.


But experience tells us precisely that in texts like those of Freud nothing
is outdated, in the sense that it is simply borrowed from somewhere, the
product of scholarly parroting; nothing goes unmarked by that powerful
articulatory necessity that distinguishes his discourse. That’s what makes it
so significant when one notices places where his discourse remains open, gaping,
but nevertheless implying a necessity that I think I have made you sense
on a number of occasions.


And that’s not all. This Ding, whose place and significance I have tried to
make you feel, is absolutely essential as far as Freud’s thought is concerned;
and as we go forward, you will see why.

那并非全部.这个「物象」,它的位置与重要性,我曾经尝试让你们感觉,,它是绝对必要的, 就弗洛依德的思想而言.随着我们的进展,你们将会看出为什么.

What is involved is that excluded interior which, in the terminology of the
Entwurf, is thus excluded in the interior. In the interior of what then? Of
something that is precisely articulated at that moment as the Real-Ich, which
means then the final real of the psychic organization, a real conceived of as
hypothetical, to the extent that it necessarily presupposes the Lust-Ich. It is
in the latter that one finds the first sketches of the psychic organization, that
is to say, of the organism whose development shows us that it is dominated
by the function of Vorstellungsreprasentanzen. And these are not only representations
but the representatives of representation – something that corresponds
very precisely to the path taken by so-called psychological knowledge
before Freud, insofar as it first took its form from atomism. That ideational
elementarily is in brief the truth of the atomism involved.

所牵涉到的东西是,那个被排除的内部,用这个架构的术语,它因此在内部被排除.那么,在什么的内部?在某件东西的内部,这个东西确实被表达,这,在那个时刻,当这个「真实的我」,因此意味着心灵组织的最后的真实,这一种真实被构想作为是假设的,甚至它必然预先假设这个「欲望的自我」。就是在后者,我们发现心灵组织的最初的描绘。换句话说,这个有机体的发展跟我们显示,它受到Vorstellungsreprasentanzen 的支配。这些并不是符号再现,而是符号再现的表象。某件东西确实对应于在弗洛依德之前,所谓的心理的知识採取的途径。因为它首先从原子论获得它的形式。总之,那个理念化的元素就是牵涉到的原子论的真理。

Through a kind of essential need, the whole effort of psychology has been
to try to free itself from that. But it can only free itself or rebel against atomism
by failing to recognize that flocculation which submits its material –
and the material here is psychic – to the texture on which thought is founded,
in other words, the texture of discourse as signifying chain. It is the very web
on which logic rises up, with both the surplus and the essential it brings with
it, which is the negation, the “splitting,” the Spaltung, the division, the rending,
that the inmixing of the subject introduces there. Psychology is subjected
to the atomic condition of having to use Vorstellungsreprasentanzen because
it is in them that psychic material is flocculated. Doubtless psychology attempts
to free itself from this necessity, but its efforts to achieve it have thus far been


I don’t need to do more than remind you of the confused nature of the
recourse to affectivity; it reaches a point where, even when the reference is
made within analysis, it always leads us toward an impasse, toward something
that we feel is not the direction in which our research can really make


Of course, it is not a matter of denying the importance of affects. But it is
important not to confuse them with the substance of that which we are seeking
in the Real-Ich, beyond signifying articulation of the kind we artists of
analytical speech are capable of handling.


As far as the psychology of affects is concerned, Freud always manages to
give in passing significant and suggestive hints. He always insists on their
conventional and artificial character, on their character not as signifiers but
as signals, to which in the last analysis they may be reduced. This character
also explains their displaceable significance, and, from the economic point of
view, presents a certain number of necessities, such as irreducibility. But
affects do not throw light on the economic or even dynamic essence which is
sought at the horizon or limit from an analytical perspective. That is something
more opaque, more obscure, namely, analytical metaphysics’s notions
concerning energy.


It is true that this metapsychology has come nowadays to be organized in
strangely qualitative categories. One only has to remember the function recently
advanced of the term desexualized libido. That reference to a qualitative notion
is increasingly difficult to maintain on the basis of any experience, and even less on the basis of an experience that could be called affective.


We will perhaps look into the psychology of affects together someday. In
order to impress upon you the inadequacy of what has so far been done on
the subject, especially in psychoanalysis, I should simply like to propose to
you a few incidental subjects to reflect on – an affect such as anger, for example.
I am giving you there a few practical litde exercises in passing. The use of
precise categories that I invite you to refer to might perhaps explain why
there has been so much interest in anger in the history of psychology and of
ethics, and why we have been so litde interested in it in psychoanalysis.


Does, for example, what Descartes says about anger satisfy you fully? The
working hypothesis that I am suggesting, and we will have to see whether it
does the trick or not, is that anger is no doubt a passion which is manifested
by means of an organic or physiological correlative, by a given more or less
hypertonic or even elated feeling, but that it requires perhaps something like
the reaction of a subject to a disappointment, to the failure of an expected
correlation between a symbolic order and the response of the real. In other
words, anger is essentially linked to something expressed in a formulation of
Charles Poguy’s, who was speaking in a humorous context – it’s when the
little pegs refuse to go into the little holes.


Think about that and see if you find it useful. It has all kinds of possible
applications, up to and including offering a clue as to the possible outline of
a symbolic organization of the world among the rare animal species where
one can, in fact, observe something that resembles anger. It is, after all,
surprising that anger is remarkably absent throughout the animal realm as a


The direction taken by Freudian thought has involved locating affect under
the heading of a signal. A sufficient indication of this is that, by the end,
Freud came to evaluate anxiety itself as a signal. What we are looking for,
however, is beyond the organization of the Lust-Ich insofar as it is entirely
linked in a phenomenal way to the greater or lesser investment of the system
of the Vorstellungsreprasentanzen, or, in other words, of the signifying elements
in the psyche. This is somediing that is calculated to allow us to define
the field of das Ding at least operationally, as we attempt to advance on the
terrain of ethics. And since Freud’s thought progressed from a therapeudc
starting point, we can try to define the field of the subject insofar as it is not
simply the field of the intersubjecdve subject, the subject subjected to the
mediadon of the signifier, but what is behind this subject.


With this field that I call the field of das Ding, we are projected into something
that is far beyond the domain of affectivity, something moving, obscure
and without reference points owing to the lack of a sufficient organization of
its register, something much more primitive that I have already tried to describe
to you in our previous discussion this year. It isn’t just the register of the Wille in Schopenhauer’s sense of the word, insofar as, in opposition to representation, it is the essence of life whose support it is. It is a register where there is both good and bad will, that volens nolens, which is the true meaning of the ambivalence one fails to grasp, when one approaches it on the level of love and hate.


It is on the level of good and bad will, indeed of the preference for the bad
at the level of negative therapeutic reaction, that Freud at the end of his
thinking discovers once again the field of das Ding, and points out to us the
space beyond the pleasure principle. It is an ethical paradox that the field of
das Ding is rediscovered at the end, and that Freud suggests there that which
in life might prefer death. And it is along this path that he comes closer than
anyone else to the problem of evil or, more precisely, to the project of evil as


This is pointed to in everything that we have seen at the beginning of this
year’s seminar. Is it to be found in a corner of Freud’s work where one might
overlook it, might consider it as merely contingent or even outmoded? I believe
that everything in Freud’s thought proves that that is by no means the case.
And in the end Freud refers to this field as that around which the field of the pleasure principle gravitates, in the sense that the field of the pleasure principle is beyond the pleasure principle. Neither pleasure nor the organizing, unifying, erotic instincts of life suffice in any way to make of the living organism, of the necessities and needs of life, the center of psychic development.


Clearly, the term “operational” has its value on this occasion as it does in
all thought processes. This Ding is not fully elucidated, even if we make use
of it. The label “operational” may leave you with a certain comic dissatisfaction,
since what we are trying to point to there is precisely that which each
and every one of us has to deal with in the least operational of ways.


I don’t want to indulge in overdramatization. All ages have thought they
had reached the most extreme point of vision in a confrontation with something
terminal, some extra-worldly force that threatened the world. But our
world and society now bring news of the shadow of a certain incredible,
absolute weapon that is waved in our faces in a way that is indeed worthy of
the muses. Don’t imagine that the end will occur tomorrow; even in Leibnitz’s
time, people believed in less specific terms that the end of the world
was at hand. Nevertheless, that weapon suspended over our heads which is
one hundred thousand times more destructive than that which was already
hundreds of thousands of times more destructive than those which came before
– just imagine that rushing toward us on a rocket from outer space. It’s not
something I invented, since we are bombarded everyday with the news of a
weapon that threatens the planet itself as a habitat for mankind.


Put yourself in that spot, which has perhaps been made more present for us by the progress of knowledge than it was before in men’s imagination – although that faculty never ceased to toy with the idea; confront that moment when a man or a group of men can act in such a way that the question of existence is posed for the whole of the human species, and you will then see inside yourself that das Ding is next to the subject.


You will see that you will beg the subject of knowledge who has given
birth to the thing in question – the other thing, the absolute weapon – to
take stock, and you will also wish either that the true Thing be at that moment
within him (in other words that he not let the other go or, in common parlance,
“let it all blow up”) or that we know why.


Well now, after that short digression that was suggested to me by the word
“operational,” and from a less dramatic point of view – one no longer dares
say eschathological, given the very precise materialization of things – I will
take up our discussion again where we are in effect concerned with the essence
of das Ding. Or, more exactly, in what way are we concerned with it in the
domain of ethics?



Ethic 95

February 5, 2013

Ethic 95

The Ethics of Psychoanlysis

Jacques Lacan


Drives and lures


In this text that our friend Jean Laplanche has translated for the Society and
that you should look up in the Gesammelte Werke, Volume X, pages 161—
1623, you will find the following comment: “What we have to seek is that
which now presents itself to us concerning the relations of this formulation
of the ideal to sublimation. Sublimation is a process that concerns object

1923年的Gesammelte Werke, 第六册,161页查阅。你们将会找到以下的评论:「你们所必需寻找到东西是,你们现在呈现给我们的东西,关于这个升华的理想的阐释。升华是一种跟客体力比多有关的过程。

I would just point out that the opposition Ichlibido I Objektlibido only begins
to be articulated as such on an analytical level with the Einfuhrung. This text
complements the articulation first given by Freud of the fundamentally conflictual
position of man relative to his satisfaction as such. That is why it is essential to introduce das Ding at the beginning.


That is Das Ding insofar as, if he is to follow the path of his pleasure, man
must go around it. One must take one’s time to recognize, to find out for
oneself, to take one’s time to see that Freud is telling us the same thing as
Saint Paul, namely, that what governs us on the path of our pleasure is no
Sovereign Good, and that moreover, beyond a certain limit, we are in a thoroughly
enigmatic position relative to that which lies within das Ding, because
there is no ethical rule which acts as a mediator between our pleasure and its
real rule.


And behind Saint Paul, you fond the teaching of Christ when he is questioned
just before the final Easter [la dermiere Piques]. There are two versions,
that of the Gospel according to Saint Mathew and that of the Gospels
of Mark and Luke. In Saint Mathew’s Gospel, where it is clearest, he is
asked, “What good must we do to achieve life eternal?” In the Greek version,
he answers, “Why do you speak to me of good? Who knows what is good?
Only He, He who is beyond, our Father, knows what is good. And He told
you, Do this, Do that, Don’t go any further.” One just has to follow his
commandments. Then after that there is the statement, “Thou shalt love thy
neighbor as thyself.” That’s the commandment that appropriately enough,
given its obvious relevance, is the terminal point of Civilization and Its Discontents;
it is the ideal end to which his investigation by necessity leads him
– Freud never held back from anything that offered itself to his examination.


I cannot urge you too strongly to appreciate, if you are able, what in Christ’s
answer has for so long been closed to aural apprehension, apart from that of
knowing ears – “They have ears but they hear not,” the Gospel tells us. Try
to read the words of the man who, it is claimed, never laughed; read them
for what they are. From time to time, you will be struck by a form of humor
that surpasses all others.


The parable of the unfaithful steward, for example. No matter how seldom
one has been to church, one is nevertheless used to having that parable trotted
out. And it occurs to no one to be surprised by the fact that the Son of
Man, the purest of the pure, tells us that the best way to achieve salvation
for one’s soul is to embezzle the funds one is in charge of, since that, too,
may lead the children of light to grant you, if not a reward, then at least a
certain gratitude. From the point of view of a homogeneous, uniform, and
stable morality, there is some contradiction there, but perhaps one could
confirm it with other insights of a similar kind – such as, for example, the
terrific “joke,”4 “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” – and after that
get on with it! It is a form of paradox that may lead to all kinds of evasions
or ruptures, to all the gaps opened up by nonsense – those insidious dialogues,
for example, in which the interlocutor always manages to slip out of
the traps that are set for him.


To come back to our subject for the moment, the good as such – something
that has been the eternal object of the philosophical quest in the sphere of
ethics, the philosopher’s stone of all the moralists – the good is radically
denied by Freud. It is rejected at the beginning of his thought in the very
notion of the pleasure principle as the rule of the deepest instinct, of the
realm of the drives. This is confirmed in a thousand different ways, and is
for example consistent with Freud’s central question, which concerns, as you
know, the Father.


To understand Freud’s position relative to the Father, you have to go and
look up the form it is given in Luther’s thought, when he had his nostrils
tickled by Erasmus. Reluctandy, after a great many years, Erasmus had finally
published his De Libero Arbitrio, so as to remind the excitable mad man from
Wittenberg that the authoritative Christian tradition, from the words of Christ
to Saint Paul, Saint Augustine and the Church Fathers, led one to believe
that works, good works, were not nothing, and that to be sure the tradition
of the philosophers on the subject of the Sovereign Good was not to be just
thrown out.

为了理解弗洛依德相对于父亲的立场,你们必须前去查阅在路德思想被给予的形式,当他让阿拉斯莫斯引发好奇心。很不情愿地,好几年以后,阿拉斯莫斯最后出版他的De Libero Arbitrio,为了提醒这位出身维腾堡的激动的疯子:具有权威的基督教的传统,从耶稣基督到圣保罗,圣奥古斯丁与教堂的神父们,他们都引导我们相信:著作,好的著作并非毫无意义,的确,哲学家的传统,探讨统辖的善的主题,不应该被抛弃。

Luther, who up to that point had remained reserved in his relations with
the figure of Erasmus – although he did privately indulge in a little irony on
the subject – then published his De Servo Arbitrio in order to emphasize both
the fundamentally bad character of the relations between men and the fact
that at the heart of man’s destiny is the Ding, the causa, which I described
the other day as analogous to that which is designated by Kant as at the
horizon of his Practical Reason – except that it is a pendant to it. To coin a
phrase whose approximate Greekness I will ask you to forgive, it is the causa
pathomenon, the cause of the most fundamental human passion.

直到当时,路德始终是有所保留,在他跟阿拉斯莫斯这个人物的关系。虽然他私下自我陶醉于对于这个主题的反讽,然后出版他的De Servo Arbitrio ,为了强调,人与这个实之间的关系,基本上是不好的特性。因为「物象」的人的命运的核心,我前天将它描述作为类似于康德所指定的东西,当作是他的「实践理性」的地平线。除了作为它的附属。为了铸造一个词语,它的近似的希腊文,我要求你们忘记。那就是causa pathomenon, 人类最基本的激情的原因。

Luther writes of the following – God’s eternal hatred of men, not simply
of their failures and the works of their free will, but a hatred that existed even
before the world was created. You see that there are reasons why I advise you
to read religious authors from time to time; I mean good ones, of course, not
those who are all sweetness and light, although even they are sometimes
rewarding. Saint Francois de Sales on marriage is, I assure you, better than
Van de Velde on ideal marriage. But in my opinion Luther is much more
interesting. That hatred which existed even before the world was created is
the correlative of the relationship that exists between a certain influence of
the law as such and a certain conception of das Ding as the fundamental
problem and, in a word, as the problem of evil. I assume that it hasn’t escaped
your attention that it is exactly what Freud deals with when the question he
asks concerning the Father leads him to point out that the latter is the tyrant
of the primitive horde, the one against whom the original crime was committed,
and who for that very reason introduced the order, essence, and foundation
of the domain of law.


Not to recognize the filiation or cultural paternity that exists between Freud
and a new direction of thought – one that is apparent at the break which
occurred toward the beginning of the sixteenth century, but whose repercussions
are felt up to the end of the seventeenth century – constitutes a fundamental
misunderstanding of the kind of problems Freud’s intellectual project


I have just finished a digression of some twenty-five minutes. And it was
designed to tell you that, just after 1914 with the Einfuhrung, Freud introduces
us to something that dodges the issue again by articulating things that are, of course, essential, but of which one must know the context, namely, the problem of the object relation.


This problem of the object relation has to be read “Freudianly.” You can,
in fact, see it emerge in a narcissistic relation, an imaginary relation. At this
level the object introduces itself only insofar as it is perpetually interchangeable
with the love that the subject has for its own image. Ichlibido and Objektlibido
are introduced by Freud in relation to the difference between Ich-ideal
and Ideal-ich, between the mirage of the ego and the formation of an ideal.
This ideal makes room for itself alone; within the subject it gives form to
something which is preferred and to which it will henceforth submit. The
problem of identification is linked to this psychological splitting, which places
the subject in a state of dependence relative to an idealized, forced image of
itself – something that Freud will emphasize subsequently.


It is through this mirage relation that the notion of an object is introduced.
But this object is not the same as that which is aimed at on the horizon of the
instinct. Between the object as it is structured by the narcissistic relation and
das Ding, there is a difference, and it is precisely on the slope of that difference
that the problem of sublimation is situated for us.


In a short note in the Three Essays, Freud gives us a kind of brief summary
in the style of an essay on the difference that strikes us between the love life
of antiquity, of pre-Christians, and our own. It resides, he says, in the fact
that in antiquity the emphasis was on the instinct itself, whereas we place it
on the object. The Ancients feted the instinct, and, through the intermediary
of the instinct, were also ready to honor an object of lesser, common value,
whereas we reduce the value of the manifestation of the instinct, and we
demand the support of the object on account of the prevailing characteristics
of the object.


Moreover, Freud wrote a great many other pages where he discussed disparaging
commentaries on love life – commentaries made in the name of
what? In the name of an incontestable ideal. You can read the following in
Civilization and Its Discontents: “Among the works of that sensitive English
author, Galsworthy, whose worth is universally acknowledged nowadays, I
once really enjoyed one story. It was called The Apple Tree, and it shows how
there is no room anymore in contemporary civilized life for the simple, natural
love of two human beings of the pastoral tradition.”5


The whole passage flows forth spontaneously in a way that I call excessive.
How does Freud know that we emphasize the object, whereas the Ancients
put the accent on the instinct? You will respond that there is no example of
ideal exaltation in any Greek tragedy, unlike our own classical tragedies. Yet
Freud hardly explains the question.


Next time we will have to compare our ideal of love with that of the Ancients
by referring to some works of history and to a given historical moment that
will also have to be defined. It is no more or less than a structuralization, a
historical modification of Eros. It is, of course, of great importance that courtly
love, the exaltation of woman, a certain Christian style of love that Freud
himself discusses, mark a historical change. And I will be leading you into
that territory.


It is nevertheless true, as I will show you, that in certain authors of antiquity
– and interestingly enough in Latin rather than Greek literature – one
finds some and perhaps all the elements that characterize the cult of an idealized
object, something which was determinative for what can only be called
the sublimated elaboration of a certain relationship. Thus what Freud expresses
over-hastily and probably inversely, concerns a kind of degradation which,
when one examines it closely, is directed less at love life than at a certain lost
cord, a crisis, in relation to the object.


To set out to find the instinct again is the result of a certain loss, a cultural
loss, of the object. That such a problem exists at the center of that mental
crisis from which Freudianism emerged is a question that we will have to ask
ourselves. The nostalgia expressed in the idea that the Ancients were closer
than we are to the instinct perhaps means no more, like every dream of a
Golden Age or El Dorado, than that we are engaged in posing questions at
the level of the instinct because we do not yet know what to do as far as the
object is concerned.


At the level of sublimation the object is inseparable from imaginary and
especially cultural elaborations. It is not just that the collectivity recognizes
in them useful objects; it finds rather a space of relaxation where it may in a
way delude itself on the subject of das Ding, colonize the field of das Ding
with imaginary schemes. That is how collective, socially accepted sublimations


Society takes some comfort from the mirages that moralists, artists, artisans,
designers of dresses and hats, and the creators of imaginary forms in
general supply it with. But it is not simply in the approval that society gladly
accords it that we must seek the power of sublimation. It is rather in an
imaginary function, and, in particular, that for which we will use the symbolization
of the fantasm ($ ◊a), which is the form on which depends the
subject’s desire.


In forms that are historically and socially specific, the a elements, the imaginary
elements of the fantasm come to overlay the subject, to delude it, at the
very point of das Ding. The question of sublimation will be brought to bear
here. That is why I shall talk to you next time of courtly love in the Middle
Ages, and, in particular, of Minnesang.

用历史上与社会上明确的形式,这个a小客体的元素,幻想公式的这些想象的元素,前来跟主体重叠,欺骗它,在「物象」的这个点。升华的问题将会引导到这里。那就是为什么我下次将跟你们谈论中世纪的骑士之爱,特别是抒情歌曲Minnesang 的骑士之爱。

In an anniversary way, since last year I talked to you about Hamlet, I shall speak about the Elizabethan theater, which is the turning point in European eroticism, and civilized as well. It is at that moment, in effect, that the celebration of the idealized object occurs that Freud talks about in his note.
Freud left us with the problem of a gap once again at the level of das Ding,
which is that of religious men and mystics, at a time when we could no longer
rely on the Father’s guarantee.
January 13,1960