Ethic 110

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.



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