Ethic 197

Ethic 197

The Ethics of Psychoanalysis

Jacques Lacan





Sade is at this limit, and insofar as he imagines going beyond it, he teaches
us that he cultivates its fantasm with all the morose enjoyment – I will come
back to this phrase – that is manifest in that fantasm.


In imagining it, he proves the imaginary structure of the limit. But he also
goes beyond it. He doesn’t, of course, go beyond it in his fantasm, which
explains its tedious character, but in his theory, in the doctrine he advances
in words that at different moments in the work express the jouissance of
destruction, the peculiar virtue of crime, evil sought for evil’s sake, and, in
the last instance, the Supreme-Being-in-Evil – a strange reference made by
the character of Saint-Fond, who proclaims in The Story of Juliette his renewed
but not particularly new belief in this God.


This theory is called in the same work the System of Pius VI, the Pope
who is introduced as one of the characters in the novel. Taking things even
further, Sade lays out a vision of Nature as a vast system of attraction and
repulsion of evil by evil. Under these circumstances the ethical stance consists
in realizing to the most extreme point this assimilation to absolute evil,
as a consequence of which its integration into a fundamentally wicked nature
will be realized in a kind of inverted harmony.


I am just pointing to something that appears not as stages of thought in
search of a paradoxical formulation, but much more as its wrenching apart,
its collapse, in the course of a development that created its own impasse.


Can’t one nevertheless say that Sade teaches us, in the order of symbolic
play, how to attempt to go beyond the limit, and how to discover the laws of
one’s neighbor’s space as such? The space in question is that which is formed
when we have to do not with this fellow self whom we so easily turn into our
reflection, and whom we necessarily implicate in the same misrecognitions
that characterize our own self, but this neighbor who is closest to us, the
neighbor whom we sometimes take in our arms, if only to make love to. I am
not speaking here of ideal love, but of the act of making love.


We know well how the images of the self may frustrate our propulsion into
that space. Don’t we have something to learn about the laws of this space
from the man who enters it with his atrocious discourse, given that the imaginary
capture by the image of one’s fellow man functions as a lure there?


You can see where I am taking you. At the precise point to which I attach
our inquiry, I am not prejudging what the other is. I simply emphasize the
lures of one’s fellow man because it is from this fellow as such that the misrecognitions which define me as a self are born. And I will just stop for a
moment and refer to a little fable in which you will recognize my personal


I once spoke to you about a mustard pot. If I draw three pots here, I simply
demonstrate that you have a whole row of mustard or jam pots. They stand
on shelves and are numerous enough to satisfy your contemplative appetites.
Note that it is insofar as the pots are identical that they are irreducible. Thus
at this level we come up against the condition of individuation. And that’s as
far as the problem usually goes, namely, that there is this one, which isn’t
that one.


Naturally, the affected quality of this little trick doesn’t escape me. But do
try to understand the truth it hides, like all sophisms. I don’t know if you
have noticed that the etymology of the French word meme (self) is none other
than metipsemus, which makes this meme in moi-meme redundant. The phonetic
evolution is from metipsemus to meme – that which is most myself in
myself, that which is at the heart of myself, and beyond me, insofar as the
self stops at the level of those walls to which one can apply a label. What in
French at least serves to designate the notion of self or same (meme), then, is
this interior or emptiness, and I don’t know if it belongs to me or to nobody.

当然,我明白这个小诡计的受到影响的品质。但是请设法理解它隐藏的真理,像所有的诡辩一样。我并不知道你们是否注意到,法文meme(自性)这个词语的词源,实实在在就是metipsemus,它使moi-meme的这个meme成为多余。这个语音的进化是从metipsemus 到meme。在我自己最属于我自己的东西,属于我自己核心的东西,超越我,因为自性停止在那些墙壁的层次。我们能够应用一个标签到那些墙壁。在法文至少用来指明自性的观念,或是相同的meme,那么这个内部,或空洞,我不知道它是否属于我,或不属于任何人。

That’s what the use of my sophism signifies; it reminds me that my neighbor
possesses all the evil Freud speaks about, but it is no different from the
evil I retreat from in myself. To love him, to love him as myself, is necessarily
to move toward some cruelty. His or mine?, you will object. But haven’t I
just explained to you that nothing indicates they are distinct? It seems rather
that they are the same, on condition that those limits which oblige me to
posit myself opposite the other as my fellow man are crossed.


And here I should make my approach clear. Panic drunkenness, sacred
orgy, the flagellants of the cults of Attis, the Bacchantes of the tragedy of
Euripides, in short, all that remote Dionysionism lost in a history to which
reference has been made since the nineteenth century with the expectation of
restoring, beyond Hegel, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, the vestiges still available
to us of the sphere of the great Pan, in an apologetic, utopian and apocalyptic
form that was condemned by Kierkegaard and not less effectively by
Nietzsche – that’s not what I mean when I speak of the sameness (memete) of
someone else and myself. That is by the way why I finished the seminar
before last with the evocation of the statement that is correlative to the rending
of the veil of the temple, namely, Great Pan is dead.


I will say no more today. It’s not just a question of my prophesying in my
turn, but I will take an appointment with you for the time when I will have
to try to justify why and from what the Great Pan died, and at the precise
moment no doubt that the legend points to.



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