Ethics 5

Ethics 5
The Ethics of Psychoanalysis
Jacques Lacan
雅克 拉康

Outline of the seminar


We are faced with the question of what analysis allows us to formulate concerning
the origin of morality.


Is its contribution limited to the elaboration of a mythology that is more
credible and more secular than that which claims to be revealed? I have in
mind the reconstructed mythology of Totem and Taboo, which starts out from
the experience of the original murder of the father, from the circumstances
that give rise to it and its consequences. From this point of view, it is the
transformation of the energy of desire which makes possible the idea of the
genesis of its repression. As a result, the transgression is not in this instance
just something which is imposed on us in a formal way; it is instead something
worthy of our praise, felix culpa, since it is at the origin of a higher
complexity, something to which the realm of civilization owes its development.


In short, is everything limited to the genesis of the superego whose description
is formulated, perfected, deepened, and made more complex as Freud’s
work progresses? We will see that this genesis of the superego is not simply
a psychogenesis and a sociogenesis. Indeed, it is impossible to articulate it by
limiting oneself merely to the register of collective needs. Something is imposed
there whose jurisdiction is to be distinguished from pure and simple social
necessity – it is properly speaking something whose unique scope I am trying
to make you appreciate here in terms of the relation to the signifier and to
the law of discourse.


We must maintain the autonomy of this term if we want
to be able to locate our experience precisely or simply correctly.
Here no doubt the distinction between culture and society contains something
that might appear new or even divergent in comparison with what is
found in a certain kind of teaching of the analytical experience. I hope, in
fact, to point out to you the references to such a distinction and the scope
they occupy in Freud himself, a distinction whose authority I am far from
alone in promoting or emphasizing the need for.


And in order to draw your attention immediately to the work in which we
will take up the problem, I refer you to Civilization and Its Discontents, published
in 1922 and written by Freud after the working out of his second topic,
that is to say after he had placed in the foreground the highly problematic
notion of the death instinct. You will find expressed there in striking phrases
the idea that what, in brief, happens in the progress of civilization, those
discontents that are to be explored, is situated, as far as man is concerned,
far above him – the man involved here being the one who finds himself at
that turning point in history where Freud himself and his work are situated.


We will come back to the significance of Freud’s formula and I will draw
your attention to its significance in the text. But I believe it to be important
enough for me to point it out to you right away, and already sufficiently
illuminated in my teaching, where I show the originality of the Freudian
conversion in the relation of man to the logos.


This Civilization and Its Discontents that I invite you to get to know or to
reread in the context of Freud’s work is not just a set of notes. It is not the
kind of thing one grants a practitioner or a scientist somewhat indulgently,
as his way of making an excursion into philosophical inquiry without our
giving it all the technical importance one would accord to such a thought
coming from someone who considers himself to belong to the category of
philosopher. Such a view of this work of Freud’s is widespread among psychoanalysts
and is definitely to be rejected. Civilization and Its Discontents is
an indispensable work, unsurpassed for an understanding of Freud’s thought
and the summation of his experience.


It illuminates, emphasizes, dissipates
the ambiguities of wholly distinct points of the analytical experience and of
what our view of man should be – given that it is with man, with an immemorial
human demand, that we have to deal on a daily basis in our experience.


As I have already said, moral experience is not limited to that acceptance
of necessity, to that form in which such experience presents itself in every
individual case. Moral experience is not simply linked to that slow recognition
of the function that was defined and made autonomous by Freud under
the term of superego, nor to that exploration of its paradoxes, to what I have
called the obscene and ferocious figure in which the moral agency appears
when we seek it at its root.


The moral experience involved in psychoanalysis is the one that is summed
up in the original imperative proposed in what might be called the Freudian
ascetic experience, namely, that Wo es war, soll Ich werden with which Freud
concludes the second part of his Vorlesungen (Introductory Lectures) on psychoanalysis.
The root of this is given in an experience that deserves the term
“moral experience,” and is found at the very beginning of the entry of the
patient into analysis.


That “I” which is supposed to come to be where “it” was, and which
analysis has taught us to evaluate, is nothing more than that whose root we
already found in the “I” which asks itself what it wants. It is not only questioned,
but as it progresses in its experience, it asks itself that question and
asks it precisely in the place where strange, paradoxical, and cruel commands
are suggested to it by its morbid experience.



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