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An interest in philosophy led him to a preoccupation with the work of Spinoza , one outcome of which was his abandonment of religious faith for atheism. There were tensions in the family around this issue, and he regretted not persuading his brother to take a different path, but by his parents had moved to Boulogne and he was living in rooms in Montmartre.

During the early s, Lacan actively engaged with the Parisian literary and artistic avant-garde. Having met James Joyce , he was present at the Parisian bookshop where the first readings of passages from Ulysses in French and English took place, shortly before it was published in In , after being rejected for military service on the grounds that he was too thin, Lacan entered medical school.

In their only recorded instance of direct communication, Lacan sent a copy of his thesis to Sigmund Freud who acknowledged its receipt with a postcard. Its exhaustive reconstruction of her family history and social relations, on which he based his analysis of her paranoid state of mind, demonstrated his dissatisfaction with traditional psychiatry and the growing influence of Freud on his ideas.

In Autumn , Lacan began his training analysis with Rudolph Loewenstein , which was to last until He began his private psychoanalytic practice in whilst still seeing patients at the Sainte-Anne Hospital, [13] and the same year presented his first analytic report at the Congress of the International Psychoanalytical Association IPA in Marienbad on the " Mirror Phase ". The congress chairman, Ernest Jones , terminated the lecture before its conclusion, since he was unwilling to extend Lacan's stated presentation time. Insulted, Lacan left the congress to witness the Berlin Olympic Games.

No copy of the original lecture remains, Lacan having decided not to hand in his text for publication in the conference proceedings. Lacan married Marie-Louise Blondin in January and in January they had the first of their three children, a daughter named Caroline. A son, Thibaut, was born in August and a daughter, Sybille, in November In he moved into apartments at 5 rue de Lille, which he would occupy until his death.

During the war their relationship was complicated by the threat of deportation for Sylvia, who was Jewish, since this required her to live in the unoccupied territories. Lacan intervened personally with the authorities to obtain papers detailing her family origins, which he destroyed. In they had a child, Judith.

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She kept the name Bataille because Lacan wished to delay the announcement of his planned separation and divorce until after the war. After the war, the SPP recommenced their meetings. Bion's analytic work with groups influenced Lacan, contributing to his own subsequent emphasis on study groups as a structure within which to advance theoretical work in psychoanalysis.

He published a report of his visit as 'La Psychiatrique anglaise et la guerre' Evolution psychiatrique 1, , pp. With the purchase in of a country mansion at Guitrancourt , Lacan established a base for weekend retreats for work, leisure - including extravagant social occasions - and for the accommodation of his vast library. Becoming public in , Lacan's year-long seminar was highly influential in Parisian cultural life, as well as in psychoanalytic theory and clinical practice.

When, at a meeting the following June, a formal motion was passed against him criticising his abandonment of the standard analytic training session for the variable-length session , he immediately resigned his presidency.

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Encouraged by the reception of "the return to Freud" and of his report "The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis", Lacan began to re-read Freud's works in relation to contemporary philosophy , linguistics, ethnology , biology , and topology.

From to at the Sainte-Anne Hospital, he held his Seminars and presented case histories of patients. In his seventh Seminar "The Ethics of Psychoanalysis" —60 , Lacan defined the ethical foundations of psychoanalysis and presented his "ethics for our time"—one that would, in the words of Freud, prove to be equal to the tragedy of modern man and to the "discontent of civilization". The end of psychoanalysis entails "the purification of desire".

This text formed the foundation of Lacan's work for the subsequent years. Lacan's practice with its controversial indeterminate-length sessions and his critical stance towards psychoanalytic orthodoxy led, in August , to the IPA setting the condition that registration of the SFP was dependent upon the removal of Lacan from the list of SFP analysts.

Lacan began to set forth his own approach to psychoanalysis to an audience of colleagues that had joined him from the SFP. The success of the publication led to a subsequent two-volume edition in By the s, Lacan was associated, at least in the public mind, with the far left in France. However, Lacan's unequivocal comments in on revolutionary ideals in politics draw a sharp line between the actions of some of his followers and his own style of "revolt". Throughout the final decade of his life, Lacan continued his widely followed seminars.

During this period, he developed his concepts of masculine and feminine jouissance and placed an increased emphasis on the concept of " the Real " as a point of impossible contradiction in the " Symbolic order ". Lacan's failing health made it difficult for him to meet the demands of the year-long Seminars he had been delivering since the fifties, but his teaching continued into the first year of the eighties. The Overture to the Caracas Encounter was to be Lacan's final public address. His last texts from the spring of are brief institutional documents pertaining to the newly formed Freudian Field Institute.

Lacan's "return to Freud " emphasizes a renewed attention to the original texts of Freud, and included a radical critique of ego psychology , whereas "Lacan's quarrel with Object Relations psychoanalysis" [36] was a more muted affair. Here he attempted "to restore to the notion of the Object Relation Through her we know the function of the imaginary primordial enclosure formed by the imago of the mother's body", [38] as well as upon "the notion of the transitional object , introduced by D. Lacan thought that Freud's ideas of "slips of the tongue", jokes, and the interpretation of dreams all emphasized the agency of language in subjective constitution.


In " The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious, or Reason Since Freud ," he proposes that "the unconscious is structured like a language. One consequence of his idea that the unconscious is structured like a language is that the self is denied any point of reference to which to be "restored" following trauma or a crisis of identity. Freud very clearly opposes the unconscious which he says is constituted by thing-presentations and nothing else to the pre-conscious. What is related to language can only belong to the pre-conscious". Dylan Evans, however, in his Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis, " Lacan's first official contribution to psychoanalysis was the mirror stage , which he described as "formative of the function of the "I" as revealed in psychoanalytic experience.

In " the Imaginary order," the subject's own image permanently catches and captivates the subject. Lacan explains that "the mirror stage is a phenomenon to which I assign a twofold value. In the first place, it has historical value as it marks a decisive turning-point in the mental development of the child. In the second place, it typifies an essential libidinal relationship with the body-image". As this concept developed further, the stress fell less on its historical value and more on its structural value. It illustrates the conflictual nature of the dual relationship. The mirror stage describes the formation of the Ego via the process of objectification, the Ego being the result of a conflict between one's perceived visual appearance and one's emotional experience.

This identification is what Lacan called alienation. At six months, the baby still lacks physical co-ordination.

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  7. The child is able to recognize themselves in a mirror prior to the attainment of control over their bodily movements. The child sees their image as a whole and the synthesis of this image produces a sense of contrast with the lack of co-ordination of the body, which is perceived as a fragmented body.

    The child experiences this contrast initially as a rivalry with their image, because the wholeness of the image threatens the child with fragmentation—thus the mirror stage gives rise to an aggressive tension between the subject and the image.

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    To resolve this aggressive tension, the child identifies with the image: this primary identification with the counterpart forms the Ego. Lacan calls the specular image "orthopaedic," since it leads the child to anticipate the overcoming of its "real specific prematurity of birth. The mirror stage also has a significant symbolic dimension, due to the presence of the figure of the adult who carries the infant. Having jubilantly assumed the image as their own, the child turns their head towards this adult, who represents the big Other , as if to call on the adult to ratify this image.

    Lacan often used an algebraic symbology for his concepts: the big Other l'Autre is designated A, and the little other l'autre is designated a. For Lacan "the Other must first of all be considered a locus in which speech is constituted," so that the Other as another subject is secondary to the Other as symbolic order. In arguing that speech originates in neither the Ego nor in the subject but rather in the Other, Lacan stresses that speech and language are beyond the subject's conscious control. They come from another place, outside of consciousness—"the unconscious is the discourse of the Other.

    This means that there is always a signifier missing from the trove of signifiers constituted by the Other. Lacan illustrates this incomplete Other graphically by striking a bar through the symbol A; hence another name for the castrated, incomplete Other is the "barred Other.

    Feminist thinkers have both utilised and criticised Lacan's concepts of castration and the Phallus. Feminists such as Avital Ronell , Jane Gallop , [59] and Elizabeth Grosz , [60] have interpreted Lacan's work as opening up new possibilities for feminist theory. Some feminists have argued that Lacan's phallocentric analysis provides a useful means of understanding gender biases and imposed roles, while other feminist critics, most notably Luce Irigaray , accuse Lacan of maintaining the sexist tradition in psychoanalysis. Like Irigaray, French philosopher Jacques Derrida , in criticizing Lacan's concept of castration, discusses the phallus in a chiasmus with the hymen, as both one and other.

    The Imaginary is the field of images and imagination.

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    The main illusions of this order are synthesis, autonomy, duality, and similarity. Lacan thought that the relationship created within the mirror stage between the Ego and the reflected image means that the Ego and the Imaginary order itself are places of radical alienation: "alienation is constitutive of the Imaginary order.

    In The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis , Lacan argues that the Symbolic order structures the visual field of the Imaginary, which means that it involves a linguistic dimension. If the signifier is the foundation of the Symbolic, the signified and signification are part of the Imaginary order. Language has Symbolic and Imaginary connotations—in its Imaginary aspect, language is the "wall of language" that inverts and distorts the discourse of the Other.

    On the other hand, the Imaginary is rooted in the subject's relationship with his or her own body the image of the body. In Fetishism: the Symbolic, the Imaginary and the Real , Lacan argues that in the sexual plane the Imaginary appears as sexual display and courtship love. Insofar as identification with the analyst is the objective of analysis, Lacan accused major psychoanalytic schools of reducing the practice of psychoanalysis to the Imaginary order. In his Seminar IV, "La relation d'objet", Lacan argues that the concepts of "Law" and "Structure" are unthinkable without language—thus the Symbolic is a linguistic dimension.

    This order is not equivalent to language, however, since language involves the Imaginary and the Real as well. The dimension proper to language in the Symbolic is that of the signifier —that is, a dimension in which elements have no positive existence, but which are constituted by virtue of their mutual differences. The Symbolic is also the field of radical alterity—that is, the Other; the unconscious is the discourse of this Other.

    It is the realm of the Law that regulates desire in the Oedipus complex. The Symbolic is the domain of culture as opposed to the Imaginary order of nature.

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    As important elements in the Symbolic, the concepts of death and lack manque connive to make of the pleasure principle the regulator of the distance from the Thing " das Ding an sich " and the death drive that goes "beyond the pleasure principle by means of repetition"—"the death drive is only a mask of the Symbolic order. By working in the Symbolic order, the analyst is able to produce changes in the subjective position of the analysand. These changes will produce imaginary effects because the Imaginary is structured by the Symbolic.

    Lacan's concept of the Real dates back to and his doctoral thesis on psychosis. The Real, for Lacan, is not synonymous with reality. Not only opposed to the Imaginary , the Real is also exterior to the Symbolic. Unlike the latter, which is constituted in terms of oppositions i. The Symbolic introduces "a cut in the real" in the process of signification: "it is the world of words that creates the world of things—things originally confused in the "here and now" of the all in the process of coming into being. In Seminar XI Lacan defines the Real as "the impossible" because it is impossible to imagine, impossible to integrate into the Symbolic, and impossible to attain.

    It is this resistance to symbolization that lends the Real its traumatic quality. Finally, the Real is the object of anxiety , insofar as it lacks any possible mediation and is "the essential object which is not an object any longer, but this something faced with which all words cease and all categories fail, the object of anxiety par excellence.

    Lacan's concept of desire is related to Hegel's Begierde , a term that implies a continuous force, and therefore somehow differs from Freud's concept of Wunsch. However this is possible only if desire is articulated in speech: [70] "It is only once it is formulated, named in the presence of the other, that desire appears in the full sense of the term.

    But it isn't a question of recognizing something that could be entirely given. In naming it, the subject creates, brings forth, a new presence in the world. Lacan distinguishes desire from need and from demand. Need is a biological instinct where the subject depends on the Other to satisfy its own needs: in order to get the Other's help "need" must be articulated in "demand.

    Consequently, "demand" acquires a double function: on the one hand, it articulates "need", and on the other, acts as a "demand for love. The attainment of desire does not consist in being fulfilled but in its reproduction as such. Lacan also distinguishes between desire and the drives: desire is one and drives are many. The drives are the partial manifestations of a single force called desire. Desire is not a relation to an object but a relation to a lack manque.

    Last but not least for Lacan the first person who occupies the place of the Other is the mother and at first the child is at her mercy. Only when the father articulates desire with the law by castrating the mother, the subject is liberated from the mother's desire. Lacan maintains Freud's distinction between drive Trieb and instinct Instinkt. Drives differ from biological needs because they can never be satisfied and do not aim at an object but rather circle perpetually around it. He argues that the purpose of the drive Triebziel is not to reach a goal but to follow its aim, meaning "the way itself" instead of "the final destination", that is to circle around the object.

    The purpose of the drive is to return to its circular path and the true source of jouissance is the repetitive movement of this closed circuit. Three grammatical voices structure this circuit:. The active and reflexive voices are autoerotic—they lack a subject. It is only when the drive completes its circuit with the passive voice that a new subject appears, implying that prior to that instance, there was not subject. To Freud sexuality is composed of partial drives i.

    At first these partial drives function independently i. Drives do not represent the reproductive function of sexuality but only the dimension of jouissance. Lacan identifies four partial drives: the oral drive the erogenous zones are the lips, the partial object the breast, the verb is "to suck" , the anal drive the anus and the faeces, "to shit" , the scopic drive the eyes and the gaze, "to see" and the invocatory drive the ears and the voice, "to hear".

    The first two drives relate to demand and the last two to desire. The notion of dualism is maintained throughout Freud's various reformulations of the drive-theory. From the initial opposition between sexual drives and ego-drives self-preservation to the final one between the life drives Lebenstriebe and the death drives Todestriebe. For Lacan all drives are sexual drives, and every drive is a death drive pulsion de mort since every drive is excessive, repetitive and destructive. The drives are closely related to desire since both originate in the field of the subject.

    A drive is a demand that is not caught up in the dialectical mediation of desire; drive is a "mechanical" insistence that is not ensnared in demand's dialectical mediation. Building on Freud's The Psychopathology of Everyday Life , Lacan long argued that "every unsuccessful act is a successful, not to say 'well-turned', discourse", highlighting as well "sudden transformations of errors into truths, which seemed to be due to nothing more than perseverance".

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