In margin of " Zone "

Posted: October 10, 2007 in Apollinaire, Literary Essay

By Lionel Richard

Literary magazine n° 348
November 1996

The new esthetics, which Apollinaire in “the preliminary Alcohol” poem proposes , aims at gathering and with exalter the heteroclite one. When poetry accepts chaos and the chance.

” Love you do not know what it is only the absence
And you do not know that one smells oneself some to die “
Apollinaire,Poems With Lou

” Sad and mélodieux is delirious
I wander through my beautiful Paris
Without having the heart to die there. “
Apollinaire,the Song of badly-liked

” the Song of badly-liked commemorates my first love at twenty years, English met in Germany, that lasted one year, we had to turn over each one on our premises, then we were not written any more… I suffered much from it, witness this poem where I believed myself badly liked while it was me which liked badly… ‘
Apollinaire, Letter With Madeleine Pagès, 1915.

Quand the volume of ” Alcohols ” appeared, in 1913, it was compared with the back-store of a receiver. One could there discover of all, out-of-date and the incomprehensible one. It was not so badly seen ; but if ” the old one “, which connected certain poems with those of Gourmont, Verlaine, Nerval, of Villon, with the weaving songs, were noticed instantaneously, the ” new one ” appeared to raise of provocative incongruity. In short, the ” new one ” appeared to be limited to a sterile ease. It was necessary that time passed so that more surprising became most productive ; the least justifiable was going to be held by the poets for most fertile. Thus it goes from there, in ” Alcohols ” with the preliminary poem ” Zone “, and its guarantor, at the end of work, ” Vendémiaire “.
” Zone ” appeared, in December 1912, in ” the evenings of Paris ” ; on Apollinaire tests will substitute for the title ” Cry ” that of ” Zone “. “the Alcohol” organization not being chronological, Apollinaire retained it to open the collection symbolically, when ” Vendémiaire “, probably written about 1909, and published in November 1912, was located at the end of the work. Poem assessment and poem confession ” Zone ” places ” Alcohols ” under the sign of what will be named a little later in ” Calligrammes “, the tradition and the adventure. The change of title which takes place, of pre-original to the collection, ” Cry ” (the table of Edward Munch is 1893) at ” Zone “, carries to modify the reading of the poem : it is not any more to regard a cry of personal despair, but as the course of a zone of pains ; the individual is disseminated and reflects himself in what it sees around him, which it looks with the sky. The poem is built on the rather traditional form of a wander, downtown, of an end of day to one morning. Space described, between the recollection of a ” industrial street ” crossing the morning, and approaches it at the following day of the residence of Auteuil, while ” the slags make tinkle their cans in the streets ” seems subjected to the only law of the disparate one. The memories in disorder invade the spirit ; those which milked with Mediterranean childhood, at the cities crossed at the time of the great voyage towards the east of 1902 (Prague, Coblentz), with shames (” as a criminal one puts to you in a state of arrest ” what refers to the flight of the Mona Lisa into 1911), to the disasters of the desire and with the compassion (” I now humiliate with a poor girl with the horrible laughter my mouth “) are juxtaposed. No law ” of association of the ideas ” could legitimate their appearance ; their obliteration, or their multiplication is free. With these memories, that the indication of the places makes it possible to place in prospect in time, mix with the notations with the dubious statute. An assessment, an effort of totalization (” you made the painful one and merry voyages “) can indicate a return to the present, that of the evening and night ambulation, with this ” today you steps in Paris ” which constitutes the wire of the poem. The emigrants at theSaint-Lazare station are images of oneself, which became wandering fault of not having more pole (” I lived like insane and I wasted my time “) ; the prostitutes are beings pareillement detached, déconstruits. The title of ” Zone ” would indicate mental space thus, when it is without direction, when it is not any more that one ” ground gaste “, ” has waste Land “, where all that occupies the field of the conscience suddenly takes the same value.
The occasion of this sentimental and spiritual assessment is known ; it follows the rupture with Marie Laurencin. And as Apollinaire is with the day before of his thirty-three years, its destiny does not appear to him without relationship with that of Christ. Nor what it saw, with what Dante and Virgile crossed. It is well in hell, but it does not have a guide. With the way of the poems epic, ” Zone ” proceeds on several plans : that of the night and adventurous ambulation, of confrontation with the other which one was (and that could be named a ” catabase “), that, finally, the supernatural one, sky where the guardian angels côtoient the airplanes. The characteristic of, it is to make of a human destiny the consequence of a divine will. The title of ” Zone ” could thus indicate a space, always undecided, but this either geographical but spiritual time : ” Zone ” this place and vacuum of the sky which one awaits some sign vainly, with least humming.
This poem of heroic confession thus has all the characters of old : its staged construction, its assonancés distiches, its regular alexandrines (” at the end you are tired/of this old world “) or prolonged (” shepherdess ô Eiffel Tower/the herd of the bridges bleats/this morning “), its traditional inversions and its periphrases (” the flying machine “), its unexpected metaphors (” a bell barks “), finally the sure effects of the religious litany (” it is the torch with the russet-red hair… “), all causes to make identifiable of the familiar rates/rhythms, alleviating known musics. But the old poetic one cannot access text completely ; it remains in margin of the tradition ; it is désaccordé of it with what it makes think ; in short, it is located in a new ” Zone”, disconcerting already, but still undecided. Indeed the characteristic of the poem was to present itself, in its forced forms, like a language necessary ; however all, in ” Zone “, the set of themes, the rhythmic one, concerns the random one. Moral despair leads Apollinaire to invent, as of ” Zone “, a new esthetics, which it will radicalize in other works (in the ” poem-conversation “, for example), and of which it will make the theory, in 1917, in its ” Conference on the new spirit ” : ” one can be poet in all the fields : it is enough that one is adventurous and that one goes to the discovery. “It is what” Zone shows ” ; and that explains why was placed at the opening of the book this poem of distress, when were reserved, to close it, the ” songs of universal drunkenness “. ” the poet is that which discovers new joys, were they painful to support “.
The new esthetics, which Apollinaire proposes, is related to an idea of gathering and exaltation of the heteroclite one. If the idea of beautiful ideal and harmony referred to Apollon implicitly, it is in Dionysos that will refer Apollinaire, Dionysos to which is comparable Christ, when the wine is blood, and the mystical press. Poetry selective any more, neither in its vocabulary, neither in its topics, nor is scheduled. It accepts chaos and the chance. It is not only any more in the books ; it bursts with the glance : ” You read the leaflets the catalogues the posters which sing high/here is poetry this morning… ” the pain-killer, the apparently unimportant one, the commonplace one even are taken again in load : ” Te here in Marseilles in the medium of water melons/Te here in Coblentz with the hotel of the Giant “, in ordinary alexandrines consolidated by discrete assonances between the hémistiche and the rhyme. But what to say this industrial street ” located in Paris between the street/Aumont-Thiéville/and the avenue of the Terns ” where an E dumb remains floating (its deletion in the word ” street ” gave a great concern to Mallarmé, when it wrote in quatrains the addresses of its letters), where only a rhythmic symmetry would impose on a diction, undoubtedly hateful, ” to save ” the notation ? The poetic modern one is opposed to the old speech in worms : with the logical continuum (only division in stanzas was allowed) are opposite the asyndeton, the rupture, the failure, with what consolidates, which breaks, with what progresses in time, which exists simultanéement. The poem is composed of small islands ; the reader, of the one with the other, short the risk of a shipwreck. The text is invested by the white which penetrates margins in the sentence, of monostic with leaves the twenty-nine one towards by the distich, the tercet, the quatrain.
The notations are not implied rationally ; each one of them becomes the expression, discontinuous, of a latent imaginary state to which the reader must lend a problematic coherence. To say that poetry is in ” the leaflets the catalogues the posters ” is not only to affirm its visual character (what will open the way with the ” Calligrammes “, and, beyond, with the joining of ” titles and fragments of titles cut out in the newspapers ” to what André Breton proceeds as of first ” Proclamation of surrealism “) ; it is to oppose the heteroclite one to homogeneous, dispersion with the unit with the idea that poetry is the act by which a listener or a spectator adapts scattered images to make of them signs of his own destiny. Poem MIME plus a stable composition, according to reasonable rules ; it is an apparent chaos, a starry sky, whose reader must make a space of composition, always in disintegration, always to restructure.
The world of the spirit, waste ground, heteroclite point discharge, true zone, is explored during the night, until the morning, ” the sun is it there is a distinct neck “. This first version becomes, in theoriginal one of 1912, ” sun raising sliced neck “, to finally find its form final, gnomic, cacophonous and enigmatic : ” sun cuckoo-roller “. The raising sun represents a traditional image of the hope ; if the Phoenix dies one evening, known as the stanza added in 1909 to ” the Song of badly-liked “, ” the morning sees its rebirth “. The sun is not any more the manager of the cosmic movement ; it makes think of a decapitated god. The man is headless, the world is eccentric. The swirl, the flashover only reduce the feeling of loneliness and scatter :
” And you drink this extreme alcohol like your life
Your life which you drink like a brandy. “
A dance dionysienne will carry the cities and the world in the month of the grape harvest, in ” Vendémiaire “, after the revolution will have been accomplished. That which delivers kings, incunables, agreed poetry.

Inliterary magazine n° 348 – November 1996 – File ” Apollinaire “

Benefits of the controversy
By Jean-Louis Hoots

L’art of the polemic goes up with highest Antiquity “Polemos [ the conflict ] is the father of all things and the king of all things”, affirmed Héraclite. All l’histoire of Greek philosophy can be summarized with a succession of arguments. Oscillating between theoretical debates and personal attacks, refutation and invective, this practice of the controversy, lengthily ground in the Platonic dialogues, n’a ceased d’échauffer philosophers. In the middle of the XIXe century, Schopenhauer reformulated of them the rules and the tricks in a treated court, nicely entitled L’Art to always d’avoir reason. Enumerating thirty-eight stratagems, the philosopher taught how to be right at all costs by sapping the arguments of l’adversaire and while showing himself of worse faith than him. After having suggested many easy ways, pretences and pro­vocations, Schopenhauer advised like ultimate ad personam l’attaque recourse, by showing “die­sobligeant, aggressive, offensive, coarse”.

This file of the literary Magazine is made l’écho various invectives, insults, mocking remarks and insults that the philosophers during two millenia launched out. Perhaps one will reproach us for bringing back squabbles sometimes worthy d’une playground “polé­the mists disgust me”, said Bernanos, repenting the pannings of which it overpowered so many of its contemporaries. The polemic, when it concerns the mania, is useless, even degrading. But it can be salutary when it emerges with relevance to revive the debate. It s’apparente then with a tournament where it s’agit less to embank l’adversaire that to d’enrichir a common reflexion.
This file wants to be an illustration of the good use of the dialectical one. It recalls by the menu the most famous duels, and most fertile, of l’histoire of philosophy “the controversy is often beneficial with l’un as with l’autre, of the fact qu’ils rub their heads between them, and is used for each one d’eux to rectify its own thoughts, and also to conceive new sights”, concludes in its Schopenhauer treaty which, definitely, had…

Read the completed content of this edition at

By Alain Finkielkraut
Literary magazine n° 345
July-August 1996

“Nothing, in a sense, is more cumbersome only the next one. This desired isn’t it the undesirable one even?”
Emmanuel Lévinas

“It is necessary to cease, known as Plato in the Sophist, to tell intrigues.” Thus philosophy starts, thus continues it until Heidegger which reiterates in Being and time the inaugural injunction of Plato.

However, what the philosophy of Lévinas if not the account unceasingly taken again, unceasingly started again, indefinitely commented on and dug increasingly major, of a primitive scene, an original or pre-original intrigue: the meeting of others.

“Intrigue” is besides one of the Masters words of this thought which, maintaining us only morals, is never edifying, refuses with any preachifying, does not make us at any moment morals. ‘ ethics according to Lévinas is not more one law imposed by God to the men that the demonstration in each man of his autonomy. It is an event and even a blow of theatre. It is necessary that something occurs with ego so that this one ceases being a “force which goes” and wakes up with the scruple. This something, it is somebody, and this somebody is not with properly
Speech nobody: it is this share of the other man who escapes from the image or the idea that it leaves me, which demolishes form by which however it appears, which resists its conceptualization, with his thematisation, with its definition, and which Lévinas names magnificiently visagE.
The romantic literature accustomed us to read the human faces like hiéroglyphes, through the emotions which cross them and to detect the secrecy of the hearts in the expressions of this always emerged part of the body. For the novel, the face is a consent.
The ethical novel that written and rewritten Lévinas inlassablement involves us beyond the opposition or even of the tangle of the truth and appearance. The face, says it, borer the attributes which in him are offered to the knowledge. Its significance exceeds my representation, so perspicacious, also topic, so exact is it. The face naked, i.e. at the same time abstract and without protection, is stripped its ornaments cultural and vulnerable, irreducible to same qualities as it raises and strips of any defense, external with its determinations empirical and exposed to bearing end. And it is precisely that, this transcendence and cettre brittleness, this disarmed which repeals in me in spite of me the quiet selfishness of perseverance in being it. The face exists initially with the requirement. Before all that it me dissiumule or that it reveals me, there is what it reveals me, namely: “you will not kill!”. Vis-a-vis with the face, I recognize myself like being enjoint. The face, it is not a spectacle which is offered, these are a voice which silently order. Very of a blow, the other looks at me and obliges me. Very of a blow, it falls to me and it orders to me of all its load of indigence and weakness. Failure ‘ ‘ to be falling as a humanity. Unfasten autistic provision. Dismissal of the concern of oneself: ego I transfer with me here. “No one”, is not good voluntarily written Lévinas with the wrong way, once again, of all the moral tradition of philosophy. The ethics of which it speaks to us and which it invites us to discover or to rediscover with him is not an asceticism but a traumatism; it is not a work of oneself on oneself, it is an intrusion, a tearing, an effraction, or an affection, i.e., any unit, a connection and a lesion, a feeling which attaches and a burn which afflicts. One would in vain seek morals in the substance of each person taken separately or in the administraion of individual improvement. Morals is caught like a disease: it is the disease to be it.
“human Being”, says one to designate the man. Lévinas makes emerge implicit contradiction that there is between the two terms. Ego takes dimension of humanity when it deserted sound being and from goes away for the other. Can one date this when? One moment ago in the history of each one where this scene took place, where this intrigue was tied? Not undoubtedly. But that does not want to say that the intrigue is fictitious nor that this strange novel is only one novel. There is not first once and, at the same time, like it writes Paul Ricoeur, it is each time the first time that the other, such other says to me: “You will not kill!” The face makes conspicuous the command: “Each face is the Sinai which prohibits the murder.”
To speak about morals, it is not thus to formulate the regulations of the reason, it is to tell an adventure of the sensitivity. Venture foreign moreover where the other seems to occupy all the parts and to play all the parts, it is the sender of the history – that of which I answer – and his recipient – that in front of which I answer. It is also the subject of the action since it is him which takes the initiative, which enters without striking in the citadel of my interiority, and which assigns me or which shows me. And this “I” itself which answers the call, which is if not literally one which pro quo, an hostage, a host involuntary and inhabited until in the most intimate recesses of as for oneself, one oneself who attests himself by the movement even in which he is dislocated, like says it once again Ricoeur? Isn’t this there too much to give to the Other and too much to ask self? There is not something of insupportable in this paroxystic definition of subjectivity like total subjection and the identity like pure abnegation?
“If I am not for me, which will be for me? If it is not now, when? If I am only for me, which am I?”, it is says by Hillel in Talmud. Doesn’t Lévinas, which likes to quote this sentence, neglect of them the first and the second moments? Doesn’t it jump too quickly to the last question? To doesn’t force of higher bid and déconstruction, arrive-til from there to describe under the name of ethical situation an intolerable report/ratio?
This perplexity is legitimate and even those (of which I am) that the obsessional writing of Emmanuel Lévinas maintains under its philosophical charm, poetic and narrative, cannot avoid putting the question. We keep nevertheless too simple answers. Before qualifying exaggerated this indiscretion with regard to the inexpressible one that wants to be the philosophy of Lévinas, let us ask us if by the systematic practice of excess and the hyperbole, it did not make occur with the trembling light words something which had never been known as. Its most hyperbolic book and more haletant, Otherwise than to be and beyond the gasoline, opens on this terrible dedication: “A memory of the beings closest among the six million to assassinated by the national-Socialists, beside the million men of all confessions and all nations, victims of the same hatred of the other man, the same anti-semitism.”
The Xxe century tore off with the anti-semitism its apocalyptic secrecy. The anti-semitism, it is the hatred of the other and this hatred, it is not the aversion for the difference of the other man, its strangeness, its exoticism or its supposed inferiority; it is the allergy to its proximitié, the revolt and the resentment against the violence of the social relation.
To twist the neck with the scruple to be; to release the life of any foreign interference, to deploy it without obstacle, to return its aggressiveness, its natural cruelty, its wild vitality and its spontaneousness of sleepwalker to him; to make conceal the faces by reducing them to samples or specimens of a species; to substitute, as a sociality, racial fraternity with the proximity of the other man: what indicates, by antiphrasis, this nostalgia hitlérienne of a world without utrui, it is concern where the fact even of others plunges the existence.
“Nothing, in a sense, is more cumbersome only the next one. This desired is not it the undesirable one even?”, one still in Autrement than to be and beyond the gasoline reads. All-out war to have finally peace, the Nazism dissipated confusion between silliness and morals while revealing, in the decision to even put an end to it, the capacity of others to start with sharp peace to be.
In Difficult freedom, Emmanuel Lévinas defines the Judaism like “the singular destiny which, beyond misfortunes of people, teaches the incompatilibé land one of spiritual and of idyllic”. This teaching, Lévinas made enter, and how, in philosophy at the time even where this one saw or believed to see in the history the glorious theatre of its achievement. With us, vis-a-vis other idyllic temptations, not to let it lose.

In literary magazine n° 345 – July-August 1996.

By Hubert June
in literary magazine n° 120
January 1977

It is to Mrs Hanska that Balzac very entrusted. The “Letters” which were restored to us, in 1976, by Roger Pierrot form most invaluable of the comments to “the human Comedy”

What there is astonishing of and applicant in the world by the library, it is that the authors most notably known reserve surprises, and that one does not come from there, finally, never with end. I want to say that these surprises are serious and call into question numbers established concepts. As well Balzac was done various as to gather them all together one would attend a ball dressed up (and masked) the most succeeded of.

So that it is necessary, fortunately, to recover some to the patient work from the editors. One of most important, for our matter, publishes the final edition of one of the beautiful books of Balzac, which is a correspondence. The editor, it is Roger Pierrot. The book: “Letters with Mrs Hanska” (editions of the Delta). It is of other key to this book only the reading: I do not know anything, for my part, of also enthralling, and I want to say why. With the risk to shock, I affirm that Balzac attracts the prigs as much as honey the flies: one is Balzac by mood, which arranges all (at least this is there what one believes commonly). In reality, all is contrary: if Balzac is not a temptation, it is that it is nothing! See: the thickness of work is made of an exceptional transparency. It is a paradox, but which touches finger: between Balzac and its work the distance is carefully maintained. One said for Balzac – which from this point of view does not say anything – that Balzac was not nowhere, whereas it is enough to read it, with a natural transport, to understand that it is everywhere. When I walk in the lanes of high-Angouleme, I am Balzac in fact, and drawn out of Angouleme to be returned, all, in Balzac. “the lost Illusions”, it is not a veil, but on the contrary, a tear. I included/understood that in the place that I said, in a time when I was obstinated not to include/understand the “Balzac ones” (it is as that which should be said), because the geographical place who is Angouleme is split like fig even or open nut (it is a fruit which comes to Charente) to allow Balzac, a cane with the hand, to appear. I had sworn that one would not take to me more there.

The crib

And here me is captive. With new. And, again, I see under work the man. I know value of criticism of today, and that it is necessary to distract the work from the alibis that the criticism of yesterday gave him, which was, as well, to speak only about the entours. I include/understand the advantage of a scientific step of pace. But finally, these combined headlights that are Balzac, and Stendhal, they seen are reduced with écirture alone? And can that be conceived? They have curious passion to exist. Stendhal is polygraph before being a novelist. Balzac is supplier with the sheet. It is enough to say that they are summarized only in them. In fact complicated machines are located in the first ranks of these named bats, by the old authors and Alexandre Vialatte, men. They teach quality, which must return to us modest.

What it is necessary to initially say of the “Letters for Mrs Hanska”, it is that they make a work in margin of the general correspondence. It is what Pierrot showed by separating these letters from the others, that it publishes in addition (Traditional Garnier). When the two sets appear, we will undoubtedly not see Balzac differently, but will see we it better. Although I come from there to doubt that, so much the letters with Polonaise teach Balzac with those who saw it badly, and inform the others about the capacities of this wretched fellow. It is that it is necessary to take these letters in the tread of the great period of creation (at least for the second volume, which rameute 112 missives written from March 1841 to June 1845), then, generally, in a relationship with the works in progress: one seizes, here, which it is that the memory of Balzac. It is movement, not arrangement. It is dynamic and creative. Balzac, it is an eye – and a dream.

Better: with good lira the letters of this man who did without newspaper or notes, and with which Mrs Hanska, literally, was used as crib – still that it did not keep of doubles, nor did not redemandait its mail to him: it was enough for him, once and for all, to write -, I imagine that one will découvira what Proust, in his “Against Sainte-Beuve”, said being “the admirable invention of Balzac, to have kept the same characters in all its novels”. It well here is perceived: it is that the universe of Balzac does not extend in latitude and longitude, but increases in gravity and depth. It is not spread out, this world, it thickens. The memory of the writer resembles more one madrepore than with a land register: sedimentations occur, which weigh down the vision. And it is wonder, suddenly, to perceive the large man in the center of his theatre, character among his characters (what “the human Comedy” gives, at the bottom, little with entendre).Barbey of Aurevilly, which said by political dandyism some stupid things about it, was not mistaken while writing: “Balzac did not need to be invented romantic. Naturally, it was – and perhaps most romantic for it of all the heroes of novel which it had invented!”

Beautiful and rich

In such way that the beginning of the relations with Mrs Hanska is due narrowly to the romantic one. In Odessa, in February 1832, a woman who signs “Foreign” the address a letter with Balzac via the Gosselin editor. This message was to be of an extremely remarkable interest, since we see Balzac showing of it reception by the way of the small advertisements, in the Gazette of France initially, and in the Daily one then. It is into 1833 that “the Foreign one” will take figure in its eyes: it meets it in Neufchâtel, then in Geneva. Balzac, which is prompt to ignite, ignites at once. Mrs Hanska, born countess Rzewuska, fore-mentioned Eve, wife of U noble Polish, belongs to an old family. She is beautiful, undoubtedly, but she is rich. Then the most extraordinary ballet of the world starts. It will finish only in March 1850, by a marriage, a few months before the death of the writer.

One said much evil of Mrs Hanska and undoubtedly deserves it this fate. But one said, on this subject, much of evil of Balzac, reproaching him a little heavy consents which it made, writing to close relations that it was going to marry a situation and a fortune, and not so much a woman. Andre Wurmser, in his masterly book (“Balzac visionary”, éd.Seuil), joined, from this point of view, which said Marcel Proust to his mother: that Balzac missed delicacy. It is necessary to see, seems to me it, the things differently: Balzac amourache in 1832 on the faith of some letters, is impassioned in 1833 with the first meeting, is caught of a sharp hope in 1842 when Venceslas Hanski dies, but it marries only in 1850 with the day before to die. Add to that of the many races through Europe: Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Russia… Constancy – at least – y is. And more still: it is to Mrs Hanska that Balzac entrusts all, and initially what is due to him to the body: its work. The Letters, such as they are restored to us by Roger Pierrot, form most invaluable of the comments to “the human Comedy” which can be imagined.

All that was mysterious or secret, the reason of transitory characters who hardly appear on the scene for disappearing at once, the roots, it is here that one will find of them most surely the keys. Better: it is in the comparison that the reader can make between the anecdote delivered by the Letters and the savour of the novel published, that the reader precisely will measure the creative power of Balzac. Albert Béguin said: Balzac the visionary. Yes! of a matter of living room, it makes an unforgettable character. Of a circumstance even, a considerable romantic event. Not that the Letters with Mrs Hanska are a laboratory: on the contrary, one sees there the novelist in the noise of the life.

Balzac is thus…

There are amusing things. Balzac was not a ladies’ man (like one says), but it was a man who loved the women (what is better) in these ways of engagement which is stretched over eighteen years, there are connections. Acrobatics which it makes to dissimulate them with the remote beloved are not to be believed: it is a swaying walk penaud.

Of course, the question arises: Was Balzac in love? One would have – now (thanks to the Letters) – bad thanks to denying it: it is only to see in which state the met its passion, and how it is deluded with hope to fall at once into the darkest discouragement. That it has seen – in the same time – beautiful party that it could to make, and there that it was possible good to sit a fortune which had been unceasingly staggering, it is undeniable. Balzac is thus, it is necessary to put up with it. It devours all in the time even where its work devours it. In the last months of its life, when it is made collector, it is itself that it will put at the museum (but it will be it his). It has the vanity of the large workers.

When he dies, Eve will deliver to the public only one handle of letters: she will claim that the others were destroyed in Moscow. it should be waited until in its turn she disappears to find them, and it is eminent Balzac Charles de Spoelberch de Lovenjour who, at the end of last century, was at the origin of the version until today only known. This edition did not go without defects (Roger Pierrot gives the precise reasons of them, and it is necessary to refer to its foreword): there were mutilations due to the propriety authorized to the people still in life (or with their direct heirs), and especially the dating of the missives was – in the ignorance of a true Balzac “calendar” – whimsical. The 35 letters delivered to the public by Mrs Hanska into 1876 become four large volumes joining together more than 400 letters, but ausi one of the most astonishing works of Balzac, and the essential comment with the reading of “the human Comedy”.

Jacques-Alain Miller
translated by Barbara P. Fulks


Shouldn’t I lift the burden I’ve placed on your shoulders – and on my own? I have in fact placed on us the weight of an insistent return, that of the difference between pure and applied psychoanalysis – applied, I should add, to therapy.


This return of ours was motivated by a state of affairs where the distinction appeared to me as unfinished, not fully considered, located, or posed. At the same time, the rapport between two opposing terms which are classical in psychoanalysis and beyond, even though a bit out of date, has produced an impediment, even some pain, and, we might say, a certain feeling of drift.

I have taken this into account. I have very seriously taken it into account.

However determined I’ve been, however I’ve posed it and supported it with evidence from all our classical works, I can only conceive of this return as the first step of a problem to resolve, as the enunciation of a diagnosis.

I’ve made a worthy attempt to capture it. A worthy attempt, to my mind, not institutionally or through classification – this is not how the problem is posed – but by involving what conforms to the dynamic among psychoanalysts.

My focus was on psychoanalysis as practice. I expected and worked to find a strategy there which, if not the best, would at least have a chance of coping with the issue for a short while. These are the considerations I bring to you today.

I will speak a little later from my perspective against the notion of an anchoring point. We are justified in keeping our distance from the constant fixing that we see in what we call, using Lacan’s metaphorical illustration, the anchoring point, which hearkens back to a very precise signifying mechanism.

Nevertheless, what I stirred up here, what I tried to plot simply and definitively, involves something of an anchoring point; that is to say it gave me a point of view that I haven’t quite captured or centered on, even if I see clearly how it developed. Today I am going to try to communicate to you, in the simplest way, leaving what is perhaps on the order of its construction for later.

The fact that the distinction between pure and applied psychoanalysis in therapy has not been made leads to some confusion, leads us to practical confusions, to the posing of false problems, and especially to false solutions which, briefly outlined, lead us to a certain number of complications in situating what we do in practice. Again we must situate the truly important confusion in its place. What is it? It is not so much the confusion between pure psychoanalysis and psychoanalysis applied to therapy. This confusion has a limited range, because even if we acknowledge that they are different, they are still part of psychoanalysis. The confusion which is truly important is distinguishing, in the name of therapy, what is psychoanalysis and what is not.

If we look closely at the objective, it is not necessary for psychoanalysis, in its dimension or its usage or its therapeutic care, to be lured, kicked around, and even mortified by the kind of non-psychoanalysis glorified with the name of psychotherapy. What we need is for psychoanalysis applied to therapy to remain psychoanalytical and be proud of its psychoanalytical identity.

In order to fix these ideas, I will write it thus:

pure Y / applied Y // Y therapy

I should note that the difference I have signaled between pure and applied psychoanalysis was made to reverberate upon the difference between the two with regard to psychotherapy. My formula had the goal of demanding too much of psychoanalysis applied to therapy; that is to say it demanded that it be psychoanalysis, that it not give up being psychoanalysis and, under the pretext of therapy, let itself be drawn into overstepping this limit, this difference.

In the same vein, it seems that the essential stake – the essential stake of the part we play today – is to verify that psychoanalysis applied to therapy remains psychoanalysis, that it is the role of the psychoanalyst to ensure that it is psychoanalysis as such when it is applied.

I imagine the agreement made on these elementary premises. The task is now to reinstate in the profession the difference between psychoanalysis as such, pure or applied, and psychotherapy.

This is a theme already covered, a theme which, ten or so years ago, was the subject of a congress, the product of which was then distributed at different events. But we did not then have the view of the situation that we have now.

To situate this difference shouldn’t be difficult if we understand things from the perspective that psychotherapy does not exist, that it’s a convenient label which covers very diverse practices, extending even to gymnastics. These practices are not in themselves detrimental. Gymnastics is even a highly recommendable exercise. If I just reflect on the question and ponder where we are led seriously, there might be more in the body than in our philosophy.

In any case, the forms which can pretend to have psychotherapeutic effects are no problem for us. Those which are a problem are the ones which are close to analysis, which welcome the demand of the sufferer who wants to know and which treat this demand with speaking and listening, and further, as we say, as one has said for a long time, which draw inspiration from psychoanalysis – a sacramental and regulated formula to some of us. If we proceed further, there are forms which say they conform to psychoanalysis and, if we go all the way to the end of the spectrum, those which call themselves psychoanalysis.

It is not excessive, at least in an exploratory way, to formulate the problem in these terms: that psychoanalysis produced, nourished, encouraged its own semblance, and that this semblance thereafter enveloped it, passed over it, vampirized it. I say vampirized because one could give to this history a Gothic style in the manner of Edgar Allan Poe, something like “Psychoanalysis and its Double.” Once we display the resemblances, the intermittent confusions of person, the interchangeable character of the original and the double, the story would conclude with the substitution of the double for the original, the original ending up expropriated, exiled, in the rubbish, eliminated.

Unbelievable! To read what is widely written by psychoanalysts of various stripes, one could state that we are confronted with what I termed the expropriation of psychoanalysis.

If we can dream it, it is logical, and it even seems necessary that psychoanalysis has produced its semblance. This has also happened to philosophy, which, as it advanced through Socrates, produced its double under the Sophists. It is what motivates the constant Platonic polemic against the Sophists as doubles, as semblances of philosophy. It’s an old story.

In order to begin to speak of the difficulty of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, one need only to see this imagery of the original and its double developing, only here it is situated with even more difficulty. There is the Gothic element; there is the Platonic element in the psychoanalyst’s torment at seeing the growing extension of psychotherapy in the adjacent form of analysis, this derivative form, which it does not seem excessive to me to qualify as a semblance of psychoanalysis.

The sociological enquiry can be used here, but it will not give us the secret of this impasse and the means to surmount it. The secret of this semblance is no doubt in psychoanalysis itself, if it is true that psychoanalysis has produced this semblance which devours it.

I’m saying all this in quotation marks. Let’s not panic. We have a mise en place here and I am trying to assemble some notes which may effectively develop some fragments and a symphony. There is work to do.


Today we can perceive that what motivates the apparatus of formal rules and of traditional, institutional validation which was inserted into psychoanalytic practice by its early practitioners is probably the defense against this semblance. To their credit, given the nature of psychoanalysis, the premonition that it would produce its semblance didn’t escape them, even in a situation quite different from our own. One can give them credit for anticipating this semblance – and those who are faithful to the apparatus were the first to say so – but today we see the impotence of the apparatus quite well. It is perhaps because they touched bottom on this anti-semblance apparatus that they have also been the first to alert us to the weakness of the apparatus in regard to the semblance.

We can say today that to make the distinction between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy through rule and tradition leads only to establishing psychoanalysis in a difficult position, that of a besieged fortress. When one is in a besieged fortress, everything indicates that it is already on the way to being taken from within.

Well! Let’s try to keep our heads in this turmoil, which in a short while will become a tempest and, according to Rouletabille’s formula, let’s “take things by the good end of reason.”

We should say first that there is no regulatory, institutional disposition that can hold where the orientation is lacking. We cannot turn to the institution to find some type of filter which would keep the chaff and deliver the grain. We need to trace our path toward an orientation of structure.

In this detour, whom can we ask for this orientation? Surely our customary reasoning, but this reasoning has the habit of turning – even if just a little, even if it’s a mistake, even if it is contradictory – toward what Lacan left. On occasion, these are arguments and not indications. It is there that in terms of orientation we have the custom of looking for our thread, noting that the situation has changed but giving him credit for a certain capacity of anticipation we think we’ve perceived up to the present.

The small point of support I have is that the question was posed to him – by myself (see Television). 1 The question involved the difference between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, understanding by psychotherapy that which is supported by speech, that is founded on listening and speaking. So we can see, even then, the trace of the phenomenon of semblance which is later inflated, and with which we are grappling.

How many times have we read it? But we must understand – and here’s where the change occurs – his response as a response to our interrogations of today. And to appreciate the accent of this response or to understand the impact this response has today, we must base it on what it is not: I mean on the basis of the responses that Lacan did not make in 1973 to the question of knowing what distinguishes psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.

I distinguish two responses that he did not make, but which he could have made, making thus a series of three.

The first response he did not make would have used the vector apparatus called the graph of desire. He did not give this response then – even if one finds it in elements throughout the course of the previous seminars which I had to develop in Rennes. The difference between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy was supported by the difference of levels in Lacan’s graph.

It consists in distributing psychoanalysis and psychotherapy on these two stages while posing the crucial role of that which in A opens the way to the upper stage, and where one can consider that the desire of the analyst is operative, since it is not functioning in the lower part.

This schema is somewhat convincing because it takes into account the effectiveness of psychotherapy, if one wants to situate it there. The fact itself of being placed in the position of listening, of prolonged listening to an intimate and consistent communication of the patient, constitutes the auditor as the Big Other, or installs him in the place of the Other. The auditor’s position as an agent of humanity, in the place of speech, as depository of language, confers to his speech, when he allows it, an operational power which is effective, in particular in rectifying identifications.

I would remind you that what is obtained is, after all, rather convincing and valorizes the analyst’s desire, which is established by the refusal of the auditor/interpreter to employ his supposed identifying power. It is this abstention itself of the analyst’s desire which opens a trajectory beyond.

It is clear that this schematic permits, and even incarnates, what might be called a trajectory beyond, since, when it is constructed, the only port of entry to reach the upper stage is in the place of the Other. If the switches don’t give you access to this vector, you are stuck, you can’t get to any other point. Thus we have here a singular point which opens to a vector. When the switch of the subjective trajectory is in operation, we have a unique point.

We must see at what point this schematic becomes for us the instrument itself of pinpointing a practice, a very prevalent instrument, whose echoes resound. Its foundation, to state it quickly, is scission and articulation of speech (parole) – these are the circuits of the lower stage – and of drive. Parole would be the first stage; drive would be the second.

We find here, symmetrical with the place of the Other, something in Lacan’s writings which we could decipher, but which, for today, and perhaps for a little while, we could simplify by giving it its Freudian name of id, of conferring to it the privilege of being the space of drives.

I remember that Lacan, in a detour in his Seminar, reproached himself for having once joined them, instead of separating them, in his “that which speaks.” He reproached himself for having joined the id and the unconscious, in its manifestation as parole, in his “that which speaks.” This schematic shows the lesson of what Lacan had at one time considered as his confusion, which distinguishes the place of parole and the drive, here the Other and the id.

I’ll forego the interesting digression – that I had prepared but which I must skip – which made me revisit the correlative function, namely that of S(), which one could say inscribes the scission of the id and the Other, that reflects the scission of the id and the Other.

I of course privilege the staged presentation. You evidently find in Lacan the possibility of considering the two stages as simultaneous and functioning in some way superimposed one upon the other. The lower stage, where hypothetically we situate psychotherapy, is such that – and there we would note a difference – the question of jouissance is not posed, since one must rise to the second stage for it to be posed, and it is at this cost that the total power of the Other is preserved.

We elude thus, in psychotherapy, that which would put the omnipotence of the Other at fault. We preserve, in psychotherapy, the consistency of the Other, since what would be unique in the analytic position pertaining to psychoanalysis itself would be admitting the question of jouissance, would make the Other inconsistent.

It’s wonderful! I find it truly great. It works. I once explained it almost like that, rather more lengthily. But it is not Lacan’s response. Of course it is there previously, scattered throughout the course of the Seminar, but it is not the response he gave.

He gave a response which seems much less interesting, a truly impoverished response, some laughable phrases.

The second response that Lacan did not give either was to consider psychotherapy as inscribed in the discourse of the master. Why didn’t Lacan simply respond about that aspect, since the four discourses were still for him, in 1973, a totally current reference which we find used in Television itself? Why didn’t he give a response directed toward locating psychotherapy in the discourse of the master, a response which would not have been inadequate?

The discourse of the master conforms to the unconscious. It is what the unconscious reclaims. It is its discourse. In terms of psychotherapy, one could say: the subject reclaims an identification which lets it cope, and it suffers when this identification vacillates, is defective. The urgency is thus to restore it. It is only in this condition that it can find its place. And such psychotherapy, I imagine it as a semblance, speaks like us: to find its place in the knowledge of its time, in what allocates the socially indicated or designated places. And also, objet a as product: in effect, it must be productive. This is what motivates the contemporary belief in the symptom. It is referred to as functioning. Can one function or is one unable to function? We see that we have done well in developing psychotherapy at the level of the master discourse.

Let’s not be confused. Objet a is not that which is articulated in the fantasme. Let’s use this notation of Lacan’s to demonstrate that the discourse of the master is precisely a discourse which puts a stop to the fantasme, which renders it impossible:

It is thus that, in the discourse of the master, between and objet a, there is a double bar which indicates the impossibility of rapport; the rapport rendered impossible, which is scrapped, is the fantasme. One could say that psychotherapy privileges identification at the price of scrapping the fantasme. The first response, well supported in a convincing way on the graph, definitively makes psychotherapy the first step of an analysis. It is difficult for me to remember the precise mental conditions in which I stammered here ten years ago, but it was in a rather conciliatory attempt. All is well! This response had the merit of making psychotherapy the first step of an analysis in such a way that it could be proposed as an exercise for beginning practitioners. This response – the first response that Lacan did not make – would be psychotherapy as the friendly neighbor of psychoanalysis. Thus, by your choice, this is the way to go if you want to proceed in the sense of a good neighbor.

The second response that Lacan did not give distances psychotherapy through the discourse of the master, since it puts it in the register of the other side of psychoanalysis.

The third response, the one given, which has passed largely unperceived in its consequences and nuances, shines in its simplicity. It states simply that meaning is the distinctive trait of psychotherapy, and that’s all – finally, some laughable embellishments of meaning. Lacan was content to say: “psychotherapy speculates about meaning, and that’s how it is different from psychoanalysis.” He makes fun of meaning: sexual meaning, good sense, common sense. He makes fun of it even as he signals – it’s a small detail which has another resonance today – that “one could believe that the slope of meaning is that of analysis.”

At the moment he made fun of meaning, when he attributed speculation about meaning to psychotherapy, he also said: “one could believe that the slope of meaning is that of psychoanalysis.” There is precisely his noting the fact of semblance. When one speculates on meaning, one could believe that psychoanalysis operates there. In this conditional phrase and in this construction, the fact of semblance is already slipping in.

It is on the slope of meaning that the place of psychotherapy could be confused with the place in which psychoanalysis functions. On the horizon there is a confusion, the confusion of the double expropriation of which I spoke.

This is the capstone, since one would have the best reasons to believe that analysis operates on the slope of meaning, and meaning itself was Lacan’s port of entry into psychoanalysis. If there is someone who believed that the slope of meaning was really that of psychoanalysis, if there is someone who even introduced it to psychoanalysis, it’s Lacan. Lacan entered into psychoanalysis by reintroducing meaning.

We have here one of those manifestations that I formerly called Lacan against Lacan. Since he said: “Oh la la! the stupidity in thinking that way,” see if it is not against a certain Lacan, Jacques that Jacques Lacan is operating. He operated against others – that happened to him, more often than it should have. There is an element of bluffing here, undeveloped on the level of argumentation, which has contributed to effacing the stoppages, precisely the stopping point which was here indicated so simply.

I would point out an old text on “Aggressivity in psychoanalysis” 2 for Lacan’s references to meaning. You will see that Lacan defined the subject as stemming from meaning: “Only a subject can understand a meaning; conversely, every phenomenon of meaning implies a subject.” Second, he also situates the psychoanalytic symptom from meaning. And it is finally meaning that names, according to him – in his Report to the Rome Congress 3 – the proper operation of parole, that of “conferring a meaning to the functions of the individual.” He promotes the function of parole as essential in psychoanalysis precisely inasmuch as it can make meaning.

Surely, when he rejected meaning on the side of psychotherapy in 1973, he had already done a lot to resituate the authority of meaning in the course of twenty years of his teaching. Certainly, he resituated meaning as an effect of the signifier, he displaced the definition of the subject toward the signifier, he separated the signifier and meaning, he promoted the isolation of the signifiers without meaning in the symptom. See “Position de l’inconscient,” 4 where the “without any meaning” qualifies these signifiers in the symptom.

One can follow this movement in Lacan’s trajectory: after having promoted meaning, he resituated it, relativised it, deflated it. But in fact, in the sarcasm against meaning which figures in this paragraph of Television, something else occurs, there is another accent.

I would point out the word which figures at the end of Lacan’s writing which precedes Television, called “L’Étourdit:” 5 the word is “semantophilia.” It makes fun of – a year earlier – the love of meaning. He evoked the whirlwind of semantophilia, which owed something to him, for a reason, since he had, as we know, promoted meaning as essential in the analytic operation. That was directed to the 1970s’ Academia. It was the same emphasis that, in Television, Lacan displaced to impute it to psychotherapy, to make it in his response the distinctive trait which distinguishes psychotherapy from psychoanalysis.

This is the early emergence of something which, though well-prepared, is all the same a landmark. I can impute to Lacan, on the contrary, a “semantophobia”, the rejection of meaning. He passed, or seems to have passed, from semantophilia to “semantophobia.”

We can perceive that he abandoned the levitational value that he attributed to meaning to the beneficence of the signifier and especially to the beneficence of the matheme as vector of psychoanalytic teaching, of an integral transmission outside-meaning, which is precisely what he developed in “L’Étourdit.” What we did not perceive then but can now, from this nothing at all, is that Lacan said meaning while he could have said other things much more interesting, that he threw this small stone. Myself, I say that on this stone one can construct not a Church, but an issue.

What we can now understand, now when psychoanalysis is being devoured by its semblance, is that the outside-meaning is the decisive stake. This is not only a means, definitively subaltern, to fix ideas of the matheme type. We must link outside-meaning to it. The matheme allows for the transmission of outside-meaning. The issue in outside-meaning is not only to maneuver knowledge, which can be elaborated from psychoanalysis. We can perceive, from our point of difficulty, that it is first of all for Lacan a practical stake. It is the same stake as the practice of psychoanalysis, in its difference from psychotherapy.

I’m even going to say that it is from this point precisely that Lacan put his money on the Borromean Knot, that he was, as he said, captivated by this Knot, on which he consecrated his later teaching. His later teaching is an elaboration of psychoanalysis in its difference from psychotherapy and of the outside-meaning of psychoanalysis.


We can take this later teaching as inconclusive, so it can be an exploration for us. It’s not solid. It’s haphazard, in pieces. It’s contradictory. It’s clear that, in use, the anchoring point was flawed in Lacan’s later teaching. But let’s look at it on the bias, in another way. What is explored in the outside-meaning dimension with the support of a Knot is not capable of finding an anchoring point.

The circles of string which compose the Knot pull, snag, limit each other, but they always leave degrees of freedom in their individual relationship. They are presented in changeable forms: they are certainly distinguishable, identifiable, by color, by orientation, but the Knot they form does not lend itself to a crossing of vectors from which the illumination of the anchoring point can proceed.

It is precisely a psychoanalysis without an anchoring point which this lesson demonstrates and comprises in its form. The anchoring point is a phenomenon of meaning, which is precisely what one should renounce where the outside-meaning should dominate the affair. I would remark that the same notion of a point is interrogated by Lacan with his Knot. This notion of a point is put in question in chapter X of Encore, 6 where Lacan announces his interest in the Borromean Knot. You will see that, from the beginning, Lacan very precisely puts in question the notion that a point is tenable.

In fact it is tenable when we have lines and surfaces, but when we have enchained cords, the notion itself of a point is lacking. The anchoring point is a final term, a point against the grain from which the trajectory of an experience prescribes, re-signifies, and re-subjectivises. This is precisely what puts psychoanalysis outside-meaning in question. It puts in question the concept of finitude itself.

We can see it well as we follow the later teaching, since it is presented in resounding form, unfinished and failed. We can impute it to the anecdote of the person, but it is a “superior” point of view – superior to the use we can make of it. This is precisely because this teaching moves in a dimension that doesn’t lead to success, a dimension to which infinity belongs, even if it is supported on the basis of three enchained elements.

In other words, while Lacan elaborates through a rejection of meaning, sarcastically, on behalf of psychotherapy, there is a psychoanalysis in which the endless series is inscribed in the place of the anchoring point. From this perspective Lacan’s words – which are scattered, discrete, rapid, put in question, in suspense, are understated, devalorized – make sense, fall into place, and even frankly refute the notion of an end of analysis.

This was revisited, of course, as asides. It was revisited in his conferences published in Scilicet at the end of 1975. 7 One was surprised by the proposal according to which an analysis does not have to be pushed too far: “When the analysand thinks he’s happy with life, that’s enough.”

We could say: he said that for the Americans since the pursuit of happiness is the foundation on which they formed their nation. But we also read in the April 8th, 1975 Seminar: “Everyone knows that analysis has good effects which only last a little while. It’s a respite, though, and it is better than nothing.” 8

We could minimize these statements, of which Lacan did not make many. We have to look for them in corners, and we could see in them testimony of the latitude that Lacan could have in relation to his elaborations. We could diminish it and see modulations, ironies. Myself, I would accentuate them. I say that they are fundamental topics, coherent with the whole, the resounding whole of what is then explored.

I should add here a short phrase of Lacan’s to which I’ve already alluded, in which he says: “Finally, the pass, when it is passed, is a story one tells.” What is underlined is that it is constructed, that it is an artifice, that it has to do with art, and that it demonstrates savoir-faire.

The pass as anchoring point, the clear-pass, of which Lacan spoke, which is still in the regime of meaning , the pass-history, pass-narration, is obviously relative in the regime of outside-meaning psychoanalysis. It is – a term I use here which is fundamental in this register – a lucubration. There are good lucubrations, but the promotion itself of the term lucubration in Lacan’s later teaching expresses this rapport between outside-meaning and the artifices of meaning .

This doesn’t annul the pass – after having relieved you of a burden, I put it right back there on your shoulders – but it considers the analytic experience from another angle.

One must affirm that truths are solids, as Lacan said. There are different faces and, according to where one is, according to the angle of one’s perspective, one perceives something else. Truths are solids. We must be as solid as truths.

The unexpected consequence of taking things from this perspective is that on the one hand psychoanalysis outside-meaning widens the gap with psychotherapy (the later teaching of Lacan, such as we perceive it and use it in our orientation today, creates a chasm with psychotherapy) and on the other hand it effaces, or at least tends to efface, the difference between pure psychoanalysis and psychoanalysis applied therapeutically.

This already includes what I said of the pass. The pass is not an exception. To the contrary, the psychoanalysis outside-meaning that Lacan developed in his later teaching, this attempt to look at psychoanalysis through a perspective that rejects meaning – one can only go there up to a certain point, and Lacan visibly went very far in that direction, and we understand his practice the best there – accentuates the therapeutic element of psychoanalysis. It is what signals the phrase about the happiness of living. The later teaching made the sinthome its greatest clinical reference, if not the only one. In the perspective of psychoanalysis outside-meaning, the difference between pure psychoanalysis and psychoanalysis applied therapeutically is an inessential difference.

Now that I have shown you how to lift the burden from your shoulders, perhaps your arms will drop. If we wish, at this juncture, to recycle this later teaching of Lacan, we must be ready for a transmutation of all the psychoanalytic values that Lacan himself transmitted to us and that we have had drummed into us. This is why this later teaching is an exercise limited to the confines of psychoanalysis; it is in some way the inverse, or the inferno, of Lacan’s teaching.

The value that we attach to representing analysis to ourselves as a trajectory having stages and an end shows that for us there’s a value in analytic experience being ruled by a logic of the beyond. It is in psychoanalysis: beyond the pleasure principle, beyond the Other as S(), beyond demand and identification, toward desire. Access to jouissance implies a transgression, a passing beyond, protected. Access to jouissance is protected and barred by the pleasure principle and, in turn, by the analysand; he must go beyond the symptom toward the fantasme, where what moves him in his desire lies.

We see how transgression of jouissance and crossing the fantasme correspond and are homologous. It’s the same conceptualization that supports the notion that one must get through a barrier in order to have access to jouissance and that, in analysis, one must go beyond the symptom in order to touch and traverse the fantasme. These are terms that correspond with the notion of an “up to the end.”

In effect, there is a transmutation which is supported by the rejection of meaning. It is not to be nasty that Lacan brought in the sinthome, but to install as central in clinical practice an instance in which one no longer differentiates between symptom and fantasme.

When you don’t differentiate, how do you go beyond one toward the other? The route of the beyond is cut off. The Borromean Knot is a device to cut off the beyond.

How can you operate a transgression of barrier toward jouissance when, from the moment Lacan elaborates a jouissance which is everywhere, he refuses to make a distinction between pleasure and jouissance, and when he formulates “where the id speaks, it finds pleasure?” He returns to the productive difference which figures in the graph. “Where the id speaks, it finds pleasure” establishes his “the id speaks,” which he had previously denied and linked to jouissance. Where is transgression then?

Surely it is linked to the devalorization of speech. It is not a quarter turn but rather 180 degrees. Lacan, who anointed language, qualified it in his later teaching as chatter, blahblah, and even as a parasite of human beings. Meaning only enters in formulas in which it is characterized by imbecility. It is a facade on parole.

And later, it is a facade on language. Lacan had placed it at the level of structure, of essential structure, and even in “L’Étourdit” put this structure at the level of the real. “The structure is the real,” he said then. But when he separated lalangue from language, as grammar, as structure, he only gave a few lucubrations.

He downgraded his concept of language, and also that of structure, now not carried to the level of the real. It is a correlative of the systematic replacement, directed to experience, of the term of “subject” by the term parlêtre (speaking being).

Lacan, who was the promoter of the integration of psychoanalysis in science or, failing that, of their essential rapport, at the time of his later teaching did not hesitate to describe the science of futility.

This is also the time in which Lacan proceeded to great exorcisms in psychoanalysis. He exorcised knowledge (connaissance); he exorcised the world. To hell with this or that concept! He exorcised everything. And he also exorcised – here he used the word exorcism properly speaking – being, precisely for its affinities with meaning (see Encore). And all that to the benefit of the real, antinomic to meaning , antinomic to the law, antinomic to structure, impossible to negativize. The real is the positive name of outside-meaning, although to assign names is problematical here.

Is it a lucubration for me to constitute this perspective of psychoanalysis outside-meaning this way? It was presented by Lacan in flashes, as he himself said, tentatively. He did not leave an elaboration.

I think that it is worthwhile to elaborate on these points of Lacan’s. Even if they are incomplete, they have a consistency which we can see. It is correlative to my problem, announced at the beginning of the year, of understanding, of better capturing the sexual non-rapport.

It is certain that the Borromean Knot in three came to Lacan in the place of the sexual rapport in two, of which there is none. This now helps us capture why the term “rapport” is important.

What is the Borromean Knot? Materially, it is three circles of string. From the point of view of matter, of what one can touch, it is one circle, another, and another. What makes the Knot here is not in any one circle. It is precisely the Knot that gives us the key to what a rapport is. It is the Knot itself, the knotting, as distinct from its elements, which is a rapport.



Let’s apply ourselves now to defining pure and applied psychoanalysis through each other as neatly as possible. I have already called this the La Bruyère exercise, after an author I have loved since high school: “Corneille paints man as he should be, Racine paints him as he is.”

It would be tempting, at this point, to suggest that pure psychoanalysis is psychoanalysis as it should be, and applied psychoanalysis as it is. That indicates a direction, an orientation, perhaps even a temptation to which one could cede. But is it really well-advised? This would be to proceed, in terms of psychoanalysis, in the sense of subsuming, that is to say of subsuming the ideal under the fact. I won’t avoid what is worthwhile finding in this direction. To animate things a little, to illuminate how this direction could be a spoiler, one could put it thus: always prefer the real to the imaginary. It would be – why not? – what prompts the symbolic for us. But we must also be assured that the symbolic itself is not more imaginary than real.

The Corneillian, he gets away with it – it’s his characteristic – and with all the honors of war, even if he ends in tatters. Racine, the Racinian subject – if one can use this expression – does not get away; he remains in place.

The Corneillian has his debate, his famous debate which grips him, but which is structured, which is one option. While the Racinian is grappling with a dilemma. He can’t even follow the example of the worst, because the worst has two sides. He is at an impasse. In general, the Racinian can only abandon the scene, while the Corneillian finds an exit, usually on the side of identification.

Since it’s a question of psychoanalysis, must we accent the tragic? We should remark that Lacan, in contrast, accents the comic. More exactly, he says that it is on the order of wit, of Witz, which is not the comic but which brings laughter. On the side where one cannot exit, and where one expects the tragic accent, he sees the comic. As he said – to put him back in the place I’m trying to lead him – in a quite simple statement: “Life is not tragic, it is comic.” Consequently, it seemed to him totally inappropriate that Freud should search out a tragedy to extract the Oedipus complex.

I introduce this in my fashion, but it’s a very precise matter. It means that when one gets out of it, or if one gets out of it, or in the measure in which one gets out of it, it’s by playing on the signifier, by the play of signifiers, on which the effect of Witz reposes. But there is all the same, on the side where one – no one – can get out, at least a signifier with which one cannot play, at least one cannot play with what it names, if what it names gives us the name of jouissance. There is there, as Lacan noted straightaway, something which cannot be negated, which doesn’t lend itself to annulment. If one designates this signifier by F, one sees suddenly the way in which it’s comical not to be able to get out.

Let’s go back to define the pure and the applied. To define is a game. To define, if we are looking for the correct way here, is to capture the distinctive feature.

In order to reassure ourselves, we must say that there is a surface, so the whole shebang can give us the security that what one thing is, the other is not. What is correctly in question is to know if one can, in psychoanalysis, think in lines and surfaces, that is to say also in definitions. Definition is already charged with presuppositions: to propose them supposes twists and turns, such as we could follow, on occasion sadly, or even comically, with Lacan’s exertions. This is the question: can we define in a reassuring manner? One must have the faith of the coal miner. But let’s go there, because if we don’t, we’re at a loss.

Pure psychoanalysis – let’s try this – is psychoanalysis inasmuch as it leads to the pass of the subject. It is psychoanalysis inasmuch as it concludes with the pass. The subject emerges there and he emerges in another space – he tries – with the honors of war. In any case, one could suggest that he ask for honors, something consecrated with a title. If it is not on the order of honors, then words no longer have common sense. This lets the subject belong to a distinguished class which, even if it is impermanent, is no less distinguished beyond the time in which it is obvious that the title fades away.

Applied psychoanalysis is that which concerns the symptom, psychoanalysis as applied to the symptom. And does one emerge there? Is there that level – a sortie? There is something called healing, which could in effect be the name of the sortie on this slope. As you know, it’s a term in psychoanalysis which is very problematical, very relative.

But the sortie called the pass is no less problematical. One could strongly encourage those who experience the sortie in this manner to explain how they think they succeeded. And we affirm that, in the context of an analysis, each one experiences it in his/her own way. The pass sortie is no less problematical than the cure sortie, even if the pass sortie is susceptible to a radical definition in psychoanalysis. Lacan gave this radical definition – he gave several of them – while the cure does not have a radical definition.

Is having a radical definition a benefit? Is it comfortable? Is it solid? One could say that having a radical definition for the pass is rather its weakness.

Examined closely, the pass is the notion – I ask you to tolerate the terms I use – of a cure which would be radical, which would be definitive. If we say it in this way, we see that it is a naive notion, one that demands to be refined. But I don’t believe that we cannot – by trial and error – situate the pass as a radicalization of the cure.

The schism of the two psychoanalyses, pure and applied, rests on the difference between the symptom and the fantasme. It rests on the notion of a beyond of the symptom, on the notion that the fantasme is beyond the symptom.

What is a cure for the symptom, improvement, amelioration, still leaves a place for an operation on the latter term. Seen in the way one defines the fantasme, one does not call this operation a cure. One commonly calls it – it is set in motion because of a term used once by Lacan – a crossing, since it concerns the fantasme. But that also carries the notion of reduction as much for one as for the other.

To the extent that this difference holds – and I have made it hold; in the second series of courses I’ve given under the general title of Lacanian Orientation, I embarked, and you with me, on this difference between symptom and fantasme, while proposing the notion that we perhaps hadn’t finished with the fantasme and that a brief return to the symptom was also called for 9 – as I say, to the extent that this difference posits the symptom as what doesn’t go, that which does bad, and the fantasme as where one is good, or at least where one can have jouissance, one is grounded in distinguishing pure and therapeutic psychoanalysis.

What form does this distinction have? The form in which therapeutic psychoanalysis would be a limited form of pure psychoanalysis. But this is not the final word on the question, even though it would be good to stop here to illustrate it. I’ve already stopped the cursor for too many years: on the opposition of the symptom and the fantasme, and thus on the distinction between the sorties. This has the virtue of structuring, of which one has seen the outcome at the point it was susceptible to illustration – it was shown in the best way. Nevertheless, we can’t say that it is the final word on the question.

At any rate, the later Lacan advised us never to stop at the final word of the question, never to stop at the last word. If one stops there, he said, it is paranoia. And the Knot is made precisely to rid us of the paranoia there.

It is not the final word, it is not the word of the end, since there is another perspective, another angle under which the difference between the symptom and the fantasme fades away. It is the angle Lacan led us to with the name sinthome, using an old graph of the word – I have already explained something of it before – to include in the same parenthesis symptom plus fantasme. 10

Sinthome = Symptom + fantasme

This is an approximation of the equation, but I had situated there the idea that the clinical opposition of the symptom and fantasme, as well-founded as it might be, does not prevent us from taking another perspective. Under this angle, the difference between the two psychoanalyses is inessential.

Excluding error on my part, the difference between the two psychoanalyses is absent in Lacan’s later teaching. If someone could show me the reference I’m lacking here, be calm, I will know how to get out of it. I would say precisely: it is inessential.

It is not a question of fact; it is a question of understanding the orientation of what Lacan meant by disorientation. He touched on orientation as a compass that he himself had constructed in the course of years in order to open in fine a field of disorientation. It is very complicated to follow it, because one must unlearn. Since time also has passed, Lacan’s construction has to be built, if I may say so, architecturally.

We must give this disorientation a nudge to put it on its level, to put it in movement, and not to let it be stopped by indignation which might hold that the later Lacan is the end-all and be-all. It is someone who says – he says it between the lines, he lets it be understood, he says it a little to the side, not too loudly – “the pass does not exist.” Can you understand that? More precisely perhaps – this will give a little comfort – that the pass does not “ex-sist.” We must see the proper value that is given to this artifice of writing in order to understand the small hyphen separating “ex” from “sist.” It demonstrates, as clearly as one can, that the pass does not exist or that if it exists, it is in a state of fantasme.

Notice the imaginary meaning of this word, which is not in fact that of the word I wrote there. We must still nudge the meaning of the imaginary word. You see the chain of disorientation in which we must proceed.

At any rate, before protesting that this means very little to us, that the later Lacan is inessential, before protesting about the attack he waged on the pass, we must see that, in the perspective of the later Lacan, of the last judgment, in the perspective of the Last Judgment, I quote Lacan: “Science itself is only a fantasme.” It’s easier to swallow the idea that the pass could be only a fantasme if it is accompanied by science itself.

It’s outrageous. It’s outrageous to have had to listen to, read, and repeat: “Science is only a fantasme.” From Lacan’s mouth! It’s beyond common sense. And it’s beyond what his teaching supported, with Freud as underpinning; and Lacan had recourse to other sciences, to a more sophisticated dialectic than Freud’s psychoanalysis and science. One would not expect the proposition “science itself is only a fantasme” from him. Where does this enormity which breaks the link between psychoanalysis and science come from? The pass is set adrift with the same blow.

We must examine this calmly, try to put it in its place, put it in a chain, even if the Knot is not the chain, if it is constructed otherwise. But in order for us to advance, we must put it in sequence. If, instead of protesting, we choose to construct it on those few statements of Lacan’s which I remember – not many, but where we must put the accent, the punctuation, in order to capture what was important in his effort – that will in the end raise some elements, a perception, a perspective in which we can find a point of departure in the most assured, most classical, most instructing and instructive aspects of his doctrine.

Pure psychoanalysis is the notion of a psychoanalysis as a practice which takes its departure from transference – Lacan presented it as an algorithm, an algorithm of knowledge – and which, being pushed to its final consequences, encounters a principle of a stopping point. It’s the finiteness of the experience posed by Lacan, unlike Freud, as being deduced, concluded, from an algorithm of knowledge, thus functioning automatically. This stopping point is an illumination, or a flash of lucidity, a perception, an insight, a truth. Each of those who have experienced it, who have been in this experience, have their own way of recognizing it – it could be from a dream, or the after-effect of a dream, from an analyst’s interpretation, from an encounter, from a thought. This stopping point always produces what I will call an event of knowledge (savoir).

The later Lacan put in question – it’s a small detail – the validity of this event of savoir, to clarify it as a glimpse of the real. We must still take this real in its Lacanian category, in its category in fine. We must unlearn a little bit of what we believed of the real, taught by Lacan. What is the value of this event of savoir for the glimpse of the real – how should we understand it?

Let’s not say that which gives us the following connection: the event of savoir would not be worth a glimpse of the real if there were savoir in the real. If there is savoir in the real, it is well understood that an event of savoir brings a glimpse of the real. It’s the foundation of scientific practice. If science is only a fantasme, that is to say that it has no validity for a glimpse of the real, then – excuse me – the pass follows the same route.

This is why Lacan can say, in the same breath, in the same phrase in his Seminar Le moment de conclure, 11 that science is only fantasme and that the idea of an awakening is, properly speaking, unthinkable. Awakening is an initiatory word to describe the illumination of the pass, and to pose also that thought is not part of the real. In other words, he downgrades thought.

Which is even more striking, at least in this outline. In all his later teaching, Lacan classified thought in the imaginary register. Which is enormous, since a very short time before – you have the written reference in Television – he explained in a totally contrary way that thought is the part of the symbolic which disturbs the imaginary of the body. But Lacan’s later teaching begins when thought is downgraded from the symbolic to the imaginary.

Here one must say that pure psychoanalysis, with its objective of the pass, is supported by the confidence of knowledge – we can say, of a confidence in the savoir in the real – but only as supposition.

It is what guided Lacan when he introduced the pass in his inaugural text on the psychoanalysts of the École. He evoked savoir, but only as supposed savoir, giving the status of unconscious to this knowledge. This supposition is related to analytic discourse: it is induced by the analytic act, and it is a fact of transference, a fact of love. This supposition of savoir is not real. Lacan pointed it out in black and white: the subject-supposed-to-know is not real. Thus it is not equivalent to savoir in the real.

Lacan always insisted on this. The motivation for psychoanalysis is the supposed transferability of savoir. This does not at all assure that there is savoir in the real. Thus the status he gave to the unconscious as being functionally a hypothesis, or even an extrapolation. This is what Lacan constructed in Le moment de conclure, from where I take this sentence: “The hypothesis that the unconscious is an extrapolation is not absurd.”


We can, from here, give the proper stress to everything which is a construction of savoir in analysis.

As to interpretation, we can set the goals, where the goals that one has – it’s the same way Freud presents it – the illuminations of truth that one has, one constructs them in savoir, one makes a construction, there, on the side of the analyst. This is how Freud presented interpretation – Freud, thinking that this construction was to be communicated to the patient when he was ready. He differs here from Lacan, who imposed the same term of construction on the side of the analysand. I’m speaking of the construction of the fundamental fantasme. Which indicates that the fundamental fantasme is a construction. It is not knowledge in the real.

If the fundamental fantasme is a construction, as Lacan always maintained after he introduced the term of fundamental fantasme, why should the pass as a traversal of the fundamental fantasme be surprising? It is a construction of savoir from the effects of truth, a construction ordered by an effect chosen as major or which is imposed as the nec plus ultra. Its character of construction is wholly patent, since one passes from the moment of-the-analysis pass to the exposition-in-the-procedure pass. It is a construction which one chooses and from which one assembles the elements.

The faith that one has – when one has faith in analysis – is in the constructions, of the real put in play, of the real touched from the supposition of knowledge, something of the real is manifested from savoir. It is what Lacan indicated when he launched the pass in a very discreet way: the meaning of savoir, supposed savoir, holds the place of a still latent referent. Formerly, I had read this sentence as indicating that the referent is the object as real, to be defined by the signifying series pursued in analysis.

If one takes this with the faith of the coal miner, it lets us believe that one passes imperceptibly from the subject-supposed-to-know, which is not real, to a term which belongs to the register of the real. One could imagine that, at some moment, the supposed knowledge is metaphorised by the real, that the referent, the real still latent, comes to a moment, arrives on the scene, and says – What does it say? It says: “I, the real, I speak!” Why not?

If we believe this metaphor, that this is what Lacan said, or he would be happy with, we must fall to our knees. It’s a miracle. We speak of a miracle when the relationship of causality escapes us.

To stir up our attention to this affair, the real says objet a is not the whole real, inasmuch as one can say the whole real. We cannot of course: it is the real which is captured in the fantasme. objet a is a real put into form, put into function. It is a real resulting from a construction, from the construction of the fundamental fantasme, that is to say the reduction of representations fantasmatiques and stories told, to detach it as the formula. If there is a real, it’s a real which results from a construction.

This is why, exploring it thus, as real resulting from a construction, the term objet a is one which calls the status of real into question. When one reads Lacan too fast – even if one tries to slow one’s reading – there’s a shock of perceiving that, in Chapter VIII of Encore, he downgrades objet a from the register of the real. I must comment on this chapter, which announces the Borromean Knot. He announced it in the form of a triangle in which the points have capital letters representing the symbolic, the imaginary, and of the real, which Lacan matches with his Borromean Knot.

It is truly here that we see the preparation of this breakthrough that the later Lacan was orchestrating. The triangle is oriented by its vectors and it is on the vector that goes from the symbolic to the real that objet a is inscribed, precisely as a semblance.

I emphasized this formerly, I should say without success, because everyone held absolutely that objet a was real. Everyone insisted on the miraculous metaphor of knowledge in the real. While Lacan indicated that objet a was rather on the side of being than of the real. He even qualified it as semblance of being, and he noted that objet a itself, this still latent referent which could take the place of supposed knowledge, cannot be supported in the approach of the real.

Connected with this is the notion, the meaning that one can give to the term real. It is evident that it is a matter of proposing a real outside construction. That makes objet a an effect of meaning coming under the symbolic, directed toward the real, but only attaining the being.

If we pay close attention to what led Lacan to construct the notion of the pass, what can we respond to the question of knowing what the operation of supposed knowledge changes to the real? What did Lacan explain that the pass changed to the real? He said – let’s be precise – that the pass changed something to that which is the rapport of the subject to the real, that it changed something to its fantasme like a window on the real.

Let’s admit that, in his initial definition, the traversal of the fantasme permits a sortie outside of the fantasme, even if it is momentary, even if it is a glimpse. But it is not certain that this changes the drive. It is in this sense that Lacan – in his Seminar XI, since he was already on the path of elaborating analysis with an end – still posed the question: “How does all that finally change to the drive?” 12 We must understand: in effect, there is a result at the level of knowledge, but tell me what that changes to the real.

As Lacan noted in Le moment de conclure – I gloss, but it all comes together in three sentences which are illuminating – Freud had recourse to the concept of drive because the hypothesis of the unconscious, the supposed savoir, cannot be supported in the approach of the real. With the drive, Freud wanted to name something of the real. But, for the later Lacan, naming is very problematic, combining, with the signifier, from the order of the real.

Why did Lacan gloss over naming in his late teaching, the reasoning for which he did not seem to deploy? Why the problem of naming? Because naming is a supposition. It is the supposition of the agreement of the symbolic and the real. It is the supposition that the symbolic agrees with the real, and that the real is in accord with the symbolic.

Naming is the pastoral of the symbolic and the real. Naming is equivalent to the thesis of knowledge in the real, or at least it’s the first step, the significant one, in the direction of knowledge in the real. The proper name is an anchoring point, not between signifier and signified, but between symbolic and real, from which we find ourselves with things, that is to say with the world as imaginary representation.

If we don’t suppose this miraculous accord of the symbolic and the real, then an act is necessary. This act can only reveal that the major anchoring point is the Name-of-the-Father. This is why Lacan proposed the named father, the naming father, he who assumes the act of naming, through whom the symbolic and the real are joined. This angle of the later Lacan reverses psychoanalysis. He weakens its foundation, its axiom, its supposition. He puts in question the union of the symbolic and the real, that is to say he invites us to think from their disjunction, from a rapport of exteriority between the two, and let’s say from their non-rapport. That is how he entered into the question, since he began by putting the imaginary in the position of thirds, of mediation, between the twos of the fundamental symbolic disjunction and the real.


When one begins to reverse psychoanalysis’s axiom, its supposition, its support, that is to say from the moment when one separates the symbolic and the real, one says: “It is not at all because you have found things in your analysis, truths, knowledge, whatever – I said all that and the contrary, and at some moment I stopped because the task was so formidable that I could not do better – that, from the side of the real, anything is necessarily changed.” There is a discrepancy, it could be changed in the semblance of being, but it is not forced to go further. Otherwise, more things are in the real than one can change by the experiences of knowledge. Otherwise, that would be known.

One progresses in experimentation. Now one is not producing clones, but rather a new species of monkey, never before seen. I believe that one can calmly predict that, just as there is a new monkey, a new man surely waits for us in the 21st century. And what committee of ethics will be capable of preventing the perfection of a species which suffers so much that it needs psychoanalysis?

If you think from the exteriority of the symbolic and the real, and if you take into account that there are interferences, but you want all the same to keep them separated – without being foolish, knowing that since one adulterates something on the side of the symbolic, one can have effects in the real – if you keep them separate conceptually, the Knot becomes a necessity. You cannot cut the Borromean Knot. It is in the form of a Knot, in the species of Knot, more nudo, that the two, symbolic and real, can remain unjoined at the same time that they’re inseparable. The Borromean Knot lets the two elements remain unjoined – they can say “don’t know” – except that at the same time they are inseparable, that is to say they are joined in a way that they cannot be separated. The Borromean form of the Knot surmounts the antinomy of juncture and disjuncture. This requires the introduction of a third, also not joined to the two others.

We see here what is the peculiarity of the Knot in relation to the chain. The Knot and the chain are two forms of articulation, but in the Knot the elements remain unjointed. They are each there for themselves in a radical non-rapport, and they are nevertheless involved in a rapport.

We must come to the real where it belongs, not the real that you find in Lacan’s schema R, in his “On a question preliminary…” 13 It is all the same the schema which is supposed to give us something of the real. Lacan baptized it with the initial letter of the word, schema R. We have there a real which is framed by the symbolic and the imaginary. There are the fields. It is a question of recuperation, for example. Lacan can say: “The specular imaginary relation a-a’ gives its base to the imaginary triangle that the symbolic relation mother-child recuperates.”

That is part of Lacan’s construction b.a.-ba. We start with the imaginary and we assemble the terms that symbolize it, or that permit its recovery by symbolic terms. There are also intrusions from one field in another. The term intrusion returns often in the clinic, even in the Schreber case, and the term intrusion shows that the fields of the real, the symbolic and the imaginary communicate with each other.

In a general fashion, what we call symbolization, this displacement, this circulation, implies the transferal of one element belonging to one field into another field. Normally that presents to us the real, the symbolic, and the imaginary. There is a whole population there. The real elements are displaced indefinitely in the symbolic and there are imaginary elements also, and when this is not inscribed in the symbolic, it is compensated in the real. It’s a hustle and bustle.

I’m not talking about that real. What does the real in the Knot become? It is figured, not as a field, but as a poor circle of thread, unjoined from the symbolic and the imaginary. It is the real as outside symbolic and outside imaginary. That at least is simple. It is what the expression “outside-meaning” sums up, since in order for there to be meaning , the symbolic and imaginary must collaborate, and it is precisely what is excluded from the real. What can we understand of this real? Is there a concept there? One can well ask. Lacan at least said that yes, there is a concept of this real. He said that it was his, and if he so emphasized the fact that it was his, it was because it was not so easy to convey.

We must first see that it is precisely because the real is defined as excluded from meaning that we can put meaning on the real. I do not say “in the real,” I say “on.” The “in” presupposes a field, and there is no inside of the circle of thread.

We can, on the real, put knowledge, but in the perspective of the real as excluded from meaning : to put knowledge there is only a metaphor. Let’s write meaning on the real:


This means that even knowledge is of the order of the terms that multiply in Lacan’s later teaching, not of constructions, but of lucubrations, of futilities, even of fantasmes. To situate all that is meaning in this way does not save knowledge or science. As to the concept of the real as excluded from meaning, all that makes meaning has the value of futility and lucubration.

It is a category evidently; it multiplies. From the moment that one takes the perspective according to which the agreement between the real and knowledge is broken, one can say that all knowledge is reduced to the status of the unconscious, that is to say to the status of hypothesis, of extrapolation, even of fiction. It is a radical position. Nothing of meaning enters in the concept of the real. It is not only “lose all hope,” but “lose all meaning.”

It’s abracadabra, but it is a position of method, in the sense that one speaks of Descartes’ methodical doubt. It is methodical doubt that lets Descartes produce the exception of the being whose existence cannot be evoked in doubt.

Likewise, when one is obliged with this salubrious discipline to pose the real as excluded from meaning, one can eventually pose the exception of the Freudian symptom, as Lacan did occasionally. The Freudian symptom would be the only real not excluded from meaning. A phrase like that, to be thinkable, must have the radical perspective of exclusion of meaning.

It is in the same vein that Lacan can, elsewhere, dismiss the analytic symptom as a matter of belief. As he said, one believes it. One believes that the id can speak and that it can be deciphered. One believes this of meaning.

This “one believes it” emphasizes the transferential relativity of the symptom. “The symptom, one believes it,” which is so surprising in its formulation and is the consequence of the subject-supposed-to-know. This changes the emphasis. The pure signifying supposition is translated in terms of belief. When we say “supposed,” no one supposes, it is supposed of the signifier. When one says, “one believes it,” that shows the necessity of someone’s believing it.

One can formulate on this basis that transferential belief is directed at knowledge in the real as a meaning which can speak, like a subject. What is transferential belief? Let’s give it its name. It is love.

It is there that what Lacan said finds its place – one asks why, if one only takes it as separated – in Encore: “Love is directed toward the subject.” Love directed sends the supposed subject a sign. The “one believes it” convokes and expresses love. This is why one can introduce here, as Lacan did in his later teaching, woman at the rank of symptom, par excellence.

The affinities of woman and symptom are not only that the symptom is what doesn’t move, like superficial people think. It is what is susceptible of speech. This is the basis of the woman-symptom. What you choose as woman-symptom is a woman who speaks to you.

Previously I developed the other aspect, that a woman waits for someone to speak to her. This is why Lacan speaks of “to believe in a symptom there” and at the same time “to believe a woman is there.” It is a speaking symptom calling to be heard, to be understood. In order to have a woman as symptom – the only way to love her – one must hear her, one must decipher her.

When the gentlemen are not ready, when they do not have time, or when they are in front of their computers – another symptom to decipher, another symptom which speaks – or they are deciphering the symptoms of their clients, well, the women go into analysis.

This is a definition of love which is not narcissistic, and which we were looking for. It is very simple: narcissistic love is that which is directed toward an image, while Lacanian love is that which is directed toward the subject. The supposed subject is love inasmuch as it introduces meaning and knowledge in the real. It is the only path by which knowledge and meaning are introduced in the real.

Here is where we can place Lacan’s scattered statements which say at the same time that women are terribly real, and then also contend that they are terribly sensible, and even the support of meaning, and at the same time occasionally terribly mad. These terms are all organized around the concept that love is directed toward the subject. We only perceive it all if we have a good concept of the real as outside-meaning, but also as the real without law.

All this seems too much, when Lacan said: “The real is outside law.” The foundations themselves of rationality are abandoned here. Still, if we confuse this outside-meaning with the signifier, we can barely perceive it. But without law! Law is, in effect, of the order of the construction, from the futility of the construction. Our methodical concept of the real obliges us to shift the status of the law. Otherwise, what proves to be not of the real are the laws that one finds in the real. They change.

The best proof that science is only a fantasme is truly the easiest position: it is that there is a history of science and that it is revised. One could believe an analysis, for all that.

It is to make the distinction between the real, properly stated, and meaning that we find something like lalangue. How did Lacan invent lalangue, distinguished from language? He raised his concept of language and structure a notch to the level of the futility of meaning. He said: “In the end, this language with its structure is a construction, a lucubration of knowledge which is established above the real.”

The method is to look for the real. Look for the real, try to bypass under meaning, to bypass constructions, even the elegant ones, even the probing ones, especially if they are elegant. It is what Lacan assumed and demonstrated in his later teaching. It is a certain “to hell with elegance!”

There’s a text I’m dissecting at this time which is called in English “The Elegant Universe.” This work is dedicated to exposing something that resonates for us, the theory of strings and super strings, that is to say a recent theory that claims to unify the field of physics. What is formidable is that it abandons particles, it abandons points – such as this point – but it puts in their place, as a basic element, strings. One can say: truly, what a presentiment of Lacan. Except that these are not exactly Lacan’s strings, but vibrating strings. But what is done to offer us an elegant universe does not give us confidence.


1 Lacan, Jacques, Television, New York: Norton, 1990.
2 Lacan, J., “Aggressivity in psychoanalysis,” Écrits: A Selection, New York: Norton, 1977.
3 Lacan, J., “Function and field of speech and language in psychoanalysis,” Écrits: A Selection, New York: Norton, 1977.
4 Lacan, J., “Position de l’inconscient,” Écrits, Paris: Seuil, 1966.
5 Lacan, J., “L’Étourdit,” Autres écrits, Paris: Seuil, 2001.
6 Lacan, J., The Seminar, Book XX: On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge: Encore, 1972-1973, New York: Norton, 1998.
7 Lacan, J., “Conférences à Columbia University et M.I.T,” Scilicet 6/7, 1975.
8 Lacan, J., “Rectifier le non-rapport sexuel,” Le séminaire XXII: R.S.I., in Ornicar? 5, 1975.
9 “Du symptôme au fantasme” (1982-1983), L’orientation lacanienne II, 2. The whole beginning of the course was devoted to differentiating symptom and fantasme, the accent being put on the fantasme. The latter part of the course began a movement of return of the fantasme on the symptom, accentuating there the importance of the symptom on the fantasme.
10 You find one or two occurrences of it in “Du symptôme au fantasme…”: the term sinthome is quoted in relation to Joyce. “Among the questions that I regret not having dealt with is […]that of showing a construction which can differentiate metaphor and metonymy in the symptom. I purposely remained on the side of sinthome in the way that Lacan began to write about it after a certain date, because that profoundly modifies the problematic that I developed this year, and that, in order to pursue it legitimately, a certain number of considerations on which “L’Étourdit” makes the point are needed. One must first have succeeded in animating this subject in the real in order to approach it.” I actually made this approach later. See “Le sinthome, un mixte de symptôme et fantasme” (March 1987), La Cause freudienne, 39, 1998 and “Une nouvelle modalité du symptôme” (May 1998), Les feuillets du Courtil, 16, 1999.
11 Lacan Jacques, Le Séminaire, Livre XXV: Le moment de conclure, in “Une pratique de bavardage,” Ornicar? 19, Paris, 1977.
12 Lacan, J., The Seminar, Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, New York: Norton, 1978.
13 Lacan, J., “On a question preliminary to any possible treatment of psychosis,” Écrits: A Selection, New York: Norton, 1977.

by Jacques-Alain Miller

I am going to bring an end to the secret: the title of the next Congress of the WAP. I will bring this to an end with the indulgence of the Delegate General. After the “Name-of-the-Father,” it will be “The objects a in the analytic experience.” From One (the Name-ofthe-Father) to others (the objects a), this is a good sequence. No less good because it is the flip side of the sequence that is laid out at the end of the seminar L’angoisse and that goes from the a, in the singular, to the “Names-of-the-Father” in the plural.

Freudian Father, Lacanian Father

The final pages of the seminar L’angoisse resonate in a very singular homage to the father, a very singular praising of the father. The Name-of-the-Father there embellishes a function that seems to be rather that of the analyst. You must reread it to believe it. The father — I cite Lacan in the final pages of his Seminar X — is that “subject who was far enough in the realization of his desire to reintegrate it with his cause,” to reintegrate it “to that which is irreducible in the function of the a.”2 This phrase is sufficient to take note that the Lacanian father is not in any way the Freudian Father. The Freudian Father is he who appears on the scene in Totem and Taboo and who on this scene squashes the desire of everyone, dominates desire, annihilates it. It is truly a myth. Whereas the Lacanian father is meant to be something truly closer to experience. The Lacanian Father is he who accomplishes normalization, the humanization of desire in the paths traced by the Law, and that supposes in effect that he had ceased to misrecognize the function that the object a takes in his desire. Is it scandalous to say this? The Father that rises at the end of L’angoisse is he who we now call the Analyst of the School. Nowhere is it said that Lacan did not conceive of the Analyst of the School as a Father of the School, in the sense that there are Fathers of the Church. It is an homage to the place were we are, in Rome. It isn’t at all necessary to take it literally, but as for this “subject who was far enough in the realization of his desire to reintegrate it to his cause,” I do not see a better definition of that which we hope of those that we name the Analysts of the School.

At first, Lacan encountered and extracted the Name-of-the-Father from anthropology under the standard of Lévi-Strauss, as the support of the symbolic functions which, from the beginning of historical time, was identified with the figure of the Law. One retained that, but we see what that implies in a short-circuit when one remembers that desire and the Law stick together. The father of the Law is also necessarily the father of desire, and the Law at stake is that which is the condition itself of the prosperity of desire. Certainly in evoking these phrases of Lacan that we read today, we are truly far from the calling into question of the paternal function that has been noted for so long in our societies.

Lacanian formalism

Who doesn’t know that the Name-of-the-Father was inserted by Lacan in a linguistic formula of his invention, that of the metaphor? This inscription has the value, as such, of a formalization. Certainly, this formalization is, if you like, still in power, but it already leads to the distinction between place and element. First, the place denotes the function; second, the element can be substituted for, at the same place, by any other element. And one might say that already we find there the potential inscription of the Name-of-the-Father as a function of the sinthome. Thus, the Name-of-the-Father, if we were able to make a sign out of it, with the little dashes that make a signifier “blocal” out of it, it is because it is already a formalized function.

It is there that it is necessary to notice that in L’angoisse, where the five primordial forms of the object a are deployed in the fourth part, one finds a theory of formalism that is truly made to shake up the common notion of formalism. Formalism, Lacan says, would be, for us, absolutely nothing other that that part of our flesh that remains necessarily taken in the formal machine. This part, if you want, circulates in a formal logic. It is a point of oneself that is taken in the machine and that finds itself forever irretrievable.

This part, that we name a, calls into question all of formalism as such. It delineates an irreducible internal limit to the powers of formalism. We say in our language that this part — a — inscribes itself in formalism, in logic, in as much as it is extimate, that is to say that a means the informalisable of structure.

This limit, that he had posed, that he had demonstrated — in spite of that, Lacan went beyond it. And one might say that the ten seminars that followed, from Seminar XI to Seminar XX, were dedicated to the edification of a logic proper to the object a. What a reversal!

And I said to myself that I might surely show that Lacan lost his way after Seminar X, that this seminar designated a limit to the powers of formalization that were imprudently superceded. But I don’t say that, because that isn’t what I think.

In the seminar L’angoisse, we already have the coordinates of a possible formalization of object a, that would be by the intersections of the circles of Euler that he uses to distinguish the five forms of the object a and about which Lacan will give in Seminar XI, with the construction of alienation and separation, the properly logical form of that which is already brought together in Seminar X. Nevertheless, up to Seminar X and especially in this seminar, the object a in its five forms shines in a particular light precisely because it still is not caught up in the system of the logical machinery and, to the contrary, represents the irreducible part of that formalism.

You know that the object a was used in Seminar XVI and XVII in a permutative game of discourse where all the heterogeneity of a disappeared, and that Lacan will pay the price in his teaching with a vacillation, a repudiation, that consists in finding, when all is said and done in Seminar XX, Encore, that a is a function too pale, too shrunken, too signifying, too feeble to designate that which is the jouissance in it. I gave a course on that chapter in Seminar XX where it’s there to be read in black and white that object a is insufficient to account for jouissance and thus that, in the middle of a triangle, a protuberance will come to inscribe itself, a shapeless protuberance on which is written solely jouissance. And the seminars that follow this Seminar XX will no longer have recourse to the formalization patiently constructed during the twenty previous years. There remains only parts of it, scattered pieces, as if Lacan took up again a perspective that he sketched out in his Seminar X.

Logic incarnated in the objects a

Thus, for our next Congress, we will be in the midst of this collection of writings, since it is in Lacan that we are going to find what to do with the symbols that he left us.

Well, I propose that for this Congress, we let ourselves rather be guided by the seminar L’angoisse, and in particular by the fourth part, “The five forms of the object a.”

There, each of its forms is spelled out, but each is spelled out in the body. Each of these forms of object a is spelled out as a part of the body. The a does not appear as the product of an articulated structure, but as the product of a fragmented body. Without doubt, these objects respond to a common structure, a structure of the rim, a structure of cuts, but in L’angoisse, they are rooted in the body.

One might go further still noting that the body is cut up by linguistic structure, one might note the isomorphisms between the body and the structure, but it is in L’angoisse that one sees the objects a captured by Lacan right on the body. Thus, if we are going to talk about the objects a in analytic experience, we are going to take account of the presence of the body in the discourse of analysis.

It is not less logical, but an incarnated logic.

Seminar XI that I alluded to proposes a formalization of object a and a division that places on one side the symbolic functions of identification and repression (that’s what I recognize in the term alienation), and on the other side responds the inscription in the intersection of the object a. It is from there, in this construction of alienation and separation which is like the summary of the results of the seminar L’angoisse and of its Eulerian circles, that the saga of a logified object a begins.

The five natural objects a

In L’angoisse, if we take ourselves before this limit, the list of the five objects is made up of the three Freudian objects — oral object, anal object, phallic object — and the two Lacanian objects — the scopic object and the vocal object — and these five are the group that Lacan calls the “natural” objects a. Lacan shook up our comprehension of nature so much that one has to specify what is understood by that, without losing the advantage of this word “natural.” It is necessary to understand that they come from a fragmented body, of which they are the scraps. Here, I am not going to redo the list of these five objects with my own grain of salt, I will content myself with identifying in Lacan’s elaborations a few spots that are out of focus, since it is often the interstices that we draw from in identifying something new.

For example, the oral object. In L’angoisse, the cleavage is made for Lacan between the nipple, the point of the breast, and the breast as nourishing. There are two original points: linked to the nipple, the point of erotic desire, and linked to the nourishing breast (I add “nourishing,” but in the end it goes without saying), the point of anguish that arises from the satisfaction of the nourishment hoped for of the breast. Thus it is here the lack of satisfaction that distinguishes the point where anguish will surge from the point where desire finds itself caught. You can find this in its place in L’angoisse, but in the written version that Lacan gave of this passage in his text “Position of the Unconscious,” one no longer finds the nipple, but it is the breast as such that appears as that part of the body that the infant latches onto at the moment of weaning and from the perspective of castration. These two versions don’t exactly match, and besides I want to still delineate that as far as the list of objects a is concerned, the nipple in as much as different from the breast, continues to figure in the preceding text, “Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire.”

As for the anal object, I will only recall here that Lacan privileges an approach to it from the perspective of the ideal, that is to say, sublimation. For the phallic object, it is so much a part of the body that Lacan presents in L’angoisse a physiology of the penis and links its construction to the evanescent nature of erections.

The two other objects that we owe to Lacan are, themselves, situated in the dialectic of desire and not at the level of demand and as being, in some way, directly in sync with the division of the subject, in the sense of a body effect of this division, as making the libidinal part that evaded it present in the field of perception. It is necessary to note here a vacillation between the eye and the gaze: it is the function of the eye that is privileged in L’angoisse, while in Seminar XI, it is the object as gaze that is detached, as immanent object of the scopic drive. That includes for Lacan a critique of the mirror stage, for the value of the gaze, as well as that of the voice, is covered over by the specular relation. And if Lacan, with a sort of predilection, so often comes back to the scopic, it is because it is there that we see — I dare to say — the most deceptive relation of the subject with regard to the object a, which finds itself vanished, eclipsed in vision, and in such a way that more than ever the subject fails to recognize that he is lost in that which he believes to be contemplation.

And thus Lacan, from seminar to seminar, pursued this scopic object, immanent to the drive, and this object, in the most open field, that of vision, finds itself to be truly its hidden part. One also finds with Lacan a precise critique of the specular position, the position where I recognize myself, me, in the mirror, and where I recognize myself with an other sharing the qualities of similar beings. This recognition that we take part in as our quality of being similar beings has as a logical consequence the misrecognition of the a, of the “I don’t know what object I am for the Other.” On this point, I send you back precisely to the last chapter of L’angoisse.

And there is also the vocal object, about which Lacan indicated that the major example, the guide for its exploration, is given by the psychotic voice, precisely by the inaudible voice.

Well, there are the five objects a, we say, of nature. There we find one of the registers of the objects a.

Objects of culture, objects of sublimation

The second register is made of the equivalents of the first register in culture. Beside the natural objects of the fragmented body, each gives place to a fabrication of transferable objects which are made from the natural objects.

And it is just as one reproduces images, one stockpiles them; in the same way one transmits the voice, one records it, and great industries are built today on the basis of the eye and of the voice.

The anal object is the most transferable object, and one might say that all that is stockpiled, stored, and taken together in groups becomes the anal object.

As for the oral object, one knows well enough the derailing of the relation of the subject to the oral object introduced by the eating habits of contemporary modernity.

And finally, one might add now concerning the phallic object the complement that this list calls for: a great pharmaceutical industry is now being constructed on the phenomena of detumescence, which Lacan placed at the heart of his elaboration of the evanescent phallus.

In a third register, after the natural objects a and the equivalents of the first in culture, we bring forth all the objects of sublimation, the objects that fill the place of the object as lost object, that is to say that can come to the place of the Thing. There, it is necessary to recognize in Duchamp the genius of the concept of the ready-made that shows that art must be recognized in a context.

These are the three registers that seem to me to distinguish themselvesin the approach to the object a.

The object cause

And the object cause, where is it? That which Lacan called the “object cause” in its difference with the object of intention, which maintains its value at the level of consciousness, at the level of that which in Freud is named the erogenous zones. In contrast to the object of intention, the object cause is by structure hidden and misrecognized.

And, one will also speak of the analyst. If the analyst might be assimilated to the object a, it is as the object cause of an analysis and as far as he lifted the misrecognition of the object a, that is to say here the misrecognition of his act.

The object a, as such, has the priority in the field of subjective realization, and the first of the objects given up, concerning the act, is that which always, Lacan notes, in moral theology, is called the works.

Well, to return to the beginning of this presentation, for an analyst, his analysands, even if crowned with the title of Analysts of the School, are not his works.

The work, if there is one, the opus, the opus is in the beyond.

Thank you.

1. Presentation, made in Rome, July 15, 2006, on the theme of the next Congress of the WAP. This text originally appeared as “AMP 2008. “Les objets a dans l’expérience analytique” in La Lettre mensuelle, 252, Novembre 2006, pages 8-12. English translation by Thomas Svolos.
2. Jacques Lacan, Le Séminaire, Livre X, L’angoisse, Paris: Seuil, 2004, p. 389.

Lacan’s nightingale

Posted: October 10, 2007 in Alain Miller, Lacan

by Jacques-Alain Miller

There are two dimensions in teaching: accumulation and investigation. To that end, repetition is a part of any teaching. It is a part of the teaching that must not be disregarded. Neither is it unpalatable. It is the recitation of the work accumulated by those who came before us.

We recognize importance of compiling bibliographies which, these days has actually been made easier through the use of information technology. The effect of informatics is so dramatic that one can obtain a single compact disc (CD) that contains all of the American psychoanalytic literature. This CD, which I found at a recent IPA conference, has every issue of the International Journal Psychoanalysis on it. Beyond this, thanks to such a CD or similarly by using the right internet portal, it is possible to conduct research on psychoanalytic terms and concepts and in a few seconds have the necessary references. That said, while bibliographic work is getting easier, it is less and less the case that one actually traverses different disciplines to establish bibliographic connections. However, one must recognize the value of bibliographic research. It falls squarely within the dimension of accumulation and validates the importance of being a well informed researcher.

But there is the other dimension of this teaching, as one doesn’t teach merely through repetition. This other dimension is investigation. Investigation is research, research of the new. It is true that, to have an idea of something new, it necessary to know the existing literature. Research is also searching, waiting for the new. As such, there is dialectic between the planes of accumulation and investigation. Custom dictates that we “await the new”. We look for the right moment where it can be found. This then obeys another approach, different from an emphasis on repetition. However, that dimension assumes everything is contingent wherein any kind of foundational assurance is absent. In repetition we gain surety, but on the dimension of research this is not so. The emphasis has to be as it is in the “hard sciences”, where people organize and meet and in crossing paths with one another, generate new ideas. The importance of this cannot be underestimated, just as what I emphasized in respect to the systematic. It is this dimension toward which I am directed, leaving aside all that is systematic, the foundation that sustains all activity, but that is only interested in the measure; that, as a result, also gives a place to the a-systematic and to the singular.

Lacan’s Research

I’ll begin talking about one singularity: the search by Lacan for the form of his Seminar, his manner of teaching. He never had another way and never disregarded that style, even when he had his own School. Next, I’ll make some reflections about the singular as such and some generalizations about the singular. To preserve this aspect, I will give tonight’s talk a Borges- like title “Lacan’s Nightingale” (there is a text of Borges to which I will allude that is called “Keats’s Nightingale”).

Lacan, in truth, had only one style of teaching: his Seminar. Probably the existence during thirty years of Lacan’s Seminar, contributed to making this concept part of the French language. In the classic Latin, seminarium is a kitchen garden. Seminare comes from semen. The modern use of the work Seminar has its origins in the Counter-Reformation (or, better stated, a place, a religious institution where the young are trained to receive religious orders). The modern meaning of Seminarium is born with the Council of Trent, in the Counter-Reformation, when the Catholic Church sought out mechanisms for reconquering Christendom. By extension, from this point in modern history, it took on the general meaning to be the place where youth were “formed”. I found all of this in a dictionary of the French language, which went into detail on this point.

We can continue the history of the word seminar by considering the modern sense of the term: in the university a seminar is distinct from a more didactic style of “master’s” course. In the former, the students present their work and the professor or master orients or corrects it and talks about the students’ work publicly with them. The students are directed based on the orders from above. This is what we call the seminar in the university environment. I believe that this form of teaching, the seminar, comes from Germany. I believe I read, in the memoirs of a historian, that it was introduced in France after the war (against Germany, that France lost) of 1870. Immediately after that, the French began robbing the ideas of the Germans, which had the end result of strengthening the French structures in a certain way such that many of fields of instruction imported and put in place the German methods. Thus, we had Ernest Renan giving the advice to France: study the Germans. This was something that was imposed in many intellectual disciplines.

We now consider the Seminar as a form of teaching.

We can’t say that the interventions of the students had a major role in the Seminar of Lacan. These interventions were more residual in character. Nevertheless, periodically Lacan sought to re-energize the participants and stimulate questions or to present some kind of communication, but fundamentally in his Seminar, it is Lacan, the master, that speaks. This produced in France, almost a change in sentiment, or at least, eased the limit of what would be a Seminar.

But it is also important to say that Lacan’s Seminar is well named because it was a “sowing” of psychoanalysts, a place for the development of psychoanalysis and for the formations of the unconscious. One could say: a place for the formation of the unconscious and for the treatment of the unconscious by psychoanalysis and with results, that is to say, famous ones, because among the psychoanalysts formed in Lacan’s Seminar, there are many present in all of the analytic societies in France. If we consider its publication one could say that it was a successful formation both intellectually and at the level of practice. This implies the necessity that we examine, with a very powerful lens, just exactly what was this marvelous stance that Lacan took in his Seminar.

Was it about a procedure? Was it a method? It does not appear to be the case. I think it was such a success because it was neither a procedure nor a method. Some might classify it as a procedure, consider its results as if it was a technique, but clearly the Seminar was not a technique of Lacan. It began as a Seminar with a reading of Freud’s work. The first ten Seminars always referenced one or two of Freud’s books. The crucial point was Seminar XI, when Lacan considered the four key concepts of Freud, but presented in a new way. Later, he moved away a bit from the typical reading style of an academic seminar.

Lacan had a model. It wasn’t all original. This model, I think, was the Seminar on Hegel that Kojève brought to life in the 1930’s. The readings done by Kojève in his Seminar recreated what Hegel had done. He created a reading that was a scansion, a punctuation of the Phenomenology of the Spirit on the point of the dialectic between the Master and the Slave. It was a creative reading so pregnant with meaning that it is only now that commentators have attempted to unpack the power of Kojève’s interpretations of Hegel’s work.

Lacan’s reading of Freud was also a creative reading, a reading based on language and the function of the speech, or, should we say, as result of what appeared to be a pioneering science for the so-called “human sciences” of the 1950’s: structural linguistics. This form took as a point of departure a reading of Freud’s, but one informed by Saussure, revised and reedited by Jakobson. In truth, it is a formula invented by Levi-Strauss, not by Lacan. So, to summarize, the Seminar of Lacan was initially a seminar style of reading, which had as its model Kojève and was informed by a specific understanding of structural linguistics.

However, the Seminar of Lacan is something else all together. It was, day after day, week after week, a discourse of someone who was experiencing the unconscious. Someone who manifested what in psychoanalysis was, at the same time, its practice and its difficulty and it preoccupations. Someone who expounded as he went, as he was going about making this discipline and this object; as he was entangled and trying to untangle himself, as he became enmeshed, muddled and then unstuck again. It is evidently the case that he was a long way from arriving at the idea of a teaching method.

In the Seminar, Lacan exemplified, as result of Freud’s texts and the texts of others, his way of doing it, which clearly changed as time went on. He modified his way of working, in such a way that he succeeded in transmitting psychoanalysis as a discipline, but reinvented in his way. It is clear that it wasn’t always like that. In the beginning of his teaching, he presented things in the manner of a structuralist, in the style of “this is the correct form.” But now that we have a picture of the totality of his journey, we can perceive, in the evolution of his propositions, a style of reinvention and reformulation that constitutes a particular way of working. Certainly, it would be more palatable to present his teachings as an intellectual journey in the direction of the scientificization of psychoanalysis and the intellectual strength of Lacan had something of this, but the perspective of reinventing dislocates the impetus to scientificization.

Lacan yielded an extraordinary effect in the formulation, dissemination and fecundity of psychoanalysis, because he demonstrated his own struggle with an object and a dimension that he could not completely master. It is a dimension that has it own consistency and its own internal resistance. At first glance, one might think that Lacan demonstrated his mastery of the topic, but no, by being aware of its unceasing quality, he shows, in contrast, the resistance of knowledge and a certain shattering of any mastery of the real. It is patently obvious that this is a demonstration of the inability of total mastery. Lacan was always reformulating, remobilizing and never said “its ready” about any point. When in the few times that he said it, he denied it shortly after a few words.

What is at stake is preserving this sense or dimension of dissatisfaction. Even though one could be justified in doing so, we are not going to add a special domain: the domain of dissatisfaction. It would be the domain where one would be say that there is nothing satisfactory either in the programme, or in the methods that were achieved. It would be a domain where one would never say “it’s complete.” Dissatisfaction is a part of everything and for this reason we don’t need to create a specific domain for it.

To justify oneself as an analyst is a work of desire

The Seminar of Lacan was not a method. We can develop this point further. This seminar, as I see it, was done by someone who sought to justify himself. It was ministered by someone who perhaps wanted to be pardoned for the practice of psychoanalysis. Sometimes, this is lost in the post-analytic experience of analysts, but for Lacan there was a certain sin in practicing psychoanalysis: the attempt of the professional to master a real which does not lend itself to being mastered. It is in this way that psychoanalysis is like an imposter, as Lacan asserted toward the end of this life. This is what energized him such that he presented himself every week in front of the audience, in front of the big Other, to defend his cause.

It is important not to forget that it was he himself who invented the concept of the big Other. It is necessary to think that he had a certain relation with the dissimilar: that to which one is directed. At the same time as it is the place where a message is directed, it is also, in a certain way, its author. The big Other thus has two faces. On one hand, in order to be distinct from the small other, it is a function that seems anonymous, universal and abstract. But on the other hand, as Lacan underlines in Seminar V: The formations of the unconscious (apropos of the Witz), this big Other doesn’t function without a limitation of its space, without a limitation of its field to a parochial dimension.

The parochial dimension is a province of shared meaning. Lacan established it in his Seminar, a province which allowed him to speak self-reflexively. That is, he created a province of the Other. He directed himself toward the analysts and formed them. It is because Lacan directed himself to this province of the Other that the community of analysts became constituted. The specific discourse that was directed toward them transformed itself into an Other. The discourse of Lacan was deposited, collected and returned to us, the Other to which he directed himself.

The royal road to the unconscious was a dream, according to Freud. The Seminar of Lacan, for several generations, has been a real road to reach psychoanalysis. As it was neither a procedure nor a method, what was produced in the seminar had something to do with both desire and guilt.

At the same time, Lacan created a special language to speak of the unconscious of psychoanalysis, a language especially adapted to capture and circumscribe psychoanalytic phenomena. This special language imposes itself now as psychoanalytic maxims, used outside the immediate circle of Lacan’s students. This language he created, as a result of elements he took from scientific discourse, was reconstructed and reshaped in order to conform to the object he was addressing.

Lacan’s idea, surely, was to make a transcription of Freud’s work that could re-energize the psychoanalytic field and obtain, as such, a language more appropriate, adequate, and adaptable for psychoanalysis. I believe that teaching and research are not really effective if a teacher is not also animated by a dream.

Making packages

I will now give some general ideas about the singular. I began this lecture with a very singular case: that of Lacan. I believe that this perspective imposes itself on our clinic as well. And, in the transmission of our clinic, we must give primacy to the singular more than the general or universal. It is exactly for this reason that I did not present any general ideas about teaching, but the particular case of a teacher who was important to many, at least along these lines.

Maybe we are post-modern clinicians. Since we privilege the particular case, the detail, the ungeneralizable, we no longer believe in categories, in the categories inherent in systems of classification. We can classify Lacan. We can say that he did like Kojève or like Levi-Strauss, but in my opinion this does not give an accurate account of the phenomenon.

We know today, at the end of the century, that our categories and our classifications systems are mortal and the categories we use are artifacts of history. We have our mental health classification system; we know what psychosis, neurosis and perversion mean, etc. We know that our classifications have something of the relative, the artificial or the artful, and in sum that they are only semblants. That is, the categories are not founded in nature, nor are they structural, nor are they in the real. It appears to me that the categories are founded only in a certain kind of truth.

However, the truth has variations, as Lacan expressed with his neologism varité, variety. This neologism connotes both truth and variety simultaneously. Our categories produce truth effects, but, at bottom, the truth is not grounded in the real. Already long ago, Pascal used to say that he knew and illustrated his arguments with varieties of the truth to exalt the eternal, divine truth. Today, it is axiomatic that the truth is nothing if not truth effects. That is, it is always the truth of a particular time or of a particular project.

In the time when one trusted more in the semiology of psychiatry, for example, we have the theoretical constructions of Chaslin3, a French psychiatrist, an excellent semiotician, who could give examples in an idiosyncratic or chaotic way, as shown in the first chapter of his work. He began with examples, or, better stated, with cases that had described diagnoses. So, first he had examples of the disorder. In the second chapter comes a matrix, perfectly ordered, of the nosography which demonstrates that if on one side there are signs, on the other there must be categories and that, through the diagnosis, we move from signs to categories. Or, better stated, with the signs and the nosographic matrix it is possible to locate a category to which these pathological signs refer. In the practice of diagnosis—not that there is a foundation to it—there is an inherent idea that the individual is ultimate example of a category. I say this in a general way.

Precisely for this reason the practice of diagnosis repudiates, we will say it like this, contemporary individualism. The contemporary individual resists the idea of being turned solely into an ideal type, and every time we place such a classification on him, the answer is: “no, I’m just me, I’m not a number, nor am I an ideal type.”

These days, doubts are launched about such classifications. We live in a culture of historicism. This teaches us that all our familiar, everyday categories have a history. Our everyday way of thinking has a history, or better stated, things were not always perceived in the way in which they are today. The same word meant something else at an earlier point in time. This is a powerful lineage. Everything we think about is nothing if not the result of an earlier historical process.

We have, all in all, an “industry” of historicism that is applied to every aspect of life. There is a historicism of privacy which teaches us that the private life has its own special history. Each object has its own historian. In the end, I am spoofing this; however, it also fascinates me. I bought recently a book, which I still have not read; I only leafed through the pictures. It tells the history of packaging4, a magnificent history of the way in which people package the things we buy. For example there is an American who through an invention made it possible to put text directly on the wrapping material. This invention only came about because of a push to increase sales though more advertising. Our world is a world pulverized by historicism. In a certain way, our categorizing is also a type of packaging.

Induction and Pragmatism

If historicism exists, there must also be logicism. In addition, there are the paradoxes that undercut the logic of induction. I dedicated some time in my course to study Hempel’s famous paradox, so important for our clinic. Finding a black raven confirms the proposition that all ravens are black. (Although, if we encounter ten ravens, we are already in a Hitchcockian universe and will be feeling that frightening feeling!) For us, finding one black raven confirms a universal proposition that all ravens are black. In the meantime, Hempel demonstrates, and this would have enchanted Borges, even though I suppose that he wasn’t familiar with it, the corollary that all objects that are “not black” and at the same time are “not ravens,” confirms the proposition that all objects which are “not black” are “not ravens.” Each time that the men see a black raven they say: “well, just one more.” But, logically, the same confirmation obtains every time the men find something that is “not a raven” which is at the same time “not black” and it can be demonstrated with the small letters of a logical equation that it is not possible to get out of this. Or, better stated, the universal proposition “all ravens are black” is confirmed also when the men find the green of a plant, the white of a shoe, the blue of a shirt, the red of blood, the purple of a finch, or passion fruit ice cream. This paradox, which provokes laughter, was an important theme for the field of logic, and, for him, an argument that was taken very seriously.

I also commented in my course on the paradox of having a predicate for a certain category of class of things or ideas. This comes from Hempel, but was forged by the logician Nelson Goodman. He created a predicate of a category that integrates the factor of time. That is, considers the moment of the observation, but, when it stops, what occurs afterward? He showed that, when one integrates the factor of time, nothing prevents that tomorrow the emeralds will be blue and that, as well, chickens can have teeth. In Goodman’s world, nothing prevents that tomorrow this could be true.

Allow me to propose an answer to the question that these paradoxes demonstrate—why we use some categorical predicates more than others. Why don’t we use a predicate like Goodman’s which opens up this possibility? How do we make our classifications? Goodman responds that in the final analysis, we use predicates that function, that is, those that don’t leave us too surprised, as a result of reflection about these paradoxical limits. We don’t operate with a predicate that leaves open the door such that tomorrow the emeralds will be blue. We don’t use these predicates (it is necessary for a logician to invent them). We only use predicates that work with a base that has been established and that has been apprehended from a practice. It is the equivalent of saying that, on a purely theoretical level, the predicates don’t have any foundation and that the classifications are not solely constructed at the level of theory and contemplation. At the level of contemplation, we leave the door open to all of these paradoxes. Finally, the classifications refer themselves back to a practice, which is effective, and is already in existence. That is, we have confidence that the predicates permitted them to make predictions and were already verified long ago. Or, better stated, the emeralds will continue to be green.

These paradoxes demonstrate that we don’t have that many schools of thought. Our theories of classification are chosen not so much as a function of data, but as a function of our linguistic practices, the way in which we speak or talk to one another. It is the equivalent of saying that, essentially, we have confidence in the customary terms and categories, in the terms already employed to formulate inductions as a result of the data, which are always incomplete. Goodman says that it is the past that guarantees the possibility to “project.” Or better stated, in these cases we have a certain type of path that goes from “incomplete data” to the “all.” We are not concerned here with an absolute guarantee, but a specifically pragmatic guarantee.

Nominalism and pragmatism in the diagnosis

Why should one make such a reflection? Because all diagnoses refer themselves to a category and our diagnostic categories have an extraordinary past that can be traced through the centuries. Our categories are founded neither in nature nor in observation. Neither psychosis nor neurosis is a natural kind. It seems to me that what distinguishes us from those who came before us is that we understand the artifice of our categories. We know that our categories have their foundation in linguistic practices of those concerned with the theme under consideration. That is, the founding of categories is a conversation for those who are engaged in practice. It is precisely for this reason that we have conferences where there are questions and answers and that we engage in research projects, colloquia, etc. We speak with one another, and in our time it has already turned into an international industry of speaking. It is this that appears, now that we are aware of artificial character and socially constructed quality of our categories, at least the more agreed upon ones. If the categories were a natural kind there would not be a necessity for research projects or colloquia. Each of us could sit at home relaxing in front of the television.

Lacan says: “There is a clinic, there are typical symptoms”5, but when he says this, he makes us understand that this doesn’t take us very far. Rather he makes us understand that similarity is not science (ressemblant ce n’est pas science, in French). It is exactly what Quine, the logician, said when he affirmed that it is doubtful that there is scientific law about the general notion of “similarity.” He says it is difficult or almost impossible to define scientifically a notion as general as “similarity.” I cite him as follows: “nothing is more fundamental for thought and for language than our sense of similarity.” It is important to reassert what he says: “our sense of similarity,” something that is at the limit and that cannot easily be established.

Quine makes it evident that we use general terms such as nouns, verbs, and adjectives. We can classify “man,” “table,” “fish” as a function of certain similarities between their elements, however, if groups are a natural phenomenon, in the sense of a theory of groups, in which two things, no matter what they are, can be taken as elements of a more extensive kind. For example, there are groups of “animals,” of “humans,” and of “plants,” but if we construct a group of “live beings” these groups would join into a new group. As such, it is always possible for one kind to spill over forming a more extended group or grouping.

The surrealists explored this fissure, for example, by way of a game: they would take any word—“egg” for example—and next another—the word “deck” as in deck of cards. The game consisted of defining the first word by the second one. If I remember well, one could have said: “an egg is a deck with only yellow and white cards …and if you shuffle the deck then you get an omelet.” [laughter] It was a game that permitted one to see that there did not exist a better way of defining an egg other than this. What it demonstrates is the artificial character of similarity and that it becomes obligatory, for the whole discipline, if one wants to be scientific, to be explicit about the criteria used in making similarities. Depending on the criterion that is chosen, the one that is deemed “natural” can be located on one side or the other.

We can follow this in the work of Michel Foucault whose path goes from intuitively imagined laws of similarity to artificial similarities operating purely in the symbolic order, which are semblants. Or, better stated, we can play with constructing categories of similarities based on the criteria we select.

Here nominalism exists side by side with pragmatism. The alliance between the two defines, we can say, the spirit of post-modernity.

It appears to me that this is the spirit of the DSM, because in it, the nosographic categories are determined as a function of the ways in which the physicians perform. Or, better stated, the synchrony of the nosographic matrix depends upon the diachrony of the actions and the inventions that occur during the course of treatment. These can be, for example, the invention of a new molecule or the identification of a new neurotransmitter. Each would have immediate repercussions for the determination of categories. It is devastating. All our constructs are reduced to the semblant, a caricature that makes us laugh. There is both absolute artificiality and constant pragmatism.

The effect of the subject

What are implications for us of this nominalism, pragmatism, and reduction of categories to the semblant? This is our culture, and we cannot escape it. It is the discontent of today’s civilization. That said, I think there are interesting implications for us. Because of the artificiality one encounters, we find ourselves turning away from the game, turning away from the mastery of this game of artificial categories. This artificial game, nominalised and pragmaticized, continues on its course, irresistible, resulting in the grand movement of history that does not stop. However, the result is that the individual is detached from the game. The individuals play the game with their things off to the side of this artificial chaos.

The universal of a category, no matter what the purpose, is never completely present in an individual. As much as the real individual can be an ideal type within a category, it is always an ideal with a gap. A deficit exists in the case of the category of the individual. It is precisely as a result of this cut that the individual can become a subject, by never being able to be a perfect ideal.

Having spoken of categories, we can now take up the issue of the subject. From our point of view, the subject appears every time that the individual backs away, be it from the species, the genus, the general or the universal. It is something that needs to be observed in the clinic when we apply our categories. That is we don’t avoid using categories, but we must be aware of their pragmatic and artificial character. We must be sure not to nullify the subject with the categories that we use.

I cannot find a better example than the one that Borges offers me in his book Otras Inquisiciones (Other Inquisitions) where one encounters a small piece of writing, not more than three pages long, entitled “El ruiseñor de Keats” (“The Nightingale of Keats”). I reread it so many times, this text, as if there was some kind mystery within it. Finally I decided to use it. It is one use among many possible uses, because it can also be taken as an apology for the signifier, as the logicians do.

“El ruiseñor de Keats” (“The Nightingale of Keats”) refers to a nightingale heard once by the poet Keats in his garden in Hampstead in 1819 and that, according to Keats, is the same nightingale of Ovid and of Shakespeare. This is how Borges presents it. It comes from “Ode to a Nightingale,” which John Keats composed in a garden in Hampstead, at age 23, on an April night in 1918. Borges writes: “Keats in a garden in the suburbs heard the eternal nightingale of Ovid and Shakespeare, felt his own mortality, and contrasted it with the thin, tenuous, ceaseless voice of that invisible bird.”

Some English critics said: “It was an error on Keats’s part. The nightingale he heard in Hampstead in 1819 is clearly not the same nightingale of Ovid and Shakespeare.” It is an error, but it is also a confusion between individual and category. Borges cites the comments of Sidney Colvin. Citing Colvin verbatim, he says: “his curious declaration: with an error of logic that from my point of view, is also a poetic failure, Keats is contrasting the fleeting quality of human life which he understands in the context of the life of an individual, with the everlasting quality of a bird’s life which is understood in the context of the life of a species.” In addition, Amy Lowell wrote: “The reader who has a spark of imagination or the poetic intuition immediately understands that Keats is not referring to the nightingale which at that moment sang, but to the species.”

Borges reflects on the commentary of the English critics and says: “this is not what Keats is saying”. He writes: “I disagree with those who postulate a distinction between the ephemeral nightingale of that night and the generic nightingale.” Borges says that, in the end, the key to that stanza is found in a subsequent text of Schopenhauer, unknown to Keats who passed away before its appearance, and locates the real sense of Keats’s nightingale in a paragraph from the book The World as Will and Representation in which he says the following:

“We ask with sincerity if the swallow of this spring is different from the swallow of the first spring and whether actually between the two the miracle of creation out of nothing has been renewed a million times in order to work just as often into the hands of absolute annihilation. Those who hear me assert that the cat who is playing over there is the same one who played and did tricks right here three hundred years ago can think of me what they will, but it is even more absurd to imagine that fundamentally it is another.”6 Borges comments: “Or, better stated, the individual is, in a certain way, a species, and the nightingale of Keats is also the nightingale of Ruth.”

In the end, what Borges explains in this text is that he and Keats are Platonists. For both Keats and Borges, categories, classes, orders and genuses are realities of a cosmos in which each one has its place. This is the precise reason why Keats is not understood by the English, because for the English the real is not made of abstract concepts, but of individuals. For them, language is nothing more than an approximated game of symbols. The English, according to Borges, reject the generic because they feel that the individual is irreducible, unassimalatable, and odd.

The curious thing about it is that Borges, who was a total anglophile, was also a Platonist. For Borges, each one is a nightingale. In this text, he says that if one traces the history of man back through the centuries, it is as if they were all the same. The Platonists return inevitably like Parmenides, Plato, Spinoza, Kent, Francis Bradley, etc. It is always the same nightingale that returns. But there is other nightingale, the Aristotelian, who believes neither in classes, nor genuses, etc.

Platonism is central in Borges’s work. It is through this Platonism that he could give an infinite echo to his phrases as if it was the echo of the eternal homeward voyage.

However, for us who is right?

Keats is right. The song of the nightingale divides him as he is a subject; it makes him experience his mortality, and returns to him his lack of being. Of course, this is because the ideal model of the animal is a species. Here the real Platonism is true at the level of the animal, because, effectively, an animal is a total manifestation of its species.

This is what I am proposing. Of course for me, this is a Lacanian perspective. One could say that the animal realizes exhaustively its kind while it is an ideal—a true specimen. However, the speaking subjects, the subjects of language, never clearly and exhaustively fulfill a category or class. They can only imagine themselves as part of the human species when they think they are mortal, as Keats does in this example.

It is important to note that true logic tries to extinguish this death drive that separates human beings from other species. It can do so with the following syllogism. “All men are mortal.” “Socrates is a man,” therefore “Socrates is mortal.” This syllogism makes us think that Socrates dies because he is part of the human species. Or, better stated, the logic of this universal proposition extinguishes precisely that which is singular. It is as if we were speaking of a natural phenomenon when, exactly, Socrates was someone who had a very different relation with death, different than a purely “natural death,” proper also to the human species. He desired death different than dying because one is human. In a certain way, being driven by the Other, he put his life at risk.

Saying this is a different way, we speak of “the subject” as the effects that unceasingly displace the individual from the species, the particular from the universal, and the case of the rule. Or rather, what we name “the subject” is this disjunction that makes it such that Keats is neither Ovid nor Shakespeare. Nevertheless, the nightingale of Keats is the same as the nightingale of Ovid and of Shakespeare, but Keats is neither Ovid nor is he Shakespeare.

The Diagnosis of Our Time

In our practice we address the “subject aspect” of the individual. That is what we have sought to elaborate upon and to transmit through our teaching styles and further discussions. In doing so, we back away from applying foundational reference points such as nature and science. We introduce contingency and with it, a world that is neither a cosmos, nor a universe. Inversely, we are dealing with a world that is not a totality but one which is always in abeyance—dependant upon the event that is going to produce it. We are in a world where ewes are cloned. That being the case, nothing is impossible, and as such, to return to an earlier point in the discussion, a world where chickens can have teeth.

It is the clinic of our time. We experience surprise and a return of contingency. In such a world, a particular case is never an ideal for a rule or for a category. There are only exceptions to the rule. This, paradoxically, is the universal formula.

Now we can return to talking about the diagnosis in the way that I have been thinking about it. We will concern ourselves with elaborations on it and practicing it in the new Institute Clinics: diagnosis is like an art. It is an art to judge a case without following set rules or pre-established categories. This is very different than an automatic diagnosis which categorizes an individual based on an established class of pathology. The latter is the utopia of the DSM; it is what is on the horizon: the automatic diagnosis. In addition, it constitutes part of the horizon of our epoch. Or rather, a diagnosis that can be formulated without the necessity of thought, where it would be necessary merely record some relevant data, systematize it and feed it to a machine which would spit out the diagnosis. A machine to diagnose, we are almost there. We are in search of a program that will achieve the automatic diagnosis. It will be a machine worthy of Father Ubu. And at the same time, it is a utopia because it sutures the moment of judgment, in the Kantian sense, the moment of judging which is logically necessary. The judge or judgment from practice is neither knowledge nor theory, but art. From this perspective, practice is not an application of theory.

Of course, it is necessary to develop a theory of this gap. I believe that the Seminar of Lacan is firmly enmeshed in theorizing this gap between theory and practice.

Practice is not an application of theory. This is the most interesting dimension of practice. When operating distinctly from one another, theory is necessary, but there is also a dimension where practice operates laterally or on parallel track with theory. We know this very well. It is precisely practice which must discover or re-discover, in each particular case that is presented in the here and now, the principle which could govern the case. In each case, practice concerns itself with the principles in that particular case.

Kant illustrates this well. Until now it seemed impossible to move beyond his idea that between theory and practice an intermediary is needed which permits the connection of one to the other. Though at the same time, we also presume that a theory can stand alone on its own merits. The logic that supports this argument is as follows: to develop the concept that supports a rule of any sort, an act of judging is required. This act of judging allows those engaged in practice to decide if the case fits into a rule, a category, or a universal.

I don’t see how to overcome this argument that I just summarized. Hegel would have subjected it to a critique, but Goldman would have said: In the end, it is practice that resolves everyday problems, all the time. What is true, of course, is that on a purely conceptual plane this resolves itself, but resolves itself on the side of action. It is precisely this that we are trying to transmit, for example in supervision: the tact that each case requires. The tact develops with experience. If we begin with experience and, we wait for more data to draw a conclusion about the hypothetical orientation of the treatment, over time we end up with less. Therefore, between the universal and the particular, it is always necessary to insert the act of judging, being that this act is not universalizable.

As Kant said: if logic was intended to demonstrate how to subsume a case into a rule, or better stated if it was possible to say that such a case responded to such a rule, it would necessitate a rule that prescribed it. Judging, that is, using universal categories in a particular case, is not the same as applying a rule, but it is deciding if a rule is applicable to the case. And this decision, this act, is not capable of being automated. If one wants to automate it, we have an infinite regression. Lewis Carroll demonstrates this in the allegory entitled “What the tortoise said to Achilles”, when the tortoise leads Achilles into an infinite regression. It is also found in the rediscovery of Wittgenstein and what Saul Kripke highlights in commenting on Wittgenstein. It concerns the necessity of this intermediary. There is a dimension that goes beyond the rule, a different dimension, that of the decision, the dimension of pure practice, different than what is typically understood or conceptualized.

The utopia of the DSM short circuits this logically necessary moment. But it is this moment that permits the founding of the perennial quality of clinic of diagnosis and the perennial quality of the practice itself. These clinics are not secondary nor are they subsidiaries, but are clinics of the plain exercise of logic. The clinic of the DSM would never cause the disappearance of this clinic of judgment, nor the clinic of tact, which is the clinic we are trying to transmit.

The invention of the symptom

Why all of this? There is a hole in the universe of rules and categories. Lacan names it: S()—S of the barred A. It signifies the universe of discourse at the exact point in which it is both founded and undone. It is this point in which the invention of rules and categories is necessary.

In psychoanalysis what are the rules and categories that are invented? We can ask the psychoanalytic theorists this, but in truth we must look at the analytic subject. In this place, the S(), it is the analytic subject who invents. The subject invents a way himself that will subsume his case under a rule valid for that supposed species of subjects.

And what is the universal of species of subjects under which each analysand can subsume his case? It is a universal that is very particular: it is the absence of a rule. It is a negative universal. It is the universal that is a hole. It is a formula not written, a formula which is not inscribed. It is the absence of a program (like in informatics), the absence of a sexual program. Lacan famously stated: “there is no sexual relationship.” It is the only universal that matters for a subject. However, it is a negative universal that signifies the absence of a rule, which permits the passage to the limit, the fact that makes the relationship between two members of the human species especially open to variation in comparison to other animal species. Open both to truth and lies. Open to variation, to contingency and to invention. With this, we distance ourselves from the nightingales, and ladies (senhoras) and gentlemen (senhores) are distanced from nightingales (ruiseñores)…This is deducted from all our knowledge of the Freudian experience: the subject is always obligated to invent his mode of relation to sex without being guided by a “natural” program. The mode of relation invented—particular, peculiar and always crippled—is the symptom. The symptom comes in the place of natural programming which does not exist. What it means to be human, a speaking being, can never be simply subsumed by itself merely as a case of the rule of the human species. The subject is always constituted as the exception to the rule and its symptom is an invention or reinvention of that which is missing.

There are of course typical symptoms, however, even if they take the same form, each is peculiar and particular because, as Lacan pointed out, the meaning of the same symptom in diverse subjects is different. In Kantian terms, the subject attributes his private law in the symptom or thanks to his symptom. In this sense, the symptom would be a rule proper to the distribution of libido in each subject.

Since the beginning of the experience of an analysis, and through all of it, the symptom purifies, illuminates, and at the termination of the analysis, it is disrobed. What occurs with the symptom? Does it disappear? No, it does not. A residue of the symptom always remains, a residue invested in the subject, that Lacan names the object a.

But beyond this—I am at the limit of what I can formulate in respect to this—a form perseveres, a significant articulation of the symptom. The piece of the investment, or super-investment as Freud said, retreats, but the form stays. Or, better stated, while the finality of the symptom has dissipated, the formal element of the symptom persists. It is for this reason—and correlated with the disinvestment—that it produces, perhaps (I say “perhaps” because I have to work on this) necessarily, an aesthetic of the symptom. It becomes a finality without purpose, which is the Kantian definition of art: finality without purpose. This had been foreseen by Freud in his Conference XXIII of the Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, “The paths to the formation of the symptoms,” which concludes with the use of fantasy as a component of the symptom in order to produce art.

Recently a colleague told me that he thought I was so overly logical that I couldn’t handle the idea of psychoanalysis as an art. I hope I have responded to him tonight.

Translation by Gary Marshall

Review by Thomas Svolos

1 This is a translation of the “O Rouxinol de Lacan,” opening conference of the Instituto do Campo Freudiano de Buenos Aires (ICBA) which originally appeared in Spanish in: Miller, J.-A.: “El ruiseñor de Lacan” in AAVV: Del Edipo a la sexuación. Buenos Aires: ICBA, Paidós, 2001. Translated from the Spanish to Portuguese by Carlos Genaro G. Fernandez, and published for the first time in Brazil in: Carta de São Paulo, São Paulo, Escola Brasileira de Psicanálise de São Paulo, v. 10, n. 5, p. 18-32, 2003.

3 Chaslin, P. (1912). Eléments de Sémiologie et Clinique Mentales. Paris: Asselin & Houzeau.

5Lacan, J. (2001). Introduction to the German edition of the first volume of the Écrits, in Autres Écrits. Paris: Seuil.

6 Schopenhauer, A. (1958). The world as will and representation. (E. Payne, trans.) New York: Dover Publications, Inc. The complete quotation of Schopenhauer is as follows: “Ask yourself honestly, whether the swallow of this year’s spring is an entirely different one from the swallow of the first spring, and whether actually between the two the miracle of creation out of nothing has been renewed a million times, in order to work just as often into the hands of absolute annihilation. I know quite well that anyone would regard me as mad if I seriously assured him that the cat, playing just now in the yard, is still the same one that did the same jumps and tricks there three hundred years ago; but I also know that it is absurd to believe that the cat of today is through and through and fundamentally an entire different one from that cat of three hundred years ago” (p. 482).