Wednesday, February 05, 2014
Jacques Lacan and Psycho-analysis
Koushambi dixit 1324133
Jacques Lacan and Psycho-analysis
Jacques Lacan (April 13, 1901 to September 9, 1981) was a major figure in Parisian intellectual life for much of the twentieth century. Sometimes referred to as “the French Freud,” he is an important figure in the history of psychoanalysis. His teachings and writings explore the significance of Freud's discovery of the unconscious both within the theory and practice of analysis itself as well as in connection with a wide range of other disciplines. Particularly for those interested in the philosophical dimensions of Freudian thought, Lacan's oeuvre is invaluable. Over the course of the past fifty-plus years, Lacanian ideas have become central to the various receptions of things psychoanalytic in Continental philosophical circles especially.
Lacan tends to associate (albeit not exclusively) the Imaginary with the restricted spheres of consciousness and self-awareness. It is the register with the closest links to what people experience as non-psychoanalytic quotidian reality. Who and what one “imagines” other persons to be, what one thereby “imagines” they mean when communicatively interacting, who and what one “imagines” oneself to be, including from the imagined perspectives of others—all of the preceding is encompassed under the heading of this register. Such a description indicates the ways in which the Imaginary points to core analytic ideas like transference, fantasy, and the ego. In particular, the Imaginary is central to Lacan's account(s) of ego-formation (as per the mirror stage—see 2.2 below).
As Lacan integrates his early work of the 1930s and 1940s with his structuralism-informed theories of the 1950s, he comes to emphasize the dependence of the Imaginary on the Symbolic. This dependency means that more sensory-perceptual phenomena (images and experiences of one's body, affects as consciously lived emotions, envisionings of the thoughts and feelings of others, etc.) are shaped, steered, and (over)determined by socio-linguistic structures and dynamics. With the growing importance of the Real in the 1960s and the Borromean knots of the 1970s, it becomes clear that Lacan conceives of the Imaginary as bound up with both of the other two registers (incidentally, the Imaginary and the Symbolic, when taken together as mutually integrated, constitute the field of “reality,” itself contrasted with the Real). In fact, it could be maintained that the Imaginary invariably involves category mistakes. More specifically, it is the register in which the other two registers are mistaken for each other: What is Real is misrecognized as Symbolic (for example, as in particular sorts of obsessional-neurotic and paranoid-psychotic symptoms, certain meaningless contingent occurrences at the level of the material world of non-human objects are viewed as though they were meaningful signs full of deep significance to be deciphered and interpreted) and what is Symbolic is misrecognized as Real (for example, as in psychosomatic-type “conversion symptoms,” unconscious mental conflicts encoded in language and ideas are suffered as bodily afflictions and ailments).
With his choice of the word “imaginary,” Lacan indeed intends to designate that which is fictional, simulated, virtual, and the like. However, the phenomena of the Imaginary are necessary illusions (to put it in Kantian locution) or real abstractions (to put it in Marxian parlance). This signals two points. First, as one of Lacan's three basic, essential registers, the Imaginary is an intrinsic, unavoidable dimension of the existences of speaking psychical subjects; just as an analysis cannot (and should not try to) rid the analysand of his/her unconscious, so too is it neither possible nor desirable to liquidate the illusions of this register. Second, the fictional abstractions of the Imaginary, far from being merely “unreal” as ineffective, inconsequential epiphenomena, are integral to and have very concrete effects uThe Lacanian Symbolic initially is theorized on the basis of resources provided by structuralism. Tied to natural languages as characterized by Saussure and specific post-Saussurians, this register also refers to the customs, institutions, laws, mores, norms, practices, rituals, rules, traditions, and so on of cultures and societies (with these things being entwined in various ways with language). Lacan's phrase “symbolic order,” which encompasses all of the preceding, can be understood as roughly equivalent to what Hegel designates as “objective spirit.” This non-natural universe is an elaborate set of inter-subjective and trans-subjective contexts into which individual human beings are thrown at birth (along the lines of Heideggerian Geworfenheit), a pre-existing order preparing places for them in advance and influencing the vicissitudes of their ensuing lives.
According to Lacan, one of the (if not the) most significant and indispensable conditions of possibility for singular subjectivity is the collective symbolic order (sometimes named “the big Other,” a phrase to be unpacked further shortly—see 2.3 below). Individual subjects are what they are in and through the mediation of the socio-linguistic arrangements and constellations of the register of the Symbolic. Especially during the period of the “return to Freud,” the analytic unconscious (qua “structured like a language”) is depicted as kinetic networks of interlinked signifiers (i.e., “signifying chains”). Rendered thusly, the unconscious, being of a Symbolic (anti-)nature in and of itself, is to be interpretively engaged with via the Symbolic medium of speech, namely, the very substance of the being-in-itself of the speaking subject (parlêtre) of the unconscious. Furthermore, the Lacanian unconscious is structured like “un langage” and not “une langue.” Although both French words translate into English as “language,” the former (langage) refers to logics and structures of syntax and semantics not necessarily specific to particular natural languages, whereas the latter (langue), which also could be translated into English as “tongue,” does refer to the notion of a natural language. Hence, Lacan is not saying that the unconscious is structured like French, German, English, Spanish, or any other particular natural language.
pon actual, factual human realities.
Pinto, Anil. "Introduction to Freud and Psychoanalysis." Class lecture and discussions. Christ University. India, Bangalore. 29 01 2014. Lecture.
Jacques Lacan , Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy