Before I can even begin I have returned to the “we” that caused some stumbling yesterday. Today it dawns upon me that the “we” is the structural necessity of neurosis. It is not, as one theorist I am close to claims by citing Foucault, that “the ‘we’ must not be previous to the question; it can only be the result – and the necessarily temporary result – of the question as it is posed in the new terms in which one formulates it.” Here the “we” originates as a fleeting response to a question posed by the ostensibly autonomous subject, something that is not bound to the originating question. Yet, Lacan seems to claim that the “we” is itself constitutive of the neurotic relationship such that the question that being asks – more suitably, the question that the neurotic’s being asks – is always, as if by absolute necessity, one that passes through the field of the big Other. The ‘we’ is itself the question of neuroses.
And so we share the adventure of lack.
It has been about a month since Lacan’s last class. We are told that he took a vacation at a ski resort for well-to-do old folks. The current class is a very short one, if only because we are missing a significant portion of the transcript. He invited another person to speak. In any case, the piece does not seem terribly important. Lacan uses the remaining time to cover a few basic points.
First of all, Lacan reflects on his ethics seminar (the seventh seminar). One of the leading arguments in the seminar was that morality has its source in the real, and its object is, if I may put it like this, das Ding (Lacan does not use this concept today). Lacan wants to keep pushing in this direction to see what we can make of this claim. What we can rule out, for now, is any understanding which reduces ethics to the activity of markets, to the activity of “common objects” (to borrow a phrase from a previous class). And yet we do not really return to this discussion. So I am under the impression that Lacan has a lot of groundwork to cover before he can return.
Lacan is now intent on discussing the analyst’s desire and its relation to anxiety. Immediately, we know that this must involve some discussion of the transference, and more importantly the counter-transference. Lacan claims up front that it is the analyst’s desire that provides the biggest obstacle within the transference. We know that he has been moving toward this position because in the last class he spent a significant amount of time discussing the improper manner of handling or organizing the transference by various analysts. Various ways of approaching the topic were discussed, including, for example, the notion of “responsibility”. Recall that one analyst argued that responsibility changes depending on the clinical structure: neurotics must take on full responsibility (while the analyst takes on none, presumably) and psychotics must take on no responsibility (while the analyst, presumably, takes on full responsibility). And then there were gray zones – zones which Lacan argued were not as gray as all that. The grey zones were perhaps neurotic forms of acting-out, ways of ignoring the various dimensions of the transference.
So when we discuss counter-transference all we are really doing is bringing to bear the analyst’s participation, the analyst’s desire, or the analyst’s responsibility. The question is: should the analyst take a back seat or a front seat in terms of responsibility? Now we can assume that this is a false question. The analyst can not escape from their own desire, and, as I noted several classes ago, Lacan does not believe that the analyst is outside of the analysis. So we must always be prepared to think about the analyst’s desire as well. This is why it is essential to come to know what desire is, how it functions, what its place is, and so on. Lacan claims that nobody has yet probed this question properly, or, worse, nobody has thought to ask it. This is why the question of the object a is important, why it is on center stage.
Lacan took three steps. First, he distinguished desire from demand. Second, he coupled desire with law (Sade avec Kant). And the third step we are still exploring. Lacan takes some time to provide a quick overview of some of the neurotic structures and their relation to desire. First, for perversion (which includes sadism and masochism), desire lays down the law. This is not entirely clear in this class, but we know, from other work, that Lacan claims that perverts want to bring the law, that is, the Other, into being. The neurotic, on the other hand, is on the path to discovery. The neurotic makes a decisive step in the question of morality by allowing those who seek it to move toward a knowledge of the true nature of desire and, therefore, the foundations or cause of morality. Here we see a formula that most of us have read through the work of Bruce Fink: “[The neurotic] can only give his desire its status as unsatisfied or as impossible.” We know from other work that unsatisfied desire is the domain of hysterical neurosis and impossible desire is the domain of obsessional neurosis. For now we go no further.
However, we return to the question of the “we”. Any question which does not bring this dimension to bear, which does not come to know the question of the relation of being to the Other, is a question that avoids the more original question that being asks. Thus, this is an avoidance of the truth of one’s desire. Autonomy, life outside of the “we”, is a defense against the heteronomous nature of desire and of the moral law itself. This means that autonomy is an illusion of sorts, and an illusion that alludes to a problem that one has with the Other as such. If we return to our long division we will note that the a, the object a, desire, is on the side of the Other as a remainder:
This remainder is also referred to as a trace or a spare part. We efface the trace when we presume the autonomy of the subject. And yet, the trace can never actually be effaced – it lingers on, it remains. If I have purchased a product for 7 dollars with three 3 dollar coins, if such coins existed, something is left over which is rightfully mine: 2 dollars. We can not ignore this remainder. The remainder persists. For a while we were in a sticky situation in Canada as they were phasing out the penny (1 cent). People had to round up or down, and each store had developed internal policies about how to handle the remainder. It was chaos for everybody. Well, imagine the chaos that must occur within the clinic when one discovers that the remainder can never be accounted for. This was, afterall, what Freud noted about Leonardo da Vinci in 1910. Leonardo da Vinci kept a notebook on him and scribbled essential things. He would always take note of debits and credits as if to ensure that his books were balanced.
This is why the a persists within the parentheses in the specular relation as i(a). It is the mark of the trace.
But we return to the point. It seems, to me – and many will disagree with me about this – that Lacan is moving toward the notion of a question which being asks vis-a-vis the Other. We return also to our discussion of surfaces. What is the principle surface of Freudian psychoanalysis? It is no doubt the ego. The ego is the surface upon which the anxiety-signal occurs in order to alert us to an internal danger. The problem is that there can be no “internal” danger, strictly speaking, because, as we have seen from the cross-cap, the neurological apparatus has no interior – it is a single surface. Thus, if the signal concerns the ego it also concerns someone else – but precisely, still, at the level of the ego.
All of this really just summarizes a few points that were made in previous classes. So, there is nothing, as far as I can see, terribly original in this class. There is nothing I am prepared to further explore for now.