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The joke of surplus-value and the guffaw of the saint

Today, society is driven by capitalist discourse, which profoundly affects our way of life. In this article we discuss how, from an analytic viewpoint, we can respond to this. According to Lacan, the psychoanalyst will offer a way out of the capitalist discourse by taking the position of lathouse from the analytical discourse. This means that the analyst should incarnate the object a, and personify the lost cause or object: “he acts as trash.” However, there seems to be some caution required, for which Lacan referred to the position of the Saint and Balthasar Gracian. We will discuss the tricks put to the fore by Gracian: silence, absence and appearance, which will all revolve around the question of desire. Next, we turn to the position of the Saint in Seminar XXIII, introducing three new tricks from Joyce: silence, exile and cunning. We end by discussing the concept of the ‘scabeaustration’. There can only be ‘a saint’ when one no longer wants to be ‘a saint, castrating the ‘desire-to-know,’ the ‘desire-to-interpret,’ and the ‘desire-to-die.’ The saint will have localized his symptom, recognized it, beyond the therapeutic changes, as a specific modality of jouissance.

Black Mirror: from Lacan’s lathouse to Miller’s speaking body

This paper mobilizes the concepts of the lathouse and the alethosphere and re-examines them in light of Jacques-Alain Miller’s clinical developments of the later Lacan and the new symptoms as described by his clinic of the Speaking Body. As predicted by Lacan in the 1960’s, thanks to the allegiance between science and capitalism, technology is beginning to dramatically change the social bond. However, the lathouse as briefly alluded to in Seminar XVII, was a curious object that existed on the boundary between discovery and invention; not quite the Other and not quite being, as Lacan put it. My intention is to examine the status of Artificial Intelligence as precisely this ambiguous object that disrupts the social bond and which I will argue has greater significance than merely as an object a in Capitalist discourse. I will take recourse to an analysis of Charlie Brooker’s Sci-Fi series Black Mirror in order to stage the psychoanalytic questions posed by Artificial Intelligence and thus open up the conceptual possibilities inherent in Lacan’s nascent ideas.

Is life but a Pascalian dream? A commentary on Lacan’s louvain lecture

This article provides a detailed commentary on Lacan’s statement that “death belongs to the realm of faith” and relates it to a dream discussed briefly yet repeatedly in his work. This nightmare by one of his patients is qualified by Lacan as ‘Pascalian’, which allows for a discussion that takes into account Pascal’s famous pensée on ‘the wager’ and Lacan’s analysis of it in Seminar XVI. From this, the conclusion is drawn that the life of the conscious individual may be experienced as finite and mortal, but the life of the subject (of the unconscious) is immortalized by an infinite, repetitive signifying order. This idea is further explored via both Pascal’s argument that life is something one can wager and the Lacanian notion of object a.

The crack in the image: Virginia Woolf and Jacques Lacan on the limits of personality and the emergence of subjectivity

What is the difference between personality and subjectivity? Are there disciplinary and aesthetic delimitations of both concepts? And if so, what do they look like? These questions are underlying the argument of this paper. In looking for answers, the author turns to Lacanian psychoanalysis and Virginia Woolf’s theorising on the modernist novel, since both Lacan and Woolf offer, in their own way, a unique critique of the notion of personality. Whereas Lacan shows us the limits of personality as it was conceptualised by early psychiatry and the eminent French psychoanalyst Daniel Lagache, Woolf shows us the limits of this concept as it was implicitly proposed by her direct literary precursors, in particular by the famed novelist Arnold Bennett. Essential to both Lacan and Woolf’s position is the assertion that a subject arises where the notion of personality reaches its limit: one has to postulate an indeterminate object – in fact, the sheer form of an object –  for the subject to emerge. In the case of Lacan, this object is called objet a; in the case of Woolf, this object is found where realistic observation of experiential reality, as novelists working in the tradition of literary realism would have it, finds its limit. In fact, both Lacan and Woolf understand subjectivity as a position phantasmatically relating to an unknown X, and both their critiques of psychiatry/psychology and Edwardian realism respectively attest to this. The latter two had, namely, articulated theories of personality in which it was silently assumed that a personality is ‘full’ in itself, and that it could be captured scientifically, i.e. positivistically, and descriptively, i.e. realistically. Lacan and Woolf go against these tendencies: at the heart of subjectivity as well as at the heart of the novel there resides lack, and both contemporary psychoanalysis and the contemporary novel should render this palpable.

Lacan’s object small a: an elephant in the room

This paper investigates the key question in Žižek’s article “The joke of psychoanalysis”, published in this edition of Psychoanalytische Perspectieven. This key question concerns what Lacan saw as the fundamental distinction between psychology and psychoanalysis, namely the affirmation of the scission between object small a and S(A).  

In the present article, this enigmatic claim of Lacan is examined in the light of the philosophical discussion concerning sense and reference as well as in what concerns the mechanism of a scission in repetition at the end of an analysis. It will be argued that a bidirectional interrogation between psychoanalysis and philosophy, that lies at the core of the work of Žižek and the Ljubljana Lacanian School, can be highly useful and relevant to frame the deadlocks of both clinical practice and philosophical thought.

The joke of psychoanalysis

Lacan’s notion of “objet a” designates the paradox of an object which gives body to a surplus over all determinate objects, an object which gives body to a lack constitutive of desire. What happens with this object at the end of the psychoanalytic treatment? The text proposes a parallel between the final moment of the treatment and the final reversal in telling a joke: in both cases, the sudden shift of perspective enacts what Lacan called the fall of the object, its change from a fascinating mystery to an excremental remainder.