Introducing Lacan into Moral Philosophy via Antigone

According to Lacan, moral sensibility revolves around the tension between the social necessity to symbolize and resistance against this necessity. This article introduces Lacan’s moral view via Goethe’s understanding of a perplexing passage in Antigone. In a remarkable passage, Antigone explains to Creon why she would not have acted in the same way for a husband or for a child or even for another brother, if she had one. Her actions depends on the significance of her blood tie with Polineikes, who is her last brother. After his death, no one can pass on the name of the family. Her devotion to the blood tie is socially infertile and isolates her from the community. This passage illustrates four aspects of our moral sensibility for Lacan: (a) Things that matter deeply receive their value from a symbolic system and only human beings care about non-natural meanings; (b) Although their significance derives from a symbolic framework, we cannot explain why they should matter so much and their meaning remains opaque; (c) Every individual is deeply involved in things whose meaning cannot be explained, a personal involvement Lacan calls jouissance; and (d) Things of deep significance have the power to isolate the individual from their social context. Lacan is Kierkegaard without religion. This article demonstrates how Lacan debates with Aristotle and Kant.