Unconscious structure in Sartre and Lacan

Throughout his career, Jean-Paul Sartre had a contentious theoretical relationship with psychoanalysis. Nowhere is this more evident than in his criticisms of the concept of the unconscious. For him, the unconscious represents a hidden psychological depth that is anathema to the notion of human freedom. In this paper, I argue that Lacan’s conception of the unconscious-structured-like-a-language overcomes many of Sartre’s most damning objections. I demonstrate that Lacan shares with Sartre a concern to rid the psyche of hidden depths. Both thinkers therefore reject the depth psychological conception of the unconscious and arrive at strikingly similar positions on the nature of the unconscious. In this way, I show that the conceptual analogues that Sartre develops in order to avoid the psychoanalytic unconscious lead him to a position on the unconscious with which Lacan could be in agreement. This indicates that Sartre’s philosophical position is not as at odds with Freudian-Lacanian psychoanalysis as is typically though.

The subject and the lie: from méconnaissance to mensonge

In this paper the author discusses Lacan’s changing theory of the subject in the early texts of the Écrits and relates it to the notion of “the lie” in psychoanalysis. As Lacan’s view of the subject shifts form the Imaginary to the Symbolic, the source of man’s primordial discord and alienation shifts from being located in the relationship to the image to finding its source in the relationship to the signifier. We could qualify the shift from an imaginary to a symbolic subject theory as a shift from one kind of not wanting to know to another, as a shift from one kind of lie to another. We discuss this as a shift from méconnaissance in the Imaginary to mensonge in the Symbolic. We conclude with a few remarks on the notion of truth in psychoanalysis, the consequences for clinical practice and the role of the psychoanalyst, who is now redefined as a practitioner of the symbolic function.

The clinical interpretation of Don Quixote

In this contribution we take a psychoanalytic look at the novel The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. We follow the clinical adventures of Don Quixote and the diagnostic interpretations he comes across on his journey. We discuss a number of psychoanalytic case formulations that situate the knight in the realm of psychosis and that endeavour to construct the clinical logic of his adventures. Via a discussion of Lacan’s remarks on bovarysm and a consideration of the relationship between literature and psychoanalysis, we come to a second section, where we find our knight again, now no longer as a model of madness, but as a paragon of normalcy. Here Don Quixote has become a paradigmatic example of the way human identity and subjectivity are rooted in narrative and fantasy. Here each one of us becomes a Don Quixote, wandering through the world, guided by delusions and misapprehensions. We conclude with an examination of the way in which the fiction of psychoanalysis relates to the fiction of the subject. Here we encounter the psychoanalyst as a Don Quixote.

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 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.