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.

Cartesian Meditations: unconscious, truth and subjectivity

In this contribution we will offer a reading of Freud’s ambiguous therapeutic “advice” to “say more than one knows”. Starting from some preliminary reflections on the issue of confession and Lacan’s theoretical distinction between enunciation/enunciated, we will propose three successive ideas with regard to the notions of unconscious, truth and subjectivity. Firstly, a connection will be established between unconscious enunciation and Austin’s couple of performative/constative utterances. Secondly, we will offer a psychoanalytic notion of “truth” through a brief comparison with the phenomenological procedures of epoché and reduction. Third and finally, we will end with some reflections on the psychoanalytic couple of knowledge and truth.

The plague: Freud, Lacan & the crisis of critique

During its long history, psychoanalytical theory has developed a criticism dealing with almost the entire domain of human culture and civilization. That theory lays bare the unconscious motives and structures which, on the conscious level, can have all kinds of pernicious effects. The weak point of that criticism, however, consists in its awareness that the unconscious motives and structures it brings to consciousness, after its critical analysis, will remain unconscious and repressed. In that sense, psychoanalytical theory performs a critique of criticism as such. Unmasking falsity and lies does not necessarily result in establishing truth.

This essay outlines the contours of such a psychoanalytical ‘critique of criticism as such’, as well as its implications for contemporary critical thought in general. The essay more precisely focuses on the right-wing cultural criticism, which makes use of criticism’s newly discovered ‘tragic condition’ in order to support a conservative ethical, cultural and political programme. This essay proposes a few points of reference replying to these tendencies in contemporary critical thought.

On the Triggering of Psychosis. Lol V. Stein in Contrast to Freud’s Case of Feminine Paranoia

In 1965 Lacan paid tribute to Marguerite Duras and her novel The Ravishing of Lol V. Stein. In his homage Lacan claims that Duras’ art seemed to possess a certain knowledge. The authors argue that this knowledge relates to the difficulties for a speaking being of identification with the body. The novel is about the triggering of a psychosis at the specific moment when a woman is invited by a man to participate in a sexual act, while her strategy involved avoiding being positioned as object of male sexual desire. This case is compared with a case of paranoia described by Freud, in which the destabilizing factor also lies in the sexual sphere. For both women the triggering factor lies in the confrontation with the enjoyment of the Other and the impossibility to become the subject of the sexual demand of the Other.