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.