Hegel and Lacan: subject, substance and their impossible relation

In this article, we are firstly going to reread Lacan’s famous formula of the subject. This formula, “A signifier represents the subject for another signifier”, remains in some respects opaque to say the least. Lacan, however, will not cease to repeat it throughout his teaching. Secondly, we will read a passage in the Preface to the Phenomenology of the Spirit in which Hegel returns to the dialectic between subject and substance. In these readings, we will outline that defining the subject comes, for both authors, together with its difference from what the subject is seemingly opposed to: structure, substance, Other. This difference is central and accentuates above all an impossible relation. Nonetheless, this impossible relation does not remain silent. Instead of being simply a relation between two terms – which would amount to their difference being only something theoretical (for thought) – it is rather that, in struggling with this impossible relation, both terms become actual (wirklich) in themselves. For Lacan, the relation between subject and Other fails, which makes it ‘not to stop (not) being written’. For Hegel, the relation between subject and substance is contradictory, but this contradiction is understood as the subject itself, which is nothing but substance’s own restlessness becoming ‘in itself’.

In order to define the stakes properly, we will pass through Descartes and (Hegel’s reading of) Spinoza, whose influence on Lacan and Hegel should not be underestimated. The first part of the article investigates how Lacan’s structural formula is an attempt to write the Cartesian subject without rendering it into a thinking substance. Descartes does understand the subject as a thinking substance from the extended substance, or shortly, as thought separated from being (which has become famous as the Cartesian dualism). The second part treats how the problems with this dualism – and with Spinoza’s monism which is to be the response to these – lead Hegel to write his own topology of the subject in relation to substance. The third part is an analysis of a joke during Stalinism which helps to illustrate the impossible relation between subject and Other (Lacan) or – which we read as overlapping – Hegel’s dialectics between subject and substance.

Pasolini’s “Teorem”: Psychoanalysis of a “New” Subject

Pasolini describes himself as a “scandal of self-contradiction” (Pasolini, 1957). He brings a subject who assumes the radical split that runs through the subjective field. With his poetry of permanent dissidence he taunts power in which desire and her laws are inscribed. By postponing the exemplary symbolic suicide his subject manages to avoid the deadlock of turning a blind eye and alienation in the symbolic other. Terence Stamp embodies this subject in Teorem in the role of mysterious guest. Pasolini’s theorem seems to be that, via regression to pre-genital forms of sexuality (a pre-symbolic state), one not only escapes to a mythic (poetic) reality, but also takes possession of a weapon one can use against the oppressor. Desire emerges in disturbances that shred the symbolic order and release the Real. Filmic truth is exposed as a core of pure nonsense and sexuality appears as the root of a perverted society.

The Addicted Subject caught between the Ego and the Drive: The post-Freudian Reduction and Simplification of a Complex Clinical Problem

Texts by Abraham, Rado, Glover and Gross are explored in order to investigate post-Freudian literature on the question of addiction. The reduction of the Freudian field is analysed in order to produce new foundation stones for a theory on addiction by confronting the (post-Freudian) reduced elements with each other. A reading of the post-Freudian literature shows that it is possible to distinguish between different periods in psychoanalytic thinking about addiction. These periods represent, in their own style, a reduction of Freud’s work. A confrontation between the earlier drive-theory and the later ego(self)psychology period, interestingly enough, does not lead to a synthesis of the two into a higher order of thinking on addiction. Surprisingly, it results in the production of new theoretical elements and a shift in thinking about addiction. Thus, despite the lack of fecundity in most post-Freudian thinking on addiction, the possibility nevertheless exists to produce some material on addiction, providing one analyses or interprets, not just the relevant texts, but precisely what is lacking in these texts.

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Between Language and Subject: On Thinking and Speaking in Aphasia

Based on his clinical work with patients experiencing severe aphasia, the author asks questions of both a scientific and existential nature. That language plays a role in thinking seems to be a commonly accepted proposition, but the nature and extent of that role are difficult to define. It is also generally suggested that people are distinguished from animals through their use of language, and that to be human is ‘to be a linguistic being’. This article explores the implications of these propositions for patients with severe language impairments and with very limited communication possibilities. How, and to what extent, do disturbed language processes play a role in the consciousness, feelings of identity and ‘being human’ of these patients? Some answers to these questions are sought in the linguistics of de Saussure, Freud’s theories of language considered in light of recent cognitive neuroscientific insights, and Lacan’s ideas concerning language and the subject.

Subject and Collectivity: An Interpretation of Lacan’s “Le temps logique”

The rarely discussed text by Jacques Lacan, Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certitude, is subjected to a detailed analysis. After explaining the argument, the importance of the “sophism” is shown for Lacan’s ideas about the subject and collectivity. Finally, the text is compared to Lacan’s theory of the mirror stage. In this comparison it is shown, among other things, how “Le temps logique” anticipates an aspect of Lacan’s theory that becomes an issue only later in his work.