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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.

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 Future of an Illusion: Phenomenology and Psychoanalysis

Starting from Sellars’ distinction between the manifest and scientific portrayals of man, we will develop three different philosophical readings of the possible consequences of this opposition with regard to the question of subjectivity: Dennett’s philosophical reconstruction of neuro-cognitive science; Husserlian phenomenology; and, Freudo-Lacanian psychoanalysis. Particular attention will be paid to the various ideas about the rights and limits of the first-person perspective and the issue of truth and fiction.

Straight through the Mirror: From Dead Ends to New Roads between Myth and Psychoanalysis

Since Freud, psychoanalysis has recognised in mythology its own double: mythology as a discourse that gives voice, albeit encrypted, to the unconscious. In this relationship, psychoanalysis sometimes saw itself in the role of disciple, but more often and more eagerly took the role of master. This is why the original creative exchange between the two has often been reduced to more sterile, more simplistic relationships. Robert Eisner has pointed out how psychoanalysis has tended to narrow down mythical narratives to restrictive, authoritarian moulds that tend to impede, rather than to create, new meanings and possibilities. This paper sets out to demonstrate how lacanian psycho­analysis could pave the way for an alternative, more fertile approach to myth. Although Lacan, in contrast with Freud and Jung, is rarely mentioned in relation to myth, the study of mythology has played a major role in his ‘return to Freud’. It was only by drawing inspiration from the structural myth analysis of Lévi-Strauss that he conceived of the unconscious as a linguistic web, the symbolic connections of which had to be analysed and spun out rather than ‘understood’. Lacan approaches myth as he approaches the speech of the analytic patient: not as a secret to be pried open by a master, but as a network of relations, clustered around an ‘impossibility’ that asks to be explored. By engaging in the dialogue on equal terms, and by daring to acknowledge the ‘mythical’ status of psycho­analysis, Lacan breaks through the mirror between myth and psychoanalysis.