Monday, 29 September 2008
Dr. Lacan's Being of Shame (II)
Well, what I meant to say, is...
Posted below we a have a homophonic french pun on ontologie, about 20 odd years prior to the popular one that we've all been discussing to the point of exhaustion. This is only really significant as a curio, but it does open out into issues with Lacan that I have...
What is it exactly that Lacan did? It is facile to state that Lacan analysed those who attended his seminaire or who read his écrits, but what he certainly was not doing was teaching them. An object like Dylan Evans' Lacanian Dictionary is not necessarily oxymoronic, but utterly misguided, for to treat Lacanian Psychoanalysis as if it was a curriculum, with credits that can be earned by memorising information is surely so far from the point as to be obscene. But then, the opposite is not the case, as Lacan wasn't merely sharpening the minds of his audience with difficulty for difficulty's sake. His work is not an example of itself, an argument I've sometimes resorted to when trying to explain his (and Derrida's) worth to laypeople (as contrasted with inept autodidacts like myself), but then of course, everyones an autodidact when it comes to Lacan.
The seminars I quoted from below are the most interesting Lacanian work I've read, with the diagrams of the four discourses, Master's, Analyst's, Hysteric's and then also the discourse of the University, the discussion of which makes for some of the most illuminating of Lacan's texts. He seems to have really believed that analysis provided something really other to the different discourses, which he talks of in terms of desire, but can also be thought of as power structures. Against the revolutionaries and agitators of his time, who it would seem were, in Lacan's eyes, accepting all to readily an already existing framework of power and knowledge, he insisted that psychoanalysis provided a glimpse of something truly radical. But then what would the glimpse be of, precisely? Perhaps it has something to do with analysis itself, not necessarily of the psyche. Uncovering a blind, godless knowledge known as science, that nevertheless cannot function without a leap of faith (and what is Meillassoux but the attempted renunciation of said faith in materialism?), Lacan sees knowledge as in the service of the University, in fact, as the University's desire, endlessly reproducing this knowledge and the mastery that is its truth.
But then, Lacan is strangely static and dynamic at the same time. If his idea of analysis as radicality, as the only radicality, holds, then it is obvious that radicality, in this system, can only ever be marginal, peripheral, and in a preemptive echo of bad deconstruction; always already at work. But the possibility of analysis emerges from a contingent historical process, the structures of intersubjectivity that do not exist for most animals, and did not exist for us in the same way until recently, in fact, may not even exist in the same way now. For does the University as we know it still conform to the University that Lacan speaks of (A University that was exemplary of the University discourse)? I'm not sure. But I wager that in Lacan one can find a lot that is fundamental to the structures of thinking that is perhaps not particularly useful as medicinal doctrine (the cry of 'where are his case studies?' - Lacan is not medicine, but neither is it homeopathy), or even education, but that helps to illuminate the desires behind thinking, understood as a practice.
Ubuweb have a fascinating collection of recordings of Lacan's Seminars. I had never really understood exactly how they were delivered- slowly, deliberately, and more than a little pompously.