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A Commentary on the Twelfth Session of Lacan’s XXIVth Seminar: L’Insu que sait de l’une-bévue s’aile

The Letter, Issue 62, Summer 2016, Pages 19 - 35




Flavia Goian

This paper is a commentary on some intriguing facets to his teaching introduced by Lacan in this final session of his seminar of ‘76 – ’77 I’Insu que sait de l’unebévue s’aile à mourre. The appearance of the book Polylogue by Julia Kristeva is the opportunity for Lacan to tackle the question of his position with respect to linguistics. Essentially this is that no linguistics has value for Lacan other than ‘linguisterie’, that is to say, a linguistics which takes psychoanalysis into account. In addition, he distinguishes between metatongue and metalanguage by articulating them together: because there is no metalanguage, metatongue is nothing other than translation. In this context, he revisits Jeremy Bentham’s ground-breaking work of the 18th century on the utility of fictions and the finely balanced economy thereby wrought. An economy that regulates our pain and our pleasure but that nonetheless leaves a gap – as ultimately discerned by Freud in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. It is in a revision of the problem of the ethics of psychoanalysis that Lacan refers to Bentham in that this ethics hinges on an orientation of man in relation to the real. Bentham’s effort is founded upon a dialectic of the relation of language to the real in order to place the good on the side of the real, which breaks from the Aristotelian ethic of the Beautiful, the Well and the Good. Furthermore, Lacan relies on the distinction made by Bentham between fictional entites and real entites to unlock the dialectic between the real and the symbolic. A key phrase of Lacan’s thought ‘Truth is the structure of fiction’ is thereby made clear. Lacan’s preoccupation with how psychoanalysis functions remains paramount throughout the seminar. If he recalls that psychoanalysis operates by ‘an effect of suggestion’ it is because man is a parlêtre that he is receptive to suggestion.

The psychoanalyst must make himself poète assez (enough of a poet) in interpretation, relying on equivocation, in order to hollow out – like the poet – one of the terms of the double meaning of the metaphor; and thus, identifying as hole the real of the letter which arises as evidence. Will he succeeed in inventing a new signifier, previously unheard of, which would from the outset be outside sense, a pure real?

Keywords: suggestion; Jeremy Bentham; theory of fictions; utility of fictions; pleasure principle; metalanguage; a new signifier; repetition compulsion; hole-effect

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