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Absolute (Un) Knowing: Lacan with Hegel

The Letter, Issue 65, Summer 2017, Pages 33 - 42


Richard Boothby

For the memory of William Richardson,

with deep admiration and heartful gratitude.

This essay attempts to show how Lacan’s theory of psychoanalysis is illuminated by Slavoj Žižek’s reversal of the standard reading of Hegel: ‘Absolute knowing’ is to be read paradoxically (dialectically!) as a recognition of the limits of knowing, precisely a form of unknowing. For Lacan, the true outcome of psychoanalysis, the thing that makes it most profoundly transformative of the subject’s existence, lies less in an increase in the subject’s knowledge, a matter of what the subject comes to know about its history and constitution, than in a new engagement with what it doesn’t know. A good psychoanalysis reconfronts the subject with its own fundamental question.

Keywords: Lacan; Hegel; Žižek: psychoanalysis; knowledge

‘Of all the undertakings that have been proposed in this century, the psychoanalyst’s is perhaps the loftiest, because it mediates in our time between the care-ridden man and the subject of absolute knowledge.’

Jacques Lacan

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