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How Can One Speak Of A Subject Of The Unconscious?

The Letter, Issue 24, Spring 2002, Pages 75 - 82


Gerard Pommier

Everyone has his own Lacan! I mean that each one has found in the work of Lacan an invention that has opened new horizons on psychoanalysis. Lacan, himself, considered that his main discovery was the [matheme] of drive: I mean the object little a. For myself, I've never been really convinced of the originality of the object a, because Freud had already considerably explained this by the notion of drive. Freud is even clearer than Lacan, especially in distinguishing between the 'aim' and the 'object' of drive. Some Lacanians mix up the aim and the object, which can lead to some quite embarassing results. The 'aim' of the drive is the phallic signification, the (Vorstellungs Representanz) while the object is only the 'representative' of this signification, an interchangeable representative of which each avatar becomes important only in function of the inaccessible aim.

However, the notion of the barred subject is entirely original: it is a great invention of Lacan, the consequences of which have enormous influence. In Freud you cannot find the notion of 'subject' because it is mixed up with the notion of the 'ego'. In fact in German, the 'subject and the 'ego' are the same word, 'lch'. To correctly translate in French the german word 'Ich', one must examine the context. For example, in the aphorism 'Wo Es war, soil Ich werden', one needs to translate 'lch' by 'I' (it's the subject of the verb!). Indeed, the term 'ego' is not suitable since 'lch' does not as yet have its imaginary consistency, which is the aim. However, when Freud mentions 'Ichspaltung',, he's talking about the splitting of the 'ego', since a certain part of the 'lch' keeps its imaginary consistency. It's the imaginary dimension, also introduced by Lacan, which prevents any translation errors. Therefore, Lacan distinguished between the 'ye and the 'men' due to the suppleness of the French language. The English language psychoanalysts have already understood this difficulty since they have introduced a term external to English, that is, 'ego', which situates the psychical structures. Unfortunately, the term 'ego' has since drowned the subject, the 'I'. But that is another problem.

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