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Kant with Sade: A Scholion

The Letter, Issue 42, Autumn 2009, Pages 57 - 108


Tony Hughes

This scholion accompanies Lacan’s 1962 text in which he brings together of two very unlikely accomplices, Kant and Sade, and thereby sheds light on the nature of perversion. At first blush the two thinkers appear not to be drinking from the same well, but the author’s traversing the intricacies of thought wrought by Lacan in relation to The Critique of Practical Reason and Philosophy in the Bedroom provides the insight that the perverse phantasy of Sade has its basis in the universal maxim of Kant. Jouissance is said to be on the side of perpetrator and victim, although it isexperienced in different trajectories. The author concludes with Lacan that Sade was not a true pervert, despite popular views to the contrary. SECTION A Rectification of the Ethical Position of Two Thousand Years

1. Lacan opens his text by referring to the statement made by Jean Paulhan of the Académie Française in his work The Marquis de Sade and His Accomplice which stated that:

Reiterating them through ten volumes and supporting them with a thousand examples, a Krafft-Ebing was to consecrate the categories and distinctions the Divine Marquis traced. Later, a Freud was to adopt Sade's very method and principle. There has not, I think, been any other example in our Letters, of a few novels providing the basis, fifty years after their publication, for a whole science of man.[2]

Lacan said quite bluntly that this was a stupidity.

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