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Saint Paul and Freud: The Denial of the Sovereign Good in Lacan’s Seminar VII

The Letter, Issue 42, Autumn 2009, Pages 109 - 126


Daragh Howard

In Seminar VII, Lacan makes the claim that Saint Paul and Freud tell us the same thing about the Sovereign Good in that what they each articulate about the law and pleasure constitutes a denial of the notion posited in traditional ethics that a relationship of complementarity exists between pleasure and this Sovereign Good. The author demonstrates that that this denial corresponds with Lacan’s own thesis in the seminar, which involves the idea that the moral law affirms itself in opposition to pleasure, and Lacan’s critique of such a relationship is presented in terms of the moral tradition failing to recognise the nature of the object upon which pleasure truly depends.

We may reject the existence of an original, as it were natural, capacity to distinguish good from bad. What is bad is often not at all what is injurious or dangerous to the ego; on the contrary, it may be something that is desirable and enjoyable to the ego. Here, therefore, there is an extraneous influence at work, and it is this that decides what is to be called good and bad (Sigmund Freud).[2]

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