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Plato's Symposium as Backdrop to a Consideration of the Object described as 'Partial'

The Letter, Issue 39, Autumn 2008, Pages 91 - 96


Irene M. Sweeney

The author argues that a consideration of the subjective economy crucially calls for reflection on an object described as “partial Plato’s Symposium (or more evocatively Le Banquet) which forms a backdrop to major sections of Lacan’s Seminar VIII on Transference, leads her to the notion of agalma, which, she explains, suggests an object which lacks the full and steady presence expected of an object, a partial that is not part of any whole. The essential linkage between the birth of desire and a state of lack is also elaborated.

Jacques Lacan, in the early 1960’s, defines the subject as that which is represented by a signifier for another signifier. From now on the subject can no longer be regarded as substantial, but rather as an effect of language.[1] This formulation crucially calls out for a re-examination also of the object. In pursuit of this task, ‘a path was opened up to think of the existence of a thing crucial in the subjective economy which, in Freud’s own expression in the Project, escapedfrom the unity presented by any object worthy of the name’.[2] Another register is indeed entered upon in coming to a consideration of an object such as this, described as ‘partial’. The deadening, constraining dualities of subject-object, man-woman are now being shed. It is from the realm of such a something, a not-all, a ‘pas-tout’, that a track opens up whose direction is away from the flat-earth of either /or totalisations.

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The previous issue of The Letter appeared in 2006, the year we celebrated the 150th birthday of Sigmund Freud. This year is no less...


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