On my Antecedents

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On My Antecedents

Ellie Ragland, PhDP

On My Antecedents*1

Jacques Lacan decided that the best way to position himself as to how he began to practice and teach psychoanalysis was to explain his entry into the field. His training for this included the study of medicine, in particular, of psychiatry (51, 1-2) which he completed at the medical school of Paris from 1926-1930. Stijn Vanheule writes that Lacan studied at psychiatric clinics other than Sainte Anne and first worked under the supervision of Henri Claude as well as that of Gaetan Gatian de Clérambault at the Special Infirmary of the Paris Police Headquarters.2 Henri Claude (1869-1945), a psychiatarist and neurologist, was Chair of mental illness and brain disorders at the Sainte Anne Hospital in Paris from 1922-1939. He also created psychiatry and psychoanalysis as disciplines at the University of Paris.3 Gaetan de Clérambault (1872-1934) was a psychiatrist who worked at the Prefecture of Police from 1905 until 1920 when he became Head of the Institution.4 Lacan served as the Chief of Psychiatry at the Sainte Anne Hospital in Paris from 1932-1936, the youngest person to have ever held that distinguished post. Having begun his clinical training at Sainte-Anne Hospital in 1927, Lacan subsequently worked both with Clérambault at the Préfecture de Police and at the Hospital Henri-Rousselle, after which he returned to Sainte-Anne to work under Dr. Claude.5

In referring to his doctoral thesis in medicine, written in 1932, Lacan referenced many examples of “paranoiac knowledge.” Working within the context of the many psychiatrists and thinkers when he wrote on paranoia, Lacan had an abundance of influences, including Jean-Paul Sartre. One of the earliest articles on paranoïa was written by Karl Jaspers.6 Jaspers started out as a psychiatrist, but quickly became discontent with the clinical diagnoses and methods used by his field’s approach to mental illness. In his lifetime Jaspers influenced not only psychiatry and philosophy, but also theology. His notions of the limitless freedom of existence led some to label him an existentialist, a label he denied. One of Jasper’s major contributions to psychiatry was his detailed study of patients, an approach which came to be called the biographical method. He argued that one diagnoses by form, not by content. His masters were Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, as well as Kant. His principle followers in phenomenological hermeneutics were Paul Ricoeur and Hans-Georg Gadamer.

But Lacan did not rely only on the theories of the above-mentioned persons, he was also indebted to Freud for his essay on narcissism.7 By referring to Freud he gave an original meaning to the cause of paranoïa. In a note ( 57, #1) he gave the title of his thesis as De la psychose paranoïaque dans ses rapports avec la personnalité .8 The director of the thesis, Professor Heuyer, wrote him a letter with one sentence of judgment on the text: “One swallow does not make a summer” (“spring” in French). He also said “in connection with my [Lacan’s] bibliography, ‘If you’ve read all that, I pity you.’ In fact, I [Lacan] had read it all.”9 We also know that Lacan sent a copy of this thesis to Freud in England and received a post card from Freud saying that the thesis had reached him. This was the only contact ever made between the two psychoanalysts.

Lacan’s thesis was published by Seuil in Paris in 1975 under the title given above. It still does not exist in English. Explaining that even though he referenced 30 cases in the thesis, Lacan said his main focus was on the paranoid incident concerning Aimée, a common woman who had pretentions to being a writer. Aimée became convinced that a famous actress was intent on kidnapping her baby son. One evening, when the actress exited from the theater, Aimée, who believed that the actress had taken her place as the celebrity Aimée thought she ought to be, stabbed her. She did not kill her, but was consequently incarcerated in an institution for the mentally ill.

Lacan was heavily criticized by Elisabeth Roudinesco in her second volume on the history of psychoanalysis, The Battle of 100 Years, 10 for a myriad of things. 11 Perhaps her skepticism regarding Lacan’s teaching stemmed, at least in part, from his using the case of the young paranoid woman, Aimée A., as Lacan called her. Not only did Aimée think the celebrity had plagiarized her literary journals and also believed her to be a threat to her young son. Roudinesco is known to have been a good friend of the adult analyst, Didier Anzieu (1923-1999), Aimée’s son. Roudinesco may well have borne a grudge against Lacan for choosing Aimée’s case to demonstrate the psychosis of paranoïa. This antipathy is reflected throughout her volume II.12 Indeed, the Surrealist poets were as enthusiastic about Aimée’s poetry as was Anzieu, the son. Later, Anzieu himself, unknowingly entered analysis with Lacan and withdrew quickly after the two discovered their proper identities. By 1986 Anzieu the analyst made his opposition to Lacanianism clear. Roudinesco says in her book that “few of Lacan’s contemporaries discussed the thesis at all, or examined the theoretical and clinical consequence of the claims he made….The only person to review it in depth upon its publication was Henri Ey (1932)” (Vanheule, p. 20). But Dr. Ey was not the only psychiatrist to praise Lacan’s thesis. Pierre Janet too admired it. As mentioned above, Lacan’s thesis owed a great debt to the psychiatrists of his generation and before. He referred frequently to Karl Jaspers who was also a philosophy professor and whose General Psychopathology was translated into French in 1928.13 Jaspers influenced Lacan immensely. Indeed, Lacan was involved in editing the French version of Jaspers book from the German (Leguil, p. 34). Many theories and reflections in Lacan’s thesis come directly from Jaspers treatment of psychosis, according to Leguil.14 Even though many of Lacan’s early ideas on psychopathology can be said to owe almost everything to Jaspers, Lacan’s later ideas inscribe themselves against “the binary founder of Psychopathologie générale” (Leguil, C., 35). By the binary, Lacan means sciences of nature and those of the mind which owe a debt to both Max Weber and Wilhelm Dilthey. Max Weber (1864-1920) was a sociologist, philosopher, and a political economist who is credited, along with Ùmile Durkheim and Karl Marx, for giving birth to modern sociology. His method was antipositivistic and gave place to the study of social action through interpretive means, not empirical ones. He was interested in the purpose and meaning people attach to their own actions. Not surprisingly, Weber and Jaspers were great friends (Wikipedia). Weber wrote on many things, one of the most important being his idea that the Protestant aesthetic gave rise to capitalism.15 Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911) argued that nature gives birth to law while the human sciences give rise to an understanding of human and historical life. His goal was to expand Immanuel Kant into a Critique of Historical Reason and do justice to the full scope of lived experience. 16 Lacan used ideas such as these to account for mental illness as attesting to a rupture with comprehensive communication. When he finally rejected this binary—between nature and mind—it was based on the idea that psychic causality came from the phenomena of the mind (Leguil, C., 35). In 1946 in “Presentation on Psychical Causality” (1946) Lacan defends his concept of what causes madness. This 1946 Écrit appeared as a “blasphemy opposed to Jasperian’ orthodoxy which does not permit causality to mix with matters of the sense of meaning in order to become psychic” (Leguil, F., pp. 6-7). Lacan clearly separated himself from Jaspers’ idea that madness could be conceived of as putting understanding itself into peril. If, for Jaspers, in 1913, “we do not know the causes” of mental illness (General Psychopathology, p. 438), Lacan, in 1946, finds a cause proper to psychosis. Indeed, Lacan’s answer resembles one of Sartre’s existential ideas; that of the original choice (Leguil, C., pp. 35-36). This precedes one of Lacan’s future ideas—an orientation based on what he calls “the subject” (Leguil, C., p. 36). Lacan will argue that causality is an unconscious belief in some delirious idea. His theory is that there is a discourse on being defined as a contingent relation to meaning (Leguil, C., p. 77). While on the one hand madness comes from unconscious identifications, on the other, Lacan will say, it comes from a first choice made regarding one’s mode of being (Leguil, C., p. 76). In Seminar III on The Psychoses Lacan says that “the big secret of psychoanalysis is that there is no psychogenesis.” 17 Leguil stresses that Lacan has already hinted at this idea in 1946 when he says that the unfathomable decision of being is itself without cause. One can neither explain it nor understand it. Indeed, this very contingency of choice gives its human value to madness (Leguil, C., p. 77).

Later Lacan will attribute the decision to become psychotic to a child’s primary identification with an overbearing mother who makes her infant everything to her, foreclosing the difference-in-being between herself, the infant, and the outside world; that is, she refuses to accept the law given by the third term of the father’s name signifier. Yet, recently, Jacques-Alain Miller has argued that the father himself can sometimes be the cause of psychosis, as in the case of Daniel-Paul Schreber.18 Interestingly, Leguil points out, Lacan finds in Sartre the formulation that permits him to recognize madness as a “psychic causality” against any organic cause (Leguil, C., pp. 36-37). This idea unites Lacan with Sartre, beyond their divergence regarding Freud (Leguil, C., p. 37). As Clotilde Leguil argues, Lacan’s idea of an initial choice that is “contingent and unjustifiable” is, indeed, Sartre’s description of the phenomenological Étre pour-soi (p. 37).19 Sartre had developed the idea of an original choice in 1943 and used it again in 1947 arguing that the free choices a person makes identify her totally with her destiny.20 Although Lacan does not refer to Sartre as one of his antecedents, Clotilde Leguil makes clear in her book on Sartre with Lacan that the influence is clearly there in Lacan’s early writings on madness.

The influence of Sartre—both pro and con—aside, Dr. Henri Ey thought Lacan’s treatment of the Aimée case was brilliant. Although Lacan praised Dr. Ey in his “Presentation on Psychical Causality” for his intellectual support and for stressing the importance of studying madness (p. 125), he critiques him severely for his idea of “psychogenesis.” Lacan argue that he and Dr. Ey were initially on the same side, but stresses that they have since parted company. Having praised Dr. Ey for his work applying Jackson,21 Lacan points out that his view of mental problems is false, is “organicism.” (“Presentation…,” p. 124). Such a view is supported by theories of a mechanistic, Gestaltist,—all material theories wherein biology is the cause. This is why, Lacan claims, he has chosen as his master in psychiatry de Clérambault. He also cites Spinoza who claimed that “a true idea must agree with its object” (“Presentation…,” p. 125).

Roudinesco gives no importance to Lacan’s thesis, but does point out that Lacan, like Freud who forty years before him gave wide scope to hysteria as a psychic phenomenon, gave paranoia, and more generally psychosis, an important place within psychoanalysis. While Freud had long been perplexed by the cause of psychosis, Lacan gradually established a theory which was to be elaborated many times as to its cause and possible treatment. Lacan’s earliest theories were based on the early idea that psychosis was rooted in psychic synthesis or “personality,” a term Lacan would get rid of as he elaborated his notions of the ego and the subject (Roudinesco, p. 114). While Lacan thinks, like Sartre, that the subject is irreducible to any mechanistic idea of causality, he thinks, like Freud, that the subject is determined by his unconscious identifications (Leguil, C., p. 39). So far reaching were Lacan’s early thoughts on paranoia in connection with the ego that he believed at the time of his thesis that the human ego itself was paranoiac. Once he began to work with the gaze in the 1960s, one can see why Lacan would link the divided nature of the ego—between the ideal ego and the ego ideal, as theorized in the Schema L— [give the schema from S. I-I will send you the scanned image of this schema from page 243 in S. II in English. I cannot do graphics myself.] to the power of the human gaze to make individuals paranoid in relation one to the other. But the human propensity to being sensitive to the Other’s gaze is not the same as clinical paranoia in which the individual believes delusional things about others and the Other, not merely the imaginary fantasmatic ups and downs of jouissance regarding what the other/Other may think or say about us.

As I have said above, certain critics of Lacan’s thesis have suggested that it is a rewriting of Karl Jaspers’ General Psychopathology.22 In Seminar III (1955-1956) Lacan takes issue with Jaspers in saying that Jaspers had a false notion of what “understanding” means. While he praises him for wanting to restore meaning to the chain of phenomena in a life, he finds no “common sense” or “relation of understanding” to general psychopathology in his work. Lacan had already begun such a critique of Jaspers in 1946.23 Jaspers believed that certain things are self-evident, that sadness comes from lacking what one desires. Lacan’s point is that one can have everything he or she desires and still be sad. Jaspers, interestingly enough, played an important role in Jean-Paul Sartre’s early thoughts, as well as in Lacan’s, although Jaspers’ influence on Sartre fell prey to the same result as with Lacan; Sartre separated himself from Jaspers24 by declaring that an individual’s choices are free and existential.25

Although Lacan worked with a small group in the 1930s who called themselves members of the Evolution Psychiatrique (51, 3), Lacan makes it clear that his offspring—his articles and thesis—had nothing to do with the Surrealist environment of the moment which viewed his thesis as an inspiration for Salvador Dali’s “critical paranoia” and René Crevel’s Le Clavacin de Diderot. Crevel (1900-1935), a Surrealist homosexual writer, was influenced by Denis Diderot’s (1713-1784) atheism, materialism, and idea of a “natural” freedom and wrote Diderot’s Harpsicord in 1932 in praise of Diderot’s ideas. Crevel, who was excluded from the Surrealist movement by André Breton for his homosexuality, was also an editor of the Enlightenment work called the Encycopédie in which religion was critiqued in footnotes.26 Indeed, the cofounder and main editor of the Encyclopedia (28 vols.) was Diderot, also a philosopher and writer.27 Although Lacan’s own new ideas were published in the first issues of a Surrealist journal called Minotaure, they had no relation to Surrealism as David Macey erroneously claimed in his book, Lacan in Contexts.28 Those works include “Le probléme du style et la conception psychiatrique des forms paranoïaques de l’existence” (“The Problem of Style…”) which presents the thesis of “Schizographie” which argued in 1931 that the paranoïac experience and its world-view constitute an “original syntax.” Macey claims that this view is similar to ideas of Salvador Dali (Macey, p. 213), rather than that Lacan’s ideas influenced Dali.29 Lacan also published “Motifs du crime paranoïque: le crime des soeurs Papin” (“Motives of Paranoiac Crime…”) (57, #2). In this article Lacan talked about the press reports of the brutal murder of a lawyer’s wife and her daughter by their servants, Léa and Christine Papin. But, more generally, Lacan’s article relates to his theory of the cause of paranoïa. Macey claims that Lacan’s article elevates the Papin sisters to the level of heroines, as did the Surrealists. But this is not true. Lacan argues, as is reprinted in his thesis, that the Papin sisters were narcissistic psychotics who were paranoid and that their crime comes from this cause. In no way does he praise the sisters (Macey, p. 213).30 In Lacan’s treatment of the Aimée case and the Papin sister case, one sees the difference between psychoanalytic thinking and creative intellectual theories.

Lacan considered the Papin sister crime at the end of his thesis, relating it to his use of Freud’s work on narcissism which gave the stamp of originality to his thesis.31 Freud made a distinction between ego instincts and object instincts which, for Lacan, changes the outlook on what can cause psychosis at all, that being, in one of his early thoughts, narcissistic identification. This distinction gave Lacan the foundation for his addition of the many psychological ideas to the biological theories in vogue that were seen as the cause of psychosis. It is of revolutionary importance that Lacan, finally, does not find the cause of psychosis in the physical organism itself. The idea that psychosis is organically caused is a view still held today by the International Psychoanalytic Association and its offshoots.

The Papin sister crime, committed in Le Mans, rocked France. Two sisters, Christine and Lea, maids and lovers, killed the wife of their employer, M. Lancelin, and the daughter, Geneviéve. The sisters had often donned the gowns and jewels of the ladies when they were out of their home. But the occasion of the crime was not a confrontation with the sisters over the clothes. Rather a blown fuse caused Mme. Lancelin to blame the event on the maids. An argument ensued and resulted in the sisters’ beating the mother and daughter to death.32 Lacan interpreted the crime as a narcissistic murder based on the sisters’ inability to attain their own ego ideals represented to them by the wealthy mother and daughter, ideal egos. When the sisters were jailed and separated, each one became dramatically psychotic, showing that left alone neither could resist going into the alien graveyard of the Other—the sphere of language and society— itself a paranoid principle behind any ego structure.33 (Cf. also Lacan’s De la psychose paranoïaque…, pp. 389-398). While most interpretations of the Papin sister crime refer to a split between reality and fantasy, Lacan teaches that “reality” refers to any person’s imaginary interpretation of the world (Ragland- Sullivan, “Jacques Lacan, Literary Theory, and The Maids…,” p. 117). Lacan gradually comes up with different interpretations of the cause of psychosis. For example, the mother’s foreclosure (Verwerfung) of the signifier of the father’s name normally imposes the law of “no” and the sense of a difference existing between two individuals first linked by a symbiotic sameness. When this “no” is foreclosed, the child (can choose to) remain in a mental symbiosis with the primordial mother, a symbiosis which is retained as an mental Oneness throughout life for the child, obviating the dialectic of lack (?). That is, Lacan claimed that the learning of “no” and of limits teaches the human subject that it is not a totality, but a being who lacks wholeness. Psychosis can also be caused by a rejection of a cruel father as in the case of Daniel Paul Schreber.34 But at the time of writing his thesis, Lacan was influenced by Freud’s idea that narcissism was a cause, not by his own later theories that lack was itself an effect of ego division.

Lacan’s “Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated certainty: A New Sophism” appeared in Les Cahiers d’Art. Lacan tells us that this article, which later appeared in the first version of his Écrits published by Seuil in Paris in 1966, was requested by Christian Zervos to fill up space in his journal during the period of 1940-1944.35 Zervos (1889-1970) was an art critic, writer, and publisher who was known for his journal and for his Catalogue of Picasso’s art. Lacan’s sophism which appeared in this journal is a reply to the sophism posed by Jean-Paul Sartre. Lacan’s point here is that the stake in deciding whether one of three prisoners—who cannot see their own backs—has a black or white disc on his or her back, and thus can leave the room on the basis of certainty, is not time per se, but an intersubjective judgment based upon observing the others’ hesitating or waiting time. Calculations made within the gaze of the Other/other always concern an intersubjective calculation of the other’s movements, words, experiences, in an effort to fit in with the Other’s expectations. The first prisoner to figure out that none of the others can decipher the riddle any more than he or she can, exits the room. And so goes desire’s calculations in intersubjective life situations for everyone.

The origin of Lacan’s interest in paranoïa comes from the work of Gatean de Clérambault, whom he called his only master in psychiatry (51, 4). Lacan met de Clérambault who treated the criminally insane while he, Lacan, was Chief of Psychiatry at the Sainte Anne Hospital where he treated the mentally insane. Gatean de Clérambault (1872-1934) was the psychiatrist in charge at the Special Infirmary for the Insane of the Paris Prefecture of Police from 1910 to 1934. He believed that the fundamental cause of psychosis was mental automatism. He also believed that delusion underlies all forms of psychosis. In his view, delusions were derived from elementary phenomena. These were organic in origin according to him and included thought-echoes, verbal enunciations of actions, and forms of hallucination. De Clérambault’s notion of “mental automatism” details a metaphorical, mechanistic ideology, then.36 But, Lacan says in Seminar III that when de Clérambault analyzes elementary phenomena, he looks for their signature in serpiginous—that is in phenomena such as eruptions on the skin—structure and in neologisms (Lacan, p. 34). Lacan argued, later, against de Clérambault, that elementary phenomena are reducible to nothing other than themselves, the unconscious being the fundamental language, not as de Clérambault thought, simply a biologically imposed flaw. (S. III, p. 19). Lacan, thus, dispensed with de Clérambault’s notion of “mental automatism” in Seminar III.37 Yet, in The Psychoses Lacan tells us that de Clérambault’s studies on the idea that toxic substances éaused psychosis was, at the time, original and indispensable. In his work on mental automatism, de Clérambault was innovative enough to claim that such automatism is “that which doesn’t correspond to a train of thought” (S. III, p. 6). Lacan advanced the idea, rather, that linguistic metonymy lies at the basis of psychotic language and controls it, rather than metaphor.38

In an article entitled “Metaphor and Metonymy,” Russell Grigg explains the difference between metaphor and metonymy as rethought by Lacan. Having explained that there are three types of metaphor: substitution, extension, and appositive, Grigg points out that Lacan’s emphasis, unlike Roman Jakobson’s39 on other linguists, was on the new meaning created in metaphor (p. 68). In the article on Jakobson (1896-1982) just referenced, it is noted that he was both a linguist and literary theorist. Indeed, he was the pioneer of the structuralist vogue of language that influenced other fields as well until the end of the 1970s. Departing from Jakobson’s structuralism, Lacan focused, rather, on Freud’s use of condensation and displacement as dream techniques, using condensation for metaphor and displacement for metonymy.40 Grigg takes up, not only Lacan’s differences from Jakobson on the tropes of metaphor and metonymy, but, in addition, the importance Lacan gave similarity in metaphor and contiguity in metonymy. Metaphor can create something innovative, while metonymy depends upon a semantic implication in a sentence, such as “crown” for “king” (p. 69). In speaking of metonymy, Lacan even refers to “an effect of sense.” In metaphor words replace one another —like one thing—rather than referring to a semantic relation of two (pp. 68-69). In psychotic language, the effect of something already there is necessary as opposed to the fascination of creating something strikingly different.

Not only did Lacan reshape Jakobson’s ideas, he modified de Clérambault’s as much as he did Freud’s or any other thinker he cites. He also praised de Clérambault for having made psychological distinctions in the paranoïas, thus clearing up some of the fog and ambiguity that had surrounded the diagnosis of paranoïa (S. III, p. 18). Lacan also praised de Clérambault for having understood that the erotomaniacal delusion of a paranoïd individual is addressed to another so neutralized that he or she is inflated to occupy the dimensions of the world of the one deluded (S. III, pp. 18 and 43).41 That is, a psychotic person is so influenced by his or her intimate other that no difference can be made between the psychotic’s interpretation of what the other’s thoughts are and those he or she has. The other, for a psychotic, does not manifest just one point of view, but the only point of view; that of the psychotic.

In his thesis, Lacan claimed that two bases are typical of psychosis: an intellectual deficit and an egocentric tendency (p. 381). His idea of intellectual deficit will change once he begins to study Daniel Paul Schreber’s Memoirs and Freud’s comments on them. These are represented in Lacan’s Seminar III.42 In trying to assess Aimée’s subjective text, Lacan says the concept of “mental automatism” comes closer to what he would call a structural analysis than to any other clinical approach in French psychiatry (51, 5). What he meant by structure at this phase of his thinking is, however, based on the structuralism common to linguistics and anthropology that existed at that historical moment and bears no resemblance to his own later theories in which structure is topological.43 Lacan’s early notion of structure was put forward in a period when he called the basis of any repeated phenomenon “structural.” For Lacan, de Clérambault brought a breath of fresh air into the problems of semiology, however, as manifested by writers such as Roland Barthes who, interestingly, insisted that one word matched one thing. Lacan spoke of a determinism in semiology that he rejected as it became ever more enmeshed in problems of rationality as shown in Barthes’ efforts to undermine realism for its prolific descriptions of things.44 One might even suggest that Barthes’s efforts to reduce one thing to one meaning is a symptom of psychosis evident in his language.45 Such rigid, metonymic use of language is common to psychotics.46 Their use of language is literal and concrete, lacking the substitutive flow that characterizes metaphor.

At this point Lacan compares de Clérambault’s thought to Michel Foucault’s Naissance de la Clinique : une archéologie du regard médical (57, #3). 47 Foucault’s point of view, developed further in The Order of Things,48 uses archeology to describe the moment when a field of knowledge becomes an épistemé that reorganizes knowledge. For example, the nineteenth century differed from the eighteenth century and before when theological leanings supported theories of knowledge. The new field of knowledge which Foucault places under the medical gaze, separates body from identity, thus becoming able to exercise an almost magical power of healing over the biological organism. Today, one can critique this field of knowledge which has taken on a totalizing power that has ultimately led to a biological reductionism in the practice of modern medicine, especially in the USA.49 But as early as 1931, Lacan, arguing against organicism as cause, was awarded his diploma of “médicine légist” which qualified him as a forensic psychiatrist (Macey, p. 211).

Having praised de Clérambault, Lacan says that his influence on his own thinking came from an even higher caliber of genius than de Clérambault’s, that of de Clérambault’s teacher, Emil Kraeplin (1856-1926), a German psychiatrist (52, 3)50 (S. III, p. 17). Kraeplin was considered the founder of modern scientific psychiatry as well as of psychopharmacology and psychiatric genetics. Biological and genetic malfunctions cause mental illness, according to him. His influence over early 20th century psychiatry was replaced by Freud’s influence later on.51 Although Kraeplin argued against Freud’s theories of psychological causes of organic illnesses, maintaining, rather, that the cause was biological, he, nonetheless, led Lacan to Freud (52, 4). As we know, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is the father of psychoanalysis. But before founding psychoanalysis, he was a neurologist, a medical doctor, who started his work on aphasia, cerebral palsy, neuroanatomy, and so on. So advanced was his early medical work that he was named “Professeur Extraordinaire” in 1902. Some of the ideas he created later as he developed psychoanalysis are detailed in the twenty-eight volumes of his Standard Edition of Psychology:52 free association, transference, the Oedipus complex, the importance of dreams and wishes, the unconscious, repression, the libido, the death drive, narcissism, and so on.53

In his own early career Lacan wrote a paper entitled “Structure des psychoses paranoïaques” which was published in the Semaine des Hopitûax de Paris on July 7, 1931 on pages 437-445 (Macey, p. 211). The paper identifies three types of paranoid psychosis: constitutional paranoïa, delusion of interpretation, and emotional delusions. While the typology owes much to Clérambault, Lacan’s notion of structure begins to displace de Clérambault’s idea of a mental-automatism syndrome as the central category that causes paranoïa. Nonetheless, Clérambault accused Lacan of plagiarism even though Lacan had called him his master (Macey, p. 211). Lacan’s next paper was co-authored with J. Lévi-Valensi and P. Rigault and entitled “Écrits ‘inspirés’: Schizographie”. It was based on a paper he had read to the Société Médico-Psychologique on November 12th of 1931. Lévi-Valensi had become known for his work on pulmonary disease and sleep apnia.54 Rigault is not remembered. Lacan’s co-authored paper was subsequently published in Annales Médico-Psychologiques in December of 1931. It was also republished in his thesis, De la Psychose paranoïaque dans ses rapports avec la personnalité…55 . It examined one of the thirty cases included in his thesis, that of “Marcelle C.,” a primary-school teacher who was diagnosed at the Psychiatric Clinic as suffering from erotomania, paranoid delusions, and mental automatism. Lacan argued in this paper that certain forms of language can be symptomatic of the evolution and internal mechanisms of psycho-pathological conditions. He even compared certain Surrealist experiments in automatic writing with the writings of “Marcelle” (Macey, p. 211).

Roudinesco claims that Lacan’s thesis drew no attention other than that of Dr. Henri Ey. Lacan was, nonetheless, awarded a bronze medal and a “mention très honorable” for his thesis which was published in Paris by Le Fran?ois in 1932.56 Not only Dr. Ey, but Surrealist poets and Pierre Janet commented favorably on it as well.57 Janet’s approval is important. He (1859-1947) was a pioneer in psychology, psychiatry, and philosophy. His specialties were dissociation and traumatic memory. He is ranked with William James as one of the founding fathers of psychology. He had studied under Jean- Martin Charcot at the Psychiatric Laboratory in Pitié Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris and earned a degree in medicine in 1893. He was appointed a lecturer at the Sorbonne in 1898 and lectured at the Collége de France until 1936. He was one of the first to connect past events of a subject’s life with present-day traumas and he coined the terms “dissociation” and “subconscious,” as well as anticipating the idea of transference.58

Lacan, gratified by such interest, is known for risking a bold proposal: that Aimées’s psychosis was one of self-punishment. But despite his marks of originality, Lacan himself was ambivalent toward his thesis. In 1933 he said that the originality of his work stemmed from the fact that it represented the first effort in France to present an exhaustive study of the mental phenomenon of paranoid delusions based on the concrete history of the subject.59 Although he referred frequently to his thesis, in 1969 he said that he would blush to see it reprinted and in 1980, he said that it was with great reluctance that he had allowed it to be reprinted in 1975.60 In 1975 he explained his reluctance by stating that there is no relationship between paranoid psychosis and personality; they are the same thing.61 This idea makes more sense if one studies the more recent diagnostic category advanced by Jacques-Alain Miller on ordinary psychosis.62

The clinic which drew Lacan was that of the symptom’s formal envelope.63 Miller speaks of the connections of his antecedents— de Clérambault, Kraeplin, and Freud—as impressing Lacan with their “faithfulness to the formal envelope of the symptom.” Lacan said in the Écrit that Miller mentions that the psychotic symptom swings back to creative effects. In his thesis, Lacan cites the Aimée case where artistic writings abound. He compliments Aimée by saying there was a high enough quality in her writings to allow one to mention the famous Surrealist poet, Paul Éluard, who collected her works under the (reverent) heading of involuntary poetry (52, 5).64 Paul Éluard (1895-1952), first a Dadaist and then a Surrealist, and finally a Communist, became known for his poetry on women as revealed in L’Amour la Poésie (1929) and La vie immédiate (1932), among many other works, where he invokes woman’s mysterious charm. And Éluard’s interest in woman and creativity is built upon in Lacan’s work on the psychoses where he explains that much creative poetry comes from the use of the literary trope, metonymy, which Lacan links to psychotic language.65 (Cf. S. III: chs. XVII and XVIII, pp. 214-230).

Lacan complimented Aimée on demonstrating the function of ideals in a series of reduplications—herself/the actress, etc.—and says that the notion of structure works in this case, perhaps, as the imaginary reduplication that lies behind Aimée’s psychotic act. This idea of a structure seems to him to be more fruitful for understanding Aimée’s paranoïa than what the clinicians of the 1920s, who followed the psychiatric ideas of Édouard Toulouse (1865-1947), would have advanced. Indeed, such psychiatrists lowered the value of Aimées’s work by inscribing it simply in passion (52, 6). Toulouse had become a doctor by writing a thesis on melancholy which resulted in his creating the “Ligue d’hygiène mentale” in 1920. In 1996 the group inspired by Toulouse became known as the “Ligue francaise pour la santé mentale”. Stressing the importance of both social and emotional impact on the mental, Toulouse was influential, even on the Sainte Anne Hospital where Lacan was to become the Chief of Psychiatry.66

Although Lacan in no way owes a debt to Toulouse, one might do well to remember that Jacques-Alain Miller has called Lacan’s early notions of structure Lacan’s own myth.67 We recall that the act that led Aimée to a mental hospital was her violent effort to stab to death the famous movie star with whom she identified. We also recall that Aimée, whose real name was Marguerite Pantaine Anzieu had developed the delusion that the actress named Huguette Duflo wanted to harm her son and was plagiarizing her literary work (Vanheule, p. 14; Lacan, 1932, p. 157). Interestingly, Aimée ceased to have her erotomanic delusion about Duflo—erotomanic in Lacan’s thought including jealousy and revenge as motives—following her act of aggression against the actress.68 Lacan says this initial identificatory redoubling was a kind of conjugation of her poetic space which later appeared in her copious writings (52, 7). That is, her paranoid delusion later took up residence in writing, rather than in relation to another person.

The Aimée incident took place in the 1930s. And Lacan says that studying it brought him closer to understanding“acting out” (passage à l’acte). That is, one may fantasize murder as in “acting out,” but to commit it, or try to, plays on another register of structure than imaginary fantasy; it concerns the dimension of the real wherein there is actually “passage to the act.” The structure in question in passing to the act would be that of psychosis which Lacan elaborates as paranoïa in his thesis. Although such a structure, at this early stage in his theorization of the cause of psychosis, would be rooted in imaginary fantasy— which belongs later to the category of neurosis—Lacan took up the idea of punishment, the wish to commit an aggression against oneself, as related to the fact that psychotics often commit suicide .69 And Lacan explains this “passage to the act” by the word “self punishment,” a word he first heard from Franz Alexander and Hugo Staub. These Berlin-style criminologists, as well as psychiatrists, also led Lacan to Freud, as did Kraeplin. Alexander (1891-1964) was the more famous of the two men. He was a physician and a psychoanalyst and was considered to be the founder of psychosomtatic medicine and psychoanalytic criminology. He is also credited with being the forerunner to Erik Erikson’s work. Hugo Staub is known mostly for his co-authorship with Alexander of The Criminal, the Judge, and the Public: A Psychological Analysis.70 The reason Lacan could be so affected by German criminology and psychiatry, and eventually by Freud’s oeuvre, was that he was fluent in German. Indeed, he had won the French national prize at his Lycée, École Stanislaus, for his excellent performance in the German language.

The “self” punishment in question regarding Aimée would be a reaction to not being what she imagined herself to be as a symbolic ego ideal, something based not only in the imaginary, but in the Other as well. Indeed, in “On Narcissism: An Introduction” (1914), Freud made a cursory reference to a distinction between the ego ideal and the ideal ego as belonging to group psychology.71 On pages 102-103 of the SE Freud writes that narcissistic object-relations can veer towards group psychology in the case when one’s ego does not fulfill its own ideal. He thinks the “self punishment” in question appears as a kind of guilt or fear of punishment by the parents, or as a fear of losing their love, especially in cases of homosexuality. Lacan says, rather, that no one “is” who one imagines oneself to be narcissistically in the Other; that is, organic functions cannot explain the “specific cause of psychosis” (52, 8) (1932, p. 347). Lacan’s point is that if one kind of knowledge [connaissance] can provide evidence of another function, this leads to a richness of understanding that no academic or avant-garde thinker could resist (52, 9): He says “the original experience that determines psychosis is the one which reveals to a subject his own insufficiency, humiliating him at the ethical level” (1932, p. 92). He will, of course, modify this idea of the cause of psychosis rather quickly. Indeed, Aimée’s act concerned an inability to distinguish herself from an imaginary other as Vanheule argues in the first chapter of his book (The Subject…: 17). But Aimée had another paranoid motive other than just her jealousy of the actress. Her fear regarding the safety of her son was traceable to the still-birth of her first baby, a girl.

In thinking about how psychoanalysis should be rethought and practiced, Lacan argued against the knowledge-based biases. He argued that they must be eliminated and replaced by the analyst’s listening to language itself. That, says Lacan, is fundamental to psychoanalysis. The later Lacan will argue that the psychotic is invaded by jouissance. But in the 1930s, Lacan’s notion of knowledge was phenomenological. “In the beginning of his career Lacan was particularly influenced by phenomenology. His dissertation [or thesis] explored the ‘human significance’ of psychosis and attributed the paranoid psychoses to phenomena of personality and to a dialectical movement of the psyche, as against deterministic genetic and environmental factors. If it were not for his special attention to psychotic language and to narcissism…, one could read this 1932 text as a prefiguration of R. D. Laing’s existential-phenomenological psychoanalysis. By 1936, however, Lacan had enunciated his basic concept of the mirror stage, which he…describe[d] in 1949 as formative of the function of the ‘I’” (Ragland-Sullivan, “The Maids…,” p.100). Lacan says in “On My [Our] Antecedents” that he had not really thought about the fantasies that existed regarding the idea of what the ego is until 1936 when he presented his paper on “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the I Function as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience” (52, 11). In a note at the end of this Écrit he tells us that he presented this paper at the Congress in Marienbad (August 3, 1936), making his first pivotal intervention into psychoanalysis even before having received the title of analyst (52, 11). Even though he contributed some of the theses contained in this mirror-stage piece to a volume of the Encyclopédie franéaise, as requested by Henri Wallon (1938), he did not give a written rendition to the Report on the Congress (57, #4). 72

In his article given to the French encyclopedia, Lacan argued that “concrete psychology” must be supplemented by a reference to ethnography, history, law, etc., and that psychoanalysis itself has to adapt to the resultant complex theoretical framework. He also refers to an account of the mirror-stage paper in which he acknowledges a debt to Wallon (1879-1962).73 Wallon was a social and developmental psychologist, a Marxist communist politician, a physician who worked with mentally retarded children from 1908-1931. He was also a Professor at the Sorbonne, The École Pratique des Hautes études, and the Collége de France.74 Lacan’s chapter on the “complex” given to Wallon draws on his own earlier work and anticipates the Écrit “Aggressivity in Psychoanalysis” (1948).75 In the text given to Wallon, Lacan talks about the weaning complex, an intrusion complex, and the Oedipus complex. He defines “complex” as an ensemble of reactions ranging from emotion to behavior that is adapted to its object. The complex reproduces ambient reality within which the subject develops in two ways: Lacan represents the subject’s development insofar as it is distinct from earlier stages in the subject’s own psychical existence, and also insofar as it reproduces elements the complexes supposedly “fixes.” What is fixed, requires a greater objectification of reality, according to Macey (p. 216). The “complex” is an early formation of what Lacan will later call structure. But in what he gave Wallon he refers to anthropology and sociology, to Malinowski, Frazer, and Durkheim (Macey, p. 216). Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) was a Polish anthropologist, as well as one of the most important ethnographers in the 20th century. He worked in many exotic places, including the Trobriand Islands. After World War I when he was able to leave Australia and return to England, he became Chair of Anthropology at the London School of Economics. From 1933 to his death he taught at Yale University.76 Sir James Frazer (1854-1941) was a Scottish social anthropologist who influenced the modern study of mythology and comparative religion. His most important book, The Golden Bough (1890) argues that society goes through three phases: from primitive magic, to religion, to science. Not only did Frazer study the classics, he also studied the law at Trinity University and later lectured at Cambridge and Oxford. He was influenced by the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss who was one of the developers of the concept of structure in vogue at this time. But, historically speaking, Darwinian evolutionary thought was chosen over Frazer’s own picture of social evolution.77 Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) was a sociologist, social psychologist, and a philosopher. Along with Max Weber and Karl Marx, he is said to be the father of sociology. He set up the first European department of sociology. His interest in epistemological realism took him from Auguste Comte’s positivism to a hypothetico-deductive model. He argued that sociology was a science of institutions and that society at large was a “collective consciousness.” His theory of social realism used empiricism over Descartes’ method of mind. He taught at the University of Bordeaux in 1887 and became Chair of Education at the Sorbonne in 1902 and Chair of Education and Sociology in 1913. His goal remained to discover the inherent nature of society’s laws.78

In chapter two of his article on “The Family,” discussed above, Lacan takes up hysteria as represented in Freud, but more importantly, he develops his own findings regarding psychosis. In this vein he discusses the ego and its imaginary structures.

His major reference to “concrete psychology” owes a debt to Georges Politzer (1903-1942) and his Critique des fondements de la psychologie 79 (Macey, p. 216). Politzer was a philosopher and a Marxist theoretician of Hungarian origin. After meeting Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi (1873-1933) in Vienna, he decided to move to Paris in 1921. We know that Ferenczi was at first a close friend of Freud’s and that he later separated himself from Freud based on theoretical disagreements. He has been said to have influenced some Lacanians with his ideas on interpersonal relations.80 He is not, however, one of Lacan’s antecedents, while Politzer was. Politzer taught a class on communism—that is, on dialectical materialism—while at the university in Paris. Although his masters were Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, he also studied psychology in a Freudian vein. Thus, his influence on Lacan brought to bear not only Freud, but Marx and Lenin, indirectly. Politzer was arrested for his communism in 1942 and was tortured and executed by a Nazi firing squad, while his wife was sent to Auschwitz and died there.81 We know that Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a philosopher, economist, revolutionary socialist, journalist, and the author of two history-changing books. His work on economics laid the basis for our current understanding of labour and its relation to capital. As a founder of socialism, Marx put forth a materialist concept of history. He moved from Germany to Paris in 1843 where he met Friedrich Engels who was to become his treasured colleague. Marx was exiled from France in 1849 and moved to London where he put forth his ideas on class struggle. He came to define communism as a classless revolt of the working class against the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy.82 Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) was a Russian communist revolutionary and a political theorist. He became Head of the Russian Socialist Republic from 1917 to 1922 when he became the Leader of the Soviet Union until his death. He has been seen paradoxically as the champion of workers, as well as a dictator.83

In “Presentation of Psychical Causality” (1946), speaking of his presentation of the mirror-stage paper at Marienbad, Lacan says that “with the fourth stroke of the ten-minute mark, at which I was interrupted by Ernest Jones who was presiding over the Congress….[even though] the members of the Viennese group…gave my exposé a rather warm reception,” he felt Jones’ rebuff.84 One can only imagine that Jones’ behavior, given that he was the President of the London Psychoanalytic Society, contributed to Lacan’s decision not to publish the mirror-stage piece in the Congress proceedings. Jones’ rudeness brought Lacan face to face with a kind of resistance to his theory and technique which presented an even greater problem than he had imagined (52, 11; 53).85 Macey says that there was no public discussion of Lacan’s paper at the Congress attended by 198 participants (p. 214). The paper he read at Marienbad at the 14th Congress of the International Psychoanalytical Association on August 3rd, 1936, was entitled “Le Stade du miroir , Théorie d’un moment structurant et génétique de la constitution de la réalité, conêu en relation avec l’expérience et doctrine psychoanalytique.” It was indexed in the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis as “The Looking Glass Phase” (Macey, p. 214)86 Lacan tells us in “On My [Our] Antecedents” that the version included in the Écrits dates from 1949 (p. 67, n. 1/ Fink, p. 52, n. 4, p. 57; cf. also pp. 147-148).

In “Beyond the Reality Principle” (August-October, 1936), Lacan thought it propitious to offer a paper, later published as an Écrit, about which he says that his students sometimes think they have found in his writing what was already there, but which he himself had not yet developed. In this paper Lacan criticizes Freud’s metapsychology, pointing out that Freud saw the libido both as an energetic concept and as a substantialist hypothesis which relates phenomena to matter (Écrits, Fink, p. 73). In Lacan’s own view of language as sketched out in “Beyond the Reality Principle,” he says it is the only imprudence that has never failed him; that of trusting in nothing but the experience of the subject in analytic work. Lacan’s “Beyond…” paraphrases Freud’s “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” (1920) where the Viennese analyst gave a new meaning to repetition in his concept of primary process.87 Moreover, Freud related it to what Lacan would call the jouissance of masochism, opening it up onto the question of the death drive. All this is linked to Freud’s idea of a secondary process which allows reality to be established in response to the pleasure principle’s need for satisfaction by the means of homeostasis (53, 5). Such a view of reality could not be more removed from Lacan’s concepts of lack and loss that place an incompletion at the heart of being.

Freud, meanwhile, believed that some final wholeness could be attained in psychoanalysis. Indeed, Beyond the Pleasure Principle reoriented Freud’s project by assuming that the psychoanalytic act transcends the secondary process to attain a reality not produced in it, even though it gets rid of the illusion that the identity of thoughts can be attached to themselves (53, 8). What the primary process encounters is not what Freud thought, Lacan says, but the impossible itself (53, 9). We know that the “impossible” is one definition Lacan gives of the real. But in Freud’s work on the primary process, Lacan interprets him as offering a beginning of the imaginary dimension whose images are associated with the symbolic and the real and will decorate them. He wrote this just before his “Rome Discourse” (1953)88 where he said that pots, for example, are empty because they are symbolic, symbolic meaning only the word that designates a thing, not the thing itself (54, 2).

Nothing in the subject corresponds to a reality system, Lacan says, or to some typical function of reality (54, 3). The confusion regarding what “reality” is corresponds to a theory of the ego based on Freud’s Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921). There is nothing more in this text than a theory of identification, Lacan maintains (54, 3). Moreover, “Group Psychology”89 derives from Freud’s “On Narcissism” (1914) (54, 4).90 Orthodox Freudians combine Wirklichkeit and Realitét which Freud meant as psychical, not some external objective system, Lacan says. The error that arises from those analysts’ interpretations of Freud’s ideas on reality is not only a confusion between “true seeming” and one’s own perception of reality, but a reduction of the ego to itself. Freud does not show how the ego is formed, but simply states that it exists (54, 5). Freud then linked the ego to the perception-consciousness system, pointing out that its political forms have tested truth standards of this system (54, 7). Yet, Lacan points out that Freud calls such standards of truth into reference by linking the ego to one’s own body—via narcissism—and to the complexity of Freud’s three orders of identification (54, 6).

Lacan’s mirror stage establishes a decisive moment between the imaginary and the symbolic in a temporal moment when an individual’s being and thought are captured by an historic inertia. The responsibility for this lies with what calls itself psychology (55, 1). In critiquing the term “psychology,” Lacan did not develop his “Beyond the ’Reality Principle’” as an attack on Gestalt theory and phenomenology. Instead he attacked the notion of psychology that was practiced by the second generation of analysts after Freud (59, 1). Instead of becoming bogged down in such historical notions as theirs, Lacan stressed the moments or phases of “configuring insight*” (55, 3). In Lacan’s teaching, the dynamic of the first phase that configures the ego develops out of a biological crisis, based on the diachronic effects that happen to human animals. There is a delayed coordination of the nervous system that derives from man’s neurological and physical prematurity at birth, in comparison with other animals who can forage for food almost from the beginning of life.91 And there is an anticipation of the resolution of this particular delay as one watches a human baby go through its various stages of the oral, anal, scopic, and invocatory partial drives to finally become a speaking being (55, 4). But there is no “developmental” harmony in a human being, Lacan maintains, as has been proposed by ethology, “ethology” being the alleged scientific and objective study of animal behavior which usually focuses on behavior under natural conditions. This field of study has evolved into a branch of inquiry dealing with human character and with theories concerning its formation and evolution (55,5).92 Psychological harmony, as proposed by some ethologists, masks the fact, Lacan says, that in being, lack plays a central role. Since lack is created by the first signifier, the phallic one which marks sexual difference as a third thing, an effect of difference itself ,93 it must have a place in a causal chain from which a subject functions (55, 6). So powerful is this lack-in-being that Lacan places it at the heart of causal noesis—mental capacity or action—which mistakes itself for crossing into reality; that is for passing into the real. 94 For example, a little boy of four years old says “only boys can kiss girls.” He has heard this at school. For him this statement becomes a signifier which forms not only his symbolic and imaginary dimensions of understanding, but also marks his sexual politics in the real. When he sees a girl kiss a girl, the function of lack (which belies one’s knowing it all) raises its head and confronts him with a problem which has been repressed in his real, absent to his consciousness, leaving him with the words that make up his parlêtre.

The imaginary discordance between a lack in the order of one’s signifiers and “reality” means that more is in play in thought and language than the mirror-stage critical lack which is covered over by, and functions as, the secret to an infant subject’s jubilation. On the inverse side of the little boy mentioned above, one can say that when he kisses a girl, he does so with a certain jubilation from the real which makes this sexual act licit for him (55, 8). If he kisses a boy, he would be told by his unconscious that this was an illicit act. Of course, the context is cultural. I merely cite this example in the developing thought of a very young child. Indeed, ego judgments made from the imaginary must stem from another order as well (55, 9). Lacan says “order” at this stage of his thought. He will later say dimension or level or chain or link; not order.95 In “On My [Our] Antecedents,” Lacan says that If analysis stopped at the imaginary level, then the function of ego judgment would remain mythical. To find this in the mirror stage, Lacan says one must take up the imaginary definition of metonymy: the part is mistaken for the whole (55, 11). Thus, metonymy could refer to archaic partial images of the fragmented body as confirmed by the paranoid phase in the phenomenology of Kleinian experience (55, 11) where the breast as a partial object determines, according to Klein, whether or not an infant is given the basis for a healthy adult life by having been given a good breast, or a pathological life by having been given a bad breast. Melanie Klein (1882-1960) was the co-founder of object relations theory, the founder of child development psychoanalysis. Analyzed by Karl Abraham and a close colleague of Ernst Jones in London, she clashed with Anna Freud in the 1940s, splitting the British psychoanalytic school.96 At the phase of his thought in the Écrit on his antecedents, we remember that Lacan was still a member of the International Psychoanalytic Association and would quite probably not want to offend the importance given by his fellow analysts to Melanie Klein’s theories.

Nonetheless, Lacan placed the most powerful images of the mirror-stage experience here, in metonymy. He says that for an infant to assume an image of what its body looks like in the mirror concerns evanescent objects, those which appear in the exchange of gazes, for example, which occur when the child turns back to look towards the one holding it and is sees himself as there only in reference to the presence of this other (56, 1). This is the moment when the unconscious count from one to two begins in infant perception. Here Lacan refers to a movie which knew nothing of his theories. In this movie a naked little girl looked at herself in the mirror and surreptitiously touched herself in the place where there was no phallus (56, 2). Such an action would result from an imaginary perception of the sexual difference of organs common to young childhood, not to any superiority of the male penis.

No matter what covers the image infant’s image of itself in the mirror, the cover commands a deceptive power in diverting alienation—that is, alienation behind words and images already situated in the Other’s field—towards the imaginary totalitarian rivalry which prevails for the infant. Lacan says this is because the one like him or her (the semblable) fascinates him in a kind of depressive, in Klein’s thinking, return. The idea of a depressive return resonates with the second phase of Melanie Klein’s teaching wherein an infant’s development includes hate and love for the mother which gradually, emerges into guilt and mourning—depression—as the infant comes to see itself as “whole.” But Lacan disagrees with Klein here, saying that this view offers the figure of a Hegelian murder.97 That is, two become one—thesis and antithesis merge into a synthesis—and each is cancelled out in a merging and synthesis of bodies. Who is who? Who controls the other? Of course, Lacan did not agree with either view, neither Klein’s nor Hegel’s [Macey on “Beyond…,” pp. 214-215]. As mentioned above in the article on Hegel (1770-1831), he was the German philosopher his historicist and idealist thought shaped continental philosophy and Marxism in the period of his writing Phenomenology of Mind (1807) and other works. It is with his dialectic that Lacan disagrees, with the idea that thesis and antithesis end up in an endless series of syntheses making pseudo-totalities.

When Lacan speaks of alienation into the Other which turns toward an imaginary other, alienation means that one is represented to him or herself by the images and signifiers that first mark him as “this” or “that” and which gradually make up the memory bank—or Other—of his first perceptions and conceptions of who he or she is. The infant’s first misrecognition of itself in the mirror stage is the confusion of who is who, or how to count unconsciously from two to one. The infant confuses its first sense of not being separate from its mother, or primordial caretaker, in early perception. Two are experienced as one. Lacan argues that it takes three—the image of a third other who is perceived as breaking up the original symbiosis of mother and infant—to make the infant realize that he or she is one, not a combination of two.98 There is also a right-left inversion which takes place. The idea of this inversion, Lacan says, could only take on meaning in a more in-depth discussion of spatial orientation and he refers this to philosophy, saying nothing has been done there since Kant’s basing an aesthetics on the reversal of a glove. And this aesthetics is as simple as turning the glove back around, Lacan says (56, 4). Lacan seems to be referring to Kant’s idea that the whole conditions the parts, ultimately providing a unity of philosophy by way of a prioris and a transcendental sphere. In his later topological work, Lacan will develop a complex teaching concerning the interconnection of within and without, inside and outside, as well as many other concepts which reconceptualize the meaning of space in human thought and perception.

However, the problematic of inversion leads us away from the sphere of vision itself, Lacan points out, to the one in which the blind man knows he is the object of others’ gazes. It takes us also to William Molyneux’s problem in which a difference is noted between the philosophically inclined blind man and the fiction of the blind philosopher (1656-1698).99 As an aside, Molyneux’s wife became blind when she was very young and died young.100 Molyneux (1656-1698) was an Irish natural philosopher and a writer on politics. He was considered a major leader in the 17th century Scientific Revolution. One of his publications takes up the question of England’s power over Ireland. The work was condemned as seditious, although Molyneux himself was considered the founder of the Dublin Philosophical Society. 101 His published problem on the blind man who regains sight was taken up by John Locke (1632- 1704) in his Essay.102 Locke was an English philosopher and physician. He was one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers, the alleged father of classical liberalism. His work on social contract theory made him one of the first British empiricists. Not only did his work affect political philosophy and epistemology, it also influenced the American Declaration of Independence. His theory of mind is said to have developed the idea of a self or identity in which there was a continuation of consciousness which filled in the blanks of knowledge given that babies are born, according to Locke, tabula rasa, with no internal knowledge. He argued that knowledge comes from sense perception. It would be this idea that led Lacan to take up Locke’s mention of Molyneux in his An Essay on Conscious Human Understanding (1690).103 The problem addressed by Lacan was the idea of blindness as something which would cause one to imagine an ego in a world where nothing is known about planar symmetry. (56, 5). Given his early references to inversion and planar symmetry, it is not surprising that Lacan’s later work took a topological turn.

This idea brings Lacan to the phenomenon of specular knowledge (connaissance) based on a semiology, the study of signs, that runs from depersonalization to the hallucination of one’s double. These have no diagnostic value, even with psychotics, Lacan claims. However, Rosine and Robert Lefort gave evidence of the splitting or doubling of body image that happens in psychosis in their book, The Birth of the Other.104 I think of an example of a patient of my own who had a psychotic break and saw himself walking toward himself, a person identical to himself, except for his being an African American, while my patient was Caucasian. Lacan says these experiences, nonetheless, give a consistent reference point for fantasy in psychoanalytic treatment (56, 6). He is speaking of fantasy here in his text, but doubling in psychosis would concern, rather, hallucination. Lacan is situating his texts, his own texts in a future perfect so that one will know that he had inserted the unconscious into language. In seeing these texts spread out over the years, he says there are not many of them and he can be reproached for having been slow (56, 7). But during this early period in the 1930s and 1940s, Lacan said he had to gain a following and prepare for an audience.

At the time that Lacan was doing his psychiatric residency, there were only three persons interested in psychoanalysis, he tells us (57, 1). Even though he credits this little group, Évolution Psychiatrique, which he began attending regularly in 1933, with psychoanalysis’s ever having seen the light of day in France, these few people did not call psychoanalysis, as it was conceptualized or practiced at the time, into question. He refers to their lack of interest in worldly matters—which might refer to World War I—and says that such major events did not even confirm a solidarity among them or give a basis for their information (57, 1). Furthermore, there was no teaching on psychoanalysis at this time other than a “fast-track” which existed prior to 1951 when Lacan began his own teaching in a private capacity, even before he began giving his public Seminars to his colleagues in 1953-1954 (57, 2). After the War, he says, the quantity of recruits changed and the crowd who came to hear him give his paper on “Training Analysis” was by standing-room only ((57, 3). Lacan tells us that this crowd attests to the important role he played in launching psychoanalysis in France. But prior to the event where the first crowds came to hear Lacan, the only person interested in his work, he said, was Jean Wahl who invited him to speak at the Collége Philosophique. Later Lacan was to publish the “Individual Myth of the Neurotic,” referring to Claude Lévi- Strauss’s work on myth. This text appeared in French in 1953 and was translated into English in 1979105 (57, #6). Nonetheless, prior to 1953, Lacan put forth a resumé of his published work dated 1933. He first published this “Exposé…” as an appendix to his article “De la Psychose,” and reprinted it in his thesis.106

Lacan finishes this introductory view of himself by saying that what is biographical is owed only to his wish to enlighten the reader about his antecedents (57, 5).


1 *Lacan, J.“On My Antecedents” (1966/2006). This is the title given in (Trans.) Fink, B. Fink, H. and Grigg, R. Écrits. New York: Norton & Co. In the French version Lacan calls this Écrit “De nos antécédents” (“On Our Antecedents”), pp. 65-72 in French; pp. 51-57 in English.

2 Vanheule, S. (2011) The Subject of Psychosis: A Lacanian Perspective. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 9.

3 “Henri Claude,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, March 11, 2014.

4 “Gaetean de Clérambault,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Nov. 3, 2014.

5 David Macey, Lacan in Contexts (1988), Verso: London and New York, pp. 210-211.

6 “Karl T. Jaspers,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Dec. 31, 2014.

7 Freud, S. “On Narcissism: An Introduction,” SE, vol. XIV, pp. 73-107.

8 Lacan, J. (1932/1975) De la psychose paranoïaque dans ses rapports avec la personnalité. Paris: Seuil. It first appeared in Paris: Le Fran?ois.

9 Lacan, J. (1957-1958/2006) “On a Question Prior to Any Possible Treatment of Psychosis.” (Trans.). Fink, B. et al. Écrits. New York: Norton & Co.: Cf. note # 5, p. 486.

10 Roudinesco, E. (1986). La bataille de cent ans: Histoire de la psychanalyse en France. 2 – 1925-1985. Paris: Seuil.

11 Roudinesco, E. (Trans.) (1996). Mehlman, J. Jacques Lacan. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

12 Personal conversations with the Lacanian milieu in Paris, France.

13 Jaspers, K. T. (1997) General Psychopathology, vols. 1 & 2. (Trans.). Hoenig, J. and Hamilton, M. Baltimore & London: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

14 Leguil, F.,(1989) “Lacan avec et contre Jaspers,” Ornicar?, no. 48, Paris, Navarin, pp. 6-7.

15 “Max Weber,” Creative Communication Attributions- ShareAlike, License, Jan. 28, 2015. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

16 Makkreel, R.( 2012) “Wilhelm Dilthey,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

17 Lacan, J. (1988) The Seminar III (1955-1956): The Psychoses (Trans. with notes), Grigg, R. (Ed.) Miller, J.-A., New York: Norton, p. 15.

18 Schreber, D. P., Memoirs of my Nervous Illness (1988), (ed. and trans.) by Macalpine, I. & Hunter, R. A., with a new introduction by Weber, S., Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard Univ. Press; Lacan,J. (1988) The Seminar III (1955-1956): The Psychoses, (Trans. with notes), Grigg, R., (Ed.) Miller, J.-A., New York: Norton; Cf. also Freud, S. (1911) Psycho-Analytic Notes on an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia (Dementia Paranoides), SE , vol. XII, pp. 2-82; Lacan, J. (2006), In ?crits (Trans.) Fink, B. et al, “On a Question Prior to Any Possible Treatment of Psychosis” (1957-1958); Lacan, J. (2005) Le Séminaire XXIII (1975-1976): Le sinthome, text established by Miller, J.-A., Paris: Seuil.

19 Sartre, J.-P., Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, (Trans.) Barnes, H.E. London: Routledge, p. 532 in the French edition.

20 Sartre, J.-P. Baudelaire, Paris, Gallimard, Idées, 1947, p. 245.

21 Ey, H. (1936) “An Attempt to Apply Jackson’s Principles to a Dynamic Conception of Neuropsychiatry,” written in collaboration with Julien Rouart, Encéphale.

22 Cox-Cameron, O. www.psychoanalytischepspectiven, be: 1-45. Cf. also Lacan, J. The Psychoses: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book III, 1955-1956. (1981/1993). (Ed.) Miller, J-A. (Trans.). Grigg, R. New York: Norton & Co., p. 6.

23 Leguil, C. (2012) Sartre Avec Lacan: Corrélation Antinomique, Liaison Dangereuse. Paris: Navarin <> Le Champ Freudien, p. 37.

24 Jaspers, General Psychopathology, Cf. note #vi.

25 Sartre, J.-P., Being and Nothingness, Cf. note #xviii.

26 Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (Encyclopedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts) (1751-1772), ed. by Denis Diderot and co-ed. until 1759 by Jean le Rond d”Alembert. Paris: Briasson, David, Le Breton, Durand.

27 “Denis Diderot,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Feb. 4, 2015; “René Crevel,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Dec. 30, 2014.

28 Macey, D. (1988). Lacan in Contexts. London: Verso.

29 Lacan, J. (1945). “Le probléme du style et la conception psychiatrique des forms paranoïques de l’existence,” Création: pp. 32-42; Minotaure, June 1, 1931, pp. 68-69 (a shortened form); this was also reprinted in PP, pp. 383-388.

30 Lacan, J. (Dec. 1933) “Motifs du crime paranoïaque: le crime des soeurs Papin,” Minotaure, nos. 3/4, pp. 25-28, reprinted in PP…, his thesis, pp. 389-398.

31 Freud, S. (1914) “On Narcissism: An Introduction.” SE, 14: 73-102. Cf.: 79-90 and 101-102. Cf. also “Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego” (1921), SE, 18, pp. 65-143, especially, pp. 105-110 on identification.

32 Jean-Paul Sartre’s interpretation of the crime was a Marxist one, class inferiority, while Jean Genet’s play “Les Bonnes” (“The Maids”) focused on the psychological interaction between the sisters, and Claude Chabrols’s film “Les biches” (“The Does”) is a tribute to the sisters.

33 Ragland-Sullivan, E. (1984) “Jacques Lacan, Literary Theory, and The Maids of Jean Genet.” (Ed.). Natoli, J. Psychological Perspectives on Literature: Freudian Dissidents and Non-Freudians: A Casebook. Hamden, CT: The Shoe String Press.: 100-119. Cf. 114.

34 Schreber, D. P. (1955/2000) Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (Trans. and Eds.). Macalpine, I. and Hunter, R. A. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

35 Lacan, J. (1988) “Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty: A New Sophism.” (Trans.) Fink, B. and Silver, M. (Ed.) Ragland-Sullivan, E. (1988). Newsletter of the Freudian Field, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 4-22.

36 Lacan, J. (1981/1992) The Psychoses: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book III, 1955-1956. (Ed.). Miller, J.-A. (Trans.). Russell Grigg. New York: Norton & Co: 5, Cf. note # 5 above.

38 Grigg, R. (Fall/Spring 1989) “Metaphor and Metonymy,” Newletter of the Freudian Field, vol. 3, nos. 1&2, pp. 58-79.

39 “Roman Jakobson,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Jan. 4, 2015.

40 Ragland, M.E. (1976) “The Language of Laughter,” Sub- Stance, No. 13, pp. 91-106.

41 Lacan points out in note #8 in S. III (1993) that de Clérambault distinguishes between interpretation delusions… and passional delusions…and erotomaniacal delusions in “Les délires passionnels; érotomanie, revendication, jalousie,” p. 18.

42 Schreber, D. P. (1903/2000). Memoirs of my Nervous Illness. Cf. note # 14 above. Cf. also Freud, S. (1911) “Psycho-Analytic Notes on an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia (Demential Paranoides)” in SE 12, pp. 9-82.

43 Ragland, E. (2015) Jacques Lacan and the Logic of Structure: Topology and Language in Psychoanalysis, (London: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Ltd.).

44 Ragland, E. (2013) “From Barthes’ ‘Realism Effect’ to Lacan’s Real.” Presented at a conference on “Real Deceptions” from April 24-27, 2013, Pomona College, Claremont, CA, April 26, 2013. To appear in Mosaic, forthcoming.

45 Ragland, E. (2013) “The Reality Effect….” Idea implied in the paper given at the conference on Real Deceptions.

47 Foucault, M. (1964) Naissance de la Clinique. Paris: PUF. The Birth of the Clinic (1973). New York: Pantheon.

48 Foucault, M. (1970) The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Pantheon Books.

49 Liart, M. (2012) Psychanalyse et Psychosomatique: Écrit et symbole. Paris: Hamerton.

50 Kraeplin, E. (1896) Psychiatrie: Ein Lehrbuch f?r Studirende und Aerzte. In Clinical Psychiatry (1907).

51 “Emil Kraeplin,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Feb. 9, 2015.

52 Freud, S. (1974) The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works, (Trans. and Eds.) Strachey, J. in collaboration with Freud, A., et al. London: The Hogarth Press and The Institute of Psycho-Analysis, vols. I-XXIII.

53 “Sigmund Freud,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Feb. 5, 2015.

54 “J. Lévi-Valensi,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

55 Lacan, J. De la Psychoses paranoïaque dans ses rapports avec la personnalié, suivi de Premiers Écrits sur la paranoïa (1975), Paris: Seuil, pp. 365-382.

56 Lacan, J. (1932) His thesis referred to in note # xliii, Paris: le Francois.

57 Hollier, D., Le Collége de sociologie, p. 200, n.; cf. also David Macey, p. 212.

58 “Pierre Janet,”Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Jan. 26, 2015.

59 Lacan, J. “Exposée génêral de nos travaux scientifiques,” Psychose Paranoïque…, p. 401.

60 Lacan, J. (1969) Preface to the Collection “Points” selected from the Écrits. Paris: Seuil,, p. 9 and cover note to the “Points” edition of PP.

61 Lacan, J. “Le Sinthome,” Ornicar?, 7, June-July 1976, p. 7.

62 Miller, J.-A. (1999) La psychose ordinaire: La Convention d’Antibes. Paris: La Paon; Cf. also La psychose ordinaire, collection publieé par Miller, J.-A., (Ed.) Agalma, diffusion Paris: Seuil.

63 Miller, J.-A. (1991), “Reflections on the Formal Envelope of the Symptom.” (Trans.) Jauregui, J. lacanian ink, no. 4, pp. 13-21; Cf. Jacques Lacan (2006)“The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis” (1953) (Trans.) Fink, B. et al. Ecrits.

64 Eluard, P. (1995) Shadows and Sun: Poems and Prose. (Trans.) Buckley, C. Durham, NH: Oyster River Press.

65 Cf. S. III: chs. XVII and XVIII, pp. 214-230

66 “Édouard Toulouse,” (Internet) en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/.

67 Miller, J.-A. (2013). “Structure is Lacan’s myth as the Oedipus complex was Freud’s.” personal conversation.

68 Cox-Cameron, O. (Cf. note #8 above) speaks of the many female identifications that may have led to Aimée’s obsession with the actress—her older sister, her dead sister, her dead baby daughter, still-born—, but other erotomanic parts of Aimée’s delusions were reserved for the Prince of Wales to whom she sent copies of her novels which were, of course, returned, unopened.

69 Vanheule, S. The Subject of Psychosis: A Lacanian Perspective (2011). London: Palgrave, p. 17.

70 “Franz Alexander,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Dec. 8, 2014.

71 Freud, S. (1914). “On Narcissism: An Introduction.” SE XIV, pp. 73-102. Cf. also pp. 102-103.

72 Lacan, J. “Au-delé du ‘Principe de réalité’” (“Beyond the Reality Principle”), dated from Marienbad-Noirmoutier, August-October, 1936, Evolution psychiatrique, 3, 1936, pp. 67-86; reprinted in Écrits, pp. 73-92; (Trans.) Fink, B., et al.,Ecrits, pp. 58-74; This paper contains an outline of the mirror-stage theory although it begins with a critique of associationism which is described as based on an empirical theory of knowledge inherited from John Locke, and as an idealism that fails to recognize the specific reality of mental phenomena (Macey, pp. 214-215). Such a theory of knowledge is further attacked for its reliance on a “scholastic psychology whose categories are derived from a traditional philosophical discourse.” Possibly, says Macey, these criticism owe something to Politzer’s Critique des fondements de la psychologie (1929) (p. 215). The Freudian revolution is characterized, Macey continues, by its analytic technique (the rules of free association as reformulated by Pichon as the rules of non-omission and non-systematization), which assumes that every facet of mental life is significant. Language is seen as the datum of the analytic experience and is described in phenomenological terms. Before signifying something, language has to signify for someone and the analyst’s role is to recognize a signifying intentionality of which the analysand remains ignorant (p. 215). In addition, Lacan gave a version of his mirror-stage paper to Henri Wallon. It was entitled “La Famille,” Encyclopédie fran?aise, vol. 8, Henri Wallon, ed. This long essay, says Macey, comprises an introduction, “L’Institution familial,” 8, pp. 40-43 and 40-44 and two chapters “Le Complexe, facteur concret de la pathologie mentale,” 8, pp. 40-45 and 40-48 and 40-16. It also contains “Les Complexes familiaux en pathologie,” vol. 8, pp. 42-48 and 42-16. This latter chapter was republished as Les Complexes familiaux dans la formation de l’individu: Essai d’analyse d’une function en psychanalyse (Paris: Navarin, 1984). Besides his thesis, this is Lacan’s most substantial pre-war text (Macey, pp. 215-216).

73 Cf. Henri Wallon, Les Origines du caractère (Macey, note # 14, p. 290).

74 “Henri Wallon,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Dec. 4, 2014.

75 Lacan, J. “Aggressivity in Psychoanalysis,” Ecrits, etc.

76 “Bronislaw Malinowski,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Jan. 26, 2015.

77 “Sir James Frazer,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Feb. 3, 2015.

78 “Émile Durkheim,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Jan. 30, 2015.

79 Politzer, G. (1928/1968). Critique des fondements de la psychologie. La psychologie et la psychanalyse, Paris: PUF, Quardrige.

80 “Sandor Ferenczi,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Nov. 25, 2014.

81 “Georges Politzer,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Nov. 16, 2014.

82 “Karl Marx,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Jan. 29, 2015.

83 “Vladimir Lenin,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Feb. 9, 2015.

84 Lacan, J. (1946). “Presentation of Psychical Causality.” (Trans.). (2006). Fink, B. et al. Écrits, New York: Norton, & Co.: Cf. pp. 150-151; Cf. also “A la mémoire de Ernest Jones, Écrits , p. 697 , “In Memory of Ernest Jones: On His Theory of Symbolism,” pp. 585-601.

85 Macey points out that Ernst Jones mentioned nothing of this incident in his own Life and Work, vol. 3, p. 223.

86 Lacan, J. “The Looking Glass Phase,” International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, vol. 18, 1937, p. 78; title only given.

87 Freud, S. (1920), “Beyond the Pleasure Principle”, SE, vol. XVIII, pp.3-68.

88 Lacan, J. (1953).“The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis.” (Trans.) (2006). Fink, B. et al. Écrits, Cf. pp. 237-268.

89 Freud, S. (1921) “Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego,” SE, vol. XVIII, pp. 67-143.

90 Freud, S. (1914) “On Narcissism: An Introduction,” SE, vol. XIV, pp. 69-102.

91 Ragland-Sullivan (1984), Jacques Lacan and the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis, Urbana and Chicago: The University of Illinois Press, cf. ch. 1.

92 “Ethology,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Feb. 19, 2015.

93 Ragland-Sullivan, E. “Seeking the Third Term: Desire, the Phallus, and the Materiality of Language.” (Eds.). (1989). Feldstein, R. and Roof, J. Feminism and Psychoanalysis. Ithica, NY: Cornell Univ. Press, pp. 40-64.

94 Leguil, C. Sartre Avec Lacan, Leguil shows what Lacan’s manque-à-être owes to Sartre’s manqué-d’être, p. 77.

95 Price, A. (2014), “In the Neighborhood of Joyce and Lacan,” LC Express, vol. 2, issue 14.

96 “Melanie Klein,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Jan. 6, 2015.

97 “Georg Hegel,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Feb. 5, 2015.

98 Ragland-Sullivan E. (1984), Jacques Lacan and the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis, Champaign-Urbana and Chicago, The University of Illinois Press, cf. p. 2.

99 Grosrichard, A. (1966). “Une expérience psychologique au XVIIIe siécle,” Cahiers pour l’analyse II.

100 Molyneux William”. (Internet) in Wikipedia.org/wiki

101 “William Molyneux,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Jan. 24, 2015.

102 Locke, J. (1690/2011) An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,(Ed.). Nidditch, P. H. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

103 “John Locke,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Feb. 8, 2015.

104 Lefort, R. in collaboration wih Lefort ,R. (1980). (Trans.) (1994). du Ry, M., Watson, L, and Rodriguez, L. (Forword). (1994). Grigg, R. Birth of the Other. Champaign-Urbana and Chicago: The University of Illinois Press: 278-288.

105 Lacan, J. (1979) “The Neurotic’s Individual Myth.” (Trans.).

Evans, M. N. Psychoanalytic Quarterly XLVIII, 3: 405-25. Cf. also (Ed. of a series) Miller, J.-A. Paradoxes de Lacan. “Le Mythe individuel du névrosé ou Poésie et vérié dans la névrose.”

106 “Exposé général de nos travaux scientifiques, “ in De La Psychose paranoïque…”(1932), pp. 399-406.