viernes, 31 de agosto de 2012

Can Psychoanalysis Speak About? The Cunning of Knowing

The Cunning of Knowing


        Throughout the majority of his work, Lacan purported to establish psychoanalysis not just as an autonomous discipline with respect to empirical psychology and the philosophy of mind, but as a clinical and theoretical practice that would reveal what underlies the very pretensions of those disciplines. A theory of desire, advancing towards the point of scientific formalization, promised to simultaneously explain and underdetermine conceptions of subjectivity, consciousness, knowledge, and being that preoccupied both philosophers and psychologists for centuries. The question about whether psychoanalysis is a science therefore can be said to supervene on whether it can position itself as a theory of the libidinal undergirding of philosophy and psychology. Whether psychoanalysis can indeed fulfill the promise it set itself with Lacan remains as much of an open question as if the one about its scientific status. This essay examines how psychoanalysis attempts to constitute itself as a theory.

           In what follows, I set myself two aims. First, following Alain Badiou, I seek to clarify the way in which Lacanian psychoanalysis appropriates and challenges philosophy, following the characterization of Lacan as an 'anti-philosopher'. Second, I suggest that an answer to this question reveals a fundamental quandary in the psychoanalytic edifice, ultimately rendering dubious both the status of psychoanalysis as a theory and as a clinical practice. More specifically, I argue that this predicament results from the attempt to elide the referential relation between mind and world, signifier and signified, that characterizes representational thought, in favor of the structuralist relation between signifiers that theorizes desire's inscription into the symbolic order, wherein philosophical propositions are negotiated as well. This alternative account is then coupled to a subtractive notion of the Real that refuses incorporation into the linguistic order. In short, Lacan’s subject of desire attempts to deflate the ontological-epistemological valences from his theory by supplanting the structuralist articulation between signifiers for the representationalist relation of reference between words and things.

 It is this re-articulation between the Real and the conceptual-linguistic order of the signifier that I seek to evince as problematic, in its purported demotion of representation and the philosophical task proper. I therefore propose to read Lacan's account of the unconscious as a bold, but nevertheless failed attempt to supersede empirical conceptions of the subject, epistemological accounts of knowledge and desire, and ontological conceptions of objective being. I claim that as a result psychoanalysis fails not only to secure its scientific status, but more generally its theoretical status as well.

 (a) The Oedipus Complex and the Imaginary - A Mythical Prelude  
         But in order to make our contention clear, a few preliminaries are well in order. First, we must understand precisely in what way Lacan's account of the symbolic and the Real purports to hijack traditional philosophical attempts to describe consciousness and knowledge, subjectivity and objectivity. This proximity to philosophical (and not just psychological) problems, remains a remarkable feature that sets Lacan apart from Freud's germinal psychoanalytic endeavor. For as Alain Badiou (2010) brings to attention, it is only in Lacan's work that we see psychoanalysis routinely reference, address and challenge the great Western philosophical tradition[1].

          And yet, Badiou also reminds us, this relation is not one of continuation or of the integration of psychoanalysis into the philosophical itinerary. Rather, Lacan deploys the term 'anti-philosophy' to characterize his position vis a vis philosophy, and wages against the latter, as every anti-philosopher attempts, hijacking from within the framework of questions and concepts that philosophy negotiates. In its Lacanian guise, the usurping of philosophical concepts is carried forth in the name of a theory of desire, which includes the philosophical desire for knowledge and truth, both about the subject and the world. Badiou writes that, "It is typical of anti-philosophy that its purpose is never to discuss any philosophical theses... since to do so it would have to share its norms (for instance, those of the true and the false). What the anti-philosopher wants to do is to situate the philosophical desire in its entirety in the register of the erroneous and the harmful." (WAP; Pg. 77; emphasis added). Only once we have understood the grounds for the psychoanalytic attempt to simultaneously reveal and challenge the feasibility and propriety of the philosophical desire as a desire will we be in a position to assess psychoanalysis' own "position of enunciation" with respect to philosophy. In order to do this, I propose first to briefly exegetically examine how Lacan carries forth his re-elaboration of the classical philosophical concepts outlined above, so as to articulate them anew in a theory of desire that would suffice to characterize not only philosophy, but yield a structural understanding of how discourse emerges and is entangled with desire in different ways, and according to general structural principles.

       In this regard, the point of departure is, nevertheless, already the Freudian one: to supplement an understanding of conscious psychic life, by way of an account of the unconscious dimension that animates subjective life. Crossbreeding the structuralist avowal of the primacy of the signifier with the Freudian account of the unconscious, Lacan proposes thus to articulate a theory of subjective desire around the singular idea that “the unconscious is structured like a language”[2]. This enigmatic formula is to be understood by way of Lacan's re-construction of the Freudian Oedipal myth, which leads to thinking of the subject as constitutively affected by loss, that is, seeing its being as lacking in relation to an ideal image. Lacan writes: "The domain of the Freudian experience is established within a very different register of relations. Desire is a relation of being to lack. This lack is the lack of being properly speaking. It isn’t the lack of this or that, but lack of being whereby the being exists. This lack is beyond anything which can represent it. It is only ever represented as a reflection on a veil. The libido, but now no longer as used theoretically as a quantitative quantity, is the name of what animates the deep-seated conflict at the heart of human action…."[3] The "lack of being" or the idea of being-as-lack condenses the  idea that the Real of the subject is never commensurate to the ideal identities that representation yields for conscious thought. Yet, as we shall see, this eventually leads Lacan to fully separate the ontological domain of being proper to philosophy and ontology, still engrossed in the symbolic commerce of the signifier, from the domain of the Real desire, which subtracts itself from the symbolic and which it falls to psychoanalysis to examine. Philosophy, according to Lacan, masks the vacuity of a Real subjectivity in the name of knowing, through the objective seal of the signifier and the idealities it projects.

But how does the Real of this voided subject, incommensurate to any substantive identity, relate to the signifying order, if not by way of gaining traction before being in representation? And similarly, how does the subject come to misapprehend or think itself in the guise of the signifier, as having a fixed identity? Finally, what kind of operation or place of enunciation does psychoanalytic discourse carry out in order to be able to speak about this formal subjectivity and the libidinal structure in which language becomes nested in; wherefrom does psychoanalysis issue its address? How does one produce a theory about the articulation between the symbolic commerce of the signifier along its imaginary-ideal envelopments, and the Real, without claiming we do so by representing the latter, as philosophers and psychologists purport to do? It is towards answering these questions that we are headed in what follows.

            The Lacanian answer to the first two questions come of a piece. First, for Lacan, the subject finds and identifies itself outside of itself, in the form of an object for thought or an ideal correlate, that it intends towards and seeks to become equal to. It is this ideal unity which simultaneously forms the basis of what the subject identifies itself as, but also of what positions it in the course of an impossible desire for 'reconstitution'. This decentered (mis)identification of the subject with an-other, indicates that the ideal identity of one's individuated identity emerges from a structural alienation of the subject from itself, a lack that makes subjectivity not fully coincide with the ideality thus projected. It is insofar as the subject is never equal to its projected identity that desire, as an infinite tendency, hovers asymptotically around an impossible object-cause (which Lacan famously calls objet petit a): " …. Desire, a function central to all human experience, is the desire for nothing nameable. And at the same time this desire lies at the origin of every variety of animation. If being were only what it is, there wouldn’t even be room to talk about it. Being comes into existence as an exact function of this lack. Being attains a sense of self in relation to being as a function of this lack, in the experience of desire."[4] The ideality of whatever the subject imagines and explicitly relates to is then nothing but the symptom or point in its psyche, wherein  the empty reality of the impossible object-cause fixes itself.

         But what is the relation between this underlying object-cause, or the impossible Real object of desire on the one hand, and the also impossible ideal-investments which make up the objective figurations of the subject, and which constitute its illusory identity as an individual? Lacan's will answer by explaining the intentionality of consciousness and explicit "knowing" towards illusory ideals in terms of the intentionality of unconscious desire, as oriented towards the impossible Real object. We could tentatively propose that Lacan's initial coup against philosophy and psychology consists in positing that the libidinal intentionality of the unconscious founds the cognitive intentionality of consciousness by way of alienation. But in order to distinguish the Real dimension object from the imagined semblances that the phantasy of the subject projects, Lacan is forced into both identifying former with its formal dimension (as opposed to 'substantive' or ontological dimension), and subtract it from the commerce of the signifier wherein discourse tethers itself symptomatically. We shall first focus on the latter question, which provides the answer to how psychoanalysis attempts to trump philosophy, only then to move towards setting up a controversy as made evident by considering the second question.
    Psychoanalysis must hold this prerogative as the study of desire, since it is desire that evinces itself as the motor for any kind of intentional comportment towards being or entities. Lacan's account seeks to reveal how the objectivation of intentional consciousness is underdetermined by the psychic split that follows from the Oedipal castration-complex, and in which the subject is wrested from the immanent symbiosis with maternal body and into the order of the transcendental Law or language, thereby intending towards the recovery of the non-alienation which is thought to be lost. Insofar as every knowledge intends towards an object, all epistemological or phenomenological investigation into consciousness and its contents are uniformly treated as iterations implicating the same structure of psychic splitting or alienation. And it is on the basis of this shared libidinal structure that Lacan seeks to frame psychoanalysis as a theory that accesses the libidinal kernel behind philosophy and psychology.

        The core of the account involves tracing how the specular images that the subject builds an identity from support desire by being correlated to "the signifying chain" the symbolic or language, i.e. how the subject enters the "defiles through the signifier" within which the subject will circulate around the (impossible) object of desire: "There are in the unconscious signifying chains which subsist as such, and which from there structure, act on the organism, influence what appears from the outside as a symptom, and this is the whole basis of analytic experience.[5]"  Following Zizek, we can call the splitting of the subject symbolic castration, to describe how the division and articulation between the subject and its imaginary identifications is relative to how the subject becomes enjoined and invested from an impersonal cultural-linguistic order. Or, to quote Zizek, symbolic castration obtains where the " between what I really am' and the symbolic mask that makes the subject into something. The subject is thus castrated from the 'real' "I" by projecting something else."[6] (Zizek, HRL, Pg. 34)

        The basic idea is that who the subject thinks it is or should be, its placing, so to speak, is determined on the basis of a language that he acquires by external conditioning, and never immediately or transparently as phenomenologists surmise. For Lacan, the self-alienation of the subject founds the notion of an ontologically consistent individual, identical to itself, thereby veiling the (unbridgeable) gap between its immediate (non)-being (or the void of its formal subjectivity) and its imaginary-symbolic figurations (which yield 'empirical' content).  Because self-relation and self-constitution is paradoxically grounded in this moment of self-alienation, it is both the moment of narcissism and that of absolute estrangement: "One can sense, one can pick up that narcissism is involved somewhere, and that this narcissism is involved at this moment of the Oedipus complex." (S6, L6, pp. 92)

        The "great outdoors" coveted by the philosophers turns out on this account to be a function of a subject that by virtue of desiring is split between the object it identifies itself with, and the formal void which subtracts itself from every such identification. Lacan's contentions against philosophy and psychology converge here, radicalizing the Kantian separation between the transcendental and empirical subject, that Zizek characterizes as a decisive mark of the modern breakthrough[7]. Lacan's appropriation of this split, however, defuses any attempts to reify the transcendence of the subject in terms of a consciousness furnished with a priori cognitive structures to individuate its contents[8].

          This entails that the unity and emergence of what Freud called the "perception-consciousness system" that characterizes thinking beings is to be explained by placing it in contrast to a notion of subjectivity that is recalcitrant with that of the ego qua decentered other. Consciousness is of the order of the ego, since it thinks that it is the imaginary projection of itself outside of itself that does the thinking, i.e. it identifies itself with what it thinks. But Lacan's point is precisely that the desiring subject is never such identical to what in intends towards as its objective pole, but precisely the contrary, and against Descartes, it thinks where it is not. This marks accordingly the foreclosure of all attempts to think of the subject of the unconscious as topic for "empirical" investigation. Desire entails, in short, a Gestalt, conditioning the entire field of the visible world; the individuated world of things and persons actually presupposes the structure of the subject of desire. As a result, the imaginary that furnishes the disclosure or revelation of being to man, the ideal investments, so dear to the philosopher, are suddenly made to appear as the ploy of desire's interminable ruse for the subject's self-reconstitution.

            Alienation therefore effectuates a commensuration between the images projected from the perspective of the subject's alienation, and the 'visible world' of things. It serves simultaneously as the germinal point of entry for both the epistemological myth of a fully consistent subject or self, as well as for the ontological myth of a fully consistent object or other; that is, for both philosophy and empirical (ego) psychology.  In other words, the subject-object dichotomy, from which both philosophy and psychology depart, begins in the infant's (mis)identification and de-centering: the idea that one's being lacks any unified substantiality or 'selfhood' (the pure membra disjecta) emerges as a result of the identification with a subsistent image.  It is my primary identification with an image that locates a gap between the reality of the subject as the agent of thought and as an object of thought. This seems to be the meaning behind the cryptic statement from Lacan that the ego, in its narcissistic stupor, constitutes "...a vital dehiscence that is constitutive of man" (E, pp. 4) But if the philosophical quest for knowledge and consciousness are unknowingly submitted to the rule of desire, then it what sense does psychoanalysis escape this fate? How does psychoanalysis prevent itself from trying to know in accordance to its own figurations, to the own reified individuality of the analyst, to occupy the position of being an observer of discourse? Indeed, is there room to speak of knowledge of desire, once we have demoted the idea that consciousness apprehends in representational terms? It is at this juncture that Lacan must reconstruct the traditional philosophical relation of representational congruence between words and things for the structuralist flattening relations that hold between signifiers in 'chains'.

          Thus, the next step, for us, is to explain how the imaginary functions of the ideal ego are at the same time mediated by the cultural order of language, the "(big) Other", which signals that it constitutes a decentered place of identification, like the other of the imaginary, but also an impersonal field constituted by the community into which one is inserted[9]. By tethering the subject of the unconscious to the symbolic Lacan means to say that language is in a sense a transcendent authority that ordains and issues the injunctions before which desire sets itself. Desire is the desire of the Other precisely insofar as it is mediated by an order or Law which pre-exists and determines its organization[10]. Or, put differently, one never desires what one sees or imagines immediately, but only through particular prescriptions and normative injunctions issued from the impersonal order of language. Chiesa explains that "...the specular, alienating identification of the subject with the imaginary other necessarily presupposes an earlier, original - and perpetual- alienation in the Other qua language." (Chiesa, 2009, pp. 25)

         In order to understand the (anti)-philosophical significance of this move, consider the following classical statement from Pufendorf, issued at the beginning of the Enlightenment, on the institution of norms by the rational adherence of individual agents: "[W]hen a man of his own accord consents to the rule of another, he acknowledges by his own act that he must follow what he himself has decided."[11] The same idea is later found in Kant, for whom it is the rational capacity for individuals to bind themselves to linguistically articulated norms that simultaneously subject them to authority and assessment, but also are the condition for their freedom and choice. Rationality endows the subject the capacity for freedom insofar as it reckons its power for adhering to the prescriptions issued as linguistic norms or laws. Ye who is it that binds itself freely, in advance of all prescriptions?

           Lacan's point is that in order to 'freely' bind oneself to a norm one must, already be bound by the Other, and that therefore, strictly speaking, there is no 'free' binding. For an individual to recognize itself as bound to a norm he/she must be already in possession of an inherited language  in terms of which he/she formulates his/her identity. This individual who presumably binds itself freely is then, to use an Althusserian expression, always already interpellated by the big Other, rather than the condition for the institution of the big Other. One always chooses that which has already been chosen; it is always from within language that one formulates the fantasy of a 'free' binding, or of the individuality required thereof. It is not a conscious self-recognition which allows one to bind oneself to linguistic norms; one must be already implicitly and unconsciously bound to norms in order to desire and think of a possible self-recognition. This individual who 'recognizes itself as free to bind itself' is thereby supplanted, by Lacan, for a subject who cannot but fail to recognize itself in the identity that is prescribed to him from the big Other. There is no meta-language, no position of an observer: "The subject is nothing other than what slides in a chain of signifiers, whether he knows which signifier he is the effect of or not. That effect- the subject – is the intermediary effect between what characterizes a signifier and another signifier, namely, the fact that each of them, each of them is an element. "[12]

       This leads us to question, then, about what possible role could psychoanalysis occupy within the 'sliding chain of signification', as it mediates the clinical intervention of the analyst by way of a corpus of theoretical claims that describe and prescribe the very subject matter for psychoanalysis? Indeed, what is the ethics of this peculiar discursive enterprise that warns against the temptation to position oneself as an external observer before the parade of signifiers? Who is, after all, the subject of psychoanalysis, and from what position does it issue its address? This question becomes pressing the more we realize that the very clinical practice psychoanalysis enacts is itself mediated by the series of principles, statements and formulas that comprise the 'theory' of psychoanalysis, and without which its practice in the clinical setting would be impossible. How does the 'binding' to these principles take place' in accordance to what rule, if not that prescribed by the big Other?  In order to see how this problem becomes particularly acute we must see how the Lacanian conception of a voided subjectivity in tandem with his adherence to a immanent structuralism within the order of the signifier leads to the problematic assessment of psychoanalytic claims, and finally to a quandary concerning its position of address. This becomes evident once we realize Lacan's liquidation of representation is the very condition for his claim that there is no meta-language. Let us examine the details involved in Lacan's account.

         As we have seen, the logical priority of the symbolic entails both that the self-identification of the subject with the imago occurs as the subject is inserted into language, and that the identification of others as others (both individuals and objects, persons and things) is conditioned by the linguistic order of the signifier, i.e. individuation is a function of language, and this articulates both the epistemic-psychological dimensions of self-understanding, as well as the ontological dimensions of understanding others and the world[13].  This forms a necessary corrective the myths of knowledge and thinking that located desire at the level of explicit consciousness, since for them "... it seemed that consciousness was inherent to what the subject had to say qua signification" (SV, pp. 105).

          Redoubling the earlier distinction between individual ego and subject, at the level of the symbolic we can map the distinction between the subject of the statement and the subject of enunciation. The former is expressly formulated in speech or writing, individuated by the inclusion into the symbolic order and grammatically objectivated within the sequences of signifiers and sentences that structure discourse. The subject of the enunciation, on the other hand,  is the slippery index for the subject of the unconscious, which remains forever subtracted and incomplete from desire’s imaginary-symbolic operations, and from the statement. Lacan reverses Descartes dictum accordingly: "I think where I am not, therefore I am where I do not think" (Lacan 1977: 166).

         However, the most important point we must underline here is that the subject of enunciation does not stand to the subject of the statement as signified stands to signifier, or represented to representing. Lacan is adamant to insist in that the individuating function of the big Other is not merely representationalist in the sense that it 'tracks down things' through words or signs; it refuses to be ontologised or positivized. This constitutes the kernel of Lacan's flattening of the Saussurian relation of signification as holding between signs and things, to one where signification obtains between signifiers exclusively: "The signifier doesn't just provide an envelope, a receptacle for signification. It polarizes it, it structures it, and brings it into existence." (SIII, pp. 224), and "...the sign does not take its value with respect to a third thing that it represents, but it takes on its value with respect to another signifier which it is not." (Ibid; pp. 7) Or yet again: "The signifier is a sign that doesn't refer to any object... It is a sign which refers to another sign, which is as such structured to signify the absence of another sign, in other words, to be opposed to it in a couple." (SXI, pp. 167)

         What I would like to suggest is that it is not only the subject of the unconscious which becomes delivered from the empirical pretences of ego-psychology or transcendental philosophy into the order of language, but also the intended objects of consciousness which become delivered from the empirical pretences of metaphysicians and ontologists to the delirium of the signifier. As a result, the unconscious is crucially neither the subject, nor an object; it has no determinate ontological or epistemic status: "...what still becomes apparent to anyone in analysis who spends some time observing what truly belongs to the order of the unconscious, is that it is neither being, nor non-being, but the unrealized." (SXI, pp 30)

    As a result, the disjunction between psychoanalysis and philosophy is total since "the gap of the unconscious seems to be pre-ontological... it does not lend itself to ontology" (Ibid. 29) The psychoanalytic relation to the non-ontologizable  reality of the unconscious is not the search for a pre-linguistic positive content hidden behind the signifying chain, which would constitute the ‘real subject’ after sublating and shedding off its feeble illusions[14]. Whereas the subject of knowledge is an illusion, the subject of the unconscious is not merely a myth: "the subject [of knowledge] correlative to the object, the subject around whom turns the eternal question of idealism, and who is himself an ideal subject...he is only supposed." (S6, L2, pp. 18). It is not the ideal subject that underlies the signifier, but the pure formal placement of signifiers that comprises the subject: " The subject is nothing other than what slides in a chain of signifiers, whether he knows which signifier he is the effect of or not".[15] As a result, both subject and object are delivered to a structure of signification, void of any ontological status, and to relations between signifiers, void of epistemological status.

              And yet, does this leave it open that something like being-as-such may nonetheless subsist in the order of consciousness, along its much vaunted intentionality? For if indeed, as Lacan puts it, "the Freudian world isn't a world of things, it isn't a world of being, it is a world of desire as such", then couldn't the relation of knowing in which things, and not just words, come into mind, be said to subsist at some level? (S2, pp. 222) Yet insofar as the relation between words and things is flattened to the relation between signifiers, ontology could only be said to subsist trivially at the price of subordinating it to the structure of desire. This weakens the ontological valence of 'beings' or 'being' to merely ideal poles for the phantasies of philosophers, which does not so much deny ontology as much as it suspends its purported prerogative when securing our access to the "world of being", understood as that of a mind independent reality. It thereby flattens the philosophical pretence of gaining traction before the world to the uniform register of an unconscious desire which, like every other, is supported in nothing else than in the signifying chain and its metonymic inscriptions. As Alain Badiou puts it: "An important consequence of this situation is, in this instance, the fact that the void is not  presupposed in signification from the perspective of its universality.  It is presupposed under signification,  at the back of signification, as the slipping, the sliding, the streaming and the channel of  our being, in the unpresented that doubles the signifying chain" (Badiou, Umbra, Pg. 28)

              This answer seems to preemptively defang ontology from its capacity to prey on the world, after which its peculiarity becomes a matter of organization at the level of signifier. In this regard, Badiou's reading of Lacan as an anti-philosopher stresses how, once demoted to one more discursive practice among others, psychoanalysis would carry out "a deposing of the category of philosophy to constitute itself as theory... philosophy is an act, of which the fabulations about 'truth' are the clothing, the propaganda, the lies." (Badiou, 2010, pp 75) I will later suggest why it is not clear, however, that psychoanalysis can legitimize itself as a theory without reactivating the kinds of distinctions it takes to be proper of philosophico-scientific discourse, and will proceed to ask what consequences follow for the formal coherence of psychoanalysis, as well as for its purported content. That is to say, we shall ask how psychoanalysis relates to its subject matter.

        Since there is no substantive content proper to the voided, barred subject and no statement which predicates its 'proper being', Lacan consistently claims that there is no Other of the Other: that there is no subject to be captured ‘outside’ of the Otherness of language or, what amounts to the same, that “…there is no metalanguage.” (E, 688) Put differently, one never "reaches out" outside of language, either directly onto an other subject, or, what amounts to the same, to being as an object, since "...what characterizes the demand is not just that it is a relationship of a subject to another subject [or between a subject and an object], it is that this relationship is made through the mediation of language, through the mediation of a system of signifiers." (SVI, L3, pp. 27) The movement of the Real occurs by and through the order of the signifier, not as a foreign transcendence. The primitive individuation of the imaginary realm, which as we saw constitutes the entire field of the visible, traverses the order of the signifier constituting the vain phantasy to regain the impossible object which would endow its void with an integral consistency.

  (c) The Cunning of Being or the Being of Cunning?
     If the subject of the reality unconscious is indeed structured like a language, and desire is nothing but that which slides in the articulation between signifiers, then the much vaunted Freudian 'world of desire' is an idealized world populated by phantasms; not a world as much as the height of narcissistic alienation, the nightmare which is nothing but a dream come true. At this point we should ask again: does this mean that even if the relation of knowing between words and things does not hold good for the structure of the unconscious, it might nevertheless be thinkable within the realm of consciousness?

           In this stronger formulation, I believe that the question must be answered to in the negative. For it is clear that the "Freudian world" isn't just another world which, in dualist metaphysical spirits, would neatly leave the innocence of the world of knowing to its own operations, untouched. Indeed, Lacan is adamant to show not only that the world of desire is not the world of things, but that the unconscious conditions the operations of consciousness and seals its every pretence within the economy of desire: "Relations between human beings are really established before one gets to the domain of consciousness. It is desire which achieves the primitive structuration of the human world, desire as unconscious." (S2, pp. 224) More dramatically still, it's precisely desire's undermining of consciousness that makes the explicit conscious claims to the universality of being subordinate to the unconscious singularity of the symptom, or as Lacan reminds us: "...don't forget that consciousness isn't universal." (Ibid). If this is so, then the ontological independence of the 'realm of things' could at best be an epiphenomenal illusion, a veil under which the iterations of desire and the symptom displace themselves in the order of the signifier.

 In fact, Lacan explicitly subordinates the object of knowledge to the object of desire, and claims that in the vector leading from the barred subject to its decentered other, the small impossible object of desire, one finds the (illusion) of knowledge: "$ [stands] in the presence of o and which we call the phantasy, which  in the psychic economy represents something that you know." (Ibid, pp 214). This is why it is, paradoxically, desire that is the metonymy of being in the subject, insofar as it is through the self-alienating insertion into the impersonal Other of language that the subject releases its intentionality, and not from the realm of "Being" that offers itself 'as a gift' to immediate experience. What philosophers reify as knowledge of being is in truth the knowledge of the Other, insofar as it is attributed to and assumed by the subject as individuated in the impersonal symbolic order: ""What is it that knows?" Do we realize that it is the Other?... as a locus in which the signifier is posited, as without which nothing indicates to us that there is a dimension of truth anywhere, a di-mension, the residence of what is said, of this said whose knowledge posits the Other as locus." (SXX, pp. 96)

          The philosophical questioning that aims at knowledge is thus to be understood as the subject's depositing of his speech within the punctuation of the symbolic, rather than by corresponding to the Real. The power of the question brings us closer not to a palpitating realm behind the order of the signifier, but  only to the demand issued from within this order; thought must subordinate its positivity to it, and find itself always-already lost in it. For the subject, "what he is questioning himself about is far from being the response, it is the questioning. It is effectively 'What is this signifier of the Other in me?" (S1, L9, pp. 132). By fixating itself into the order of the signifier, ruminating in search for the impossible lost object, the quest for self proves, ironically, an inversion of the philosophical genealogy of thought, a predecessor of the quest for being as such: "... the bar is the hidden signifier, the one that the Other does not have at its disposition, and which is precisely the one which concerns you: it is the same one that makes you enter the game in so far as you, poor simpletons, since you were born, were caught up in this sacred logos business." (Ibid; L16, pp. 207). And indeed it is telling that the quest for being should be of no concern for the psychoanalyst, but that he rather makes of desire that which deserves to be called "the essence of man", signaling its logical, if not chronological, priority (S6, L1, pp 4)[16].

      However, this predicament forces psychoanalysis into a quandary. For if the subject of knowledge is indeed subordinate to the unconscious, and if the relation between signifier and signified is flattened to the chains in the former, how are we to understand what for Lacan, indeed for psychoanalysis, must be a theory of desire? That is, how can Lacanian psychoanalysis, in erecting its formidable conceptual structure, proclaim to give a structured theory and not just constitute an improvised practice, i.e. how is it to become a discourse in which the structural features of desire are outlined and articulated? For if there is no relation between words and things, then what relation do the theoretical statements formulated in psychoanalysis purportedly bear to its presumed subject matter? What is the role of the peculiar signifier "desire" in the economy of psychoanalysis, if there is, strictly speaking, nothing 'out there' to be spoken of, no 'thing' populating the world which can escape the latency of the phantasy?  And similarly for 'unconscious', 'signifier', "subject", the entire roster of concepts that psychoanalysis deploys continuously, when claiming to explain the generality of desire as a structure, and not just as manifesting one more iteration of desire as a symptom, like every other.

          Preemptively, one might answer that indeed because psychoanalysis elides the priority of the referential relation it is never trying to 'reach out' onto things or to give an ontology, peeking behind the words, but is rather consigned to survey the latent content in which the signifying chains become deployed and used. Thereby, the analyst is not a knower, claiming to access the 'things behind the appearances', since that would performatively contradict the purported demotion of epistemology/psychology and philosophy by reifying the subject supposed to know into a kernel for empirical investigation. Rather, the analyst is concerned with the reality of appearances only, with how they find their place within the structure of signification as such.

         But this is simply to inflect the issue into the order of language. For if psychoanalysis is not just one more phantasy caught around its impossible object, then this is because what Lacan is effectively doing is not simply writing/speaking to us qua analysands, addressing the particularity of our (paradoxically) universal symptom. Rather, he is outlining the general structure of desire. In other words, the statements issued by psychoanalysis allegedly pertain not just to one more discourse in the same footing before desire as all others, but must rather gain traction before desire as such. If not, then the artifice of psychoanalytic claims and formalizations would do nothing but make of the signifier "desire" its very own symbolic fiction, another specular symptom fixing the localization of an impossible object, in an attempt to wage against the organization of the purported hegemony of philosophers and psychologists. Yet Lacan repeatedly insists on both the preponderance of a Real that is radically recalcitrant to any symbolization on the one hand, and which is also the subject of psychoanalsysis itself. How are we to understand the relation between the claims of psychoanalysis and the Real that it comports itself towards? From where can psychoanalysis issue an address about the Real without reifying an epistemological relation between knower and known, which would depend on an ontologized conception of subjectivity?

           First, it is clear that the position of enunciation that corresponds to the analyst's theoretical statements and formalizations cannot be rendered equivalent to the position he/she occupies as an analyst in the clinical setting[17]. But wherein is this theoretical meta-discourse to be located then? How does it escape the impersonal pretences of the University discourse, or the hegemonic address of the Master discourse? How does it function in abstraction from the commerce of the symbol?

        These questions are pressing, since the theoretical claims of psychoanalysis function as the transcendental condition for the division between the different formalizations of discursive positions, and so also for the delineation of the analyst's role apropos the other three positional registers. It seems to be, in this sense, functioning as a kind of exception to the discursive hegemony of signifiers circling around the object-cause with respect to the place of the signifier. But this is precisely the kind of meta-linguistic position that Lacan seemingly wants to avoid at all costs, and it is not clear on which methodological grounds one could purport to occupy such an exceptional position while denying the valence of transcendence which conditions epistemological investigation. The transcendental regulation by the theoretical, however, seems function as the condition for the displacement of philosophy, by assuming the epistemic rights before desire as a structure, and against being and ontology. Thus, the theorerical claims of psychoanalysis condition both the typology of subjective positions fro outside, as well as the variegated semantic valences that give meaning to its own claims about the Real.

         I would suggest that, if as Badiou insists, Lacan is an anti-philosopher, it is insofar as in waging war against the ontological phantasy, he nevertheless remains within its confines; where the position of enunciation of the University and the claim to objective knowledge, that is, the "cohort of being", is typified within psychoanalytic theoretical statements themselves. It is crucial to note that this theoretical operation is not only external to the clinical practice of the discourse of the analyst, but also that it conditions the separation of the analyst's discourse from the rest of discourse. For what could the deliberate intent to subvert the 'dominating discourse' that symptomatically evinces an instance of phantasy in analysis mean for someone who is addressing the psychoanalytic community itself? From which position of enunciation could the theoretical statements of psychoanalysis be issued from, if it is neither a form of the presumed neutrality of objective knowledge proper to University discourse, but neither an instance for the discourse of the analyst? What could psychoanalysis claim to be doing if, as Lacan has repeatedly insisted, there is no meta-language, and if "there is no Other of the Other? " (Ibid; L16, pp. 206).  Yet if knowledge of desire can be obtained or localized from the vantage point of psychoanalytic theory, there seems nothing to keep the philosopher from claiming that what Lacan is doing is effectively ontologizing desire and thus the subject of the unconscious as the libidinal variant of the realm of appearances, and that therefore Lacan has merely supplanted philosophy and psychology with its own prescriptive ideational framework, apt for empirical investigation, i.e. the realm of the unconscious that is "structured like a language"[18].

         Indeed, Lacan himself seems to have been aware of this crucial paradox within his theoretical register from very early on. In what I take to be a decisive statement, Lacan claims with regards to the conceptual status of the psychoanalytic theoretical endeavor: "There is a fundamental ambiguity in the use we make of the word 'desire'. Sometimes we objectify it- and we have to do so, if only to talk about it. On the contrary sometimes we locate it as the primitive term, in relation to any objectification." (S2, pp. 225) This ambiguity is not trivial whatsoever. For if desire must be objectified in order to be spoken about, in what sense is it any different than any of the other terms that philosophers or scientists purportedly use to describe phenomena of all kinds, desire included? How are we to understand the claim that desire is simultaneously of the order of signifier and that which conditions any objectification whatsoever? How to address the Real of the libidinal subject and its Real of the object if, like Zizek insists, "There is no ontology of the Real: the very field of ontology, of the positive order of Being the Real are mutually exclusive: The Real is the immanent blockage or impediment of the order of being, what makes the order of Being inconsistent..." (LTN; Pg. 958).

         This problem is particularly acute: Lacan insists that desire cannot be ontologised. But then what is it that psychoanalytic theory is doing when they 'objectify' desire "if only to speak of it"? How could such an act constitute anything but the making of an ontological valence? Despite his precautions, by flattening the symbolically enveloped epistemological relation between knowing individual and known object into the relation between the Real of the unconscious subject and the impossible object, Lacan seems to be effectively ontologizing the relation between the desire and its object-cause. The deflection of the transcendental relation between words and things at the level of the symbolic is coupled to a reification of the relation between the desiring subject and desired object, at the point where the Reality of both becomes indiscernible.  The Real of desire appears thereby as the ontologization of the relation between the Real subject and the Real object, as the distinction between them becomes a nullity.

        Yet to claim that desire is not just one more signifier in the commerce of the symbolic, but rather the enabling condition for signification and objectivation, is once again to reactivate the relation between signifier and signified, only this time in terms of desire as Real precondition for objects understood as linguistically individuated posits.  In other words, although Lacan has done away with the transcendental relation of reference at the level of the symbolic, he must still covertly depend on the connection between the Real of desire as condition of possibility for the symbolic individuation of the signifier. This is to covertly ontologise desire as an Aristotelian 'first mover', as the 'ground of being', as Ineffable Being stripped even of the honor of the name. And since symbolic objectification occurs on condition of the Real unobjectifiable cause, it follows that even the theory of desire, that psychoanalysis purports to advance, is conditioned on separation between the claims and formulas about desire, and desire itself.  In other words, if Lacan claims that the objectification of desire relates to a pre-objectified desire, then he has reactivated the referential relation between signifier and signified, sign and referent, in the dichotomy between objectual desire-for-us and unobjectifiable desire-in-itself. This surrenders Lacan to a bizarre, libidinal paradox of Kantianism. But to do that he must once again rehabilitate not just the ontological valence of desire as such, but the epistemological valence of the relation between desire's objectification in language and the depths of the desire that it bridges us to in the act of theorizing it, that is, in the making of claims and formulas that express it or which are about it. It is impossible to understand Lacan's claim that desire is a 'precondition' for its objectification unless one reenacts this philosophical cunning of the original psychoanalytic coup against philosophy and science.

           Alternatively, Lacan can insist that the objectification in question needs of no such relation, and consistently maintain that the signifier "desire" is, like every other, merely in relation to other signifiers, but never aiming towards anything like an ontologically generative 'in-itself'. Thus the terms of psychoanalysis would escape the faith of standing as signifiers for signifieds, and so avoid tacitly playing the role of a 'meta-language'. Indeed, this is what at some point Lacan himself seems to want to claim when he says that "Desire emerges just as it becomes embodied in speech, it emerges with symbolism." (SII, pp. 234). In this reading, the original ambiguity is resolved in favor of a pure objectification of something which, strictly speaking, does not preexist the act of objectification itself.

          Nevertheless, this raises the question about how there could ever be a theory of desire (indeed of anything) having done away with the Real. Without distinguishing how its theoretical statements fulfill a descriptive role without becoming one more instance of the University discourse, but neither falling into the other three forms of discourse, this route ultimately undermines the theoretical status of psychoanalysis. The purported connection to the phenomenon of desire, however enveloped by the signifier, becomes in principle proscribed, and psychoanalysis ends up depriving itself of any authority when describing the subordination of knowledge to desire in theoretical terms. For there could be no categorical distinction between those signifiers that will play the role of "mere signifiers" in their discursive operation according to the four forms, and those of psychoanalytic theory which may unravel their conditions of possibility, lest we return to the philosophical vocation of distinguishing empirical terms from transcendental terms which condition the former, or occupy once again the position of the University discourse by prescribing a kind of knowledge. In the light of such exigency, psychoanalysis must accept that its attempt to objectify desire, if only to speak of it is finally led by the proto-philosophical urgency to know, despite its protestations to the contrary.

          More dramatically, if psychoanalysis cannot validate itself as a theory, neither can the structure of desire it purportedly formalizes and describes as being intractable to knowledge be used to undermine itself in relation to other theories and discourses in general. In other words, psychoanalysis couldn't even surrender its rights to desire without already having 'spoken that which can't be spoken', that is, without already assuming a theoretical position claiming to know of desire as that which slides through everywhere but is nowhere. The result is a fundamental paradox whereby psychoanalysis ceases to be a theory because the exigencies of desire undermine it, and where desire ceases to be the structural phenomenon psychoanalysis describes because the latter is not a theory[19].  Needless to say, this paradox threatens to jeopardize even the clinical practice of psychoanalysis, insofar as once the theoretical valence of its claims and principles have been rendered dubious, so are the practices articulated and prescribed on the basis of those claims and principles suddenly in a precarious position.

          Two scenarios appear possible at his point, as the necessary correctives to psychoanalytic theory. Yet, as we shall see, that the ambiguity of desire as a term and as a condition is ultimately irresolvable. Lacan claimed to have superseded the pretences of philosophy but in turn seems to be forced into the choice between a variant of transcendental idealism and sophistry. The former scenario has itself two possibilities: a) a kind of negative-theological epistemic understanding of the foreclosure of Real desire as that which resists objectification and meaning, and b) a variety of textual idealism where desire is immanent to the signifier, while admitting of a typology of signifiers. Let us assess each of these .       

            First, a possible answer is to leave it open that psychoanalysis may gain traction with respect to Real desire, via the objectification of the signifier. That is, the signifier might grant access to desire as an unknowable, unobjectifiable, but nevertheless thinkable condition of possibility for signification (a variety of 'weak correlationism'[20]). Under this light, Lacan's account of desire as Real precondition begins to startlingly resemble the minimal realism of Heidegger, for whom the opaqueness of the Earth qua unobjectifiable being stands as necessarily refractory to the variegated structure of Worldhood, with its populating entities and individuations at the ontic level. Real desire would be the proto-ontological motor conditioning, ironically, the merely ontic register of being and the symbolic investment of symptoms. The early Lacan seems to indicate this much when he claims in a rather cryptic passage: "Desire... is the desire for nothing namable... this desire lies at the origin of every variety of animation. If being were only what it is there wouldn't be room to talk about it. Being comes into existence as an exact function of this lack." (SII, pp 223). This is the direction in which the later Lacan, through his idea of the Real as that which resists symbolization, seems to have succumbed, as we shall see below[21].

          Alternatively, in this first re-philosophizing scenario, the structure of desire remains epistemically accessible without residue, but confined to the signifying order, in which case Lacan is involved in a bizarre structuralist parody of textual idealism. Yet as we surmised above, this cannot be done, strictly speaking, without a qualitative distinction that vitiates the structural uniformity of the signifier. In other words, it requires a qualitative distinction within the order of the signifier, a typology that sets those signs which map the structure of desire from those which are merely within the libidinal commerce of phantasy, and so those which are theorized by the former in expressing their conditions of possibility. Both options in this scenario rehabilitate the philosophical spooks that Lacan took to have demoted, at the price of reactivating the possibility of a special kind of reference or relation between signifiers, apart from the articulation of the four discourses, and with it one must accept the neutral possibility of attaining the status of a 'meta-language' to save psychoanalytic theory from itself.

        The second alternative, foreclosing the explanatory purchase on desire, and leaving the exteriority of Real desire unthinkable, shuns the status of psychoanalysis as a theory and surrenders it to a sophistic endeavor marking its internal contradiction (a variety of strong correlationism). This is the tragedy that we surmised above, when showing that psychoanalysis couldn't even surrender its rights to knowledge if it fully relinquishes its epistemic vocation, and the possibility of distinguishing between Real desire and its theorization. For in this scenario, the Lacanian edifice ends up undermining itself, rendering the conceptual endeavor it pursues into utter incoherence, the knowledge of desire undermining its theorization, and the theorization of desire undermining the possibility of knowledge of it[22].

         As we suggested above, however, Lacan seems to have progressively realized that he couldn't do without explaining how a theory of Real desire relies on such a conceptual envelopment, as evinced in a particularly telling passage: "[Our] conception of the concept implies that the concept is always established in an approach that is not unrelated to that which is imposed on us, as a form, by infinitesimal calculus. Indeed, if the concept is modeled on an approach to the reality that the concept has been created to apprehend, it is only by a leap a passage to the limit, that it manages to realize itself. We are then required to say in what respect- under what form of finite quantity, I would say- the conceptual elaboration known as the unconscious may be carried out." (SXI: pp. 19) The metaphor is that of an asymptotic approach to the Real via the matheme, forever removed from the concept's touch.

            Yet at this point, signaling both the beginning of a mathematical obsession and that of a poetic escape, Lacan begins to opt for the first horn of the dilemma and to surrender psychoanalysis to what appears under all lights to be a re-philosophizing of its fundamental task, along with the valence of knowing. A passion for the purity of formalization and the inscription, which begins sliding down to the notion that the matheme is closest to the Real. The matheme becomes the receptacle of a pure transmission, insofar as formalization subtracts writing from its conceptual envelopment, prizing it free from any semblance of meaning or intention. This is why, for Lacan, "The mathematical formalization of signifierness runs counter to meaning." (SXX, pp. 93)

The matheme is said to be closest to the Real insofar as it formalizes while symbolizing nothing: it has a Real status insofar as it cannot be positivized in a representation. The Real subtracts itself from all positive content and all imaginary-symbolic envelopments; it is delivered only to the pure act of transmission, the transference of the analyst's intervention which opens the promise for the traversal of the phantasy. Just like the subject, there can be thus no theoretical knowledge of the Real: the latter cannot be totalized or unified by a predicate, or thought of consistently through definable properties. Therefore, it cannot be qualitatively determined so as to be tractable conceptually: "If there is a notion of the real, it is extremely complex and, because of this, incomprehensible, it cannot be comprehended in a way that would make an All out of it."[23] What formalization enables, Lacan wants to say, is not a representation of desire and so of a knowledge about the Real, but rather an experience or 'act' with respect the Real, a possibility for transference in analysis: "Truth cannot convince, knowledge becomes act.[24]" (Ibid; Pg. 104)   

          And yet, as we saw, as much as the matheme itself remains recalcitrant to the symbolic, it is just as true that Lacan cannot dispense of the task of deploying the matheme to formalize psychoanalytic concepts and structures. Lacan himself says that the formalization is the formalization of the signifier: of whatever is articulated through the signifier, psychoanalytic claims included. But if mathematics can operate to formalize psychoanalysis, this is because formalization operates over the concepts and claims that psychoanalysis deploys. But in order for psychoanalytic claims and concepts to be any more apt for the formalization which 'touches the Real' of desire, then the claims of psychoanalysis must be in some respect different than all others; or else the formalization would appear arbitrarily dependant on a discursive register. Yet the on what methodological grounds could we assess whether psychoanalytic enjoy this priority, if not epistemological or semantic?

         At this juncture, the claim that the matheme resists translation is merely to refuse to explain how it is that it functions as a formalization adequate to the statements of psychoanalysis, and which concern the Real as much as the symbolic or the imaginary. The matheme is said not to obey the norms of knowledge or enter into the rule of the symbolic, but at the same time is coordinated with a series of theoretical interpretations, granting it rights before the Real. But what grounds this proximity between the matheme and the Real, as regulated by psychoanalytic concepts? Without explaining this connection, psychoanalysis fails to adequately account for the relation between the practice of formalization and the theoretical statements which provide the semantic interpretation for the mathematical formulas. For the psychoanalyst needs not only the matheme which is recalcitrant to meaning, but a series of theoretical claims explaining how the matheme formalizes certain structures. Without this connection, any mathematical inscription cannot count as the formalization of anything, is truly 'meaningless', and there would be nothing to distinguish pure mathematical forms from Real psychic structures[25]. This would render psychoanalysis complicit with a kind of Pythagorean upsurge. Just like unobjectifiable desire was 'objectified' in theory only to speak of it, the Real non-translatability of the matheme is translated by psychoanalytic theory since, without such a theorization, the matheme could not stand for the formalization of anything whatsoever. The interesting paradox is therefore that although in order for the matheme to be non-translatable to any discursive register that operates under the symbolic it must, paradoxically, be able to be translated into the conceptual register of psychoanalysis, for the latter provides the interpretation without which, the abstract terms would fail to account for anything.

         What this evinces is that psychoanalysis ultimately is forced to speak of the Real ambiguously: in one sense it said to pertain to formalization in its untranslatable dimension, and in another to desire as the unobjectifiable condition for any discourse. It is precisely at this juncture that the unobjectifiable Real of desire, touched only in the act of transference, is mediated by a tacit separation from the matheme that ordains it, evincing a division that psychoanalysis ultimately cannot resolve.  Much like for Heidegger Being qua the unobjectifiable opaqueness of the Earth cannot be apprehended conceptually but must be delivered to the poetic word of the thinker and the act of the artist, the Real qua unobjectifiable opaqueness of desire cannot be known but must be delivered to the epistemic opaqueness of the matheme and the transference occasioned by the analyst in act. As Lacan puts it: "Mathematization alone reaches a real - and it is in that respect that it is compatible with our discourse, with analytic discourse- a real that has nothing to do with what traditional knowledge has served as a basis for, which is not what the latter believes it to be- namely, reality, but rather phantasy... The Real, I will say, is the mystery of the speaking body, the mystery of the unconscious." (SXX; pp. 131)

          However, the call for the bodily act signals also the inevitable moment of loss for explanation, the moment in which, no longer capable of separating the thought of the Real from the Real itself, one must surrender all theoretical pretences and en-act the traversal itself, a clinical pilgrimage before the inflections of the symptom through the lessons of formalization. The discursive access to knowing-that becomes delivered to the oblique efficacy of  non-discursive know-how. This is how we should coordinate these two seemingly disparate statements from Lacan: "There is some rapport of being that cannot be known" (SXX, pp. 119, TM), and "If analysis rests on a presumption, it is that knowledge about [subjective] truth can be constituted on the basis of its experience" (Ibid, pp. 91). The impossibility of a knowledge of being is but the obverse of the possibility of knowing how to speak in bringing about the transference. Or as Badiou formulates it: "The paradoxical position of Lacan concerning truth is that there is no knowledge of truth, but finally there is a psychoanalytic knowledge concerning this absence of knowledge. This is the great paradox of the unconscious...a subject can have an experience of its proper Real only in the form of an act." (Badiou, 2010)

       The levels must be clearly demarcated: the analytic transference enjoins the traversal of the phantasy and is supported by the formalization of the symbolic by the matheme. But as we have seen, the operation of formalization which demarcates the positions and structures is in turn supported by the conceptual register of psychoanalytic theory itself. Lacan can thus claim that: "It is in the very act of speaking that makes this formalization, this ideal meta-language, ex-sist." (SXX, Ibid; pp 119) The two Reals glare forth in their unresolved difference: the pure form of the mathematic inscription, recalcitrant to incorporation within the symbolic order of language, and Real of desire in the passage to the pure act that deposes all representational knowledge, where the traversal of the phantasy takes place. As Badiou stresses: "This act is like a cut in language and also a cut in the ordinary representation of the world- a representation which is imaginary. So the act suddenly isolates the Real from its normal collection to the imaginary and symbolic orders." (Badiou, 2010).

              And yet we must insist, that for all its purported deflection of knowing-that, the abyss that separates the Real voided matheme from the Real of desire merely reproduces the dyad of signifier/signified in the dichotomy between theoretical inscription and practical transmission. That is, Lacan reproduces the problem between thought and reality that he takes to be emblematic of the philosophical forms of 'knowing' in the tacit distinction between the formal ideography of the matheme in its presentation, and the singular act of speech in which transference finally takes place and Real desire 'moves'. For Lacan cannot conflate the speciousness of the formulaic writing of the matheme with the act of speech through which the subject traverses the phantasy, nor with the desire in the subject itself. That this distinction is ultimately unexplainable, that the connection between the Real qua formalized matheme and the Real qua act cannot be justified but merely presupposed by psychoanalysis, reveals the latter's internal gulf, delivered as it is, both to the requirement to forego knowledge, and yet also to ordain it by yielding knowledge of its own.  This separation ultimately makes the status of the Real undecidable, or fatally ambiguous, i.e. playing the role of a pure inscription without exteriority (the Real of the matheme as formalization), or a pure exteriority without symbolization (the Real is that which resists symbolization). With the Real subtracted from the traction of knowing, it becomes a noumenal phantasm suspended between the void of an empty formalism, or a mystical surrender to the ineffable Otherness that animates the act.

               And so one notes also, alongside the obliqueness of the matheme, a desperation against the threat of the "dialectic" and a helplessness evinced toward the poetic rumination, thinking from a distance the untouchable purity of an Otherness so unblemished that it does nothing but subtract itself from the signifier and its operations. Such is the sliding down to the identification of the Real with that which is ultimately beyond all capacity for individuation, rendering the conditioning of the Real of desire excised from its pseudo-objectifications[26]. Unfortunately then, the question about the legitimacy of desire as a suitable structure to explain to ontogenesis of thought and being, returns into the market of theories negotiating an unnamable void for their founding gesture. Perhaps this is why Lacan struggles, refusing to fully embrace the prospect of ontologizing the unconscious and desire, to the point of reverting into the desperation of sophism: "the gap of the unconscious is pre-ontological... it is neither being nor non-being, but the unrealized." (SXI: pp. 29)

            We hear echoes of Heidegger's attempts to reconcile himself with his own theory, trying to save the Great Outdoors from the clutches of Dasein's world-producing prerogative (claiming animals have and do not have worlds by saying they are 'poor in them', for instance). Lacan, scavenging for the Real, this being without the honor of the name, urges the separation between psychoanalysis and philosophy, much like for Heidegger poetic thought could only free itself by separating itself from the loudness of metaphysics. A scission, to be sure, that appears as the uncompromising desire for desire, stubbornly clinging to its own impossible object, its own unrequited passion. For the Real does not speak, after all, putting an end to the disguised epistolary confession of the philosopher and the scientist, as well as the analysand. Is this not where the tormented psychoanalyst geared towards the interruption of the symptom by the act and the matheme, and the disillusioned  provincialism of the poetic philosopher traversing metaphysics through poetry meet again: in the desire for silence?

         Ultimately, the Real anchor of desire and its object, this 'indivisible remainder', does not absolve Lacan from the faith of the philosophical dictum, but rather delivers him back into what Badiou has called 'the effects of skepticism': "The effects of this kind of frenzied upsurge, in which the real rules over the comedy of our symptoms, are ultimately indiscernible from those of skepticism.[27]" (LOW: Pg. 563) And indeed, I think Badiou is correct here: Lacan's cryptic statement from 1977 that "truth can only concern the Real" is perhaps the point of the unique symptom, the torsion where, suspended between the choice between being and nothingness, Lacan nods for the all-too-familiar philosophical maneuver, and proceeds to identify them. The sliding void of the object names the passion for the unnamable stain that, repudiating the stringency of the symbolic demand, refuses to extirpate itself from thought, however elusive to its feeble touch. The Real nothingness of Being, and so philosophy, appears now as the stain for psychoanalysis, refusing to let the words come to an end. That is, without ever traversing its own fantasy, absolving the tormented analyst from his own confessional delirium.

Index of Abbreviations
E = Ecrits
SII: Seminar II
SIII: Seminar III
SVI: Seminar VI
SXX: Seminar XX
SXI: Seminar XI

[1] The attempt to define and restrict the scope of the thinkable in terms of fixed categorical determinations already presupposes the libidinal core of the subject as void of any content, as it passes through the experience of alienation by becoming integrated into language: "If what Freud discovered, and rediscovers ever more abruptly, has a meaning, it is that the signifier’s displacement determines subjects’ acts, destiny, refusals, blindnesses, success, and fate, regardless of their innate gifts and instruction, and irregardless of their character or sex; and that everything pertaining to the psychological pre-given follows willy-nilly the signifier’s train, like weapons and baggage" (E, Pg. 30)

[1] This explains Jacques -Alain Miller's formulation apropos Lacan's teachings during 1955 under the title "From the small to the big Other", which also marks Lacan's more pronounced reworking with the structuralist tradition in linguistics, and thus with the problematic of language in general.
[1] It is clear that, at least in the 1950's, Lacan's concept of the unconscious is deeply influence by the Hegelian-Kojevian notion of desire as the desire of recognition of the other.
[1] Seminar XX, p.50

[1] This structure is simultaneously that which provides thus the condition for consciousness as consciousness of something, and that which eludes the explicit 'aboutness' of conscious intentionality.  It is insofar that the subject constitutes its unconscious as a result of this alienating operation of 'symbolic castration' that the latter is not a mere myth to be allotted alongside the inventions of philosophers and psychologists alike: “...what is not a myth, although Freud formulated it just as early on as he formulated the Oedipus myth, is the castration complex” (E; Pg. 695).

[1] More subtly, it attempts to find within the signifying chain itself those symptomatic points of capture and torsion, the anomalies and ruptures which locate the subject’s unconsciously articulated desire, i.e. its metonymic points of torsion and articulation. Thus Lacan emphasizes the “…the radical role of metaphor and metonymy, substitution and combination of signifiers in synchronic and diachronic dimensions" (Ibid).
[1] - Seminar XX, p.50

[1] Indeed, the word "ontology" is not mentioned once in Seminar VI.

[1] For the development on the four discourses, see especially Seminar XII, Norton 2007.

[1] It is obvious at this point that Lacan cannot mean that the unconscious is determined by a language, since this would make it a kind of signified upon which the signifier would work. Rather, the unconscious is the very process of signification: You see that by still preserving this ‘like’ [comme], I am staying within the bounds of what I put forward when I say that the unconscious is structured like a language. I saylike so as not to say – and I come back to this all the time – that the unconscious is structured by a language. The unconscious is structured like the assemblages in question in set theory, which are like letters" Seminar XX, p.48 (Edited by Jacques-Alain Miller, W.W. Norton, 1999) Although the appeals to set theory here are obviously metaphoric, they point to the idea, emphasized by Badiou that, just like sets are not multiples of anything, language is not of the unconscious; the latter would be to reconstitute the relation between signifier and signified that Lacan is in the process of dismantling. 
[1] MEILLASSOUX, Quentin, After Finitude, translated by Ray Brassier, Continuum, 2006.

[1] Roughly, from Seminar XI onwards.

[1] Even if we agree with Badiou that psychoanalysis is indeed closer to politics in seeking the singularity of the individual symptom rather than the repetition of the scientific thought, it must be stressed that, irrespective of the clinical practice, the theoretical endeavor carried out by psychoanalytic thought cannot but be subject to the norms of conceptual consistency which binds scientific thought. If this is the case, then the way that psychoanalysis shields itself against the dogmatism of embracing alienation in the signifier to its fullest extent would not be to simply listen to the 'affirmative' vocation of political thought, but also to the scientific vocation for what renders its theoretical posits possible, i.e. formal coherency of its ideography.

[1] Lacan, J., Le triomphe de la religion, précedé du Discours aux catholiques, Paris: Seuil 2005, p. 96, 97.

[1] Accordingly, the object-cause of desire as a Real is thought through the formalization of a vanishing object, non-identical to itself, always alienating the subject from the place of enunciation.  This is why the phallus, as the mask hiding the displacement of the object, constitutes the metonymy of the subject in being: the object of desire is 'subjectivized' insofar as it refuses to ever coincide with the phallic semblances under which it appears or is formulated. This 'becoming subject of substance', to speak Hegelese, is what makes the meaningless formalism 'nearest' to the Real object and so to the unconscious desire.

[1] This is why Zizek calls "the scientific Real" that  "...of a formula which renders the nature's meaningless functioning." (Zizek, How to Read Lacan,

[1] It is not only the structure of unconscious desire that is beyond recalcitrant to ontology: the object of desire itself is, paradoxically, unobjectifiable insofar as it remains impossible, non-self identical, never coincident with a  being with fixed qualities and properties. This indicates another level of the fundamental coincidence between the non-symbolic inscription of the object, and the object itself. This is because objet a is both resolutely material (it is localized) and a formal index signaling that which is never localizable, but which functions as an impasse for meaning, and so which indexes the asymptotic horizon of the subject's intentional desire. The object of desire is neither being (it resists objectification or self-identity, thus enacting the infinity of  subjective desire) nor non-being (it must nevertheless be indexed as impossible object cause, 'if only to speak of it', as that which consists as inconsistent, subtracting itself from the signifying chain).  The Real object can only be Real insofar as it is also, and paradoxically, a 'non-object', that is, insofar as it is on the side of the formal stringency of the matheme and not of the symbolic-imaginary operations of the signifier. Only the pure matheme approaches it in its barren formalism by ordaining it to the act of analytic transference facilitating the traversal of the phantasy: "[Objet a] would have us take it for being, in the name of the following- that it is apparently something. But it only dissolves, in the final analysis, owing to its failure, unable, as it is, to sustain itself in approaching the real." (SXX: Pg. 95)

[1] In this regard, I would emphasize that, in spite of Badiou's commendable attempts to characterize psychoanalysis as a candidate for thinking but perhaps not a science, where the latter term is understood as "the unity of a theory and a practice", does not help solve the issue. This can be easily seen if we realize that the incapacity to separate theory and practice is not something we can straightforwardly allot to science; even if psychoanalysis is thought as closer to politics, the question about the relation between the statements of such a thought and the thing itself remains. To stipulate an absolute inseparability between thought and world is to surrender to idealism; to claim such a distinction is possible is to rehabilitate the valence of knowing within a philosophical thought. I believe, for reasons that Ray Brassier has pointed out, following Wilfrid Sellars, that the methodological separation between the space of reasons and the space of causes is the condition of possibility for the ontological unity between thought and being, reason and nature. The consequence, against Badiou's depiction, is not a thinking of the articulation between a theory and a praxis, but rather how such an articulation is to be understood as that between world that is not thought and thought that thinks the world.

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