text: “Exile and the Knowledge of the Neurotic” (C Bonneau)

January 12, 2010

from the Congress website:

Exile and the knowledge of the neurotic

Chantal Bonneau

In Chapter X of Seminar XVIII, On a Discourse that Would Not Be of the Semblant, Jacques Lacan, after resuming the theory of the four semblant-based discourses at the end of his teachings in 1971, examines what might be deduced from the analyst’s discourse.[1] Freud had already demonstrated that the analyst’s discourse “clarifies the articulation of truth to knowledge.”[2]

The question of truth and knowledge is put into perspective through the neurotic’s symptom. Lacan recalls in passing that Marx, not Freud, created the notion of the symptom. The Marxist revolution denounced the artificial value of the fetish, made apparent through a system based on money and surplus value. The analytic discourse took the dimension of the plus-de-jouir from this theory. The semblant that makes up the capitalist discourse reinforces the idea that at the origin of all discourses there might be “a discourse that would not be of the semblant.” Therefore, rewritten in the analytic discourse as plus-de-jouir, the theory of Marxist surplus value is what gives rise to the moment when Lacan examines the question of sexual rapport as truth, in opposition to a semblant.

Formulated in the phrase “there is no sexual rapport,” this “knowledge of the neurotic”[3] is already a discourse. It is one that sets a limit to what can be said. It is a failure in the logic of writing, and from which speaking beings are exiled. What cannot be written drives the neurotic subject towards myths and rituals as ways to escape the lack of sexual rapport. Freud realised this early on in Civilisation and Its Discontents. All discourse would therefore be the symptom that replaces what is lacking in the speaking being. What would be its point of origin? Is it in speaking beings, or in the fact that the sexual rapport can be neither said nor written? Lacan does not answer this question, but he reminds us that initiation rites, operations, circumcisions or incisions all bear the sign of the phallus, the ultimate semblant that gives structure to sexual jouissance. The phallic semblant is not the signifier of lack, but rather “that from which no word comes.”[4] Neurotics, and especially hysterics, expect the word from the one whose castration, although necessary for jouissance, cannot meet this request. She waits for words that leave her unsatisfied. The symptom fills in for this missing word. When the complaint turns into a symptom, sometimes the hysteric encounters an analyst, a place where discourse permits the articulation of truth and semblant.


1- Lacan J., Le Séminaire, livre XVIII, D’un discours qui ne serait pas du semblant, Paris, Seuil, 1971, p. 163.

2- Lacan J., ibid., p. 164.

3- Lacan J., ibid., p. 166.

4- Lacan J., ibid., p. 170.

 Translated from the French by Pamela King


biblio: Psychoanalytical Notebooks, issue 10

January 11, 2010

Psychoanalytical Notebooks has published many issues with texts of relevance to the themes of semblant and sinthome.  We will review some of those in a series of postings.  The publication is available for purchase on the website of the London Society of the New Lacanian School

In Psychoanalytical Notebooks, issue 10

“The Work of the Symptom” by Patrick Monribot — Monribot address the question “What is the real of the symptom, and in what manner can we impute work to it?” from the perspective of what we have learned from the psychoanalytic experience, especially the work of the Analysts of the School, those who have completed the Pass.

“Coming to Terms with the Symptom” by Alain Merlet — A case is presented of a man who had several analyses, which led him in the end to be able to come to terms with his sinthome.

biblio: Psychoanalytical Notebooks, issue 20

January 8, 2010

an announcement today from The London Society of the New Lacanian School:

The new issue of the Psychoanalytical Notebooks, No. 20, ‘Object a & the Semblant’ is out now. It features a translation of an original text by Jacques Lacan: ‘Note on the Child’.
The Psychoanalytical Notebooks are available to buy online from our website:



Jacques Lacan  Note on the Child 7

The Child and Object a
Jacques-Alain Miller  The Family Bond in the Psychoanalytic Experience 11
Jacques-Alain Miller  The Child, a Response from the Real 13
Pierre-Gilles Guéguen  Semblants and Fictions in the Clinic with Children 17

Lacanian Orientation
Jacques-Alain Miller  On the Nature of Semblants – Lacanian Clinic 25

The Real and Object a
Rose-Paule Vinciguerra  The Object Voice 41
Alexandre Stevens  The Real and the Objects a in the Analytic Experience 51
Bernard Seynhaeve  The Drive – The Voice, the Gaze and her Smile 55
Philippe de Georges On Jouissance 59

The Semblant
Joseph Attié  Melancholia 65
Graciela Brodsky  Truth and Lies 69
Jésus Santiago  Semblantisation and Nominalism 73
Hebe Tizio  The Analyst and the Semblants 77
Marie-Hélène Blancard  The Invention of a Writing 83

The Letter and The Semblant
Pierre Skriabine  The Ink and the Brush – Remarks on the Particular and the Universal 91
Alexandre Stevens  The Clinic of the Letter 97

biblio: Psychoanalytical Notebooks, issue 16

January 7, 2010

Psychoanalytical Notebooks has published many issues with texts of relevance to the themes of semblant and sinthome.  We will review some of those in a series of postings.  The publication is available for purchase on the website of the London Society of the New Lacanian School

In Psychoanalytical Notebooks, issue 16

In this issue on the politics of the mental health field, Marie-Hélène Brousse has a text that is titled “Love of the Sinthome Against a Hatred of Difference” that very precisely elaborates the political consequences (in the mental health field, and in the larger social field) of the development of the concept of the sinthome and its centrality in psychoanalysis.

text: “The Semblant and the Postiche Object” (AL Santiago)

January 6, 2010

from PAPERS: Electronic Journal of the Action Committee of the School One, 2009-2010, N. 1:

The Semblant and the Postiche Object
Ana Lydia Santiago
As Jacques-Alain Miller points out in his Seminar “De la nature des semblants”1, it is his daughter’s difficulties in distinguishing truth from semblant that constituted a source of inspiration for Lacan for the conception of the semblant as a category having its own use in psychoanalysis. “Is it real or not?” This question, often formulated by young children, above all when confronted by people in disguise or puppets, seems appropriate for questioning the value of the semblant in its relation to status of the object in the analytic experience. It is in
this way that we can take the example of the object named ‘postiche’, since its function is non other than of make believe [faire semblant]2. More precisely, the postiche object is always artificial, in so far as it can occupy any place to make us believe something, that in truth it is
not. From here, we can also ask whether the distinction between the postiche object and the semblant is not a way of interrogating the title Lacan gave to his Seminar XVII “D’un discours qui ne serait pas du semblant ?”3
Objective  Genitive
To clarify the statement of this title, we can assert that it is not a question of the semblant of something else. “Du semblant” [‘of semblant’] must be taken as the objective genitive. It is a question of the semblant as the object from which the economy of jouissance of a discourse is
regulated. In linguistics, the use of the genitive consists of the interpretation given to the preposition “de” [‘of’] present in the relation between two nominal syntagmes ; depending on whether it is a question of the subject or of the object expressed by the genitive, we have the
subjective genitive, or the objective genitive. As such, in the sentence, “The quotation of Camões of the professor” [la citation de Camões du professeur], the professor is the subjective genitive and Camões is the objective genitive – the one that determines the quotation4. Another example of the objective genitive is : “A book of mathematics”, where ‘mathematics’ determines the book. Lacan maintains that the semblant cannot be a subjective genitive, in so far as the subject is nothing but the product of the signifying articulation; the subject does not determine it, on the contrary, he is determined by the chain. And, according to Lacan’s terms, in the circuit of the genitive objective and the signifying articulation, “it is precisely as an object of what is only produced in the said discourse that the semblant is posed”5.
Let us return to the clarification provided by linguistics as a means of explaining how the use of the semblant in psychoanalysis, as a concept, is situated beyond the signifier, since it is a matter of a name that determines something essential for another name. It is this that allows it to be described as an essential factor in the definition of discourse, particularly as what has a relation with the economy of jouissance. I am proposing to take as my field of research the clinical implications of the different possible relations with object a and the semblant in the analytic experience.
Concerning the articulation  between object a and semblant in the analytic discourse, I will isolate, first of all, two references by Lacan which are from the same year but which, in a certain way, oppose each other. The first is in “Etourdit” (1/1/73)6, where Lacan formulates that object a refutes the semblant. The second is in the Seminar, book XX (10/4/73), where Lacan affirms the equivalence of this object with the semblant. In putting object a in the place of the semblant, the analyst is in the most convenient position to interrogate in what way truth is concerned8. What is more, I will make the hypotheses that this second reference does not cancel out the first, in so far as he opts for an equation between object a and the semblant9. It must also be noted here that other than object a, psychoanalysis is enriched with at least two other primordial semblants in its approach to the clinic of the real of jouissance.
Firstly, the semblant of the Name-of-the-Father, which inscribes jouissance in so far as it names the obscurity of the desire of the mother and promotes something of the order of a transmission.
Then there is the phallus. The phallus is a signifier, a representation, which allows for the formulation and articulation of sexual jouissance. Its use surpasses the level of the image, without, however, losing its connection with it. For all those who inhabit language, it is necessary that something artificial is installed so as to erase the lack inscribed in the speaking being.  It is necessary for something to be elaborated that can come to fill, beyond castration, the point of the real of human reproduction. The inscription of castration has the privilege of treating this real as being impossible to divide or fragment. Castration is defined as “a composition between jouissance and the semblant”. The phallus, as semblant, borders the veiled truth of castration. As for what concerns sexual identity, it is not just a simple matter of believing oneself a man or woman, but rather of accounting for the fact that “(…) for men, a girl is the phallus and it is that which castrates them. For woman, the boy is the same thing, the phallus, and it’s that which castrates them as well, because they only acquire a penis, and it’s a failure”10. To summarise, anything that attempts to write the real of sexual jouissance can be put in the category of semblant. As such, object a is included in the list of semblants proper to psychoanalysis. The following question remains: Is object a, as a semblant, of the same nature as the semblants of the Name-of-the-Father and the phallus?
“Faire semblant”  [‘Make believe’]
“Is it real or not ?” In clinical practice with children, the child’s game stages the dimension of the semblant, of what make believe is, cancelling out the opposition between the false and the true. In the analytic session, for example, when a child suggests he will pretend that he is the mother and the analyst the little girl who is ill, what is staged evokes a point of the subject’s truth which concerns her position of object for the Other. The game has nothing to do with reality and, in so far as it is fiction, it is vowed to half-say the truth about the castrating effect of the incidence of language for the speaking being.
A clinical fragment illustrates the dimension of the object present in discourse. A little boy spends his week end play fighting with his father. The father, who works in another town, spends only one week end a month with his family. This time, the fights with his father provoke real injuries and eventually, the father allows his son to win. During the father’s absences, the argument is displaced onto the elder brother, attracting the attention of the mother. With regards to the wrestling with the father, the signifying articulation reveals the unconscious game: the veritable object of the dispute is the mother. The result of this game is the subject’s idea of being a loser. The object itself determines the subject through a signifier which renders the connection between the apparatus of the symptom and a position of jouissance viable. The initial symptom motivating the demand for treatment was a failure at school. From the first sessions, the child managed to obtain some benefit from the pedagogical support he had been undertaking for sometime without success. The therapeutic effect had allowed him to abandon the position of failure at school. He then became preoccupied by his future, and was wandering if he would succeed in not being a loser. “The dimension of semblant furnishes a support for truth in what is vehicled by discourse”11. The unconscious statement carries the mark of a, where knowledge [savoir] is lacking, since there is no knowledge on the absolute that is the real, which always returns to the same place.
Fantasy and the postiche object
The psychoanalytic act is a source of semblant and leads to the limit of discourse, towards the encounter with the real. For the analysand, there is an encounter on this trajectory that constitutes a veritable obstacle for the treatment. It is a question of the moment when object a takes the form of the postiche object. Lacan explains this phenomenon in his Seminar X. Firstly, he considers it is not castration properly speaking that constitutes an impasse for the speaking being, but rather imaginary castration, that is to say, making something positive from castration. There is no other means of accepting that there is jouissance somewhere, than via the lacking signifier. At this place of lack, the subject is summoned to pay the price with the sign of his own castration. It is at this point that he stops, so as not to make use of his castration as a guarantee of the Other. It is, thus, at the precise moment where the analytic discourse pushes him to interpret his castration in this way, by means of a fiction from where the function of the fantasy is extracted, that the subject stops.
The fantasy of the neurotic subject is located in the field of the Other. The subjects leaning upon  the fantasy of what he is for the Other presents itself as a perversion. The fact that the neurotic has perverse fantasies does not mean that he is a pervert. The principle function of this perverse element of the neurotic’s fantasy, there where he comes to a stop, is to protect him from anxiety. The subject makes use of the fantasy, using it to cover anxiety. He doesn’t go far in making himself the object a of his fantasy. At this precise point, the object of the fantasy “succeeds in defending him against anxiety only in so far as it is a postiche object a”12.
At the point where the postiche object takes on the place of object a in the function of desire and as a defence against anxiety, another obstacle to the analytic treatment can be situated, which has an incidence on the transference. With reference to the optical schema, Lacan insists on the fact that not only is the phallus (-φ) not represented at the imaginary level, but it is also cut off from the specular image. An image of lack does not exist, he says. As such, the image of the subject reflected in the field of the Other is characterised by a lack, since what is called on to appear does not appear. Marked by lack, this image orients desire, which rises up in a veiled manner and is, above all, associated with an absence. This absence thus consists of the possibility of a presence – that of object a according to the function it exercises in the fantasy.
At this place of lack, a place that cannot be reduced to the specular image, Lacan shows that there is a libidinal reserve that remains invested in the body. Here, castration anxiety is manifested in its relation with the Other. It is from this investment, also called autoeroticism or autistic jouissance, that the image of the body is nourished in order to exercise the seductive function for the sexual partner.  In its postiche object form, object a functions in the fantasy to deceive the Other13 : “Object a, functioning in their fantasy, and serving as a defence against anxiety, is also, contrary to appearances, the bate with which they hold the Other”. This phenomenon is also the product of analytic discourse. Lacan has recourse to Anna O in order to show how Breuer and Freud were grasped by the little bit of nothing of the object a of the fantasy, which their patient was offering, in a hysterical movement of seduction, testing, in this way, the desire of the analyst.
Is the possibility of overcoming this obstacle – where object a takes the form of the postiche object – or rather is a possible crossing over of this obstacle with regards to the construction of the fantasy, conditioned by the promotion of object a as a semblant in analytic discourse?  Our work proposal takes its bearings from this question by following Lacan’s trajectory around the object and its fictions, to attempt to re-establish object a in the position of semblant.
In the structure of discourse, object a is the residue of the operation of the evacuation of jouissance from the field of the Other, where it functions as a place for the capturing of jouissance; an eximate place in the relation, installed by the institution of the subject as an effect of the signifier. The object a semblant, is not an object a of structure. Object a fills the place of surplus jouissance, by means of the objects said to be “episodic substances”14 : the breast, excrement, the look and the voice. The object a semblant is not an episodic substance, even if it is a question of a category characterised by its positivity – surplus jouissance. Lacan writes it in a metaphorical relation with lack (a /-φ)15, which indicates its solidarity with castration. It is a surplus jouissance that buffers lack and covers the prohibition of jouissance. Object a semblant is not restricted only to the signifier of the being of the subject – that is to say, to the elective value of object a in the fundamental fantasy, which rises up at the moment the subject realises himself as desire, and when desire then ceases to be a metonymy. When this happens, when something passes into the real, the subject discovers himself as a particular object a, what he was for the Other in his constitution as a living being16.
1 Miller, J.-A., L’Orientation lacanienne, ‘De la nature des semblants’, lesson of 20/11/91, unpublished.
2 [TN : This text was originally written in Portuguese] In Portuguese, the signification of the term ‘semblant’
does not cover the totality of the semantic value of its equivalent in French. The terms “figure”, “face”, “visage”,
“appearance”, “physionomie” are far from containing the sense of this substantive in French, as they only
designate what is illusory, appearance or false. As the Lacanian concept shows, the category of ‘semblant’ refers
to what, despite presenting itself as appearance, always carries something of truth, and what is more, it takes on,
with certain conditions, the structuring function in the process of the constitution of the subject of the
Cf. Santiago, Jesus, La drogue du toxicomane, Rio de Janeiro, Zahar, 2001, note 50, p. 200.
3 Lacan, J., Le Séminaire, livre XVIII, D’un discours qui ne serait pas du semblant, (1971), Paris, Seuil, 2006, p.
18.  [T.N.: This could be translated as ‘Of a discourse that would not be of semblant?’
4 Houaiss, Dictionnaire de la langue portugaise, Rio de Janeiro, Editoria objectiva, 2001.
5[T.N.: In English, the ambiguity introduced by the preposition ‘of’ is often removed by the use of the marker: ‘
-’s ’. For example: “The professor’s quotation of Camões” ]
6  Lacan, J., quoted by J.-A. Miller in De la naturaleza de los semblantes, Buenos Aires, Paidos, 2002, p. 18.
7 Lacan, J., « L’Etourdit », Autres Ecrits, Paris, Seuil, 2001, p. 475.
8 Lacan, J., Le Séminaire, Livre XX, Encore, 1973, Paris, Seuil, p. 88.
9 Miller, J.-A., op. cit., p. 86.
10 Lacan, J., Le Séminaire, Livre XVIII, op.cit., p. 34.
11 Idem, p. 32.
12 Lacan, J., Le Séminaire, Livre X, L’Angoisse, Paris, Seuil, 2004, p. 63.
13 Ibid., p. 63.
14 Miller, J.-A., op. cit.
15 Ibid., p. 85.
16 Idem, pp. 115 et 116.
Translated from the French by Victoria Woollard

biblio: Psychoanalytical Notebooks, issue 13

January 5, 2010

Psychoanalytical Notebooks has published many issues with texts of relevance to the themes of semblant and sinthome.  We will review some of those in a series of postings.  The publication is available for purchase on the website of the London Society of the New Lacanian School

In Psychoanalytical Notebooks, Issue 13
This issue of Psychoanalytical Notebooks is a special reference point in the English language for the Congress, as it contains so many references to the sinthome in its discussion of Lacan and his work on Joyce.  I will publish the full contents for the issue below, and I want to highlight just a few of the many texts in this issue.  “Lacan with Joyce” is a Seminar that Jacques-Alain Miller delivered to the Clinical Section of Barcelona in 1996.  Miller carefully elucidates the interest Lacan had in Joyce and its importance for psychoanalysis in that stage in Lacan’s work.  The talk is very good, and there is also valuable interchange between JAM and the audience on these topics.  Philip Draver’s “Joyce and the Sinthome: Aiming at the Fourth Term of the Knot” and Pierre Skriabine’s “Does the Father Say Knot?” are two valuable introduction to the Borromean clinic derived from Lacan’s last teaching.

Lacan With Joyce
Psychoanalytical Notebooks 13, 2005
Jacques-Alain Miller – Lacan with Joyce
Pierre Thèves – ‘Où est ton cadeau espèce d’imbécile?’
René Rasmussen – On Joyce and Psychosis
Bogdan Wolf – Joy Joys Joyce… How to Work with the Sinthome?
Marie-Hélène Roch – 21st Century M-A-N
Yasmine Grasser – M-A-N, basic M-A-N, M-A-N oowaza body
Rik Loose – Joyce’s Administration
Philip Dravers – Joyce & the Sinthome: Aiming at the Fourth term of the Knot
Adrian Price – Lacan’s Sinthommage to The Artist: Joyce
Parveen Adams The Sexual Relation in James Joyce and in Cronenberg’s Crash
Pierre Skriabine – Does the Father Say Knot?
Hélène Deltombe -The Child and Lalangue
Vincent Dachy -Scribbledygook: Remarks on Psychoanalysis and Literature
Joseph Attié – ‘This Mad Play of Writing’

Congress: Call for Papers

December 22, 2009


Call for contributions

The executive committee has decided to launch a new call for contributions addressed to both newcomers and members.

Your contributions should bear on one of the three following themes of choice: 1. The procedure of the pass and its possible reconfiguration. 2. The position of the psychoanalyst-psychoanalysand, as it appears following the November Journees of the ECF and ENAPOL; 3. The question of the Sinthome, namely the mode of jouissance, in the different dimensions of the real, the symbolic and the imaginary

Contributions should not exceed 6 400 signs, including spaces, for presentations of 10 minutes.  They must be received by mail (subject heading, in capital letters: TLON) by midnight, local time of sender, on 15th of February, addressed to the President of the WAP and the Director of the Congressluis.solano@orange.fr and ericlaurent@lacanian.net

Contributions will be subject to a double selection: the first selection will separate those texts that are acceptable and those judged insufficient; the second selection will allocate the texts accepted into: work to be presented orally and work to be assembled in a brochure.

Eric Laurent
For the Executive Committee


Website of the Congress of the WAP
Registration is now open for the ‘New Entrants’.
Click on the ‘New Entrants’ tab, available in five languages.
Direct link to the page in English



The Blog of the Congress

text: “The Analyst and the Semblants” (H Tizio)

December 12, 2009

from PAPERS: Electronic Journal of the Action Committee of the School One, 2009-2010, N. 1:

The Analyst and the Semblants

Hebe Tizio

The question of semblants in the psychoanalytic discourse seems complex to me and I will reveal here my first questioning on this subject. To begin with, my question will be about the position of the analyst, as Lacan brought this difficulty to our attention. There is the risk of a certain oscillation between the identificatory tendency that leads to confusing oneself with the subject supposed to know, for example, and the one that consists of thinking that everything is semblant, forgetting the real behind the sense.

I am not claiming this by referring solely to the clinic, but equally by taking account of the discourse of the master present in various institutions. Indeed, depending on the function of the semblants at play, a certain modality of the treatment of the real ensues. In other words, the use of semblants is not without consequences.


In the analytic discourse the question of the semblant depends on the antinomy between sense and real. The semblant is dependent on sense, and Lacan first situates it between the symbolic and the real. Then, he defines it in opposition to the real in so far as the latter excludes sense. Without a doubt, this poses questions for analytic practice. Indeed, if we say that the real excludes sense, this claim seems to contradict the fact that analysis is underpinned by the idea that words have an impact, which is verified in the practice.

J.-A. Miller, in his course of the 21st of March 2007 takes this question up and opens it up in order to address it in two ways. He points out the hiatus between psychoanalysis as practice and psychoanalysis as perspective. As a perspective, psychoanalysis has on the horizon the real separated from sense; as practice, psychoanalysis operates by way of the connection of sense and semblant.

Although the sense varies, the symptom remains, which would allow its assimilation into the real, which is what psychoanalysis works with. There would then be the real that harbours the symptom on which one cannot have any direct impact. Psychoanalysis thus offers a mechanism where something can be reached with the semblant…if we consider that ‘it’ has a sense. This takes us to the theme of interpretation and the effect that Lacan always preserved: its resonance. How does the semblant operate? Is the resonance the form that has an impact on a point in the real? Lacan talks about the poetic effect, and we must indicate the equivoque that would be a resonance that makes a hole. Is this kind of interpretation closer to the object a?

As psychoanalysis treats the real through this way, it would be of the order of semblant and we can add that there is no other way. Psychoanalysis differentiates itself from the treatment of postmodernity, which considers that everything is semblant – excluding, in this way, the real. If everything is semblant, this opens onto the cynical perspective, which is that of freefloating jouissance, with the difficulties that result from this, namely of symptomatising it.  Semblants cannot be approached separately from the orientation towards the real.

Thus, in psychoanalysis, we cannot directly reach the jouissance that is contained in the symptom, because that will generate negative transference. In other words, we cannot approach jouissance with just any semblant; this is the teaching of the four discourses.

One has to keep in mind that the semblant takes a place in the discourses, it takes the empty place that allows the element that is found there to take the place of the agent. The discourse is founded in place of the semblant1, because it is the agent that specifies the way jouissance is treated. In every discourse, the semblants are supported in different ways and each has its foundation. The S1 appears as the semblant of command; the S2 as the semblant of knowledge; the (a) as semblant of jouissance… Each one has a status as important as that of the other, nevertheless it is not the same thing, because, depending on the semblant with which we treat jouissance, the effects change. They can express themselves through the different forms of rejection or other diverse declensions, as Lacan shows when he says that jouissance “is not challenged, is not evoked, is not tracked down, is not elaborated, other than through a semblant.”2

That is, no doubt, a paradoxical formulation, because this place of the agent is in all cases marked by the impossibility to act on what escapes. We must not forget that discourse is a mechanism that finds its main application on jouissance, which is to say that it has a civilising function, but that it cannot render this kernel into reason, which, although foreclosed, agitates it. We are dealing with the other ambilic of discourse, the one Freud discovered in the dream as resistant to an ultimate interpretation that would reach it.


The semblant is thus for psychoanalysis an instrument of which one can make use, on condition of not sliding into other discourses. This is not easy to achieve, of course. The last teaching of Lacan starts from this point to underline the uncomfortable position of the analyst.

Why is it uncomfortable? Lacan was looking to make the way in which the analyst situateshimself in discourse bearable, because it is not easy to raise this function to the position of semblant of the object, which is the key of discourse3 that would allow him to be ‘worthy’ of maintaining the tranference.

The analytic discourse puts the object a in the place of agent, a semblant suited to treating jouissance. This is because this object constitutes the kernel that allows us to elaborate jouissance in relation to the existence of the knot. The analyst deals with this ‘emission’ that is the a. To this effect he has to “make of his body and his existence as analyst a representation” and he has to take account of that.4 When Lacan speaks of representation, he situates this imaginary function in the body5 – which gives it consistency and allows the necessary cycles in the cure. The analyst ‘in body’ (again) (‘en corps’/encore) installs object a. One has to go through the object a to find the real. It is a matter of finding it again, in a certain way, which shows that there is no linear progress, other than towards death – since we are dealing with cycles starting from the structure defined as tauric.6

The position of the analyst involves knowing how to maintain the void and to not identify with the semblant but to make it function. Indeed, the semblant and identification are not one and the same thing. In one of the declensions Lacan gives to the term semblant, he plays with to ‘s-eem’ (s’embler) and ‘s-embling’ (s’emblant)7, which situates it on the side of ‘to precipitate’, and what precipitates is something in relation to being.8 This makes it propitious for identification, which crystallises in an identity.9This is why it is a matter of keeping to the difference between one and the other, to be able to support the place of semblant of the object in discourse. Knowing how to deal with this object without being it, is the adequate way of treating jouissance.

Although the semblant of the object should be in the position of command in the analytic discourse, one should not for all that understand, as the IPA does, that it is ‘a semblant more semblant than nature, openly displayed’, and it is starting from this difficulty that Lacan gives an orientation.10 “But remember, that the semblant of who speaks as such is always there in all kinds of discourse that it employs; it is even a second nature. So be more relaxed, more natural when you receive someone who comes to you to ask for an analysis. Don’t feel so obliged to stick your neck out. Even as buffoon, you are justified to be one. You only need to watch my television. I am a clown. Take that as an example and don’t imitate me!”

The body introduces itself by logical necessity. Lacan points out11 that the real is outside of sense and this ‘blanc sense’ or ‘sen – blan’ [‘sens blanc’ homophone with ‘semblant’] means that the body necessarily makes believe (fasse semblant). Lacan later12 takes this point up again in order to say that he tried to establish the analytic discourse as the most plausible semblant, the most adequate for treating jouissance, a sort of short-circuit of language by the body. This means that the semblant is kept up in presence, which is where the resistance of the analyst serves this function. One must remember that Lacan situates resistance on the side of the analyst. In “La Troisième” he underlines this fact: “in order to make believe (faire semblant)”– he refers to the object a – “one must be gifted.”13 This ‘being gifted’ involves the analyst consenting to occupy the position of object. We could think that responding to the demand were one way of putting this difficulty into action. Elsewhere, Lacan spoke of women being better analysts from this point of view; he pointed out, however, that there exists a real difficulty in occupying this place of object.

The resistance of the analyst to serve his function is due to this non-consent. Indeed, in the analytic discourse, the place of semblant is not sustained by the S1 or the S2, but by a way that involves the analyst and his body. This evokes the reading of the syntagma ‘the presence of the analyst’ even if it opens the risks of such a position. “That the analyst makes believe (fasse semblant), as if he was there for things to work on the sexual plane” is “wholly admissible”, but it is “annoying if he ends up believing it and then this freezes him completely.”14 In other words, it is a presence that sustains itself through the lack of the sexual relation, in order to allow the analysand, by maintaining this hole, to put in play his mode of jouissance. The psychoanalyst has to practise in always new ways, in order to maintain a void that allows the analysand to lodge his particularity there. He works with the necessary veil over this opening, without filling it. Lacan points out that, to the extent that the historical time of the installation of the analytic discourse is recent, there is no tradition that would guarantee it. Let us add that in any case, tradition wants that the analyst’s particular jouissance must be treated in an analysis, to be able to produce this discourse as such.


This point is at the centre of the formation of the analyst, where the difference between authorising and ‘auto-r(itual)ising’ is pointed out by Lacan in his “Italian Note”. This ‘autor(itual)ising’ is a way of trying to plug the hole by making a regulated, bureaucratic Other exist. It gives an account of a radical difficulty of working this “shady waste” that manifests as a “not wanting to know anything about all that”. It is the attempt to reduce the effects of analytic discourse that makes semblants vacillate, which are those of the analyst.

“A theory including a lack that has to be found across all the levels, being inscribed here in indeterminacy, there in certainty, and shaping the knot of the uninterpretable, I get down to this not admittedly without experiencing its unprecedented atopy.”15 It is in the practice that the analyst has to be equal to the structure that determines him. This is why the psychologising semblants of the discourse of the master, the subject of representation, of communication, of ‘good feelings’, the ‘good of the other’, create a problem in the practice because one loses the compass of the analytic discourse.

This means that to the extent that these semblants are the product of the discourse of the master, the practitioner in his analysis has to submit to the egoic and symptomatic formatting in order to know how to do differently, starting from what constitutes his place. Lacan separates thus the position of the analyst from the profession, as what completes through giving a ‘professional identity’, an identificatory foundation.16 In this way the analyst in his position can know how to deal with his body, welcoming what he hears of the analysand’s interpretation. He will also be able to know how to deal with the master discourse to the extent that the analytic discourse is part of the communal discourse, that is beginning to be more and more permeable and which becomes “the armour of good feelings”17, which means that it is infiltrated with the master discourse.

1 Lacan, J., (not in English translation) Le Séminaire « L’insu… », 8.3.77, Ornicar ?, p. 16.

2 Lacan, J., The Seminar, Book XX, Encore, transl. Grigg, R., Norton, London 2000. (Le Séminaire, Livre XX,

Encore, Paris, Seuil, 1975, p. 85).

3 Lacan, J., (not in English translation) 14.6.72. Unpublished.

4 Lacan, J., idem.

5Lacan, J., (not in English translation) “La Troisième”, Intervenciones y textos II, Manantial, Buenos Aires,

1988, p. 82.

6Lacan, J., (not in English translation) Le Séminaire, Livre XXIII, Le sinthome, Paidos, Buenos Aires, 2006,


7 TN: ‘s’embler’ does not exist, but it is put in the reflexive verb form and phonetically evokes the verb

‘sembler’‘to seem’; it also alludes to ‘emblee’, which means ‘right away/directly’. Likewise, ‘s’emblant’ does

not exist, the ending ‘-ant’ indicates ‘-ing’ in English, thus we have a contraction of ‘seeming’, ‘semblant’ and

‘directly’. The idea is to connect this word game with the word in the next sentence, ‘precipitate’.

8Lacan, J., 8. 3.77, op.cit.

9 Lacan, J., (not in English translation) 18.11.76, Ornicar? 12/13.

10 Lacan, J., “La Troisième”, op. cit., p. 81.

11Lacan, J., (not in English translation) “RSI”, 11-3-75, Ornicar ? p. 5.

12Lacan, J., Seminario El sinthome, op.cit., p. 120.

13Lacan, J., (not in English translation) “La Troisième”, op.cit., p. 83.

14Lacan, J., (not in English translation) “Lacan en Italie”, Milán, 12 mai 1972.

15Lacan, J., (not in English translation) “La méprise du sujet supposé savoir”, Autres écrits, Paris, Seuil, 2001, p.


16Lacan, J., (not in English translation) “Segunda carta al Foro”, 11.3.81, Escansión. Nueva serie 1, Buenos

Aires, 1989.

17Lacan, J., (not in English translation) 14.6.72. Unpublished.

Translated by Natalie Wulfing

text: “The Ternary: Name-of-the-Father, Object a, Sinthome” (L Brusa)

December 11, 2009

from PAPERS: Electronic Journal of the Action Committee of the School One, 2009-2010, N. 1:

The Ternary: Name-of-the-Father, Object a, Sinthome

Luisella Brusa

1. “Semblants and sinthome”

This is the conclusion of a ternary that Jacques-Alain Miller announced in Buenos Aires: a ternary constituted by signifiers that Lacan introduced into psychoanalysis, of which the two first terms are the Name-of-the-Father and the object a, on which the AWP has worked during its last two Congresses. The originality of this ternary is that it is a question of limit-points of the theoretical elaboration of Lacan, of syntagms of conjunction and disjunction which permit a point of view on the subject still internal to thefield in which it is placed, the field of the Other, but equally beyond the limit of this field, which succeeds thus in relativising itself , of “de-consisting”. These are some syntagms which bear the function , in the Lacanian theoretical corpus, of the death’s head, deformed in the anamorphosis of the Ambassadors of Holbein, commented upon in Seminar XI. These are some semblants which have the particular status of “showing the real.”

2. The-Name-of-the-Father

A systematic analysis of the formula “The-Name-of-the-Father” took place at the Rome Congress: “You can do without it, on the condition of using it.” The privileged signifier, pivot of the well turned-out subjective, and of psychoanalytic work, brings with it its share of belief which makes of each subject a faithful one, disposed to sacrifice himself to a more or less obscure god, even when this god takes the name of Science. The theoretical position elaborated out of this Congress is maintained in the reduction of the Name-of-the-Father to its function: the success of a psychoanalysis is the dissolution of the belief in a being who would be at the place of the Name-of-the-Father, on the condition of acquiring the usage of the function, of using its insistence. To use becomes an act, which no longer opens onto faith, but onto confidence. The Name –of-the-Father, “the operator semblant” according to the apt formula of J.-A. Miller, marks the hole in the knowledge that the real verifies.

3. The object a

The Buenos Aires Congress on “The objects a in the psychoanalytic experience” approached the hole of the structure from the other side, the side of the objects which come to saturate this hole under the form of surplus jouissance. Theoretical and clinical research has covered the numerous forms of this strange object, which does not let itself be taken up in the meanings of language, which is neither absent nor present, nor within nor without. One does not encounter the object a in the clinic, except under its fantasmatic aspects, consistencies of the jouissance of the body, semblants which fill the logical void called “object a,” place of the impossible of the sexual rapport, another name of the real.

4. Towards the real

One sees now that J.-A. Miller’s choice with this ternary is the trajectory of an elaboration which orients us towards Lacan’s real. The third way, concluding the ternary, the theme of the Paris Congress with its explicit reference to the signifiers of the elaboration of the 70s, encircles even more the real, Lacan’s sinthome, its original contribution to psychoanalysis (ipse dixit) and to the history of ideas. “Psychoanalysis (…) will have been a privileged moment during which one will have had an appropriate enough measure (…) of the ‘speaking being.’”- “For a small moment, one has been able to perceive what the intrusion of the real was. The analyst remains there under it. He or she is there as a symptom.”1 The hole of the real is a point of stoppage in his teaching, a mark of style in his research, in which we also have the ungraspable trait of its rhetoric, as J.-A. Miller has affirmed it: “The complement that it carries is the following: beyond the theory of the subject-supposed-to-know, one must have a theory “including a lack which must find itself at every level to inscribe here in indetermination, there in certainty, and to form the knot of the uninterpretable. I exert myself there, certainly not without feeling its atopia without precedent.”2

5. Discourse is an artifact

If the real is what there is of the most human to be conceived, product, by excellence, of discourse and of castration, the semblants, on the other hand abound in nature. It is one of the beginning observations of Lacan in Seminar XVIII . They come to coincide with the signifiers, “the semblant is the signifier, neither more nor less”, when they enter into the human dit-mansion [ the house of the said]. But in order that they enter there , one must make a step, that of the institution of the unconscious. There is a jump, a beginning discontinuity of the sort that they pass to the artifact. Does the possibility arise, then, of an interrogation on the semblant itself: “Is it truth or appearance?” If one establishes a Moebius strip with which the semblant opposes itself to truth, the semblant dissipates into the truth. Truth has a structure of fiction, it is made up of signifiers/semblants.

The disarticulation between truth and effects of truth open a breach in the world of the semblants: the truth is of the semblant but “the true seeming belongs to the word [parole], even were it properly speaking senseless” and “the effect of truth is not of the semblant.”3

The effect of truth, the effect of the analytic interpretation, is not of the semblant. The semblant is taken into this artifact which is the discourse (“The discourse is the artifact”)4, starting from which there exists nothing more that one could call fact except enunciation, discourse, semblant. Entry into the human dimension [dit-mension] carries with itself the unconscious and the repression that one cannot suppress in its originary root, linked to castraton: “The signifiers (…) start off again in (…) nature (…). In order that language be born (…) it has been necessary that (…)the unconscious (…) establish itself. The unconscious and its game, which means that (…) there is going to be, in addition, the fragmented body.”5

Castration imposes the discourse with its effects, the parade of the discourse with its effects of truth. “That is what one calls repression. It is no more than a representation that it represents, it is this following of discourse which characterizes itself as effect of truth.”6 Discourse is made up of semblants and does not go outside the semblant: “Everything which is of the discourse can only give itself up as a semblant, and nothing edits itself there which does not basically come from what is called the signifier.”7 It is the radical position of Lacan: there is no metalanguage.5

The judgment of attribution which flows from the negative formulation of the title of Seminar XVIII says that “the discourse is of the semblant,” and moreover it leaves empty the place of the object of the demand: semblant of what?8

As analysts we are in the position of listening9 to a discourse which would not be of the semblant. This is a form of avoidance where castration always presents itself,10 a fantasmatic waiting for a jouissance not barred by the language which would come to coincide with the “Beyond the pleasure principle” of Freud.11 “One must start from this central point of the psychoanalytic discourse, insofar as there is only listening here to this last discourse, the one which would not be the discourse of the semblant (…) which would not be and also, as well, it is not.”12 “Under what form do we see everything which is evoked as castration; we see it under what form? Under the form, always, of an escape.”13  “Of what is it a question there where this would not be of the semblant? Of course, the terrain is prepared by a singular step, although timid, which is the one that Freud made in Beyond the Pleasure Principle… .”14 There is no discourse which would not be of the semblant, there is no Other of the Other, neither a metalanguage which permits one to say the true about the true, to put a word on the object.15 “From a discourse which would not be of the semblant, I have spent my year demonstrating that it is a completely excluded discourse. There is no discourse which would not be of the semblant.”16

It is castration linked to the said-dimension [dit-mension] and to the emergence of the unconscious which makes impossible a discourse which would not be of the semblant. But this impossible is precisely the lever that permits one to touch the real by using semblants. It is, in effect, starting from the fact that a discourse is centered on its effect as impossible that it would have some chance of being a discourse which would not be of the semblant: “But the consequence of its emergence ((of the unconscious), that is what must be introduced so that something changes – which cannot change, because it is not possible. It is, on the contrary, inasmuch as a discourse centers itself on its effect as impossible that it would have some chance of being a discourse which would not be of the semblant.”17

The discourse which centers itself on its effect as impossible is the psychoanalytic discourse. Insofar as discourse, neither can it leave the semblants, it cannot designate an object; what it is a question of is not the object, but of the referent and “the referent is what walks around.”18 Since it walks around, there is never the last, the good, the true.  “It is of the nature of language (that) the referent is never the good [the right one] and it is that which makes a language.19 But precisely this, put in the center of the discourse, is the provision for the real of the psychoanalytic discourse: “the referent is always real, because it is impossible to designate.”20

Effects of truth and referent as impossible, these are the two paths by which the analytic discourse introduces the real. On one side, interpretation produces some effects of truth which put a hole in the semblant, on the other hand, the central assumption of the impossible to be designated is marked by the Bedeutung of the phallus. This is a signification to which no signified responds, the peak of sense, this “language (…) only connotes (…) the impossibility of symbolizing the sexual rapport for the beings who inhabit it, this language, for the reason that it is due to this habitat that they have got the word [parole]”21

The discourse-artifact produces access to a real, heterogeneous to the semblant. With its semblants it composes a combinatory algebra which touches the real. “It is a question only that its network (…) make the right [bons] holes appear at the right [bonne] place.”22  Scientific discourse opens onto the “true real,” the discourse of the psychoanalyst on “the real at our level of living beings.”23

6. The artifice of the sinthome

The concept of the symptom carries us to an actualization of psychoanalytic politics. If the analytic politic is one of the symptom in the measure where it is a politics of interpretation, it implies that everything which articulates itself be liable to interpretation: “The symptom institutes the order from which our politics proves itself (…) implies on the other hand that everything which is articulated from this order be liable to interpretation.”24 What demands an actualization in the Joycean epoch in which we live.

What becomes the orientation towards the real? The impossible? The Bedeutung? The fullness of sense? The effect of truth?

The tetrahedron of discourse in the first lesson of Seminar XXIII is replaced by the four rings of the knot.25 The prospective reverses itself to reach the hole from another side.  By managing the knots to reproduce the figures of Seminar XXIII, one learns that it is essentially the hole which makes the rings hold together. The knot is maintained if the hole at the center is maintained,26 and it is this operation, the introduction of a straight line which fixes the hole, an operation that Lacan defines as “verification of the hole,” which transforms it into the real: “The essence of the Borromean chain rests on the verification of the false-hole, on the fact that this verification transforms it into the real.”27

In the perspective of the sinthome it is the third ring/straight line, the “Third,” which fixes the hole, realizes it as a hole. It is the third to make a link between the three, to make One out of three. The real holes, that is to say, separates, but at the same time, all the while separating, links.28 Thus, the sinthome, which is the most particular and the most intimate to the subject, which separates it from the Other, is also what unites, makes a link with the Other.

The artifice, the human operation which leads to the real, is defined, in Seminar XXIII, as “a savoir faire” with knots. Joyce is the paradigm of it. The artifice is put into value as an artistic act. The artifice is the act which knots and realizes, gives ex-sistence , without which it cannot have any notion of the object there. “There is no fact except of the artifice.”29

Joyce is paradigmatic. From having made of his symptom the ring which knots the three functions of the structure with unconscious subjectivity, he has raised to the level of a central symptom, the one constituted by the default proper to the sexual rapport, all the while in giving to this default a form: “The central symptom, of course, is the symptom made of the default proper to the sexual rapport. But it is indeed necessary that this default take a form. It does not take just any form.”30

The rejection of the Name-of-the-Father leaves Joyce faced with the necessity of inventing particular solutions to the vital questions to which the Name-of-the-Father responds. That is to say: the question of meaning in the sliding equivocation into the lalangue, the question of the proper Name, the question of the assumption of sex, of the rapport with the Other sex and with its progenitor. The last chapters of Seminar XXIII reveal the particular solutions that the Joycean sinthome brings to such questions, which all turn around the hole of the sexual non-rapport. Thus, it is through his work that Joyce maintains a subjective rapport with the lalangue that parasites him (remains ambiguous, Lacan says,31 if the progress of his art is going in the direction of liberating itself from the parasitical word, or, on the contrary, to let himself be invaded by the polyphony of the word [parole]). It is through his work that he makes a Name, through the homage that he wanted to be rendered to his name; he has fixed his proper name starting with the sliding towards the common name to which he was doomed and that Lacan sees sliding into his work.32

It is through his work that he recuperates a sexed position: Joyce’s work is the true respondent of his phallus.”33 It is by means of his work that he constructs a relationship with the Other sex: he succeeds in putting woman at the place of the symptom through a literary character that he imagines and for whom he knows how to open up the choice of the-one-woman as his woman.34

The symptomatic dimension touches the relationship of filiations in a revelatory fashion.  The sinthome is equally mobilized by its phallic function in the dimension of paternal protection that Joyce feels called upon to hold in order to stop his daughter from being hospitalized. The point on which he sustains his defense of his daughter’s mental health, as Lacan brings up, is his own sinthome, that is to say, the imposed words that he attributes to his daughter in the form of a telepathic sensitivity.35

Perhaps it is this last trait which revealed that the sinthomatic solution maintains the knot in a position of looking like it makes a knot-in-three – and not of truly making it like one sees it, besides, in the writing of the knot of the Joycean ego [moi]. “I permitted myself to define sinthome which permits the knot-in-three, no longer to make a knot-in-three, but to conserve it in a position such that it looks like making a knot-in-three. There is what I have advanced very gently.”36

That does not prohibit the very particular art of Joyce from being able to be the example of an unedited manner of understanding the structure and the function of the sinthome. In this, it opens onto the Joycean era, ours, in which the politics of psychoanalysis orients itself on a savoir-faire, sustained by science, by the function of the sinthome. It is the Lacanian heresy which “from having, indeed, recognized the nature of the sinthome, does not deprive itself from logically using it, that is to say, from using it up to the point of attaining the real.”37

Translated by Ellie Ragland

1 Lacan, J., Le triomphe de la religion, Paris, Seuil, 2005, pp. 82 and 87-88.

2 Miller, J.-A., De la nature des semblants, lesson of Dec. 4th, 1991, unedited.

3 Lacan, J., Le Séminaire, Livre XVIII, D’un discours qui ne serait pas du semblant, Paris, Seuil, 2006, p. 14.

4 Ibid., p. 27.

5 Ibid., p. 16.

6 Ibid. p. 14.

7 Ibid., p. 15.

8 Ibid., p. 19.

9 Ibid., p. 166.

10 Ibid., p. 167.


11Ibid., p. 19.

12 Ibid., p. 166.

13 Ibid., p. 167.

14 Ibid., p. 19.

15 Ibid., p. 14.

16 Lacan, J., “Du discours psychanalytique,” Lacan en Italie 1953-1978, Milan, La Salamandra, 1978, pp. 41

and 192.

17 Lacan, J., Le Séminaire, Livre XVIII, D’un discours qui ne serait pas du semblant, Paris, Seuil, 2006, p. 21.

18 Ibid, p. 16.

19 Ibid., p. 45.

20 Ibid., p. 46.

21 Ibid., p. 148.

22 Ibid., p. 28.

23 Lacan, J., Le triomphe de la religion, Paris, Seuil, 2005, p. 93.

24 Lacan, J., Le Séminaire, Livre XVIII, op. cit., p. 123.

25 Lacan, J., Le Séminaire, Livre XXIII. Le sinthome, Paris, Seuil, 2005, p. 22.

26 Ibid., p. 23.

27 Ibid., p. 118.

28 Miller, J.-A., “L’orientation lacanienne. L’inconscient réel,” lesson of Dec. 13th, 2006, unedited.

29 Lacan, J., Le Séminaire, Livre XXIII, op. cit., p. 66.

30 Ibid., p. 70.

31 Ibid., p. 97.

32 Ibid., p. 89.

33 Ibid., p. 15.

34 Ibid., p. 70.

35 Ibid., p. 96.

36 Ibid., p. 94.

37 Ibid., p. 15.

text: “From Contingency to the Sinthome” (M Hortensia Cardenas)

December 8, 2009

from the website of the Congress:

From Contingency to the Sinthome

Maria Hortensia Cardenas

Contingencies trace our destiny. Lacan specifys that it is on the basis of chance, because we speak, that we construct a thread of sense that we are subjected to. “Such are the chance happenings that push us one way and then the other and from which we make our destiny, for it is we who weave it that way”.[1]

Chance and Destiny

From Seminar XI onwards, Lacan tried to distinguish the real insofar as it is articulated with the bad encounter, which is situated at the level of the sexual. Lacan distinguishes the tuché as one of the modalities of the repetition that the unconscious devotes itself to. It is the unexpected encounter which seeks to repeat itself, a missed encounter with the real of trauma, with the inassimilable.[2]

The unconscious knows how to appear suddenly from the unexpected. Lacan puts it this way: “You are made from nothing but this, from these contingent manifestations, from these little discontinuities.”[3] The unexpected takes on a meaning with repetition, making an order and an effect of articulated meaning appear which will come to constitute the fabric of the unconscious.

Jacques-Alain Miller indicates that Lacan passes from the register of the symbolic to the real on the basis of mathematical logic and a stumbling upon the impossible.[4] The formula there is no sexual relation has sexual sense as its correlate, insofar as the non rapport is correlative to the encounter in the love relation. We see here the opposition between the necessity of the sexual non rapport and the encounter which is always contingent. The contingency of the encounter with jouissance becomes necessary and repeats itself in order to make-believe [faire semblant] that there is a relation.

As Jacques-Alain Miller has shown, in his last teaching, Lacan sought to link psychoanalysis to a real which would be proper to it and different from the real of science. The real of psychoanalysis is that of the there is no relation but also that of the modality of the encounter, of contingency. From the moment when we note that everything that establishes a relation between the sexes does so on the basis of contingency, it is possible to infer that this relation is not determined by a necessity. The accent is put on contingency and not on necessity.

The real intertwines with nothing because it is without meaning. We only weave threads and stories around the real. Thus, how can we circumscribe the real, how can we go beyond a discourse which would not be one of semblance and thus enable a detachment from jouissance? Free association brings signifying repetition to the fore, something which obliges to repetition. Analysis proceeds by a reduction of the necessary to the symbolic [???], a reduction of what makes-believe [faire semblant] based on knowledge, of what does not stop repeating itself. But it is also a reduction to the impossible, to what does not stop not being written.

Jouissance and Contingency

The unconscious is reducible to a knowledge, which permits it to be interpreted. In a first moment, interpretation aims at the meaning of the unconscious by producing effects of truth that have nothing to do with the real. In this way, it produces a reduction of the symptom. Interpretation is not limited to producing an effect of truth; it makes the enclosed jouissance resonate. In analysis, one notes that there is a hole based on what is contingent. One thus verifies that contingency appears at the base of the impossible that is the real. “What is of the order of the event, properly speaking, is what cannot happen: everything that is outside the circle of the possible. This is the exact sense that Lacan gave to contingency.”[5]

It is in the register of contingency that the experience of jouissance is situated. In analysis, one aims at the elucidation of the meaning taken on by contingency, the one expressed by way of repetition.  In his seminar, Le sinthome, Lacan indicates that we speak without knowing that we are spoken, without knowing the meaning that contingencies take on.[6] Everyone has their own “delirious” construction in response to the hole in knowledge about the sexual. In analysis the thread of meaning is woven, “organising, articulating, systematising the elements of chance that precede it”.[7]

Jacques-Alain Miler asks why a word from the Other can take on a decisive value for the subject.[8] He finds the answer beyond the signifying articulation, in the reference to the contingency of a particular history, to something which is encountered and stops not being written. Jacques-Alain Miller’s thesis is that everything that concerns jouissance in analysis (the modes of jouissance, the emergence of the particular mode of jouissance of a subject) is always of the order of contingency.[9] The encounter always determines the mode of jouissance which is singular for each person.

Repetition begins with the encounter with jouissance. Jouissance and contingency remain articulated in the encounter. The analyst’s operation consists in separating the necessary modality of the semblant of knowledge from the contingency which aims at the real. The reduction of contingency is the reduction to the trauma. In analysis one thus proceeds to the disinvestment of what is pathogenic.[10] The reduction of the contingency, of the encounter, is of the order of the possible, of the order of what, at a given moment, stops being written. So it can happen that suddenly, in the form of surprise, one captures in an instant what has the value of an unforeseen event. Thus, one seeks to make the semblants waver in order to awaken the desire extinguished by jouissance.

Lacan’s last teaching goes beyond the signifying structure, in other words, outside of the unconscious, outside meaning. Interpretation beyond meaning aims to undo the articulation of destiny. It is the way towards the sinthome, which “leads the subject back to the absolute elements of his contingent existence.”[11] With the sinthome, one is no longer concerned with resolving the enigma of jouissance; it is the encounter with the untreatable, with what of jouissance is irreducible, with what one can know no more about and what remains invariable. It is with the reduction to the sinthome that one arrives at the “I am that” in its most absolute difference, in what it has that is incomparable.

Analysis unknots the untreatable. Inscribed within the horizon of the possible is the pass, in which the analysand’s relation to his unconscious is exposed and in which one verifies the way a subject has been able to throw light on his particular mode of jouissance, the contingency of his mode of jouissance that has traced his destiny.


1- Jacques Lacan, Le Seminaire livre XXIII, Le Sinthome, (Paris : Seuil, 2005), p.162.

2- Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, (London: Penguin, 1977), p. 54.

3- Jacques-Alain Miller, L’orientation lacanienne, « Les us du laps », course of 15/12/1999 unpublished.

4- Jacques-Alain Miller, L’orientation lacanienne, « Tout le monde est fou », course of 30/01/2008, unpublished.

5- Jacques-Alain Miller, « Introduction à l’érotique du temps », Revue La Cause freudienne n°56, (Paris : Navarin/Seuil, 2004), p. 63-85.

6- Jacques Lacan, Le sinthome, op.cit., p.162.

7- Jacques-Alain Miller, L’orientation lacanienne, « Choses de finesse en psychanalyse », course of 10/12/2008, unpublished.

8- Jacques-Alain Miller, L’orientation lacanienne, « Le Partenaire-Symptôme », course of 06/05/1998, unpublished.

9- Ibid.

10- Ibid.

11- Jacques Alain Miller, L’orientation lacanienne, « Choses de finesse en psychanalyse », course of 10/12/2008, unpublished.

Translated by Philip Dravers