text: “The Semblant as an Operative Category” (VH Reinoso)

from the NLS-Messager, n. 583:



The Semblant as an Operative Category
Victoria Horne Reinoso

Victoria Horne Reinoso has also taken Jacques-Alain Miller’s Course On the Nature of Semblants as a reference in order to underline that the category of make-believe indicates the place of that which is not. Thus, the ternary father-phallus-object a which belongs to Oedipal logic, in contrast to drive jouissance which knows nothing of lack. Being the indicator of the real at stake, the semblant appears as the ‘instrument of the analyst in the treatment’ par excellence. – Marie-Hélène Blancard

‘The semblant consists in making believe that there is something where there is nothing.’ [1]
‘The semblant is no empty illusion. The semblant operates.’ [2]

The Lacanian clinic revolves around a hole. Whether it be the (-phi) of castration, foreclosure or the inexistence of the sexual relation that is involved, the hole, lack, and the void of the reference constitute the structural linchpin around which the scaffolding of the parlêtre can be constructed. To situate the stakes of the question of the semblant, Jacques-Alain Miller distinguishes between the regime of the All-One [Un-tout] and that of the not-all [pas-tout]. He posits the regime of the One as that of Oedipal logic which articulates the different levels of ‘lack’ with what comes to this place and constitutes a plug: ‘The hole, loss, and castration, are only thinkable within the regime of the One.’[3]. Jacques-Alain Miller articulates the not-all notably with the regime of the constancy of the drive: ‘something other than lack and what plugs it up’ is involved, because ‘the constancy of the drive knows nothing of lack.’ The drive, in so far as it is one of the Freudian names of jouissance, has a ‘positivity’ that ‘ignores the avatars and the efficiency of lack.’[4]
Leading us to ‘think the symbolic and the imaginary together’ [5] in opposition to the real, the category of semblant comes to the place of what is not within the regime of the One. In the series of semblants broached by J.-A. Miller in his Course, a fundamental triad emerges: the father, the phallus, and the object a. These three semblants, J.-A. Miller indicates, are articulated. The father, semblant par excellence, is supported by the phallic semblant, which ‘attests’ to the father and only takes on meaning in relation to the remainder of the operation of castration, namely, the object a. [6] J.-A. Miller considers them as ‘names of jouissance’: they are the three semblants which belong to the logic of the One. It is from the symbolic that they offer a perspective on jouissance.
Though the object a is ‘signifier of jouissance qua remainder of castration, [i.e.] that part that resisted the operation’, it belongs nevertheless to the regime of the All-One, to Oedipal logic in as much as it is articulated to castration as lack. J.-A. Miller has reminded us of this in his Course of this year, the object a is the complement of a lack: of the (-phi) of castration, of the subject in the fantasy… Though it is ‘a condenser of jouissance’, it is no less a semblant, an effect of the symbolic resulting from the effort to grasp the real, as Lacan puts it in his Seminar Encore.
Lacan encourages the analyst to ‘make himself the dupe’ of the semblants that allow for the emergence of the subject supposed to know. This means putting the object a qua semblant in the place of agent in the analytic discourse that the analyst operates. The semblant is, to use J.-A. Miller’s term, the ‘analyst’s instrument in the treatment.’[7] ‘Coming in place of…’, the semblant occupies the locus of that which cannot be said: it is operative to the extent that it is an index of a real at stake. This is why J.-A. Miller invites us to foreground this ‘edge of semblant that situates the kernel of jouissance.’ [8]

[1] Miller, J.-A., L’orientation lacanienne. De la nature des semblants, teaching given within the framework of the Department of Psychoanalysis of University Paris VIII, lesson of 20 November 1991, unpublished.
[2] Ibid., lesson of 18 December 1991, unpublished.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid., lesson of 26 February 1992, unpublished.
[5] Ibid., lesson of 18 December 1991, unpublished.
[6] Ibid., lesson of 26 February 1991, unpublished.
[7] Miller, J.-A., ‘Semblants et sinthome’ in La Cause freudienne, Issue 69, Paris, Navarin/Seuil, September 2008, p. 128.
[8] Ibid., p. 131.

Translated from the French by Adrian Price for NLS Messager

Original first circulated on ECF Debats
Consult the website of the VIIth Congress of the WAP: http://www.congresoamp.com


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