text: “Semblants and sinthome” (M Torres)

from the website of the Congress:

Semblants and sinthome
Mónica Torres
Lacan’s teaching is clearer when ordered in binaries. Do make-believe [semblant] and sinthome form a binary? These binaries can be translated in different ways: meaning and non-meaning is one way; signifier and jouissance is another. Unconscious and symptom was one too at one time; I was struck by this in my reading of the late Lacan. This last binary has been worked through in different ways by Lacan and by J.-A. Miller.
Une-bévue and a reformulation of meaning
Let’s begin with the relation between meaning and symptom. How does the ‘first Lacan’ resolve the problem posed by the fact that the symptom speaks a truth and also implies a satisfaction?
The first Lacan puts speech in the place of meaning and gives jouissance an imaginary status.
But, when all jouissance becomes signifying and meaning reigns, it is the concept of desire that appears so as to refer to satisfaction, to sexuality.
In the ‘The Instance of the Letter…’, the concept of non-meaning is already being suggested: speech is no longer full because it is starting to be affected by non-meaning.
The Lacan of [the twenty-fourth Seminar] L’insu… will reach the une-bévue: ‘There’s nothing harder than grasping this trait of the une-bévue, by which I’m translating the unbewusst, which means unconscious in German.’[1] Indeed, the concept of the une-bévue is a reformulation of the idea of meaning.
Lacan lets us see clearly here that what is at stake in an analysis is not obtained through the subject’s comprehension. The unconscious is only grasped in the blunder the subject produces, before giving it a meaning. Is it possible to place the unconscious as a real outside meaning? Does a second unconscious exist, which we could call real and which is linked neither to the idea of the signifier, the idea of the subject of meaning, nor to a plurality of symptoms?
Object a and flight of meaning
In the Anxiety seminar, Lacan is already effecting a second operation on the concept of the father in Freud. The first had consisted in the linguistic operation of transforming the Freudian father into the Name-of-the-Father. Lacanian anxiety is the access road to the object a. And the object a eludes the signifying operation. Consequently, this implies a second depreciation of meaning and of the Name-of-the-Father. The object a is close to the idea of the real, but it will show itself later on to be a false real, a make-believe [semblant] of the real. There exists then a first Lacanian period, the period of the signifier, in which the binary could be called symbolic-imaginary. Another notion of jouissance appears in a second period. It is linked to the real and represented by the object a.
In a third period, the time of Seminar XVII, The Other Side of Psychoanalysis, the object a circulates within the logic of the discourses. This moment corresponds to logic.
The phallic logic is respected ‘for all x…’ but something escapes us: the object a. Non-meaning is again placed in relation to make-believe.
The flight of meaning leaves behind the meaning that ‘significantises’ jouissance, if I may, to reach a first non-meaning which is make-believe [semblant], even when it is a matter of jouis-sens. For the late Lacan, there is an outside of meaning that links up with the real of jouissance.
Sinthome and the meaning/jouissance dialectic
The sinthome, in the singular, is the only possible means we have at our disposal to grasp this real outside meaning.
The analysand needs the signifier of meaning to enter analysis. He needs to establish the signifier of the transference and the subject supposed to know. This meaning is articulated to the transferential unconscious, but up until the end of analysis, the jouissance of the symptom is opaque. The subject sees himself faced with the real of his sinthome, this time in the singular. This implies that not everything that is of the order of the sinthome can be elucidated in an analysis. Thus, symptomatic remainders endure and it is no longer a matter of waiting for the perfect Pass. Miller proposes that we think of the practice of analysis on the basis of the idea that there is no science of the real.
The late Lacan ends up placing all the concepts he had worked through in the course of his teaching as versions of make-believe [semblants].
As Miller clarified it in his course on L’expérience du réel, the last paradigm of jouissance, the paradigm of the non-relation, puts forward the concepts of language, of the Other, of the Name-of-the-Father and the phallic symbol itself as make-believe [semblants]. This puts the pertinence of operating on jouissance by means of speech into question.
For this late Lacan, the analyst will have been put in the position of subject supposed to know, then the make-believe [semblant] of the object a, to become the analysand’s partner-symptom. In a certain sense, the partner symptom is the mistaking [la méprise], the failing of the subject supposed to know. This implies passing from love for the father to love for the sinthome.
Even though the sinthome – which can be situated between anxiety and the lie – is the only proof of the impact of the symbolic on the real, the make-believe of the unconscious is still necessary. Because, in the opposite case, the crucial problem of psychoanalysis – searching out how to have an impact on the real from the symbolic, a problem that in my opinion is yet to be resolved – has no solution.
If we may speak of dialectics, and not opposition between meaning and jouissance, it is because we retain the edge of the make-believe [semblant] that touches the real. This implies a retrieval of the make-believe [semblant], which is necessary for neurosis: making use, for instance, of the father so as to get to the make-believe [semblant] of the first signifier that enables a certain transparency in order to bear the real of the opaque jouissance of the sinthome.
Invention and poetry
The late Lacan is oriented towards invention and poetry so as not to veil the void that results from the experience of non-meaning. The make-believe [semblant], in its edge with the real, enables the experience of this void to be made liveable for the parlêtre. But an unconscious exists that does not make believe [ne fait pas semblant], and which we can only know from the post-analytic point of view. This is why, so it seems to me, the desire of the analyst is not a will of make-believe. It aims at the real unconscious, the dimension of the une-bévue, the contingency of major errors and not the bungled action as a formation of the unconscious. The concept of the sinthome does not resolve the whole problem because the real does not coincide with the true. The unconscious persists.
In my opinion, two problems are still to be developed. One concerns the fundamental problem that pierces the whole of psychoanalysis: the impact of the symbolic on the real. The other problem, a more current one, lies in the examination of the edge of make-believe [semblant] with the real: what is its relation with the sinthome? Is it possible to think this relationship through in the form of a binary or binaries?
1- Lacan, J., ‘L’impossible à saisir’ in Ornicar ? Issue 17/18, Spring 1979, p. 18.
Translated from the French by Adrian Price

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