text: “The Symptom Stripped Bare by its Semblants” (D Arpin)

from the NLS-Messager:


The symptom stripped bare by its semblants

Dalila Arpin


Dalila Arpin chooses a quotation from the Seminar Encore to question the relations between truth, semblant and jouissance. Here, she stresses the function of the object (a) as an operating semblant whose “border with the semblant” allows the real to be touched on. Even if jouissance is incurable, it is a question of getting the varity [varité] of the subject to emerge so that it stops making the sexual relation exist, and comes to “create itself a sinthome”. M.-H. B.


“Yet another thing restrains (ligote) us regarding the status of truth: the fact that jouissance is a limit. This is related to the very structure that was evoked by my “quadripodes” at the time at which I constructed them for you – jouissance is questioned (s’interpelle), evoked, tracked, and elaborated only on the basis of a semblance” (1)


Even before the introduction of the Borromean knot Lacan’s sentence knots semblant, jouissance and signifier. A little earlier Lacan had put forward that what tied us up to truth was, in the first instance, its status of half-saying. The term ‘truth’ (of legal origin) stresses that, in the course of a trial, it is the jouissance of the witness that is aimed at when he is required to tell “the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth”.


Limit of jouissance by effect of discourses, this is the point by which we are bound (ligote) to truth through a second turn of the cord. “This is due to the structure”, said Lacan about the four discourses that he introduced two years earlier. Far from being considered as empty speech, these discourses take into account the place of jouissance. But in which way?


In each of Lacan’s four discourses an element takes the place of the semblant and gives its name to each discourse. It is thus the semblant that has the function of questioning jouissance, tracking it down, evoking it. Whereas, in the early Lacan, the semblant was a mix of symbolic and imaginary opposed to the real (2), in his last teaching it is the affinity of a to its envelope (3) that enables the real to be touched via an “edge of semblant”(4).


If “jouissance is only questioned from a semblant”, then this means that the analyst uses these semblants in order to extract the subject’s mode of jouissance. It is a question of a true “dialectic of sense and jouissance” which allows the semblant “not to be erased but to be recuperated” (5). In contrast to the Law, psychoanalysis obtains the emergence of truth by other means than avowal. Psychoanalysis shows us that jouissance, basically unavowable, is incurable (6).


If the “partner-semblant’ is the reverse of the “partner-symptom” (7), Lacan teaches us that the symptom stripped bare by the semblants makes emerge the “varité” (“veriety”: variety+verity) (8) of the subject. This is the only way to stop the production of semblants for the sexual relation (9) and to invent a sinthome for oneself.


[1] Lacan J., The Seminar, Book XX, Encore, Norton, 1998, p.92.

[2] Miller J.-A., L’Orientation lacanienne, “De la nature des semblants”, Seminar 1991-92, unpublished.

[3] Lacan J., op. cit., p.93.

[4] Miller J.-A., “Semblants et sinthome”, La Cause Freudienne n° 69, p.131.

[5] Ibidem.

[6] Ibidem.

[7] Miller J.-A., “Le partenaire-symptôme”, (1997-1998), seminar of 17th December 1997, unpublished.

[8] Lacan J., L’insu que sait de l’une bévue s’aile a mourre, (1976-1977), Ornicar ?, 17/18, Paris, Seuil, 1979.

[9] Miller J.-A., “De la nature des semblants”, seminar of 8th January 1992, unpublished.


Translated by Vincent Dachy 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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