Psychoanalysis: Freud into Lacan

Notes by Dr Morillo


On psychoanalysis and philosophy:

The Freudian revolution in thinking about the subject is based on the definitive displacement of the Western episteme (way of knowing) from its presumed centrality,  a notion of the subject as a self with a transcendent ego cut off from the body, any unconscious mind, and history. 

--Thomas Seebok, The Tell-Tale Sign 49-50

“I ti s this assumption of his history by the subject, in so far as it is constituted by the speech addressed to the other, that constitutes the ground of the new method Freud called psychoanalysis”

-         Jacques Lacan, “Function and Field of Speech and Language”


“The satisfaction of human desire is possible only when mediated by the desire and labor of the other.”

--LacanAggressivity in Psychoanalysis” (26)


“…the first object of desire is to be recognized by the other”

Lacan  Function and Field of Speech and Language” (59)


I. The Mirror Stage

This stage of child development leads Lacan to “oppose any philosophy directly issuing from the Cogito” (1)

He is against Descartes’ cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am, because it is too individualized and too vested in a conscious, controlling mind

Lacan’s key point about the child seeing his image as imago:

the important point is that this form situates the agency of the ego in a fictional direction which will always remain irreducible… and by which he must resolve as I his discordance with his own reality’ (2)

As the child ages he will never lose the notion of himself as an ideal whole, but this ideal is nonetheless, for Lacan, a fiction.

The child’s view of himself in the mirror also “prefigures its alienating destination” (2)

Note how much, like Marx, Lacan’s challenge to philosophy is inspired by Hegel, with his sense that all moves by one thing encountering its opposite, its negation. For Lacan that great dialectic tension is between self and other, and the sublation, the new third term that arises from this tension, is that self and other are always as codependent as master and slave are for Hegel.

That prefigured alienating destination is language itself. Just as the image of himself in the mirror will enable the child to find in something other than exactly himself a way to imagine himself as whole, as having a self, learning to speak a language will also the child to borrow from something beyond himself  the ability to form himself into the concept “I,” to literally articulate himself through and in language, and to use the I/ego to repress the inherent fragmentation of his psychic mental character as always divided between conscious and unconscious mind. This fragmented self image is what Lacan, following Freud, finds so often showing up in everyone’s dreams. Hence both see it as always there in  the unconscious from child to adult.

Lacan sees an “evident connection between the narcissistic libido and the alienating function of the I, the aggressivity it releases in any relation to the other” (6)

For Lacan our emotions toward this image of self that is always somewhat other than us, not exactly equal to us, always included aggression.

Thus for Lacan a “social dialectic (between self and its antithesis, another self) structures human knowledge as “paranoiac”

Why is this knowledge like paranoia?

“Our experience shows that we should start instead from the function of meconnaissance (trans. “misrecognition”) that characterizes the ego in all its structures.

Lacan’s own summary of the Mirror Stage:

the child anticipates on the mental plane the conquest of the functional unity of his own body, which, at that stage, is still incomplete”

it is interesting in that it manifests  the affective dynamism by which the subject originally identifies himself with the visual Gestalt of his own body: in relation to the still very profound lack of coordination of his own motility, it represents an ideal unity, a salutary imago


Gestalt: from Ger. Gestellen, a placing within a frame


II. Your Life with Others:

Above all Lacan thinks that what we all desire most is for others to acknowledge our desires

First encounter with other is with mother’s body, her breast, the first imago of the body

Second is with the mirror image (“a primary identification ..structures the subject as rival with himself” )

Third is with language which you only participate in, but never fully control.

III. Lacan’s  Algebra of the Subject


IV. Lacan on Freud’s idea that Transference is key to any psychoanalysis

For Lacan the transferred feelings are NOT merely a repetition of the past. They are the means by which the communication of the unconscious mind is interrupted, and not just a restoration of what was concealed.

His primary objection is to any view of the transference as a view of power that is too one-sided (and hence not Hegelian enough). He does not think the truth of what happens in the transference is any easily resolved exchange between the mystified patient and the analyst who knows the other’s reality and truth and then speaks it back to that patient.

V. Why the Unconscious is structured like a language and why “the unconscious of the subject is the discourse of the other”

1) it is created by the effect of speech on the subject, the “NO” that inaugurates the UCS as what is repressed

2) it has deep structures and codes

3) it only has meaning by virtue of a series of relationships of difference

4) it is always transindividual and changing


An Intriguing Link to Theory:

One could argue that, for Lacan, desire is best defined as interpretation. Compare the critics’ desire in the act of trying to interpret an object combining knowledge and pleasure, like a novel:

Desire is a vain detour with the aim of catching the jouissance [primal pleasure] of the other, but a detour articulated as a demand to give up secrets.

Do we often find ourselves saying to the the text, as the analyst might do to the patient, give up your secrets, now?