New Materialism Society Seminar

#02 Reading Lacan’s Seminar Book VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis

hosted by Nelson Zhang 張嘉榮

Nelson Zhang is a Ph.D. student at Department of Philosophy, Tsinghua University (Beijing), his research topic is ‘Maoism and French contemporary philosophy’. He is the Chinese translator of Slavoj Žižek’s Violence: Six Sideways Reflections.

*seminar in Cantonese

Slavoj Žižek: “…Jouissance as the impossible Real which eludes the big Other reasserts itself with a vengeance as the terrifying abyss of the Thing – the adoration of the Structure and its Law reverts to the fascination with the heroic suicidal transgressive gesture which excludes the subject from the symbolic community. As to its socio-political background, one should bear in mind that, when Lacan was writing his famous interpretation of Antigone, he was bringing the transcriptions of his lectures to his daughter Laurence Bataille, who was imprisoned because of her engagement in the Algerian struggle for independence. Is this not Lacan’s reaction to the first cracks which appeared in the solid edifice of post-World War II French society?”

What is jouissance? This term has been proposed by Lacan since Seminar I and its theoretical status was increasingly stressed throughout the development of Lacanian psychoanalysis. In the graph of desire, it is the equivalent of the function reverberated by the formula of fantasy ($◊a) and the symbolic phallus. In Seminar VII, apropos of the ethics upon the conformity of desire, jouissance is conceived of as a form analogical to the real kernel of Freudian Das Ding. It is a very notion obviously conflictual to Lacan’s Big Other that he proposed in Seminar II. Here, an impulse from the tragedy of Antigone undermines the stable symbolic structure maintained by the Big Other. How should we read this conflict in Lacan’s theory and the development of Lacanian psychoanalysis in such period (1959 – 1960)?

It is well know that problematics of western thought about ethics and moral practice, from Aristotle to Kant, is anchored on how to govern one’s desire with regard to derivation of proper acts. The two very concepts proposed by Aristotle, viz., Arete and Eudiamonia, and Kant’s good will and categorical imperative are both inevitable to trajectories of one’s drive and his objects of desire. Freud is not the one who endeavors to promulgate any law to the true practice, but the one who tried to posit the problematics on the dialectic of desire between the law conferred by the master-signifier and the drive that always transgresses it. Therefore, the ethics of psychoanalysis is the notion about the Real possibility of the proper acts.

In the former summer courses (2014) on Lacan’s Seminars, the diachronic development of Freud’s investigation on human psychic structure was elaborated by means of studies of Lacan’s work (Seminar III). The courses included, on the one hand, the reading of Freud’s early works Entwurf einer Psychologie (1895) and Studies on Hysterics (1895) that are helpful to envisage the shifting of Freud’s insights through a passage from physiological perspective to psychological contemplation, and on the other hand, the re-reading of his psychoanalytic works (after 1896) that interrogated the techniques of treatments upon the ideology of the Anglo-Saxon ego psychology. In this summer, we are going to read Lacan’s Seminar VII: the Ethics of Psychoanalysis to continue the work we have done in last summer.

Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis: 1959-1960. Eds. Jacques-Alain Miller. Trans. Dennis Porter. New York: Norton, 1992.



—— 齊澤克

什麼是快感(jouissance)? 這個詞從《講座一》開始一直被提及,可以說它被重視的程度隨著拉康精神分析學說的發展而不斷提升。在《講座五》的欲望圖解(graph of desire)中, 拉康把它等同於 $◊a 這個幻覺公式以及象徵陽具(symbolic phallus)所產生的功效。然而, 到了《講座七》, 拉康從精神分析的倫理出發, 把快感定位在以一種和佛洛德所說的原質(Das Ding)的內核十分類似的方式出現的東西。當拉康回朔到佛洛德的這個理論時, 那種安提戈尼式的悲劇沖動和拉康之前對大他者(《講座二》開始提出的概念)的結構性隱定作用的詮釋產生了明顯沖突。我們應該如何理解這個時期(1959-1960, 當中包括法國和阿爾及利亞之間的殖民戰爭)的拉康?


Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis: 1959-1960. Eds. Jacques-Alain Miller. Trans. Dennis Porter. New York: Norton, 1992.

Time: 2015, August 11 (Tue), 9:30-12:30am; August 14 (Fri), 2:00-5:00pm; August 18 (Tue), 9:30-12:30am; August 21 (Fri), 2:00-5:00pm; August 25 (Tue), 9:30-12:30am; August 28 (Fri), 2:00-5:00pm.
Venue: Room 628, Sir Run Run Shaw Building, Ho Sin Hang Campus, Hong Kong Baptist University