Lacan webpages banner





— page 73 —

reconsidered subject is grasped through the distinction between what might be called the ‘subjectivization’ of the subject and the pure subject. The former is the emergence of the subject into the field of meaning, a subject imbued with meaningful content (visually confirmed with the $ emerging at the tail end of the retroactive trajectory of meaning production). The latter is the empty lack between signifiers, a subject of the signifier devoid of any substantive meaning. Lacan’s effort here can productively be viewed as understanding the subject in its move from the alienation of subjectivization to the subject proper. How? Immediately following the above citation is Lacan’s reminder that he has ‘always stressed that something defined as a loss emerges from this trajectory. This is what the letter to be read as object a designates.’ Again, it is through the subject’s identification with this lost object that the subject sees itself as a lack. In terms of discourse theory, we now have the final element that occupies the fourth place of product/loss in the elemental discourse that Lacan calls the Master’s discourse (Md). This is seen in Figure 3.5.

Figure 3.5, Master's and Analyst's Disourse: ratios for Md and Ad using S1, S2, a, $

As the signifying chain proceeds from left to right (from S1 to S2), it produces objet a, but as immediately lost to a subject which also emerges from this very chain. Yet the mathemes indicate that the emerging subject does so as divided or split. But between what two or more elements is the subject split? The Venn diagrams Lacan uses in Seminar XI seem readymade to provide the answer. Certainly the subject is split between its being and its meaning. This is essentially correct. But it must be understood how this being is quite unlike the being pursued by the hermeneutical phenomenologist. First of all, it is so devoid of meaning that it lacks even a modicum of sense. Rather, it is a bit of nonsense. And second, it appears as utterly impossible. For if meaning is a forced choice, there is really no other option before the subject other than assuming itself as a meaningful subject. So again, why does Lacan call the subject split? The mystery is cleared up by recognizing how the split is, in a way, doubled. That is, the subject is split between itself in its meaningful dimension and the split itself. This latter element is of course nothing. But it is a curious nothing in that it nevertheless doubles itself into a ‘something’ which carries a certain material weight in the subject’s meaningful universe. Here is the other choice before the subject, an impossible choice – the objet a – which, once assumed, can suspend the hermeneutical questioning into the meaning of being.50

50 Their objections notwithstanding, hermeneutical phenomenologists do employ a subject and one that is thoroughly subjectivized. Poulet’s phenomenology fairs much

full text of Lacan and Meaning

Other Lacanian Texts

FREE Lacanian-themed puzzles