LACAN AND MEANING
SEXUATION, DISCOURSE THEORY, AND TOPOLOGY IN THE AGE OF HERMENEUTICS
LACAN ON MEANING
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Lacan speaks of objet a in two ways here. While it is in the place of loss in the Md, it is spoken of as a rejected stone. But once it assumes the place of agency in the Ad, it becomes a cornerstone. As rejected, it is that which falls out of the signifying chain as it proceeds from S1 to S2, retroactively producing meaning for ‘we feeble beings... [who] will keep on discovering for ourselves at every turning point... [how] we need meaning.’54 The interminable slide of signifiers and meaning thus has its limit. It is objet a that embodies this limit. But produced as a loss, separation proves impossible in the Md. However, as the agent of its own discourse, S1 is produced as a loss instead. This halts any further sliding of meaning, effecting a collapse of the entire edifice of the subject, of its life-world and all the meaning it entails. The Ad is truly a subversive practice. While the Md is the essential discourse retroactively producing meaning without restraint, the Ad reverses this process, putting an end to meaning production through identification with a nonsensical object.55 For the Md simultaneously also produces the object of its own demise such that if appropriated, can suspend the subject’s need to further inquire upon the meaning of phenomena.
These lessons were not immediately evident to Freud. It is often noted that Freud discovered psychoanalysis by following the path of hysterical desire. But not to be overlooked is how such a path begins by duplicity of which he was certainly the first victim. This can be understood through the Hysteric’s discourse (Hd), shown in Figure 3.6.
As can be seen, knowledge (S2)56 is produced in the Hd. Historically, it was the demand of the hysteric which put Freud to work and his texts bear witness to the
54 Ibid., 15.
55 In no uncertain terms the Ad is to be equated with nonsense. During a question period an interlocutor makes the following statement: ‘What you say is always decentered in relation to sense, you shun sense’ and Lacan responds: ‘This is perhaps precisely why my discourse is an analytic discourse. It’s the structure of analytic discourse to be like that.’ Ibid., 146.
56 As might have already been suspected, many of Lacan’s mathemes take on (a limited number of) different equivalences depending on the context within which they are discussed. This is partly due to Lacan’s occasional use of the same algebraic notation over the course of decades which saw his thought develop considerably. But it is equally true that at any given time during that development many of those differing equivalences are, in fact, equivalent. Two cases in point: first, taking S2 here as denoting knowledge reflects Lacan’s contention that the epistemological dimension constitutes itself as a signifying chain, which is how S2 was first introduced above; and second, the nuances between S1 and the phallus qua signifier are sometimes relaxed so that they are effectively
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