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Dec 27, 2011

Pure Psychoanalysis, Applied Psychoanalysis, and Psychotherapy

Jacques-Alain Miller
translated by Barbara P. Fulks


Shouldn’t I lift the burden I’ve placed on your shoulders – and on my own? I have in fact placed on us the weight of an insistent return, that of the difference between pure and applied psychoanalysis – applied, I should add, to therapy.


This return of ours was motivated by a state of affairs where the distinction appeared to me as unfinished, not fully considered, located, or posed. At the same time, the rapport between two opposing terms which are classical in psychoanalysis and beyond, even though a bit out of date, has produced an impediment, even some pain, and, we might say, a certain feeling of drift.

I have taken this into account. I have very seriously taken it into account.

However determined I’ve been, however I’ve posed it and supported it with evidence from all our classical works, I can only conceive of this return as the first step of a problem to resolve, as the enunciation of a diagnosis.

I’ve made a worthy attempt to capture it. A worthy attempt, to my mind, not institutionally or through classification – this is not how the problem is posed – but by involving what conforms to the dynamic among psychoanalysts.

My focus was on psychoanalysis as practice. I expected and worked to find a strategy there which, if not the best, would at least have a chance of coping with the issue for a short while. These are the considerations I bring to you today.

I will speak a little later from my perspective against the notion of an anchoring point. We are justified in keeping our distance from the constant fixing that we see in what we call, using Lacan’s metaphorical illustration, the anchoring point, which hearkens back to a very precise signifying mechanism.

Nevertheless, what I stirred up here, what I tried to plot simply and definitively, involves something of an anchoring point; that is to say it gave me a point of view that I haven’t quite captured or centered on, even if I see clearly how it developed. Today I am going to try to communicate to you, in the simplest way, leaving what is perhaps on the order of its construction for later.

The fact that the distinction between pure and applied psychoanalysis in therapy has not been made leads to some confusion, leads us to practical confusions, to the posing of false problems, and especially to false solutions which, briefly outlined, lead us to a certain number of complications in situating what we do in practice. Again we must situate the truly important confusion in its place. What is it? It is not so much the confusion between pure psychoanalysis and psychoanalysis applied to therapy. This confusion has a limited range, because even if we acknowledge that they are different, they are still part of psychoanalysis. The confusion which is truly important is distinguishing, in the name of therapy, what is psychoanalysis and what is not.

If we look closely at the objective, it is not necessary for psychoanalysis, in its dimension or its usage or its therapeutic care, to be lured, kicked around, and even mortified by the kind of non-psychoanalysis glorified with the name of psychotherapy. What we need is for psychoanalysis applied to therapy to remain psychoanalytical and be proud of its psychoanalytical identity.

In order to fix these ideas, I will write it thus:

pure Y / applied Y // Y therapy

I should note that the difference I have signaled between pure and applied psychoanalysis was made to reverberate upon the difference between the two with regard to psychotherapy. My formula had the goal of demanding too much of psychoanalysis applied to therapy; that is to say it demanded that it be psychoanalysis, that it not give up being psychoanalysis and, under the pretext of therapy, let itself be drawn into overstepping this limit, this difference.

In the same vein, it seems that the essential stake – the essential stake of the part we play today – is to verify that psychoanalysis applied to therapy remains psychoanalysis, that it is the role of the psychoanalyst to ensure that it is psychoanalysis as such when it is applied.

I imagine the agreement made on these elementary premises. The task is now to reinstate in the profession the difference between psychoanalysis as such, pure or applied, and psychotherapy.

This is a theme already covered, a theme which, ten or so years ago, was the subject of a congress, the product of which was then distributed at different events. But we did not then have the view of the situation that we have now.

To situate this difference shouldn’t be difficult if we understand things from the perspective that psychotherapy does not exist, that it’s a convenient label which covers very diverse practices, extending even to gymnastics. These practices are not in themselves detrimental. Gymnastics is even a highly recommendable exercise. If I just reflect on the question and ponder where we are led seriously, there might be more in the body than in our philosophy.

In any case, the forms which can pretend to have psychotherapeutic effects are no problem for us. Those which are a problem are the ones which are close to analysis, which welcome the demand of the sufferer who wants to know and which treat this demand with speaking and listening, and further, as we say, as one has said for a long time, which draw inspiration from psychoanalysis – a sacramental and regulated formula to some of us. If we proceed further, there are forms which say they conform to psychoanalysis and, if we go all the way to the end of the spectrum, those which call themselves psychoanalysis.

It is not excessive, at least in an exploratory way, to formulate the problem in these terms: that psychoanalysis produced, nourished, encouraged its own semblance, and that this semblance thereafter enveloped it, passed over it, vampirized it. I say vampirized because one could give to this history a Gothic style in the manner of Edgar Allan Poe, something like “Psychoanalysis and its Double.” Once we display the resemblances, the intermittent confusions of person, the interchangeable character of the original and the double, the story would conclude with the substitution of the double for the original, the original ending up expropriated, exiled, in the rubbish, eliminated.

Unbelievable! To read what is widely written by psychoanalysts of various stripes, one could state that we are confronted with what I termed the expropriation of psychoanalysis.

If we can dream it, it is logical, and it even seems necessary that psychoanalysis has produced its semblance. This has also happened to philosophy, which, as it advanced through Socrates, produced its double under the Sophists. It is what motivates the constant Platonic polemic against the Sophists as doubles, as semblances of philosophy. It’s an old story.

In order to begin to speak of the difficulty of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, one need only to see this imagery of the original and its double developing, only here it is situated with even more difficulty. There is the Gothic element; there is the Platonic element in the psychoanalyst’s torment at seeing the growing extension of psychotherapy in the adjacent form of analysis, this derivative form, which it does not seem excessive to me to qualify as a semblance of psychoanalysis.

The sociological enquiry can be used here, but it will not give us the secret of this impasse and the means to surmount it. The secret of this semblance is no doubt in psychoanalysis itself, if it is true that psychoanalysis has produced this semblance which devours it.

I’m saying all this in quotation marks. Let’s not panic. We have a mise en place here and I am trying to assemble some notes which may effectively develop some fragments and a symphony. There is work to do.


Today we can perceive that what motivates the apparatus of formal rules and of traditional, institutional validation which was inserted into psychoanalytic practice by its early practitioners is probably the defense against this semblance. To their credit, given the nature of psychoanalysis, the premonition that it would produce its semblance didn’t escape them, even in a situation quite different from our own. One can give them credit for anticipating this semblance – and those who are faithful to the apparatus were the first to say so – but today we see the impotence of the apparatus quite well. It is perhaps because they touched bottom on this anti-semblance apparatus that they have also been the first to alert us to the weakness of the apparatus in regard to the semblance.

We can say today that to make the distinction between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy through rule and tradition leads only to establishing psychoanalysis in a difficult position, that of a besieged fortress. When one is in a besieged fortress, everything indicates that it is already on the way to being taken from within.

Well! Let’s try to keep our heads in this turmoil, which in a short while will become a tempest and, according to Rouletabille’s formula, let’s “take things by the good end of reason.”

We should say first that there is no regulatory, institutional disposition that can hold where the orientation is lacking. We cannot turn to the institution to find some type of filter which would keep the chaff and deliver the grain. We need to trace our path toward an orientation of structure.

In this detour, whom can we ask for this orientation? Surely our customary reasoning, but this reasoning has the habit of turning – even if just a little, even if it’s a mistake, even if it is contradictory – toward what Lacan left. On occasion, these are arguments and not indications. It is there that in terms of orientation we have the custom of looking for our thread, noting that the situation has changed but giving him credit for a certain capacity of anticipation we think we’ve perceived up to the present.

The small point of support I have is that the question was posed to him – by myself (see Television). 1 The question involved the difference between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, understanding by psychotherapy that which is supported by speech, that is founded on listening and speaking. So we can see, even then, the trace of the phenomenon of semblance which is later inflated, and with which we are grappling.

How many times have we read it? But we must understand – and here’s where the change occurs – his response as a response to our interrogations of today. And to appreciate the accent of this response or to understand the impact this response has today, we must base it on what it is not: I mean on the basis of the responses that Lacan did not make in 1973 to the question of knowing what distinguishes psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.

I distinguish two responses that he did not make, but which he could have made, making thus a series of three.

The first response he did not make would have used the vector apparatus called the graph of desire. He did not give this response then – even if one finds it in elements throughout the course of the previous seminars which I had to develop in Rennes. The difference between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy was supported by the difference of levels in Lacan’s graph.

It consists in distributing psychoanalysis and psychotherapy on these two stages while posing the crucial role of that which in A opens the way to the upper stage, and where one can consider that the desire of the analyst is operative, since it is not functioning in the lower part.

This schema is somewhat convincing because it takes into account the effectiveness of psychotherapy, if one wants to situate it there. The fact itself of being placed in the position of listening, of prolonged listening to an intimate and consistent communication of the patient, constitutes the auditor as the Big Other, or installs him in the place of the Other. The auditor’s position as an agent of humanity, in the place of speech, as depository of language, confers to his speech, when he allows it, an operational power which is effective, in particular in rectifying identifications.

I would remind you that what is obtained is, after all, rather convincing and valorizes the analyst’s desire, which is established by the refusal of the auditor/interpreter to employ his supposed identifying power. It is this abstention itself of the analyst’s desire which opens a trajectory beyond.

It is clear that this schematic permits, and even incarnates, what might be called a trajectory beyond, since, when it is constructed, the only port of entry to reach the upper stage is in the place of the Other. If the switches don’t give you access to this vector, you are stuck, you can’t get to any other point. Thus we have here a singular point which opens to a vector. When the switch of the subjective trajectory is in operation, we have a unique point.

We must see at what point this schematic becomes for us the instrument itself of pinpointing a practice, a very prevalent instrument, whose echoes resound. Its foundation, to state it quickly, is scission and articulation of speech (parole) – these are the circuits of the lower stage – and of drive. Parole would be the first stage; drive would be the second.

We find here, symmetrical with the place of the Other, something in Lacan’s writings which we could decipher, but which, for today, and perhaps for a little while, we could simplify by giving it its Freudian name of id, of conferring to it the privilege of being the space of drives.

I remember that Lacan, in a detour in his Seminar, reproached himself for having once joined them, instead of separating them, in his “that which speaks.” He reproached himself for having joined the id and the unconscious, in its manifestation as parole, in his “that which speaks.” This schematic shows the lesson of what Lacan had at one time considered as his confusion, which distinguishes the place of parole and the drive, here the Other and the id.

I’ll forego the interesting digression – that I had prepared but which I must skip – which made me revisit the correlative function, namely that of S(), which one could say inscribes the scission of the id and the Other, that reflects the scission of the id and the Other.

I of course privilege the staged presentation. You evidently find in Lacan the possibility of considering the two stages as simultaneous and functioning in some way superimposed one upon the other. The lower stage, where hypothetically we situate psychotherapy, is such that – and there we would note a difference – the question of jouissance is not posed, since one must rise to the second stage for it to be posed, and it is at this cost that the total power of the Other is preserved.

We elude thus, in psychotherapy, that which would put the omnipotence of the Other at fault. We preserve, in psychotherapy, the consistency of the Other, since what would be unique in the analytic position pertaining to psychoanalysis itself would be admitting the question of jouissance, would make the Other inconsistent.

It’s wonderful! I find it truly great. It works. I once explained it almost like that, rather more lengthily. But it is not Lacan’s response. Of course it is there previously, scattered throughout the course of the Seminar, but it is not the response he gave.

He gave a response which seems much less interesting, a truly impoverished response, some laughable phrases.

The second response that Lacan did not give either was to consider psychotherapy as inscribed in the discourse of the master. Why didn’t Lacan simply respond about that aspect, since the four discourses were still for him, in 1973, a totally current reference which we find used in Television itself? Why didn’t he give a response directed toward locating psychotherapy in the discourse of the master, a response which would not have been inadequate?

The discourse of the master conforms to the unconscious. It is what the unconscious reclaims. It is its discourse. In terms of psychotherapy, one could say: the subject reclaims an identification which lets it cope, and it suffers when this identification vacillates, is defective. The urgency is thus to restore it. It is only in this condition that it can find its place. And such psychotherapy, I imagine it as a semblance, speaks like us: to find its place in the knowledge of its time, in what allocates the socially indicated or designated places. And also, objet a as product: in effect, it must be productive. This is what motivates the contemporary belief in the symptom. It is referred to as functioning. Can one function or is one unable to function? We see that we have done well in developing psychotherapy at the level of the master discourse.

Let’s not be confused. Objet a is not that which is articulated in the fantasme. Let’s use this notation of Lacan’s to demonstrate that the discourse of the master is precisely a discourse which puts a stop to the fantasme, which renders it impossible:

It is thus that, in the discourse of the master, between and objet a, there is a double bar which indicates the impossibility of rapport; the rapport rendered impossible, which is scrapped, is the fantasme. One could say that psychotherapy privileges identification at the price of scrapping the fantasme. The first response, well supported in a convincing way on the graph, definitively makes psychotherapy the first step of an analysis. It is difficult for me to remember the precise mental conditions in which I stammered here ten years ago, but it was in a rather conciliatory attempt. All is well! This response had the merit of making psychotherapy the first step of an analysis in such a way that it could be proposed as an exercise for beginning practitioners. This response – the first response that Lacan did not make – would be psychotherapy as the friendly neighbor of psychoanalysis. Thus, by your choice, this is the way to go if you want to proceed in the sense of a good neighbor.

The second response that Lacan did not give distances psychotherapy through the discourse of the master, since it puts it in the register of the other side of psychoanalysis.

The third response, the one given, which has passed largely unperceived in its consequences and nuances, shines in its simplicity. It states simply that meaning is the distinctive trait of psychotherapy, and that’s all – finally, some laughable embellishments of meaning. Lacan was content to say: “psychotherapy speculates about meaning, and that’s how it is different from psychoanalysis.” He makes fun of meaning: sexual meaning, good sense, common sense. He makes fun of it even as he signals – it’s a small detail which has another resonance today – that “one could believe that the slope of meaning is that of analysis.”

At the moment he made fun of meaning, when he attributed speculation about meaning to psychotherapy, he also said: “one could believe that the slope of meaning is that of psychoanalysis.” There is precisely his noting the fact of semblance. When one speculates on meaning, one could believe that psychoanalysis operates there. In this conditional phrase and in this construction, the fact of semblance is already slipping in.

It is on the slope of meaning that the place of psychotherapy could be confused with the place in which psychoanalysis functions. On the horizon there is a confusion, the confusion of the double expropriation of which I spoke.

This is the capstone, since one would have the best reasons to believe that analysis operates on the slope of meaning, and meaning itself was Lacan’s port of entry into psychoanalysis. If there is someone who believed that the slope of meaning was really that of psychoanalysis, if there is someone who even introduced it to psychoanalysis, it’s Lacan. Lacan entered into psychoanalysis by reintroducing meaning.

We have here one of those manifestations that I formerly called Lacan against Lacan. Since he said: “Oh la la! the stupidity in thinking that way,” see if it is not against a certain Lacan, Jacques that Jacques Lacan is operating. He operated against others – that happened to him, more often than it should have. There is an element of bluffing here, undeveloped on the level of argumentation, which has contributed to effacing the stoppages, precisely the stopping point which was here indicated so simply.

I would point out an old text on “Aggressivity in psychoanalysis” 2 for Lacan’s references to meaning. You will see that Lacan defined the subject as stemming from meaning: “Only a subject can understand a meaning; conversely, every phenomenon of meaning implies a subject.” Second, he also situates the psychoanalytic symptom from meaning. And it is finally meaning that names, according to him – in his Report to the Rome Congress 3 – the proper operation of parole, that of “conferring a meaning to the functions of the individual.” He promotes the function of parole as essential in psychoanalysis precisely inasmuch as it can make meaning.

Surely, when he rejected meaning on the side of psychotherapy in 1973, he had already done a lot to resituate the authority of meaning in the course of twenty years of his teaching. Certainly, he resituated meaning as an effect of the signifier, he displaced the definition of the subject toward the signifier, he separated the signifier and meaning, he promoted the isolation of the signifiers without meaning in the symptom. See “Position de l’inconscient,” 4 where the “without any meaning” qualifies these signifiers in the symptom.

One can follow this movement in Lacan’s trajectory: after having promoted meaning, he resituated it, relativised it, deflated it. But in fact, in the sarcasm against meaning which figures in this paragraph of Television, something else occurs, there is another accent.

I would point out the word which figures at the end of Lacan’s writing which precedes Television, called “L’Étourdit:” 5 the word is “semantophilia.” It makes fun of – a year earlier – the love of meaning. He evoked the whirlwind of semantophilia, which owed something to him, for a reason, since he had, as we know, promoted meaning as essential in the analytic operation. That was directed to the 1970s’ Academia. It was the same emphasis that, in Television, Lacan displaced to impute it to psychotherapy, to make it in his response the distinctive trait which distinguishes psychotherapy from psychoanalysis.

This is the early emergence of something which, though well-prepared, is all the same a landmark. I can impute to Lacan, on the contrary, a “semantophobia”, the rejection of meaning. He passed, or seems to have passed, from semantophilia to “semantophobia.”

We can perceive that he abandoned the levitational value that he attributed to meaning to the beneficence of the signifier and especially to the beneficence of the matheme as vector of psychoanalytic teaching, of an integral transmission outside-meaning, which is precisely what he developed in “L’Étourdit.” What we did not perceive then but can now, from this nothing at all, is that Lacan said meaning while he could have said other things much more interesting, that he threw this small stone. Myself, I say that on this stone one can construct not a Church, but an issue.

What we can now understand, now when psychoanalysis is being devoured by its semblance, is that the outside-meaning is the decisive stake. This is not only a means, definitively subaltern, to fix ideas of the matheme type. We must link outside-meaning to it. The matheme allows for the transmission of outside-meaning. The issue in outside-meaning is not only to maneuver knowledge, which can be elaborated from psychoanalysis. We can perceive, from our point of difficulty, that it is first of all for Lacan a practical stake. It is the same stake as the practice of psychoanalysis, in its difference from psychotherapy.

I’m even going to say that it is from this point precisely that Lacan put his money on the Borromean Knot, that he was, as he said, captivated by this Knot, on which he consecrated his later teaching. His later teaching is an elaboration of psychoanalysis in its difference from psychotherapy and of the outside-meaning of psychoanalysis.


We can take this later teaching as inconclusive, so it can be an exploration for us. It’s not solid. It’s haphazard, in pieces. It’s contradictory. It’s clear that, in use, the anchoring point was flawed in Lacan’s later teaching. But let’s look at it on the bias, in another way. What is explored in the outside-meaning dimension with the support of a Knot is not capable of finding an anchoring point.

The circles of string which compose the Knot pull, snag, limit each other, but they always leave degrees of freedom in their individual relationship. They are presented in changeable forms: they are certainly distinguishable, identifiable, by color, by orientation, but the Knot they form does not lend itself to a crossing of vectors from which the illumination of the anchoring point can proceed.

It is precisely a psychoanalysis without an anchoring point which this lesson demonstrates and comprises in its form. The anchoring point is a phenomenon of meaning, which is precisely what one should renounce where the outside-meaning should dominate the affair. I would remark that the same notion of a point is interrogated by Lacan with his Knot. This notion of a point is put in question in chapter X of Encore, 6 where Lacan announces his interest in the Borromean Knot. You will see that, from the beginning, Lacan very precisely puts in question the notion that a point is tenable.

In fact it is tenable when we have lines and surfaces, but when we have enchained cords, the notion itself of a point is lacking. The anchoring point is a final term, a point against the grain from which the trajectory of an experience prescribes, re-signifies, and re-subjectivises. This is precisely what puts psychoanalysis outside-meaning in question. It puts in question the concept of finitude itself.

We can see it well as we follow the later teaching, since it is presented in resounding form, unfinished and failed. We can impute it to the anecdote of the person, but it is a “superior” point of view – superior to the use we can make of it. This is precisely because this teaching moves in a dimension that doesn’t lead to success, a dimension to which infinity belongs, even if it is supported on the basis of three enchained elements.

In other words, while Lacan elaborates through a rejection of meaning, sarcastically, on behalf of psychotherapy, there is a psychoanalysis in which the endless series is inscribed in the place of the anchoring point. From this perspective Lacan’s words – which are scattered, discrete, rapid, put in question, in suspense, are understated, devalorized – make sense, fall into place, and even frankly refute the notion of an end of analysis.

This was revisited, of course, as asides. It was revisited in his conferences published in Scilicet at the end of 1975. 7 One was surprised by the proposal according to which an analysis does not have to be pushed too far: “When the analysand thinks he’s happy with life, that’s enough.”

We could say: he said that for the Americans since the pursuit of happiness is the foundation on which they formed their nation. But we also read in the April 8th, 1975 Seminar: “Everyone knows that analysis has good effects which only last a little while. It’s a respite, though, and it is better than nothing.” 8

We could minimize these statements, of which Lacan did not make many. We have to look for them in corners, and we could see in them testimony of the latitude that Lacan could have in relation to his elaborations. We could diminish it and see modulations, ironies. Myself, I would accentuate them. I say that they are fundamental topics, coherent with the whole, the resounding whole of what is then explored.

I should add here a short phrase of Lacan’s to which I’ve already alluded, in which he says: “Finally, the pass, when it is passed, is a story one tells.” What is underlined is that it is constructed, that it is an artifice, that it has to do with art, and that it demonstrates savoir-faire.

The pass as anchoring point, the clear-pass, of which Lacan spoke, which is still in the regime of meaning , the pass-history, pass-narration, is obviously relative in the regime of outside-meaning psychoanalysis. It is – a term I use here which is fundamental in this register – a lucubration. There are good lucubrations, but the promotion itself of the term lucubration in Lacan’s later teaching expresses this rapport between outside-meaning and the artifices of meaning .

This doesn’t annul the pass – after having relieved you of a burden, I put it right back there on your shoulders – but it considers the analytic experience from another angle.

One must affirm that truths are solids, as Lacan said. There are different faces and, according to where one is, according to the angle of one’s perspective, one perceives something else. Truths are solids. We must be as solid as truths.

The unexpected consequence of taking things from this perspective is that on the one hand psychoanalysis outside-meaning widens the gap with psychotherapy (the later teaching of Lacan, such as we perceive it and use it in our orientation today, creates a chasm with psychotherapy) and on the other hand it effaces, or at least tends to efface, the difference between pure psychoanalysis and psychoanalysis applied therapeutically.

This already includes what I said of the pass. The pass is not an exception. To the contrary, the psychoanalysis outside-meaning that Lacan developed in his later teaching, this attempt to look at psychoanalysis through a perspective that rejects meaning – one can only go there up to a certain point, and Lacan visibly went very far in that direction, and we understand his practice the best there – accentuates the therapeutic element of psychoanalysis. It is what signals the phrase about the happiness of living. The later teaching made the sinthome its greatest clinical reference, if not the only one. In the perspective of psychoanalysis outside-meaning, the difference between pure psychoanalysis and psychoanalysis applied therapeutically is an inessential difference.

Now that I have shown you how to lift the burden from your shoulders, perhaps your arms will drop. If we wish, at this juncture, to recycle this later teaching of Lacan, we must be ready for a transmutation of all the psychoanalytic values that Lacan himself transmitted to us and that we have had drummed into us. This is why this later teaching is an exercise limited to the confines of psychoanalysis; it is in some way the inverse, or the inferno, of Lacan’s teaching.

The value that we attach to representing analysis to ourselves as a trajectory having stages and an end shows that for us there’s a value in analytic experience being ruled by a logic of the beyond. It is in psychoanalysis: beyond the pleasure principle, beyond the Other as S(), beyond demand and identification, toward desire. Access to jouissance implies a transgression, a passing beyond, protected. Access to jouissance is protected and barred by the pleasure principle and, in turn, by the analysand; he must go beyond the symptom toward the fantasme, where what moves him in his desire lies.

We see how transgression of jouissance and crossing the fantasme correspond and are homologous. It’s the same conceptualization that supports the notion that one must get through a barrier in order to have access to jouissance and that, in analysis, one must go beyond the symptom in order to touch and traverse the fantasme. These are terms that correspond with the notion of an “up to the end.”

In effect, there is a transmutation which is supported by the rejection of meaning. It is not to be nasty that Lacan brought in the sinthome, but to install as central in clinical practice an instance in which one no longer differentiates between symptom and fantasme.

When you don’t differentiate, how do you go beyond one toward the other? The route of the beyond is cut off. The Borromean Knot is a device to cut off the beyond.

How can you operate a transgression of barrier toward jouissance when, from the moment Lacan elaborates a jouissance which is everywhere, he refuses to make a distinction between pleasure and jouissance, and when he formulates “where the id speaks, it finds pleasure?” He returns to the productive difference which figures in the graph. “Where the id speaks, it finds pleasure” establishes his “the id speaks,” which he had previously denied and linked to jouissance. Where is transgression then?

Surely it is linked to the devalorization of speech. It is not a quarter turn but rather 180 degrees. Lacan, who anointed language, qualified it in his later teaching as chatter, blahblah, and even as a parasite of human beings. Meaning only enters in formulas in which it is characterized by imbecility. It is a facade on parole.

And later, it is a facade on language. Lacan had placed it at the level of structure, of essential structure, and even in “L’Étourdit” put this structure at the level of the real. “The structure is the real,” he said then. But when he separated lalangue from language, as grammar, as structure, he only gave a few lucubrations.

He downgraded his concept of language, and also that of structure, now not carried to the level of the real. It is a correlative of the systematic replacement, directed to experience, of the term of “subject” by the term parlêtre (speaking being).

Lacan, who was the promoter of the integration of psychoanalysis in science or, failing that, of their essential rapport, at the time of his later teaching did not hesitate to describe the science of futility.

This is also the time in which Lacan proceeded to great exorcisms in psychoanalysis. He exorcised knowledge (connaissance); he exorcised the world. To hell with this or that concept! He exorcised everything. And he also exorcised – here he used the word exorcism properly speaking – being, precisely for its affinities with meaning (see Encore). And all that to the benefit of the real, antinomic to meaning , antinomic to the law, antinomic to structure, impossible to negativize. The real is the positive name of outside-meaning, although to assign names is problematical here.

Is it a lucubration for me to constitute this perspective of psychoanalysis outside-meaning this way? It was presented by Lacan in flashes, as he himself said, tentatively. He did not leave an elaboration.

I think that it is worthwhile to elaborate on these points of Lacan’s. Even if they are incomplete, they have a consistency which we can see. It is correlative to my problem, announced at the beginning of the year, of understanding, of better capturing the sexual non-rapport.

It is certain that the Borromean Knot in three came to Lacan in the place of the sexual rapport in two, of which there is none. This now helps us capture why the term “rapport” is important.

What is the Borromean Knot? Materially, it is three circles of string. From the point of view of matter, of what one can touch, it is one circle, another, and another. What makes the Knot here is not in any one circle. It is precisely the Knot that gives us the key to what a rapport is. It is the Knot itself, the knotting, as distinct from its elements, which is a rapport.



Let’s apply ourselves now to defining pure and applied psychoanalysis through each other as neatly as possible. I have already called this the La Bruyère exercise, after an author I have loved since high school: “Corneille paints man as he should be, Racine paints him as he is.”

It would be tempting, at this point, to suggest that pure psychoanalysis is psychoanalysis as it should be, and applied psychoanalysis as it is. That indicates a direction, an orientation, perhaps even a temptation to which one could cede. But is it really well-advised? This would be to proceed, in terms of psychoanalysis, in the sense of subsuming, that is to say of subsuming the ideal under the fact. I won’t avoid what is worthwhile finding in this direction. To animate things a little, to illuminate how this direction could be a spoiler, one could put it thus: always prefer the real to the imaginary. It would be – why not? – what prompts the symbolic for us. But we must also be assured that the symbolic itself is not more imaginary than real.

The Corneillian, he gets away with it – it’s his characteristic – and with all the honors of war, even if he ends in tatters. Racine, the Racinian subject – if one can use this expression – does not get away; he remains in place.

The Corneillian has his debate, his famous debate which grips him, but which is structured, which is one option. While the Racinian is grappling with a dilemma. He can’t even follow the example of the worst, because the worst has two sides. He is at an impasse. In general, the Racinian can only abandon the scene, while the Corneillian finds an exit, usually on the side of identification.

Since it’s a question of psychoanalysis, must we accent the tragic? We should remark that Lacan, in contrast, accents the comic. More exactly, he says that it is on the order of wit, of Witz, which is not the comic but which brings laughter. On the side where one cannot exit, and where one expects the tragic accent, he sees the comic. As he said – to put him back in the place I’m trying to lead him – in a quite simple statement: “Life is not tragic, it is comic.” Consequently, it seemed to him totally inappropriate that Freud should search out a tragedy to extract the Oedipus complex.

I introduce this in my fashion, but it’s a very precise matter. It means that when one gets out of it, or if one gets out of it, or in the measure in which one gets out of it, it’s by playing on the signifier, by the play of signifiers, on which the effect of Witz reposes. But there is all the same, on the side where one – no one – can get out, at least a signifier with which one cannot play, at least one cannot play with what it names, if what it names gives us the name of jouissance. There is there, as Lacan noted straightaway, something which cannot be negated, which doesn’t lend itself to annulment. If one designates this signifier by F, one sees suddenly the way in which it’s comical not to be able to get out.

Let’s go back to define the pure and the applied. To define is a game. To define, if we are looking for the correct way here, is to capture the distinctive feature.

In order to reassure ourselves, we must say that there is a surface, so the whole shebang can give us the security that what one thing is, the other is not. What is correctly in question is to know if one can, in psychoanalysis, think in lines and surfaces, that is to say also in definitions. Definition is already charged with presuppositions: to propose them supposes twists and turns, such as we could follow, on occasion sadly, or even comically, with Lacan’s exertions. This is the question: can we define in a reassuring manner? One must have the faith of the coal miner. But let’s go there, because if we don’t, we’re at a loss.

Pure psychoanalysis – let’s try this – is psychoanalysis inasmuch as it leads to the pass of the subject. It is psychoanalysis inasmuch as it concludes with the pass. The subject emerges there and he emerges in another space – he tries – with the honors of war. In any case, one could suggest that he ask for honors, something consecrated with a title. If it is not on the order of honors, then words no longer have common sense. This lets the subject belong to a distinguished class which, even if it is impermanent, is no less distinguished beyond the time in which it is obvious that the title fades away.

Applied psychoanalysis is that which concerns the symptom, psychoanalysis as applied to the symptom. And does one emerge there? Is there that level – a sortie? There is something called healing, which could in effect be the name of the sortie on this slope. As you know, it’s a term in psychoanalysis which is very problematical, very relative.

But the sortie called the pass is no less problematical. One could strongly encourage those who experience the sortie in this manner to explain how they think they succeeded. And we affirm that, in the context of an analysis, each one experiences it in his/her own way. The pass sortie is no less problematical than the cure sortie, even if the pass sortie is susceptible to a radical definition in psychoanalysis. Lacan gave this radical definition – he gave several of them – while the cure does not have a radical definition.

Is having a radical definition a benefit? Is it comfortable? Is it solid? One could say that having a radical definition for the pass is rather its weakness.

Examined closely, the pass is the notion – I ask you to tolerate the terms I use – of a cure which would be radical, which would be definitive. If we say it in this way, we see that it is a naive notion, one that demands to be refined. But I don’t believe that we cannot – by trial and error – situate the pass as a radicalization of the cure.

The schism of the two psychoanalyses, pure and applied, rests on the difference between the symptom and the fantasme. It rests on the notion of a beyond of the symptom, on the notion that the fantasme is beyond the symptom.

What is a cure for the symptom, improvement, amelioration, still leaves a place for an operation on the latter term. Seen in the way one defines the fantasme, one does not call this operation a cure. One commonly calls it – it is set in motion because of a term used once by Lacan – a crossing, since it concerns the fantasme. But that also carries the notion of reduction as much for one as for the other.

To the extent that this difference holds – and I have made it hold; in the second series of courses I’ve given under the general title of Lacanian Orientation, I embarked, and you with me, on this difference between symptom and fantasme, while proposing the notion that we perhaps hadn’t finished with the fantasme and that a brief return to the symptom was also called for 9 – as I say, to the extent that this difference posits the symptom as what doesn’t go, that which does bad, and the fantasme as where one is good, or at least where one can have jouissance, one is grounded in distinguishing pure and therapeutic psychoanalysis.

What form does this distinction have? The form in which therapeutic psychoanalysis would be a limited form of pure psychoanalysis. But this is not the final word on the question, even though it would be good to stop here to illustrate it. I’ve already stopped the cursor for too many years: on the opposition of the symptom and the fantasme, and thus on the distinction between the sorties. This has the virtue of structuring, of which one has seen the outcome at the point it was susceptible to illustration – it was shown in the best way. Nevertheless, we can’t say that it is the final word on the question.

At any rate, the later Lacan advised us never to stop at the final word of the question, never to stop at the last word. If one stops there, he said, it is paranoia. And the Knot is made precisely to rid us of the paranoia there.

It is not the final word, it is not the word of the end, since there is another perspective, another angle under which the difference between the symptom and the fantasme fades away. It is the angle Lacan led us to with the name sinthome, using an old graph of the word – I have already explained something of it before – to include in the same parenthesis symptom plus fantasme. 10

Sinthome = Symptom + fantasme

This is an approximation of the equation, but I had situated there the idea that the clinical opposition of the symptom and fantasme, as well-founded as it might be, does not prevent us from taking another perspective. Under this angle, the difference between the two psychoanalyses is inessential.

Excluding error on my part, the difference between the two psychoanalyses is absent in Lacan’s later teaching. If someone could show me the reference I’m lacking here, be calm, I will know how to get out of it. I would say precisely: it is inessential.

It is not a question of fact; it is a question of understanding the orientation of what Lacan meant by disorientation. He touched on orientation as a compass that he himself had constructed in the course of years in order to open in fine a field of disorientation. It is very complicated to follow it, because one must unlearn. Since time also has passed, Lacan’s construction has to be built, if I may say so, architecturally.

We must give this disorientation a nudge to put it on its level, to put it in movement, and not to let it be stopped by indignation which might hold that the later Lacan is the end-all and be-all. It is someone who says – he says it between the lines, he lets it be understood, he says it a little to the side, not too loudly – “the pass does not exist.” Can you understand that? More precisely perhaps – this will give a little comfort – that the pass does not “ex-sist.” We must see the proper value that is given to this artifice of writing in order to understand the small hyphen separating “ex” from “sist.” It demonstrates, as clearly as one can, that the pass does not exist or that if it exists, it is in a state of fantasme.

Notice the imaginary meaning of this word, which is not in fact that of the word I wrote there. We must still nudge the meaning of the imaginary word. You see the chain of disorientation in which we must proceed.

At any rate, before protesting that this means very little to us, that the later Lacan is inessential, before protesting about the attack he waged on the pass, we must see that, in the perspective of the later Lacan, of the last judgment, in the perspective of the Last Judgment, I quote Lacan: “Science itself is only a fantasme.” It’s easier to swallow the idea that the pass could be only a fantasme if it is accompanied by science itself.

It’s outrageous. It’s outrageous to have had to listen to, read, and repeat: “Science is only a fantasme.” From Lacan’s mouth! It’s beyond common sense. And it’s beyond what his teaching supported, with Freud as underpinning; and Lacan had recourse to other sciences, to a more sophisticated dialectic than Freud’s psychoanalysis and science. One would not expect the proposition “science itself is only a fantasme” from him. Where does this enormity which breaks the link between psychoanalysis and science come from? The pass is set adrift with the same blow.

We must examine this calmly, try to put it in its place, put it in a chain, even if the Knot is not the chain, if it is constructed otherwise. But in order for us to advance, we must put it in sequence. If, instead of protesting, we choose to construct it on those few statements of Lacan’s which I remember – not many, but where we must put the accent, the punctuation, in order to capture what was important in his effort – that will in the end raise some elements, a perception, a perspective in which we can find a point of departure in the most assured, most classical, most instructing and instructive aspects of his doctrine.

Pure psychoanalysis is the notion of a psychoanalysis as a practice which takes its departure from transference – Lacan presented it as an algorithm, an algorithm of knowledge – and which, being pushed to its final consequences, encounters a principle of a stopping point. It’s the finiteness of the experience posed by Lacan, unlike Freud, as being deduced, concluded, from an algorithm of knowledge, thus functioning automatically. This stopping point is an illumination, or a flash of lucidity, a perception, an insight, a truth. Each of those who have experienced it, who have been in this experience, have their own way of recognizing it – it could be from a dream, or the after-effect of a dream, from an analyst’s interpretation, from an encounter, from a thought. This stopping point always produces what I will call an event of knowledge (savoir).

The later Lacan put in question – it’s a small detail – the validity of this event of savoir, to clarify it as a glimpse of the real. We must still take this real in its Lacanian category, in its category in fine. We must unlearn a little bit of what we believed of the real, taught by Lacan. What is the value of this event of savoir for the glimpse of the real – how should we understand it?

Let’s not say that which gives us the following connection: the event of savoir would not be worth a glimpse of the real if there were savoir in the real. If there is savoir in the real, it is well understood that an event of savoir brings a glimpse of the real. It’s the foundation of scientific practice. If science is only a fantasme, that is to say that it has no validity for a glimpse of the real, then – excuse me – the pass follows the same route.

This is why Lacan can say, in the same breath, in the same phrase in his Seminar Le moment de conclure, 11 that science is only fantasme and that the idea of an awakening is, properly speaking, unthinkable. Awakening is an initiatory word to describe the illumination of the pass, and to pose also that thought is not part of the real. In other words, he downgrades thought.

Which is even more striking, at least in this outline. In all his later teaching, Lacan classified thought in the imaginary register. Which is enormous, since a very short time before – you have the written reference in Television – he explained in a totally contrary way that thought is the part of the symbolic which disturbs the imaginary of the body. But Lacan’s later teaching begins when thought is downgraded from the symbolic to the imaginary.

Here one must say that pure psychoanalysis, with its objective of the pass, is supported by the confidence of knowledge – we can say, of a confidence in the savoir in the real – but only as supposition.

It is what guided Lacan when he introduced the pass in his inaugural text on the psychoanalysts of the École. He evoked savoir, but only as supposed savoir, giving the status of unconscious to this knowledge. This supposition is related to analytic discourse: it is induced by the analytic act, and it is a fact of transference, a fact of love. This supposition of savoir is not real. Lacan pointed it out in black and white: the subject-supposed-to-know is not real. Thus it is not equivalent to savoir in the real.

Lacan always insisted on this. The motivation for psychoanalysis is the supposed transferability of savoir. This does not at all assure that there is savoir in the real. Thus the status he gave to the unconscious as being functionally a hypothesis, or even an extrapolation. This is what Lacan constructed in Le moment de conclure, from where I take this sentence: “The hypothesis that the unconscious is an extrapolation is not absurd.”


We can, from here, give the proper stress to everything which is a construction of savoir in analysis.

As to interpretation, we can set the goals, where the goals that one has – it’s the same way Freud presents it – the illuminations of truth that one has, one constructs them in savoir, one makes a construction, there, on the side of the analyst. This is how Freud presented interpretation – Freud, thinking that this construction was to be communicated to the patient when he was ready. He differs here from Lacan, who imposed the same term of construction on the side of the analysand. I’m speaking of the construction of the fundamental fantasme. Which indicates that the fundamental fantasme is a construction. It is not knowledge in the real.

If the fundamental fantasme is a construction, as Lacan always maintained after he introduced the term of fundamental fantasme, why should the pass as a traversal of the fundamental fantasme be surprising? It is a construction of savoir from the effects of truth, a construction ordered by an effect chosen as major or which is imposed as the nec plus ultra. Its character of construction is wholly patent, since one passes from the moment of-the-analysis pass to the exposition-in-the-procedure pass. It is a construction which one chooses and from which one assembles the elements.

The faith that one has – when one has faith in analysis – is in the constructions, of the real put in play, of the real touched from the supposition of knowledge, something of the real is manifested from savoir. It is what Lacan indicated when he launched the pass in a very discreet way: the meaning of savoir, supposed savoir, holds the place of a still latent referent. Formerly, I had read this sentence as indicating that the referent is the object as real, to be defined by the signifying series pursued in analysis.

If one takes this with the faith of the coal miner, it lets us believe that one passes imperceptibly from the subject-supposed-to-know, which is not real, to a term which belongs to the register of the real. One could imagine that, at some moment, the supposed knowledge is metaphorised by the real, that the referent, the real still latent, comes to a moment, arrives on the scene, and says – What does it say? It says: “I, the real, I speak!” Why not?

If we believe this metaphor, that this is what Lacan said, or he would be happy with, we must fall to our knees. It’s a miracle. We speak of a miracle when the relationship of causality escapes us.

To stir up our attention to this affair, the real says objet a is not the whole real, inasmuch as one can say the whole real. We cannot of course: it is the real which is captured in the fantasme. objet a is a real put into form, put into function. It is a real resulting from a construction, from the construction of the fundamental fantasme, that is to say the reduction of representations fantasmatiques and stories told, to detach it as the formula. If there is a real, it’s a real which results from a construction.

This is why, exploring it thus, as real resulting from a construction, the term objet a is one which calls the status of real into question. When one reads Lacan too fast – even if one tries to slow one’s reading – there’s a shock of perceiving that, in Chapter VIII of Encore, he downgrades objet a from the register of the real. I must comment on this chapter, which announces the Borromean Knot. He announced it in the form of a triangle in which the points have capital letters representing the symbolic, the imaginary, and of the real, which Lacan matches with his Borromean Knot.

It is truly here that we see the preparation of this breakthrough that the later Lacan was orchestrating. The triangle is oriented by its vectors and it is on the vector that goes from the symbolic to the real that objet a is inscribed, precisely as a semblance.

I emphasized this formerly, I should say without success, because everyone held absolutely that objet a was real. Everyone insisted on the miraculous metaphor of knowledge in the real. While Lacan indicated that objet a was rather on the side of being than of the real. He even qualified it as semblance of being, and he noted that objet a itself, this still latent referent which could take the place of supposed knowledge, cannot be supported in the approach of the real.

Connected with this is the notion, the meaning that one can give to the term real. It is evident that it is a matter of proposing a real outside construction. That makes objet a an effect of meaning coming under the symbolic, directed toward the real, but only attaining the being.

If we pay close attention to what led Lacan to construct the notion of the pass, what can we respond to the question of knowing what the operation of supposed knowledge changes to the real? What did Lacan explain that the pass changed to the real? He said – let’s be precise – that the pass changed something to that which is the rapport of the subject to the real, that it changed something to its fantasme like a window on the real.

Let’s admit that, in his initial definition, the traversal of the fantasme permits a sortie outside of the fantasme, even if it is momentary, even if it is a glimpse. But it is not certain that this changes the drive. It is in this sense that Lacan – in his Seminar XI, since he was already on the path of elaborating analysis with an end – still posed the question: “How does all that finally change to the drive?” 12 We must understand: in effect, there is a result at the level of knowledge, but tell me what that changes to the real.

As Lacan noted in Le moment de conclure – I gloss, but it all comes together in three sentences which are illuminating – Freud had recourse to the concept of drive because the hypothesis of the unconscious, the supposed savoir, cannot be supported in the approach of the real. With the drive, Freud wanted to name something of the real. But, for the later Lacan, naming is very problematic, combining, with the signifier, from the order of the real.

Why did Lacan gloss over naming in his late teaching, the reasoning for which he did not seem to deploy? Why the problem of naming? Because naming is a supposition. It is the supposition of the agreement of the symbolic and the real. It is the supposition that the symbolic agrees with the real, and that the real is in accord with the symbolic.

Naming is the pastoral of the symbolic and the real. Naming is equivalent to the thesis of knowledge in the real, or at least it’s the first step, the significant one, in the direction of knowledge in the real. The proper name is an anchoring point, not between signifier and signified, but between symbolic and real, from which we find ourselves with things, that is to say with the world as imaginary representation.

If we don’t suppose this miraculous accord of the symbolic and the real, then an act is necessary. This act can only reveal that the major anchoring point is the Name-of-the-Father. This is why Lacan proposed the named father, the naming father, he who assumes the act of naming, through whom the symbolic and the real are joined. This angle of the later Lacan reverses psychoanalysis. He weakens its foundation, its axiom, its supposition. He puts in question the union of the symbolic and the real, that is to say he invites us to think from their disjunction, from a rapport of exteriority between the two, and let’s say from their non-rapport. That is how he entered into the question, since he began by putting the imaginary in the position of thirds, of mediation, between the twos of the fundamental symbolic disjunction and the real.


When one begins to reverse psychoanalysis’s axiom, its supposition, its support, that is to say from the moment when one separates the symbolic and the real, one says: “It is not at all because you have found things in your analysis, truths, knowledge, whatever – I said all that and the contrary, and at some moment I stopped because the task was so formidable that I could not do better – that, from the side of the real, anything is necessarily changed.” There is a discrepancy, it could be changed in the semblance of being, but it is not forced to go further. Otherwise, more things are in the real than one can change by the experiences of knowledge. Otherwise, that would be known.

One progresses in experimentation. Now one is not producing clones, but rather a new species of monkey, never before seen. I believe that one can calmly predict that, just as there is a new monkey, a new man surely waits for us in the 21st century. And what committee of ethics will be capable of preventing the perfection of a species which suffers so much that it needs psychoanalysis?

If you think from the exteriority of the symbolic and the real, and if you take into account that there are interferences, but you want all the same to keep them separated – without being foolish, knowing that since one adulterates something on the side of the symbolic, one can have effects in the real – if you keep them separate conceptually, the Knot becomes a necessity. You cannot cut the Borromean Knot. It is in the form of a Knot, in the species of Knot, more nudo, that the two, symbolic and real, can remain unjoined at the same time that they’re inseparable. The Borromean Knot lets the two elements remain unjoined – they can say “don’t know” – except that at the same time they are inseparable, that is to say they are joined in a way that they cannot be separated. The Borromean form of the Knot surmounts the antinomy of juncture and disjuncture. This requires the introduction of a third, also not joined to the two others.

We see here what is the peculiarity of the Knot in relation to the chain. The Knot and the chain are two forms of articulation, but in the Knot the elements remain unjointed. They are each there for themselves in a radical non-rapport, and they are nevertheless involved in a rapport.

We must come to the real where it belongs, not the real that you find in Lacan’s schema R, in his “On a question preliminary…” 13 It is all the same the schema which is supposed to give us something of the real. Lacan baptized it with the initial letter of the word, schema R. We have there a real which is framed by the symbolic and the imaginary. There are the fields. It is a question of recuperation, for example. Lacan can say: “The specular imaginary relation a-a’ gives its base to the imaginary triangle that the symbolic relation mother-child recuperates.”

That is part of Lacan’s construction b.a.-ba. We start with the imaginary and we assemble the terms that symbolize it, or that permit its recovery by symbolic terms. There are also intrusions from one field in another. The term intrusion returns often in the clinic, even in the Schreber case, and the term intrusion shows that the fields of the real, the symbolic and the imaginary communicate with each other.

In a general fashion, what we call symbolization, this displacement, this circulation, implies the transferal of one element belonging to one field into another field. Normally that presents to us the real, the symbolic, and the imaginary. There is a whole population there. The real elements are displaced indefinitely in the symbolic and there are imaginary elements also, and when this is not inscribed in the symbolic, it is compensated in the real. It’s a hustle and bustle.

I’m not talking about that real. What does the real in the Knot become? It is figured, not as a field, but as a poor circle of thread, unjoined from the symbolic and the imaginary. It is the real as outside symbolic and outside imaginary. That at least is simple. It is what the expression “outside-meaning” sums up, since in order for there to be meaning , the symbolic and imaginary must collaborate, and it is precisely what is excluded from the real. What can we understand of this real? Is there a concept there? One can well ask. Lacan at least said that yes, there is a concept of this real. He said that it was his, and if he so emphasized the fact that it was his, it was because it was not so easy to convey.

We must first see that it is precisely because the real is defined as excluded from meaning that we can put meaning on the real. I do not say “in the real,” I say “on.” The “in” presupposes a field, and there is no inside of the circle of thread.

We can, on the real, put knowledge, but in the perspective of the real as excluded from meaning : to put knowledge there is only a metaphor. Let’s write meaning on the real:


This means that even knowledge is of the order of the terms that multiply in Lacan’s later teaching, not of constructions, but of lucubrations, of futilities, even of fantasmes. To situate all that is meaning in this way does not save knowledge or science. As to the concept of the real as excluded from meaning, all that makes meaning has the value of futility and lucubration.

It is a category evidently; it multiplies. From the moment that one takes the perspective according to which the agreement between the real and knowledge is broken, one can say that all knowledge is reduced to the status of the unconscious, that is to say to the status of hypothesis, of extrapolation, even of fiction. It is a radical position. Nothing of meaning enters in the concept of the real. It is not only “lose all hope,” but “lose all meaning.”

It’s abracadabra, but it is a position of method, in the sense that one speaks of Descartes’ methodical doubt. It is methodical doubt that lets Descartes produce the exception of the being whose existence cannot be evoked in doubt.

Likewise, when one is obliged with this salubrious discipline to pose the real as excluded from meaning, one can eventually pose the exception of the Freudian symptom, as Lacan did occasionally. The Freudian symptom would be the only real not excluded from meaning. A phrase like that, to be thinkable, must have the radical perspective of exclusion of meaning.

It is in the same vein that Lacan can, elsewhere, dismiss the analytic symptom as a matter of belief. As he said, one believes it. One believes that the id can speak and that it can be deciphered. One believes this of meaning.

This “one believes it” emphasizes the transferential relativity of the symptom. “The symptom, one believes it,” which is so surprising in its formulation and is the consequence of the subject-supposed-to-know. This changes the emphasis. The pure signifying supposition is translated in terms of belief. When we say “supposed,” no one supposes, it is supposed of the signifier. When one says, “one believes it,” that shows the necessity of someone’s believing it.

One can formulate on this basis that transferential belief is directed at knowledge in the real as a meaning which can speak, like a subject. What is transferential belief? Let’s give it its name. It is love.

It is there that what Lacan said finds its place – one asks why, if one only takes it as separated – in Encore: “Love is directed toward the subject.” Love directed sends the supposed subject a sign. The “one believes it” convokes and expresses love. This is why one can introduce here, as Lacan did in his later teaching, woman at the rank of symptom, par excellence.

The affinities of woman and symptom are not only that the symptom is what doesn’t move, like superficial people think. It is what is susceptible of speech. This is the basis of the woman-symptom. What you choose as woman-symptom is a woman who speaks to you.

Previously I developed the other aspect, that a woman waits for someone to speak to her. This is why Lacan speaks of “to believe in a symptom there” and at the same time “to believe a woman is there.” It is a speaking symptom calling to be heard, to be understood. In order to have a woman as symptom – the only way to love her – one must hear her, one must decipher her.

When the gentlemen are not ready, when they do not have time, or when they are in front of their computers – another symptom to decipher, another symptom which speaks – or they are deciphering the symptoms of their clients, well, the women go into analysis.

This is a definition of love which is not narcissistic, and which we were looking for. It is very simple: narcissistic love is that which is directed toward an image, while Lacanian love is that which is directed toward the subject. The supposed subject is love inasmuch as it introduces meaning and knowledge in the real. It is the only path by which knowledge and meaning are introduced in the real.

Here is where we can place Lacan’s scattered statements which say at the same time that women are terribly real, and then also contend that they are terribly sensible, and even the support of meaning, and at the same time occasionally terribly mad. These terms are all organized around the concept that love is directed toward the subject. We only perceive it all if we have a good concept of the real as outside-meaning, but also as the real without law.

All this seems too much, when Lacan said: “The real is outside law.” The foundations themselves of rationality are abandoned here. Still, if we confuse this outside-meaning with the signifier, we can barely perceive it. But without law! Law is, in effect, of the order of the construction, from the futility of the construction. Our methodical concept of the real obliges us to shift the status of the law. Otherwise, what proves to be not of the real are the laws that one finds in the real. They change.

The best proof that science is only a fantasme is truly the easiest position: it is that there is a history of science and that it is revised. One could believe an analysis, for all that.

It is to make the distinction between the real, properly stated, and meaning that we find something like lalangue. How did Lacan invent lalangue, distinguished from language? He raised his concept of language and structure a notch to the level of the futility of meaning. He said: “In the end, this language with its structure is a construction, a lucubration of knowledge which is established above the real.”

The method is to look for the real. Look for the real, try to bypass under meaning, to bypass constructions, even the elegant ones, even the probing ones, especially if they are elegant. It is what Lacan assumed and demonstrated in his later teaching. It is a certain “to hell with elegance!”

There’s a text I’m dissecting at this time which is called in English “The Elegant Universe.” This work is dedicated to exposing something that resonates for us, the theory of strings and super strings, that is to say a recent theory that claims to unify the field of physics. What is formidable is that it abandons particles, it abandons points – such as this point – but it puts in their place, as a basic element, strings. One can say: truly, what a presentiment of Lacan. Except that these are not exactly Lacan’s strings, but vibrating strings. But what is done to offer us an elegant universe does not give us confidence.


1 Lacan, Jacques, Television, New York: Norton, 1990.
2 Lacan, J., “Aggressivity in psychoanalysis,” Écrits: A Selection, New York: Norton, 1977.
3 Lacan, J., “Function and field of speech and language in psychoanalysis,” Écrits: A Selection, New York: Norton, 1977.
4 Lacan, J., “Position de l’inconscient,” Écrits, Paris: Seuil, 1966.
5 Lacan, J., “L’Étourdit,” Autres écrits, Paris: Seuil, 2001.
6 Lacan, J., The Seminar, Book XX: On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge: Encore, 1972-1973, New York: Norton, 1998.
7 Lacan, J., “Conférences à Columbia University et M.I.T,” Scilicet 6/7, 1975.
8 Lacan, J., “Rectifier le non-rapport sexuel,” Le séminaire XXII: R.S.I., in Ornicar? 5, 1975.
9 “Du symptôme au fantasme” (1982-1983), L’orientation lacanienne II, 2. The whole beginning of the course was devoted to differentiating symptom and fantasme, the accent being put on the fantasme. The latter part of the course began a movement of return of the fantasme on the symptom, accentuating there the importance of the symptom on the fantasme.
10 You find one or two occurrences of it in “Du symptôme au fantasme…”: the term sinthome is quoted in relation to Joyce. “Among the questions that I regret not having dealt with is [...]that of showing a construction which can differentiate metaphor and metonymy in the symptom. I purposely remained on the side of sinthome in the way that Lacan began to write about it after a certain date, because that profoundly modifies the problematic that I developed this year, and that, in order to pursue it legitimately, a certain number of considerations on which “L’Étourdit” makes the point are needed. One must first have succeeded in animating this subject in the real in order to approach it.” I actually made this approach later. See “Le sinthome, un mixte de symptôme et fantasme” (March 1987), La Cause freudienne, 39, 1998 and “Une nouvelle modalité du symptôme” (May 1998), Les feuillets du Courtil, 16, 1999.
11 Lacan Jacques, Le Séminaire, Livre XXV: Le moment de conclure, in “Une pratique de bavardage,” Ornicar? 19, Paris, 1977.
12 Lacan, J., The Seminar, Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, New York: Norton, 1978.
13 Lacan, J., “On a question preliminary to any possible treatment of psychosis,” Écrits: A Selection, New York: Norton, 1977.

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