Seminar VII : 3rd February 1960 : p129 : Discussion of ‘function of sublimation with reference to the Thing.’

by Julia Evans on September 7, 2013

During the discussion at the 7th September 2013 Reading Group, of Seminar VII: 3rd February 1960, Owen Hewitson referred to Freud’s formulations of sublimation with reference to the Thing. Owen Hewitson could not remember how Sigmund Freud constructed the relation. A suggestion is given below.

Chapter X: p129 : February 3rd 1960 :

These clues will help us articulate in all its generality the formula in which we will in the end order the function of sublimation with reference to the Thing.


This Thing, all forms of which created by man belong to the sphere of sublimation, this Thing will always be represented by emptiness, precisely because it cannot be represented by anything else – or, more exactly, because it can (p130) only be represented by something else. But in every form of sublimation, emptiness is determinative.

Religion in all its forms consists of avoiding this emptiness. We can illustrate that in forcing the note of Freudian analysis for the good reason that Freud emphasised the obsessional traits of religious behaviour. …. A phrase like “respecting this emptiness” perhaps goes further. In any case, the emptiness remains in the centre, and that is precisely why sublimation is involved.

The following is the quote, found by Bruno de Florence, to which Owen Hewitson may have been referring:

“Under the dominance of the pleasure principle, a further development now

takes place in the ego. In so far as the objects which are presented to it

are sources of pleasure, it takes them into itself, ‘introjects’ them (to

use Ferenczi’s term); and, on the other hand, it expels whatever within

itself becomes a cause of unpleasure.”

Sigmund Freud : Instincts and their Vicissitudes : 1915. (Note: Instincts is a mistranslation of ‘Trieb’. Drives is more accurate.)

Comment by Owen Hewitson is available Comment on post Seminar VII : 3rd February 1960 : p129 quoting Seminar VII : 27th January 1960 : p121(vases) by Owen Hewitson or here