Some relations between Jacques Lacan and Søren Kierkegaard: Seminars II, VII, X, XVII, XX & two of the Écrits

by Julia Evans on August 1, 2018

Originally published on 16th December 2011

Revised 27th January 2012

Revised 16th September 2017

Reference to François Leguil (2004) added in the summary (at the end) on 27th January 2012

Comment

This first quote from Søren Kierkegaard was brought to my attention in the Orange Tree Theatre’s, Richmond-upon-Thames, programme for the play, ‘Next Time I’ll Sing to You’  by James Saunders, which I enjoyed on Wednesday 7th December, 2011.  The programme note was titled: ‘Existentialism: The Key Themes’.  The play’s description, taken from James Saunders obituary in The Guardian, 2004, is as follows: The play’s daring blend of existential crisis, bittersweet reverie and surreal music-hall humour – with characters experiencing the action as a kind of ‘Groundhog Day’ recurring dream and wandering off the text to question the nature of identity and drama – was invigorating, challenging and skilfully crafted.

My interest in the quote comes from the cartel work posted here which, in my 12th November 2011 presentation (Further explorations of Freud’s 1921 enquiry ‘There must (therefore) be the possibility of transforming group psychology into individual psychology’ by Julia Evans on 12th November 2011 or here), defines three positions  – and my involvement in a Reading Group on Seminar X : See Reading Seminar X or here)

There follows some quotes of  Jacques Lacan referring to Søren Kierkegaard.  I do not comment on them as they will feed in to my work on last summer’s riots within the cartel (LacanianWorks Working Group – LW WG).  These explorations have been based in researches into Jacques Lacan’s and Sigmund Freud’s comments on ‘Spring Awakening’.

(See Spring Awakening: 1891: Franz Wedekind (here), Freud & Reitler comment on ‘Spring Awakening’: work-in-progress (here),  Comments on Wedekind’s ‘Spring Awakening’: 1907: Sigmund Freud (here),  Spring Awakening: September 1st 1974: Jacques Lacan (here))

In the Summary 1, Marcus Pound proposes a relationship between Jacques Lacan’s work and Søren Kierkegaard’s.  There is now a Summary 2!

Julia Evans 

From the Orange Tree Theatre’s programme:

“Angst: Awareness and response to one’s freedom as something to be embraced. This is different from fear, which has a specific object: Søren Kierkegaard: 1844

Learning to know anxiety is an adventure, which every man has to affront if he would not go to perdition, either by not having known anxiety or by sinking under it. He therefore who has leaned rightly to be in anxiety has learned the most important thing.”: Quote from Søren Kierkegaard “The Concept of Anxiety”  The Concept of Dread (Anxiety) : 1844: Søren Kierkegaard : Available here.

Index of quotes

1) Aggressivity in Psychoanalysis : mid-May 1948 (Brussels) : Jacques Lacan

2) The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis (Rome) : 26th September 1953 : Jacques Lacan

3) Seminar II: The Ego in Freud’s Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis: 1954-1955: begins 17th November 1954 : Jacques Lacan : 19th January 1955

4) Seminar II : 26th January 1955

5) Seminar VII: The ethics of psychoanalysis: 1959-1960: Jacques Lacan : 27th April 1960

6) Seminar X: The Anxiety (or Dread): 1962-1963: begins 14th November 1962: Jacques Lacan: Text in English & References : 14th November 1962

7) Seminar X: 21st November 1962

8) Seminar X: 21st November 1962

9) Seminar X: 6th March 1963

10) Seminar X: 20th March 1963

11) Seminar X: 3rd July 1963

12) Seminar X: 3rd July 1963

13) Seminar XVII: Psychoanalysis upside down/The reverse side of psychoanalysis: 1969-1970 : Jacques Lacan : 14th January 1970

14) Seminar XVII: 13th May 1970

15) Seminar XX: Encore: 1972 – 1973: Jacques Lacan : 20th February 1973

16) Seminar XX : 8th May 1973

Summary: a proposed relationship between Jacques Lacan’s work and Søren Kierkegaard’s.

17) Marcus Pound : 2008 : “The Assumption of Desire: Kierkegaard, Lacan, and the Trauma of the Eucharist.”

18) On the False usefulness of Anxiety and the Benefits of Working through it : October 2004 : François Leguil

Jacques Lacan & Søren Kierkegaard

1)  Aggressivity in Psychoanalysis : mid-May 1948 (Brussels) : Jacques Lacan : See here

Theoretical report presented to the 11th Congrès des Psychanalystes de langue française, Brussels, mid-May 1948.  P28 of Alan Sheridan’s translation in ‘Écrits: a selection’: Availability Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here.

“In any case, it would not appear that the human individual, as material for such a struggle, is absolutely without defect. And the detection of ‘internal bad objects’, responsible for reactions (which may prove extremely costly in machinery) of inhibition and forward flight, a detection that has recently been put to use in the selection of shock troops, fighter forces, parachute and commando troops, proves that war, after teaching us a great deal about the genesis of the neuroses, is proving too demanding perhaps in the quest for ever more neutral subjects in an aggressivity where feeling is undesirable.

Nevertheless, we have a few psychological truths to contribute there too:  namely the extent to which the so-called ‘instinct of self-preservation’ deflects into the vertigo of the domination of space, and above all the extent to which the fear of death, the ‘absolute Master’, presupposed in consciousness by a whole philosophical tradition from Hegel onwards, is psychologically subordinate to the narcissistic fear of damage to one’s own body.

I believe that there is some point in stressing the relation existing between the dimension of space and a subjective tension, which in the ‘discontents’ (malaise) of civilization intersects with that of anxiety, approached so humanely by Freud, and which is developed in the temporal dimension. The temporal dimension, too, should enlighten us as to the contemporary significations to two philosophies that seem to correspond to those already referred to: that of Bergson, for its naturalistic inadequacy, and that of Kierkegaard for its dialectical signification.

Only at the intersection of these two tensions should one envisage that assumption by man of his original splitting (déchirement), by which it might be said that at every moment he constitutes his world by his suicide, and the psychological experience of which Freud had the audacity to formulate, however paradoxical its expression in biological terms, as the ‘death instinct’.

In the ‘emancipated’ man of modern society, this splitting reveals, right down to the depths of his being, a neurosis of self-punishment, with the hysterico-hypochondriac symptoms of its functional inhibitions, with the psychasthenic forms of its derealizations of others and of the world, with its social consequences in failure and crime. It is this pitiful victim, this escaped, irresponsible outlaw, who is condemning modern man to the most formidable social hell, whom we meet when he ‘: comes to us; it is our daily task to open up to this being of nothingness the way of his meaning in a discreet fraternity – a task for which we are always too inadequate. 

2) Jacques Lacan (1953): ‘The function and field of speech and language in psychoanalysis’:

Report to the Rome Congress held at the Instituto di Psicologia della Università di Roma 26 and 27 September 1953: The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis (Rome) : 26th September 1953 : Jacques Lacan : Information/Availability here : p81 of Alan Sheridan’s translation:

“Let me simply say that this is what leads me to object to any reference to totality in the individual, since it is the subject who introduces division into the individual, as well as into the collectivity that is his equivalent. Psychoanalysis is properly that which reveals both the one and the other to be no more than mirages.

This would seem to be something that could no longer be forgotten were it not precisely the teaching of psychoanalysis that it is forgettable concerning which we find, by a return more legitimate than it is believed to be, that confirmation comes from psychoanalysts themselves, from the fact that their ‘new tendencies’ represent this forgetting.

For if, on the other hand, Hegel is precisely what we needed to confirm a meaning other than that of stupor on our so-called analytic neutrality, this does not mean that we have nothing to learn from the elasticity of the Socratic maieutics, or ‘art of midwifery’, or even from the fascinating technical procedure by which Plato presents it to us – be it only by our experiencing in Socrates and in his desire the still-intact enigma of the psychoanalyst, and by situating in relation to the Platonic skopia our own relation to truth – in this case, however, in a way that would respect the distance separating the reminiscence that Plato came to presuppose as necessary for any advent of the idea, from the exhaustion of being that is consummated in Kierkegaardian repetition.”

3) Jacques Lacan (1955): Seminar II:

Seminar II: The Ego in Freud’s Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis: 1954-1955: begins 17th November 1954 : Jacques Lacan : Available here:

Seminar II : 19th January 1955: The circuit: p87 of Sylvana Tomaselli’s translation:

“Section 4: Kierkegaard, who was, as you know a humorist, discussed the difference between the pagan world and the world of grace, which Christianity introduces. Something of the ability to recognise his natural object, so apparent in animals, is present in man. There is being captured by form, being seized by play, being gripped by the mirage of life. That is what a theoretical, or theorial, or contemplative, or Platonic thought refers itself to, and it isn’t an accident that Plato places reminiscence at the centre of his entire theory of knowledge. The natural object, the harmonic correspondent of the living being, is recognisable because its outline has already been sketched. And for it to have been sketched, it must already have been within the object which is going to join itself to it. That is the relation of the dyad.  Plato’s entire theory of knowledge – Jean Hyppolite won’t contradict me – is dyadic.

But for certain specific reasons, a change occurred. Sin is from then on present as the third term, and it is no longer by following the path of reminiscence, but rather in following that of repetition, that man finds his way. That is precisely what puts Kierkegaard on the track of our Freudian intuitions, in a small book called ‘Repetition’.  I recommend reading it to those who are already somewhat ahead. Those who don’t have much time should at least read the first part.

Kierkegaard wants to avoid precisely those problems which stem from his accession to a new order, and he encounters the dam of his own reminiscences, of who he thinks he is and of what he knows he will never be able to become. He then tries the experiment of repetition. He returns to Berlin where, during his previous stay he had experienced infinite pleasure, and he retraces his own steps. You will see what happens to him, seeking his well-being in the shadow of his pleasure. The experiment fails totally. But as a result of that, he puts us on the track of our problem, namely, how and why everything which pertains to an advance essential to the human being must take the path of a tenacious repetition.

I’m getting close to the model which I want to leave with you today, so you can see the meaning of man’s need for repetition. It’s all to do with the intrusion of the symbolic register. Only, I’ll illustrate it for you.”

4) Seminar II: 26th January 1955: Introduction to the Entwurf : op.cit.: p100 of Sylvana Tomaselli’s translation :

(Note Sigmund Freud’s ‘Entwurf’ is available The Project for a Scientific Psychology: 23rd & 25th September & 5th October 1895: Sigmund Freud  or here)

“Apropos of states of desire, what Freud puts into play is the correspondence between the object which appears and the structures already constituted in the ego. He stresses the following – either what appears is what is expected and that isn’t in the least interesting – or it doesn’t work out well and that’s very interesting, for any kind of construction of the object world is always an attempt to rediscover the object, Wiederzufinden. (See Freud: Standard Edition I p 329 & Standard Edition V p566)  Freud distinguished two completely different structurations of human experience – one which, along with Kierkegaard, I called ancient, based on reminiscence, presupposing agreements, harmony between man and the world of his objects, which means that he recognises them, because in some way, he has always known them – and, on the contrary, the conquest, the structuration of the world through the effort of labour, along the path of repetition. To the extent that what appears to him corresponds only partially with what has already gained him satisfaction, the subject engages in a quest, and repeats his quest indefinitely until he rediscovers this object.

The object is encountered and is structured along the path of a repetition – to find the object again, to repeat the object. Except, it never is the same object which the subject encounters. In other words, he never ceases generating substitutive objects.

Within this theory, which seems to hold up, we find then the first hint, at a materialist level, of the process of the function of repetition as structuring the world of objects.”

5) Seminar VII: The ethics of psychoanalysis: 1959-1960: Jacques Lacan : Available here : Seminar VII : 27th April 1960 :  p198 of Dennis Porter’s translation:

“And here I should make my approach clear. Panic drunkenness, sacred orgy, the flagellants of the cults of Attis, the Bacchantes of the tragedy of Euripides, in short, all that remote Dionysionism lost in a history to which reference has been made since the nineteenth century with the expectation of restoring, beyond Hegel, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, the vestiges still available to us of the sphere of the great Pan,, in an apologetic, utopian and apocalyptic form that was condemned by Kierkegaard and not less effectively by Nietzsche – that’s not what I mean when I speak of the sameness (meêmeté) of someone else and myself. That is by the way why I finished the seminar before last with the evocation of the statement that is correlative to the rending of the veil of the temple, namely, Great Pan is dead.  I will say no more today.  It’s not just a question of my prophesying in my turn, but I will take an appointment with you for the time when I will have to try to justify why and from what the Great Pan died, and at the precise moment no doubt that the legend points to.”

6) Seminar X: The Anxiety (or Dread): 1962-1963: begins 14th November 1962: Jacques Lacan: Text in English & References : Available here :

Seminar X: 14th November 1962: Ch I: p5 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation:

“If you know then how to come to terms with anxiety, it will already make us advance to try to see how, and moreover, I myself would not be able to introduce it without coming to terms with it in some way or other – and that is the danger perhaps: I must not come to terms with it too quickly: this does not mean either that in any way whatsoever, by some psychodramatic game or other, my goal ought to be to throw you (vous jeter) into anxiety with the play on words that I already made about this je of the jeter. Everyone knows that this projection of the I into an introduction to anxiety is for some time the ambition of a philosophy described as existentialist to give it its name. There are no (7) lack of references since the time of Kierkegaard, Gabriel Marcel, Chestov, Berdiaef and some others; not all of them have the same place nor are they all as usable. But at the beginning of this discourse, I would like to say that it seems to me that this philosophy in so far as, from its patron, the first named, to those whose names I advanced later, it is undoubtedly marked by a certain degradation. It seems to me that I see this philosophy marked, I would say, by some sort of haste unrecognised by itself, marked, I would say, by a certain disarray with respect to a reference which is the one to which at the same epoch the movement of thought was very close to, the reference to history. It is from a disarray (désarroi), in the etymological sense of this term, with respect to this reference that there is born and is precipitated existentialist reflection. ”

7) Seminar X: 21st November 1962: p15 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : 0p. cit.:

“This is important to recall because “making things understood” is at the same time that which, in psychology in the broadest sense, is really the stumbling block. Not so much because the accent ought to be put on what at one time for example appeared to be the great originality of a work like that of Blondel on ‘La conscience morbide’, namely that there are limits to understanding: let us not imagine for example, that we understand, ais they say, the real authentic lived experience of the sick. But it is not the question of this limit which is important for us; and at a time when I am speaking to you about anxiety, it is important to point out to you that it is one of the questions that we suspend, because the question is much rather to explain why, by what right we can speak about anxiety, when we subsume under this rubric the anxiety into which we can introduce ourselves following one or other meditation guided by Kierkegaard, the anxiety which can lay hold of us at one or other paranormal or even frankly pathological moment, as being ourselves subjects of an experience that is more or less suitable from a psychopathological point of view, the anxiety which is the one we deal with in our neurotics, the ordinary material of our experience, and for that matter the anxiety that we can describe and localise at the source of an experience that is more peripheral for us, that of the pervert for example, even that of the psychotic. ”

8) Seminar X: 21st November 1962:  p21 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : op. cit.:

“I do not know then whether I will have the time today to get to the translation of these two final formulae. You should know already however that they are one and the other constructed, the first to highlight that anxiety is what shows the truth of the Hegelian formula, namely that if the Hegelian formula is partial and false and makes a false door of the whole beginning of the ‘Phenomenology of the Spirit’ as I indicated to you on several occasions already by showing you the perversion which results, аде which goes very far and even into the political domain, from this too narrow starting point centred on the imaginary because it is all very well to say that the servitude of the slave is full of consequences and leads to Absolute Knowledge. But it also means that the slave will remain a slave until the end of time.

It is Kierkegaard who gives the truth. It is not Hegel’s truth, but the truth of the anxiety which leads us to our remarks about desire in the analytic sense. ”

9) Seminar X: 6th March 1963: p114 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation: op. cit.:

“God has no soul. That is quite obvious. No theologian has ever dreamt of attributing one to him. Nevertheless the total, radical change of perspective of the relationship to God began with a drama, a passion in which someone made himself the soul of God. Since it is because the place of the soul is also situated at this level o (JE: more commonly left in the French as a) of the residue of the fallen object that is involved, that is essentially involved, that there is no living conception of the soul, with the whole dramatic cortege in which this notion appears and functions in our cultural domain, unless it is accompanied precisely in the most essential fashion by this image of the fall.

Everything that Kierkegaard articulates is only a reference to these great structural reference points. Now then observe that I began with the masochist. It was the more difficult; but as a matter of fact it was the one which avoided confusions. Because one can understand better what a sadist is; and the snare involved here in making of it only the reversal, the other side, the inverted position of the masochist, unless one proceeds – which is what is usually done – in the opposite sense. ”

10) Seminar X: 20th March 1963: p175 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation: op. cit.:

“Anxiety exists in the woman also. And even Kierkegaard, who must have had more of the nature of Tiresias probably than I have – I am fond of my eyes – Kierkegaard says that the woman is more open to anxiety. Must we believe this? In truth what is important for us, is to grasp its link to what we can call the infinite, indeterminate possibilities of desire around her in her field.

She tempts herself in tempting the other, which is a way that the myth can also be of use to us here. After all, anything can be used to tempt him, as the complement of the earlier myth shows, the famous history of the apple; any object whatsoever, even one that is superfluous for her. For after all, what is she doing with that apple? She does not know what to do with it any more than a fish would. But it happens that this apple is already good enough to hook for her the little fish, to hook the fisherman on the line. It is the desire of the other which interests her. To put the accent a little bit better, I would say that it is the price of this desire in the market – for desire is a mercantile thing: there is a share listing of desire which rises and falls culturally – it is on the price that one gives to desire on the market that there depends at every moment the style and the level of love. ”

11) Seminar X: 3rd July 1963: p307-308 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation :op.cit.:

“Undoubtedly here the positions are different and one can say that for the woman the position is more comfortable, the business is already done; and this indeed is what gives her a much more special link with the desire of the Other.

This indeed is also why Kierkegaard can say this singular and, I believe, profoundly correct thing that the woman is more anxiety- ridden than the man. How would this be possible, if precisely at this central level anxiety was not constructed precisely, and as such, from the relationship to the desire of the Other.

Desire, in so far as it is desire of desire, namely temptation, is what at its heart brings us back to this anxiety in its most original function.

(JE: A table is missing from this quote at this point. Please refer to Seminar X: 3rd July 1963: Ch XXV: p308 : www.LacaninIreland.com)

Anxiety, at the level of castration, represents the Other, since encountering a weakening of the apparatus gives us the object here in the form of a lack (carence).”

12) Seminar X: 3rd July 1963: Ch XXV: p309 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation: op.cit.

“And here the articulation according to the table of reference that I described the last time for you: the inhibition, symptom, anxiety of the fourth level, here is more or less how I would describe it:

– At the level of inhibition, it is the desire not to see which, given the arrangement of phenomena, scarcely needs to be sustained. Everything is satisfactory there. Miscognition as structural at the level of the “not to see” is there.

– On the second line and on the third, as dismay, as ego-ideal, namely that which of the Other is, as they say, is the easiest to introject. Of course, it is not at all without reason that this term introjection is introduced here; nevertheless I would ask you not to accept it without reservation. For in truth the ambiguity which remains between this introjection and projection, sufficiently indicates to us that it is necessary, in order to give its full meaning to the term introjection, to introduce another level at the heart of the central “symptom” of this level as it is specially incarnated at the level of the obsessional that I already designated: it is the phantasy of omnipotence correlative to the fundamental impotence to sustain this desire not to see.

Here what we will put at the level of acting-out, is the function of mourning, in so far as I am going to ask you to recognise in a moment what in the course of last year I taught you to see in it, a fundamental structure in the constitution of desire.

Here at the level of the ‘passage à l’acte’, a phantasy of suicide whose character and authenticity are to be put in question essentially within this dialectic.

Here anxiety always in so far as it is masked.

Here at the level of embarrassment what we will legitimately call – for I do not know if enough account is taken of the audacity of what Kierkegaard contributes in speaking about the concept of anxiety; what can that mean, if not the affirmation that: either there is the function of the concept according to Hegel, namely somewhere symbolically a veritable (11) hold on the real, or the only hold that we have – and this is where it is necessary to choose – is the one that anxiety gives us, the only final apprehension as such of all reality. The concept of anxiety as such only arises therefore at the limit of a meditation which nothing indicates to us is not going to encounter its stopping-point very soon.

But what matters for us, is to rediscover here the confirmation of truths that we have already tackled from other angles. What does Freud articulate at the end of his speculation about anxiety, if not this: “After all”, he says, “I have just told you, put forward, about the relationships between anxiety and the loss of the object, what is it that can distinguish it from mourning?” And this whole codicil, this appendix to his article – you can consult it – only marks the most extreme embarrassment in defining the fashion in which one can understand that these two functions, to which he gives the same reference, have such diverse manifestations.”

13) Seminar XVII: Psychoanalysis upside down/The reverse side of psychoanalysis: 1969-1970 : Jacques Lacan : Available here

Seminar XVII : 14th January 1970 :  p46 of Russell Grigg’s translation : op. cit.:

“The inanimate. A point on the horizon, an ideal point, a point that’s on the map, but one whose meaning reveals itself to a structured analysis. It is revealed perfectly by the fact of jouissance.

As everything in the facts, in clinical experience, indicates to us, repetition, is based on the return of jouissance. And what, in this connection, is well spelled out by Freud himself is that, in this very repetition, something is produced that is a defects, a failure.

At the time, here, I pointed out the kinship with remarks by Kierkegaard. (See Søren Kierkegaard, ‘Repetition’ in his ‘Fear and Trembling; Repetition’ available to download here.) By virtue of being expressed and as such repeated, of being marked by repetition, what is repeated cannot be anything other, in relation to what it repeats, than a loss. A loss of whatever you like, a loss of momentum – there is something that is a loss. Right from the outset, right from the elaboration that I am summarizing here, Freud insists on this loss – in repetition itself there is a reduction in jouissance.

This is where the function of the lost object originates in Freudian discourse. And there is really no need to remind you that it is explicitly around masochism, conceived only in the dimension of the search for this ruinous jouissance, that Freud’s entire text revolves.”

14) Sem XVII: Session of 13th May 1970: Interview on the steps of the Pantheon: p144 of Russell Grigg’s translation: op. cit.:

“X: What do you think of the relations that exist between you and Kierkegaard concerning anxiety?

“No one can yet imagine the extent to which people attribute thoughts to me. I only mention someone and I am said to be condescending. It’s the very model of academic vertigo. Why in fact wouldn’t I speak about Kierkegaard? It’s clear that if I place all this emphasis on anxiety in the economy, for it’s a question of economy, it’s obviously not in order to neglect the fact that at a certain moment there was someone who represents the emergence, the coming into being, not of anxiety but of the concept of anxiety, as Kierkegaard himself explicitly calls one of his works. It’s not for nothing that historically this concept emerged at a certain moment. This is what I was counting on expounding for you this morning.

I am not alone in making this comparison with Kierkegaard. Yesterday I received a book by Manuel de Diéguez. (‘Science et nescience’, Paris: Gallimard, 1970) Well, the things he says about me! As I had to prepare my stuff for you and because it is all done at the very last minute – what I have to tell you is never ready until the final hour, everything I write down and recount to you is generally noted down between five and eleven in the morning – I haven’t had the time to locate myself in all this great to-do I am inserted into, in relation not only to Kierkegaard, but to Ockham and Gorgias too. It’s all there, as are huge chunks of what I recount. It’s fairly extraordinary, because without quoting me half of the book is called “Lacan and” – I’ll give you three guesses – “transcendental psychoanalysis”. Read it. To me it seems to be pretty overwhelming. I hadn’t thought of myself as all that transcendental, but then, you can never be very certain. Someone once said to me, concerning books that were published about him, “Ah! We do have ideas, my friend, we do have ideas!” Let’s move on.”

15) Seminar XX: Encore: 1972 – 1973: Jacques Lacan :Availability given here

Seminar XX : 20th February 1973: Chapter VI  P77 of Bruce Fink translation : op.cit.:

“In other words, it’s no accident that Kierkegaard discovered existence in a seducer’s little love affair. It’s by castrating himself, by giving up love, that he thinks he will accede to it. (Footnote: “It” here seems to refer to “existence”. See, in particular, Søren Kierkegaard: ‘The diary of a seducer’ (available to download here): New York: Frederick Ungar, 1966) But perhaps, after all – why not? – Regine too existed. This desire for a good at one remove (au second degré), a good that is not caused by a little a – perhaps through Regine that he attained that dimension.”

16) Seminar XX : May 8th 1973: Chapter VIII: Knowledge and Truth: p101 of Fink’s translation: op. cit.:

“I must also take the time to render homage to Recanati who, in his intervention, certainly proved to me that I had heard (entendu also means “understood”). This can be seen in all the cutting-edge questions he raised – they are, in a sense, the questions for which I have the rest of the year to provide you with what I now have by way of a response. The fact that he ended on the question of Kierkegaard and Regine is absolutely exemplary. As I had hitherto made but a brief allusion to them, it was certainly his own contribution. One cannot better illustrate the way in which the ground-breaking I am engaging in before you resonates, than when someone grasps what is at stake. The questions he asked me will certainly be helpful in what I will say to you in what follows. I will ask him for the written text of his talk so that I can refer to it when I am about to respond. (Footnote: Recanati apparently spoke at Lacan’s seminar four months earlier, and thus it seems there may be an error in the French text here. Recanati had also mentioned Berkeley when he spoke at Lacan’s Seminar the year before (14th June 1972))”

Summary: a proposed relationship between Jacques Lacan’s work and Søren Kierkegaard’s.

17) Marcus Pound, P67-68 of “The Assumption of Desire: Kierkegaard, Lacan, and the Trauma of the Eucharist.” Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, vol. 9 no. 1 (Winter 2008): 67- 78 and available here, writes :

“…   To do this I introduce the work of the Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard. However, this is no mere comparison. Rather, I suggest that Lacan’s return to Freud is best construed as a return to Kierkegaard. I present my case through three points. First, I highlight the mutual ethics of desire in Kierkegaard and Lacan’s work. Second, I turn to a consideration of the transformative action that takes place in analysis, showing how Lacan’s understanding is indebted to theological accounts of anamnesis, articulated by Kierkegaard and mediated via Heidegger. In the third and final part I show not only how Lacan’s return to Kierkegaard opens the door to a contemporary reinstatement of the doctrine of real presence but also that the Eucharist is best understood as the traumatic intervention of Christ into time, an intervention that transforms our desires towards the absolute, thereby qualifying the sacred Mass as a form of social-analysis.

I. Lacan, Kierkegaard, and Desire

Designating Kierkegaard as Lacan’s great mentor will no doubt appear at best a somewhat conflated claim, at worst simply wrong. To start with, one could object on the grounds that Lacan explicitly promoted his work in the very terms: “le retour á Freud”. [i] And while Lacan does make occasional reference to Kierkegaard, he does so almost exclusively in engagement with the Freudian concept of repetition, hardly enough to warrant the kind of revision I am claiming. Furthermore, there is the question of Lacan and Kierkegaard’s philosophy. As David Crownfield suggests, the two are diametrically opposed. [ii].
 What we find in Lacan is the subject both situated and created within the diffusion of language, a subject for whom there is no underlying self-identity and no basis for agency. By contrast, the Kierkegaardian subject is grounded in agency and affirmation. Finally, is not Lacan the affirmed atheist and Kierkegaard the fideist theologian who strove to revitalise Christian Denmark?

Despite such opposition I maintain that Lacan’s work is best construed in terms of ‘le retour á Kierkegaard’. The possibility for dialogue has been due partly to the way I approach Lacan. Rather than treat him as a philosopher of difference, a sort of psychoanalytic supplement to Derrida, I treat him principally as a clinician. That is to say, I treat Lacan as someone whose thought is embodied in the clinical practice of psychoanalysis. This leads me to assert a sense of agency in Lacan’s work that is missing in much philosophical treatment of him. [iii]

Lacan’s ethics are usually considered an ethics of desire where desire refers to lack. The argument goes something like this: when we enter the world of language and symbols a gap opens up between the speaking being (the enunciator) and the language spoken (the enunciated). This gap generates desire, the desire to fill the fundamental gap. However, the structural gap renders the satiation of desire impossible. An ethics of desire therefore means being reconciled to this perpetual state of non-fulfilment. Such a reading is not without basis in Lacan’s work: “the symbol first manifests itself as the killing of the thing, and this death results in the endless perpetuation of the subject’s desire”. [iv] However, this reading can be highly reductive. The ethics of analysis can easily become simply an awareness of our textual constitution and a resignation to the ceaseless play of language as we open up to desire and accept the constitutive lack of subjectivity.

Yet in his work on Ethics, Lacan says: the only thing one can be guilty of is “giving ground relative to one’s desire”. [v]”

Footnotes

[i]   p334 of Bruce Fink’s translation : The Freudian Thing or the Meaning of the Return to Freud in Psychoanalysis : (Vienna) 7th November 1955 : Jacques Lacan : See here : Availability also given Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here.

[ii]  David Crownfield, “Extraduction” in Lacan and Theological Discourse, ed. E. Wyschogrod, D. Crownfield, & C. Raschke’ Albany: SUNY, 1989, p162

[iii] See for example Charles Winquist, “Lacan and Theology”, in Post-Secular Philosophy: Between Philosophy and Theology, ed. P. Blond, London: Routledge, 1998, p305-317; Mark C. Taylor, “Refusal of the Bar” in Lacan and Theological Discourse, ed. Edith Wsychogrod, David Crownfield, and Carl Raschke, Albany: SUNY, 1989, p39-58.

[iv] (JE: This is an interpretation of Marcus Pound’s reference. This is the English translation of page 101 in the French text.) p82 of Bruce Fink’s translation : Aggressivity in Psychoanalysis : mid-May 1948 (Brussels) : Jacques Lacan : See here : Availability also given Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here.

[v]  Jacques Lacan: Seminar VII: 6th July 1960:  p321 of  Dennis Porter’s translation:   Seminar VII: The ethics of psychoanalysis: 1959-1960: Jacques Lacan or here

Summary 2: Further comments on Jacques Lacan and Søren Kierkegaard

17) From From On the False usefulness of Anxiety and the Benefits of Working through it : October 2004 : François Leguil : See here

Quote from pages 18 to 19 added to www.lacanianworks.net on 27th January 2012:

This is not a question of theoretical purity but of practical efficiency: to say that anxiety, its essence – das Wesen der Angst – is not physical or metaphysical or psychological, is to put forth the reasons that explain why our clinical work cannot do without a metapsychology.

Let us accelerate by beginning with the third of the proposed traditions: the philosophical; metaphysics. We repeat, with good reason, that anxiety is “involved with one’s Being.” But isn’t this like Monsieur Teste saying he had been involved with women (“touché à des femmes”), through a kind of incredulous adhesion, an astonished conceit, in reality trying to marginalize the memory of a misunderstood experience.

Misunderstood because momentary certainty leaves the protagonist unsure of a contiguity that allows no access to a substantial revelation. It is a big step from there to making anxiety a concept illuminated by the fire of original sin, a step taken, as we know, by Kierkegaard.

Something Felt

Ninety years later, Freud almost responds to Kierkegaard: anxiety is not a concept, it is first of all something felt (in erster Linie etwas Empfundenes  [i] ); it is not a concept but a phenomenon, a fundamental phenomenon that poses a crucial problem (das Grundphänomen und Hauptproblem des Neurose  [ii] ). To say that this phenomenon poses a major problem is to say that one concept is not enough; many interconnected concepts are needed. This articulation is what Freud called metapsychology.

Anxiety teaches the anxious person nothing except that it is sometimes urgent to take every shortcut possible to get away from the active zone. With anxiety, where id was, ego cannot be: mit der Angst, wo Es war kann nicht Ich werden! That anxiety “involves one’s Being” underlines the fact that it does not reach the Being, that it does not authorize access, it obstructs; Lacan refers specifically to this at the end of his seminar on the ethics of psychoanalysis  [iii]. It is when one is closest to horror that horror is barren, because one cannot go farther: what is left over is a bitter taste of authenticity deprived of its maieutic virtues, that can only find its resolution in ontological boasting, as if one had to represent the etymological relationship between tenebrous and temerity.

In a similar vein, the only privilege one gets from having known anxiety is the hope of never having to know it again. So the wise words that claim to know how to arm Man against suffering end up making pain the irresolute destiny of anxiety. Freud denounced this idea on the last page of Chapter II of Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety: the philosopher doesn’t do much better than the churchman who has been teaching, for two thousand years, that the meaning of Gethsemane is to be found in Golgotha; attaching anxiety to an identification of the Being with the will of the Other leads to an ultimate masochism.

Anxiety as a phenomenon is useless, because if it were useful we would say it is necessary and that, like the symptom, we wish it on everyone. Between the necessity of the symptom and the impossibility of the real, the phenomenon of anxiety is as superfluous as love is contingent.

[i] S. Freud, Gesammelte Werke (G. W.), XlV, “Hemmung, Symptom und Angst,” Imago, London, 1940, p. 162.

[ii] Ibid., p. 175.

[iii] J. Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan VII, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, trans D. Porter, ed. J.-A. Miller, W. W. Norton, New York and London, 1992 : availability  Seminar VII: The ethics of psychoanalysis: 1959-1960: Jacques Lacan or here.

 

Julia Evans 

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, Earl’s Court, London

 

Further posts:

Reading Seminar X here

Reading Seminar VII here

‘The Symbolic in the 21st Century’ working group (LW WG) here

On Lacanian History here

Of the clinic : here

Use of power here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud : here

Or by Jacques Lacan : here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here

Translation Working Group here

Information about Julia Evans (See here)