Things & Stuff | 003 "The Other Does Not Exist"

0.0 – Preamble

Recently, I've been doing some research/reading the idea of "the lying truth," which I'm going to try to put to use in a paper that I'm writing for the LACK conference that will be taking place in April. I started out reading Psychoanalysis has the Structure of Fiction, and The Lying Truth by Jacques-Alain Miller in The Lacanian Review #7: Get Real.

This led to me looking for more info on the idea of the Lying Truth, and one of the things that I've found is the article The Other That Does Not Exist: Of the True Truth, Lying Truths and Vehement Denials by Tania Coelho dos Santos.

For today's T&S, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts.


1.0 – What do we mean when we say "The Other does not exist"?

The phrase "The Other does not exist" is uttered frequently in Lacanian circles, for some, it has become a cliche aphorism. However, taking a moment to consider what this phrase is communicating is interesting and useful.

As I've been thinking about this, I've thought of a different (less pithy way) of stating it: Today, the Other does not exist the way that it did when psychoanalysis was created.

Yet another way to put it: The Other does not have the same effects today as it did in Freud's time or as it did in Lacan's early period of production (roughly the 1930s-1950s).

1.1 – What was the role of the Other in the past?

In her paper, The Other That Does Not Exist: Of the True Truth, Lying Truths and Vehement Denials, Tania Coelho dos Santos writes about the shift that Miller has made from the neurotic subject of the unconscious to the speaking body (Parlêtre).

In the past, the Other (i.e., civilization, society, the symbolic order) created a symptom that Lacan named the Name-of-the-Father, which performed the symbolic castration of subjects. The symbolic castration effectively made subjects into people who would waive their individual pursuit and experience of jouissance to construct a civilization/society/symbolic order or set of socially acceptable limits. When subjects gave up their individual jouissance to live within a civilization/society/symbolic order, they actually were able to live lives that were more stable, safe, and secure, the sort of lives that allowed them to assume the future would be there and be better than the present.

The neurotic subjects desired to be non-castrated but, by and large, lived in accordance with the limits imposed by symbolic castration.

1.2 – What is the role of the Other today?

Since the 1960s, there has been a gradual but effective rebellion, which has taken the form of a rejection of the limits imposed by the Other.

Rather than trying to live good lives within the social order, subjects are encouraged to "follow their passion" or do what brings them jouissance even if it opposes social stability, predictability, etc.

Adam Phillips has commented on this. He said (I'm paraphrasing), "In the past, the expectation was that you lived a 'good life,' whatever that was. Nowadays, the expectation is that you be enjoying yourself."

1.3 – All this stated in a very fancy way.

In her article, dos Santos says:

In contemporary times, in place of a psychic Kantian economy based on the waiving of jouissance for the benefit of the sovereign good, we live under the Sadian imperative of jou- issance. There is a prevalence of trivialized retraction (Verleugnung) of the function of The Name of the Father that holds the place of the agent of castration in neurotic fantasy. The subject redefined by the psychoanalysis of Lacanian orientation as a speaking body is more released from the bonds of repression and feels unwilling or unable to sublimate his drives.

Later in the article, dos Santos says:

The last two centuries were characterized by major inventions and by the identification of limits (the mathematics of Hilbert, the logic of Göedel, the economics of Marx and the psychoanalysis of Freud), but in the 21st century, it is predicted that nothing else is impossible.

1.4 – This re-stated in my own words.

In the past, the Other and castration resulted in people over-repressing their individual modes of jouissance. Today, we have overcorrected for this. As a result, we see a lot of people doing and justifying transgressive and excessive things and not being very concerned about the impact of this on the larger social order (i.e., social institutions and social norms) that everyone lives within.

This is a problem.

2.0 What I'm thinking relative to this now.

Reading this article, I don't find that I'm in complete agreement or complete disagreement with dos Santos. I find that her article has been helpful in getting me to think about the ways that two forces are, to some degree, present in my life (and, I assume, the lives of most people.) Those two forces are:

  • Jouissance – The way I get satisfaction regardless of the impact of my satisfaction on others.
  • Castration – The way that I repress or deny my mode of jouissance because I have to share the world with other people.

Rather than seeing these two forces as doomed to be engaged in a neverending conflict with one another, I think psychoanalysis is a way of changing the relationship between them from a non-rapport that hurts more than it helps to a non-rapport that might be interesting and enjoyable in its own right.

  • From (Individual Jouissance // Castration (the Other)
  • To (Individual Jouissance & Castration (the Other)

I see this as a different way of punctuating between two things, and I believe this difference in punctuation has a significant effect.

3.0 – Fin

I don't know if these thoughts will be helpful to anyone who reads them. They might be for me and me alone. But I do hope that is not the case. I hope that whoever reads this does fond something in these words that is useful to them.


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