Top of Mind | Derrida through Lacan-Miller

Hi there,

I sent out the most recent edition of my email ◉ Newsletter today, and in that text, I wrote about how my sleeping routine has been thrown way off. I don’t want to make a huge deal about it because I am getting sleep. I’m functional but not as functional as I would be if I were getting more/better sleep.

Normally, I work out of my home office on Mondays, but not this week. This week, I made the trek to the office I rent, where I see patients for in-person sessions because people in hazmat suits are putting this stuff called spray foam insulation into the attics of my house (I say attics plural because there are two attics —one over the main house and one over the garage.) The fumes from this stuff are not good for people, and I need to be out of the house for 24 hours after they finish the job.

Here is what is top of my mind today.

Reading Derrida

The other day, I saw my copy of Writing and Difference on the floor near the desk in my home office. I felt compelled to pick it up, so I picked it up and started reading. To my surprise, I found that I could make a sort of sense out of Derrida’s writing that I’ve never been able to make! That’s exciting.

Then I got to thinking about what is different this time. Why can I make this sense of Derrida today, but I could not make sense of his writing the last several times I tried to read it?

The answer is that I’ve become more able to understand Lacan by reading Miller. Now, when I read Derrida, I’m reading him through a Licanian-Millerian lens, and that lens results in Derrida’s text being read differently.

Specifically, Miller explains how Lacan’s thoughts/teaching moved from a period when the imaginary was opposed to the symbolic, with the real kind of hating out in the hallway, to a period when the imaginary and the symbolic worked together to form a semblance of understanding (i.e., reality) that is opposed to the lawless real.

The semblances (i.e., language, concepts, theory, math, etc.) represent things that have Being, but they lack a material form, which is to say they don’t exist. The real exists, but it eludes any kind of attempt to put it into words or art.

So you’ve got:

  • Imaginary + Symbolic = Semblance
  • Semblance has Being but lacks existence
  • Semblance comes into Being because of the lawless real but can’t capture the lawless real. This can be formalized in a few different ways, where the cobble slash (//) = a non-rapport or antagonism that can’t be resolved.
  • (I&S // R), or (Being // Existence), or (Semblance that has Being // The Real that Exists)

When I read Derrida, I get the impression that he is examining how the differential systems of writing (Being, semblance) come from the “impossible to write”/"impossible to say" or (in Lacanian terms) the real.

Speech // Writing v. Speech & Writing // The Real

A lot of people explain Derrida as someone who is more interested in writing than speech, and that is probably true, but the way I’m reading him (through my Lacanian-Millerian lens), writing and speech are allies. They both come into existence as parts of culture or civilization that are a response to the lawless real, which humanity likes to keep at a distance.

I might be reading Derrida in a a way that is very stupid way that people who know more about him will scoff at, but it makes sense to me.

I want to think about this more.


I hope I don’t re-read this later when I’m more rested and find myself thinking, “Wow, I must have been more tired than I thought… What the hell was I thinking when I wrote that!?

Subscribe to [S][J][P]

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.