Love of Knowledge and the Agalma
A mysterious gem whose preciousness he had savoured as a young man during a privileged moment of revelation, the agalma had sparked Alcibiades’ infatuation with Socrates and served to justify his eulogy of Socrates’ attractiveness.
In Seminar VIII Lacan surmised that the part played by the agalma in the emergence of transference must be at least as important as that of the supposed knowledge, yet his subsequent invocations of the topic were rather disappointing.
Apart from a small, yet valuable gloss in his ‘Proposition of 9 October 1967 on the Psychoanalyst of the School’ (1995b :7), references were often limited to simple mentions of the term.
It is tempting to argue that Lacan gradually replaced the agalma with his own concept of the object a, so that each passage on the function of the object a in the transference would contain an implicit reference to the agalma.
For if agalma (as the mysterious object triggering love) equals the object a and the analyst is held to occupy the position of object a in the analytic discourse, how can the transference ever be analysed?
Lacan himself to some degree contributed to this confusion by using love and desire as interchangeable terms in Seminar VIII, and by elucidating the metaphor of love in his two subsequent Seminars as a substitution of the desiring (le désirant) for the desirable (le désiré).
The promotion of desire as the analyst’s lever to overturn the analysand’s love in Seminar XI (1977b:235) can exemplify this.
Hence the agalma of love does not equal the object a of desire, because like the supposed subject of knowing the agalma relates to the analysand’s perception of the Other as a perfect being, containing the precious jewels of happiness and salvation, whereas the object a is strictly situated within the dimension of semblance.
- Le Séminaire, Livre VIII, Le transfert, o.c., pp. 163-178.