Jacques Lacan:The Subject of the Unconscious
THE UNCONSCIOUS AS GAP OR RUPTURE
The unconscious manifests itself at those moments in which processes beyond conscious thought disrupt speech, points when language fails. Lacan defines the unconscious in terms of "impediment", "failure" and "splitting". The unconscious is precisely this gap or rupture in the symbolic chain.
We can only know the unconscious through speech and language; therefore.
- The unconscious is not biological but is something that signifies.
- The unconscious is the effect - the impact - upon the subject of the trans-individual symbolic order.
- The unconscious is structured like a language.
Fink argues that the Lacanian unconscious is not only structured like a language but is language, insofar as it is language that makes up the unconscious. This involves us in rethinking, however, what we mean by language. Language, for Lacan, designates not simply verbal speech or written text but any signifying system that is based upon differential relations. The unconscious is structured like a language in the sense that it is a signifying process that involves coding and decoding, or ciphering and deciphering. The unconscious comes into being in the symbolic order in the gap between signifier and signified, through the sliding of the signified beneath the signifier and the failure of meaning to be fixed (see Chapter 2). In short, the unconscious is something that signifies and must be deciphered.
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977.: 56
- * "Subversion du sujet et dialectique du désir dans l'inconscient freudien." Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966: 793-827 ["The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire in the Freudian unconscious." Trans. Alan Sheridan Écrits: A Selection. London: Tavistock, 1977; New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 1977: 292-325].