Seminar XI

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Seminar X Seminar XII

1963 - 1964 Seminar XI Les quatre concepts fondamentaux de la psychanalyse
The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis

January 15 1964, marks the opening session of the seminars at the École Nationale Supérieure where, in the presence of celebrities (Lévi-Strauss, Althusser, Fernand Braudel) and a new younger audience, Lacan talks about the censorship of his teachings and his excommunication from official psychoanalytical circles. These political problems in Lacan's own life naturally raise theoretical problems around psychoanalytic legitimacy as such. He wants to train analysts – and simultaneously interrogate the nature and possibility of psychoanalytic training – and, at the same time, address the non-analyst by raising the following questions: Is psychoanalysis a science? If so, under what conditions? If it is - the "science of the unconscious" or a "conjectural science of the subject" - what can it teach us about science?

Analysis, Science and Religion

Lacan is suspicious of the rapport between psychoanalysis, religion and science. Did they not have a founding father and quasi-secret texts? Throughout his career, Lacan is adamant as to his fidelity to Sigmund Freud, the founder of the discipline of psychoanalysis. Freud was "legitimately the subject presumed to know," at least as to the unconscious: "He was not only the subject who was presumed to know, he knew." "He gave us this knowledge in terms that may be said to be indestructible." "No progress has been made that has not deviated whenever one of the terms has been neglected around which Freud ordered the ways that he traced and the paths of the unconscious." This declaration of allegiance contrasts with Lacan's critical study of Freud's dream about the dead son screaming "Father, can't you see I'm burning?" The main problem remains that of transference: the Name-of-the-Father is a foundation, but the legacy of the Father is sin, and the original sin of psychoanalysis is Freud's desire that was not analyzed.

The Concepts

What can be said for certain is that psychoanalysis constitutes a discourse - although Lacan will only take this concept on fully in Seminar XVII and later Seminar XX – and a praxis, which is in some sense therapeutic. Praxis, which "places the subject in a position of dealing with the real through the symbolic," produces concepts; four are offered here, in the case of analytic praxis: the unconscious, repetition, transference and the drive. Of the four concepts mentioned, three were developed in Lacan's usage between 1953 and 1963, although all four find their roots in Freud. As to drives, their importance for Lacan has increased since the study of objet a in L'angoisse, as Lacan has increasingly distinguished between the concepts of drive and desire.


In "La Lettre volée" (Écrits) Lacan states that "the unconscious is the discourse of the Other," meaning that "one should see in the unconscious the effects of speech on the subject." The unconscious is the effect of the signifier on the subject - the signifier is what gets repressed and what returns in the formations of the unconscious. How then is it possible to reconcile desire linked to the signifier and to the Other with the libido, now an organ under the shape of the "lamella," the placenta, the part of the body from which the subject must separate in order to exist?


A new conception of repetition comes into play, whose functioning stems from two forces: automatism on the side of the signifier and the missed yet desired encounter on the side of the drive, where objet a refers to the "impossible" Real (that which as such cannot be assimilated).


If transference is the enactment (la mise en acte) of the reality of the unconscious - what Lacan's deconstruction of the drive wants to bring to light - if desire is the nodal point where the motion of the unconscious, an untenable sexual reality, is also at work, what is to be done? The analyst's role is to allow the drive "to be made present in the reality of the unconscious": he must fall from the idealized position so as to become the upholder of objet a, the separating object.


Lacan considers the drives as different from biological needs in that they can never be satisfied and in that they are fundamentally irreducible to any 'natural' function. The purpose of the drive is not to reach a goal (a final destination) but to follow its aim (the way itself), which is to circle round its object, the mysterious objet a. The real source of jouissance is not the attainment of any satisfying goal but the repetitive movement of this closed circuit, as explicated through the graphs of desire. In one of his key essays, "The Drives and their Vicissitudes" (1915, S.E XIV), Freud defined Trieb as a montage of four discontinuous elements Drang, thrust; Quelle, the source; Objekt, the object; Ziel, the aim. In all its components, the drive is thoroughly symbolically mediated, a product of the child's introduction to and castration by language and the symbolic order, rather than of innate biological 'instincts'.

Lacan says of these components: "Such a list may seem quite natural; my purpose is to prove that the text was written to show that it is not as natural as that." Lacan integrates the aforementioned elements into the drive's circuit, which originates in an erogenous zone, circles the object and returns to the erogenous zone. This circuit is structured by the three grammatical voices:
1. the active (to see)
2. the reflexive (to see oneself)
3. the passive (to make oneself be seen).
The first two are autoerotic; only in the passive voice a new subject appears, "this subject, the other, appears in so far as the drive has been able to show its circular course." The drive is always active, which is why he writes the third instance as "to make oneself be seen" instead of "to be seen."

Lacan rejects the notion that partial drives can attain any complete organization since the primacy of the genital zone is always precarious. The drives are partial, not in the sense that they are a part of a whole (a genital drive), but in that they only represent sexuality partially: they convey the dimension of jouissance. "The reality of the unconscious is sexual reality - an untenable truth," much as it cannot be separated from death. "Objet a is something from which the subject, in order to constitute itself, has separated itself off as organ. This serves as symbol of the lack, of the phallus, not as such, but in so far as it is lacking. It must be an object that is separable and that has some rapport to the lack. At the oral level, it is the nothing; at the anal level, it is the locus of the metaphor - one object for another, give the feces in place of the phallus - the anal drive is the domain of the gift; at the scopic level, we are no longer at the level of demand, but of desire, of the desire of the Other; it is the same at the level of the invocatory drive, which is the closest to the experience of the unconscious." The first two relate to demand, the second pair to desire. Under the form of objet a, Lacan groups all the partial drives linked to part objects: the breast, feces, the penis, and he adds the gaze and the voice. Here, he asserts the split between the eye and the gaze when he analyzes Holbein's The Ambassadors as a "trap for the gaze" (piège à regards), but also as a dompte-regard (the gaze is tamed by an object) and a trompe-l'oeil. In the foreground, a floating object, a phallic ghost object gives presence to the - F of castration. This object is the heart of the organization of desire through the framework of the drives.


Author(s) Title Publisher Year Pages Language Size Extension Mirrors
Jacques Lacan, Jacques-Alain Miller, Alan Sheridan The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book 11
The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis
0393317757, 9780393317756
W. W. Norton & Company 1998 290


English 4 Mb pdf [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]
Jacques Lacan The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis
9780140552171, 9780393317756, 0140552170, 0393317757
Peregrine Books 1986 300 English 2 Mb djvu [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]


Author(s) Title Publisher Year Pages Language Size Extension Mirrors
Richard Feldstein, Bruce Fink, Maire Jaanus (Eds.) SUNY Series in Psychoanalysis and Culture
Reading Seminar XI: Lacan’s Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis: The Paris Seminars in English

0791421473, 0791421481, 9780791421475, 9780585045405

State University of New York Press 1995 192 English 992 Kb chm [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]
Richard Feldstein, Bruce Fink, Maire Jaanus Suny Series in Psychoanalysis and Culture
Reading Seminar XI: Lacan's Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis : The Paris Seminars in English

0791421473, 0791421481

State Univ of New York Press 1995 322 English 3 Mb pdf [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]
Roberto Harari Lacan's Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis
Other Press 2004 300 English 3 Mb djvu [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]


Date PDF
15 janvier 1964 link
22 janvier 1964 link
29 janvier 1964 link
5 février 1964 link
12 février 1964 link
19 février 1964 link
26 février 1964 link
4 mars 1964 link
11 mars 1964 link
15 avril 1964 link
23 avril 1964 link
29 avril 1964 link
6 mai 1964 link
13 mai 1964 link
20 mai 1964 link
27 mai 1964 link
3 juin 1964 link
10 juin 1964 link
17 juin 1964 link
24 juin 1964 link

French versions of Lacan's Seminars Source:

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