english

THE SUBJECT

Ghiath el-Marzouk

 

1 Preliminary

This article puts forward the antithesis between the two psychical counterparts of the ego (the objective counterpart of its conscious representation and the subjective counterpart of its unconscious representation), so as to probe their implications in psychoanalysis, a discipline which is ultimately concerned with one specific person. The article will, thus, argue that the subjective counterpart of the ego is synonymous with that person as a generalization or an abstraction, collectively referred to in the Lacanian formulation as the subject. It will touch on the two oppositional ‘behavioural’ imports of the term (the active import and the passive one) and its unresolved theoretical status in Freud’s writings, a status which may have been the fundamental reason for the term to occupy a central position in Lacan’s writings. From both philosophical and linguistic viewpoints, an attempt will be made to explain the three distinctive types of the subject in terms of the logical problem that Lacan posits as a new sophism, namely, the impersonal subject, the undefined (or anonymous) subject, and the personal subject. Special emphasis will be placed on the personal subject (as well as the ‘personal’ ego that is concealed within it), thereby signifying the two-fold analogy between the objective-subjective counterparts of the ego and the conscious-unconscious representations of the subject (being the ‘person uttering I’), respectively. Reference will also be made to the conceptual difference between Jakobson’s and Lacan’s definitions of the personal pronominal I as a ‘shifter’: while Jakobson considers the category an ‘indexical symbol’, Lacan regards it as an ‘indexical signifier’, in which case the diametrical opposition between the subject’s statement and his/her enunciation is underlined. This diametrical opposition will be characterized as a prerequisite for the subject’s inherent hesitation, and therefore his/her immanent division, between the conscious I (in the statement) and the unconscious I (in the enunciation), a notion of the divided (or rather ‘split’) subject which appears to originate from Freud’s concept of the ‘split ego’ (or Ich-Spaltung ‘split-I’ in his terms). Finally, the article will show that the subject is inherently hesitant and immanently divided because of his/her predestined alienation and estrangement through language’s constant representation of his/her existence and thinking in the same manner, the language which creates the world of things, at the one end, and whose main medium of transmission is the signifier in the world of ideas, at the other.

2  Exposition

As discussed in a preceding article (cf. el-Marzouk, 2008), the human psyche seems to be constantly torn in the face of the enduring antagonism between the reality principle (the guider of the ego) and the pleasure principle (the controller of the id), an antagonism which may well be aggravated by the severity and austerity of the morality principle (the governor of the super-ego). This enduring antagonism is indubitably entrenched in the general predilection of the psychical apparatus for the obdurate adherence to pleasurable libidinal sources (be they ‘sexual’ in the literal sense or, otherwise, in the figurative senses of predications) on the one hand, and (entrenched in) its extreme arduousness with the abjuration of these sources on the other. If the morality principle is ethically debilitated in its effect, and becomes subsequently incapable of ‘censoring’ the pleasure principle, then the ethical debilitation would be ‘transferred’, as it were, onto the reality principle which would, in turn, be confronting either (or both) of two possible alternatives: firstly, the complete forfeiture of its capacity to maintain the conative and wishfully orientated equilibrium that is indispensable for the ego’s self-gratification; and secondly, the absolute submission of its rationality, which appears to be ethically debilitated  by ‘transference’ also, to the irrational vagaries of the id’s sexualization (or libidinization). With the perceivable repercussions of these two possible alternatives, the human psyche would be far more stringently torn between the ego being driven into the chaotic realm of the id (in which case the former entity would be as unorganized as the latter entity) and the ego being self-indulgent in the uncontrolled satisfaction of the conative trends that are secreted by the id (in which case the former entity would be as passionate as the latter entity). In either case, there does not appear to exist an escape route for the ego’s ‘salvation’, since the entity, as “a [rider] on horseback, in its relation to the id”, would be either doomed to social oblivion (the first alternative) or condemned to social ostracism (the second alternative). Yet, even in the case of the ego’s ‘deliverance’ from both alternatives, where the morality principle is not ethically debilitated, the human psyche would still be torn between the inescapable polarity of the false judgements that are ‘consciously’ formulated by the ego and the true judgements that are unconsciously formulated by the id, with the extrinsic falseness referring to the objective counterpart of the conscious ego and the intrinsic trueness alluding to the subjective counterpart of the unconscious ego.  

It now becomes evident that, upon the least manifestation of the polarity in question, the human psyche would comprise three interdependent entities (the ‘passionate’ id, the ‘rational’ ego, and the ‘censoring’ super-ego). In addition, the ‘rational’ ego would, in turn, also exhibit its objective counterpart in the conscious representation and its subjective counterpart in the unconscious representation, the representation that is apposite to the crucial similitude between the connate id and the connate-acquired ego in the ensuing presence of the acquired super-ego. If the subjective counterpart of the (unconscious) ego is synonymous with the sense of identity mentioned in a previous article (cf. el-Marzouk, 2007), and if the bulk of psychoanalysis, be it theoretical or practical, is fundamentally concerned with one specific person, then the subjective counterpart of the (unconscious) ego is synonymous with that person as a generalization or an abstraction, collectively referred to as the subject, whose typical particularization or reification is exemplified by the infant or the patient[1]. It is worthy of mention, in this respect, that Freud himself does not use the term ‘subject’ as a theoretical construct in its own right, but asserts rather that the human psyche, in its tripartite entirety, is still governed by three further distinctive antitheses, viz. ‘subject-object’, ‘pleasure-unpleasure’, and ‘active-passive’. By the antithesis ‘subject-object’ he simply means the multitudinous interaction between the ego and the non-ego, thereby signifying a conceptual parallelism between the ego and the subject at the one extreme, and a conceptual parallelism between the non-ego and the outer world at the other extreme. To him, this antithesis is “thrust upon the individual organism at an early stage” and “remains, above all, sovereign in our intellectual activity” at a later stage (Freud, 1915:131). Apart from the antithesis ‘pleasure-unpleasure’, which determines human activities (human agency or will) and is associated with a determined scale of pent-up feelings, the antithesis ‘active-passive’ seeks to emphasize the duplex nature of the subject in its ‘behavioural’ relationship with the object (the outer world): primarily, the subject is passive (or ‘receptive’) as long as it is stimulated by the outer world; and secondarily, the subject is active (or ‘productive’) insofar as it responds to the same world. It appears, therefore, that this duplicate nature of the subject within a differential form of antithesis (as well as its unresolved theoretical status in Freud’s writings) may well have been the principal reason for the construct as a whole to occupy a central position in Lacan’s writings.

In this context, what can be readily extrapolated from Lacan’s theorization on the construct of the subject as a generalization or an abstraction is that it is, first and foremost, characterized with a personal nature, contrary to the construct which exhibits an impersonal nature and the construct which displays an undefined (or anonymous) nature. With the pat contention that “the subject is never more than supposed” in connection with his/her disposition (cf. Lacan, 1975-6), these three distinctive types of the subject, so it appears, are easy to pinpoint but so difficult to explain, owing to the depth of their philosophical and linguistic connotations alike, for which reason an attempt will be made here to undertake this quite complex task. In his extremely abstruse, yet brilliant and stimulating, paper “Logical time and the assertion of anticipated certainty: a new sophism” (cf. Lacan, 1966b:161f.), Lacan puts forward a logical problem as a new sophism, which may be summarized in the following way: a warder summoned three choice prisoners and declared to them that he was plenipotentiarily authorized to set one of them free. But before the decision was to be made, the warder entrusted the outcome to a test that the prisoners agreed to undergo. The test dictated that an unknown disk of five known identical disks, which differ only in colour (three whites and two blacks), be fastened to each of the prisoners between their shoulders (i.e. outside their direct visual field). Proscribed were all indirect mediums of seeing one’s own reflection and, of course, excluded were all sorts of mutual communication, since the first of the prisoners to leave the cell and deduce the colour of his disk would avail himself of the releasing measure. The warder, then, fastened each of the three white disks to each of the three prisoners as prescribed, and all three prisoners, upon contemplating one another for a certain time, left simultaneously and deduced, each individually, the perfect solution to the logical problem. Lacan restates the solution in his words: “I am a white, and here is how I know it. Since my companions were whites, I thought that, had I been a black, each of them would have been able to infer the following: ‘If I too were a black, the other would have necessarily realized straight away that he was a white and would have left immediately; therefore I am not a black’. And both would have left together, convinced they were whites. As they did nothing of the kind [that is, as they hesitated], I must be a white like them. At that, I made for the door to make my conclusion known”. “All three thus exited simultaneously, armed with the same reasons for concluding” (Lacan, 1966b:162).

Given the logical problem and its perfect solution, there appear to exist two suspended motions with no spatial order, which enable the three prisoners (henceforth, the subjects A, B, and C) to evince their deduction, even though the crucial functions of these motions are elemental to logical ambiguity. The first suspended motion is marked by the reasoning that subject A imputes to either subject B or subject C (had subject A been a black): had subject B been a black too, subject C would have seen two blacks (A and B), and would have realized that he was a white without hesitation (and vice versa with respect to subject C). It is, therefore, either subject B’s hesitation which enables subject C to realize that he was a white or subject C’s hesitation which enables subject B to realize that he was a white too, thereby constituting what may called, disjunctive hesitation as a marker of the first suspended motion. The second suspended motion, on the other hand, is marked by the reasoning that subject A imputes to both subject B and subject C (had subject A been a black): had both subject B and subject C realized that they were whites on the basis of the first suspended motion (which is marked by the afore-said disjunctive hesitation), they would have left simultaneously without hesitation. It is, therefore, the realization of both subject B and subject C that subject A was in fact a white which made both subject B and subject C hesitate over whether to decide that they were whites, a differentiated form of hesitation which establishes instead what may be called conjunctive hesitation as a marker of the second suspended motion. Since all three subjects, upon contemplating one another for a certain time, did realize that they were whites, and did subsequently leave with certainty simultaneously, each subject had been enabled by the two suspended motions to deduce the perfect solution to the logical problem. Thus, the two suspended motions appear to have functioned as what may be called, aporetic signifiers (or ‘blind spots’ in the optical sense), simply because the subjects’ synchronous deductions were not founded on what they did actually see (the three white disks), but rather on what they did not see (the two black disks). In consequence, of the three logically possible combinations (••o, •oo, ooo), the two combinations (••o, •oo), which ‘existed’ only as aporetic signifiers (or ‘blind spots’), did nonetheless enable the subjects to correctly deduce the one and only one combination (ooo) as a pregiven[2].

Given the two suspended motions and their functions as aporetic signifiers, there seem to exist three evidential moments with no temporal order, which enable the subject (be it A, B, or C) to evince his/her deduction, since the logical values of these moments prove to be of a differentiated form and increasing order. The first evidential moment is marked by the reasoning which is based on the first combination (••o) as a certifiable conditional statement (If one sees two blacks, one knows that one is a white.), thereby signifying a ‘logical exclusion’ (i.e. the combination (•••) is excluded). The first evidential moment, therefore, represents itself as the glancing moment, since the protasis of the certifiable conditional statement (viz. the antecedent  if one sees two blacks) as a pregiven is converted into its apodosis (viz. the consequent one knows that one is a white) as a given. Hence, the subject that adopts the apodosis of the certifiable conditional statement alludes to the impersonal subject in the form of the partitive impersonalization (one knows that….). The second evidential moment is marked by the reasoning that is founded on the second combination (•oo) as an uncertifiable conditional statement instead (If one were a black, the two whites one sees would surely know that they are whites (without hesitation).), thereby signifying an ‘intuitive knowledge’ of something that exists beyond the factual givens (i.e. the sight of the two whites within the combination (oo)).The second evidential moment, therefore, manifests itself as the comprehending moment (which includes the glancing moment), since each of the two whites would see a black and a white within the combination (•o), and would thus know that he/she is a white upon his/her semblable’s hesitation. Hence, the subject whose performance is suspended by mutual causality upon adopting the apodosis of the uncertifiable conditional statement refers to the undefined (or anonymous) subject in the form of the interdependent undefinedness (or anonymity) (one knows upon the other’s knowledge that….). The third evidential moment is marked by the reasoning that is constructed on the third combination (ooo) as a volitional non-conditional statement this time (One wants to declare oneself a white before the other two whites want to declare themselves whites.), thereby signifying, in this case, a ‘judgemental assertion’ about oneself or ‘logical originality’ due to the persistence of the comprehending moment in reflection. The third evidential moment, therefore, characterizes itself as the concluding moment (which culminates in the subject’s true deduction), since each of the three whites depends on the hesitation of the other two semblables. Hence, the subject that adopts the (entire) volitional statement points to the personal subject in the form of the individual personalization (I know that….).

With respect to the impersonal subject, who is now discernible from the afore-mentioned apodosis of the certifiable conditional statement in the form of the partitive impersonalization (one knows that….), the construct is accounted for in terms of what is known as the ‘noetic’ (or ‘cogitative’) subject (Lacan, 1966b:170). As the term ‘noetic’ (or ‘cogitative’) would indicate, the construct appears to draw the attention to the paramount significance of the mental processes that are consciously utilized in perception and in cogitation, especially when these mental processes operate in isolation from other mental processes which are similar to them, but nonetheless do function outside their sphere. By analogy, the impersonal subject would connote the psychical independence of the human agency under consideration from any other human agency, with the latter human agency being simply designated ‘the other’ (who, in turn, establishes his/her own psychical independence). Given the partitive impersonalization (one knows that….), the intended impersonalization of the subject means, therefore, that the human agency under consideration is known to itself, but it is not known to the other (self) at the first evidential moment (the glancing moment). From this angle, the most approximate structural representation that may convey the ‘noetic’ (or ‘cogitative’) signification of the construct of the impersonal subject is perhaps what is called in linguistics, the ‘impersonal passive’ structure, as in the following very communicable utterance in any tangible mode of language, be it the phonemic mode in speaking or the graphemic mode in writing: It is stated that Lacan may or may not be a synthesis of Freud and de Saussure. Thus, the only possible person (or, rather, the impersonal subject) who might actually have made this statement would lurk somewhere in the ‘darkness’ of the purely grammatical ‘subject’ of the sentence It, a nominal expletive that can, without affecting the absence of self-knowledge of the person in question, be substituted for the partitive quantifier Someone as the immediate maker of the statement (e.g. Someone stated that Lacan may or may not be a synthesis of Freud and de Saussure.). Here, the impersonal subject has an impersonal ego that is neither active nor passive in the sense intended by Freud, since there does not exist any other ego to establish with it the psychical counterpart of stimulus-response interaction, given the third antithesis ‘active-passive’ which ‘behaviourally’ represents this interaction. 

With regard to the undefined (or anonymous) subject, who is now understandable from the afore-mentioned apodosis of the uncertifiable conditional statement in the form of the interdependent undefinedness (or anonymity) (one knows upon the other’s knowledge that….), the construct is explained in terms of the purely reciprocal subject who introduces the being of the other as such (Lacan, 1966b:170). Accordingly, the undefined (or anonymous) subject would only recognize himself/herself in the other, and would subsequently discover his/her psychical independence (or rather his/her ‘sense’ of identity) only in absolute equivalence with the other. This indicates that the human agency under consideration, in virtue of its pure reciprocity, is entirely commensurate with, and equally replaceable by, any other human agency. Hence, the undefined (or anonymous) subject does not seem to deviate from the impersonal subject at bottom, since both constructs are looked upon as potentially ‘transitional’, so to speak (or as potentially ‘transitive’, in Lacan’s terminology, a terminology which may have something to do with the lexical meaning of identification in its ditransitive implementation referred to in a previous article; namely, the relationship of equation or identicalness (cf. el-Marzouk, 2007)). Thus, in the light of the interdependent undefinedness (or anonymity) (one knows upon the other’s knowledge that….), the undefinedness (or anonymity) of the subject would denote that the human agency under consideration is known to itself, too, but in a manner which is contingent upon the self-knowledge of the other at the second evidential moment, the comprehending moment (and, of course, vice versa in respect of this otherness, given its pure reciprocity as well). Again, the most approximate structural representation that may disclose the purely reciprocal signification of the construct of the undefined (or anonymous) subject is what is perhaps called in linguistics, the ‘impersonal active’ structure (in contradistinction with the ‘impersonal passive’ structure in the case of the impersonal subject). This approximation can be observed in the use of certain quantifiers, such as, the distributive quantifier Everyone or the universal quantifier All, as the immediate makers of the statement (e.g. Everyone stated that Lacan may or may not be a synthesis of Freud and de Saussure; All stated that Lacan may or may not be a synthesis of Freud and de Saussure.). Similarly, the undefined (or anonymous) subject has an undefined (or anonymous) ego that is neither passive nor active in the sense intended by Freud as well, since all other (detached) egos would establish with this ego all the psychical counterparts of stimulus-response interaction, given also the third antithesis ‘active-passive’ which ‘behaviourally’ reflects this interaction.

Concerning the personal subject, on the contrary, the subject who is now perceivable from the afore-said (entire) volitional non-conditional statement in the form of the individual personalization (I know that….), the construct is characterized with the logically original subject, the knowing subject who assumes both the impersonal subject and the undefined (or anonymous) subject at each of the first two evidential moments: the glancing moment and the comprehending moment (Lacan, 1966b:170). Accordingly, the personal subject, at either (or both) of these two moments specifically, would both establish his/her psychical independence from the other (as is the case with the impersonal subject) and manifest his/her absolute proportionateness with, and therefore his/her equivalent substitutability for, the other (as is the case with the undefined (or anonymous) subject). Form this standpoint, therefore, the confluence of the psychical independence and the absolute proportionateness in question would appear to touch on the inceptive evidence of the personal subject’s immanent division (or rather fissure), as will be seen presently. However, the personal subject is radically differentiated from both the impersonal subject and the undefined (or anonymous) subject at the third evidential moment, the concluding moment, since neither of the latter two subjects is able to assume any of the personal subject’s qualities at any evidential moment, owing to his/her non-transitionalness (or non-transitivity, on the analogy of Lacan’s term ‘transitive’). This would indicate that the afore-mentioned ‘judgemental assertion’ can only be formulated by the personal subject about himself/herself at the concluding moment, and is thus definitively unimputable to him/her by any other (subject), whether reservedly or unreservedly. It is the impossibility of the imputation itself which is imputable to the personal subject due to his/her  perceived idiosyncrasy and his/her perceivable uniqueness, qualities or ‘attributes’ that are achieved by the human agency under consideration as ‘unintentional’ activities of self-affirmation or even self-determination. In the light of the individual personalization (I know that….), the personalization of the subject, as such, implies that the human agency under consideration may or may not be known to itself, whether it is unknown to the other (at the glancing moment) or known to itself in a manner that is contingent upon the self-knowledge of the other (at the comprehending moment). For this reason, the seemingly approximate structural representation which may allude to these ‘unintentional’ activities of self-affirmation (or self-determination) would be a signifier with a specific property, a signifier that ought to unconsciously negate the enunciation of the human agency under consideration upon the employment of the personal pronominals I, You, etc., where each pronominal is the immediate maker of the statement (e.g. I stated that Lacan may or may not be a synthesis of Freud and de Saussure.). Here, the personal subject, as opposed to either of the two other subjects, has a personal ego that is both passive and active in Freud’s sense, since not all other (though detached) egos would establish with it the psychical counterparts of stimulus-response interaction, given the third antithesis ‘active-passive’ which ‘behaviourally’ represents this interaction, as well.

It follows that the signifier which ought to unconsciously negate the subject’s enunciation figures nowhere in the exemplified statement, since the personal pronominal I suggests what Jakobson calls the ‘shifter’, a term which he borrowed from Jesperson (1923) to draw the attention to the ‘person uttering I’, thereby stressing the dual function of the shifter as an index and a symbol within the class of ‘indexical symbols’ (Jakobson, 1957:132). Notwithstanding, of course, the subtle, yet apparently significant, distinction between the two terms in semiotics: while the index points to Peirce’s idea of the sign which establishes a contiguous relationship with its referent (e.g. smoke is an index of fire), the symbol refers to de Saussure’s notion of the sign which constitutes a more discontiguous relationship with its referent instead (e.g. a red blotch is a symbol of several diseases) (cf. Peirce, 1932). Here, Lacan seems to have aptly reversed the concept of the index by contrasting it with the signifier (and not with the symbol per se), so as to underline, in turn, the opposition between the function of the symptom in medicine as an index of a physical disease (or diseases) and the function of the symptom in psychoanalysis as a signifier of a given psychopathology, the afore-mentioned symptomatic signifier (cf. Lacan, 1966a:129; 1966b:348) (see, also, note 2). For this reason, Lacan characterizes the shifter with what he calls, the indexical signifier (rather than the ‘indexical symbol’ in Jakobson’s sense) to highlight a further distinction between the subject’s enunciation (as being a set of indices) and his/her statement (as being a set of signifiers, in contrast), thereby indicating the inherent hesitation (or doubtfulness) of the subject in representing the ‘person uttering I’. Lacan cites the example (I am lying) to clarify the distinction, where the subject’s enunciation enunciates (implicitly) the intention of  lying and deceiving and his/her statement states (explicitly) the actual utterance, meaning that the ‘index’ of the enunciation is absent, while the ‘signifier’ of the statement is present (Lacan, 1964:138f.). The only structural representation that may index the ‘index’ of enunciation in French is the negative particle ne ‘but not’, as in his oft-cited example (avant qu’il ne soit avéré qu’ils n’y comprennent rien), from which the removal of the particle ne causes the enunciation to lose its pejorative force (Lacan, 1966a:298; 1966b:677). This particle ne is comparable with the English adverbial but in certain examples (e.g. I cannot but think that….), as correctly pointed out by Fink (1995:39), though the adverbial can never be semantically ‘superfluous’ as he erroneously understands it, since its removal causes the enunciation to lose its compulsive force, too. As a result, the real personal subject would lurk somewhere in the ‘darkness’ of ne in French or but in English if it figures in the previous exemplified statement (e.g. I cannot but state that Lacan may or may not be a synthesis of Freud and de Saussure.). Such a statement would now imply the polarization of the conscious I behind the signifier (the personal pronominal I itself) in the statement itself, on the one hand, and the unconscious I behind the index (the compulsive adverbial but) in the enunciation, on the other.

It is this sense of the personal subject (as well as the ‘personal’ ego that is contained within it) on which Lacan places special emphasis, viz. the subject who is discernible from the unconscious I behind the ‘index’ as a generalization or an abstraction[3]. Thus, the further distinction between the subject’s enunciation and his/her statement just mentioned would not only indicate the inherent hesitation (or doubtfulness) of the subject (the ‘person uttering I’), but would also signify his/her immanent division (or fissure) referred to earlier, with the latter signification dichotomizing the subject into the conscious I behind the signifier and the unconscious I behind the index. In fact, the subject’s immanent division (or fissure), as such, has already been hinted at in suggesting the two psychical counterparts of the ego, given the antithesis between ‘false judgements’ (on the part of the ego) and ‘true judgements’ (on the part of the id), as mentioned at the outset. While the objective counterpart of the ego in its conscious representation corresponds with the conscious I behind the signifier, the subjective counterpart of the ego in its unconscious representation coincides with the unconscious I behind the index, with the subjective counterpart being germane to the crucial similitude between the connate id and the connate-acquired ego in the arising presence of the acquired super-ego. Furthermore, this distinction between the conscious I and the unconscious I would also reflect the distinction between the Cartesian subject, who is by definition conscious of his/her existence at the moment of cogitation (I think, therefore I exist), and the logical inverse of the same subject, “who appears at the moment when doubt is recognized as certainty” (Lacan, 1964:126), thereby connoting the intended’ disjunction between cogitation and existence instead (Either I (do not) think, or I (do not) exist). It seems, therefore, that Lacan’s very notion of the divided (or fissured) subject is initially derived from Freud’s conception of the split ego (or Ich-Spaltung ‘split-I’) in the sense of being a deformed outcome of ‘disavowal’, a conception which may explain the aetiologies of certain psychopathological cases. At first, the conception of the split ego, as such, is rather tersely spoken of in the case studies of neurosis and psychosis, which would “reflect a failure in the functioning of the ego” so long as this entity is consciously inclined to “avoid a rupture [….] by effecting a cleavage or division of itself” (Freud, 1923:217). Then, the same conception is later argued at length but in the case study of fetishism (which is a form of sexual perversion), whereby the ego of the fetishist is split because one part of this ego seeks to deny the castration complex (or its ensuing anxiety) –unlike the other part of the ego that tends to accept the complex (or its ensuing anxiety) (Freud, 1927:356; 1938a:463; 1938b:438f.). In other words, the ego of the fetishist appears, in fact, to be an entity which is split between masculine sexuality and feminine sexuality, respectively, given the crucial difference between the two sexes in infantile ‘sexual’ behaviour, as explained in a previous article (cf. el-Marzouk, 2007).

From analogy, Lacan’s contention that the subject is divided or split between enunciation and statement, the subject whom he symbolizes as $ (barred S(ubject)), would clearly denote that the extent of division or fissure is determined by the act of speech: the subject is divided or split “only insofar as he/[she] speaks”(Lacan, 1966a:269; 1966b:530). This contention would amount to saying that it is “the subject [who] designates his/[her] being by barring everything he/[she] signifies” (Lacan, 1966a:288; 1966b:581). The same contention would also indicate that the subject is seized by an inherent form of hesitation (or doubtfulness), throwing him/her from one part to another by all means, and that all of the aforesaid is a consequence of his/her predestined alienation  and estrangement through language’s constant representation of his/her existence and his/her thinking alike. It is this alienation and this estrangement which are inexorably connected to the psychical transformation whereby the ego originally ‘identifies’ itself with an alter ego (Lacan, 1955-6:23). Accordingly, the ‘indexical signifier’ (or simply signifier) would betray such inexorable attributes (division, hesitation, and alienation) in the same way a parapraxis (a slip of the tongue, the ear, the pen, etc.) betrays the subject’s true intentionality, hence the injunction that the subject operates as a construct of the unconscious (the unconscious I) and not as a construct of the conscious (the conscious I). Thus, Freud’s mention of the above psychopathological cases (neurosis, psychosis, and perversion) are considered by Lacan the three major clinical structures in which neurosis, in particular, is the ‘normal’ clinical structure due to the essential occurrence of the split within the subject –unlike the ‘abnormal’ clinical structure of psychosis where the same split does not seem to occur (Lacan, 1955-6:174; 1960-1:374f.). In consequence, the subject as a generalization or an abstraction is, basically, a neurotic subject as a by-product of language with all its forms of association, a subject who is divided, hesitant, and alienated at the very moment he/she expresses his/her buried self through the medium of the signifier.

3 Summary

To summarize, the psyche is constantly torn between the polarity of the false judgements (on the part the ‘conscious’ ego) and the true judgements (on the part of the unconscious id), a polarity which may correspond with the two psychical counterparts of the ego (the objective counterpart of its conscious representation and the subjective counterpart of its unconscious representation), given the crucial similitude between the ego and the id in a given quantum of unconsciousness. If Psychoanalysis is ultimately concerned with one specific person, then the subjective counterpart of the ego would be synonymous with that sense of person as a generalization or an abstraction, collectively referred to as the subject. The term, in fact, is not employed by Freud as a theoretical construct in its own right, though it figures in his writings as an agency in concomitance with the object to constitute one of the three antitheses that govern the psyche in its entirety (viz. subject-object, pleasure-unpleasure, and active-passive), thereby stressing the dual nature of the subject in its ‘behavioural’ relationship with the object (passive and active). This duplicate nature of the subject as a term (and its unresolved theoretical status in Freud’s writings) may have been the principal reason for the term to occupy a pivotal position in Lacan’s writings, where three discrete types of the subject are discernible with reference to the logical problem that is posited as a new sophism. Firstly, the impersonal subject who is explained in terms of the noetic (or cogitative) subject in the sense that the intended human agency is psychically independent of any other human agency, meaning that the impersonal subject is known to himself/herself, but is not to the other (e.g. It is stated that….; Someone stated that…., etc.). Secondly, the undefined (or anonymous) subject who is accounted for in terms the purely reciprocal subject in the sense that the intended human agency is absolutely proportionate with, and equally substitutable for, any other human agency instead, meaning that the undefined (or anonymous) subject is known to himself/herself in a manner that is contingent upon the self-knowledge of the other (e.g. Everyone stated that….; All stated that.…, etc.). Thirdly, the personal subject who is characterized with the logically original subject, the knowing subject who assumes the first two types of the subject, but is radically differentiated from them, owing to his/her idiosyncrasy and uniqueness, attributes that are achieved by the intended human agency as unintentional activities of self-assertion or self-determination, thence denoting that the personal subject may or may not be known to himself/herself, irrespective of the other (viz. his/her self-knowledge) (e.g. I stated that…., etc.). Whereas the affirmative mode of the intended human agency in the statement is present (the conscious I), its negative mode in the enunciation is absent (the unconscious I), but may lurk behind the indexical semlable of the adverbial but in certain utterances (e.g. I cannot but state that…., etc.). It is this notion of the subject as a construct of the unconscious that has its considerable significance in the Lacanian formulation, where the diametric opposition between statement and enunciation reflects the subject’s inherent hesitation and his/her immanent division, a notion of the divided subject which derives from Freud’s concept of the split ego, and which is taken as evidence of the ‘normal’ clinical structure of neurosis (unlike the ‘abnormal’ clinical structure of psychosis where the split does not seem to occur). As a result, the construct of the (personal) subject, who is basically a neurotic subject in the ‘normal’ clinical structure, does indicate a being who is hesitant and divided and alienated through the language’s constant representation of his/her existence and thinking alike, the language which creates the realm of things and whose main medium of transmission is the signifier in the realm of ideas.

*** *** ***

REFERENCES

Fink, B. (1995): The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance. Princeton: P.U.P.

Freud, S. (1915): Instincts and Their Vicissitudes. P.F.L., vol. 11.

Freud, S. (1921): Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. P.F.L., vol. 12.

Freud, S. (1923): Neurosis and Psychosis. P.F.L., vol. 10

Freud, S. (1927): Fetishism. P.F.L., vol. 7.

Freud, S. (1938a): Splitting of the Ego in the Process of Defence. P.F.L., vol. 11.  

Freud, S. (1938b): An Outline of Psychoanalysis. P.F.L., vol. 15.

Jakobson, R. (1957): Shifters, verbal categories, and the Russian verb. In his Selected Writings,

vol. 2. The Hague: Mouton (1971:130-147).

Jesperson, O. (1923): Language: Its Nature, Development, and Origin. New York.

Lacan, J. (1955-6): The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses. Trans. R. Grigg. Routledge (1993).

Lacan, J. (1960-1): Le Séminaire. Livre VIII. Le Transfert. Paris: Seuil.

Lacan, J. (1964): The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis.

Trans. A. Sheridan. Vintage (1998).

Lacan, J. (1966a): Écrits: A Selection. Trans. A. Sheridan. Routledge (1997).

Lacan, J. (1966b): Écrits. Trans. B. Fink. Norton (2006).

Lacan, J. (1975-6): Le Séminaire. Liver XXIII. Le Sinthome. Est. J.-A. Miller, Ornicar?, vol. 6.

el-Marzouk, Gh. (2007): ÇáÏãÌ / Identification. Damascus: Maaber. (In Arabic and English)

el-Marzouk, Gh. (2008): ÇáÃäÇ / The ego. Damascus: Maaber. (In Arabic and English)

Peirce, C. S. (1932): Elements of Logic. In his Collected Papers, vol. 2. Cambridge: H.U.P.


 

horizontal rule

[1] Notice, here, that the subject as a generalization or an abstraction points to the universal implication of the term, strictly speaking, and is therefore nothing to do with the definiteness of the specific individual under consideration (i.e. the infant or the patient in the non-generic sense). This universal implication corresponds to Lacan’s notion of generality, a notion which is diametrically opposed to the notion of collectivity, especially with reference to its logical conception. In his words: “the collectivity is defined as a group formed by the reciprocal relations of a definite number of individuals –unlike the generality, which is defined as a class abstractly including an indefinite number of individuals” (Lacan, 1966b:174). Thus, Lacan’s allusion to collective psychology is reminiscent of Freud’s formulation of group psychology, whose major focus is on the constitution of the collective psychology of a group on the basis of certain alterations in the individual psychologies of its members –unlike Le Bon’s formulation, where the emphasis is laid on “the [psychical] alteration which the individual undergoes when in a group” (Freud, 1921:99).

[2] To refresh the memory as a conceptual preamble to a forthcoming article on the linguistic entity of the signifier, specifically, three discrete types of the signifier have been mentioned thus far, and may be re-adumbrated as follows. In a previous article (cf. el-Marzouk, 2007), it is stated that, with the (intervening) inversion of the Oedipus complex, the identifier assimilates one single character-trait from the identified (as is the case with young Dora who was imitating her father’s tormenting (catarrhal) cough). This single character-trait is considered to be a ‘signifier’, and is then introjected under symbolic identification to ultimately connote ‘identification with the symptom’. The first mentioned type, therefore, is what may be called, the symptomatic signifier (the cough itself). On the contrary, the infant’s most pristine form of reflexive self-realization is also regarded as a ‘signifier’, and is thus introjected instead under imaginary identification to initially denote ‘identification with the imago’ in the mirror stage. The second mentioned type, therefore, is what may be called, the specular signifier (the imago itself), with the third mentioned type being the aporetic signifier (the suspended motion itself). However, all such three types of the signifier would operate outside the domain of language (whether the signifier is a symptom or an imago or a suspended motion). For this reason, the three types are classifiable under what may be called, extra-linguistic signifiers, with what may be called, intra-linguistic signifiers, in contrast, referring to those which operate inside the domain of language, as will be seen in a forthcoming article.

[3] Recall that the subject as a generalization or an abstraction refers to the universal implication of the term, where Lacan’s notion of generality, unlike that of collectivity, “is defined as a class abstractly including an indefinite number of individuals” (see note 1). The indefiniteness which defines generality is, therefore, attributed to the extendibility of the logical problem discussed in the text by recurrence, a mathematical process which underpins the application of this problem to an infinite number of subjects, provided that the number of the black disks is equal to the number of the subjects minus one. Thus, if the warder summons four choice prisoners (A, B, C, and D) and is in possession of seven disks (four whites and three blacks), then the solution to the problem may recur as follows: A knows that he is a white. Since B, C, and D were whites, A thinks that, were he a black, each of them would infer the following: B knows that he is a white. Since C and D were whites, B thinks that, were he a black too, each of them would infer the following: ‘If I too were a black, the other would know that he is a white; therefore I am not a black’. As they all hesitated, I must be a white like them. And so on and so forth (cf. Lacan, 1966b:175, n.4).

 

 

 

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