Guide The Fantasy Principle: Psychoanalysis of the Imagination

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It is time to unclutter the field and at last, to work imaginally. Adams writes:. Does Jungian analysis need a structural theory? Or can it do very well without one? I maintain that there is little to be lost and much to be gained if Jungian analysis dispenses entirely with the structural theory of the persona , ego, shadow , anima or animus , and Self, and relies instead on a post- structural theory. In place of a structural theory , what I propose is a post-structural that is an imaginal theory of the psyche.

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Post-Structural , in Adams' proposition, also implies moving to a post-conceptual kind of psychology which, in turn leads to an imaginal theory of the psyche, a position he defends with intellectual deftness. Although he rejects many cherished Jungian concepts as outdated, Adams champions Jung's most basic and original contribution—the psyche speaks only in the language of images. The full text of the document is available to subscribers. This text is printed for personal use. It is copyright to the journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to redistribute it in any form. Review by: Ginette Paris Any intellectual discipline benefits from an occasional radical clean-up.

Adams writes: Does Jungian analysis need a structural theory? Prior to this, Lacan had published only a single book, his thesis in psychiatry Throughout his career, Lacan exhibited a serious interest in various branches of mathematical and formal disciplines.

By the late s and, especially, the s, discussions of logic, topology, and knot theory were prominent sometimes even dominant features of Lacanian discourse. Topological figures and constructions undermining the intuitions of this picture thinking assisted Lacan in recasting the unconscious as an ensemble of contortions, curvings, folding, inflections, twists, and turns immanent and internal to a single plane of minded subjectivity accessible to rigorous, rational psycho analysis.

Various aspects and facets of things sexual came to be associated by the later Lacan with the enigmatic evasiveness of the Real, including sexual difference. This declaration scandalized many at the time. This decision was controversial and triggered factional infighting amongst his followers. Lacan died in His characterizations of each of the three registers, as well as of their relations with each other, undergo multiple revisions and shifts over the many years of his labors.

As will become increasingly evident in what follows, the majority of Lacanian concepts are defined in connection with all three registers. By the s, with his meditations on the topological figure of the Borromean knot—this knotting of three rings, pictured on the coat of arms of the Borromeo family, is arranged such that if one ring is broken, all three are set free in disconnection—Lacan emphasizes the mutual dependence of the registers on one another. Lacan tends to associate albeit not exclusively the Imaginary with the restricted spheres of consciousness and self-awareness.

It is the register with the closest links to what people experience as non-psychoanalytic quotidian reality. Such a description indicates the ways in which the Imaginary points to core analytic ideas like transference, fantasy, and the ego. As Lacan integrates his early work of the s and s with his structuralism-informed theories of the s, he comes to emphasize the dependence of the Imaginary on the Symbolic.

In fact, it could be maintained that the Imaginary invariably involves category mistakes. However, the phenomena of the Imaginary are necessary illusions to put it in Kantian locution or real abstractions to put it in Marxian parlance. This signals two points. The Lacanian Symbolic initially is theorized on the basis of resources provided by structuralism. Tied to natural languages as characterized by Saussure and specific post-Saussurians, this register also refers to the customs, institutions, laws, mores, norms, practices, rituals, rules, traditions, and so on of cultures and societies with these things being entwined in various ways with language.

Individual subjects are what they are in and through the mediation of the socio-linguistic arrangements and constellations of the register of the Symbolic. Hence, Lacan is not saying that the unconscious is structured like French, German, English, Spanish, or any other particular natural language.

More generally, the later Lacan remains reliant on the notion of the Real sides of the Symbolic, these being signifiers in their meaningless, nonsensical materiality as visible marks and audible sounds i. Such senseless signifiers and their enchainings amount to a late Lacanian rendition of Freudian primary processes as the thinking distinctive of unconscious mindedness.

Contrary to the crudeness of commonplace vulgar picturings of Freudian analysis as an irrationalist, neo-romantic psychology of the unruly natural depths, the unconscious is not the id, namely, an anarchic seething cauldron of unthinking animalistic instincts i. The register of the Real is tricky to encapsulate and evades being pinned down through succinct definitions. But, rather than being just a barrier to grasping the Real, this absence is itself revelatory of this register. To be more precise, as that which is foreign to Imaginary-Symbolic reality—this reality is the realm containing conscious apprehension, communicable significance, and the like—the Real is intrinsically elusive, resisting by nature capture in the comprehensibly meaningful formulations of concatenations of Imaginary-Symbolic signs.

The Real hence would be whatever is beyond, behind, or beneath phenomenal appearances accessible to the direct experiences of first-person awareness. Additionally, in the s, Lacan tends to speak of the Real as an absolute fullness, a pure plenum devoid of the negativities of absences, antagonisms, gaps, lacks, splits, etc. Portrayed thusly, the Symbolic is primarily responsible for injecting such negativities into the Real.

As I noted above, the seventh seminar of — marks a shift away from the privileging of the Symbolic over the course of the s and toward prioritizing the Real. The new Real involves convergences of opposites as a register of volatile oscillations and unstable reversals between excesses and lacks, surpluses and deficits, flooding presences and draining absences. It comes to be associated with libidinal negativities objet petit a , jouissance , and sexual difference, all to be discussed later—see 2.

Instead, for Lacan, analysis both theoretical and clinical permits delineating and tracking the Real with conceptual precision, if only as an exercise in pinpointing the exact limits of the Imaginary, the Symbolic, and their overlappings. Initially developed in the s, this account involves a number of interrelated ingredients.

The Fantasy Principle: Psychoanalysis of the Imagination

Lacan offers the narrative of this stage as an explanation specifically for the genesis and functions of the Freudian psychical agency of the ego Ich , moi. Against this, Lacan views the ego as thoroughly compromised and inherently neurotic to its very core, as a passionate defense of a constitutive ignorance of the unconscious. Appearances notwithstanding, the ego is, when all is said and done, an inert, fixed bundle of objectified coordinates, a libidinally invested and reified entity. By contrast with the ego and the illusory sense of fictional selfhood it supports, the psychoanalytic subject of Lacanianism is an unconscious kinetic negativity defying capture by and within ego-level identificatory constructs.

The Lacanian enunciating subject of the unconscious speaks through the ego while remaining irreducibly distinct from it.

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Returning to a tighter focus on the mirror stage proper, Lacan, relying on empirical data from the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, posits that very young children, between the ages of six and eighteen months, quickly acquire the ability to identify their own images in reflective surfaces. At this time, infants are lacking in most physical and mental abilities possessed by older human beings. Following Freud here, Lacan fleshes out this helplessness into which birth throws neonates, describing in detail the anatomical, physiological, cognitive, emotional, and motivational facets of this natural condition of post-birth prematurity.

For Lacan, identification with the imago-Gestalt of the moi entails alienation—and this for additional reasons over and above those given in the preceding paragraphs. But, in subsequent revisitations of the mirror stage during the s, Lacan dramatically highlights the supporting role of fellow human beings instead. This later shift of emphasis has two crucial consequences. Or, as the Lacan of the eleventh seminar would put it, there is something in the me more than the me itself to the extent that this moi essentially is a coagulation of inter-subjective and trans-subjective alien influences.

Although he often talks of mirrors as shiny reflective surfaces, he does not limit mirroring to being a visible physical phenomenon alone. The lower-case-o other designates the Imaginary ego and its accompanying alter-egos. The capital-O Other refers to two additional types of otherness corresponding to the registers of the Symbolic and the Real.

Thanks particularly to what he takes from his engagements with structuralism, Lacan, throughout his career, is careful to avoid a pseudo-Freudian reification of the bourgeois nuclear family, with a mother and father biologically sexed female and male respectively. The maternal and paternal Oedipal personas are psychical-subjective positions, namely, socio-cultural i. That noted, in the Lacanian version of the Oedipus complex, the maternal figure initially features for the infant as a Real Other i.

But, because of the combination of her obscurity and importance, the mother qua Real Other also is a source of deeply unsettling anxiety for the very young child. She seemingly threatens her offspring with being alternately too smothering or too withdrawn, too much or not enough. However, different subjects-in-formation distribute their identifications differently. Skipping over a lot of details and cutting a long story short, the later Lacan, when taking up the topic of sexual difference, preserves this Freudian emphasis on asymmetry.

In this vein, Lacan introduces the idea of sexuation as the Real of sexual difference, namely, as an impenetrable, opaque facticity of this difference continually prompting and yet perpetually resisting being adequately translated into the terms of Imaginary and Symbolic realities.

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The structural-psychical positions of masculinity and femininity embody constitutively out-of-synch and inherently incommensurable subjective stances, incompatible yet interacting arrangements of distinct sorts of libidinal economies. Lacan elaborates upon and extends this Freudian theoretical framework. Need, demand, and desire form a conceptual-terminological triad in Lacanian theory. Needs are biologically innate vital requirements for the human being as a living organism. Humans are born saddled with such imperatives from the very start, although, as per Freudian Hilflosigkeit , they are powerless on their own to satisfy these bodily dictates for a protracted initial period lasting well into childhood see 2.

The combination of being prematurationally helpless but having unavoidable needs means that, over the course of physical and mental development, the infant must come to articulate its needs to bigger others. Of course, crying, screaming, gesticulating, and the like are early expressions of needs, being the fashions in which infants prior to acquiring language per se alert the older individuals around them of their requirements.

Through these spontaneous interpretations, others, whether knowingly or not, participate with the pre-verbal child in shaping links between needs and the socially mediated significance of the expressions of needs. As the infant continues maturing, soon acquiring language, the influences of others and Others especially inter-subjective others as conveyors of the signs and signifiers of the big Other qua trans-subjective symbolic order—see 2.

He stipulates that desire is what remains after need is subtracted from demand. What, exactly, does this equation mean? Through being translated into demands, needs come to be saddled with surpluses of more-than-biological significances; vital requirements take on the excess baggage of meanings over and above the level of brute, simple organic survival.

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Lacan therefore asserts that each and every demand is, at bottom, a demand for love. As will be discussed here shortly see 2.

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These fantasies cover over the impossibility of bringing desires to satisfying ends. As should be evident by now, the intervention of the signifiers of the symbolic order i. Through the intrusion of these signifiers cutting into both the body and mind of the young child, a proto-subjective being of need, passing through the demands of discipline in both sense of the genitive , is transformed into a subject of desire.

In connection with his revisions of the Oedipus complex see 2. But, as Lacan observes, Freud also oddly defines the aim Ziel of any and every drive as satisfaction. Therefore, how can a drive achieve satisfaction if its aim defined as the achievement of satisfaction is inhibited? As seen see 2. There where desire is frustrated, drive is gratified. Drive gains its satisfaction through vampirically feeding off of the dissatisfaction of desire.