Misers or lovers? How a reflection on Christian mysticism caused a shift in Jacques Lacan’s object theory

Continental Philosophy Review 46 (2):189-208 (2013)

Authors
Marc August De Kesel
University of Ottawa
Abstract
In his sixth seminar, Desire and Its Interpretation (1956–1957), Lacan patiently elaborates his theory of the ‘phantasm’ ($◊a), in which the object of desire (object small a) is ascribed a constitutive role in the architecture of the libidinal subject. In that seminar, Lacan shows his fascination for an aphorism of the twentieth century Christian mystic Simone Weil in her assertion: “to ascertain exactly what the miser whose treasure was stolen lost: thus we would learn much.” This is why, in his theory, Lacan conceptualizes the object of desire as the unconsumed treasure—and, in that sense, the “nothing”—on which the miser’s desire is focused. But the more Lacan develops his new object theory, the more he realizes how close it is to Christian mysticism in locating the ultimate object of desire in God, in a sevenfold “nothing” (to quote the famous last step in the ascent of the Mount Carmel as described by John of the Cross). An analysis of Shakespeare’s Hamlet allows Lacan to escape the Christian logic and to rearticulate the object of desire in an ‘unchristian’ tragic grammar. When he replaces the miser by the lover as paradigm of the subject’s relation to its object of desire, he substitutes a strictly Greek kind of love—eros, not agape—for the miser’s relationship to his treasure. Even when, in the late Lacan, “love” becomes a proper concept, its structure remains deeply “tragic.”
Keywords Love  Desire  Simone Weil  Object a  Christian mysticism  Tragedy
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DOI 10.1007/s11007-013-9258-9
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References found in this work BETA

Freud, Biologist of the Mind: Beyond the Psychoanalytic Legend.Frank J. Sulloway - 1979 - Journal of the History of Biology 15 (2):317-318.
Écrits.Jacques Lacan - 1967 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 22 (1):96-97.
La pesanteur et lu gr'ce.Simone Weil & Gustave Thibon - 1950 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 140:388-389.

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Citations of this work BETA

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