That obscure object of psychoanalysis

Continental Philosophy Review 46 (2):163-187 (2013)
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This essay examines how psychoanalytic conceptions of the subject and the object in the works of Freud and Lacan may contribute to a re-examination of the vexed issue of the subject–object relationship in science, philosophy and epistemology. For Freud, the ego is the essential subject, yet he regarded it as an always already objectified subject, which is objectively thinkable yet never subjectively knowable qua subject. Lacan conceptualised this Freudian principle of subjectivity with his notion of the divided (barred) subject, which he initially designated as an effect of the symbolic order of language. As to the object, both Freud and Lacan emphasized its constitutive partiality, which explains why no object is ever fully capable of providing full satisfaction and why each and every object is flawed and cracked, thus triggering desire. Extending Freud’s idea of the ‘shadow of the object,’ Lacan captured the fundamental inadequacy of the object with his concept of the object a. As such, for Freud and Lacan, the subject–object relationship is problematic, because it concerns a relationship between a divided subject and a non-object (object a). In this relationship, the subject is not purely object and the object is not merely subject (in the Kantian sense), nor is the Hegelian subject–object identity more than an idealist aspiration. For psychoanalysis, the subject is always traversed by the object, yet the object can never be fully integrated into a subjectified structure of knowledge. The only way to conceive of an adequate subject–object relationship is at the level of fantasy



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The psychic life of power: theories in subjection.Judith Butler - 1997 - Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
The Foundations of Psychoanalysis: A Philosophical Critique.Adolf Grünbaum - 1984 - Berkeley: University of California Press.
The Interpretation of Dreams.Sigmund Freud & A. A. Brill - 1900 - Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 10 (20):551-555.

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