Lacan: the mind of the modernist

Continental Philosophy Review 48 (4):409-443 (2015)
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This paper offers an intellectual portrait of the French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, by considering his incorporation of perspectives associated with “modernism,” the artistic and intellectual avant-garde of the first half of the twentieth century. These perspectives are largely absent in other alternatives in psychology, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis. Emphasis is placed on Lacan’s affinities with phenomenology, a tradition he criticized and to which he is often seen as opposed. Two general issues are discussed. The first is Lacan’s unparalleled appreciation of the paradoxical nature of human experience, together with his treatment of paradox as almost a criterion of truth. These points are illustrated by considering Lacan’s conceptions of the self and of erotic desire. The second issue is Lacan’s focus on the “ontological dimension,” on overall styles or modalities of what might be termed “transcendental subjectivity”: namely, what he calls the registers of the “Imaginary,” the “Symbolic,” and the “Real.” By emphasizing the incommensurable yet interdependent nature of these modalities, Lacan offers a synthesis of dynamic/conflictual and formal/ontological dimensions of the human condition. This paper offers an encompassing portrait of Lacan’s major ideas that is at odds with the widespread assumption that Lacan is somehow a deeply anti-humanist thinker who derides the subjective dimension. Lacan’s most distinctive contributions are fundamentally concerned with the nature of human experience. They show strong affinities with hermeneutic forms of phenomenology inspired by Heidegger, a philosopher who focused on ontological modes of Being and considered paradox as a mark of truth

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References found in this work

Being and nothingness.Jean-Paul Sartre - 1956 - Avenel, N.J.: Random House.
Truth and method.Hans-Georg Gadamer - 1975 - New York: Continuum. Edited by Joel Weinsheimer & Donald G. Marshall.
Critique of Pure Reason.Immanuel Kant - 1998 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Edited by J. M. D. Meiklejohn. Translated by Paul Guyer & Allen W. Wood.
Cartesian meditations.Edmund Husserl - 1960 - [The Hague]: M. Nijhoff.

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