A Letter Which Did Arrive at its Destination

It was already Franz Kafka who articulated this crisis of paternal authority in all its ambiguity; no wonder that the first impression one gets in reading Kafka’s letter to his father is that there is something missing in it – the final twist along the lines of the parable on the Door of the Law (“This door was here only for you…”): the father’s display of terror and rage is here only for you, you[ …]

A Revolution ne s’autorise que d’elle même

Which, then, is the dimension of the law that the law cannot admit publicly? The best way to discern it is through a logical paradox deployed by Jean-Pierre Dupuy in his admirable text on Hitchcock’s Vertigo: An object possesses a property x until the time t; after t, it is not only that the object no longer has the property x; it is that it is not true that it possessed x at any time. The[ …]

The Act and Its Vicissitudes

What is an act in the strict Lacanian sense of the term? Recall C.S. Lewis’ description of his religious choice from his Surprised by Joy—what makes it so irresistibly delicious is the author’s matter-of-fact “English” skeptical style, far from the usual pathetic narratives of the mystical rapture. C.S. Lewis’ description of the act thus deftly avoids any ecstatic pathos in the usual style of Saint Theresa, any multiple-orgasmic penetrations by angels or God: it is[ …]

The Iraqi MacGuffin

The problem with the basic refrain (“Iraq is a big country, Saddam had lots of time to hide the WMD, so give us more time and we will definitely find them!”) is that its structure is the same as that of a judge who first punishes the accused and then, when forced to admit that he has no proof the crime has effectively been committed, he says: “Give me more time and I promised you[ …]

Liberation Hurts, Interview with Eric Dean Rasmussen

Eric Dean Rasmussen: In The Puppet and the Dwarf one of your theoretical maxims is that “in our politically correct times, it is always advisable to start with the set of unwritten prohibitions that define the positions one is allowed to adopt.” You argue that although proclamations for various forms of multiculturalist spirituality are currently in vogue, professing “serious” religious beliefs – that is, proclaiming one’s faith devoutly and unironically – is an exemplary case of an[ …]

Will You Laugh for Me, Please

On April 8, Charles R. Douglass, the inventor of “canned laughter” – the artificial laughter which accompanies comical moments in TV-series – died at 93 in Templeton, California. In the early 1950s, he developed the idea to enhance or substitute for live audience reaction on television; he then realized this idea in the guise of a keyboard machine – by pressing on different keys, it was possible to produce different kinds of laughter. First used[ …]

The Iraqi Borrowed Kettle

We all remember the old joke about the borrowed kettle which Freud quotes in order to render the strange logic of dreams, namely the enumeration of mutually exclusive answers to a reproach (that I returned to a friend a broken kettle): (1) I never borrowed a kettle from you; (2) I returned it to you unbroken; (3) the kettle was already broken when I got it from you. For Freud, such an enumeration of inconsistent[ …]

The Thing from Inner Space

JACQUES LACAN DEFINES ART itself with regard to the Thing: in his Seminar on the Ethics of Psychoanalysis, he claims that art as such is always organized around the central Void of the impossible-real Thing – a statement which, perhaps, should be read as a variation on Rilke’s old thesis that “Beauty is the last veil that covers the Horrible”. Lacan gives some hints about how this surrounding of the Void functions in the visual arts[ …]

Kant and Sade: The ideal couple

Of all the couples in the history of modern thought (Freud and Lacan, Marx and Lenin…), Kant and Sade is perhaps the most problematic: the statement “Kant is Sade” is the “infinite judgement” of modern ethics, positing the sign of equation between the two radical opposites, i.e. asserting that the sublime disinterested ethical attitude is somehow identical to, or overlaps with, the unrestrained indulgence in pleasurable violence. A lot—everything, perhaps—is at stake here: is there[ …]

The Interpassive Subject

[Delivered at Centre Georges Pampidou, Traverses, 1998. Minor editing, headings, etc.] Fetish Between Structure and Humanism According to the classic Althusserian criticism, the Marxist problematic of commodity fetishism relies on the humanist ideological opposition of “human persons” versus “things.” Is it not one of Marx’s standard determinations of fetishism that it deals with “relations between things (commodities)” instead of direct “relations between people”? In other words, that in the fetishist universe, people (mis)perceive their social relations[ …]