Is Lacan An Anti-Philosopher? (2/3 – Slavoj Žižek) + transcript

[Transcript by Thomas Matthews below video.]

Difficult to follow, I hope you hear me, glad to be here, glad to be with Alain. Of course in this 20 minute form it’s just a little bit too little time to really develop a line of thought- all one can do is more trace, define positions, oppositions, and so on. I would nonetheless like to begin with reference to what is going on recently in your territory, or just off your territory, in Louisiana, because i think it concerns precisely in a way – very  oblique way – what Alain was talking about, this gap – sorry,  distance – between the Real and the Symbolic.

I was thinking about, do you know how Freud’s dream – Freudian dream – of Irmas’ injection is structured. First, you have this look deep into Irmas’ throat- the primal horror, the distorted flesh; then, you have this sudden passage from the real into the ridiculous impotence of the symbolic- the three doctors exchanging faked arguments. Isn’t this going on now in the United states’ public discourse? The look into the Irmas throat would have been those camera shots that we get of the oil gushing out; and then the three doctors literally exist – you remember in the Congressional hearing – as the three representatives who were, exactly in the same comical way, putting the blame of each other. You know? BP representative, or CEO even, said “no it’s not me- it’s the subcontractor” that Halliburton or whatever. I think it’s the big (Dick Cheney’s) company- said “no, we just made the plan, it’s our own subtractor, who bought the concrete, who screwed it up.” And finally, the last one returned the ball and said, “no but we were just following the plans we got from the other two,” and so on. So, it’s clearly this same constellation.

But things are more tragic here. Do you remember when – I think unfortunately, even president Obama appeared even a clown for me, when he pathetically claimed, “we – I – will make, on behalf of the American people- British Petroleum pay every cent of the damage,” and so on, and so on. Sorry, this is ridiculous; if the spilling will go on the way it goes – even if they, so many environments ruined, lives ruined, etc. – you simply cannot pay for it. It’s ridiculous. It’s a little bit- I exaggerate consciously – like, to say, ‘Germany will pay every cent for the Holocaust’ and so on. I mean, when catastrophes are too big, it’s meaningless to talk in these terms. So, we have to re-think it.

I remember- here I connect it to the impossibility of a sexual relationship – I remember some 20 years ago exactly same territory, the waters – seawaters – south of Louisiana, Ted Kennedy, at that point a senator, was caught by paparazzi in a lone boat – he thought he was alone, only sea around – making love to a lady. I mean it’s a blurred image but very clear – her legs spread, and so on. Exactly at that point in the senate they were debating offshore drilling. And I loved how a republican senator here I liked it- referring to this, said “oh I noticed that recently TK who was opposed to it, changed his position on offshore drilling.” I am here for Kennedy- I think that the only offshore drilling that should be allowed is the one that Kennedy was involved in, no? Ok, but not too much of this.

Lacan and anti-philosophy. You know, I will just try to again present, state, my case and to just mark some differences, allowing, hopefully, Alain to strike back; because as I already developed once in Paris I think , or London, our relationship is that of a master and a hysteric. He’s the master, I am the hysteric, provoking all the time, and so on – sometimes it’s difficult to provoke the master. Now, more seriously, I was deeply influenced by his insight into the whole concept of anti-philosophy. Maybe I will just shift a little bit this place, expand, whatever, my understanding of it. Of course I totally agree with him, we can already say Pascal, and so on. But nonetheless Pascal situated himself outside philosophy- for me, maybe I’m wrong, where do we have the first breakthrough of anti-philosophy as a philosophical position?

Maybe – risky hypothesis – Kant; Kantian ethics. It’s the first time that you clearly have this position of ‘we have this domain of knowledge, or theoretical truth; and then we have access to the real through the ethical act- which is, again, the relationship to the impossible real of thinking itself outside truth’. It’s also interesting how, speaking of anti-philosophy, did you notice that in the history of philosophy, from that point on (of Kantian revolution) practically, practically, not totally of course, entire philosophy no longer wants to be called philosophy. [with] Kant, it’s no longer metaphysics, but transcendental critique of the conditions of metaphysics. Fische is Wissenschaft Lehre, that is to say, ‘teaching on science’ – not philosophy. Schelling privileges art; Hegel also said, ‘no longer love of wisdom, but wisdom itself,’ not to mention Marx, and so on, and so on.

So my first contestation when Lacan says, “Je vais contre la philosophie” is, well, welcome to the camp of philosophers! All philosophers from Kant onwards are doing nothing but that- insurging against philosophy; nobody wants to be a philosopher. And here I agree with you- that’s my point! Yeah, that’s precisely my point. Because would you agree- now I have a new proposal for you, to try to convert you, to my cause of the love of German idealism.

You know your four domains of – okay, conditions, whatever – of where a truth event can occur. Let’s enumerate them: science, politics, art, love. And I deeply agree with Adrian Johnson’s reading of you where he emphasized an aspect of this which is usually ignored- that people usually just emphasize your opposite point, which is de situ – not [to] totally attach philosophy to one truth-condition. But I think on the other hand you make a much nicer point, which is even close to some kind of engaged Marxist thinking, which is nonetheless that philosophy cannot stand on its own. Heroically, you have to attach, engage yourself, attach yourself to a condition.

You cannot be a philosopher just in the air. And would you agree or not – this came to me – that the same four (conditions of truth) goes for German Idealism. Look: Kant’s problem was science, was how to philosophize in the conditions of Newtonian science. Fichte is clearly politics, French revolution. Schelling is art; and, I claim, Hegel is love. I mean, we have precisely the four guys there. But, okay, now let me go on into anti-philosophy: where do I maybe, maybe, shift the accent a little bit?

For me, I would say that the great breakthrough of anti-philosophy occurs with the so-called anti-Hegelian turn, in extreme main forms. First, the late Schelling and the young Schopenhauer; then, Kierkegaard; then, Marx. I think that all three, in a way, meet your condition. Philosophy is, in all three versions, denounced as caught in its own circle of representation, abstract-contextual thinking, and some kind of return to – not the Real in the Lacanian sense, but some kind of a positive singular life foundation, which implies [that] a critique of philosophy is enacted. For Kierkegaard, this is the unique existence of [the] religious individual which escapes philosophical conceptual mediation; for late Schelling [and] Heidegger is the primordial irrational pre-logical abyss of willing – outside philosophical truth – and for Marx is the actual life process of actual people, and so on, and so on, and so on.

So, what I claim is that in all these – here, things probably will become – I am asking you a question, and not in this boring, pseudo-pedagogical  way, where asking someone a question means that you already know what is the truth and just expect from you to confirm – it’s really an open question.

I claim that what unites all the three – and this is really what happened after Hegel – is that, with all violence, a certain opposition became predominant, which, I think maybe – I wonder if you would agree – defines the very coordinates for me, of anti-philosophy. The opposition between productive presence and mere conceptual-idealistic theatre scene of representation. Marx is here very brutal- Marx, the worst Marx which I think should be abandoned – the Marx of German ideology, with all that stuff of philosophy is in regard to real life like masturbation is with regard to sexual acts, and so on. So, again, this idea that we are caught into a closed circle of representation- philosophy and ideology is caught into it- and the point is to break out of this closed circle of representation into some more direct productive presence. And, as my colleague Alain Kasablanicz? Developed in a very nice way –  it’s interesting how this same topic of denouncing representation became also actual throughout the 19th century- of course it was present before but then it exploded – as general problematizing of representation.

For, example in the domain of love, all of a sudden the problem was, can [a] love encounter be properly represented in the institution of marriage? With usual ambiguity. On the one hand, it was the bourgeois principle – you know – ‘the only legitimate marriage is marriage which should be founded in love.’ But then you always have this idea, ‘but nonetheless the institution of marriage cannot recuperate love; there is an excess.’ This idea of an excess escaping representation; you have the same in politics. You have parliamentary representation, but then you know, this topic of can parliamentary representation adequately represent social base? Isn’t there something in social base which escapes representation?

The first one to develop this already none other than Hegel in his wonderful – wonderfully ambiguous  – notion of Bobel? – rebel – rebel as the non-representable element. Now, here I am just asking you a question and am maybe trying to draw a line of distinction. I think this entire topic of productive presence and then misrepresented in some scene of representation should be ultimately dropped. This is the core of anti-philosophy. Now comes the evil part – I don’t have time to develop it – the Stalinist part of me. I think you remain here for my taste sometimes a little bit too much a little bit too much of an anti-philosopher. Sometimes you also mobilize this representation versus the Real of productive presence with this topic. So, this is, again, my first point.

And it would be interesting here to play, in a nice way, different philosophers – one against the other. For example, although we both totally, more or less, disagree with Derrida, I think that when Derrida – I wonder if you agree- is at his best it’s when he – not in his critique of metaphysics (we know that) – but in his critique of too-fast, direct, anti-philosophical attempts to break out. The Derrida I love is Derrida reading Foucault, Bathai, Levinas, where he takes someone who tries to enact the basic anti-philosophical gesture- like Bathai against Hegelian philosophy sovereignty; Foucault against Cartesian cogito madness; or Levinas against philosophical totality, infinity of relating to otherness. And I think here Derrida is a good anti-anti-philosopher. In a very- in a wonderful detailed analysis, he shows how all these attempts to break out remain nonetheless, in a hidden way, determined by the field they want to undermine. So here, again, we can learn something – we can learn something from Derrida. You know, Derrida is not just the one who wants to screw philosophy, break out of it, and so on, and so on. He is a good philosopher, especially good in showing how it’s not as easy as it may appear to break out of philosophy.

Especially, actually, today I think is, for example Derrida’s, and later developed by [an]other, critique of Levinas; because I think if there is any one of the great books of anti-philosophy it is Levinas’ Totality and Infinity. And i think it is easy to show how Levinas’ critique of Hegel, and especially of Heidegger, which was later taken over by John-Luke Marriott- this idea that even Heidegger remains too much within philosophy, that even the ontological difference between being and entities still remains within the horizon of being, while we must break through towards this infinite radical otherness of God beyond being. I think it can be shown, in a convincing way – every serious philosopher can show it – that Levinas simply doesn’t hold there, that the price is a very superficial reduction of the notion of being to some pretty naive positive reality and then you can say “oh, but god is outside it!” and so on, and so on.

A Heideggerian would have insisted here that even if God outside being – beyond being- still has to, of course not exist as a determinate object, but – has to be present, disclose itself in a certain way, would be fully justified. You cannot escape it as simply as that. So, again, I don’t have time to develop it, but the reason I remain faithful to Hegel would have been that I insist that Hegel is absolutely unique here. I mean, usually people perceive Hegel in this shift from traditional metaphysics, philosophy, to anti-philosophy in the guise of the 19th century historicism, life philosophy, and so on – as somewhere in between. As they say, ‘on the one hand hegel remained absolute metaphysician, system; on the other, hand we already find in Hegel good historical analysis, and so on and so on.’


I think this image of Hegel is deeply misleading; like, a little bit here, a little bit there. I think he was not a little bit here, a little bit there- he was neither here nor there – he was a unique point. No longer philosopher in the sense of metaphysical philosopher, but, not yet anti-philosopher: that’s what makes Hegel so traumatic. So, now, let me go on into a – just two more points – first- I’m trying to be as brief as possible- how I locate Lacan’s anti-philosophy. First, I am totally in full agreement with Alain; maybe I will just formulate the ambiguity of Lacan in a little bit different of a way. For me, first, one has to be precise in where does Lacan locate that which – that anti-philosophical point, as you [Alain] would have put it – on behalf which Lacan makes this pathetic claim “Je me se leve,” “I raise myself,” “contra-philosophie,” “against philosophy”. This point is clearly jouissance , the excess of enjoyment. For Lacan, this excess of- for Lacan, let me be very precise- philosophy is that begins with Parmenides you know, the same is being and logos, thinking, talking. You know, this kind of pre-established harmony between discourse and being, being can be logically apprehended, set.

For Lacan – again, as you pointed out – this is the anti-philosophical core of Lacan- there is something which introduces a crack [rupture] here. Here is a nice quote from Lacan of 1966 [from] his seminar on the object of psychoanalysis: “I challenge whichever philosopher to account now for the relation that is between the emergence of the signifier and the way jouissance relates to being. No philosophy, I say, needs us here today. The wretched, aborted, freaks of philosophy which we drag behind us from the beginning of the last [he means 19th] century, as the habits that are falling apart, are nothing but a way to frisk, rather than to confront, this question which is the only question about truth, and which is called and named by Freud the death drive, the primordial masochism of jouissance. All philosophical speech escapes and withdraws here.”

Now, I will try here to be at the same time critical but also positive towards Lacan. First I would say what always fascinated me in Lacan is what did he – one enigma that an ex-colleague of Alain, Francois Balmes in his very good Stabes? of Lacan emphasized, the great mystery and perhaps the best way to approach Lacan is to ask a very simple, almost detective question. Lacan obviously knew Heidegger very well: why, then, did he stick to the notion of the subject? Why didn’t he drop subject? I mean, as the name for the core of – inhuman core of – human being? I think the reason is – and here, again, from a weird perspective I approach one of the big topics of Alain, where I agree with him – the relationship between language and truth. Where I support Alain fully is in his – the way I understand it – anti-hermeneutic trust of not identifying truth with – the one who developed this most radically was Heidegger, arguably – this idea that truth is ultimately the historically destined horizon of being which dwells – is inscribed-  by our language.

In this historicized transcendental mode, a Heideggerian would have said, ‘this is the unsurpassable horizon of our access to truth.’ The ultimate- the furthest- you can go is to reflect on the horizon of how things appear to you, of how being is disclosed. For example, you can make – I don’t know how many speculative quantum physics discoveries, but – in order to pursue them you already have to have a certain historically destined – embodied in language – pre-understanding of being. So, all we can do, then, is to think – the event, not in the Alain’s sense, but as Heideggerian ereignis?, this totally abysmal gameof new destinies of being- this totally abysmal game of evental occurrences of, modes of, disclosure is the ultimate horizon. So, in this sense, for Heidegger, language is the house of being. What lacan does here, basically, I think, is just to add something- a dimension missing in Heidegger (for Lacan). To put it in cynical terms, for Lacan, language is not just the house of being, it’s the torture house of being. We are basically tortured by language – that’s the topic of castration, distortion, and so on.

We are never at home in the house of being- it’s a traumatic discourse – and, again, the name of this discourse is jouissance. So, here I come to Alain; I don’t like Elfriede Jelinek- her style is too dirty for me- but she said something that I deeply agree with, a wonderful phrase; she said “language should be tortured to tell the truth”. I think that this would be the second counterpart: that we should drop all this hermeneutic trust into – you know, the access to truth is to open yourself to the message which is in language – no! We should torture language. And, I think, maybe we should even read poetry and art in this way: as different modes of torture.

What is poetry? It’s a great torture of language. Imagine how you have to torture language to write a simple sonnet form: cut works, squeeze them, and so on. Even in cinema, as art: what was Eisenstein doing? My god! All his works are already works of extreme violence and torture: cut, montage, and stitch it together, and so on. Now you will say, “yeah, yeah- this is Eisenstein’s manipulative approach- what about the great opposition to Eisenstein? Andre Bazhang, Rosallini, Traikovsky. Where you have the passive attitude of just filming, and not intervening?” It’s slow it down; how do you call that instrument where somebody is tortured so that you tie him up and then stretch it? Yeah, yeah, that’s Traikovsky. So, I would say, imagine a debate between Eisenstein and Traikovsky, it’s like two torturers: what’s the better way to squeeze out the truth? And here, I agree with Alain: I think that we, of course we think in [terms of]  language, but paradoxically language is not our horizon. Language in its- let’s call it naively mytho-poetic function – language, as you know, poetry in the bad sense of founding a nation and so on. I think that we can do more.

Truly great artists, poets, do more: they torture their language, they force it to go beyond. We can, within language, think with language against language to arrive at a true universality. This is a very radical thesis but I think that it’s crucial- and I’m not sure if Lacan himself is clear here. Where, to be clear, at this point he’s ambiguous – he would no longer be an anti-philosopher. But I think this is the crucial point. Again, is the historicist-transcendental attitude – language is our fate, the last thing – is this the last thing, or can we break out of the, to use Fredric Jameson’s term, the prison house of language and formulate a universality outside of it?

Now, a step further: I claim that this is why, as Balmés demonstrates, Lacan sticks to the notion of subject. Subject for Lacan, as you pointed out when you emphasized this weakness and so on, subject for Lacan is not in this modern way the excess – you know, this Cartesian subject, not in the Cart sense, but more in this Heideggerian sense of modern subjectivity, dominate the world, mediate it, technologically master it, and so on- subject is the one who, as Lacan put it, who suffers from the Symbolic: it’s tortured. And to designate this – this dimension of being, tortured by language, is missing in Heidegger, which is why – I’m so sad I don’t have time to develop this – why I think Lacan emphasizes a feature of Antigone which is totally absent in Heidegger. In his two great readings of Antigone, Heidegger never mentions this famous position in between the two deaths. That is to say, you know, you are still biologically alive, symbolically excluded. This [in-between] pure position is what [Giorgio] Agamben later calls homo sacer of subject as tortured. I am even tempted to say – to make a quick far fetched reference to philosophy – fashionable contestations against Heidegger about concentration camps, and so on.

You know where you can see that Heidegger misses this dimension? You know that famous passage from Heidegger which horrified many people where he says that in concentration camps, they were just, in an industrial way, producing corpses: people were not really dying there. Well, of course this is true, in a way. But, I would say that it is true for the executioners: if you were somebody dying in Auschwitz, you didn’t feel, ‘oh my god, I’m just an object being technologically produced,’ no? Precisely, this other side is missing here.

Now, we can go on. Because of this dimension missing, I agree with what you develop as Lacan from truth to knowledge about truth to knowledge. I would only say that maybe, desperately, there is an ultimate way to read this as not anti-philosophical. In what sense? You know that, strictly parallel to the movement that you described in these precise terms, is – this is very nice – incidentally I love this naivety of Balmes, who makes a brutal, clinical, judgement on Heidegger. I love it; it appears as brutal nonsense- where he says that the problem with Heidegger’s description, for example, “dasein,” being there, “innen,” inside, is that it’s good for neurotics but it doesn’t cover psychotics. [Do] you know, in what naive sense he was right?

Let’s take what Katrine Malibu Calls ‘post-traumatic subject, or this ‘homo sacer,’ and so on. They describe a subjective position of this suffering, being tortured by language, and so on. You know how Heidegger describes being human as this “from future to the past through the present, engaged existence’ and so on. You are out of that- you are no longer caught into this structure of care, engaged existence, but nonetheless you are not outside- but nonetheless you are animal- you are still human, being deprived of it. This vaguely would be the psychotic position – for this, there is no place in Heidegger.

So, I find this a very nice thesis of how, again, Lacan sticks to the notion of subject, not because he remains modern age, faithful to modern subjectivity which is the cause of our crisis. He does, but for the opposite reason. And now, I just want to supplement you. Balmes shows in a triumphant way here how this movement from truth- knowledge of  truth – knowledge- is strictly correlative in Lacan – to the forceful reaffirmation of the Cartesian cogito. When you have this late Lacan’s knowledge, always, you should think cogito. Here you should always bear in mind that when we think about Lacan et Cogito, it’s not enough to recite those old boring poems, you know, of ‘yeah, Lacan set against Descartes, I am not where I think.’ This can still be read in a purely anti-philosophical way- it simply means the truth of my being – the true, lively productivity – is not where I think.

Then, Lacan turns it around and says, “I think where I am not”. This is more interesting, where the unconscious is not the fullness of my being outside my thought, but it’s a pure thinking outside myself, not where I feel myself existentially as the one I am. Then there are other formulations, but as Balmes points out very nicely, what Lacan does in his seminar – I think on Logique de Phantasma, ‘Logic of Phantasy’ – is to return to the identity of cogito and being, but as an empty set. For the last Lacan, in cogito, being and thinking do coincide, but in a negative way. In cogito, I am pure thinking, but which is just a form of thinking without any content; at the same time I am pure being, but deprived of any content. It’s just as if the two empty points overlap here. Again, as such, this cogito should be asserted as universal, non-historical.

Historicity is, I think, not the ultimate horizon. Which is why, as I tried to develop in one of my texts, I think that one can, in a very nice way, refer here to Walter Benjamin. You know when he talks about two types of violence – staatsbuilden and staatsgusturn, violence which creates state and violence (this divine violence). I think that Heidegger’s problem is that when he does talk about violence and language, his notion of violence as poets who ground, abolish a nation is still staatsbuilden. I would like, in parallel to the relation of violence and state, to assert also violence immanent in this imposing a certain disclosure of being, what poets do for a nation, but staatsgusturn violence- violence of torturing language, breaking through to universality.

So, here, I think that maybe, partially, things – I have not yet thought them to the end, things here are very ambiguous for me- but I would have said nonetheless here that maybe Lacan’s anti-philosophy can, nonetheless, maybe be reinterpreted as precisely- because you know when Lacan says anti-philosophy, one should always ask what is philosophy, for him? And the quote I read you is very ambiguous here- Lacan qualifies philosophy to which he opposes as “wretched, aborted, freaks of philosophy, which we drag behind us from the beginning of the 19th century,” that is so say, basically, anti-philosophy. He designates as philosophy this post-Hegelian philosophy. So, again, what I would have said is that one should never forget that for Lacan, philosophy is rather this hermeneutic harmony between being and thinking, which is historically specified, and so on, and so on. I think that, through the link of cogito and knowledge, and so on, one can maybe – maybe – construct a reading (of) Lacan against Lacan, of totally crazy, like we want to do, a return to pure cogito, matem, knowledge, and so on, outside this historicist hermeneutic universal.

But one crucial problem here – what about jouissance as nameless, and so on? Doesn’t Lacan nonetheless support (sustain) his critique of philosophy in this disturbing element of excess of jouissance? Many things can be said here, I think even one could even answer in a nice way, contren mea sou, when he insisted on that problem of facile, as that third element which breaks transcendental correlation. I think that, for Lacan you don’t have to go outside- the true facile is Objet a – it’s here in me. For Lacan, mea sou would have been way too Leninist in the bad sense of materialism and empirical criticism. Mea sou, for me, remains all too stuck in this naive pre-Heideggerian problematic of ‘we are caught in our representations- can we reach out of them to reality in itself, or not?’ For me, as a Hegelian, this is a pseudo-problem.

The problem is not can we reach the thing in itself, the problem is Badiou’s problem- how can, in this stupid real, something like thought emerge? The true problem is not ‘can we go beyond our appearances to the real in itself?’, the problem is the one approached by Badiou in his Logics of The World: how can, in the flack stupidity of the real, something like the world emerge? Hegel knew this very clearly- the problem is not to break out of appearance; the problem is how is appearance possible?

To go on: jouissance. I wonder if you would accept something. In one of your texts you were totally right to characterize Lacan’s reference to jouissance feminine as a reference to some sort of reference to a cultural unsayable. But I don’t think it is necessary to read it in that way- although, I admit it, this is the predominant way. You know, in Lacan’s formula of sexuation, how does Lacan describe this feminine position of jouissance? Usually this is read as, ‘something in women resists symbolic order. not-all of women is caught into the symbolic order’. But I think if we read this in the sense of ‘there is something in woman- this excess of mystical jouissance which resists the symbolic,’ maybe we don’t read Lacan correctly.

Maybe we should nonetheless emphasize how the ‘non-all’ of feminine jouissance also means that there is no exception; we should also say, ‘there is nothing in woman which is outside the symbolic order,’ or whatever. So, I think that, instead of reading jouissance feminine as a kind of mystical inrepture, and so on, so that to put it bluntly, in an almost sexist way, we men are purely within the symbolic order, women are with one leg in with another part of them that resists with some kind of rupture, I think women are paradoxically more fully within the symbolic order. This is why they are non-all.

Here is how I would try to save Lacanian jouissance and the Real for philosophy. And you already indicate that path. What I don’t like is this anti-philosophical notion of jouissance as some terrifying excess that’s too strong for symbolization. But I am tempted to read Lacan’s famous formula, which you also quote on, that the Real is only accessible through the deadlock – la impasse of the symbolization – in a very strong, literal, way. The Real is not some in-itself;and Lacan formally opposes the idea that the Real is some kind of Kantian ‘in-itself’ which, then, we can only partially grasp. No! I think that the Real is nothing but the deadlock of symbolization; a totally imminent Real, a Real which is just- yes, I’ll stop- cuts off symbolization.

So, from here, I would just like to mark, maybe one or two- this is a question to you, how you would react – differences. One big difference- I am not even sure about it myself, we have this debate for fifteen years, I think – is that, in your Logics of The World – I will just state the position – you seem to imply that what you call world. I think, I know, I violently disagree with you, and you with me here. I think there is no world without language, to cut a long story short. And I think that the very categories you use for the point- like the crucial category of the point; point as a signifying category. I agree with you that language is not – here I am a Platonist- a limit. I claim that the category of world is thinkable only within the human universe of language. While you, if I got you correctly, for you, there are worlds already in – to put it in very naive terms, in reality outside man-  once you even spoke of, ironically I know, of your dialectic of nature. How should I put it, no?

Second point: you are usually reproached with a very stupid criticism: that you are a secretly an idealist, in the sense of human-animal, but then out of nowhere, Event, grace, blah blah. And then, the idea is, ‘we should nonetheless develop, out of concrete history, how the Event came with.’ I am tempted to say the opposite- that my critique (open question) to you would have been the opposite one. What I problematize is not Event but human-animal: I don’t think there is something like human-animal.

Of course, there is empirically, but OK, to cut long story short, I just will – and then I will finish- designate my position now. I claim that what you call animal life – this pursuit of servicing the good, servicing the young, and so on, this normal, utilitarian existence – and the truth-event – that this polarity, duality, doesn’t cover the entire field. There is something which I am tempted to call with terms like anxiety, death drive, and so on – which is neither the one, nor the other. And I think that with humans, what you call animal life – this ordinary existence, utilitarian and so on, servicing the goods – always comes secondary in the sense of its attempt to stabilize some traumatic anxiety; which is also a condition for truth-event. You need anxiety, displacement, and so on to open up the space for the truth. And I think – that is my final point- that this maybe can be read in a not anti-philosophical way. My whole wager is that all this topic of death drive, and so on, should be totally de-imagined as what it was called in philosophy (in German idealism) as self-relating negativity, and so on.

So, again, I totally accept your tension between truth (the domain of truth procedures) and human-animal. I just think that we need a third domain – death drive, anxiety, and so on – which allows us to properly locate these two- but I know I did not prove anything here. But, you see my desperate wager, totally agreeing with your anti-anti-philosophy. What I’m trying to do is consciously reading Lacan against himself.

Let’s be clear: what Jacques Alain-Miller is doing now, with his right-liberal reinscription of Lacan as some kind of a liberal wise man, and so on- this is the danger of this- what you said, dismissing the truth. The first thing one should say is that,’where I disagree with Miller,’ I hope you agree, ‘is this idea of looking at the last last last Lacan for last wisdom, like just before he died he saw something’. Which is why, maybe you know it better than me – Lacan’s last official mistress, Catherine Millot I think, yeah – was the object of such affection, the idea is that she was there when Lacan was dying, and then, just at the point of dying, he told her something, you know? This last, as you would have said ‘singularity’, encounter of the Real- no!

I claim, agreeing with you, I claim that, somewhere between those ten years or more, seminars from Anxiety to, maybe, Encore, this was Lacan at his top. And I think, frankly, all those attempts with knots – the last years – sorry to tell you, I am more and more convinced they are gradual disintegration. And you effectively have what you said, all of this, you know, accomodate to the symptom, truth doesn’t matter, a kind of an almost Miller-esque right playfulness which, to us, as old- I wouldn’t say old- followers of the- follower of Lenin, not to name the name. This, I don’t buy.

So, I am sorry if I was too long, but you see my point: what I am trying to do is desperately, to nonetheless save Lacan, in some sense, for philosophy. I am very sorry if I was too long, and please strike back with all your force. Thank you.

[Transcribed by Thomas Matthews.]


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