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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Jacques Lacan and structuralism

Jacques Lacan (1901-1981) was a French psychoanalyst best known for his contributions to structuralism and the philosophy of language. Literary critic Norman Holland said,


"Lacan's most widely quoted maxim is, 'The unconscious is structured like a language' and like that sentence, Lacan's whole oeuvre rest on a certain idea of language. His proclaimed 'return to Freud' meant remedying Freud's failure to use 'modern' linguistics. 'Modern' linguistics for Lacan, however, means a turn-of-the-century linguistics - specifically, Ferdinand de Saussure's." (The Critical I, 1992)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Lacan.




"Meaning is produced not only by the relationship between the signifier and the signified but also, crucially, by the position of the signifiers in relation to other signifiers." (


"Nature provides - I must use the word - signifies, and these signifies organize human relation in a creative way, providing them with structures and shaping them." (The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho Analysis, 1978)


"For the signifier is a unit in its very uniqueness, being by nature symbol only of an absence." (




"The man who is born into existence deals first with language; this is a given. He is even caught in it before his birth." (Interview, 1957)


"I always speak the truth. Not the whole truth, because there's no way, to say it all. Saying it all is literally impossible: words fail. Yet it's through this very impossibility that the truth holds onto the real." (


"The real is what resists symbolization absolutely." (The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Freud's Papers on Technique)


"As is known, it is in the realm of experience inaugurated by psychoanalysis that we may grasp along what imaginary lines the human organism, int he most intimate recesses of its being, manifests its capture in a symbolic dimension." (




"The knowledge that there is a part of the psychic functions that are out of conscious reach, we did not need to wait for Freud to know this!" (


"Discontinuity, then, is the essential form in which the unconscious first appears to us as a phenomenon - discontinuity, in which something is manifested as a vacillation." (The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho Analysis, 1978)


"The unconscious is structured like a language." (




"...Desire, a function central to all human experience, is the desire for nothing nameable. And at the same time this desire lies at the origin of every variety of animation." (