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Kaloianov - Hegel, Kojeve and Lacan - The Metamorphoses of Dialectics - Part II

Hegel, Kojeve and Lacan - The Metamorphoses of Dialectics - 

Part II: Hegel and Lacan

by Radostin Kaloianov


*"(...) the letter killeth while the spirit giveth life" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 158)

** I think that in saying Lacan against Hegel, you are much closer to the truth (...)"(Lacan, 1977b, p. 215)

It would be incorrect to speak about a point of contact between Hegel and Lacan.  One would in vain look after such a point. Its absence can be explained only by the presence of a mediating interpretation. Alexandre Kojève transmits to Lacan, in a considerably modified form, Hegel's views on dialectics in the Phenomenology of Spirit. The result of this transmission is that it institutes the notion of negativity as differentia specifica of Hegel's dialectic. It equates negativity with its manifestations in man. It reduces the Hegelian dialectic to the phenomena of desire, struggle, labor, speech and death. Kojève's lectures imply that the only dialectical formation in Hegel's philosophy and particularly in his Phenomenology of Spirit is the human subject ("a nothingness that 'nihilates' in being"). This "anthropological" presumption is the guideline of the Kojèvian interpretation of Hegel, and becomes easily adoptable in various human sciences and philosophical traditions: sociology, psychoanalysis, marxism, existentialism.

It can be hardly surprising, then, that Jacques Lacan readily applies some of the results of this "anthropological" and negativistic interpretation of Hegel. Lacan qualifies as dialectical all acts and relations in the psychoanalytic field, which are or simply resemble those modes of human negativity postulated by Kojève. The desire for recognition, the struggle for prestige, the master-slave relationship, speech and death are the elements of Lacan's dialectical code. These help him ascertain and clarify the meaning of almost all major concepts concerning the subject matter of his psychoanalysis: the mirror-stage, the Imaginary, the Symbolic, the Oedipus complex, the formation and the manifestation of the unconscious, the psychoanalytical treatment, etc..1  It turns out that the Kojèvian modes of human negativity exhaust the whole register of negations inherent to the subject of Lacan's psychoanalysis.  There is an essential difference between Kojève and Lacan.  Lacan does not refer to man as a historical being. He studies man as a mental entity, the elements of which exist and relate to one another predominantly in synchrony. These elements and the negations which constitute them do not belong to reality, as they do for Kojève, but to the order of images and symbols, which is of interest for Lacan.  Lacan does not employ literally the Hegelian figures of negativity but readapts them to the field of psychoanalysis. 

There is even a more profound difference between the Kojèvian interpretation of Hegel and its use by Lacan. Negation and negativity are the characteristics of dialectics. Negation, according to Kojève, is the splitting of a certain unity - the unity of the self or the unity of its world. This breaking apart has a positive outcome for Kojève. It leads immediately to a higher synthesis of the separated elements. So, when Kojève defines man, the human subject as "a nothingness that 'nihilates' in being", he emphasizes man's nature as an "act", he suggests man's openness to future positings, he implies man's ability to create himself in the future other than he is in the present. Though in a downgrade position the positive aspects of Hegel's dialectic are still at hand in Kojève's interpretation.

Lacan, however, performs a radical reversal in respect to the subject of this negative dialectic.

"Indeed, Kojève proposed a ‘humanist’ and ‘anthropological’ interpretation of Hegel in his course, and that was how he ended up stumbling onto the problem of death and finitude, dragging his most eminent listeners into a sort of strange Hegelianism of pure negativity, which rather quickly swerved into a virulent anti-Hegelianism (and antihumanism)" (Jacobsen, 1991, p. 12).

We have to correct slightly this remark. The Lacanian reversal is anti-humanist but not anti-Hegelian. It is rather anti-Kojèvian, for it is Kojève who related the dialectic of negativity to man, and it is Lacan who transgresses its only limit - the finitude of man.  While the dialectic of negativity for Kojève manifests Man's freedom, individuality and historicity, the "same" dialectic for Lacan annihilates man, suspends his identity and the very possibility for him to have an identity. Lacan pulls the moderately negative dialectic of Kojève down to its limit. Lacan not only describes various psychoanalytical problems in terms of the Kojèvian modes of functional negativity (as desire for recognition, struggle, labor, speech and death), he also promotes a substantive negativity, which can be better expressed by the term "nothingness" (but not the Kojèvian "nothingness", which designates metaphorically that the human subject is always something more than its objectifications). Lacan eliminates the human subject as the only positive reality in the dialectic of negativity. He defines the subject as a void, as an empty space which is supposed to be filled in by the signifiers of the signifying chain.2

We can not say that Lacan's anti-humanist reformulation of Hegel's dialectic is a direct consequence of its humanist interpretation by Kojève. There are also other influences on Lacan alongside Kojève's: linguistics and structural anthropology. The immediate effect of Kojève's negativistic interpretation of Hegel is that it suggests the primacy of the function over the elements it acts upon. Since the functional has a priority, and since this functional aspect is manifested in the modes of negativity, it is hardly surprising that Lacan focuses his attention on the hollow space, on the gap between the elements split up by a negation. That is how the Kojèvian reinterpretation of Hegel contributes to the Lacanian conception of the subject as a void, as a "Being of non-being" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 300), which perfectly accords with the analogous effects of linguistics and structural anthropology. 

Lacan's conception of the subject is polyvalent, yet we can distinguish two dominant meanings of the term "subject". A subject, in the widest meaning of the term, is the subject of desire. A subject, in the narrowest meaning of the term, is the subject of speech. The subject of speech: "is defined as the effect of the signifier" (Lacan, 1977b, p. 207). The effect of the signifier is exercised by "the function of the cut" (Lacan, 1977b, p. 206). Correspondingly,

"(...) from the fact of being born with the signifier, the subject is born divided. The subject is this emergence which, just before, as subject, was nothing, but which, having scarcely appeared, solidifies into a signifier" (Lacan, 1977b, p. 199). 

The subject of desire is also a lacunary formation: "The self (...) of desire is not identical to himself. He is now 'something other' than himself. He is nothing or dead"  (Jacobsen, 1991, p. 90). In other words the subject of desire is a lack, a void, which is filled in by various images or signifiers, but which can never be completely overcome. In fact, the image or the signifier only sharpens the division of the subject.  Consequently it is justified for Lacan to conclude that:

"The subject is an apparatus. This apparatus is something lacunary, and it is in the lacuna that the subject establishes the function of a certain object, qua lost object" (Lacan, 1977b, p. 185). 3

Thus, it is quite obvious that the five modes of negativity, recognized by Kojève as the principles of historical dialectics, extend their function in Lacan's psychoanalysis to being the principles of the divisions or the splittings, constitutive of the subject as a void. Lacan himself admits:

"(...) in the term subject (...) I am not designating the living substratum needed by this phenomenon of the subject, nor any sort of substance (...) nor even some incarnated logos, but the Cartesian subject, who appears at the moment when doubt is recognized as certainty except that, through my approach, the bases of this subject prove to be wider but, at the same time much more amenable to the certainty that eludes it" (Lacan, 1977b, p. 126).

Lacan's conception of the subject, however, does not reside peacefully in the Cartesian tradition but rather, being an analytical conception, carries this tradition and the conception of the subject it gives birth to, to its very limit - to the emptiness of the subject.

"When carried to the limit, the process of this meditation, of this reflecting reflection, goes so far as to reduce the subject apprehended by the Cartesian meditation to a power of annihilation" (Lacan, 1977b, p. 81).

It is precisely this limit, which Lacan unhesitatingly transgresses, for he does not belong to the Cartesian tradition any more (unlike Kojève). It is this limit which is the point of contact and at the same time the point of separation between Lacan and Hegel (and Kojève). Such a limit is the negativity of the subject, which Lacan inflates into the nothingness of the subject. To recapitulate, the Lacanian reversal of Hegel's dialectic consists not only in the overestimation of the aspects of negativity and forcefulness in it, but mainly in the introduction of something quite new and non-Hegelian. The figures of dialectics in Lacan's psychoanalytical theory, do not have a synthetic and creative outcome, but rather result in an irrevocable disjunction and splitting of what they represent.  The Lacanian reformulation of "the fundamental identity of the particular and the universal" in Hegel's philosophy, postulates that:

"(...) it is certainly psychoanalysis that provides it with its paradigm by revealing the structure in which that identity is realized as disjunctive of the subject" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 80). 4

Negativity, forcefulness and above all disjunctivity (the emptiness of the subject) are the indices of (the Hegelian) dialectic. And that is already a paradox (certainly not the only one in Lacan): something non-(or even anti-) Hegelian becomes an index of what is properly Hegelian.


2.1 The dialectic of identification.
We have to note that identification and the desire for recognition have an indisputable priority over possession, over need and the demand for love related to it, with regard to their significance for the formation of the subject. The central articulation of the subject is based on the vector of identification. Lacan describes the main units of that articulation: the Real, the Imaginary, and the Symbolic, predominantly in terms of identification, though never entirely excluding the aspects of possession linked to these forms of individual existence. This is why we choose to present the dialectic of the Imaginary and the Symbolic (and also of all the subsequent phenomena Lacan deals with) with regard to their identificatory dimensions.  

2.1.1 The dialectic of the imaginary identification.
The most essential trait of the imaginary identification is best expressed by the Hegelian term - immediacy. This seems to be the most general feature of all the processes and relationships taking place at the level of the Imaginary. There is still no order, no limitations, no reliable defenses, no protective resistances, there is not any complicated network of repressions. The immediacy of the Imaginary is partly due to its specific "medium", which is the gaze. The gaze, according to Lacan (and M. B.-Jackobsen), is the perfect "conductor" of desire, because it does not have any resistance, and because it can satisfy desire as quickly as possible (through an imaginative objectification). The gaze can see imaginatively what the ego desires.  The gaze can play incessantly (and as Lacan assumes it plays at battle) with the imagos it generates. The gaze also separates the desire from its object (a pole of identification), thus introducing a gap, a hollow space in the subject and between the subject and the external world.  

The other main aspect of the imaginary identification concerns its dynamics, a dynamics sustained by desire, which on its turn is interpreted in a Kojèvian manner.  

"So when we want to attain in the subject what was before the serial articulations of speech, and what is primordial to the birth of the symbols, we find it in death, from which his existence takes on all the meaning it has. It is in effect as a desire for death that he affirms himself for others; if he identifies himself with the other, it is by fixing him solidly in the metamorphoses of his essential image, and no being is ever evoked by him except among the shadows of death" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 105).  

This fragment presents the Imaginary as a fight of death and life, as a pure and direct discharge of the libido, the imaginary or specular immediacy of which introduces the impossibility of its satisfaction. This already brings us closer to the circularity and the dialectic of the Imaginary. Lacan insistently recognizes in this dialectic the Hegelian struggle for recognition and its Kojèvian reinterpretation. Lacan even elucidates the distinction between the Imaginary and the Symbolic by means of two of the figures of Hegel's Phenomenology :

"But for this desire to be satisfied in man requires that it be recognized, through the agreement in speech or through the struggle for prestige, in the symbol or in the imaginary" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 68).

For the time being we will leave aside "this desire", which in fact is the desire for recognition. The only thing we will have to bear in mind is that this Hegelian reinterpretation of the sexual desire which already presupposes the anteriority of the Symbolic, serves as an axis of the psychic development of the subject, either supporting its continuity or disrupting it. Thus the "struggle for prestige" (this is a strictly Kojèvian formulation) seems to be the sole representative of what Lacan sometimes ambiguously defines as a pre-Oedipal, pre-genital, imaginary or specular dialectic. The two basic imaginary constellations: the mirror-stage, which runs along the vector of identification, and the child-mother relationship, which represents the vector of possession, are also interpreted with view to the struggle for recognition.  We can exemplify this Hegelian-Kojèvian matrix of Lacan's conception of the Imaginary by focusing our attention on its most clear and distinct version - the mirror-stage.

The mirror-stage is the earliest and, therefore, a determinative manifestation of the desire for recognition 5. The mirror-stage is an episode in the development of the child and does not cover the whole field of the Imaginary, which Lacan also refers to as co-existent to the Symbolic. The mirror-stage provides the matrix of all subsequent imaginary identifications and represents their dialectical dynamics in its purest form.

"We have only to understand the mirror stage as an identification (...)", that is as "(...) the transformation that takes place in the subject when he assumes an image(...)" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 2).

This statement informs us that Lacan thinks of the mirror-stage predominantly in terms of identification and that he also regards identification not as an innocent or harmless imitation of an other, but that he treats it as the process  which forms the subject and which imprints its own "logic" on the subject. On the other hand, the results of the mirror-stage justify completely the Kojèvian formula, that man's desire is a desire for the desire of the other. Human desire may be satisfied, according to Kojève and Lacan, only if man (or the object of his desire) is desired (and is therefore recognized as desirable) by the desire of another. The mirror-stage is the birth-place of desire, in so far as  it reduplicates desire (not only the ego but the other is also a desiring agent) and points to its real but unattainable object (the desire of the imaginary other).

As a first manifestation of the struggle for recognition the mirror-stage even represents for Lacan "an ontological structure of the human world that accords with" his reflections "on paranoiac knowledge" (Lacan, 1997a, p. 2). As a pattern of such a primitive ontology, the mirror-stage generates a structure, a micro-universe inhabited by paranoiac agents connected or disconnected through aggressivity or other manifestations of destructive force. These agents are the ego and its mirror doubles.

The mirror-stage identification is usually associated with the child's jubilation at his image in the mirror. Lacan relates the jubilation of the child to the completeness of its mirror image. "The mirror stage is a drama whose internal thrust is precipitated from insufficiency to anticipation." (Lacan, 1977a, p. 4). The completeness of the image compensates for the "real specific prematurity of birth in man" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 4).  The mirror transforms the immaturity (which is experienced) into a maturity (which is seen), it reshapes the infantile insufficiency into an imagined self-sufficiency of the ego, it ascends the perception of a fragmented body to the vision of a whole body.  The mirror has a magic function, it makes real the unreal, it enforces a sudden transfiguration. The precipitation provided by the mirror has a dialectical function, it negates what the child really is and constructs an imagined reality, which captures the ego and makes it believe that it (the ego) is there (in the mirror). It institutes a gap between the imagined and the real (the real here is not the Lacanian Real). It offers a recognition which appears to be a miscognition. The mirror image of the child identifies and alienates the child. This simultaneity of identification and alienation constitutes the prominent dialectical "impasse" of the Imaginary. The mirrored ego is simultaneously itself and someone else. "Thus, this Gestalt (...) symbolizes the mental permanence of the I, at the same time as it prefigures its alienating destination" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 2). The mirror introduces identificatory discord, which in fact intensifies the struggle for recognition.

There is also another aspect of the mirror spectacle which relates it to the struggle for recognition. The child jubilates at its reflected image also because it has been recognized by the other whom it sees in the mirror. This other is the miscognized ego (moi). The specificity of this other is that he jubilates while looking at the child. The reflected jubilation of the child is a proof of its recognition by the other. Thus the actual self-recognition is imagined to be a recognition by an other. This primal mirror experience shapes the circular structure of the imaginary identification: the more jubilant is the child, the more jubilant becomes the one (the mirrored ego, the "other") whose  recognition makes the child so jubilant.  

The mirror experience of child arouses and sharpens its desire for recognition. This initial identificatory drama forms the anticipations of the child in respect to all possible imagined others. The mirror-stage identification results in a very complicated constellation of self-referential and external relations of the subject, whose entire coming-into-being is thought of in terms of the dialectic of the struggle for recognition.  The ego can never imagine itself without the presence of the other, and without his recognition. On the other hand, the other comes-into-existence 6 only as an imaginary construct of the ego, only in so far as the ego's want-to-be allows him to be. The ego desires the desire of the other, it expects to be desired by his desire, it substitutes its own desire by the imagined desire of the imagined other. Consequently, it miscognizes itself as an other and can never achieve what it expects. Since an imagined other can not have any desire at all, the desire for his desire is in vain. It can never be satisfied.  

The inappeasability of the desire for recognition is the last important aspect of the mirror-stage identification seen as a struggle for recognition. M. Borch-Jacobsen comments on this imaginary impasse of the mirror-stage:  

"If desire must be 'satisfied' [that is recognized] (...) it would not be through any recognition in a mirror (...) Simply because the desire to be recognized (...) is not any longer, for Lacan, a desire to be oneself. The 'self' (...) of desire is not identical to himself. He is now 'something other' than himself. He is nothing, or dead." (Jacobsen, 1991, p.90).

These statements outline the missing element of the imaginary circle. The satisfaction of the desire for recognition is impossible not only because the imagined other does not have any autonomous desire, that is does not desire by himself, but also because he does not have anything to desire or to recognize. The ego (moi) is not an object, is not completely objectifiable or recognizable, for it is above all the desire for recognition. The latter urges it to objectify, to alienate itself incessantly, to try to escape itself. The more it tries to find recognition, the more it desires to be recognized, the more impossible it is to be recognized as desire, which is "nothing", which is not anything. A false way out of this identificatory circle is the rivalry between the ego and its imagined other mediated by some object. If the other desires what the ego desires then the latter's desire becomes desirable.

Lacan analyzes the mirror-stage and the imaginary identification with an alter ego, with view to the dialectic of the Hegelian struggle for recognition. This already implies that the Imaginary does not precede the Symbolic, but is rather determined latently by it. "In other words the pact is everywhere anterior to the violence before perpetuating it, and what I call the symbolic dominates the imaginary" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 308). The stakes of the imaginary struggle for recognition are "mastery" or "slavery" - the paradigmatic roles of the symbolic order. "The imaginary gains its false reality (...) starting off from the order defined by the wall of language" (Lacan, 1988, p. 244). Indeed, Lacan very often presents various imaginary constellations in terms of the dialectic of master and slave, the imaginary embodiments of which, however, do not constitute an order, but rather appear and disappear in the vicious circle of the Imaginary. The sole functional master-slave relation within the Imaginary (including the mirror-stage), is the relation to the Absolute Master (Death). Jacobsen promotes this reinterpretation of the imaginary identification. According to him, the numerous metamorphoses of the image of the other can be viewed as attempts at selfobjectification and self-recognition of the ego; a process in which the ego tries to escape or to cover up the nothingness of its desire. The imaginary ego mediates its relation to itself as nothingness (as pure drive or desire) by the creation of imaginary others, whom it expects to recognize it (the ego) as something. Thus the imaginary ego works (in order to please) for its invisible master (Death). It remains, however, disputable whether it is justified to equate Death (as an Absolute Master) to the nothingness of desire. This basic assumption of Jacobsen could be criticized in another context.

2.1.2 The dialectic of the symbolic identification.

Now we focus our attention on the Oedipal stage. This stage provides the matrix of the subject's symbolic existence, predetermines his symbolic interrelations with the others and finally constitutes the subject as a subject of speech, and the analytic treatment.  

Lacan insistently characterizes the Oedipus complex as a dialectical formation. The Oedipal dialectic, however, is not the dialectic of the struggle for recognition. Lacan thinks of it in terms of the Hegelian dialectic of the master and the slave. We have to make it clear that the Oedipal stage does not suspend the imaginary identifications of the ego. It, rather, rearranges the imaginary constellation of identifications. It reorders the main elements of the Imaginary: the ego, the alterego, the Father, the Mother and death. It restructures the Imaginary, and, as Lacan suggests, it does this in accordance with the Hegelian (and Kojèvian) dialectical pattern - the master-slave dialectic. Finally, the Oedipal stage creates an order, or better to say it reproduces an order, introducing the subject into it, and imprinting this order on the subject (the testimony and the source of this process is the subject's speech). Lacan's reflections on the Oedipal stage illustrate better than anything else the relevance of Jacobsen's qualification of Lacan's theory: "a 'Freudian' rereading of Hegel" (Jacobsen, 1991, p. 29). 7

First of all, we have to bear in mind that the Oedipal identification is a transition from an imaginary to a symbolic identification: " (...) the Oedipal identification is that by which the subject transcends the aggressivity that is constitutive of the primary subjective identification" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 23). This transition, however, is not always successful, and in so far as the modern man is concerned, it is more likely to be unsuccessful (on this issue, see Jacobsen, p. 40). The failure of the Oedipal identification is what distorts the symbolic objectification of the subject and what intensifies the tension between the Imaginary and the Symbolic as co-existent structures of the subject. The failure of the Oedipal "normalization" is something which the analytic treatment tries to overcome and compensate. When we discuss the dialectic of the analytic treatment we will see how close it is to the Oedipal dialectic. We shall leave aside the Oedipal failure and its various reasons. Let's focus, instead, on the exemplary Oedipal identification, which is difficult to perform in the age of Modernity, but which nevertheless is the backbone of symbolic identification. Lacan thinks of it entirely in terms of the Hegelian master-slave dialectic.

The Oedipal stage preserves or at least does not disrupt the continuity of the desire for recognition:  

" (...) for this desire itself to be satisfied in man requires that it be recognized, through the agreement in speech or through the struggle for recognition" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 68)

The transformation that takes place in the Oedipal drama is complex - it affects the direction of the desire for recognition, the referents of this desire, the medium of recognition (the speech replaces the gaze), and the results of the recognition (agreement instead of rivalry).

The desire for recognition at the Oedipal and the post-Oedipal stage is not directed to the other (small "o") but to the Other (capital "O"). It is a desire for the desire of the Other. Who is the Other? How does the Other come into existence?

The Other is both an image (though an unimaginable one) and a function. Lacan usually presents the Other as a function (and rarely and ambiguously as an image).  The resolution of the Oedipal drama converts the image of the parent of the same sex, with whom the subject is in an imaginary rivalry, into an unimaginable (and even ineffable) function. The specular image of the other (small "o") now becomes something more than a mere appearance (the visible father, for instance, becomes the Name-of-the-Father, which represents the invisible Other), it is now transformed into a function representative of something invisible - namely of the Other.

a) The Other has an ambivalent legislative function. As a super-ego he 8 prohibits, while as an ego-ideal he indicates the adequate objects of desire. The Other institutes the order of the permissible and the impermissible. The identification with the Other is tantamount to a recognition of the Other as a master, to an obedience to his order, to a credulity to his word. The subject recognizes the Other as his master expecting to be recognized in return. As a source of the "symbolic law" the Other recognizes the subject by giving him a legal (symbolic) status in the symbolic order.  The subject's desire of the desire of the Other is satisfied not by way of imaginary struggle but by way of the symbolic pact of recognition. The subject on his turn has to work for his master. His labor is his speech,  which enforces the subject's obedience to the Other. The Lacanian Other is not so much a figure which represents a law but a locus of a certain (the symbolic) function.

b) The Other is not only a legislator. He has also an executive function. He enacts his legislation by means of signification. The Other directs the discourse and the desire of the subject through the two most general mechanisms of signification: metaphor and metonymy. Just like the Hegelian slave, the subject is reduced to a mere tool of utterance of the discourse of the Other.

One of the performative effects of speech and, therefore, one of the aspects of the executive function of the Other is mediation. The Other, the master mediates the subject's relations to the others, to the things and to death. The Other protects him from the reality of the things, from the aggressivity of the others, and from the nothingness of death. The Other is the mediating term, the protective shield in various symbolic triads: child-Father-Mother, child-Father-others, child-speech-things, child-Other-death. Through the Oedipal identification (if it is successful) the "ego differentiates itself, in joint progress, from the other and from the object" (Lacan, 1984, p. 94). This splitting of the imaginary immediacy, which is at the same time a normalization and a pacification of the subject's relationships with the others, with the Mother and the external objects, is achieved through the mediation of the Other (of the Symbolic order, which is both symbolic and an order):

"Thus the symbol manifests itself first of all as the murder of the thing, and this death constitutes in the subject the eternalization of his desire" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 104).

The protective function of the Other refers also to Death. M. Borch-Jacobsen tends to ascribe priority to this aspect of the function of the Other:  

"And so the 'dialectic of the Oedipal drama', with its classically triangular structure, was nothing but a defense intended to occult the undialecticizable 'fourth element' that is death" (Jacobsen, 1991, p. 94).

We can add furthermore that it is exactly the specificity of the defense against death, instituted by the Other, which distinguishes the symbolic Other from the Hegelian master. Unlike the latter who is a master of a slave, and is not a master of himself, and who, as Kojève suggests, is subordinate to the absolute master (Death) just as the slave is (in fact death mediates the superiority of the master over the slave), the Other, the Lacanian symbolic master is identifiable with death (as a representation, not as a function). The Other is always dead, and at the same time he threatens with death. This is a strictly psychoanalytical reversal of the Kojèvian idea of the negativity of death, which is one of the most polyvalent symbols in the psychoanalytic myth about the Oedipus complex.

Anyway the dead master, usurps the function of death and becomes an absolute master:

"(...) the death of the father, whenever it occurs, is felt by the subject as the disappearance (...) of that shield of intervention, or substitution, that the father [forms between the subject and] the Absolute Master - that is death" (Lacan, 1958, quoted from Jacobsen, 1991, p. 94).

Lacan's reflections on the dead master have various implications. The first is that the dead master does not belong to the Real or even to the Imaginary (he is scarcely visible or imaginable). He is first of all the symbolic Other. His representations and functions belong to the Symbolic (the Name-of-the-Father, the "locus of speech", the conscious). The symbolic Other is never completely imaginable or utterable, since he is the absolute condition which makes a discourse possible. Its symbolic representatives or imaginary appearances are never complete, which already implies that the dead Master, the symbolic Other always transcends the Imaginary or the Symbolic of the individual subjects and performs its function as a transsubjective or even intersubjective agency of signification and symbolic power.

The death of the Other is neither real nor natural. It is an imagined or symbolic and forcible death. "This image of the master, which is what he sees in the form of a specular image, becomes confused in him with the image of death" (Lacan, 1988, p. 149). On the other hand the symbolic murder of the Father, of the master institutes the symbolic debt of the subject to the dead master, and respectively enacts the absolute mastery of the Other over the indebted subject. Following Freud's analyses on the genesis of the feeling of guilt, Lacan defines the murder of the Father (and his sublimation to the Name-of-the-Father, to the Absolute Master) as:

"(...) the fruitful moment of debt through which the subject binds himself to the law".  Lacan concludes that: "the symbolic Father is, in so far as he signifies this law, the dead Father" (Lacan,1977a, p. 199).

The dead Father is the sacrifice as well as the addressee of this sacrifice.  With view to all preceding reflections on the Other we can say that the Other is the all-encompassing agency (the Other is not entirely symbolic) of Death and Life (of symbolic Death and Life, which are the only modalities of life and death possibly accessible to humans). The Other represents the most impossible of all syntheses - that of Life and Death - which already defines him not only as a legislator of the living and speaking subjects, but as a master whose power transgresses the limits of symbolic life, and which is extended over the still non-existent and over the already non-existent. In other words, the Other rules and acts even where the Symbolic has been disrupted or rejected - in the cases of neuroses and psychoses. This is why Lacan insists on an adequate interpretation of the place and the function of the Other in the numerous failures of the Oedipal identification. We have to know who the Other is, in order to grasp the various revolts against Him that are implicit in most of the psychical disorders. Despite of its displacements and rejections, the Other still retains his absolute mastery:

"The Other as a previous site of the pure subject of the signifier holds the master position, even before coming into existence, to use Hegel's term against him, as an absolute Master" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 305).

We have analyzed the dialectic of the Oedipal identification only in regard to one of its elements: the master, simply because unlike the Hegelian "real" or limited master, the Lacanian Other is (signifies) an absolute Master, and the whole dynamics, order and structure of the Oedipal, social or symbolic dialectic depends entirely on Him.  Both of the elements of the master-slave relationship are sources of negativity: the mastery of the master and the labor of the slave. While Kojève emphasizes the negativity of labor, Lacan focuses on the negativity of the Other. This negativity is imprinted on the subject of speech (the slave), and is often undistinguishable from the negativity of desire, speech or death.9 We have all good reasons to assume that the dialectic of the symbolic identification is centered around the negativity of the Other, that holds the master position in the master-slave structure of the Symbolic order:  

"The concrete field of individual preservation is structured in this dialectic of master and slave, in which we can recognize the symbolic emergence of the imaginary struggle to the death in which we earlier defined the essential structure of the ego: it is hardly surprising, then, that this field is reflected exclusively in this structure" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 142).

2.1.3 The dialectic of the Imaginary and the Symbolic The Imaginary and the Symbolic are not only stages in the psychical maturation of the subject. Lacan also regards them as co-existent components of the psyche, which interfere with each other by way of substitution, repression or foreclosure.  Moreover the priority of the synchronic over the diachronic perspective in Lacan's psychoanalysis implies that the co-existence of the Imaginary and the Symbolic is of primary importance for Lacan. There is no pure Symbolic and no pure Imaginary. The question is which is superior and in what way. We have seen in the preceding subsection that the Symbolic and the Imaginary are mutually exclusive. The Symbolic institutes itself only at the expense of the Imaginary. Their co-existence, therefore, has to take place predominantly in the modes of negativity, forcefulness and destructiveness, which are the indices of the dialectical for Lacan.

In some way or another, most of the mental deviations psychoanalysis deals with are related to the dialectic of the Imaginary and the Symbolic. We can not examine such a great number of problems. Therefore, we shall illustrate this dialectic by two examples.  

Our first example comes out of Anika Lemaire's monography on Lacan (Lemaire, 1991). In Chapter VI, she indicates that the accession of the subject to the Symbolic results in one of the subsequent splittings of the subject. A splitting which lasts as  long as the subject resides in the Symbolic. This is the splitting between the reality of the subject and its representation. It threatens the identity of the subject (better to say that it ruins this unity). The self is represented for itself by a set of signifiers:

"(...) in discourse the subject experiences his lack of being, as he is no more than represented in discourse, just as his desire is no more than represented there" (Lemaire, 1991, p. 73).

Confronted with a symbolic lack of being, the subject of discourse may try to reidentify himself with an image, may find the homogeneity he strives after in his imaginary constructs.

"The drama of the subject in the verb is that he faces the test of his lack of being. It is because it fends off this moment of lack that an image moves into position to support the whole worth of desire: projection, a function of the Imaginary" (Lemaire, 1991, p. 72; quoted from Lacan, 1966).

The symbolic lack of being leads to an ever greater lack of being, just because the return to the Imaginary will not be able to overcome the splitting of the subject, experienced in the Symbolic. The subject of discourse will not be able to regain his true reality in the image, because the Imaginary is also an order of representations which makes impossible a direct access to the subject's being. The dialectics of this whole process consists in the fact that the symbolic alienation induces an even sharper imaginary alienation.

Lemaire, however, does not draw a clear distinction between a healthy and pathogenic reaction to the symbolic lack of being. She also does not take into account the fact that the symbolic lack of identity has a normative value in Lacan's theory, and that its overcoming advances along the vector of metonymy in speech.  Our second example of a dialectic of the Imaginary and the Symbolic is taken from Lacan's conception of psychosis. Psychosis is one of the possible reversals of what Lacan defines as a "phallocentric dialectic" (Mitchell, 1982, p. 93). It is a radical break through of the Imaginary into the Symbolic. Apart from this it is not a partial repression of a chain of signifiers by an image (such is the case in our first example), it is a really dialectical substitution of the Symbolic by the Imaginary.  In psychosis, the Symbolic is converted into an Imaginary; it does not change its content but its function. Psychosis is a state of "a-symbolization" (the symbol is considered to be a thing) and of oversymbolization (all things become meaningful).  The genesis of psychosis is associated with an event taking place at the Oedipal stage - the foreclosure of the Name-of-the-Father.

"For psychosis to be triggered off, the Name-of-the-Father, verworfen, foreclosed, that is to say, never having attained the place of the Other, must be called into symbolic opposition to the subject" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 217).

The foreclosure of the Name-of-the-Father is precipitated by a crucial restructuring of the Oedipal triad:  Father-child-Mother. Such a restructuring takes place when the two parents fight against each other for the love of their child, when the mother instead of being subordinate to the father, instead of recognizing him as the Other, fights against him. In other words the foreclosure of the Name-of-the-Father presupposes a replacement of the master-slave relationship between the two parents by a struggle for recognition between them.

The foreclosure of the Name-of-the-Father distorts the function of the Symbolic which is to mediate between the subject and the thing. The Symbolic acquires an imaginary function for the psychotic, who believes the symbol to be something real. There is no longer a distinction between the symbol and the thing. The symbol is imagined to be the thing. Being dispossessed of its symbolic function, the symbol can hardly be called a symbol any more.  

"It is the lack of the Name-of-the-Father in that place which, by the hole it opens up in the signified, sets off the cascade of reshapings of the signifier from which the increasing disaster of the imaginary proceeds, to the point at which the level is reached at which signifier and signified are stabilized in the delusional metaphor" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 217).

The "delusional metaphor" Lacan refers to, is precisely the substitution of the signifier by the signified (the symbol is assumed to be a thing).  

We have examined just two of the manifestations of the dialectic of the Imaginary and the Symbolic. There are certainly many others. We can not view them all. The important thing for us to know is that such a significant interrelation like the one between the Imaginary and the Symbolic is structured dialectically in the sense of reflecting the dialectical figures of the struggle for prestige and the master-slave relationship.

2.2 The dialectic of desire

Desire is the most important factor in the dynamics of the negativity of the subject, which enforces and maintains its permanent dissolution. It is almost impossible for us to reconstruct a coherent doctrine, in Lacan, on the dialectic of desire, which overlaps with the dialectic of the unconscious and the dialectic (the negativity) of speech.  Nevertheless, we shall try to examine the negativity of desire in respect to its emergence and unfolding.

2.2.1 The emergence of desire.

Desire emerges as a result of the sublation of need by demand. It is possible to satisfy need, which is a want-to-have one particular object or another (the source of pleasure). It is absolutely impossible to satisfy demand, which "constitutes the Other as already possessing the 'privilege' of satisfying needs" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 286), and which is a want-to-have the Other (the Mother) or "that which the Other does not have, namely, its love" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 286). It appears that the satisfaction of needs depends on the satisfaction of demand. The child can not satisfy its thirst and hunger, unless it is sure of the love of the mother, who provides their satisfaction for him. The impossibility to satisfy the child's demand for love results in an impossibility to have its needs satisfied.  The division between need and demand forms a vicious circle, for demand can not be satisfied unless the satisfaction of need appears as a proof of the Mother's love, and needs can not be satisfied if demand is frustrated.  What follows is that the want-to-have can not be satisfied neither by the objects of need, nor by the object of demand.

The unappeasability of the want-to-have leaves plenty of room to the child's want-to-be to unfold 10.

"Desire begins to take shape in the margin in which demand becomes separated from need" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 311).

"Desire is that which is manifested in the interval that demand hollows within itself in as much as the subject, in articulating the signifying chain, brings to light the want-to-be, together with the appeal to receive the complement from the Other" (Lacan, 1977a, p.263).

"Thus desire is neither the appetite for satisfaction, nor the demand for love, but the difference that results from the substraction of the first from the second, the phenomenon of their splitting (Spaltung)" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 287).

There is a qualitative difference between demand and desire, not so much because of their objects (they may have a common object like the Phallus) but because of their modes of reference to them - possession (demand), identification/recognition (desire). The impossibility of the want-to-have is replaced by the necessity of the want-to-be, which explains the priority of the vector of identification over that of possession in Lacan's psychoanalysis.

An essential advantage of the want-to-be over the want-to-have, which makes its satisfaction possible, is that it is directed to the representations (imaginary or symbolic) of what the want-to-have fails to achieve. That is why, as a representative of the want-to-be, desire is deployed mainly in the Symbolic, which is superior, as an order of representations, over the Imaginary.

In accordance with the Lacanian dialectical code, the emergence of desire may be viewed as a dialectical one, not so much because of the negation (of need by demand) it comes from, but because of the outcome of that negation - desire as a lack.

2.2.2 The unfolding of desire

The whole dialectic of desire spins around the overthrowing of every filling-in of the gap it is.

"In the Lacanian doctrine, it is clear, desire can not really have any object at all, if desire is to remain what it is: the pure negativity of a subject who desires himself in his objects, and who can do so by perpetually negating himself in them, by negating them as what he is not (?)" (Jacobsen, 1991, p. 199).

Desire maintains its gap-like structure in its unfolding in the Symbolic. Desire is: "(...) the mark of the iron of the signifier on the shoulder of the speaking subject" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 265). Lacan's most prominent formula on desire is that "man's desire is the desire of the Other" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 264). It is exactly in this formula where we can grasp the meaning of what Lacan defines as a "dialectic of desire". We can not be sure what the "desire of the Other" is. Lacan tries to articulate the questions posed by the desire of the Other in his article The subversion of the subject (Lacan, 1977a).11 It is better, however, to interpret the formulation "man's desire is the desire of the Other" in regards to the "how" of the Other's desire. The Other is the locus of speech and that implies that its desire unfolds as speech. The same holds for the desire of man. Thus the negativity of desire almost coincides with the negativity of speech in Lacan's theory. Speech, which is universal, does not belong to a particular subject. It is rather the individual who is subjected to speech in so far as it is represented in it.  Speech negates and posits the individuality and the identity of the individual.  

Respectively desire can never be an individual desire. It unfolds itself as a transindividual want-to-be, oriented to various cultural or social, and in any case supraindividual symbols or identifications. It is not surprising at all that for Lacan desire operates mainly at the level of the unconscious, which is a supra-individual agency. On the other hand,  desire finds its expression in speech, because speech, as an order of meaningful representations, accommodates most naturally the want-to-be of the subject. According to us, however, speech cannot be desire because unlike desire it does not have a teleological structure. Speech, therefore, only mediates and alienates desire. At the same time it makes its satisfaction impossible because it does not strive after something (as desire does). Speech does not share the finitude of desire. It follows, then, that desire is trapped in the "defiles of the signifier". Desire is not absorbed peacefully in speech but rather tries to escape it means of speech. This "revolt" of desire is another aspect of its dialectic.

The desire of man unfolds by means of the mechanisms of language - metaphor and metonymy. Metaphor uncovers desire as a symptom. Metonymy ["man's desire is a metonymy" (Lacan,1977a, p. 175)], the constant sliding from one signifier to another, structures the unfolding of the subject's want-to-be. Through metonymy, speech reduces the subject who speaks to that which is in-between two signifiers, and which emerges as a result of their connection. The want-to-be of desire can not be satisfied by the what-is-said in speech, precisely because the what-is-said is a function of a constantly increasing number of signifiers. The sliding of speech never stops, and respectively the insatiability of desire never diminishes.

Speech offers the subject an infinitude of identifications all of which are centered around the symbolic Phallus.  

"The Phallus is the privileged signifier (...) in which the role of the logos is joined with the advent of desire" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 287).

According to Lacan, the Phallus represents both desire and its insatiability, it illustrates the power of the Other, of speech, of the annihilating signifier, and at the same time, it represents the prohibition to identify with it. It can be said, therefore, that the "phallocentric dialectic", which Lacan does not define any further, is interrelated with the dialectic of desire and probably with a possible dialectic of demand which is a manifestation of the want-to-have.

The dialectic of desire, in Lacan's doctrine, is based upon the negativity of speech, which definitely goes beyond the Kojèvian conception of the negativity of speech (more on this in 3.1.c). This dialectic can be summarized by the paradoxical formulation: desire, which is a manifestation of the want-to-be, is, being trapped in discourse, the barrier to its own satisfaction.

2.3 The dialectic of the analytic treatment

The analytic cure is a multi-dimensional phenomenon. Respectively, the dialectic of the treatment is a polyvalent concept. Its particular meaning depends on the concrete function or aspect of the treatment that is being emphasized in one case or another.  The most important aspect of this dialectic is that it goes beyond what is purely subjective in analysis. The dialectic of the treatment concerns the psychoanalytic conception of intersubjectivity.

According to the particular problem it has to solve, the treatment is always concrete, it is a case. Nevertheless, there are aspects common to all cases: the structure, the participants, the task of the treatment.  

a) Who takes part in the treatment? The analyst and the patient play the key roles in the treatment. They, however, are not the only participants in it. The reason for this is that the treatment does not involve anything real. It rather advances along the axes of the Imaginary and the Symbolic of both the analyst and the analysand. "The only object that is within the analyst's reach is the imaginary relation that links him to the subject qua ego"; the attention of the analyst: "is certainly not directed towards an object beyond the subject's speech" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 45). The analyst does not deal with the history of the patient conceived of as something real, but is confronted with its imaginary or symbolic reactualization in the process of the treatment. This already implies that the dialectic of the analytic cure involves some of the dialectical figures and functions mentioned so far. 

Lacan defines the analyst as a "pure dialectician" (Mitchell, 1982, p. 72), or as the "sole master" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 228) of the analytic treatment. The patient, respectively, is represented as the slave (of more than one master).  

"But we analysts have to deal with slaves who think they are masters, and who find in a language whose mission is universal the support of their servitude, and the bonds of its ambiguity" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 81).

The encounter between the analyst and the analysand does not simply result in a one-dimensional master-slave relationship. In fact, each of the two main participants in the treatment follows a specific dialectical trajectory. According to Lacan the mastery of the analyst consists in the fact that he is: "(...) always free in the timing, frequency and choice of (...) interventions." (Lacan, 1977a, p. 228). The analyst has to have such a freedom just because the target of his actions is not a reality outside his concrete relationship with a particular patient. This relationship revolves around certain imaginary or symbolic identifications of the analysand revived by the phenomenon of transference. The "initial knot of the analytic drama" is the negative transference of the patient, which "represents in the patient the imaginary transference on to our person of one of the more or less archaic imagos" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 14). The negative transference appears to be a hindrance to the successful progress of the cure. Its overcoming evokes an essential change in the strategy of the analyst. He has to suspend his interventions, or at least revise their tactics. The neutrality of the analyst requires a justification.

"(...) we efface ourselves (...) we become depersonalized (...) we wish to avoid the trap that already lies concealed in the appeal, marked by the eternal pathos of faith, that the patient addresses to us. It carries a secret within itself. 'Take upon yourself' the patient is telling us, 'the evil that weighs me down; but if you remain smug, self-satisfied, unruffled as you are now, you won't be worthy or bearing it" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 13).

Trying to counteract the transference of his patient:

"(...) the analyst is bringing to his aid what in bridge is called the dummy (le mort), but he is doing so in order to introduce the fourth player who is to be the partner of the analysand here" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 229).

This depersonalization reduplicates the analyst. The analyst willingly alienates himself, pretending to be a "dummy". His aim is to drag the patient out of his transferential delusion. If he is active or in any way responsive to the imaginary demand of the patient, then his words "will still be heard as coming from the Other of the transference", and "the emergence of the subject from the transference is thus postponed ad infinitum" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 231). If the analyst plays a dummy, the projected image is also dead and the patient will be able to reabsorb it as what it really is - an image, a construct of his imagination. The rivalry with the images (or symbols) projected onto the figure of the analyst will thus be overcome by a possible self-recognition of the analysand in the "mirror" of the impartial analyst. The analyst's neutrality will lead to "the subject's assumption of his own mirages" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 43).

Even such a simplistic representation of the reaction against the transference uncovers the dialectical figures of rivalry, mastery and servitude that are at work in it, and the dialectical multiplication of the participants in the treatment: the analysand, the other/Other, the analyst, the "dummy". The very counteraction of the analyst is of a dialectical nature. He has to neutralize the transference by making use of it.

Another aspect of the "dialectical" "rectification" of the subject concerns the intervention of the analyst and the timing of analysis. Lacan presents both of these functions as forms of negativity, as acts which interrupt the imaginary or symbolic continuity of the delusion of the analysand, and re-formulate its meaning. The intervention of the analyst aims at a restructuring of the patient's discourse, at a rearrangement which eventually can change the direction and displace the accents of that discourse. Moreover Lacan equates paradoxically the intervention and the nonintervention of the analyst.

"(...) the analyst intervenes concretely in the dialectic of analysis by pretending he is dead (...) either by his silence when he is the Other with a capital "O", or by annulling his own resistance when he is the other with a small "o". In either case, and under the respective effects of the symbolic and the imaginary, he makes death present" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 140).

The mastery of the analyst is in the art of playing skillfully with his freedom to intervene. In other words, the discourse of analysis is the discourse of the analysand.  The role of the analyst is to introduce the "dialectical punctuation" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 95) of that discourse. There is another almost Hegelian justification of the nonintervention of the analyst, which reveals how deeply imprinted and how well disguised some basic Hegelian concepts are in Lacan's thinking.

"(...) the analyst's abstention, his refusal to reply, is an element of reality in analysis.  More exactly, it is in this negativity in so far as it is a pure negativity - that is, detached from any particular motive - that lies the junction between the symbolic and the real (...) this non-action of the analyst is founded on our firm and stated knowledge of the principle that all that is real is rational, and on the resulting precept that it is up to the subject to show what he is made of" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 97).

b) Lacan characterizes the process of the treatment as a labor performed by the patient and directed (managed) by the analyst.

"For in this labor which he undertakes to reconstruct for another, he rediscovers the fundamental alienation that made him construct like another, and which has always destined it to be taken from him by another"(Lacan, 1977a, p. 42).

There can not be a more resourceful allusion to the master-slave relationship reproduced in, and, therefore, structuring the analytic treatment itself.  

What is the desired outcome of the patient's labor? Certainly it is not his "freedom" or the reappropriation of his "true" self. The labor of the patient is a regression back into his past, which allows "the signifiers in which his frustration is bound up to reappear" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 255). It is a reabsorption of all his mirages and fantasies. It is a recognition of the IT, speaking through the subject, and of the subject as the medium (and the referent) of the unconscious.

"In order to free the subject's speech, we introduce him into the language of his desire, that is to say, into the primary language in which, beyond what he tells us of himself, he is already talking to us unknown to himself" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 81).

Correspondingly, the goal of analysis is: "(...) the advent of a true speech and the realization by the subject of his history in his relation to a future" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 88). This true, free or full speech (as opposed to the empty or "imaginary" talk of the patient) tells the analysand something unknown but determinative of his own discourse. It uncovers something underrepresented so far, or it simply reorders the chain of signifiers in order to indicate the key-signifiers, representing the desire of the analysand.

The dialectic of empty and full speech in Lacan's psychoanalysis has been studied by M. Borch-Jacobsen (1991, p. 137-145). His view on empty speech is that:  

"speech remains desperately 'empty' - not because it says nothing, but on the contrary, because its unstoppable babbling fills - and, by the same token, occults - the void of the subject" (Jacobsen, 1991, p. 138).

The most important effect of full speech is that it makes the speaking subject aware of himself as a subject of speech - that is as the one who is in so far as he speaks about himself and the others. The subject is supposed to arrive at the conclusion: 'I am what I say I am; I am nothing beyond language; I am the nothingness situated between the elements of that language, between the signifiers of my speech'. The therapeutic effect of the "dummy", therefore, may be sought also in the fact that the patient may recognize the nothingness he himself is in the frozen face of the analyst (he will see that detached from his speech he will be just as dead [a nothingness] as the silent analyst). Through the silence of the analyst the patient can hear himself talking. He will hear not so much what he-is-talking-about, but that-he-is-talking.  Thus, he can remain at a distance from the content of his speech, and may be able to experience his authentic emptiness as a subject erased by the signifier.

These Jacobsenian reflections on the outcome of the treatment do not necessarily match with Lacan's conception on it. They, however, stress a basic assumption of Lacan. The recovery of the patient is possible only if he recognizes the real place and function of the Other (language, speech), and his real position (of servitude) in regards to the Other. The success of the analytic cure, therefore, comes out of the reconciliation of the analysand with his real master (the Other). The labor of the patient does not bring him closer to his freedom, which is absolutely unattainable. It is a transition from an unconscious state of servitude to a false master into a conscious state of servitude to a real one.  

These are some of the aspects of what Lacan ambiguously defines as a dialectic of the treatment. Ambiguously, because the dialectic of the treatment may also be related to the ancient Greek idea of dialectics, which is the art to reach the truth of something (of a metaphysical problem) in a dialogue. The analyst must be an experienced dialectician, that is, he must be able to bring the patient closer to his truth by means of a specific strategy in the dialogue with him, or if the analyst is as an experienced dialectician as Socrates is, to reveal  the vanity of the patient's search for truth and truth itself. Psychoanalysis, therefore, is a dialectical venture, not only because of the Hegelian structures involved in it, but also because it operates solely with words (and not with real entities), and has to develop a dialogue technique adjusted to its peculiar purpose. Lacan's negativistic acknowledgement of this background dimension of the dialectic of the analytic cure is quite unambiguous.

"The fact that a dialectical conception of psychoanalysis has to be presented as an orientation peculiar to my thinking, must surely, indicate a failure to recognize an immediate given, that is, the self-evident fact that it deals solely with words" (Mitchell, 1982, p. 63).


We have already examined all those problems in Lacan's psychoanalytical theory related to the dissolution of the subject in an imaginary rivalry or a symbolic servitude, through speech and desire, and finally through the intersubjectivity of the analytic cure. We shall focus now on the more significant alternative references of Lacan to the Phenomenology of Spirit.

3.1 Alternative re-interpretations of the Hegelian dialectical figures viewed so far.

The five Kojèvian modes of negativity adopted by Lacan do not appear in his writings in the well-articulated form in which we have presented them. It is also impossible for us to uncover all their connotations and metaphorical reversals. The negativity of desire, struggle, mastery (of the Other), speech and death is very often only alluded to or supplies certain theoretical reflections with a context of a higher order (more universal and philosophical).

a) The struggle for recognition (or prestige), which designates the imaginary identification of the subject (the ego), may alter its permanent designation if the participants in it are not the ego and its imaginary double, but the ego and the Father, or the neurotic (the obsessional) and the Other, or the mother and the father of the psychotic.

b) The most widely spread and most polysemantic Hegelian dialectical figure Lacan refers to, is the master-slave relationship, which appears interwoven with the negativity of desire, speech or death.  

b. 1 The master-slave dialectic as an ontological model.

"Hegel had provided the ultimate theory of the proper function of aggressivity in human ontology (...) From the conflict of the Master and Slave, he deduced the entire subjective and objective progress of our history (...) Here the natural individual is regarded as nothingness, since the human subject is nothingness, in effect, before the absolute Master that is given to him in death. The satisfaction of human desire is possible only when mediated by the desire and labor of the other. If, in the conflict of the Master and Slave, it is the recognition of man by man that is involved, it is also promulgated on a radical negation of natural values, whether expressed in the sterile tyranny of the master or in the productive tyranny of labor" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 26).

In this particular case the master-slave conflict does not represent the pacification of the subject in the Symbolic, just as this same conflict explains social revolution for Kojève, it accounts here for the function of aggressivity viewed from an ontological perspective (that is as a constituting structure of man's existence). This passage from Lacan's article on aggressivity, also casts some light on the outcome of the masterslave conflict, in which the "human subject" is reduced to a "nothingness", or merely evaporates before the absolute master (which, in Lacan's doctrine, may be death, language or the symbolic law). Such is the ultra-negativistic standpoint on the master-slave relationship, persistently followed by Lacan, whenever he refers to this Hegelian figure.

b. 2 A purely psychoanalytical reformulation of the master-slave dialectic.

"In fact the obsessional subject manifests one of the attitudes that Hegel did not develop in his dialectic of the master and the slave. The slave has given way in face of the risk of death in which mastery was being offered to him in a struggle of pure prestige. But since he knows that he is mortal, he also knows that the master can die.  From this moment on he is able to accept his laboring for the master and his renunciation of pleasure in the meantime; and, in the uncertainty of the moment when the master will die, he waits" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 99).

The negativity of death (which, according to Kojève, is the ultimate form of negativity in Hegel's dialectic) here plays a central role, depriving the master of his mastery, which is possible only if what Lacan means here as a master is the particular master (the Father, the psychoanalyst) and not the universal master (the universal Other - language).

b. 3 Lacan offers us even a more radical re-interpretation of the master-slave dialectic, which provides him with "(...) a legitimate justification for the term alienating vel" (Lacan, 1977, p. 212). As a matrix of "primary alienation" (Lacan, 1977b, p. 212) the master-slave relationship represents the inevitable division or splitting of the human subject (of both the master and the slave). Here Lacan does not regard the master and the slave, as he usually does, as the poles of the Symbolic order - the language and the speaking subject; here he views them ontologically, as real human subjects, who occupy interchangeable social roles. In respect to their alienation the master and the slave are equal, and this is what matters for the psychoanalyst interested in the structure of the subject's splitting.

"When the slave is confronted with the choice of his freedom or his life, he decides, no freedom without life - life remains for ever deprived of freedom (...) we will see that the alienation of the master is structured in exactly the same way. For if Hegel shows us that the status of the master is established in the struggle to the death of pure prestige, it is because it is to bring his choice through death that the master also constitutes his fundamental alienation" (Lacan, 1977b, p. 219).

b. 4 Thanks to his suggestive and enigmatic style of speaking and writing, Lacan refers to the master-slave dialectic as well as to the other Hegelian figures employed by him, mainly by way of allusions and metaphors, which, without changing their dialectical structure, replace their ontological meaning with a plentitude of nonontological (or even poetic) designations. It is impossible to bring out and decipher all those allusions and metaphors. An example of such an allusive and metaphorical reference to Hegel's master-slave dialectic can show us how well disguised and how deeply rooted it is in the Lacanian discourse.

"Man's freedom is entirely inscribed within the constituting triangle of the renunciation that he imposes on the desire of the other by the menace of death for the enjoyment of the fruits of his serfdom - of the consented to sacrifice of his life for the reasons that give to human life its measure - and of the suicidal renunciation of the vanquished partner, depriving of his victory the master whom he abandons to his inhuman solitude" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 104).

This passage also uncovers the decisive influence of Kojève, for just like him Lacan assumes that death is the utmost manifestation of negative freedom, of the freedom not to be what one is, of the freedom to negate oneself.  The three modes of appearance of death in the quoted text: the menace of death, the sacrifice and suicide, evidently determine three forms of negativity undermining the self, transforming him into something other than what he really is through the negativities of slavery, mastery and the desperate (self-destructive) revolt.

c) The negativity of speech and language, in Lacan's theory, is primarily oriented toward the subject of speech.  Speech hollows out the subject of discourse as the gap between what the subject is and what the subject says he is, between the conscious and unconscious discourse of the subject, between the Imaginary and the Symbolic, between the various signifiers representing the subject. "A signifier is that which represents a subject. For whom? - not for another subject, but for another signifier" (Lacan, 1977b, p. 198). This basic Lacanian conviction accords with Hegel's view on the negativity of language and speech, which is that speech mediates and, by mediating, negates the thing it represents. Lacan is aware of this more limited (the verbal representation negates only the sensible external things, see Phenomenology of Spirit, A.I, p. 58-66, 1977) standpoint on the negativity of speech: "(...) the symbol manifests itself first of all as the murder of the thing (...)" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 104).  Lacan extends this conception of the negativity of speech beyond the mere disappearance of the referent of speech (of the thing referred to by speech), into the disappearance of the sender (or receiver) of this speech. This extension comes out of the fact that he reflects on analytic speech, where referent, sender and receiver coincide (the analysand speaks about himself, and, in the silence of the analyst, hears his own speech). Thanks to his linguistic background Lacan also re-thinks the negation inherent to speech. This negation is not merely a substitution of the real referent of speech by  its verbal representation. It is a dissolution of the referent/sender/receiver of (analytic) speech into a nothingness. A single signifier does not represent anything. It does so only when related to another signifier. The referent/sender/receiver of speech is not any more behind its signifier, but is rather between its signifiers (it is an effect of their interrelations). Many of the psychoanalytical problems spin around the negativity of speech, which does not only mediate (between the subject of speech and the referent of speech) but constitutes its own referents/senders/receivers in the void which it itself turns them into.  

Another Lacanian theme, related to the  negativity of speech, is the emergence and the functioning of the unconscious. The most prominent formulations of Lacan about the unconscious are that it is "structured like a language" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 147), that "the unconscious is the discourse of the Other" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 193), that the "unconscious is the sum of the effects of speech on a subject (...)" (Lacan, 1977b, p. 126). As an effect of speech the unconscious is structured like a language (through metaphor and metonymy), and is considered by  Lacan as a "gap" (hollowed out by repression), or as a "discontinuity" of repressed imaginary and symbolic elements "at all points homologous with what occurs at the level of the subject" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 24).

"The unconscious is that part of the concrete discourse, in sofar as it is transindividual, that is not at the disposal of the subject in re-establishing the continuity of his conscious discourse" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 49).

Being a discourse beyond the cognition of the subject, the unconscious plays an essential role in the negativity of speech in Lacan's theory. It widens and deepens the gap that the conscious subject of speech is. The most significant effect of the unconscious discourse on the subject is that it negates the referent/sender/receiver of speech without letting him control or conceive of his own dissolution. The unconscious accedes to the conscious discourse of the subject only in an inverted form. There is always a missing or a hidden (repressed) signifier in the message of the unconscious. Thus the negativity of unconscious discourse is directed to discourse itself. The elements of unconscious discourse represent (and negate) another repressed discourse.

The negativity of speech in Lacan's doctrine appears to be reduplicated on the levels of conscious and unconscious discourse, which is an essential reversal in respect to the Kojèvian point of view.

d) Death has a special place in Lacan's psychoanalytical theory. It is a very polyvalent concept. First of all, it is a part of the Freudian myth about the Oedipus complex which Lacan takes into consideration. We have already seen in the preceding sections that death may appear either as an image or (mainly) as a symbol, which may be attached to the symbol of the Father or to other representatives of the Other. Though a polyvalent concept, death  adheres in Lacan's theory to the Kojèvian conception of the negativity of death. The quotation in 3. 1. b. 4 illustrates Lacan's awareness of the relationship between death and human freedom (which is a basic idea of Kojève). Death, however, does not only represent human freedom (or the absolute freedom man is able to attain). It is at the same time the hindrance to the achievement of such freedom. It has a pacifying function (which takes part in the Oedipal normalization). It institutes and guarantees the pact between the slave (the subject) and his master (the Other). Itfunctions like a restraining risk, that no one is willing to take.

"(...) in the Hegelian myth, death is not even structured like a fear, it is structured like a risk, and, in a word, like a stake. From the beginning, between the master and the slave, there is a rule of the game" (Lacan, 1988, p. 249).

3.2 Other Hegelian figures referred to by Lacan.

a) The dialectic of the belle âme. Lacan's scarce references to the dialectic of the belle âme relate this figure of the Phenomenology of Spirit either to the structure of neurosis, or to the structure of mental disorder in general. In the Phenomenology the (romantic) beautiful soul revolts against a world of disorder which is simply a projection of its own disorder. It resides in a permanent delusion about itself and the world. Its revolt will bring it an even greater dissatisfaction, which will intensify, in its turn, the disorder projected onto the world.

The neurotic, according to Lacan, is trapped in such a vicious circularity. The disorder he suffers from does not belong to the world around him but is produced by himself.  All his attempts to overcome this disorder increase it, just because they are the driving forces of that disorder.

"The moi, the ego, of modern man, as I have indicated elsewhere, has taken on its form in the dialectical impasse of the belle âme who does not recognize his very own raison d'être in the disorder that he denounces in the world" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 70).

Similar references to the dialectic of the belle âme may be found on p. 20, p. 126-127 (1977a). Lacan also relates the dialectic of the belle âme to the Dora case in Intervention on Transference (Mitchell, 1982, p. 65).  The outcome of the conflict of the belle âme is the tyrannical imposition of the "law of the heart" on the world: "(...) the protest of the 'beautiful soul', (...) rises up against the world in the name of the law of the heart" (Mitchell, 1982, p. 65).  Through the law of the heart Lacan alludes to the aggressivity resulting from the neurotic's delusion.

Finally, Lacan even regards the dialectic of the belle âme and of the law of the heart as the most successful representation of madness in Hegel's Phenomenology.

"The madman (...) wants to impose the law of his heart on what appears to him as the disorder of the world, a "mad" enterprise (...) in that (...) the subject does not recognize in the world's disorder the very manifestation of his present being, and in so far as what he feels to be the law of his heart is only the image, both inverted and virtual, of that same being (...) his being is thus enclosed in a circle, unless he breaks it with some act of violence in which, directing his blows against what seems to him disorder, he strikes out at himself by way of social repercussion.  Such is the general formula of madness that we find in Hegel" (Lacan, 1966, p. 171-172).

b) The Hegelian "cunning of reason" signifies for Lacan an illusion inherent to all rational knowledge (including the Phenomenology of Hegel). It is the illusion that there is a truth or an absolute knowledge, which is beyond all verifications and doubts. "Hegel's 'cunning of reason' means that, from beginning to end, the subject knows what he wants" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 301). Such an absolute knowledge or a unconditional cognitive position is unattainable for the subject of discourse: "(...) there is no Other of the Other" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 311). All claims for an absolute truth lead the subject of discourse to a miscognition of his own status in the Symbolic order. 

"The cunning of reason is an attractive notion because it echoes with a personal myth that is very familiar to the obsessional neurotic, and whose structure is often found among the intelligentsia" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 308-309).  

c) Lacan's reformulation of the Hegelian "unhappy consciousness"12 throws light on a very important distinction between the Phenomenology of Spirit and psychoanalysis.  The separating line between them coincides with the separating line between knowledge and sexuality. The dialectical figures employed so far by Lacan, structure a field of experience which is predominantly a sexual one (whereas the field of the Phenomenology, according to Lacan, is a cognitive one).  

"Who can not see the distance that separates the unhappy consciousness - of which, however strongly it is engraved in Hegel, it can be said that it is still no more than the suspension of a corpus of knowledge - from the 'discontents of civilization' in Freud (...)

that marks for us what, on reading it, can not be articulated otherwise than the 'skew' relation that separates the subject from sexuality?" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 297) The most important implication of this distinction for our thesis is that the Hegelian dialectical figures, which structure in the Phenomenology a realm of knowledge and self-knowledge (a view shared also by Lacan), can not be treated ontologically by a psychoanalyst like Lacan who is mainly interested in human sexuality, and in the epistemological problems correlated with it. What makes this distinction between Hegel's Phenomenology and psychoanalysis special is that Lacan is aware of it, which makes us suppose that he is also not unaware of the transformations he introduces in the Hegelian dialectical figures.

d) Lacan's critique of Hegel has been implied by many of his references to the Phenomenology analyzed so far. The main point of dissent between Lacan and Hegel is the Hegelian idea of a synthetic truth, of an absolute knowledge, of a synthetic reshaping of the subject of knowledge. We shall not discuss here why Lacan assumes that the subject matter of the Phenomenology is the subject of knowledge, and not the spirit. What interests us now is Lacan's fundamental disbelief in the synthetic (positive, constructive) outcome of dialectics in the Phenomenology.  The most complete summary of Hegel's dialectic to be found in Lacan's writings reveals his sensitivity to the major problems of the Phenomenology.  

"This dialectic is convergent and attains the conjuncture defined as absolute knowledge. As such it is deduced, it can only be the conjunction of the symbolic with a real of which there is nothing more to be expected. What is this real, if not a subject fulfilled in his identity to himself? From which one can conclude that this subject is already perfect in this regard, and is the fundamental hypothesis of this whole process.  He is named, in effect, as being the substratum of this process; he is called the Selbstbewußtsein, the being conscious of self, the fully conscious self" (Lacan, 1977a,p. 296).

A simplification of the dialectic of the Phenomenology or not, this passage stresses its most vulnerable point, its outcome - the absolute knowledge, the fully conscious self. Absolute knowledge, the conjunction of the (Lacanian) Symbolic with the (Lacanian) Real is something unattainable.13 There will always be a gap between knowledge and truth, because knowledge, according to Lacan, is series of miscognitions which undermine the identity of the subject and make any correspondence of knowledge to the reality of the subject impossible.

The synthetic progress of the "fully conscious self" involves the function of sublation (Aufhebung), which, according to Lacan, is the hindrance to any possible synthesis of something new, higher, better or more truthful. Sublation, which is the pattern of a dialectical negativity for Kojève, is an entirely destructive function in Lacan's view.  Lacan emphatically rejects the constructivity attributed to sublation by Hegel:  

"(...) when one is made into two, there is no going back on it. It, can never revert to making one again, not even a new one. The Aufhebung (sublation) is one of those sweet dreams of philosophy" (Mitchell, 1982, p. 156).

Correspondingly, as products of the constructive sublations of the Phenomenology, absolute knowledge and the fully conscious self belong to the same sweet dream of philosophy.


We have already examined some of the more important problems and aspects of the transition from Hegel's conception of dialectics to its Lacanian reinterpretation. We have been regarding this transition as a transformative process, heavily marked by Kojève's influence on Lacan. The Kojèvian reversal of Hegel's idea of dialectics has been displayed in the paper: Hegel, Kojève and Lacan - The Metamorphoses of Dialectics - Part I: Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit and its Kojèvian interpretation as a point of reference for the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan. The current second part of this paper deals with the Lacanian references to Hegel's dialectic and reveals that all of them refer not directly to it but to its negativistic and anthropological Kojèvian version.14 There are, however, considerable differences between Kojève's version of Hegel's dialectic and its Lacanian inversion. Two general questions, opposite to one another, should be raised if we want to draw the distinctions between Kojève's and Lacan's conceptions of dialectics.

a) The first question is: What is the impact of the dialectical figures employed by Lacan on his psychoanalytical doctrine?  As modes of negativity, these dialectical figures accord with Lacan's linguistic reinterpretation of Freud, which overemphasizes the splitting (die Spaltung) of the subject and its emptiness as a subject of speech. The dialectical figures from the Phenomenology, the selection of which is determined by Kojève, designate the conflicts and the divisions operative in Lacan's psychoanalytical theory of the subject.  They help Lacan elaborate the matrix of his radically negativistic (and why not postmodern) reformulation of psychoanalysis. These figures, however, are not the matrix itself. They are part of the symbolic context in which it is worked out. We can not be sure to what extent Lacan's "dialectic" distorts or restructures the Freudian pattern of his theory. This may be a task of a separate study. The one thing we may be sure of is that the dialectical figures referred to by Lacan do not have only a decorative function in his thinking.

Since we are interested in the metamorphoses of dialectics in the transition from Hegel to Lacan, we shall go on directly to our second question, which requires a more detailed answer than the first one. 

b) The second question is: What changes do the Hegelian dialectical figures undergo in the psychoanalytical theory of Jacques Lacan? Lacan employs the same dialectical figures from the Phenomenology, which Kojève has promoted into principles of dialectics. He considers them as dialectical for almost the same reasons as Kojève does - they all designate modes of negativity. Lacan, however, goes beyond the Kojèvian reformulations of Hegel's dialectic in two main respects.  

b. 1 According to Kojève the five modes of negativity (of desire, struggle, labor, speech and death) are the principles of the dialectic of history. He regards them as the phenomena around which revolves human history and progress. These particular dialectical figures refer to the historical existence of man. As phenomena they represent the modalities of human activity and creativity. The five modes of negativity are the principles of one of the branches of Kojève's "dualist ontology" - history. They are ontological principles for Kojève; they refer to man's being. Furthermore we can say that Hegel's phenomenological survey is also (but not only) an ontological one.  All the phenomena in the Phenomenology, including those overemphasized by Kojève, illuminate certain forms of human existence. The unambiguity of the phenomena of negativity in Hegel's Phenomenology or in Kojève's thinking results from the fact that they are regarded ontologically, that they represent some form of being (non-being) or another.  

Contrary to Hegel and Kojève, Lacan views dialectics from an entirely non-ontological perspective, which has linguistic and psychoanalytical dimensions. The main effect of Lacan's non-ontological approach is that in his theory the Hegelian phenomena of negativity are reduced to mere signifiers of negativity. Lacan is not interested so much in the particular form of existence these phenomena designate. He is more attracted to the manifold meanings these signifiers of negativity can produce. As signifiers of negativity, the Hegelian figures in Lacan's theory are simultaneously polysemantic and empty of meaning. Their emptiness comes out of the lack of a constant referent (an existing entity). Their polysemy is based on their interrelations with other problems of Lacan's psychoanalysis. The Lacanian "dialectical figures" are able to designate almost everything in the field of psychoanalysis.  

The authentic Kojèvian principles of dialectics can hardly be recognized after the numerous semantic metamorphoses they undergo as a result of their non-ontological reformulations by Lacan. These reformulations are scattered around the whole of Lacan's theory, disguised in various allusions and metaphors. Inflated into signifiers of negativity, the Kojèvian dialectical principles do not represent in Lacan's theory the being of negativity or the negativity in being. They designate the meanings of various forms of negativity operative in the realm of meaning (imaginary or symbolic).

Lacan disqualifies the ontological dimension of the Hegelian/Kojèvian dialectical figures mainly because of his deepest conviction that being is out of the reach of psychoanalysis and of the rest of the human sciences. This conviction is closely related to the broader context of his thinking: that of the reorientation of the human sciences in the XXth century from the problems of being to the problems of meaning.15

b. 2 The second reversal of dialectics in Lacan's theory is based upon the nonontological adoption of Kojève's idea about the identity between dialectics and negativity. Kojève regarded the five modes of negativity of desire, struggle, labor, speech and death as principles of every positive changing and reshaping of reality because he attributed these principles to the activity of man as a historical being. The Kojèvian modes of negativity are accountable for the real historical progress of man, for his improvement and self-creation as a rational being.

The suspension of the ontological dimension of these phenomena of negativity eliminates the only reason for Lacan to consider them as principles of a constructive dialectic. That is how he arrives at a radically negativistic conception of dialectics.  Man's being is nothing outside language and speech. The subject of speech is irrecoverably split. He is the void between the signifiers of speech, his identity is nothing more than a function of their interrelations.  

While the Hegelian dialectical figures in Lacan's theory designate the negations that determine the splittings of the subject (of desire or speech), Lacan emphatically denies them any chance to have a positive, constructive meaning. The positivity we are referring to is an ontological one, while the radical negativity endorsed by Lacan functions in the Symbolic (at the level of meaning). Ontological positivity is absolutely unthinkable in respect to language, because language is not the Being of metaphysics. The Lacanian idea of dialectics excludes any positivity whatsoever.  Dialectics, for Lacan, is centered around the nothingness of the subject of speech and around the negations that sustain this nothingness. Lacan employs some Hegelian dialectical structures in order to represent the play of destructive forces (desire, rivalry, speech) working upon (and dissolving) the subject of analysis. This second reversal of dialectics in Lacan's theory is not a result of a re-interpretation of Hegel or Kojève, but is rather a consequence of the re-deployment of certain dialectical structures from the domain of being to the domain of meaning.

The non-ontological and the radically negativistic perspectives in Lacan's standpoint on dialectics represent the two major reversals of the Hegelian/Kojèvian conception of dialectics. These two reversals condition all the metamorphoses of the structure, the function and the meaning of the Hegelian dialectical figures present in Lacan's psychoanalytical doctrine. The Lacanian upturns of dialectics are not something arbitrary. They do not result from a philosophical illiteracy or misunderstanding. The metamorphoses of dialectics in Lacan's theory are a product of a certain tendentiousness, which has nothing to do with Lacan's partiality or theoretical incompetence, but rather stems from the much more general tendency of a reorientation of the human sciences from the problems of being to the problems of meaning. Considerably intensified in the second half of the XXth century by the emergence of philosophical postmodernism, this reorientation explicates at least the inevitability of the Lacanian reversals of Hegel's dialectic. 

Dr. Radostin Kaloianov - Vienna, Austria


1.  A statement of Lacan, from the Rome report, not only supports such a conclusion, but also adds to the principles of dialectics, formulated by Kojève, the negativity of the beautiful soul (belle âme): " is impossible for our technique to fail to recognize the structuring moments of the Hegelian phenomenology: in the first place the master-slave dialectic, or the dialectic of the belle âme and of the law of the heart, and generally whatever enables us to understand how the constitution of the object is subordinated to the realization of the subject" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 80).

2 Definitions of the subject as a void, as a gap are almost a common place in Lacan's writings. His conception of the subject as a void has also a normative value for the psychoanalytical treatment, which is supposed to restore the emptiness of the subject (its openness for endless significations) whenever it has petrified in a kind of deceptive identity. 

3 "There is no subject without, somewhere, aphanisis of the subject, and it is in this alienation, in this fundamental division, that the dialectic of the subject is established" (Lacan, 1977b, p. 221). Aphanisis, here, means fading of the subject.

4 Other indications of the Lacanian rejection of Hegel, besides the most radical one: the denial of the success of any dialectical synthesis, are: a) Lacan's basic idea about the inaccessibility of truth; b) The substitution of the spirit by the letter: "The pretensions of the spirit would remain unassailable if the letter had not shown us that it produces all the effects of truth in man without involving the spirit at all" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 158). It seems that Lacan's theory maintains a structure centered around the pre-and-trans-subjective agency of the letter, which does not have anything in common with the structure of the Phenomenology, based upon the pre-and-trans-subjective agency of the spirit.

5 Unlike demand, which is a request for love and which belongs to the child-Mother (imaginary Other) relationship, the desire for recognition emerges in the ego(moi)-other relationship. The stake of the demand for love is the possession of (or by) the Mother, while the stake of the desire of recognition is the recognition (which is a sort of identification) by the imaginary double of the ego.

6 The small-"o" other is designated in the mirror by the big-"O" Other (the Mother). This symbolic intervention only directs but does not suspend the imaginary process, which brings into existence the other and which requires of him a recognition.

7 There is, however, something definitely non-Freudian in Lacan's conception on the Oedipal stage. Through the Oedipus complex, according to Freud, the subject acquires an identity in an order of rules and symbols guaranteed by the superego. Lacan also sees the Oedipal stage as a transition into the Symbolic order. The outcome of this transition, however, is not the acquisition of a permanent identity by the subject, but rather the dissolution of the subject of speech into a void which is constantly refilled by various signifiers, and which seemingly solidifies into a signifier (and therefore acquires an identity).  This linguistic reformulation of the Oedipus complex is definitely related to the "rigid 'dualist ontology' of Kojève: man is what he is (...) only by not being what he is" (Jacobsen, 1991, p. 225).

8 All gender-specified pronouns in this paper have not to be understood in a realist manner, except may be those gender-specified pronouns that are being suggested by the quotes from Lacan.  

9 We have to bear in mind that in the Lacanian conceptual register, desire, speech and death have other meanings than in the Kojèvian or Hegelian conceptual registers. Some of them will become clearer in the course of our presentation.

10 The want-to-be is not simply a compensation for the frustrated want-to-have. This frustration urges the want-to-be to achieve on another level, what has been lost on the level of the want-to-have. The function of the lack which sets into motion the want-to-be, stems from the frustration of the want-to-have.  The unfolding of the former is partly a compensation for the failure of the latter.

11 Other possible interpretations of the same formula: a) man's desire desires the desire (the recognition) of the Other, or b) man's desire desires like the desire of the Other.

12 In Lacan's theory, the "unhappy consciousness" itself is a synonym of the dividing re-duplication of the subject in two incommensurate realities.

13 The otherwise impossible conjunction between the Symbolic and the Real is exemplified for Lacan by the abstention of the analyst in the treatment (see 2. 3. a). The analyst simulates a Hegelian philosopher, a wise man, which does not prove that he really has an absolute knowledge or that he really has reached the truth the patient expects him to have.

14 Lacan pays attention mainly to those dialectical figures of the Phenomenology of Spirit which have been promoted into principles of dialectics as such by Kojève. This is one of the guidelines of our study.

15 Lacan is completely aware of this re-orientation: "From now on, it is impossible not to make a general theory of the symbol the axis of a new classification of the sciences where the sciences of man will once more take up their central position as sciences of subjectivity" (Lacan, 1977a, p. 73).  


Borch-Jacobsen M., 1991, Lacan. The Absolute Master, trans. Douglas Brick, Stanford UP, Stanford, LA

Lacan J., 1958, Le desir et son interpretation, manuscript copy (quoted from Jacobsen,1991)

Lacan J., 1988, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. Book I. Freud's Papers On Technique, New York, Norton (quoted from Jacobsen,1991)

Lacan J., 1984, Les complexes familiaux dans la formation de l'individu, Paris, Navarin Editeur (quoted from Jacobsen, 1991)

Lacan J., 1977b, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, trans. Alan Sheridan, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, England

Lacan J., 1977a, Écrits: a selection, trans. Alan Sheridan, Routledge 

Lacan J., 1966, Écrits, Seuil, Paris, (quoted from Jacobsen, 1991)

Mitchell J., 1982, Feminine sexuality, trans. Jacqueline Rose, Macmillan Press, London


Radostin Kaloianov, Ph.D.

Muenzwardeingasse 7/15
A - 1060 Vienna, Austria
tel.: + 43 1 58 13 480

Secondary Education: 
1981 - 1986 High Scholl Diploma, English Language School, Burgas, Bulgaria

University Education: 
Oct. 1988 - June 1992 
Study of Philosophy, University of Sofia. 
Main Areas of Study:
· Ancient Philosophy (Pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristoteles);
· Modern Philosophy (Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, Leibnitz); 
· German Idealism (Kant, Schelling), the Hegelian Philosophy of History; 
· Nietzsche (Critical Philosophy of History); 
· 20th Century Philosophy: Phenomenology (late Husserl), Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (Cassirer), Heideggers early period (Sein und Zeit), Hermeneutics (Gadamer, P. Ricoeur); Neo-Kantianism (H. Heimsoeth)

Sept. 1992 - December 1993 (4 trimester) 
Study of Social Philosophy and Psychoanalysis at the University of Amsterdam (TEMPUS scholarship). 
Main Areas of Study: 
· History of Psychoanalysis: From Freud to J. Lacan;
· French Post-Modernism (M. Foucault, J. Derrida),
· Contemporary American Political Philosophy (J. Rawls, Dworkin, Nozick, Charles Taylor)

December 1993
MA in Philosophy cum laude, University of Amsterdam. Title of the MA-Thesis: Hegel. Kojeve and Lacan - the Metamorphoses of Dialectics. (written in English). 

March 1994 
Masters Degree in Philosophy, University of Sofia.

Oct. 1995 - Dec. 2000 
PhD study at the University of Vienna. 
Dissertation-Thesis: Principles and Tendencies in the Modern Theory of Conflict. The philosophical conception of conflict and conflict-resolution in the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes (written in German).Thesis-Advisors: Prof. Dr. Ludwig Nagl and Prof. Dr. Michael Benedikt

December 2000 
Promotion at the University of Vienna. Acquired academic grade: Doktor der Philosophie (mit Auszeichnung) 

Other areas of postgraduate research History of moral and political Ideas 
· Origins and Early Developments of Modern Rationalism and Empiricism; 
· Moral Philosophy: Transcendentalist versus pragmatist foundations of social normativity; 
· Social Philosophy: Modern Philosophical Theories of Natural Right and the Contractualist Founding of Modern State
· Social Philosophy: Philosophical Theories of Social Contingency and Social Conflict 
· Modern Philosophy of Contingency and Social Conflict

Scholarships and Awards 
Sept. 1992 - Dec. 1993 
EU TEMPUS scholarship

October 1995 - June 1996 
Scholarship of the Austrian Ministry of Science, Research and Culture