Contra the Slovenians: Returning to Lacan and Away from Hegel

By Horwitz, Noah | Philosophy Today, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

Contra the Slovenians: Returning to Lacan and Away from Hegel


Horwitz, Noah, Philosophy Today


Often an entire article can be summed up in a quote. Lacan said in his eleventh seminar:

The death of structuralism, you are the son of Hegel. I don't agree. I think that in saying Lacan against Hegel, you are much closer to the truth, though of course it is not at all a philosophical debate.1

Although the work of what ostensibly could be called the "Slovenian School of Lacanian Studies"2 (one names here the work of Slavoj Zizek, Mladen Dolar, Alenka Zupancic, et. al.) has explained the work of Jacques Lacan in an unprecedentedly clear manner, demonstrated the relevance of Lacan for current theoretical debates, and shown how Lacanian theory can be applied to various social and political phenomena, their reading of Lacan via German Idealism and German Idealism via Lacan risks transforming Lacanian psychoanalysis into a discourse of self-consciousness rather than a discourse on the psychoanalytic, Freudian unconscious. In this manner, the very scandalous rupture that Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis affected in thought and in culture (that it thinks without and for me) is in jeopardy of being foreclosed through a return to German Idealism's discourse of self-consciousness. Here, Lacan functions as a screen in order to rehabilitate the theses of German Idealism that psychoanalysis itself put into question.

In particular, the risk is that Lacan will be transformed into that ultimate German Idealist, Hegel. Slavoj Zizek announces the program of a "'return to Hegel'" (as opposed to Lacan's "return to Freud"?)3 in his book (although it informs the entirety of his work) The Sublime Object of Ideology:

to accomplish a kind of 'return to Hegel'-to reactualize Hegelian dialectics by giving it a new reading on the basis of Lacanian psychoanalysis. The current image of Hegel as an 'idealist-monist' is totally misleading: what we find in Hegel is the strongest affirmation yet of difference and contingency-'absolute knowledge' itself is nothing but a name for the acknowledgment of a certain radical loss."

Such a 'return to Hegel' not only risks mis-reading Hegel as Lacan avant la lettre, but (and more importantly for us) risks reading Lacan as Hegel (and repeatedly throughout the work of Zizek Lacan is shown to make a "perfectly Hegelian" gesture or move). For Zizek, such a return to Hegel via Lacan is authorized insofar as Lacan misunderstood the nature of self-consciousness:

why Hegel? Unfortunately Lacan too quickly identifies self-consciousness with self-transparency, and the very condition of the notion of self-consciousness in German Idealism is that you are inaccessible to yourself. It's a positive ontological condition. To be self-conscious, you must be void, you must not be accessible to yourself as what you arc. So we have a certain radical gap defining self-consciousness. The subject of self-consciousness is literally S barré.5

Although the entire work of Lacan has shown how the unconscious remains opaque to consciousness insofar as it thinks independently of and for me, self-consciousness, according to Zizek, is actually about non-transparency to self rather than transparency. For Lacan, according to his 'mirror stage,' one reaches a sense of self (self-consciousness) via the projective, specular image of the other (in other words, via an opaque, externalization/alienation). One's ego (self-awareness) is thus constituted in relation to an alienated image that is in turn sublated into a reciprocal, symmetrical, and transparent other. In fact, the other here is so transparent that one assumes the other knows one's mind ('you know what I mean'). Although Lacan further moves to an understanding of the subject as subject of the symbolic order, such a subject is a subject of meaning rather than consciousness insofar as one is aware of oneself only through the discourse of the Other. In addition, while in Hegel there may be an initial moment of the dialectic wherein one is unaware of what takes place within one, such a moment is quickly transcended in order to see how what was alien is really the self (so that self-transparency is established).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Contra the Slovenians: Returning to Lacan and Away from Hegel
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.