Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

How Lacan's Ethics Might Improve Our Understanding of Nietzsche's Critique of Platonism: The Neurosis & Nihilsm of a 'Life' against Life

Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

How Lacan's Ethics Might Improve Our Understanding of Nietzsche's Critique of Platonism: The Neurosis & Nihilsm of a 'Life' against Life

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION: LACAN & NIETZSCHE.

In 2006 a Lacanian analyst and professor of philosophy at Buenos Aires contributes a small paper to a collection put together by Slavoj Zizek entitled: Nietzsche, Freud, Lacan (2). A paper in which said analyst-professor Silvia Ons, makes for the reasoned claim that the Lacan-Nietzsche relation remains still at present under-examined: something she finds both "surprising and symptomatic". (3) Surprising because Nietzsche is the philosopher who would be closest to psychoanalysis: a precursor of whom Freud at one point concedes anticipates psychoanalysis in "the many instances" (4). Nietzsche is the philosopher who as Ons puts it once discovers "the symptom in morality" (5): or as I will put it here for further examination, discovers a certain moral idea of the Good to be symptomatic of a 'life' lived in too many ways opposed to life; an idea to be promoted as cure for precisely the problems it is many times source of.

Lacan's Seminar The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, with its recurring critique of precisely this idea of the moral Good, contains what I take then to be Lacan's most direct connection with Nietzsche's main project of exposing the metaphysics underlying the history of Western morality as a Platonism which leads to neurosis and nihilism. Such metaphysics for both Nietzsche and Lacan might only mean now that some error, fiction, illusion or phantasy of the Good in the imaginary has been mistaken as 'truth', as 'real', when it is really only the symptom of the abeyance of a particular aspect of the truth, or modicum of the real. As a process which is diagnosable as neurosis or a nihilism, what can and will be argued here is its doing us more harm than 'good' in the end after bearing its load nigh for two-thousand years or more: ever since Plato in particular introduced its species into the cradle of the West--whereupon we might find that it continues to protract itself derivative forms, right up to this day.

Contextually, the conjunction I am detecting here between Lacan and Nietzsche in their mutual antipathy towards the moral metaphysics of Platonism is no accident--and not only because Nietzsche anticipates much in Freud and Lacan is a kind of Freudian: but also because Lacan in his early twenties reportedly gives Nietzsche an "avid reading" whence breaking away from "his mother's Catholicism" (6). What's more, Lacan takes to Nietzsche around about the same time as his close to become acquaintance in Bataille was also attempting something similar: the very Bataille who later not only exerts at least an undercurrent of influence on Lacan, but also helps introduce Nietzsche into a position of prominence in the very intellectual setting that Lacan was to become something of a doyen in. (7) Nietzsche was emerging as a key theoretical figure in Lacan's post-war Paris, soon to be the driving force behind such luminaries as Foucault, Deleuze and Derrida after Heidegger had earlier helped drive him out across the Rhine (8); whilst Walter Kaufman was also busily erecting Nietzsche as the monument forever to behold, out further across to the West. (9)

What I take to be at stake in my own paper can be expressed thus: Whereas the Nietzschean project can seem most prodigious in its affirmation of life, even though it has ostensibly dispensed with the 'comforting' illusions that the history of Platonic metaphysics has given; the project of psychoanalysis on the other hand can seem positive less so, but also appears to have gone further in the process of illusion rending with its more detailed disclosure of the Freudian Thing at the base of our drives. Thus given such findings of psychoanalysis, can we still make an affirmation of life as such within the counter-nihilist ethic of the full Nietzschean spirit? Or would we rather, with this Thing within which we deny and despise coming back at us in the real, in the form of mounting evidence of an ecological catastrophe approaching, be happily resigned instead to this deathly end as a welcome respite. …

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