The Thought of the Good: Enough,
The Lost Ones, Ill Seen Ill Said,
We might say of the Unnamable what Lacan says of the subject in Seminar VII, a text that has been very significant for Badiou: ‘If there is indeed something that can be called his good or his happiness, there is nothing to be expected in that regard from the microcosm, nor moreover from the macrocosm.’1 Lacan’s terms of reference, here, derive from Aristotle. The microcosm is ‘the uncontested order that defines a certain character’ and involves the acquisition of habits.2 The macrocosm is the ‘more universal knowledge’ with which that order ‘is unified’, and is where ethics (and the subject) intersect with politics (and the State).3 Aristotle is concerned with this distinction from the beginning of his thought, notably in the Nicomachean Ethics. For the most part, the Nicomachean Ethics does not read like a work of political science. However, Aristotle repeatedly says that it is one. It even ends with a programme for the Politics.4 Right from the start, it asserts that the Good is a question concerning both the individual and the State, together.5
Lacan, however, is very clear: the Good cannot be derived from either the established social order or character as a structure of habit. For desire has always been divided by the signifier: ‘It is insofar as the subject is situated and is constituted with relation to the signifier that the break, splitting or
1 Jacques Lacan, Seminar VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis 1959–60, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, tr. with notes Dennis Porter (London: Routledge, 1999), 34.
2 See the beginning of book II. Nicomachean Ethics, 1103a 33–25. Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, tr. with an introd. David Ross, rev. J. L. Ackrill and J. O. Urmson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 28–9.
3 Lacan, Seminar VII, 22.
4 See Nicomachean Ethics, 1181 12–23, pp. 274–6.
5 See the beginning of ibid. 1094a 19–12, p. 2.