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A Lacanian Answer to Alenka Zupančič’s article Sexual Difference and Ontology

A Lacanian Answer to Alenka Zupančič’s article

Sexual Difference and Ontology.



1. Refer to Heidegger with Lacan

Two absences surprise us when we read Alenka Zupančič’s article Sexual Difference

and Ontology : that of the name of Heidegger and that of Lacan’s proposition : « il n’y a

pas de rapport sexuel » [ there is no sexual relation ]. Do they mean that it is still possible in anglophone milieux to talk of ontology without quoting the name of the greatest thinker of our time, as well as to talk of sexuality in psychoanalytical sense without referring to that formula Lacan posed for foundations of psychoanalysis ? In any case, it is not so for us who read Heidegger in German and Lacan in French.

So let’s see in clearer ways these two fundamental points Alenka Zupančič is trying to treat in her article : being and sexuality. (I’d like to ask to the readers to refer, if possible, to my article Heidegger avec Lacan where I presented more detailed discussions about those subjects, especially on ontology.) 1/29 Shin’ya OGASAWARA A Lacanian Answer to Alenka Zupančič’s article Sexual Difference and Ontology

2. Being and phallus In regard of being, Alenka Zupančič’s confusion is summarized in this expression of her : « the inherent contradiction of being ».

It seems to me that English language is fundamentally inappropriate for ontological thoughts, because you can not have a slightest idea of what Heidegger calls ontological difference, i.e. distinction of Seiendes and Sein, given that for those two terms you have only a single word : being.

So it seems certain that you stumble on that point as soon as you begin reading Sein und Zeit. A possible remedy for that would consist in writing a being for ein Seiendes and the Being for das Sein. But I don’t know how you manage to read Heidegger. Or is it that you don’t need such an invention because you dare never commit such politically incorrect act as reading that notorious Nazi thinker ?

Anyway, what constitutes the heart of Heidegger’s question concerning Sein is not the ontological difference of Seiendes and Sein but something beyond it : the difference of Sein and Seyn, for the latter of which Heidegger writes sometimes (we will write it more simply Sein : that could be written Being in English).

The word Seyn is an old spelling of Sein. For example, in Grimm’s dictionary they 2/29 Shin’ya OGASAWARA A Lacanian Answer to Alenka Zupančič’s article Sexual Difference and Ontology quote such a phrase of Hegel : « die wahrheit des seyns ist das wesen » (the first sentence of Die Lehre vom Wesen of his Wissenschaft der Logik).

In 1936 Heidegger began using the word Seyn, but only in his manuscripts not published in his lifetime, to mean what he calls time in Sein und Zeit, i.e. time as meaning of Sein and horizon to understand Sein. (Note that horizon means there a field bounded by an edge and that Lacan will illustrate it as edge of Möbius strip in topology of crosscap).

To formalize our problems, let us use the fundamental mathema Lacan got from

–  –  –

In those two mathemata the term Sein means what Heidegger calls das Seiende als solches im Ganzen (being as such in totality).

Thus far we have been in Sein und Zeit published in 1927, the work considered usually as the principal one of Heidegger. However he has to have a conversion (Kehre) in 1936 « in the moment of attempt to say simply the truth of Being » [ im Augenblick eines Versuches, die Wahrheit des Seins einfach zu sagen ] (Brief über den »Humanismus«, in Gesamtausgabe, Band 9, p.313).

–  –  –

Now, instead of meaning of Sein, what comes into question is truth of Sein.

Accordingly we pass from Saussurian mathema of signifier on signified to a more developed mathema of discourse of analyst, where a semblance a in master’s place

represents truth of Being for an other in slave’s place $ :

And what Heidegger called time in Sein und Zeit is now nothing else than a « preliminary name of Seyn » [ Vor-name des Seyns ] (Die Geschichte des Seyns, in Gesamtausgabe, Band 69, p.59).

–  –  –

And because « negation is belonging to the essence of Seyn » [ Zum Wesen des Seyns gehört das Nicht ] (Beiträge zur Philosophie vom Ereignis, p.267), when we write the orthographic word Sein to denote Seyn, it must be erased by deleting line : Sein (cf. Zur Seinsfrage, in Gesamtausgabe, Band 9, pp.410-411), i.e. Being.

In parentheses it seems probable that Heidegger’s Sein inspired to Lacan his mathema of erased subject $, while those two terms are not mutually equivalent without reserve.

Anyway, we can define :

–  –  –

We call it mathema of phenomenological structure of Truth of subject’s Being. In this structure Sein (Being) as das Seiende als solches im Ganzen in master’s place represents Sein (Being) in the place of Truth that withdraws and hides itself under the dominating place of semblance.

That place of Truth is called by Lacan, at the very beginning of the first article of his Écrits, place of ex-sistence (Frenchification of Heidegger’s term Ek-sistenz) that is exsistent or ec-static in regard to the place of insisting signifier a of formations of the unconscious, and Lacan says the subject in question in psychoanalysis must be situated in that place of ex-sistence (cf. Le séminaire sur « La Lettre volée », in Écrits, p.11).

However, as Heidegger says his conversion was motivated by the necessity of thinking more directly from Truth of Being, we should pay attention to the term « truth ». So we quote this remarkable phrase of Lacan : « nothing hides as much as revelation : truth, Ἀλήθεια = Verborgenheit [ hiddenness ] » (Étourdit, in Autres écrits, p.451).

Heideggerians might criticise Lacan because Heidegger says always the Greek word ἀλήθεια means in Ancient Greek philosophy Unverborgenheit [ unhiddenness ]. We could reply to them with some quotations of Heidegger himself, for example : « die ἀ-λήθεια ist selbst in ihrem Wesen in die λήθη gegründet » [ ἀ-λήθεια itself, in its essence, is grounded in λήθη ] (Parmenides, in Gesamtausgabe, Band 54, p.185) ; « daß wir die

–  –  –

Ἀλήθεια griechisch als Unverborgenheit erfahren und sie dann, über das Griechische hinaus, als Lichtung des Sichverbergens denken » [ we learn Ἀλήθεια in Greek sense as unhiddenness and then think it beyond its Greek sense as cleared space of self-hiding ] (Das Ende der Philosophie und die Aufgabe des Denkens, in Gesamtausgabe, Band 14, p.88).

We could add here some other quotations from his fundamentally important posthumous work Beiträge zur Philosophie (vom Ereignis) : « das Seyn west in der Wahrheit : Lichtung für das Sichverbergen » [ Being remains in Truth : cleared space for self-hiding ] (Gesamtausgabe, Band 65, p.29) ; « die Wahrheit geschieht als die lichtende Verbergung » [ Truth happens as clearing hiding ] (ibid., p.30) ; « daß eine Lichtung sich gründe für das Sichverbergende, dies meint die Fassung : Wahrheit sei lichtende Verbergung zuerst. Das Sichverbergen des Seyns in der Lichtung des Da. Im Sichverbergen west das Seyn » [ that a cleared space grounds itself for self-hiding means this comprehension : Truth is clearing hiding at first. Self-hiding of Being in clearing space of there. Being remains in self-hiding ] (ibid., p.342).

So we can distinguish now two sorts of truth : on one hand, ἀλήθεια, Unverborgenheit [ unhiddenness ], Lichtung [ cleared space ], and on the other hand, λήθη, Verborgenheit [ hiddenness ], Verbergung [ hiding ]. And we can see a substitutional structuration of these two series of terms : Lichtung für das Sichverbergen, i.e. cleared space in place of

self-hiding. Thus we can formalise structure of truth as follows :

–  –  –

We call this substituting structure phenomenological structure of Truth.

The two structures we fomulated here, the phenomenological structure of Truth of

subject’s Being and the phenomenological structure of Truth are mutually equivalent :

And here we add another equivalence :

–  –  –

« l’objet a est le trou qui se désigne au niveau de l’Autre comme tel » [ object a is the hole we could designate in the plane of Other as such ] (Séminaire XVI, p.60), while the symbole φ, erased phallus, is « un signifiant qui manque toujours » (Séminaire VI, p.34) [ a signifier always lacking ] in the plane of Other, treasury of signifier and at the same time plane holed by the lack φ (cf. La direction de la cure, in Écrits, p.627).

In other words, the symbole φ is the mathema formalising the proposition : « there is no sexual relation », for the symbole φ is the very signifier of sexual relation that doesn’t cease not to be written (cf. Séminaire XX, p.87) so that it can not be written without being erased : φ.

–  –  –

I’d like to ask you to refer to the chapter I of my article Heidegger avec Lacan, because it is too long to be presented here.

Rather, for purposes of later discussions I would present here some other formulae.

Because the lack in Other is that of φ, we have :

–  –  –

of him : « la fonction du désir chez l’homme, en tant qu’il institue la dominance, à la place privilégiée de la jouissance, de l’objet a du fantasme qu’il substitue à l’Ⱥ »

[ function of desire in human being, as far as it institutes dominance, in the privileged place of jouissance, of object a substituted for Ⱥ ] (Subversion du sujet et dialectique du désir, in Écrits, p.823).

When, as it sometimes happens, Lacan calls Autre locality of manque dans l’Autre [ lack in Other ], we will write for it Ⱥutre [ Øther ].

And as far as a is pure signifier of the hole in the plane of Other, we have :

–  –  –

key of Heidegger’s ontology. And because what comes into question is Sein or Being, the word « ontology » must be written in this way : ontology. Thus we can distinguish it from traditional substantialistic ontologies.

–  –  –

exact formalisation of what Alenka Zupančič calls in a confused way « the inherent contradiction of being ».

And we can say also this phenomenological structure of Truth of subject’s Being makes stumbling points of Aristotle’s principle of non-contradiction, for in this structure Being manifests itself as Being. In other words, Being as hiddenness in the place of Truth is represented by Being as unhiddenness in the place of semblance.

This representational structure is what Heidegger’s most fundamental ontological formula means : « Es gibt Sein » (Zeit und Sein, in Gesamtausgabe, Band 14, p.9ff.). It doesn’t mean simply that there is Being, but : It gives Being, i.e. Being gives Being.

When Barbara Cassin calls Lacan « ab-aristotélicien » (Il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel, Deux leçon sur L’Étourdit de Lacan, p.12), it would be the highest praise made to him by a philosopher, because to say Lacan is ab-Aristotelian means to acknowledge he has successfully overcome Metaphysics. In other words, Lacan achieved effectively the most important task of our time Heidegger imposed to himself as thinker. And Lacan did that

–  –  –

by his ab-Aristotelian formula « il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel » that reveals the abmetaphysical structure of Truth of subject’s Being.

Now let’s see a little bit Alenka Zupančič’s text. She says : « all being is symbolic ».

Does an image belong to the order of symbolic ? Certainly not. But so far as Being (Sein) as das Seiende als solches im Ganzen is what Heidegger calls Lichtung (cleared space) and so far as one of the three aspects of a is hole in the plane of Other, we can say, according to definition of the symbolic as hole (cf. Séminaire XXII R.S.I.), that the agent’s place where the term Sein is situated is the place of the symbolic order.

And then Alenka Zupančič says : « there is only being in the symbolic – except that there is real. There “is” real, but this real is no being. Yet it is not simply the outside of being ; it is not something besides being, it is the very curving of the space of being ».

We could go out of such a confusion, if we read these very simple words of Heidegger :

« Das Seiende ist. Das Seyn west » [ A being is. The Being remains ] (Beiträge zur Philosophie vom Ereignis, p.30).

Anyway, Alenka Zupančič seems to ignore Lacan’s definition of the real as ex-sistence (cf. Séminaire XXII R.S.I.) as well as the topology of Other’s plane Lacan formalises as topology of cross-cap.

The real that comes into question in psychoanalysis is the impossible (cf. Séminaire XVI, p. 66), i.e. what does not cease not to be written (cf. Séminaire XX, p. 87) : φ,

–  –  –

phallus impossible to write, sexual relation that is.

On the subject of φ Lacan says : « Que le phallus soit un signifiant, impose que ce soit à la place de l’Autre que le sujet y ait accès. Mais ce signifiant [ phallus ] n’y [ est ] que voilé » [ if phallus is a signifier, it is necessarily implied that subject has access to it in the plane of Other. But the signifier in question is there veiled ] (La signification du phallus, in Écrits, p.693). That is, phallus φ, the real as impossible, veiled by a, ex-sists

–  –  –

As for topology, we should refer at first to Heidegger’s words : « das denkende Dichten ist die Topologie des Seyns. Sie sagt diesem die Ortschaft seines Wesens » [ the thinking poesy is the topology of Being. This topology says for Being the locality of its essence ] (Aus der Erfahrung des Denkens, in Gesamtausgabe, Band 13, p.84) ; « Topologie : die

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