21 de diciembre de 2015

NLS Congress 2016: "The second paternal metaphor" by Veronique Voruz


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In his closing address at the NLS Congress in Tel Aviv, Psychosis, or Radical Belief in the Symptom[i], Éric Laurent poses the necessity for psychoanalysis to invent other ways to speak of psychosis in light of the generalization of the psychotic effort to all. As an effect of this generalization, he says that: “the day will likely come when the word ‘psychosis’ will be so out of sync with the spirit of the times that instead we will be speaking in terms of ordinary delusions”.[ii] In other words, psychoanalytic theory will increasingly be moving towards a continuist clinical approach – as Yves Vanderveken outlined in his intervention towards the next NLS Congress last month here in London.[iii]

In this brief intervention, I wanted to speak about the second paternal metaphor because I think that if, in his 2012 paper, Laurent re-introduced this concept, formalised by Jacques-Alain Miller in his 1985-6 course Extimité, it is so that we may use it to support our effort to move towards the continuist clinical approach on our horizon. But before, I would like to make a few clarifications.

A few preliminary points

  • What is this psychotic effort said to be generalized?
It is the effort that we each have to make to treat the drive and phenomena of jouissance beyond what is ready-made for this purpose in civilisation. Such treatment can take place either by making use of the Name-of-the-Father or through the symptom: repression or formal envelope.

  • Why this generalization?
The curbing of jouissance is what is at stake in civilization – to the extent that humanity can be defined as a conflict between jouissance and the law[iv] – but our civilization is prey to the paradoxical logic of the superego. A central working hypothesis in our orientation is that the incitement to jouissance characteristic of the capitalist discourse, a discourse in which the only universal identification available is that of consumer[v], has for correlate addiction as a mode of relation between a subject and any object (x): addiction is a mode of relation between subject and object specific to our times, to the extent that it refers to the generalized inability for a subject to not consume a given object (x).[vi] The rise of addiction as the main contemporary form of the symptom has to be correlated to the dissolution of the bond between S and s, which has been commented by Miller and Laurent in many places.[vii] The effect of this dissolution is the weakening efficacy of truth in treating the real.   

These two elements constitute the background for our clinical work: addiction as a mode of relation between $ and a, and the averred status of all discourses as semblant, with the disorientation that ensues.

Adjusting the theory of our praxis

So we need to adjust our theoretical apparatus for two reasons.

  • First, we need to account for what we have called in our field the emergence of ‘ordinary psychosis’.[viii] The coining of this signifier is an epistemic[ix] move by Jacques-Alain Miller designed to gather up unclassifiable cases under a single term and to define our “research project”, as Éric Laurent put it in Tel-Aviv. For my part, I think this term is essentially a stepping stone on our journey to try and speak more precisely about the changing effects of subject produced by the matrix of our civilization[x], and in a way that circumscribes the real more closely. The Dublin Congress will be particularly important in this respect; it will be an occasion to continue inventing a clinical language more closely tailored to singular experience. The title – Discreet Signs in Ordinary Psychoses – is particularly well chosen to push us to think without resorting to categories, or at least to make use of them without essentialising their signification.

  • Second, because the question of the necessarily singular treatment of one’s jouissance has become key for all. To the extent that the Name-of-the-Father could be considered a ready-made solution, even when it operates, it appears to no longer be sufficient for most individuals to lead a pacified existence.  

The treatment of jouissance by language

Central to the question of the subject’s treatment of jouissance is Lacan’s invention of the paternal metaphor, which refers to the metaphorisation of jouissance by the Other of the signifier, and so to its transformation into desire. We could think that the paternal metaphor is a concept that belongs to the binary clinic Neurosis/Psychosis because it is Lacan’s formalization of the Freudian invention of the Oedipus complex, and that it should therefore be of the past. Or we could take Jacques-Alain Miller’s lead in his text on the speaking body[xi], and work with the idea that concepts need to be constantly woven anew in psychoanalytic theory (this is Miller’s own choice: to metaphorise the term unconscious by that of speaking body). And so with the paternal metaphor: the concept can be actualized and be used in the continuist perspective. Thus in Psychosis, or Radical Belief in the Symptom, Éric Laurent proposes a simplified formulation of the second paternal metaphor, developed by Jacques-Alain Miller in Extimité. Miller’s argument in Extimité in complex and I haven’t had the time to work through it sufficiently for today but I hope we can place it on our agenda for the Congress. I will just say a few words to open up the question.

The first paternal metaphor: the historical step of monotheism

In Extimité Jacques-Alain Miller is trying to articulate jouissance with the Other of the signifier. For this purpose, the paternal metaphor is obviously a crucial concept. Addressing the question of what of Judaism is present in Freud, Miller specifies that it is not the father, but the function of the father, which is present in both Freud and Judaism. Miller historicizes the emergence of this function with regards to religion: “the emergence of paternal monotheism consumed the great maternal religion”.[xii] Here he is referring to the prohibition by the Jewish religion of the orgies and sexual rites that were practiced in order to access the divine by polytheistic religions, as a way of establishing the existence of the Other as Other of jouissance. By extension, “what Lacan called the paternal metaphor is exactly that: the Name-of-the-Father coming to metaphorise the desire of the Mother.” Implicit in Jacques-Alain Miller’s elaboration of the “historical step of monotheism” is the double status of the Other. The Other of the signifier metaphorises the Other of jouissance, and orders it by means of the phallus. This is the formula of the first paternal metaphor as we know it:

NP       A
    Phallus

To put it more structurally, the paternal metaphor allows language “to house the phenomena of jouissance”[xiii] – this is written by Laurent A over J – by localising jouissance in the body, delineating phallic zones. In this perspective, what we call psychosis is the failure of language to do so: there is, then, a delocalization of jouissance to non-phallic zones.

But from the perspective of the second paternal metaphor, we can learn that this is also the case for neurosis, because the Other in the second paternal metaphor is inconsistent: this is what Lacan develops in Seminar X, arguing that A is divided by J.[xiv]    

The second paternal metaphor

The second paternal metaphor[xv] is simplified by Laurent as follows: “it is language itself [which] takes charge of the phenomena of jouissance”, bearing in mind however that, whereas the first paternal metaphor implies a consistent Other metaphorising the Other of Jouissance and transforming all of jouissance into phallic jouissance, the second paternal metaphor implies an inconsistent Other, (barred A over J), implying that not all of jouissance can be metaphorised. All subjects have to deal with an irreducible remainder, although to a lesser or greater extent of course:

The second paternal metaphor is a generalisation from the singular psychotic effort to the clinical field as a whole. From the psychotic subject we also have to learn how the neurotic subject forms a language from his symptom, and that this symptom stems from both the first and second paternal metaphors.[xvi]


[i]  Hurly-Burly 8, p. 243-251.
[ii] Ibid. at 249.
[iii]  “Towards a Generalisation of the Clinic of Discreet Signs”, published in NLS-Messager 1779.  
[iv]  Miller, J.-A., « Rien n’est plus humain que le crime », Mental 21 : « L’humain est peut-être précisément le conflit entre les deux versants de la Loi et la jouissance. », p. 10.
[v] See the third lesson of L’Autre qui n’existe pas et ses comités d’éthique, 1995-6, unpublished.        
[vi]  As argued by Marie-Hélène Brousse in her introduction to issue 88 of La Cause du désir, http://addicta.org/2015/02/27/marie-helene-brousse-parle-de-lexperience-des-addicts/
[vii]  For example in L’Autre qui n’existe pas, op. cit.
[viii] Miller J.-A. ed. (2005), La convention d’Antibes – La psychose ordinaire (Paris: Agalma/Le Seuil).
[ix] Miller J.-A. (2008), “Ordinary Psychosis Revisited”, Psychoanalytical Notebooks 19.
[x]  Miller J.-A. (2003), “Intuitions Milanaises [2]”, Mental 12. 
[xi] Miller J.-A. (2014), “The Unconscious and the Speaking Body”, Hurly-Burly 10.
[xii]  Lessons of 29 January and 5 February 1986, unpublished.
[xiii]  Laurent É., “Psychosis, or Radical Belief in the Symptom”, op. cit.
[xiv] See also Miller J.-A., « Introduction à la lecture du Séminaire L’angoisse de Jacques Lacan », in La Cause freudienne 58 and 59.  
[xv]  Miller takes the second paternal metaphor from Lacan’s “Subversion of the Subject”.
[xvi]  Laurent É., ibid. p. 247.

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