Lacan finds the roots of psychosis in a
fundamental failure of oedipalization to establish in the unconscious the
signifier of the phallus, the Name-of-the-Father, as the primal cut or castration dividing infant and mother and opening up a space for symbolization. But this theory is rendered equivocal by his positing of a literal hole
in the unconscious, thereby failing to recognize this “hole” as itself a
signifier, the signifier of absence or lack. As we have seen, Lacan succumbs to a metaphysical view of absence as somehow constituting an
ultimate reality beneath or beyond signification. As we will see in the
next chapter, this is the same problem that bedevils the work of Ernest
Becker and Peter Berger who reify death anxiety and anomy as realities
beyond signification. It is this metaphysical bias, which prevents Lacan
from seeing that the “hole” in the unconscious results not from a failure
of the primordial cut, but from its successful, but overwhelmingly traumatic, registration. Similarly, when Muller asks what is cut short here, I
am inclined to respond that to cut short is nevertheless to cut. The child can only reject castration if its signification has already been encountered. The hole, gap or lack is already the registration of castration. In
this respect, Lacan himself falls prey to the literalism that bedevils other
psychoanalytic theories that posit a literal “defect” in the ego as the basis
of the more severe forms of psychopathology.

Donald L. Carveth

Lacanian theory: appreciation and critique


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