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Lacan, Dali, Paranoia, and Language

from The Memory of Tiresias, Part III, Chapter 5:

One of Dali’s manifestos of paranoia-criticism, in fact entitled “L’Âne pourri” (The rotten donkey), declares:

No one can stop me from recognizing the multiple presence of simulacra in an image with multiple representations, even if one of its states took on the appearance of a rotten donkey, and even if that donkey were really in a state of horrible decomposition, covered with thousands of flies and ants. Yet insofar as it is impossible to presuppose the individual significance of different states of representation outside the notion of time, nothing can convince me that the donkey’s furious putrefaction is something other than the hard and dazzling gleam of new precious stones.

from nosubject’s entry on paranoia:

Paranoia is a form of psychosis characterized principally by delusions.

Like all clinical structures, paranoia reveals in a particularly vivid way certain basic features of the psyche.

Paranoiac Alienation
The ego has a paranoiac structure because it is the site of a paranoiac alienation.

Paranoiac Knowledge
Knowledge (connaissance) itself is paranoiac.

Analytic Treatment
The process of psychoanalytic treatment induces controlled paranoia into the human subject.

from Dalí’s Fascism; Lacan’s Paranoia:

To Breton’s dismay, Dalí seemed to take literally Breton’s call in the First Surrealist Manifesto to produce works ‘outside all aesthetic or moral preoccupations’. Yet in directing Surrealist attention to Hitler, I argue, Dalí analysed the ‘hitlerian phenomenon’ as an apocalyptic symptom of the alienation and auto-aggression afflicting bourgeois society. In so doing, he relied heavily upon a dialogue he had struck up with Jacques Lacan concerning paranoia – what Lacan termed ‘autopunition’, and their relationship to the fascist persona.

formerly here, but now there is something else there and I can’t track down where this came from:

[E]ven if all the facts [the husband] quotes in support of his jealousy are true, even if his wife really is sleeping around with other men, this does not change one bit the fact that his jealousy is a pathological, paranoid construction. (Sublime 48)

Such a counterintuitive thesis holds, according to Zizek, because “pathological jealously is not a matter of getting the facts false, but of the way these facts are integrated into the subject’s libidinal economy” (Enjoy 220). For Lacan, in Zizek’s words, it is not the facts but fantasy that “gives support to that which we call ‘reality'”

extracts from Jon Mills’ “Lacan on Paranoiac Knowledge”:

ABSTRACT: For Lacan, all knowledge is imbued with paranoia. While he offers very few remarks on the matter, this claim has potential theoretical and clinical utility. Although largely unarticulated by Lacan himself, throughout this article I attempt to give conceptual clarity to the epistemological process of paranoiac knowledge situated in Lacan’s three contexts of being. Developmentally, knowledge is paranoiac because it is acquired through our imaginary relation to the other as a primordial misidentification or illusory self-recognition of autonomy, control, and mastery, thus leading to persecutory anxiety and self-alienation. Secondarily, through the symbolic structures of language and speech, desire is foisted upon us as a foreboding demand threatening to invade and destroy our uniquely subjective inner experiences. And finally, the process of knowing itself is paranoiac because it horrifically confronts the real, namely, the unknown. Through our examination of a clinical case study, paranoiac knowledge manifests itself as the desire not to know.

Through The Looking Glass

Lacan’s inaugural theory of the self was formally introduced in 1936 to the fourteenth International Psychoanalytic Congress and published the following year under the title “The Looking-Glass Phase.” This single contribution launched a radical new portrait of ego formation in psychoanalytic thought. One reason why his theory is so radical and controversial is that, for Lacan, the ego, with qualifications, does not exist–at least not in the ordinary sense psychoanalysis has come to view the notion. The ego is a mistake (méconnaissance), thus it is merely an illusory projection of autonomy and control. In other words, the ego (moi, Ich) or ‘I’ is merely a wish–itself the product of social construction.

The Other as Persecutory

Within the initial phases of the imaginary, aggressivity becomes paramount for Lacan. The image as an alienating presence may be an ominous, rivalrous threat that the subject fears as dangerous. While the imago may be a validating-soothing-sustaining introject that provides the self with illusory stability, it may also become colored by the projection of the one’s own innate destructive impulses organized in one’s paranoiac relation to the imago.

The De-Structure of Language

Language lends structure to the psyche, thus it is the symbolic that gives order to the subject. In fact, for Lacan, the subject is ultimately determined by the symbolic function of signifiers, speech, and language. The relationship between the imaginary and the symbolic is contrasted by the experiences of the ego and its images on the one hand, and the fortification of linguistic attributions on the other. We are thrown into the realm of the symbolic: language is already constituted a priori within a pre-existing social ontology, predefined, predetermined. Lacan (1957) tells us: “language and its structure exist prior to the moment at which each subject at a certain point in his mental development makes his entry into it” (p.148). Symbolization attempts to give desire structure and order. Submitted to its systemic facticity, desire is molded by linguistic ontological pressures.

The symbolic order was important to Lacan precisely because it was inclusive and versatile, capable of referring to an entire range of signifying practices (Bowie, 1991; Fink, 1995; Marcelle, 1992). Due to its coherence and malleability, the symbolic category links the world of the unconscious to the structures of speech, and thus even more broadly to a social linguistic ontology. While repression is the prototype of the unconscious for Freud (1923, p. 15), language is the sine qua non of Lacan’s new symbolic science.

The imaginary is determined by signifiers, thus language is crucial in the construction of identity (Sarup, 1992). For Lacan, words are interpreted and given meaning retroactively; the behavior and verbal communication of another is always in need of interpretation, refracted through language.

The very structure and imposition of the symbolic can geld and dismember. Words take on signifying functions that activate cognitive, affective, and fantasy systems which rip through the very core of our being. Speech–the spoken word–is the medium of caustic oral aggression which can be so acerbic and devaluing that it may scar one’s self-concept and inner representational world. Negation–“No!”–by its very definition and execution introduces lack, absence, and deprivation. This is why so often we see conflicted individuals fixate on what was said or unsaid by others, thus assuming obsessional forms and repetitions. The perseveration of thought affixed to lack can be a living hell. Speech creates psychic pain through the affliction of desire and lack, as does silence–a poignant withholding. This may be why we all have “paranoid affinities” in relation to how the other uses language and speech: we fear evaluation and judgment–the other’s desire, hence the unknown.

We have shown that the paranoiac process of acquiring knowledge has its genesis in the imaginary, first as the subject’s misidentification with its alienated image in the reflection of the other, and second as the fundamental distortion and miscognition of external objects (also see Muller & Richardson, 1982). Human knowledge is paranoiac because the subject projects its imaginary ego-properties into objects which become distorted and perceived as fixed entities that terrorize the subject with persecutory anxiety in the form of the other’s desire.

from PsycheGames page on Lacan:

His central contribution to clinical (psychiatric, psychological, psychotherapeutic) theory was the assertion that language, the spoken language of the human subject, creates the subject.

from Louis Althusser’s “Freud and Lacan”, quoted at AllExperts’ page on Lacan:

In his first great work The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud studied the ‘mechanisms’ and ‘laws’ of dreams, reducing their variants to two: displacement and condensation. Lacan recognized these as two essential figures of speech, called in linguistics [respectively] metonymy and metaphor. Hence slips, failures, jokes and symptoms, like the elements of dreams themselves, become signifiers, inscribed in the chain of an unconscious discourse, doubling silently, i.e. deafeningly, in the misrecognition of ‘repression’, the chain of the human subject’s verbal discourse. Hence the most important acquisitions of de Saussure and of the linguistics that descends from him began to play a justified part in the understanding of the process of the unconscious as well as that of the verbal discourse of the subject and of their inter-relationship, i.e. of their identical relation and non-relation in other words, of their reduplication and dislocation.

from Nosubject’s entry on Truth:

Indeed, Lacan states that truth is structured like a fiction.

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