Monday, February 20, 2006

A Smidgen of Lacan on Television

The following notes are from "Intro to Names-of-the-Father Lectue" by Jacque Lacan. The lecture can be found in Television pp. 81-95.

The names-of-the-Father are built upon Lacan's previous lecture on anxiety. He describes anxiety as an affect of the subject (subject that speaks and is determined through an effect of the signifier). A subject is affected by the desire of the Other. It is what is not decisive, it is not without an object, and its object (petit a) is the cause of desire.

On page 84 Lacan mentions Kierkegaard and his styling of Hegel's system as "The System." I was hoping for a bit more from Lacan regarding Kierkegaard, but the brief mention is all there was said. Lacan mentions that desire is everywhere separate from fulfillment (86). I assume that desire is terminates into satisfaction in the act of fulfillment, and no longer exists as desire any longer.

The Other is not the subject who speaks from the place of the Other or through the voice of the Other. The Other poses the problem of the subject prior to the question (88). It is hard to know whether the Other as Lacan conceives of it is something metaphysical or existential or something else entirely. It is clearly not the subject in any way, though the subject is not unrelated to the Other (and perhaps Lacan would say that the subject is dependent upon the Other for its existence).

The father is an animal (considered from his mythical reality) from before the advent of the incest taboo, before law, before marriage and kinship, and before culture (88). Lacan appears simply to be taking evolution seriously in this consideration. Perhaps it would not be wrong to say that, for Lacan, before man-the-animal became human-the-father, before laws were, primordial humanity was.

There are three themes that Lacan points out as essential: Erotic Bliss, Desire, and the Object. Law and Desire are in a singular balance, born together and joined by necessity in the law of incest -- the erotic bliss of the father is primordial to law and desire. Mysticism plunges toward the bliss of God -- that trace remains in Christian mysticism whose insistence of God's desire functions as a pivot (89). God is something one encounters in the real, inaccessible, indicated by what doesn't deceive--anxiety. Interestingly, in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Bible, the translation of the Name (the tetragrammaton, which traditionally Jews refuse to speak aloud) is "I am the one who is." Lacan indicates that Greek tradition of philosophy would read God as the "I" and Being as the "is" thereby equating God with Being (as the arche) (90).

Lacan's comments on the Akedah are brief, but interesting. He notes that the angel who retrains Abraham from sacrificing Isaac is their in the name of El Shadday [sic]. The human sacrifice is interrupted in later times of Israelite history by an Angel or a prophet of the Name who comes and speaks in the Name (91-92).

Lacan takes a very anthropomorphic view of El Shadday, saying that he is not almighty, but that He is the one who chooses, who promises -- through covenant transmissible through barachah (blessing) of the father alone -- and who is the One who makes one wait (92). Lacan mentions the interpretations of the 11th century Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac (Rashi) of Troyes, who called Isaac the son with two fathers (93). Rashi also followed a particular Rabbinic traditions that saw the ram as an elohim, the primeval ram who was there at the creation (94). The sacrifice of the ram is that of biological origin -- pagans exalt the realization of erotic bliss, but Hebrews gave special value to the gap that separates desire and fulfillment, as represented by the law of circumcision.

The above comprises the major statements of Lacan concerning the Akedah, Kierkegaard, and Rabbinic interpretation.

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