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Lacan's Work Of The Late 1950s And 1960s: Jouissance Versus Pleasure

After 1958, Lacan begins to distinguish between jouissance and pleasure. This can be found in Seminar VII (1960–1961), where Lacan discusses jouissance as an ethical stance in relation to Kant and Sade. In this phase of his work, jouissance comes to figure as that which Freud referred to as "beyond" the pleasure principle or, as Lacan puts it, "jouissance … is suffering" (1992, p. 184). In relation to Kant's example of the man who refuses a night of pleasure with a woman if the price to be paid is death, Lacan remarks that, although that may be true for the man in pursuit of pleasure, the man in pursuit of jouissance (as the figures of de Sade's are) will accept death as the price to be paid for jouissance: "one only has to make a conceptual shift and move the night spent with the lady from the category of pleasure to that of jouissance … for the example to be ruined" (1992, p. 189). In the acceptance of death as the price, the subject experiences jouissance, in which "pleasure and pain are presented as a single packet to take or leave" (1992, p. 189).

Despite these earlier references, it is not until 1960 that Lacan gives his first structural account of jouissance. In "Sub-version of the Subject," he posits pleasure as that which "sets the limits on jouissance" (1977, p. 319). The sacrificing of jouissance also becomes here, for the first time, a necessary condition for subjectivity—the subject, by submitting him-or herself to the symbolic order must sacrifice some jouissance, since "jouissance is forbidden to him who speaks" (1977, p. 319). In this Lacan rewrites Freud's theory of the castration complex: "Castration means that jouissance must be refused" (1977, p. 324). The sacrificed (or "alienated") jouissance becomes the object, that which is the cause of desire but never attainable.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Intuitionist logic to KabbalahJouissance - Lacan's Early Work: Jouissance As Pleasure, Lacan's Work Of The Late 1950s And 1960s: Jouissance Versus Pleasure