Jacques Lacan


Jacques Lacan : biography

13 April 1901 – 9 September 1981

Lacan comes close here to one of the points where "very occasionally he sounds like Thomas Kuhn (whom he never mentions)",Oliver Feltham, "Enjoy your Stay", in Justin Clemens/Russell Grigg, Jacques Lacan and the Other side of psychoanalysis (2006) p. 180 with Lacan’s "discourse" resembling Kuhn’s "paradigm" seen as "the entire constellation of beliefs, values, techniques, and so on shared by the members of a given community"Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (London 1970) p. 175 – something reinforced perhaps by Kuhn’s approval of "Francis Bacon’s acute methodological dictum: ‘Truth emerges more readily from error than from confusion’".Kuhn, p. 18


Alan D. Sokal and Jean Bricmont in their book Fashionable Nonsense have criticised Lacan’s use of terms from mathematical fields such as topology, accusing him of "superficial erudition" and of abusing scientific concepts that he does not understand.Sokal, Alan D. and Jean Bricmont. 199. Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science. Macmillain, p. 24 Other critics have dismissed Lacan’s work wholesale. François Roustang called it an "incoherent system of pseudo-scientific gibberish," and quoted linguist Noam Chomsky’s opinion that Lacan was an "amusing and perfectly self-conscious charlatan".Roustang, François, Dylan Evans, formerly a Lacanian analyst, eventually dismissed Lacanianism as lacking a sound scientific basis and for harming rather than helping patients, and has criticized Lacan’s followers for treating his writings as "holy writ." Richard Webster has decried what he sees as Lacan’s obscurity, arrogance, and the resultant "Cult of Lacan". Richard Dawkins, in a review of Fashionable Nonsense, said regarding Lacan: "We do not need the mathematical expertise of Sokal and Bricmont to assure us that the author of this stuff is a fake. Perhaps he is genuine when he speaks of non-scientific subjects? But a philosopher who is caught equating the erectile organ to the square root of minus one has, for my money, blown his credentials when it comes to things that I don’t know anything about." In his book Le patient absent de Jacques Lacan (L’innommable menace/The unspeakable threat), (Paris, L’Harmattan, 2002), based on his own experience and with many references, Philippe Laborie who studied psychoanalysis in the Lacanian Department of Paris 8 University just before Jacques Lacan dissolved his school, shows that Lacan is a contemporary avatar of Vichy France.

Lacan’s colleague Daniel Lagache considered that "[Lacan] embodied the analyst’s bad conscience. But a good conscience in a psychoanalyst is no less dangerous".Eli Zaretsky, Secrets of the Soul (New York 2005) p. 409n Others have been more forceful, describing him as " [an] attractive psychopath", and detailing a long list of collateral damage to "patients, colleagues, mistresses, wives, children, publishers, editors and opponents [as his] lunatic legacy".Yannis Stavrakakis, Lacan and the Political (London: Routledge, 1999) p. 142n Certainly many of "the conflicts around Lacan’s school and his person" have been linked to the "form of charismatic authority which, in his personal and institutional presence, he so dramatically provoked".Jacqueline Rose, On Not Being Able To Sleep: Psychoanalysis and the Modern World (London 2003) p. 176 Lacan himself defended his approach on the grounds that "psychosis is an attempt at rigor I am psychotic for the simple reason that I have always tried to be rigorous".Quoted in Sherry Turkle, Psychoanalytic Politics: Freud’s French Revolution (London 1978) p. 243

Malcolm Bowie has suggested that Lacan "had the fatal weakness of all those who are fanatically against all forms of totalization (the complete picture) in the so-called human sciences: a love of system".Adam Phillips, On Flirtation (London 19940 pp. 161–2) Similarly, Jacqueline Rose has argued that "Lacan was implicated in the phallocentrism he described, just as his utterance constantly rejoins the mastery which he sought to undermine".Jacqueline Rose, "Introduction – II", in Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose, Feminine Sexuality (New York 1982) p. 56 Feminists would then raise the question: "is Lacan, in claiming the law of the father, merely himself in the grip of the Oedipus complex?"Robyn Ferrell, Passion in Theory: Conceptions of Freud and Lacan (London 1996) p. 91