- May 23, 2015
Professor Kazuyuki Hara of the University of Tokyo gave a series of three lectures. The title of the lectures on this occasion was "Elaboration of the concept of 'desire' in Lacan and the question of 'the Other' and their existence".
The first lecture provided an explanation of the concept of "desire for desire" to be found in the doctoral thesis of 1932 of J. Lacan (1901-1981) and the idea of "assumption of desire", referring to a text by A.Kojève (1902-1968) : Introduction to the Reading of Hegel (1947).
The second lecture showed that the problem of understanding the desire of the Other overlaps with the problem of understanding the meaning of what the Other says, as found in Lacan's argument of this period. In extension, we saw that Lacan made reference to general linguistics whose founder was F. Saussure (1857-1913). There was also an overview of the notion of the "signifying chain" and "the Graph" which are an elaboration of those results.
The third lecture chiefly explained the notion of the "Œdipus Complex" in Freud (1856-1939), and the work carried out by Lacan to re-present it.
The most thought-provoking part of these lectures for me was the relationship between desire and the Other. Why do humans feel desire ? According to Lacan, it is because they lack something. Humans are essentially unsatisfied beings. Said conversely, not to desire means "omnipotence (phallus)" that lacks nothing. Humans, however, are not omnipotent, and must live life as "the desiring subject". One subject, living and desiring things, may seem to constitute the actions of an individual. Yet according to Lacan, "man's desire is the desire of the Other". That is to say, without the existence of the Other, there would be no desiring of anything. When someone thinks and expresses themselves using language, it is if they are assuming the existence of the Other who thinks, and can understand expression, in that language. This is because, in reality, the desire had by someone is expressed in language and transmitted to the Other. In other words we could say that the desire of a certain individual originates in the relationship with the Other, and is shared by both. When and how, then, did humans master the art of desiring through the relationship with the Other? What I found deeply interesting in search for the answer to this was Lacan's argument surrounding the "pre-Œdipal phase" of infancy. New-born babies require the existence of a "mother" to look after them. When a baby cries, the "mother" responds by satisfying the baby's physical "need", such as hunger or wetness. One could say, "mother" desires this. The baby then desires that "mother" desires this, and expects "mother" to be beside it all the time. Once its "need" satisfied, however, it soon notices if "mother" goes away again. Here, the baby is starting to express "need" as an excuse to have "mother" stay nearby. Once the baby has learnt "demand" in this way, it becomes a subject that lacks things, and that must constantly call "mother" to display a "need" for something. Rather than feeling a simple physical "need", the subject has a "demand for love" along the same lines. However, the baby gradually begins to notice that what "mother" really desires is the "imaginary phallus" - exemplified by the "father". So that "mother" keeps desiring and does not leave its side, the baby's "demand" also starts to direct itself towards "father". We might say, in order to make "father" desire what "mother" desires, the baby attempts "demand" of the "father". The subject is never fully satisfied, and is compelled towards continual desiring. In this way, it learns to feel "desire", which acts as a release from that limitless "demand". The above argument adeptly describes how the ways a baby desires undergo changes in the relationship with the Other - the parents. We could say that it shows the reasons why, by experiencing this process of infancy, our desires and their methods of expression mature as well as transform in various ways.