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This is evident from the specification of the drive in terms of its corporeal location, an argument elaborated through the “oral,” “anal,” “scopic,” and other so-called “stages” of the drive, and also in terms of the “erotogenic zones,” which are understood not as biological parts of the organism, but as anatomical regions which serve as the locus for representation—regions that are not determined in advance by nature, but subject to symbolic displacement and substitution (SE 7: 183-4). Freud’s purpose is not to dismiss the bodily character of the symptom in favor of a “psychological” theory of neurosis grounded in subjective “fantasies,” but rather to isolate the specific character of the symptom in psychoanalytic theory, as distinct from its counterpart in organic medicine. Thus, if Freud goes on to say, five years later, that the hysteric “suffers mainly from reminiscences” (SE 2: 7), this does not mean that the hysteric is only imagining things, or that corporeality has been circumvented for the sake of an abstract discourse on “representation” and “the symbolic order.” On the contrary, it means that the body must be distinguished from the organism, and understood in terms of its susceptibility to the signifier—its peculiar porousness and vulnerability with respect to the order of meaning.
“The symptom,” in Lacan’s words, is “a metaphor in which flesh or function is taken as a signifying element.”3 Starting from the concept of the drive, we are thus led not only to insist on the theoretical specificity of psychoanalysis (in relation to biological and historical models), but also to recognize that this specificity has two distinct but closely related aspects, which we can designate with the terms “subject” and “body”: it is a matter of recognizing that, for psychoanalysis, the problem of “the subject” will be approached neither through the neurological, biochemical, materialist discourse of Helmholtz, Brücke, and Fechner (a tradition still very much alive in psychopharmacology), nor through arguments for the “social construction of subjectivity,” which are often presented as the only alternative to naturalism. But at the same time, we must acknowledge that the question of the “subject” in psychoanalysis will never be clarified unless the concept of the body is also addressed, as a concrete, material domain which cannot be reduced to the level of organic life.
Lacan’s formula for the drive makes this point explicit. The matheme ◇D designates a relation between the subject () and the demand of the Other (D), but as a formula specifically intended to define the drive, it indicates that we are dealing, not with “subjectivity” (or with an “intersubjective” relation between the subject and the Other), but with a corporeal phenomenon. The formula thus indicates that in the drive, some part of the body has been elected as the locus of symbolic demand, the privileged place where the 34 Penumbra force of representation has had material effects. This is why, as Slavoj Žižek points out, there is a close connection between the formula for the drive and the “erotogenic zone”: “certain parts of the body’s surface are erotically privileged not because of their anatomical position but because of the way the body is caught up in the symbolic network. This symbolic dimension is designated in the matheme as D, i.e., symbolic demand.”4 In short, the matheme for the drive (◇D), in designating a relation between the “subject” and the “demand of the Other,” is neither an intersubjective nor even a linguistic matter, but is intended to address the bodily organization of libido, beyond all instinctual regularity.
One might object that Lacan’s vocabulary is far removed from Freud’s and that an enormous theoretical shift takes place with the introduction of the words “subject,” “demand,” and the “Other.” This is no doubt true, and each of the terms carries a heavy philosophical load that requires detailed examination. But Freud’s own discourse provides at least some basis for Lacan’s terminology. For although Freud does not speak of “the demand of the Other,” we may note that in describing the ego ideal—that complex formation which is both a fertile point of identification for the subject, an opening toward the future and toward the possibilities of desire, and yet also the initial form of conscience, a foothold for guilt and for the punitive agency of the superego—Freud writes that it is the heir to the original narcissism in which the childish ego enjoyed selfsufficiency; it gradually gathers up from the influences of the environment the demands which that environment makes upon the ego and which the ego cannot always rise to; so that a man, when he cannot be satisfied with his ego itself, may nevertheless be able to find satisfaction in the the ego ideal which has been differentiated out of the ego (SE 18: 110, emphasis added).
The ego-ideal is this strange “product,” this effect of symbolic identification, this gathering up of demands which come from the Other and are incorporated (though not entirely integrated) within the psychic economy of the subject, where they serve as a source of both satisfaction and suffering, as the “heir” to the subject’s narcissism, but also as the means by which the subject will “find satisfaction” precisely when his own ego proves deficient—in a movement of identification whose masochistic character Lacan repeatedly emphasized, while also acknowledging that desire itself only unfolds in radical dependence on this ideal, the formation of which is the mark, for Lacan, of the subject’s submission to the law, understood as the law of symbolic identification (as distinct from biological identity). The ego ideal, and with it the very possibility of desire, would therefore seem to emerge only with this surplus effect, whereby the subject is submitted to the demand of the Other, so that enjoyment is constitutively marked by a masochistic or pathological The Elements of the Drive element. Such is the tangled economy of desire and jouissance—that “pleasure in suffering” that Freud developed under the heading of the “death drive.” The ego ideal is not yet the drive, of course, and we shall have to see why this is so; but in Freud’s reference to this “gathering up of demands” it is clear that the body is already at stake, and that even at the level of “symbolic identification” we cannot be content with a purely “symbolic” model, in which the unconscious would remain completely disembodied. In fact, given the peculiar economy of pleasure and suffering that organizes itself in the ego ideal (such that the ego will “find satisfaction” at the very moment when it “cannot be satisfied with... itself ”), we should be able to provide a more adequate account of the register of “affect” that is so often said to be missing from Lacan’s work—all the “moods” which characterize our bodily existence, such as guilt, anxiety, boredom (taking only the most favorite of Heidegger’s terms, and leaving aside the spirits of vengeance, resentment, slavishness, and all the other modes of physiological morality that Nietzsche would have us consider). “What is the affect of ex-sisting?” Lacan asks in 1975. “What is it, of the unconscious, which makes for ex-sistence? It is what I underline with the support of the symptom” (FS 166). Thus, forged in the fire of the Other’s demand, the ego ideal presents us, not with an abstract meditation on “the subject,” but with an effort to understand the unnatural modes of “satisfaction” which permeate bodily existence.
Our second point is therefore clear: if psychoanalysis begins with a critique of naturalistic accounts of the symptom, it does not follow that the body is simply abandoned in favor of “imaginary” or “symbolic” matters, as if it were only a question of “representation.” Rather, as Freud writes in 1888, “the material conditions” of the symptom “are profoundly altered” (1: 170).
Hysteria proves to be “ignorant and independent of any notion of the anatomy of the nervous system,” and we are led to conclude that hysterical (as opposed to organic) paralysis entails a different form of causality (a law that is not a law of nature) in which representation has somatic effects. Hysterical paralysis is thus located, not at the level of the organism, but at the level of the body, which has its own phenomenal specificity, its own logic and structure: in hysterical paralysis, some concrete part of the body is inaccessible, or paralyzed, or loses its function (or conversely becomes libidinally invested beyond what “nature” would dictate), according to Freud, but “without its material substratum... being damaged,” as it would be in organic paralysis (SE 1: 170). As a result, if we wish to retain the medical language of “lesions” so forcefully analyzed by Foucault in The Birth of the Clinic, we have only one conclusion: “the lesion in hysterical paralysis,” Freud says, “will therefore be an alteration of the conception, the idea, of the arm, for instance... The arm behaves as though it did not exist for the play of associations” (SE 1: 170).
“Hysterical paralysis,” he concludes, “is also a representation paralysis, but with a 36 Penumbra special kind of representation whose characteristics remain to be discovered” (SE 1: 163, emphasis added).5 It should come as no surprise that Heidegger drew a similar conclusion about the difference between the organism and the body. Speaking of language and the physical production of sounds, Heidegger insists on the transformation which marks the human body when it is inhabited by the possibility of speech: “Speaking implies the articulate vocal production of sound. Language manifests itself in speaking as the activation of the organs of speech—mouth, lips, teeth, tongue, larynx.”6 One might suppose that language is therefore a product of human nature, a tool that is used to express internal thoughts, and not an irremediably Other domain. One might think, Heidegger says, that “we ourselves... have the ability to speak and therefore already possess language” (OWL 111-12). And yet, such a view not only conceals the nature of language, but also our own nature, and Heidegger immediately adds that these “organs” of speech are profoundly misunderstood if they are regarded from a biological standpoint, as organic structures performing natural functions of life (expressing, designating, or reasoning, which would thus be natural to the human animal): “The sounding of the voice,” Heidegger writes, “is no longer only of the order of physical organs.
It is released now from the perspective of the physiological-physical explanation” (OWL 101); indeed “the mouth is not merely a kind of organ of the body understood as an organism” (OWL 98). These remarks, written in commemoration of Rilke’s death, were made the same year that Lacan delivered his “Proposal on Psychic Causality,” which begins with a critique of Henri Ey’s “organicist theory of madness,” and cites Paul Elouard in the process (E 151-93). We cannot enter here into a proper treatment of Heidegger and Lacan, but it should be stressed that already in Being and Time, as Derrida has pointed out, Heidegger recognized that the “matter” of the body could not be understood as a natural thing, on the model of “extended substance,” because the ecstatic structure of Dasein’s being already entailed a “body” beyond nature. The analytic of Dasein is not an abstract or purely “spiritual” theory of “subjective” existence, but opens a corporeal “space” beyond the space of Euclidean geometry (just as it entails a death beyond all natural
death). Thus, in Of Spirit, Derrida recalls these words from Being and Time:
“Neither can the spatiality of Dasein be interpreted as an imperfection which would be inherent to existence by virtue of the fatal ‘union of spirit with a body.’ On the contrary, because Dasein is ‘spiritual’ and only because of this, it can be spatial in a way which remains essentially impossible for any extended corporeal thing.”7 This brings us to our third point. For if the distinction between the instinct and the drive allows us to insist upon the theoretical specificity of psychoanalysis, in relation to both biological and historical analysis, and if it allows us to distinguish between the organism and the body, stressing not The Elements of the Drive only the question of the symptom, but also the corporeal effects of identification (the peculiar mixture of pleasure and suffering that we find in the ego ideal), we have said little about the notorious “object relation,” and nothing about the Lacanian category of the “real,” which is crucial to the concept of the drive. It is not yet clear, moreover, why the drive should be understood as “sexual,” and whether this means anything more than the platitude that because human sexuality is not strictly bound by the biological mandates of survival and procreation, it can therefore be said to “go everywhere.” This is where the classic example of orality in Freud is still illuminating.