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Leavy, S.A. (1996). The Seminar Of Jacques Lacan: Book VII. The Ethics Of Psychoanalysis, 1959-1960. Edited by Jacques-Alain Miller. Translated by Dennis Porter. New York: Norton, 1992, viii + 342 pp., $35.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:1276-1281.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:1276-1281

The Seminar Of Jacques Lacan: Book VII. The Ethics Of Psychoanalysis, 1959-1960. Edited by Jacques-Alain Miller. Translated by Dennis Porter. New York: Norton, 1992, viii + 342 pp., $35.00.

Review by:
Stanley A. Leavy

For a key to Lacan's teaching on ethics, it is wise to keep in mind two of his fundamental assumptions: first, that human experience takes place in language: second, that words are arbitrary signifiers taking positions of meaning and value. Objects of interest, including human subjects, likewise function as signifiers, as elements of intentional structures. Signifiers may be said to float, and to be interchangeable in accord with rules that are formed linguistically. For better or worse, Lacan's style of writing is itself faithful to this doctrine: it follows no linear argument, but floats over his meaning, so to speak, as in his version of Saussure's linguistic theory the signifier floats over the signified. Just when you think he is about to nail something down, he is likely to take off again, often in casual or colorful language intended as much for its shock value as for conveying information, in pursuit of yet another unscheduled approximation. Some chapters—Chapter 17, for example—are clotted with errant allusions almost to the point of opaqueness. It is pointless, however, to lament the enigmatic style. The question is: is it possible to find enlightenment in the work?

From the beginning of this series of chapters on psychoanalysis and ethics, Jacques Lacan recognizes the fundamental status of Freudian psychoanalysis as a conflict psychology. It is mental conflict, pervasive in human destiny, and unique to human life, that institutes the quest for the good, the right, the just.

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