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Williams, P. (1998). ‘The Theory of Seduction and the Problem of the Other’ by Jean Laplanche. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 79:205-210.

(1998). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 79:205-210

‘The Theory of Seduction and the Problem of the Other’ by Jean Laplanche

Paul Williams

Laplanche's paper was made available for free downloading via the IJPA Internet Site ( on 15 July 1997. The ensuing discussion was not as extensive as has followed earlier papers, and the question of what evokes responses in subscribers is an important one that the discussion group may wish to consider.

In a lucid paper, Laplanche surveyed his general theory of seduction, addressing the origins of the psychic apparatus and drives in terms of the asymmetry of the sexual relation between adult and infant. The sexual message to the infant originates, crucially, in the adult other: the implications of this primacy of the other for sublimation and for psychoanalytic treatment are reviewed.

Laplanche began his argument by reminding the reader that Western philosophy has always stumbled over the problem of the other, whose essential ‘otherness’ has been recognised not as foundational or originary but persistently as a facet of subjective representation. It fell to psychoanalysis, through the invocation of a ‘Copernican revolution’, to ascertain the nature of the other, which is evident in the extreme otherness of the unconscious. The quality and dimension of otherness inherent in human existence does not recede with the passing of childhood but becomes a lifelong companion visible in an array of guises such as dreams, persecution, sublimation, transference etc. Yet there remains a further, pressing conceptual task, Laplanche stated; namely, the explication of the founding of internal otherness upon external otherness (this, he maintains, was the hidden implication of the seduction theory).

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