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Friedlander, S. (1995). Concluding Comments. Psychoanal. Rev., 82(5):703-707.

(1995). Psychoanalytic Review, 82(5):703-707

Concluding Comments

Stephen Friedlander, Ph.D.

One goal of this symposium has been to illustrate the application of psychoanalytic ideas to political debate on moral issues by a new generation of scholars. A second goal, correlative to the first, was to provide readers an opportunity to encounter Lacanian theory that is not well known to psychoanalytic practioners in North America. Many who tried to “get into” Lacan found the going difficult. His concepts, often considered hard to absorb at first (Moss, 1990), do not appear so esoteric or intractable when applied to problems that are familiar and explained as lucidly as these panelists have done. Because one already knows something of Kevorkian and the debate he has provoked, of date rape and its tension-filled ambiguities, and of the long-standing controversy over the role of religion in U.S. law, these presentations allow readers to absorb new ideas into their own system of meanings.

Nevertheless, even under the best circumstances, communication is always uncertain. A reader's ideas of what a writer “means” can at best only approximate the writer's ideas about what his writing means. Lacan held that understanding becomes a real issue for a pair (e.g., for a writer and a reader) only when a third party is symbolically involved in the “dialogue.” I will reply briefly to each paper so as to serve as a third party—not as “one who knows” what the writer “really” meant, but as one who indicates the inevitable difficulty of communication by illustrating the contingency of any single reader's interpretation of the material.

Bracher describes the function of “the desire of the other” in communication and reminds us that all discourse has two dimensions: as a social bond and a structure of subjectivity.

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