The highlight, aside from the famous section on "the wager," was Pascal's sense of the human situation as fundamentally divided, torn between spirit aThe highlight, aside from the famous section on "the wager," was Pascal's sense of the human situation as fundamentally divided, torn between spirit and body, good and evil, divine and and mortal, finite and infinite. One of the main reasons why Christianity, to him, is true is that it understands this duality inherent in the human. This leads him to a conception of faith as being not beyond beyond reason, exactly, because there are "signs," and there is truth in Christianity (see: above); but it is inappropriate to think that faith is amenable to proof in the sense that the natural sciences are -- so in a sense, Pascal says, faith is actually beyond reason. Pascal's theology of the human leads him to take a lot of these interesting in-between positions.
Most of the writing is quite enjoyable. Hume mixed with Kierkegaard, aphorism-style. Some of the bits towards the end on scripture and miracles and other such things are tedious and will be flatly unconvincing to the modern reader. Which is not to say that his reading of Christianity is itself outdated. That, scattered throughout and not only -- or primarily -- contained in these later chapters, is strikingly modern. He speaks to us still, as a contemporary (as so many do). ...more
A terribly close reading of Freud that focuses on the tensions in his thought. Freud's discourse is presented as caught between a view of the human asA terribly close reading of Freud that focuses on the tensions in his thought. Freud's discourse is presented as caught between a view of the human as merely another biological being and the human as a being that in some sense transcends the biological. Laplanche shows how many of Freud's terms go both ways. Freud relied on many contradictory metaphors throughout his career. Ultimately, Laplanche sees Freud's fundamental insight concerns how humanity breaks free from the vital order, although never completely and not without loss. In a nice closing metaphor, the struggle between Freud's biologism and his -- let's say, with some reservations, "structuralism" -- is itself compared with that fundamental conflict, the struggle of the human to separate itself from the biological....more
For the Lacan students who desire the B-sides; most people will be fine without all of Lacan's papers. The only essential texts missing from the editiFor the Lacan students who desire the B-sides; most people will be fine without all of Lacan's papers. The only essential texts missing from the edition of the Écrits with only selections are, by my estimation, the essay on Poe and the essay on Kant and Sade.
Lacan is probably the only thinker I hold in high esteem whose writing style I very nearly despise. His style, he hoped, would train analysts in interpretation. As a reading experience, it means that Lacan meanders constantly; he often gets lost commenting on what seem to be highly abstruse matters unrelated to whatever he claims his central theme is; and his main theses are rarely argued for in any straightforward way. For me, reading him involves finding those key passages, even sentences, which stand out from the rest of the mess and seem to give of some order. This requires patience, as such passages or lines appear only every five of ten pages. The book is slow going until one gets to those passages, however. Much like analysis, I suppose, it is slow going until the truth speaks, which then has to be read back into what seemed to be nothing but was in reality the coming-to-be of the truth, or at least of its saying.
The essays that are in the shorter edition of the Écrits truly are the best ones here, so I would recommend starting there and getting a hold of the two essays mentioned above missing from that collection.
As far as content goes, I will say three things that surprised me:
1) Readers of Žižek should be unsurprised by the presence of Hegelian themes in Lacan's writings; what surprised me was how frequent and essential Lacan's own references to Hegel are. There is much that is new in Žižek's Hegel-Lacan synthesis, but perhaps much of it is already there -- something Žižek would no doubt admit. Dialectical thinking, the master-slave dialectic, the beautiful soul, the law of the heart, and other concepts taken (and recognized as such) right from Hegel show up throughout.
2) Lacan sees the symbolic as being at work, partially, in animals as well as humans. Indeed, Lacan is more nuanced on the difference between human and animal than I expected, considering that he is a thinker of the human condition as such. But it would appear that there is room in Lacan for languages, or at least proto-languages, among animals, even if language has a special existence in and for man.
3) The Lacan of the Écrits strikes me as a structuralist. ...more