1. Desire is at the heart of the discovery of the unconscious and psychoanalysis… Desire is the first word: is it the last word of the unconscious and psychoanalysis?
COLETTE SOLER: It’s simple. At the beginning of psychoanalysis it was the first and only word of the Freudian interpretation. At the end, with Lacan, it remains but it is not completely alone.
2. Psychoanalysis, philosophy and advertising are based on the principle that desire points to a lack, but is it possible to separate desire from jouissance and from satisfaction?
COLETTE SOLER: Jouissance and satisfaction are very different concepts. The former supposes the body; the second is a phenomenon of the subject that has this body. Generally, jouissance does not satisfy. It is even related to pain and is unharmonious and unsatisfying because it does not link with the Other; it even separates. Regarding desire, it is by definition unsatisfied, a lack of enjoyment [jouir], given that its cause is what Freud called the “primary lost object”, and Lacan “object a” as lacking. Nevertheless, although complex, it is possible to enjoy the lack of jouissance and that is one of the formulas for masochism given by Lacan.
3. Is the Oedipus, the principle of unconscious desire that was so controversial in the 70s, still current? Does it correspond to the new family configurations?
COLETTE SOLER: No. The Oedipus, as Freud presented it to us, is no longer current. It is only a “hystoriole” as Lacan said. Let’s say that it is the “family romance” of psychoanalysis. Very early on Lacan promoted not an anti-Oedipus but a beyond the Oedipus, that does not contest but rethinks the Oedipus, without sacrificing the crucial question of knowing what functions for those who speak as the principle of orientation of the libido and, as a consequence, its potential social links.
For it is necessary to understand that by definition, desire is founded from a structural lack, the effect of language and so desire is oriented to jouissance. It aims at a jouissance that moors it without, however, quenching it. We must finish with the binary opposition desire/jouissance. Certainly, it is possible to enjoy without desiring, and even to desire without enjoyment, unless it is a simple enjoyment of the lack, but all desire goes towards complementing a lack.
In the observation that asserts “there is no sexual relation” and that we so often repeat, we can indeed see the challenge to the universality of the paternal function in so far as it refers to the orientation of sexual desires.
This challenges the paternal metaphor that Lacan himself produced. I developed this theme a long time ago and took it up again in my book Lacan, l’inconscient réinventé. With this metaphor, Lacan explicitly made from the Father a signifier which in the Other, was the signifier of the Other, of the Law of the Other, but quickly concluded the reverse, that “there is no Other of the Other”, the Other is barred and does not respond to the question of jouissance. Whence the question of knowing what, for each one, presides over the pathways of their own desire. It could be the paternal model, but then it is just one solution among other possible solutions. Whence the formula that says that the Father function is a version of the symptom: père-version.
More generally, the fantasy is a montage through which desire articulates with the object a, without necessarily passing through the model of the paternal function, and the metonymy that applies to desire is as much a metonymy of surplus enjoyment as a metonymy of lack.
On this point, Lacan, with his beyond the Oedipus, anticipated the evolutions of the century in an impressive manner, giving psychoanalysts the first conceptual tools that allow the current state of society to be thought.
4. What can psychoanalysis say about the new family configurations arising from marriages, adoptions, and education of children by same-sex couples?
COLETTE SOLER: On this type of question the psychoanalyst can but “draw up a report”, Lacan said. That is, to argue for or against in terms of the options of each can’t be done on behalf of psychoanalysis.
What is certain, however, in the Lacanian orientation, with the beyond the Oedipus conceptualized by Lacan, is that the function of the Father is disconnected from the traditional family structure.
5. What can be said about child sexuality today? Is the child polymorphically perverse?
COLETTE SOLER: Today, infantile sexuality is as it was in Freud’s time. In describing it as he did it, Freud produced a subversive step whose scope goes well beyond the child. It is accepted that the latter’s jouissances known as sexual are nothing other than those of the partial drives, bound to their own body and its erogenous zones. It remained to conclude as Lacan has insisted that it is not the child who is polymorphically perverse, but jouissance itself, and not only of the child, being bound as it is to language’s capture of the body, and the correlative failure of the sexual relation. In this respect, as Lacan says, the adult and the child are on an equal footing. It is not that a child is an adult, but the difference lies elsewhere—if there are adults at least …
6. Lacan refers pathologies to some modalities of desire: unsatisfied desire of the hysteric, the impossible desire of the obsessive, the forewarned desire of the phobic, and the masochistic desire of the perverse. Are all men sick from desire? How to position psychosis in relation to desire?
COLETTE SOLER: Desire, whatever its form, is not a pathology, even when subjects complain of it. That can make us suppose that its forms more or less conform to the norms of social discourse; desire itself is more or less dissident in relation to what we call “normality, “Norm-male” [“Norme-mâle“], Lacan said, built by discourse and aimed to fabricate, let’s say, desires or standard enjoyment. The psychoanalyst cannot enter into the hunting for differences, that prevails always in the name of a false universality which produces only the homogeneity and the same.
The question of desire in psychosis is another thing. It is conducive to showing how an ill-fitting doctrine can lead to ignoring the clinical facts.
Starting from the premise that the father is necessary to generate desire with castration anxiety, we have seen other analysts conclude that psychosis excluded desire, and even anxiety. But if we look at the most eminent figures of psychosis, how can it be sustained that they lack desire? Rather, it is necessary to review the concept of desire, as I’m inviting you to do, as you perceive, I think. As for anxiety, if it were to come from the Father then the most intense, that of the melancholic, would become unthinkable.
7 If you invite us to review the concept of desire, desire would not only be an effect of castration, but a cause of the one who speaks, and even of the word?
COLETTE SOLER: Yes. It is language that generates the cause of desire, not the Father whose function is other, that of presenting a version of desire and of jouissance. This why Lacan says: “père-version”, the Father version.
8. Does the contemporary world suffer from desire or from the disorders of jouissance? “Everything is possible, everything is permitted”. In the XXI century, would this be the end of desire?
COLETTE SOLER: You seem to assume that the surplus enjoyment offered by capitalism satisfies. That is not the case; watch what happens in reality. Everything is allowed, and from desires we produce rights; everything is possible, we tried that. And in the land of plenty, the outcry from the dissatisfaction of desire mounts in proportion to the increase in jouissance.
9. Does the end of Lacan’s teaching still allow the assertion: desire is the desire of the Other? What are the consequences of Lacan’s teaching at the end and does the location of the real unconscious change anything about desire?
COLETTE SOLER: That desire is desire of the Other meant that desire, in its difference from need, is an effect of the operation of language which hollows out the real and makes a hole. In this sense the Other, as a place of language, is the condition of desire, and you can say, as Lacan has done, I desire as an Other, because language is incorporated. But if we speak about what guides the desire of each speaker, the only thing that interests the psychoanalyst, then desire is not the desire of the Other, as I said in answer to your second question.
The conception of desire and its place in the structure did not stop changing in the teaching of Lacan, and at every stage it reconfigures all analytical notions. To challenge the metaphor was to change something there, as I said. To propose the conception of the object was another step.
To refer to the real unconscious, to lalangue, and to the Borromean knotting by the sinthome, is yet another step, yes.
That needs to be elucidated. It’s what I started doing in my book Lacan, l’inconscient réinventé.
Questions by Dominique Fingermann
Translated by Ana Guelman