Is the Name-of-the-Father today’s Shibboleth?

Is the Name-of-the-Father today’s Shibboleth?* 

 

The title for our study day, thankfully, leaves no room for compromise when speaking about Freud’s discovery and the practice of psychoanalysis - “There is no subject if there is no signifier to ground him.”[1] With the affirmation of Lacan’s ceaseless advocacy of this, we return to the field of our origins, placing speech as the vital function for the subject; but what does this mean? The title “Is the Name-of-the-Father a necessity for the subject or does the object offer an alternative” clearly makes manifest the choice available as an option for the infant, for the child, for the subject of language. Is there, however, a pressing, latent and urgently coded message? As Lacan says in Family Complexes in the Formation of the Individual “Psychoanalysis explains these very diverse qualities of lived experience by variations in the quantity of vital energy that desire invests in the object.”[2] If the child remains subjectivated to the whim of the mother he will experience and sense himself as an “a-subject”[3].       

 

In his paper on Female Sexuality Freud asserts that the first love-object for all children is the mother. Later in her development, he continues, the girl’s father—a man—should have become her new love-object corresponding with a change in her own sex.[4] In finding her way therefore, from mother-object, to paternal-object and her final choice of object “a girl has to change her erotogenic zone and her object”.[5] Remaining strongly in the unconscious of the future desiring mother, the young girl’s psychical economy will retain two wishes – to possess a penis and a child.[6] With the girl’s libido slipping into the new position Freud writes “...there is no other way of putting it—of the equation ‘penis-child’[7]; and as he says elsewhere “...an unconscious concept...namely, of a ‘little one’”.[8]

 

With numerous aims and objects at work within the vicissitudes of the drives of the psyche, the little one, in this case the mother and child, there is a necessity for the intervention of a regulating third; especially when we read in the Three Essays:       

         

A child’s intercourse with anyone responsible for his care affords him an unending source of sexual excitation and satisfaction from his erotogenic zones. This is especially so since the person in charge of him, who, after all, is as a rule his mother, herself regards him with feelings that are derived from her own sexual life: she strokes him, kisses him, rocks him and quite clearly treats him as a substitute for a complete sexual object.[9]  

 

It is the world of words that creates the world of things…Man speaks, then, but it is because the symbol has made him man.[10] Illustrating how the child accedes to the symbolic order, through his realization that he is not the one and only object of his mother’s desire; that he is not the object that fills her lack; he is not the phallus for her, Lacan writes in Book XVII:

 

The role of the mother is the mother’s desire. This is of cardinal importance. The mother’s desire is not something that can be tolerated just like that, that you are indifferent to. It always causes damage. A huge crocodile between whose jaws you are - that is the mother! ... There is a cylinder (rouleau), a stone one of course, which is here, potentially, at the level of her trap, and it acts as a restraint, a wedge. It is called the phallus.[11]    

 

By virtue of this necessary fundamental metaphor a structuring process takes place. Through this, the child frees himself from his first subjective captivating experience by finding a substitute. In Seminar IV, La Relation d’objet et Structures Freudienne Lacan maintains that a genesis emerges when he says: “...in the opposition plus and minus, presence and absence, there is already virtually the origin, the birth, the possibility, the fundamental condition, of a symbolic order.”[12]

 

With today’s title, and for clarity, we are obliged to ask - what is a subject? The Paternal Metaphor articulates “that once there is a speaking subject, it can never be a matter simply of reducing for him the question of his relationship in so far as he speaks to an other. There is always a third, [le grand Autre] that we talk about and which is constitutive of the position of the subject in so far as he speaks.”[13] The child’s craving for his mother’s desire, that is, his desire for her desire involves a beyond which must be mediated. With the mother’s desire for something other than to “satisfy me”[14] some attraction away from and different from her child, then possibilities open up.  As Joël Dor describes:

 

He can now mobilize his desire as desire of a subject towards objects that substitute for the lost one. But, above all, it is the advent of language (accession to the symbolic register) that is the incontestable sign of symbolic mastery of the lost object through the achievement of the paternal metaphor, an achievement based on primal repression...the very act of primordial symbolization of the Law.[15]

 

            In The Paternal Metaphor Lacan reminds us that “If the Oedipus complex exists, if this Oedipus complex is considered as representing a phase, if maturity occurs at a certain essential moment in the evolution of the subject, this Oedipus complex is always there[16]... in the measure that it takes on importance through the Oedipus complex.[17] The primordial symbolization of the paternal metaphor “is the substitution of the father qua symbol, qua signifier in place of the mother...which constitutes the pivotal point...the essence of the progress constituted by the Oedipus complex.”[18]   

 

In The Finding of an Object, Freud writes in 1920 under the sub-heading of The Barrier Against Incest:

With the progress of psycho-analytic studies the importance of the Oedipus complex has become more and more clearly evident; its recognition has become the shibboleth that distinguishes the adherents of psycho-analysis from its opponents.[19]      

The father, as bearer of the law prohibits the object. As Lacan says, “The function of the father, the name of the father is linked to the prohibition of incest.”[20]    

 

            As I write this paper for our work in Grenoble, it is interesting to read a letter in today’s national newspaper The Irish Times. The content of the letter, raising the question of the role of the father, is a reminder that the present-day concern expressed is as necessary now, as it was for Freud. From his case history of Little Hans we can situate the conflict at work with the objects of Hans’ desire, while acknowledging too, his desired symbolization and necessity of the Name-of-the-Father. Lacan writes that Little Hans is frustrated of nothing...he is truly deprived of nothing[21] even if his mother has forbidden him to masturbate. The mother here, for Hans, is the object of love, the object desired for its presence.[22] The mother exists as a symbolic object and as the object of love. It is only in the crisis of frustration that she begins to be realized.[23] To be loved is fundamental for the child: 

 

             ...that is the ground on which everything that develops between the mother and him....Something is articulated little by little in the experience of the child, which indicates that he is not alone. It is around this that the whole dialectic of the mother-child relationship will develop...It is the fact that, to a degree which differs among subjects, the mother still retains a penis-neid. The child fulfils or does not fill it...The revelation of the phallic mother for the child, that of penis-neid for the mother, are strictly coextensive with the problem that we are tackling.[24]                

 

In his relation with his mother, the child experiences the phallus as being at the centre of her desire; a trap which can lure every child into, and maintaining the desire of the mother.[25] Little Hans’ pathology, through his phobia, reveals to us his coded call of appeal to his symbolic lineage.   

 

Melman’s seminar on Phobia and the Pre-Oedipal Mother is very helpful for us when considering our question for today here in Grenoble, and in general. He asserts that “the symbolic order is becoming more and more uncertain…Access to the symbolic has become really problematic”.[26] We learn that the phobia is “emblematic not only of a totemic filiation, but, emblematic of certain properties assigned to the animal”[27]. He assures us that if the phobic animal is present it is a testimony of structural absence as was the case for Little Hans. “…it’s symbolic of that which is sometimes represented as that which bites because it is representative of that which castrates. Of course this paternal instance honourably comes to represent it.”[28]       

 

In Broome, Western Australia, I listened to aboriginal post-graduate students speaking about the role totemism functions in the lives of their clan and its relation to what they call the Law. Hearing each participant speak of their totem animal, whether it is the kangaroo or the barramundi, brings to life Freud’s words in Totem and Taboo. Its essays, he insists, can only be understood and appreciated by those who recognize the essential nature of psychoanalysis.[29]   

 

Where the totemic system is still in force to-day, they describe the totem as their common ancestor and primal father[30]…the two principle ordinances of totemism—not to kill the totem and not to have sexual relations with a woman of the same totem—coincide in their content with the two crimes of Oedipus…as well as with the two primal wishes of children.[31]   

 

It is noteworthy that Freud, in his chapter on The Horror of Incest emphasises for our purpose, the great care those Australians devoted to the prevention of incest, insisting they “are even more sensitive on the subject of incest than we are”.[32]     

 

Conclusion

 

To conclude therefore, given that today’s study day is about the Name-of-the-Father, can we return to the question Freud raises in 1920 about the adherents and opponents of psychoanalysis. The psychoanalyst upholds that it is in the world of ideas the child first accomplishes the object, and that previously abandoned phantasies re-emerge as a starting point in puberty as the origin of many symptoms[33]. Stating clearly the decisive influence infantile sexuality has on the sexuality of adults, can we, as Freud does, ask: Has recognition of the Name-of-the-Father as a necessity for the subject, become the shibboleth distinguishing the adherents of psychoanalysis from its opponents today?

 

 

Malachi McCoy.

 

malachi.mccoy@gmail.com         

 




* This paper was delivered at a study day in Grenoble with Association Lacanienne Internationale Rhône-Alpes on Saturday 16th November 2019. The title for the study day was        Is the Name-of-the-Father a necessity for the subject or does the object offer an alternative?

Responsables: Dr. Jean-Paul Hiltenbrand, Dr. Gérard Amiel et Dr. Helen Sheehan.  

 

[1] Lacan. The Paternal Metaphor II. Seminar 10. The Formations of the Unconscious. p. 10.

[2] Lacan. Family Complexes in the Formation of the Individual. Translated by Cormac Gallagher. p. 33.

[3] Lacan. The Paternal Metaphor II. Seminar 10. The Formations of the Unconscious. p. 10.

[4] Freud. Female Sexuality. (1931b). S.E. XXI p. 228.

[5] Freud. Femininity. Lecture XXXIII, New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis. (1933a [1932]). S.E.

   XXII. p 121.

[6] Freud. Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex, The. (1924d). S.E. XIX. p. 179.

[7] Freud. Some Psychical Consequences of the Anatomical  Distinction Between the Sexes. (1925j). S.E. XIX p.

   256.  

[8] Freud. From the History of an Infantile Neurosis. (1918b [1914]). S.E. XVII. p. 84.

[9] Freud. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. S.E. VII. p. 223.   

[10] Lacan. The Function and Field of Speech and language in psychoanalysis. Écrits – A Selection. Translated

    From the French By AlanSheridan. Tavistock/Routledge.  p. 65.

[11] Lacan. Psychoanalysis Upside-Down. The Reverse Side of Psychoanalysis. 1969-1970. Book XVII.

    Translated   by Cormac Gallagher. Seminar 8. p. 14.

[12] Lacan. Seminar IV. The Relation to the Object and Freudian Structures. pp. 68-69. 

[13] Lacan. The Paternal Metaphor II. The Formations of the Unconscious. 1957-1958. Book V. Translated by

    Cormac Gallagher. Seminar 10. p. 1.  

[14] Lacan. The Paternal Metaphor II. The Formations of the Unconscious. 1957-1958. Book V. Translated by

    Cormac Gallagher. Seminar 10. p. 4.

[15] Dor, Joël. Introduction to the Reading of Lacan: The Unconscious Structured Like a Language. p. 113.  

[16] Lacan. The Formations of the Unconscious. 1957-1958. Translated by Cormac Gallagher. Seminar 9. p. 2.  

[17] Lacan. The Formations of the Unconscious. 1957-1958. Translated by Cormac Gallagher. Seminar 9. P. 3.

[18] Lacan. The Formations of the Unconscious. 1957-1958. Translated by Cormac Gallagher. Seminar 9. p. 2.  

[19] Freud. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Essay Three – The Transformations of Puberty. p 226. 

[20] Lacan. Lacan. The Paternal Metaphor II. The Formations of the Unconscious. p. 9.

[21] Lacan. La Relation d’objet et les Structures Freudiennes. Seminar IV 1956-57. p. 255.

[22] Ibid. 256.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid, 257.

[25] Ibid 258.

[26] Melman, Phobia and the Pre-Oedipal Mother. Ephep Seminar. 2014. Translated by Helen Sheehan. p. 5. 

[27] Melman. Phobia and the Pre-Oedipal Mother. Ephep Seminar. 2014. Translated by Helen Sheehan. p. 21. 

[28] Melman. Phobia and the Pre-Oedipal Mother. Ephep Seminar. 2014. Translated by Helen Sheehan. p. 21-22.  

[29] Freud. Totem and Taboo. (1912-13). S.E. XIII. p. xiii.

[30] Freud. Totem and Taboo. (1912-13). S.E. XIII. p. 131.

[31] Freud. Totem and taboo. (1912-13). S.E. XIII. p 132.

[32] Freud. Totem and Taboo. (1912-13). S.E. XIII. p. 9.

[33] Freud. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. (1905d). S.E. VII. p. 226 n. 1.