Lacan held Foucault’s works in high esteem. He repeatedly refers to and comments on them in his seminars, urging his audience to read them. Conversely, throughout his oeuvre, Foucault paid considerable attention to psychoanalysis. While these exchanges are far from devoid of mutual criticism, they also witness to a profound awareness that psychoanalysis is not merely an ‘anti-philosophy’ but an innovative praxis, and that philosophy can only be renewed in dialogue with it.
In this one-day intensive course we will compare and contrast Lacan’s and Foucault’s respective stances on subjectivity. We will focus on their apparently convergent but also, on close inspection, fundamentally different critiques of the classical notion of the subject.
First, we will address Foucault’s notion of the subject as unveiled in his discussion of authorship, and the far from insignificant fact that, in this context, he regards Freud as a “founder of discursivity”. Second, we will dwell on Lacan’s comments on the Foucauldian notion of the author and how the latter overlaps with the subject of the unconscious. Third, we will oppose Lacan’s and Foucault’s conclusions on the ontological status of the subject. While for Foucault’s vitalist presuppositions determining “who is speaking” in the end no longer makes any difference, for Lacan what materialistically matters in the human form of life, or speaking being, as highlighted by psychoanalysis is absolute difference. We will conclude by examining how this absolute difference amounts to the inextricability of subject and structure.
This one-day course will be followed later in the year by a one-day course on Lacan’s, Foucault’s, and Deleuze’s treatment of and involvement with structuralism (13th May) and a one-day course on their discussion of aesthetics with specific regard to the gaze and the baroque (30th September).
Some prior knowledge of Lacan and Foucault is advisable but not necessary.
M. Foucault, ‘What is an Author?’, in Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology (New York: The New Press, 1998)
J. Lacan, Seminar XVI, ‘From an Other to the other’ [any edition], lesson XII [especially first few pages on Foucault]
L. Chiesa, Subjectivity and Otherness: A Philosophical Reading of Lacan (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007), chapter II, 2
M. Foucault, “Lacan, le liberateur de la psychanalyse” [available at 1libertaire.free.fr/MFoucault291.html
Course tutor: Lorenzo Chiesa
10.00am — first session
12.00pm — lunch break
12.45pm — second session
2.45pm — tea break
3.00pm — third session
5.00pm — finish
Lorenzo Chiesa is a philosopher who has published extensively on psychoanalysis. His works in this field include Subjectivity and Otherness: A Philosophical Reading of Lacan (MIT Press, 2007); Lacan and Philosophy: The New Generation (Re.press, 2014); The Not-Two: Logic and God in Lacan (MIT Press, 2016); and The Virtual Point of Freedom (Northwestern University Press, 2016). Since 2014, he has been Visiting Professor at the European University at Saint Petersburg and at the Freud’s Dream Museum of the same city. Previously, he was Professor of Modern European Thought at the University of Kent, where he founded and directed the Centre for Critical Thought.