Outlines of Jacques Lacan’s Ethics of Subjectivity

In The Ethics of Subjectivity: Perspectives since the Dawn of Modernity. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 214-239 (2014)
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Jacques Lacan was constantly and consistently motivated by the aims of carrying out, improving, and critically understanding psychoanalytic practice and theory. In his work and teaching, he examined and (re)incorporated a number of key experiences, conceptions, and insights from moral life and moral theories into psychoanalysis. One particularly interesting aspect of Lacan’s work, particularly in terms of moral theory, is that while problematizing them, and reconceiving how we must understand them, his approach remains anchored by key themes, concepts, and experiences of older moral theories and perspectives, such as the truth of the human subject, the nature of the good, and the processes and pitfalls of moral development. Three main sets of issues are analysed and discussed in this chapter. First, we examine Lacan’s criticisms of modes and schools of psychoanalysis that converted it into a simplistically moralistic discipline such as ego-psychology. Second, we run over Lacan’s main discussions and partial appropriations of Aristotelian, Kantian, Utilitarian, Sadean, and Judeo-Christian moral perspectives. Third and finally, we go deeper into discussing the implications Lacan’s reinterpretation of selected Freudian concepts bear for ethics, particularly in terms of ethics of subjectivity. Put very briefly, we might say that Lacan is situating a process of becoming-subject within a never-complete field of ethical discourses.

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Gregory Sadler
Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design


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