Anal-ytic Exposition Dump Part 5: Cult of Done – accept that everything is a draft

Okay, first things first.  Here is a the University of Chicago’s statement on academic integrity from the–imposing sounding–Office of Vice.

It is contrary to justice, to academic integrity, and to the spirit of intellectual inquiry to submit the statements or ideas of work of others as one’s own. To do so is plagiarism or cheating, offenses punishable under the University’s disciplinary system. Because these offenses undercut the distinctive moral and intellectual character of the University, we take them very seriously.  Proper acknowledgment of another’s ideas, whether by direct quotation or paraphrase, is expected. In particular, if any written or electronic source is consulted and material is used from that source, directly or indirectly, the source should be identified by author, title, and page number, or by website and date accessed . Any doubts about what constitutes “use” should be addressed to the instructor.

Now, onto the good stuff…  It has been better than six hours since I began this paper at the break of dawn and I finally have a finished first draft.  The overall treatment–for better or worse–has certainly taken on the  tone of a comparative essay between Freud and Lacan.  This is far from accidental as the more I read the more I have gotten the sense that Lacan’s ideal audience is composed of Freud and himself–as a Freudian at a younger age.  The idea that Lacan is talking to himself might also explain the utter lack of evidence and warrant for his claim–as Lacan does need to convince Lacan of anything.

If you’ve waded through my Academic Autopsy series you might note the addition of grader friendly alphanumeric signposts and a healthy repetition of key words and concepts.  I am less happy to have to resort to footnotes, but I feel that a few of my points will probably be met with a certain amount of skepticism, so I have included several quotes from the original sources to undergird my assertions in the text.  Having an extra page on this assignment and not having to whip up a defensible reconstruction of Lacan’s nonexistent justification meant that I had sufficient space to put the paper into a traditional intro/body/intro repeating conclusion form.  I enjoy symmetry in my papers and I agree with those that argue that an obvious outline/skeleton is actually an aid to the reader’s understanding.  Welcome to draft number one:

In the assigned text from The Mirror Stage as Formative of the I Function (…), the author argues that subjectivity is constituted by or in response to the presentation of an imago, the metaphorical mirror-image that serves to call forth an act of self-conceptualization to which psychoanalysis gives the name “ego.” Lacan disagrees with Freud’s conception of the ego wherein the construct is initially unified (as an ego), then characterized as divided (into ego and ideal ego), and ultimately achieving a degree of unity once more.1 Lacan intends to correct Freud’s mischaracterization in regard to the point in time at which the ego ideal is formed and the mechanism that calls forth the ego’s division. Fraud argued that for the ego to become disunited it was necessary for one to be both intellectually aware of cultural and ethical rules and also to have internalized them.2 Lacan argues that the ego is always, already in conflict with itself from the moment it is constituted or situated by an imago. Thus, the significance of the mirror stage for Lacan is the larger claim that the nature of the constitution of the ego results in 1) perpetual striving toward the ideal, 2) perpetual lateness and failure in its pursuit, and 3) perpetual dependence on the Other. In other words, a fundamentally unsatisfying, yet productive relationship between the interior (subjective) and exterior (objective) world.

For Freud a) the ego is unified from its constitution, b) the mechanism that divides the ego is cultural, and c) before this division the ego enjoys all the subjects self-love. Subjectivity arises as a unity and division occurs when the the subject encounters the conscience which compares the original ego with the later formed ideal ego.3 The ideal ego, or ideal-I, is understood as the internalization of external cultural morals against which the actual, or original, ego is measured. In childhood, the ego is the ideal-I such that self-love knows no limitation. However, after the advent of the ideal-I as a culturally determined division of the ego, narcissism is directed only toward the ideal until it attaches itself to other objects.4

For Lacan a) the ego is divided from its constitution onward without the ability to unify, b) the mechanism calls forth the divided ego is a fictional externality—an imago (metaphorical mirror image), and c) the ego never enjoys the full measure of its own self-love as it is constituted aware of both a fictional ideal and an actual insufficiency. a)The appearance of the imago—a gestalt or ideal form—calls forth a psychic response on the part of the subject—which is not yet a subject to itself. This response is a partially true and partially deluded identification with the imago that results in a divided ego. One part of the ego identifies with feelings of immobility, helplessness, and uncoordination that it continues to feel while another part assumes—takes on as an identity—the perceived gestalt image of mobility, strength, and wholeness presented to it in the metaphorical mirror. The ego then is constituted by the gestalt is a perpetual struggle to become the fictional ideal, to close the gap between its reality and its ideal which can never be overcome. For Lacan, unlike Freud, the ego may never develop into a unity as it never was a unity, as its constitution was as an actual and an ideal that are incommensurable.

b) Lacan, further argues that it is not social—or linguistic—determination that brings about the appearance of the ideal ego. The constitution of the ideal I occurs prior to knowledge of or internatlization of social or moral expectations. Put another way, the ego’s constituting force is not an actual exteriority of parental wishes or cultural mores, but a fictitous exteriority whose appearance—whether by way of mirror, caregiver, or experience of the world—causes the not yet self-aware subject to become the object of its own experience and therefore, also a subject.

c) The ideal ego is that part of the ego that mistakenly identifies with and assumes the identity of the gestalt ideal form. The other part of the ego is that part which feels a fundamental disunity and discordance with the appropriated ideal—a lack, insufficiency, or impotence with regard to the ideal—and only later to social, moral, or linguistic conventions. Thus, even in childhood the nature of the constituted ego does not allow the full measure of self-love to be lavished on the ego–as the ego never existed without its ideal and therefore self-knowledge of the its actual insufficiency when compared to the fictional ideal. For Lacan, unlike Freud, narcissism was always limited—even in childhood–due to the constitution of the ego.

As self-love is also self-approval, to argue for or to prove the legitimacy of the mirror stage is also to establish a fundamental and irreversible relationship between subjects and objects, between self-aware organisms and reality. In other words, the significance of the mirror stage for Lacan is the larger claim that the nature of the constitution of the ego results three conditions. 1) Subjects perpetually strive toward their ideal, the dihesence—or gap between their actual and ideal—is the engine of their progress—despite the fact that their goal is a mirage.

2) Self aware organisms experience a perpetual lateness and failure in its pursuit as they are always late for their arrival as they sort of things they purport to be—that is whole, sufficient, and capable. 3) Subjects have a perpetual dependence on the Other. What I mean by this is that the ego—complete with its fictitious ideal component—defines and constricts the development of the subject, but also serves as a defense against its own feelings of insufficiency and anticipation with regard to exterior reality. The misidentification of the imago as “self” is followed by further examples of the constitution of the ego by social determination and linguistic convention. Thus, Lacan’s conception of a fundamentally unsatisfying, yet productive relationship between the interior (subjective) and exterior (objective) world.


1Freud speaks of the difficulty of differentiating between the psychical energies of ego-instincts and the ego-libido, but acknowledges that the ego is a unity—at least after a period of development. Freud writes “we are bound to suppose that a unity comparable to the ego cannot exist in the individual from the start; the ego has to be developed.” Sigmund Freud, On Narcissism: An Introduction, p 76-77.

2Freud, On Narcissism, p 93.

3Freud is less clear on this point than a careful student would wish, but in the second paragraph on page 95 of On Narcissism, he declares that “a special psychical agency [the conscience] which performs the task of seeing that narcissistic satisfaction from the ego ideal is ensured and which, with this end in view, constantly watches the actual ego and measures it by that ideal [ego].” This passage demonstrates that the more recently developed ideal-ego is not identical with the more primordial actual ego and also that the ideal-I is not identical with the conscience.

4“This ideal ego is now the target of the self-love which was enjoyed in childhood by the actual ego.” Freud, On Narcissism, p 94.


The second draft will need to watch out for several less obvious self-contradictions in addition to the normal structural concerns:

– Do I ever suggest the subject is a subject to itself before the constitution of ego by way of sloppy word choice?

– Do I ever refer to the “I” or ego as though it was an object rather than a function?

– Do I ever suggest a unity of ego in Lacan’s conception by way of sloppy word choice or linguistic formulation?

– Does my use of terminology square with Lacan’s?

– Is it possible to stuff in more key terms and concepts?

– Do I have ambiguous constructions that could be taken the wrong way?

– Do I need anymore primary source quotes to sure-up questionable concepts?

– Is it possible to shorten sentences and achieve a more “analytic style” without sacrificing the argumentation?

– Stupid spelling errors, punctuation errors, or errors in italicized or capitalized terms?


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