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Lacan is a high theorist who is mainly known in debate as one of the most prominent psychoanalytic k theories. He builds on some Freudian ideas but delves deeper into the way linguistics shape every aspect of the subject and the world around us.

Lacan defines a subject as anyone who has access to language.

Important Definitions

There are 3 parts of the psyche

1) Id

  • disorganized part, contains basic desires, primitive- hunger

2) Ego

  • acts according to reality
  • Attempts to please id in realistic ways
  • Lets go hunt and kill animal

3) Superego: layer of complexity

  • Internalization of cultural rules, social stigmas, relations, etc
  • Dictates how we act
  • No, I live in a city, go to grocery store instead of slaughtering a pig

There are also 3 levels or layers of the world.

1) Real

  • ontological truth
  • If humans didn't exist, the real would exist
  • Earth is round, sky is blue

2) Imaginary

  • Layer of images, fantasy that we put on the real
  • What I think of when I think tree is the imaginary

3) Symbolic

  • Connecting real and imaginary to linguistics, signs, signifiers
  • More complex


  • Wanting something, [contingent] object of desire can be achieved--
  • Desire to eat


  • Needs that cant be satisfied, never achievable


We can start with Lacan's Linguistic Development Theory. Lacan observed a bunch of children and concluded that there were a few key stages in early human development. 1] Oral stage. The child is 0-6 months. The child is born into world as object, unaware of its existence. They act on instinct- this is the id (nothing but pleasure, desire, just living life). The Lacanian real is only accessible in this stage before you can speak.

2] Mirror Stage. The child is 6-18 months. Children have a fascination with looking at their reflection in this stage. This stage represents the child acknowledging themselves and recognizing who they are. This stage comes with understanding of you are a person, different then others, you are a person- you are different from those around you, you can cause and affect things in the world. e.g. think of a shopping cart and with the child standing on a blanket attached to the shopping cart. Before the mirror stage, they wouldn’t understand that why the shopping cart wouldn’t move. After mirror stage, they would recognize that the cart isn't moving because they are standing on it. (A blind toddler could go through mirror stage because it doesn’t rely on visual information. Rather it is coming to recognize that they are a person. i.e. they can hear that they sound different from others. Any interaction with other people can cause the mirror stage)

3] Alienation. This is where Lacan thinks it all goes downhill. This stage is when you know how to communicate, articulating your sense of self to others. This changes the way you express your desires. e.g. before alienation, a baby can cry because they were hungry and it was painful. After, they know that crying will cause the parent to bring them food, so the toddler understands that crying=communication. This is bad because of the idea of negative dialectics. Words don’t mean what we think they do. If I tell someone to think of the color red, we would be thinking about different shades or different objects. This is because we don't invent our own words. Rather, we internalize words that are given to us. This difference creates a gap between the intrinsic desire or what we want to communicate, and what we actually communicate. Thus, a part of our desire remains unsatisfied and unfilled.

The Lack is this gap between your desires and how you communicate them. It is introduced when you try to articulate things, and it is inevitable that certain pieces can't be fully articulated. Lacan says this is uncomfortable since we keep failing to communicate that exact missing piece. Our entire life is impacted by the continual and irremovable existence of the lack.

Going back to alienation, not only is the child alienated from its desires, but the alienation is irreversible. Lacan is thus pretty pessimistic. Our constant dissatisfaction produces drives that can never be fully fulfilled. The drive to achieve certain things and attempts to fulfill the lack are futile. Lacan thinks that attempts to fulfill the lack or to ignore it create violence and re-entrench you in the impacts you are trying to prevent. This has important debate implications.

His Solution/ the alternative: psychoanalysis!