A study of Lacan’s engagement with the Western philosophical traditions of ethical and political thought in his seventh seminar and later work.
With its privileging of the unconscious, Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytic thought would seem to be at odds with the goals and methods of philosophy. Lacan himself embraced the term “anti-philosophy” in characterizing his work, and yet his seminars undeniably evince rich engagement with the Western philosophical tradition. These essays explore how Lacan’s work challenges and builds on this tradition of ethical and political thought, connecting his “ethics of psychoanalysis” to both the classical Greek tradition of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and to the Enlightenment tradition of Kant, Hegel, and de Sade. Charles Freeland shows how Lacan critically addressed some of the key ethical concerns of those traditions: the pursuit of truth and the ethical good, the ideals of self-knowledge and the care of the soul, and the relation of moral law to the tragic dimensions of death and desire. Rather than sustaining the characterization of Lacan’s work as “anti-philosophical,” these essays identify a resonance capable of enriching philosophy by opening it to wider and evermore challenging perspectives.