Subjectivity and Otherness: A Philosophical Reading of Lacan by Lorenzo Chiesa was my point of entry in the work of Jacques Lacan, simultaneously with Heidegger’s Being and Time and Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle; perhaps not such a bad combination, given the title of this book. For indeed, however Freudian Lacan claims he is – “you may call me a Lacanian if you want to, but I consider myself a Freudian, first and foremost”, he later declared, Lacan’s oeuvre nevertheless inscribes itself in time. A time which was rich in intellectual insights at the time, in fact, Lacan had invited Heidegger and his wife on holidays to his home near Paris. It transpired that despite Lacan’s efforts to befriend Heidegger it is understood that the latter could not follow him, and was not so much interested in his work.
Beside this little anecdote, Chiesa’s book is indeed worth talking about here for its efforts to clarify the main concepts developed by Lacan, if not where they originate with their relation with Philosophy. On the back of the actual book, it is remarked that the author describes Lacan’s work as “a consistent philosophical system”. In my opinion I am not entirely sure that Lacan himself would have approved his work being described as a ‘philosophical system’, for it is crucial to remember that the whole of Psychoanalysis, let alone Lacan’s career, is centred around the notion of the unconscious, subjectivity and otherness, whereas philosophy may be seen as still somewhat in the grip of the transcendental subject – it indeed was in the middle of the 20th century – If it true that Lacan was in the habit to taking bits here and there from the philosophy of his time (without much acknowledging who he had borrowed some of his ideas from) it remains crucial to draw a clear distinction between Philosophy and Psychoanalysis.
Chiesa’s important book is, in my eyes, necessary to read because it does indeed expose for us the key concepts of Lacan, including the subject, subjectivity, the big other or otherness, in a way that preserves something of what makes Lacan’s writing: it asks the reader to work hard. If you are anywhere a bit like me, you will read, re-read and re-read Chiesa’s Subjectivity and Otherness again. Just (just like the work of Lacan) fascinating.
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