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The Singularity of Being:Lacan and the Immortal Within

Lacan and the Immortal Within

Mari Ruti

Publication Year: 2012

The Singularity of Being presents a Lacanian vision of what makes each of us an inimitable and irreplaceable creature. It argues that, unlike the "subject" (who comes into existence as a result of symbolic prohibition) or the "person" (who is aligned with the narcissistic conceits of the imaginary), the singular self emerges in response to a galvanizing directive arising from the real. This directive carries the force of an obligation that cannot be resisted and that summons the individual to a "character" beyond his or her social investments. Consequently, singularity expresses something about the individual's non-negotiable distinctiveness, eccentricity, or idiosyncrasy at the same time it prevents both symbolic and imaginary closure. It opens to layers of rebelliousness, indicating that there are components of human life exceeding the realm of normative sociality.Written with an unusual blend of rigor and clarity, The Singularity of Being combines incisive readings of Lacan with the best insights of recent Lacanian theory to reach beyond the dogmas of the field. Moving from what, thanks in part to Slavoj Zizek, has come to be known as the "ethics of the act" to a nuanced interpretation of Lacan's "ethics of sublimation," the book offers a sweeping overview of Lacan's thought while making an original contribution to contemporary theory and ethics. Aimed at specialists and nonspecialists alike, the book manages to educate at the same time as it intervenes in current debates about subjectivity, agency, resistance, creativity, the self-other relationship, and effective political and ethical action. By focusing on the Lacanian real, Ruti honors the uniqueness of subjective experience without losing sight of the social and intersubjective components of human life.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Series: Psychoanalytic Interventions

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-6


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pp. 7-8

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Author’s Note

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pp. ix-12

In this book, I use the lower-case other to refer to the intersubjective other (the other person). When the word is capitalized, it refers to the Lacanian big Other (the symbolic order). Many of the authors I quote do not adhere to this distinction, but their usage should be clear from...

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pp. 1-9

From a Lacanian viewpoint, human subjectivity entails a constant negotiation of the three principal registers of being: the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real. The symbolic interpellates us into the normative regulations of the social order. The imaginary founds our conception of...

Part I: The Call of the Immortal

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pp. 11-24

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1. The Singularity of Being

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pp. 13-35

In the opening chapter of his famous seminar on the ethics of psychoanalysis, Lacan draws a contrast between Aristotle’s “science of character” and psychoanalysis. He explains that while Aristotle’s method of self-fashioning is centered on the cultivation of habits, psychoanalysis...

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2. The Rewriting of Destiny

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pp. 36-58

I have stressed that the repetition compulsion organizes our desire in ways that shape the basic orientation of our existence. Another way to express the matter is to say that unconscious fantasy formations can become so fate-defining that we come to feel that the course of our lives...

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3. The Ethics of the Act

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pp. 59-82

I have argued that analysis mobilizes the play of signification in order to release psychic and bodily energies that have become ensnared in life-constricting fantasy formations. This is why the “talking cure”—which essentially consists of the signifier-galvanizing methods of free association...

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4. The Possibility of the Impossible

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pp. 83-101

Alain Badiou’s theory of the truth-event, and particularly his approach to ethics, shares a number of important intersections with Lacanian psychoanalysis—intersections that not only allow me to wrap up some of the themes I have been developing this far, but also provide a bridge to...

Part II: The Echo of the Thing

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pp. 103-116

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5. The Jouissance of the Signifier

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pp. 105-126

The contrast between Žižek and Badiou I introduced in the end of the last chapter gets to the heart of how we envision subjective singularity, namely the relationship between the symbolic and the real. As I have noted, the early Lacan tended to view the jouissance of the real as...

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6. The Dignity of the Thing

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pp. 127-147

When it comes to the aliveness of language, we are never far from the Lacanian Thing—or, more particularly, the absence of this Thing. I have already established that lack and creativity are related in the sense that it is precisely because we feel lacking that we are compelled to create...

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7. The Ethics of Sublimation

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pp. 148-167

Given how much emphasis post-Lacanian theory has, in recent years, placed on the ethics of the act, it is important to note that Lacan also views sublimation—our capacity to raise mundane objects to the dignity of the Thing—as a matter of ethics: “We must now, therefore, consider...

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8. The Sublimity of Love

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pp. 168-188

I have demonstrated that because our desire circles around a riddle (of the Thing) that can never be definitively solved by, or dissolved into, significations, we are motivated to devise ever-new ways of symbolizing it. And I have argued that the difficulty of this task in many ways only...

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Conclusion: The Other as Face

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pp. 189-215

Throughout this book, I have offered different ways to read Lacanian ethics, gradually working my way from the ethical act to the ethics of sublimation. I would like to close my analysis by highlighting an ethical concern that has been central not only in Lacanian theory, but in...


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pp. 217-244

Works Cited

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pp. 245-247


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pp. 249-260

E-ISBN-13: 9780823253630
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823243143
Print-ISBN-10: 0823243141

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Psychoanalytic Interventions