Not all who wander are lost

I presented this short paper at the June 2021 ISLP Inter-Cartel Study Day. I was in a Cartel with three others, plus one, reading Lacan’s 21st seminar Les-Non-Dupes-Errent, in association with his 19th seminar, …Ou pire. The thrust of my incomplete argument is that knowing is a fool’s errand. The experience of mistaking, mis-takes in the clinic, guide the psychoanalytic practice. To be continued…

On the twelfth of March 1974, in his seminar Les-Non-Dupes-Errent, Lacan posits that “les non-dupes errent, c’est peut-être les non-pudes errent”. Cormac Gallagher’s translation of this riddle from French to English reads; “the non-dupes err is perhaps the unashamed err”.

Lacan opens the seminar by introducing the title for the year; The unduped wander/are mistaken. He highlights the e, double r, e, in “errent”; That is the impetus of something when what is propelling it stops and it still continues to move on. Adrift, but it would be a mistake to confuse the drifting drive spoken of by Lacan in the Ethics seminar with the errant non-dupes. What then is Lacan saying? Perhaps the non-dupe may be the immodest. Maybe the unfooled errs as does the unashamed. Is this a case of mistaken identity, making the mistake of identification as described by Freud in Group psychology and the Analysis of the Ego? The non-dupe is determined not to be a fool. The non-pude refuses shame. These barred subjects don’t suffer fools and for that the joke is on them because non misses out on not-knowing, rules out unconscious knowledge. Knowing is erring, distinct and distant from unconscious knowledge. It stops the subject in his tracks and while he may run his course on steam, the impetus is lost.

However, later in the seminar, on the fourteenth of May 1974, Lacan cautions; “The non-dupes-err…that does not mean that the dupes do not err”. Taking things as read isn’t a way out. It’s not enough to play the fool nor feign false modesty. We are not handed universal laws of psychoanalysis on which to live by, or catch-all statements in a handbook on clinical practice. Lacan sneers at his burgeoning audience in the hubris in his heyday in the early 1970s. He cautions that those who think that they understand what he is saying are erring. We are on shaky ground, for example, if we think that living by his mantra “don’t give ground to your desire” is the way to go. What then is our compass? If we are at a loss as to the true and the beautiful, he asks, what hope of the good? Instead, Lacan finds “un petit peu” of virtue in shame; pudeur. 

The stakes are situated at the crossroads of the dimensions of statements and enunciation in Lacan’s enigmatic formulation from Kant with de Sade. Shame, or modesty, is an amboceptor with respect to the circumstances of being. It is a mistake, an error, reading Kant as a statement, as it is to cling to Lacan’s teaching like a leech. We have to understand the mistakes if we are to have any hope of understanding the stakes of the corrections. This is Christian Fierens’ reading, as I understand it, presented to The School of Psychotherapy (virtually) in September 2020.  It is through the process of enunciating, Fierens elaborated, passing through the process of our experience of the ethics of the unconscious, a Sadian experience, that we can grasp, peut-être, an understanding of the stakes of our correction of the mistakes of statement.

This indetermination calls for subjectivity, our singular agency of inventing a new universal law from the objet a, the small o of the voice, as Fierens insists. We are called to the act of speaking, to lean on our experience, without resources, without recourse to our clinical examples, or the good outcomes, if we are to bring to bear the modesty of the brute subject of pleasure. Psychoanalysis, rather than a practice of representation and interpretation of the phantasy must perpetually reflect on itself in a turning upside down in tune with the ethics of the unconscious. 

Am I speaking well (bien-dire) of shame? Here I trail off with the empty space of the three dots by which Lacan announced his prior seminar Ou Pire. Why am I lost for words and call on signifiers instead? Is it so shocking that I have been pushed thus far so as not to violate shame? Perhaps instead of looking to Jacques Alain Miller’s article on Guilt and Shame, Monique Selz on Shame and Modesty, and Susan Schwartz on The Barrier of Modesty, I push, as indeed Schwatz says, the advent of the real; pudeur unequivocally linked to sexuality. How dare I? Worstward Ho! My Sadian experience of analysis… an assault on modesty, my own assault, a somersault springing from my experience of “ab-sens”*. 

* Concepts touched upon in this paper are elaborated upon by Fierens in his seminal reading The Psychanalytic Discourse: A Second Reading Of Lacan’s Etourdit.

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