Opening Speech of the 2019 Congress of the NLS, by Bernard Seynhaeve
Tel Aviv, 1 June 2019
If it were to be done again, I would give this title to the Congress: The Urgency of Life.
I would like to make a comment on the theme of the Congress, which is a logical continuation of the themes of previous congresses: the unconscious in 2017, and transference in 2018.
In Lacan’s last text, the “Preface to the English Edition of Seminar XI,” Lacan makes use of a signifier that I proposed to our School in order to clarify it: “urgent cases.”
This text of pure psychoanalytic clinic that Lacan wrote immediately after his seminar on James Joyce, (11/5/76 – 17/5/76) which, as Jacques-Alain Miller points out, can be considered to be the last session of this Seminar, redefines the pass. That is why Miller can say it is, in a way, Lacan’s testament. In fact, this text serves as a compass for the formation of the psychoanalyst. I set about trying to understand what I was coming up against: “my urgent cases.”
I first started looking for where Lacan spoke of urgency. Lacan speaks of urgency in several places in his teaching. Since the subject of the formation of the psychoanalyst is central to the Preface to Seminar XI, I asked myself whether it was also a matter of urgency when Lacan invented the pass in 1967 in his “Proposition of 9 October.” The answer is yes, and it caught my attention.
The urgency in this last text, which is articulated with satisfaction, constitutes one of the last concepts of Lacan’s teaching.
Let us therefore stop at these two paradigms of urgency on which Lacan relies to invent the pass: subjective urgency in 1966 and 1967, and these urgent cases in 1976.
A. In 1966, Lacan first spoke of subjective urgency. Subjective urgency is the paradigm Lacan uses to address the question of the formation of the psychoanalyst: “There will be some psychoanalyst who responds to certain subjective emergencies.” This is in 1966. It is important to emphasize this because a year later, in October 1967, Lacan will invent the pass.
B. The urgent cases he talks about 10 years later is not the urgency of the subject, subjective urgency. By urgent cases he means the urgency of the parlêtre, the speaking being. Between subjective urgency and the urgency of the speaking being, there is a step to take. In 1976, this paradigm of urgency is defined in his “Preface to the English Edition of Seminar XI.” Lacan situates the psychoanalyst as one who agrees to pair with his “urgent cases.” As we will see, this small text is a rewrite of his “Proposition” on the pass.
In 1966, subjective urgency is the Archimedean point which presides over transference, i.e. when S1 is cut from S2.
Lacan refers to what we call the demand of a potential analysand as an urgent request. Subjective urgency is the Archimedean point of departure that presides over the establishment of the signifier of transference in its relation to “any” signifier. In the psychoanalytic sense, subjective urgency implies a call to the Other, to S2. We meet with an analyst when we are faced with a bad encounter, or with a symptom that makes a break in meaning; when we are faced with a rupture in the signifying chain (S1//S2). In the “Proposition” of 1967, the analyst, in the analytic situation, is this person, this “whomsoever”, an S2, who embodies the place of address for the speaking being – the place of any S2, accepting to make of himself the place of transference for the analysand. In 1966, subjective urgency corresponds to a rupture in the signifying chain, S1//S2. In this respect, the entry into analytic treatment “commemorates” the traumatic moment of the encounter between language and the body. The subjective urgency of the 1967 “Proposition” on the pass presides over the transference – the establishment of the subject supposed to know to reconnect with S2. The matheme of transference, as Miller explains, is deduced from the definition of the subject in Seminar XI: (S1→S2). A subject is what can be represented by a signifier S1for another signifier S2.
The Urgency of Urgent Cases, the Urgency of the Speaking Being
In his last teachings, Lacan redefined the question of the pass and of the formation of the analyst by articulating this signifier, urgent, with another signifier: satisfaction. In Lacan’s last text, urgency and satisfaction form a pair and constitute a final concept of Lacan’s last teaching of psychoanalysis in order to propose his definition of the pass.
In this text, Lacan asks, what drives someone to settle down as a psychoanalyst? Why does someone decide to become an analyst? Is there anything else that motivates him to practice this profession than to make money? Would it be for the sake of love for his neighbor? And if it is not for that, would there be another reason?
Lacan then answers his question: giving satisfaction to his analysand is the urgency over which the analysis presides. The urgency of the psychoanalyst consists in effect of “giving this satisfaction.” In this text, the analyst is called to give satisfaction to the one with whom he makes a pair. It is not easy to grasp this at first.
I have two questions as an attempt to clarify that. First, when Lacan talks about this satisfaction, what satisfaction is it? Then, the articulation of these two signifiers, “urgency and satisfaction” seemed to me particularly difficult to grasp at the first reading of the text.
Since when does the analyst give satisfaction to his analysands? The articulation of urgency and satisfaction that Lacan makes is not self-evident. What sort of satisfaction would the analysand expect from the one with whom he is a pair? Would it be to satisfy a request? As Miller points out, it is not a question of satisfying the demand, which “must remain a dead letter.” Or would it be about the satisfaction of some need, or the love of one’s neighbor as that which motivates the good Samaritan?
It is not a question of the satisfaction of the demand, nor of the need, nor the love of one's neighbor. If this is not the case, then, Lacan thought, let us ask the psychoanalysts themselves, or at least those who have gone to the end of their analysis. “Let’s question those who risk to testify” about their analytic experience, he said. Let’s examine “how one can devote oneself to satisfying these urgent cases.”
What are these urgent cases, and what is this need for satisfaction? These are the coordinates of the text, set down by Lacan.
When he brings up the pass again at the end of his teaching, Lacan does not use the signifier “subjective urgency” as he did in his 1967 “Proposition.” He uses, “urgent cases.”
Other signifiers are no longer found in this text.
We do not find the signifier “transference” in this text, although “transference” finds its algorithmic definition in the 1967 “Proposition.” In the last text, the signifiers “knowledge,” “subject supposed to know” and “transference” no longer appear. In this regard, Miller points out that he prefers that we say that we come back from one session to the next because, “it pushes,” “it urges,” rather than because of transference.
Instead of the signifier “transference,” we find “to pair with.” Transference relies on the signifiers of the analysand, whereas to pair with these urgent cases implies a jouissance that is held by and presides over transference, that is to say, the sinthome.
What Lacan focuses on in this last text is that in analysis, there is always urgency, there is always something that pushes, that urges, that the transference harbors, beyond signifiers, even if one takes one’s time or lets it drag on.Urgency is inscribed in duration; it is something that presses the parlêtre – something of the order of “the urgency of life,” as Dominique Holvoet magnificently emphasized in his teaching as an AS.
What is this urgency? It is the urgency of satisfaction, specifies Lacan. What satisfaction? Miller explains: “This indicates that there is a causality operating at a deeper level than the transference, one that Lacan characterizes as a level of satisfaction insofar as it is urgent and analysis is its means.” It is the analyst who is called to give this satisfaction. We do not come back from session to session because of the transference, but because of an urgency that satisfies the drive of life. Basically, we are always in a state of trying to satisfy something, without ever succeeding, and that is what drives us, what puts the speaking being in this state of emergency. Like the animal, one can satisfy one’s needs. However, the satisfaction we are dealing with here has nothing to do with satisfying needs. What we are dealing with here is the urgency of life that somewhere is never satisfied because it does not relate to the satisfaction of the demand. Lacan had previously mentioned the urgency of life as something that pushes, something that wants, something to be situated beyond the satisfaction of vital needs and that relates to the real. It is, in the urgency of life, a “want,” a will to live that Lacan defines precisely in his seminar on The Ethics of Psychoanalysis.
“Urgency, the urgency of life, the vital urgency, that is to say, the fundamental will to live, the need for life beyond vital needs, Freud's Not des Lebens is understood by Lacan through the experience of speech. And in this respect, the analytic cure is an experience of speech at the heart of which lies the urgency of life.”
The urgency of life is understood by Lacan through the experience of speech. The urgency of life constitutes the heart of the sinthome where the body knots itself to language.
In other words, the urgency at the end of Lacan’s teaching that pushes, that boosts the parlêtre thus consists in running towards the truth held in the hole of the real of language. But this truth is not caught by words. The urgency is that of trying to catch the truth that is never reached because the real makes a hole in language. This is what is beyond the satisfaction of needs. It is the very race to the truth that provides the satisfaction of the speaking being. This is the reason why it can be said that analysis is in itself the means of this urgent satisfaction. It is the transference itself that works for satisfaction. Free association provides this satisfaction which lies at the heart of the urgency of life.
In this respect, the analyst is the one who agrees to pair with the analysand to give this satisfaction. And the crucial question then is how to stop it.
The question that arises then is the following: “How to do without making a pair with one’s analyst, how to be satisfied without one’s analyst?” This amounts to asking the question of how to do it with the non-absorbable jouissance, that which the sinthome harbors, which is the heart of this urgency of satisfaction. There is a terminal point for “the mirage of truth”, says Miller,that of the real unconscious that is seen and appreciated as “the satisfaction that marks the end of an analysis.”
The root of the word “satisfaction” is satis, from the Latin satiare, “it is enough.” Thus, the satisfaction is also that of the end of the analysis. The satisfaction is also the “that’s enough! – that suffices – it is sufficient” that must be located at the end.
The satisfaction is therefore declined according to the mode of satis, of “it is enough.” It is enough because we have found a new way of knowing how to do with our non-absorbable jouissance. “The question of the pass,” Miller remarked, “is that of reconciliation, of the alliance with this jouissance impossible to negate. Not the no, but the yes to the contingency that made me what I am. I am what I enjoy [Je suis ce que je jouis].”
There is no more sober, more delicate way of saying it, says Miller. There is an end of the analysis when there is satisfaction. This presupposes, no doubt, a transformation of the symptom which, from discomfort and pain, delivers the satisfaction which has always inhabited and animated it. The criterion is to know how to do with one’s symptom in order to obtain satisfaction.
At the end of his teaching, Lacan wrote that the analyst “hystoricizes himself on his own account.” In other words, he hystoricizes himself in the solitude of One, without making a pair with his analyst. As you can see, urgency is situated at the Archimedean point of the pass in the very last Lacan. This testamentary text on the pass defines the pass by the urgency of life.
Translated by Pamela King
Lacan, J., “On the Subject Who Is Finally in Question,” Écrits, tr. B. Fink, W.W. Norton, New York/London, 2006, p. 196.
Lacan J., “Proposition of 9 October 1967 on the Psychoanalyst of the School,” trans. R. Grigg, available online: http://iclo-nls.org/wp-content/uploads/Pdf/Propositionof9October1967.pdf
Cf. Miller, J.-A., “The Speaking Being and the Pass,” tr. R. Grigg, The Lacanian Review6, “¡Urgent!”, NLS, Paris, 2018, pp. 124-46, established by C. Alberti and P. Hellebois, from “L’orientation lacanienne, Choses de finesse en psychanalyse” (2008-2009), annual course delivered within the framework of the Department of Psychoanalysis, University of Paris VIII, class of 21 January 2009. A first version of this text, transcribed by J. Peraldi et Y. Vanderveken was published as “La passe du parlêtre” in La Cause freudienne, Navarin, Paris, 2010, No. 74, 113-23. Unrevised by the author.
Ibid, p. 137.
Excerpt from the conference “Urgence!” by Christiane Alberti, Brussels, 8 December 2018.
Cf. Miller J.-A., “La passe bis,” La Cause freudienne No. 66, Navarin, Paris, lesson of 10 January 2007 from “L'orientation lacanienne. Le tout dernier Lacan,” annual course delivered within the framework of the Department of Psychoanalysis, University of Paris VIII.
Lacan, J., “Preface to the English Edition of Seminar XI,”, The Lacanian Review6, op.cit., p. 25.
Miller, J.-A., “L’orientation lacanienne, Choses de finesse en psychanalyse”, op. cit., lesson of 8 April 2009.