Causation of the Subject and Transference, by Bernard Seynhaeve


How to define what transference is at the end of the seminar on The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis?

Lacan articulates his concept of transference on the one hand with that of the subject, as transference introduces the subject supposed to know, and on the other hand, with object a, in so far as he articulates transference with love, transference love that corresponds to the closing of the unconscious, as an “I don’t want to know anything about it … of my unconscious”. We must consequently situate the paradox of transference between these two opposing sides: the subject supposed to know of transference and the “I don’t want to know anything about it” of transference love.

J.-A. Miller gave these last chapters of Seminar XI the title, “The Field of the Other, and Back to the Transference”1. At the end of this seminar Lacan returns to transference in light of the causation of the subject, namely the operations of alienation and separation.

The stake of the operation of alienation is inscribed in the production of a subject in the movement that is addressed to the symbolic Other. But Lacan makes an additional step here: he tries to articulate two heterogeneous orders: that of the signifier and that of jouissance. He substitutes the binary metaphor/metonymy, which do not take jouissance into consideration, with alienation and separation. Thanks to this substitution, he will be able to introduce object a in the operation of the causation of the subject.2

The first moment of the beginning of an analysis is the moment of alienation, which is also the moment of transference, that of a supposition of knowledge. Alienation consists in supposing that our symptomatic complaint harbours a meaning, a knowledge that escapes us. We make the hypothesis of the unconscious.

This first moment, that of alienation, is necessary to introduce transference, the pivot of which is the supposition of knowledge.

Alienation produces a movement towards signification that inaugurates the field of the Other as the locus of meaning. If there is no appeal to signification, there is no entry into analysis.

Translated by Natalie Wülfing

  1. Lacan, Jacques, Seminar xi: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (1964), text established by Jacques-Alain Miller, transl. A. Sheridan, Penguin, London, 1984, p. 204.
  2. Miller, J.-A., “L’orientation lacanienne. 1,2,3,4”, lesson of 28 November 1984, course delivered at the Department of Psychoanalysis, University of Paris VIII (unpublished).