The Primal Cavity : a contribution to the genesis of perception and its role for psychoanalytic theory : 1955 : René Spitz

by Julia Evans on January 1, 1955

Published :  The Psychoanalytic study of the Child : 1955 : Vol 10 : p215-240

Available at /authors a-z

Discussed by Jacques Lacan

Seminar IV : 28th  November 1956 : See Seminar IV : The Object Relation & Freudian Structures 1956-1957 : begins 21st November 1956 : Jacques Lacan or here

pEC 5 (Earl’s Court Collective’s translation): The notion of the object, its handling within analysis, should it, or not… but we will come to it both through our developed vocabulary which we employ here – symbolic, imaginary, and real – as well as through the most immediate intuition of what this may in the end represent for you spontaneously, upon interpretation of what the thing clearly represents for you right away when someone speaks to you about it… the object – is it the real, yes or no?

JE remarks : the real, yes or no ? may be a reference to this paper.

See pEC 5 of Notes & references for Jacques Lacan’s Seminar IV : 28th November 1956by Julia Evanson 2ndJuly 2017 or here

– Seminar V : 16th April 1958 : p255 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : See Seminar V : The Formations of the Unconscious : 1957-1958 : begins 6th November 1957 : Jacques Lacan or here

The primary dialectic is not that of the partial object of the mother as breast, or of the mother as food, or of the mother as total object as if it were a question of a kind of conquest made little by little: the child at the breast perceives that the breast extends into an armpit, into a neck and on to hair: the object that is in question, is the symbolic bracketing of this presence within which there is the sum of all the objects that it can bring, which means that this symbolic bracketing is right away more precious than any good, and that any one of the goods that it contains, cannot in itself and all by itself satisfy what is the appeal for presence, that as I already expressed for you on several occasions, none of these good things in particular can serve, and only serves in this instance, to crush as one might say the source of this appeal, namely that the child feeds himself perhaps and begins to sleep. At that moment obviously it is no longer a question of an appeal, all the relationships to any so-called partial object whatsoever, within the maternal presence, are here only substitutes, crushings of desire, not satisfactions as such, and this, namely the primordial character of this symbolisation of the object here in so far as it is object of an appeal, is here and now marked by the fact that we ourselves have also read, but as always, we do not know how to draw to their ultimate conclusions the consequences of what we read, that here and now in the object, in the object of which there is question, in the object of presence, the dimension of the mask appears.

What does our good friend, Mr. Spitz have to say, if it is not that?

– This paper is quoted in Seminar VII : 3rd February 1960 : p133 of Dennis Porter’s translation :

See Seminar VII: The ethics of psychoanalysis: 1959-1960: from 18th November 1959 : Jacques Lacan or here

The discussion on the role of ‘rooting’ in the acquisition of language as in René Spitz’s paper is available here:

Discussion during Seminar VII : Session of 3rd February 1960 between Jacques Lacan, Victor Nikolaevitch Smirnoff or Smirnov, Yvan Audourd, Jean Laplanche, & Unknown or here

Victor Smirnoff et Jean Laplanche (sur le rôle du rooting dans l’acquisition du langage selon Spitz),

Notes on the interventions from Seminar VII : 3rd February 1960 given here:

Information on René Spitz is available  Notes from Seminar VII : 3rd February 1960 (p132 & top p133) : Discussion with Victor Smirnov on René Spitz’s ‘Yes and No’ : Reading Group of 7th September 2013

Further information of the discussion Notes from Seminar VII : 3rd February 1960 (p133) : Interventions by Xavier Audouard & Jean Laplanche on René Spitz & the function of ‘rooting’ : Reading Group of 28th September 2013 by Julia Evans or here

References to Sigmund Freud’s texts

Freud, S.

– (1900), The Interpretation of Dreams. Standard Edition, IV & V. London : Hogarth Press, 1955.
Details The Interpretation of Dreams: 1st November 1899 (published as 1900): Sigmund Freud  or here 

– (1905d), Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Standard Edition VII. l.ondon: Hogarth Press, 1955.

– (1915c), The Unconscious. Collected Papers, IV. London: Hogarth Press 1925.

You will find Freud’s text in English with the original German laid out in the right hand column.: published by : Parts 1-2, here : Parts 3-5, here : Parts 6-7, here : Appendices A-B, here

– (1915b), Instincts and Their Vicissitudes. Collected Papers, IV. London: Hogarth Press, l925. Instincts and Their Vicissitudes : you will find Freud’s text in English with the original German text laid out in the right hand column. : published at : available here

– (1916). Metapsychological Supplement to the Theory of Dreams. Collected Papers,

IV. London: Hogarth Press, 1925. A Metapsychological Supplement to the Theory of Dreams:1915 published 1917d. You will find Freud’s paper in English with the original German text laid out in the right hand column : published by www.Freud2Lacan : available here

– (1925), Negation- Collected Papers. V. London: Hogarth Press, 1950


Note : If links to any required text do not work, check If a particular text or book remains absent, contact Julia Evans.


Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst in Earl’s Court, London



Further information:

Reading Seminar VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis here

A number of the references commented on by Jacques Lacan are available at Seminar VII: The ethics of psychoanalysis: 1959-1960: Jacques Lacan or here

Lacanian Transmission here

Some Lacanian history here

Of the clinic here

Translation Working Group here

Use of power here

By René Spitz here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here