Further exploration of limits and groups and their links to others in the context of the August riots

by Julia Evans on October 8, 2011

The start is Éric Laurent’s [i] comments on Bertrand Russell’s paradox and Jacques Lacan’s ‘Spring Awakening’ [ii].


At our July cartel meeting, I discovered that both Jo Rostron and Bruno de Florence, not only had heard of Bertrand Russell’s paradox, but were able to discuss it. This paradox is quoted early in Éric Laurent’s text[iii].  ‘Frege had allowed for objects as vast as the list of all the lists to be thought through in logical terms. By distinguishing those that contain themselves from those that don’t Russell made a variation of the paradoxes of infinity appear that would generate a whole world, but a world that would be more unstable than anything Frege’s conceptual writing had dreamed of.’  This Laurent links to Freud’s ‘The Interpretation of Dreams: 1st November 1899 (published as 1900): Sigmund Freud  See here’.  From Jo Rostron’s notes of the last meeting, which were titled: ‘The difference between an open set and closed set. Meanwhile I (Jo Rostron) was back in ’01 (I mean 1901, with Bertrand Russell) trying for the first time to think about the set of all sets that are not members of themselves.  (Have since discovered that this set is a member of itself only if it not a member of itself  BUT if it is not a member of itself then it IS a member of itself.  So its status is forever undecidable, unanswerable, impossible.)’

So a closed set is an impossibility.


I have found the explanation in Stamford Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Russell’s paradox very useful, particular in recognising that self-reference lies at the heart of the paradox and in defining logical time versus subjective or infinite time. The novel ‘Tristam Shandy’ is used as the example. This argument is available here.  Quote: ‘Russell’s basic idea is that we can avoid commitment to R (the set of all sets that are not members of themselves) by arranging all sentences (or, equivalently, all propositional functions) into a hierarchy. The lowest level of this hierarchy will consist of sentences about individuals. The next lowest level will consist of sentences about sets of individuals. The next lowest level will consist of sentences about sets of sets of individuals, and so on. It is then possible to refer to all objects for which a given condition (or predicate) holds only if they are all at the same level or of the same “type.”’  This use of levels is foundational to the arguments I present about the formation of groups and individuals.


My emerging construction of how this may be applied to the relation of groups to individuals and how there is movements between these levels, is that in order to move between levels the boundary has be questioned as in the movement from S to the barred S, $. The movement from the next level, the sets of individuals, means the boundary of the set has to be questioned (movement from the field of the Other, A, to the barred Other, A). I am still constructing the next two levels!  They involve relationship to an or the Other and Transference to a process or relationship – maybe love?


I start with the use of cartels by Lacan to modify the tendency to rigidity within psychoanalytic organisations. This is described elsewhere – see [iv]: Subjective truth is wiped out by rigidity and conformance. So the rigid organisation exists at the level of sentences about sets of individuals. The individuals at the bottom are gathered up together and checked for conformity. In order to break this conformity, Lacan invented cartels. The cartel is an attempt to challenge this identification with the ideal or the sentences about the set of individuals.  Cartels exist for a limited time only and then change members. Anyone, organisational member or non-member, is eligible to be within a cartel.


Éric Laurent returns to this point at the end of his text (p27):  ‘The principle of failure of the analytic act resides ultimately in the identification with the analyst. … The identification with the analyst also carries the trace of an adherence to an ideal or a norm of what the analyst would be. It prevents this perspective from being abandoned. The effort of the Commission of the Pass is to bring an end to the conception of an analyst’s existence as an exception to the rule, and to conceive of it on the basis of the exception, to decipher a facet of what an analyst is. The point of departure is thus not what is common or current but what is inhabitual. It is in taking this point of view that we can say that “Cromwell was the most typical Englishman of his time precisely in that he was the oddest.” This logic of singularity is a logic where the void and jouissance are put into play beyond the master signifiers that make up the law for each of us.’


So the logic of singularity is beyond the master signifiers or the sentences about sets of individuals. It is the next level up or even the one after that. The point of departure is what differences each member brings to the cartel.  The ideal falls and thus, singularity becomes typical.


Éric Laurent quotes from Lacan’s text on ‘Spring Awakening’ – a play by Franz Wedekind which was discussed in the Wednesday Psychoanalytic Group meeting in 1907 by Sigmund Freud with others. (There are links to all three texts within this site, www.LacanianWorks.net. See footnote v.)


In Reitler’s 1907 introduction [v] to the discussion, he states that Wedekind was less concerned with individuals than with the minor and major tragedies of young people awakening to sex without knowledge and without guidance, misunderstood and derided by parents and teachers.


Clearly Dr Reitler is not referring to the physical act of sex as a pregnancy results from one of the young couple’s exertions. I propose there are 3 levels of knowledge involved. 1) imposed knowledge which drives you. 2) Knowledge parceled up into understandable systems – certainties – rights and wrongs and 3) the individual making sense of their world from their own position – a subjective knowledge. It seems to me that Dr Reitler is stating when young people become aware of level 1 knowledge (a savoir) then parents and teachers give them no guidance with level 2 knowledge (a savoir-faire – a know-how) and they have no position or level 3 knowledge (a savoir-y-faire or a knowing-what-to-do).   So they are driven to an act in a vacuum. An act which does not register at the level of meaning.


From Freud’s comments [v] to the 1907 meeting:  ‘It is a fine bit of observation that Wedekind depicts the longing for object love without object choice in Melchior and Wendla who are not at all in love with each other.’ So, this is the linking with the object. I am studiously going to ignore how Freud (or Lacan) defines object or object love.  So Freud is drawing attention to object love which is driven or imposed, that is, it operates at level 1 – the level of a savoir. Object choice would imply either guidance (savoir-faire) or subjective knowledge (savoir-y-faire). Further, the phrase ‘they are not in love with each other’ implies that no relationship is in place. Another speculation would be that they are not in the field of the Other, A, nor the barred Other, A.


Freud 1907 continues with remarks (see footnote v) concerning the concept of autoerotism: ‘Havelock Ellis uses this term when only one person is involved (thus, for instance, also in relation to hysterical symptoms) whereas Freud uses it when there is no object; for example, those who masturbate with images would not be considered autoerotic.’  This fascinates me and I have no time to work out why! So an image can be an object. But, I suggest, it is static and does not involve the hazards of a relationship.  If an image (or a shoe, etc) is an object, then it is operating at level 2 – within a static knowledge with its built-in certainty. So when there is no object, a savoir, an imposed knowledge, is in operation as with Melchior and Wendla.  There is no relationship in place.


Éric Laurent also comments on ‘Spring Awakening’ but from the text of Jacques Lacan which is based in the minute of the 1907 [v] discussion group. ‘Lacan even said in his text on Wedekind’s ‘Spring Awakening’, that boys wouldn’t have any kind of relation with girls if they didn’t have their dreams to guide them. Lacan “ Moritz in our play manages however to make an exception of himself, which is why Melchior calls him a girl.  And he has a good reason: the girl is only one and she wants to stay that way, but this is completely obliterated in the play. The fact remains that a man becomes Man when he situates himself a One-among-others, by including himself among his fellows (sembables). By making an exception of himself, Moritz excludes himself in a beyond. It is only there that he is counted, not by chance, among the dead, as excluded from the real. The drama makes him survive there – and why not, if the hero is already dead. “’


So Moritz has no object and no dream or ideal. He has been unable to separate and identify within a group as Man. He excludes himself from belonging to level 2, so does not register as man or woman. This also excludes him from a connection with an/the object.


So my question now is: are there 3 conditions emerging?

1)  If a closed set includes itself, then there is no object.

2)  If separation from the primal father has taken place then identification is to THE object and

3)  lastly, if individual difference is allowed, then possession of the object is not certain.


Please note I am studiously avoiding defining object at this point.

I will explore these three conditions further next time.


[i] The focus of our cartel work is Eric Laurent’s article: ‘The Symbolic Order in the XXI Century: Consequences for the Treatment’ available hereThis text, given in July 2010, leads to the  VIII Congress of the World Association of Psychoanalysis: (WAP Congress, 2012)

[ii] Jacques Lacan “Spring Awakening’ 1974 translated by Sylvia Rodriguez in Analysis, 6, 1995 p32-34 now available here.

[iii] Eric Laurent ‘The symbolic order in the twenty-first century: consequences for the treatment’ Text presented in July 2010 towards the VIIth Congress of the World Association of Psychoanalysis. P21-22

[iv] This comment on cartels starts from the information about their function in my commentary: available from the LacanianWorks web-site at:  LW cartel: Jouissance & symbolic (dis)order  and An explanation of Jacques Lacan’s use of cartels in organisational structure  [i].

Quote: … The cartel was an integral part of the Cause Freudienne which Lacan founded in 1980. … Lacan observes that the effect of using a traditional organisational structure in analytic training schools is to glue the trainee to an imaginary identification to the organisation or knowledge. The organisation forms a defence against the world for the trainee and because it does not recognise the transference to the ideal (imaginary identification) it fosters infantile dependency on the part of its members to those in authority who give the comfort of professional respectability in exchange. This identification with an ideal cannot only lead to passive dependency but to the alienation of the subject’s truth. A subject becomes identified with the ideal and conforms to the organisational mould. Questions about the ideal are not heard within the organisation. Lacan started to question the operation of this ideal.  Some of the consequences of an organisation glued to an ideal are the exclusion of external influences, deviant behaviours, and the existence of an elite to sort out problems.

[v] Dr Reitler’s comments & link to Wedekind’s play in English here.    Freud’s comments on Spring Awakening here.    Details of Lacan’s comments and a link to the English translation available here.


For other texts by Éric Laurent see here


Note : If links to any required text do not work, check www.LacanianWorksExchange.net. If a particular text or book is missing, contact Julia Evans.


Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst in Earl’s Court, London



Related texts

The Symbolic Order in the XXI Century: Consequences for the Treatment: July 2010: Éric Laurent or here

Spring Awakening: September 1st 1974: Jacques Lacan or here

Spring Awakening: 1891: Franz Wedekind (here),

Freud & Reitler comment on ‘Spring Awakening’: work-in-progress (here),

Comments on Wedekind’s ‘Spring Awakening’: 1907: Sigmund Freud (here)

Further posts:

Some Lacanian history here

Lacanian Transmission here

Of the clinic here

Use of power here

Translation Working Group here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here

By Greg Hynds : here

By Jo Rostron

By Bruno de Florence

By Julia Evans : here  &  here

Previous presentations are available on Lacanian Works :

The hacker by Bruno de Florence on August 17, 2011

& comments on the August riots:

The Government as Sadeian experimenter  by Julia Evans on August 17, 2011

Principles based in trust and relationships versus Sadeian absolute control by Julia Evans on August 14, 2011

What works – tackling out-of-limits destruction and violence by Julia Evans on August 14, 2011

… the existence of a “completely ignored underclass” who have developed a “perverse morality”. by Julia Evans on August 13, 2011

Post from Finsbury Park, North London by Richard Klein on August 12, 2011

‘Manchester calling’ For what?  by Ian Parker on August 12, 2011

Not If, but when by Bruno de Florence on August 11, 2011

To limit or not to limit: to be or not to be, that is the question by Julia Evans on August 11, 2011

Hoodies  by Jo Rostron on August 10, 2011

Further information about the Lacanian Works working group:

LW cartel: Jouissance & symbolic (dis)order  by Julia Evans on July 30, 2011

This notice is published at: Lacanian Works

Saturday 8th October: A Lacanian cartel session on aspects of the symbolic in the 21st century   by Julia Evans on 17th September 2011