Discussion of Seminar VII: 16th March 1960: Can Psychoanalysis Constitute the Kind of Ethics Necessitated by our Times?

by Julia Evans on November 30, 2013

Note: ‘ Can Psychoanalysis Constitute the Kind of Ethics Necessitated by our Times? ‘ is the title of Jacques Lacan’s intervention on 10th March 1960. This title was used, by Joel Dor, when both the 9th and the 10th’s interventions were published in Belgium.

Seminar VII : 16th March 1960 : Chapter XIII – The Death of God : p169 of Denis Porter’s translation : Quote :

As the result of conversations I have had with some of you, I said to myself that there would be some value in giving you an idea of the lectures, comments, and conversations in which I engaged in Brussels. (See [i]) The fact is, when I have something to communicate to you, it is always related to the line of thought I am pursuing, and even when I take it out into the world, I do little more than take it up more or less at the point I have reached.

But to suppose that you already know implicitly what I sad up there, which isn’t the case, would be to take too great a leap forward. It is, in fact, important that the issues raised not be ignored.

That may seem to you to be an unconventional way of proceeding, but given the distance we still have to go, I don’t time to indulge in professorial scruples. Mine is not a professor’s role. I don’t even like to put myself in the teaching situation, since a psychoanalyst who speaks to an initiated audience is in the position of a propagandist. If I agreed to talk (See [ii]) at the Catholic University of Brussels, I did so in a spirit of mutual assistance; it was in order to support the presence and the activities of those who are our friends and colleagues in Belgium. This concern for me the primary one, of course, but it is a secondary one.

I thus found myself in front of an audience that was very large and of which I had a very good impression, summoned there by the Catholic University. And that alone is enough to explain my motivation for speaking to them of what Freud has to say about the function of the Father.

As you might expect from me, I didn’t mince my words or censor my language. I didn’t attempt to attenuate Freud’s position on religion. Moreover, you know what my position is concerning the so-called religious truths.

It is perhaps worthwhile to be more precise on the subject for once, although I believe I have made it clear enough. Whether from personal conviction or in the name of a methodological point of view, the so-called scientific point of view – a point of view that is by the way reached by people who otherwise consider themselves to be believers, but who in a certain sphere assume they are required to put aside their religious view – there is a paradox involved in practically excluding from the debate and from analysis things, terms, and doctrines that have been articulated in the field of faith, on the pretext that they belong to a domain that is reserved for believers.

[i] Note on translation by JE: I suggest that ‘Engaging with Catholics’ is nearer to what Jacques Lacan describes, than ‘Discourse to’. This will be the title throughout LacanianWorks. This title was translated as ‘Lecture to Catholics’ by Dennis Porter (p179: Ch XIV) and as ‘lectures, comments, and conversations in which I engaged in Brussels’ (p169). 

[ii] Conference on the ethics of psychoanalysis in Brussels, Engaging with Catholics: Faculté Universitaire Saint-Louis, Brussels : 9th & 10th March 1960


Published in French at École Lacanienne de Psychanalyse – Pas tout Lacan – 1960/1969 : here

1960-03-09 : Conférence sur l’éthique de la psychanalyse à Bruxelles (1ère) (11 p.)  : Available here

Available here in translation