Dear Lacan (h2so4 15)

Dear Lacan,

How do I know if I'm elected? —Jill

Dear Jill,

Permit me to address this query in the form of a seminar. Here are your topics for today.

  • Election terminable and interminable
  • The I who is elected is always an other
  • On the signification of the ballot

How do I know that it is indeed I, and not this other, who have been elected? In order to answer this question we must turn our attention to the formula n+1, where n designates the number of votes one has received and +1 designates the deferred logic of addition whereby n is, unfortunately, never quite enough.

If you recall my previous formulation concerning the psychical processes of the gambler, you cannot help but begin to understand the structure of our candidate's dilemma. For it is under the sign of tabulating just once more! and in the protest against this tabulation's arbitrary stoppage, that we come to the disappointing recognition that the numerical structures which govern the legacy of the nation are in fact non-sensical, belonging to an order determined more by the imaginary alliances of aggressivity than by what we have come to know and trust as The Law.

The I who is elected is thus always an other. And sometimes this I is more other than we would ever desire it to be.

That said, the signification of the ballot demands our attention. The partially punched ballot, the dimpled, the hanging, the merely scratched: all these aberrant modes of signification suggest that there is such a thing as a vote that doesn't quite come off, falling outside the net of a federally sanctioned langue. Such ballots do not signify for or against, but rather testify to a paradox in the electoral system: that unlike the practiced analyst, it is fundamentally incapable of registering ambivalence. That is, the ballot cannot signify in the following way: I intended to vote for you, but only sort of.

Who or what does the voter vote for? If not-voting is a vote for not-voting, the victor in the US election was not-voting, although not-voting won by a smaller margin than in previous years.


Jacques Lacan

Dear Lacan,

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

—Various h2so4 contributors

Mesdames et Monsieurs,

It so happens that I have given much thought to this question. It is a real one.

  • Cracking the ego
  • Chickens are mostly in the Imaginary
  • Wo Ei war, sollt Huhn werden
  • Why the chicken is a little bit alienated

Before answering the question at hand, I must remind you of the story of the patient who became convinced that he was a tasty morsel of grain waiting to be snapped up into a hungry chicken's mouth. You are all surely familiar with this story. We must speak here of the fascination exerted by the gaze, of an agoraphobia which borders on the suicidal, of a reverse idiopathy which desires to be consumed, of what I would be happy to designate by the under-utilized term eggs-istence.1

This patient had obviously engaged in chicken-thinking. His imaginary regression to the place of chicken fodder was in fact nothing other than an extroversion from the alienating armor of his a priori conditional-subjunctive shell. The cracking of this shell is signaled to the analyst by the following punch line, delivered by the patient: I know now that I am no longer a morsel of grain, but does the chicken know that? Our patient has not yet witnessed an exodus from the imaginary homme-lette of his misrecognized poultry-fantasms. It is in the scrambling of this homme-lette, in the shattering of that ovoid encasing of narcissism, that we should look for the significance of the egg in its symbolic relation to the great Other of language.

But what, I ask you, has become of the chicken?

Well! Chickens are, for the most part, in the Imaginary. Those of you who have read Freud with even the mildest attention should not be unfamiliar with this concept. And that, my friends, is all I am going to say about that.

And yet there is another matter of great concern to practitioners of psychoanalysis, a point whose importance does not seem to have been noticed: Wo Ei war, sollt Huhn werden. There where egg was, so will chicken come to be. It is no accident that Freud, whose phraseology concerning the inaugural relation of ego and id we are permitted to modify for our purposes, consumed eggs of only the very freshest kind. For the egg is both instance and bungalow, an incubatory ingestion, and it is by finding itself in the place of the egg that the chicken comes to be.

But, like Freud, this chicken finds its destiny only in that place which can no longer be said to refer to anything like an origin. Separated out of the enclosing shell of the hic et nunc, it is retroactively constituted as having-been egg only in the hour at which it ceases to be egg, and becomes chicken.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken will have been egg in the future anterior which follows on the heels of the eclipse of its being, which is to say that the egg will have come first only at that pivotal stage in which chicken-ness is fully assumed. I have prepared the following schema:

That is why the chicken is a little bit alienated. A little bit, not much. Not enough to make it a subject of desire, which is something the patient I have just been describing to you clearly failed to grasp. Had he divested himself of the egoic demand for chicken-validation in a gustatory form he would surely have crossed over into a full habitation of the non-chicken dimension.

In a future session, we may consider the following conundrum: Why did the chicken cross the road? Because he was going towards jouissance, which is no laughing matter.


Jacques Lacan

Dear Lacan,

Why do women wear white pumps? —Avia

Dear Avia,

The master does not teach ex cathedra a ready-made science; he only supplies an answer when the student is already on the verge of finding it. Until you look beyond the lure of the mirror, reduce your dependence on your over-inflated ego, and come to hear your question from the place of another, I am sorry, but I, the absolute master, cannot help you.

The master,

J. Lacan

Dear Lacan,

That was not a very nice response. Frankly, I think you are the one with the inflated ego! — Avia

[Editor's note: Lacan had no reply to Avia's last letter; instead he suddenly terminated the session.]

Dear Lacan,

Perhaps you can shed light on a question previously answered by Socrates, Descartes, and your colleague Merleau-Ponty: How do I know when I'm on a date? — Heidi

Dear Heidi,

I begin with the following topics:

  • Erotic talismans
  • The date and time
  • On the sexual non-relation as such
  • Why you can never know anything

It has come to our attention that certain markers of desire, worn like erotic talismans, can indicate to the clear-headed analyst the exact degree of transference operating with regard to the subject. These indiscreet jewels, which Freud might have referred to as the fetishized Merkzeichen, are typically put on display in the appropriately polyvalent mode during the rituals of seduction, which reach their purest form in the art of courtly love. These talismans are frequently scotomized by the anxious eye and rendered illegible in their signifying fields and functions.

Nevertheless, we do have some recourse in this case. The unconscious, for instance, always knows when it is on a date, although it grasps this knowledge in a way which is more akin to a hazy, descriptive understanding which we may term stochastic, despite that it is imbued with a certainty never experienced in consciousness.

Of course, the date is all about time. In the situation of the date, a single evening comes to enclose a collection of the preceding and future anterior moments of desire, a set of freighted and often obsessional exchanges which, given the opportunity, come to flocculate around a very particular con-stellation of tactile and auditory pleasures, along with the pleasures of wine, food, and sometimes dance, a constellation which all too infrequently hangs together and works its celestial magic. This is a magic which has everything to do with that viscous, protracted inhabitation of time accompanying what are colloquially known as the early stages of romance.

And now we have reached the perihelion of the matter. Is the date, then, the culminating pinnacle of the libidinal entanglements whose merits we so frequently hear extolled in the blazons of Zwangsneurose, churned out en masse by our fine contemporary poets? In fact, there is no confusion on this point. The date, be it initial, final, or both, is none other than the putting-into-epos of the sexual non-relation as such, in what might be its most devastating form.

And the date is devastating precisely in inverse proportion to the degree to which it exposes the non-existence of the sexual relation. Whether one has indeed been on a date will be determined exactly in this manner.

And that, my dears, is why you can never know anything. And why I, on the other hand, know quite a bit.

Until soon,


Dear Lacan,

Wow, that was interesting. But you still haven't answered my question: how do I know when I'm on a date? And I mean consciously; not just in my unconscious. — Heidi

Dear Heidi,

I see that I have once again failed to make myself clear, as is often the case. Perhaps our eppur si muove! is not so different from Galileo's, and the question of the date not so remote from his speculations concerning the equigravity of falling bodies.

To recognize the symbolic quandary of the 'I am or am not on a date' is to approach the matter asymptotically, according to the principles of certain Buddhist teachings which are in fact not unrelated to the concerns of psychoanalysis.

Do you really want me to put it into a formula? Very well, then.

I declare that you do not actually want to know when you are on a date. It would spoil the fun. It is a well-guarded secret that the pleasure of the date lies not, as is commonly assumed, in the frozen stagnation of the knowing, but in the evanescent whisper of a blissfully deferred not-knowing. And I say that it is in basking in the speculative pleasures of the not-knowing that we become something more than automata or rotating moons.

In the not-knowingness of the date, in the unmoored pitch of the ship of Eros, in the embrace of that which halts us from going full-throttle into the jouissance of an unbound death-drive: here, human subjectivity comes to be assumed in its less mechanical form.

The secret? That it is precisely in not-knowing whether one is on a date that a surplus of desire may unexpectedly be cultivated. Remember this next time you want to know something.



Edited and translated by Amy H. König.


1. Translator's note: English coinage in the original.

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