Master of Arts
Theory and Criticism
Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytic theory of the “sinthome” and Friedrich Nietzsche’s tragic philosophy of self-overcoming are deeply complementary theories of linguistic subjectivity, each describing the transformative potential of a kind of art at the centre of the inherently symptomatic experience of language. Lacan’s final seminars reimagine the psychoanalytic symptom as the potential site where each subject might forge a sinthome: a singular structure of creative agency in the experience of desire and truth. Nietzsche’s tragic philosophy works to uncover the problematically aesthetic and creative character of reality, suggesting that one must affirm and cultivate such creativity in order to overcome the tragic character of existence. Examined together, these two theories illuminate each other, as each argues that language is symptomatically plagued by a religious logic of truth which can be overcome only by a radical affirmation of creativity in one’s experience of truth and desire.
Summary for Lay Audience
The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan each suggest that human existence is problematically creative at its very core. By considering their thought together, one comes to see that each of them takes the lived experience of language to be plagued by a hidden religious logic. This logic, they argue, is primarily one of identity and permanence; people typically take themselves, the external objects of perception, and the concepts with which they understand such perception to be dependably self-identical. In other words, everyday experience tends towards a straightforwardly objective experience of language and reality. For Lacan and Nietzsche, however, such faith in objectivity is a daydream that masks the status of reality as an artistic process in which one always participates, and for which humanity ultimately bears creative responsibility. Moreover, they each believe that our misunderstanding of truth as an independent order of permanence and objectivity leads to a neurotic paralysis of creativity and agency. Lacan’s idea of the “sinthome” and Nietzsche’s tragic philosophy of “self-overcoming” are deeply complementary theories of how this paralyzing misunderstanding can be cured through the cultivation of a kind of artistic agency in the spheres of truth and desire.
Hughes, Dylan J., "Language After God: Nietzsche, Lacan, and the Sinthome of Tragic Wisdom" (2020). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 6961.
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