Killing the father, Parmenides

on Lacan's anti-philosophy

Matthew Sharpe

pp. 51-74

This paper examines the historical claims about philosophy, dating back to Parmenides, that we argue underlie Jacques Lacan's polemical provocations in the mid-1970s that his position was an "anti-philosophie". Following an introduction surveying the existing literature on the subject, in part ii, we systematically present the account of classical philosophy Lacan has in mind when he declares psychoanalysis to be an antiphilosophy after 1975, assembling his claims about the history of ideas in Seminars XVII and class="EmphasisTypeItalic ">XX in ways earlier contributions of this subject have not systematically done. In part iii, focusing upon Lacan's remarkable reading of Descartes' break with premodern philosophy—but touching on Lacan's readings of Hegel and (in a remarkable confirmation of Lacan's "Parmenidean" conception of philosophy) the early Wittgenstein—we examine Lacan's positioning of psychoanalysis as a legatee of the Cartesian moment in the history of western ideas, nearly-contemporary with Galileo's mathematization of physics and carried forwards by Kant's critical philosophy and account of the substanceless subject of apperception. In different terms than Slavoj Žižek, we propose that it is Lacan's famous avowal that the subject of the psychoanalysis is the subject first essayed by Descartes in The Meditations on First Philosophy as confronting an other capable of deceit (as against mere illusion or falsity) that decisively measures the distance between Lacan's unique "antiphilosophy" and the forms of later modern linguistic and cultural relativism whose hegemony Alain Badiou has decried, at the same time as it sets Lacan's antiphilosophy apart from the Parmenidean legacy for which thinking and being could be the same.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11007-015-9330-8

Full citation:

Sharpe, M. (2019). Killing the father, Parmenides: on Lacan's anti-philosophy. Continental Philosophy Review 52 (1), pp. 51-74.

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