THE LETTER 54 Autumn 2013, pages 1-44.
We have tried to follow as closely as possible the movements of the writing by which Lacan arrived at his formulae, in the hope of dissipating while doing so some stubborn obscurities, due in large measure to the interpretations that he was the ﬁrst to make of them – among others, the one that sees in the exception, in , the logical writing of the totemic father, of him who is supposed by deﬁnition to escape the phallic law valid for all, except for him. Taken in an uncritical way, this interpretation confuses a singular (there are never x totemic fathers per hoard) and a particular which, by deﬁnition, does not as such lay claim to singularity. At least in logic, where it is of overriding importance to distinguish between a particular proposition and a singular proposition which, for its part, implies one and only one individual, posing by this fact other problems a propos the existence of the element with respect to which it asserts something. Lacan, though giving the example of the totemic father, does not get involved in this confusion since he believes it appropriate to name this ‘theatleastoneman’ (‘l’hommoinzun’), and therefore leaves open the possibility that there are several of them capable of supporting this exception. By reducing the particular afﬁrmative to a singular proposition, one is exposed inversely to missing out on the difﬁcult status of the exception that this particular encircles because by bringing its extension down to just one individual, we may as well let the narcissism of each do as it will to reduce this exception to a ‘self’ (momentarily projected into the exceptional other), and in this way play half the ﬁsh caught by Lacan.