Guy Le Gaufey – The Object a

THE LETTER 04 (Summer 1995) pages 1-12

For many reasons, we are led to translate the Lacanian objet a into the English-Lacanian object o, picking up on the first letter of the little other, as Lacan in fact did to arrive at that naming. But I also think that the expression object a could remain as such in English, at least if we hear this letter ‘a’ as the first letter of the word ‘any’. The objet a is not ‘any’ object; but I’d like to convince you that this object a is the first step towards mastery of this very important piece of the symbolic order which this ‘any’ is; that is, the ability to conceive what a variable is. You might fear that this new link between this very obscure object a and this very intricate notion of a variable is going to immediately give us all a headache. But, for the time being, I’m still confident that bringing them closer is much more likely to throw some more light on each of them than to thicken the darkness surrounding them. We’ll see.

Firstly, when beginning to tackle the object a , take note of where the main difficulty comes from. It arises in relation to the fact that, at the end of the fifties, Lacan was looking for a resolution to the problem of conceptualising non-narcissistic entities in the structure of the speaking subject. As a result of his endeavours, emerged this new subject ‘represented by a signifier for another one’, and a new object related to it: our object a.

The difficulty with these arose then from the fact that there is an immediate, strong and natural equivalence between narcissism and the representational order, a representation being something which is one thing only because it is narcissistically cathected. I well know that this assumption is not obvious to everybody today, but if you would trust me just a little, we could consider the unity of any representation…

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