THE LETTER 30 (Spring 2004) pages 44-61
First question: In the post-Lacanian literature, how many times have you come across the aphorism The Woman does not exist?
Answer: Often enough.
Second question: Hand on heart, do you understand what that aphorism means?
Answer: If the answer is ‘Yes’, you do not need to read any further. If the answer is ‘No’ – as I assure you mine was before I studied the current seminar …Ou pire and the accompanying series of seven talks entitled The Knowledge of the Psychoanalyst -I suggest you read on, because the question about the existence of The Woman has its origins in these works, delivered by Lacan in the academic year 1971 – ’72. In this seminar as ever, he cast his net of inquiry across the span of the centuries, from Plato and Aristotle to Pascal and Frege. You will admit that sources such as these seem far removed from our catchy phrase The Woman does not exist and yet if questions about existence are linked to castration and sexual enjoyment for men and women, surely we need to examine them and not take them at face value? Beginning with Plato, it is through his Parmenides that Lacan encourages us to examine existence and thereby ground something of substance about ‘the sexual business’. In his talk to us at the congress this year on Parmenides, Barry O’Donnell introduced us to this ancient discourse and so set the stage for further examination.
In this dialogue of Plato’s, Parmenides is directing a philosophical discussion on the nature of reality. Let’s briefly try to capture the style of the debate and outline the approach, wherein he is asking, what hypotheses need to be satisfied if we are to posit that a thing exists? The thing in question he calls ‘the one’ (in …Ou pire, this ‘one’ of Parmenides is written as ‘the One’; it also forms the kernel of Lacan’s neologism Yad’lun -il y a de l’un or there is something of the one). One such hypothesis would be ‘if one exists where would it be located in space?’ This is how he elaborates the question: …