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Guide to understand Jacques Lacan

Guide to understand Jacques Lacan

May 6, 2021

Jacques Lacan he is one of the greatest representatives of the psychodynamic current initiated years ago by Sigmund Freud, also one of the great figures of postmodernity. As admired by some as disparaged by others, its theoretical legacy has gone far beyond the clinical setting in which it originated and has soaked numerous areas of philosophy and social sciences. Even intellectuals of such renown as Slavoj Zizek base their philosophy on the work of Lacan.

However, Jacques Lacan is not known for making simple explanations and easy to understand, precisely. He left few texts in writing, preferred to disseminate his ideas orally in seminars and, moreover, his ideas were reformulated several times over the years .


That's why people who set out to delve into Lacan's work do not face an easy task. However, and although it is impossible to read the work of this post-Freudian reading a single article, you can have in mind a series of guidelines to start studying his work.

7 principles to understand Lacan

You can read below some ideas to understand Lacan .

1. Start learning about Freud

Jacques Lacan structures his work based on the great ideas about the human psyche that Sigmund Freud proposed years ago. After all, Lacan is a follower of the psychodynamic current , and since his student years he wanted to apply the principles of psychoanalysis in the treatment of psychotic patients of mental institutions.


That is why to understand Lacan is absolutely essential to know well the work of Sigmund Freud and his main theories, for example the one that talks about the human unconscious.

2. Read about structuralism and post-structuralism

The work of Lacan receives many influences from the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, who is considered one of the pairs of structuralism. Learning about its distinction between signifier and meaning is of paramount importance to understand Lacan, who I theorized a lot about phenomena of symbolic character .

To contextualize Saussure's ideas, it is important to understand what structuralism is and, by contrast, post-structuralism.

3. Read introductory books to Lacan

Begin to understand Lacan from introduction guides You can start to internalize the work of this intellectual from a biased perspective, but if the starting point is well chosen, it totally compensates. These readings will allow you to detect in a relatively easy way which are the fundamental pillars of Lacan's theories, to start building knowledge from those foundations.


If you know English, for example, you can start with this introductory book to Lacan.

4. Read texts by Lacan, but better if they are commented

After choosing an introductory book to Lacan's thinking, you probably do not have the time or inclination to read another one to review the same topics from a slightly different point of view, so you can already venture to read the texts of this thinker .

However, it would not hurt to use texts with comments from other authors interspersed. This will help you familiarize yourself with the vocabulary you use, which is important to understand Lacan because he used terms of everyday use with another meaning that is used by the bulk of the population. By the way, If you understand French, there is no excuse for not reading the original texts .

5. Participate in learning groups

To transmit your Ideas, Lacan preferred to do it verbally, making his audience participate in a kind of learning session in real time based on the Socratic method. As we no longer have the possibility of attending Jacques Lacan's classes, the discussion sessions with other apprentices of Lacan's work can produce the same effect: confronting ideas and interpretations, applying what has been read to recent cases, etc.

Especially interesting this conference (which also had a moment of extreme tension, from minute 28):

6. Keep in mind the limitations of Lacan's work

The proposals of the psychodynamic current have no basis to explain the functioning of the human mind, as Freud intended, and Lacan's work is not an exception to this . Their contributions are, in any case, philosophical and of interest to the world of the humanities. It is necessary to keep this in mind so as not to fall into the trap of making everything that is known about reality have to fit into the explanatory schemes of Lacan. That would be nothing short of fundamentalism and would not help to make a true image of the theoretical legacy of this thinker.

7. Be patient

Understanding Lacan is an arduous task and there are very few shortcuts to quickly learn about your work . That is why it is worth thinking about the idea that interiorizing the Lacanian legacy will be a task that will require years of dedication to avoid becoming frustrated.


Jacques Lacan and the Imaginary-Symbolic-Real (May 2021).


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