< return

A new power refined and enhanced

“The definition of order, as soon as there is the least little bit, is that you don’t have to crave it [le goûter: also to taste or enjoy it], since there it is: established.”1

I am using this sentence from Television as a spare [or detached part] with which to begin because here Lacan opposes order – the Oedipal order of the signifier – to enjoyment, that which the signifier does not manage to mark or fix. Enjoyment is the antithesis of order, and if order is organised around lack, enjoyment is rather on the side of the hole, as Jacques-Alain Miller has clarified in his Course of 2005-2006, “Illuminations Profanes”. We know what can happen in psychosis when the subject encounters the hole that is not delimited by lack: there is a passage to the act that can take the most extreme forms, that of the destruction of ‘the world’ (as occurs in such indiscriminate massacres as Columbine), or of self-destruction (which Lacan refers to as the death of the subject).

We know, however, that in psychosis, before it becomes full-blown, there are also different ways of confronting the problem. We can even consider certain forms of psychosis as specific ways of treating the hole. The canonical examples are Joyce and Cantor. The former arrives at a way of treating the hole through literature, thanks to which he makes a name for himself; the latter achieves it through mathematics, by means of which, and here is his extraordinary acrobatic feat, he rebuilds an order after having smashed through to the possibility of counting the infinite.

While, Joyce weaves words in a disorder of meaning, which thins out and vanishes in astonishing verbal concatenations, Cantor reorders the infinite in a crescendo of infinites in which nothing is all, since the ultimate term is lacking. In a sense, we can say that Joyce and Cantor succeed in getting us to taste a new order by rebuilding it with the tools of disorder. After all, every delusion is the reconstruction of a new world order by passing through its destruction – but it is an order outside discourse, which we are unable to participate in using our “common sense”.

Joyce and Cantor, while violating common sense, allow us to re-enter their different order by other paths, including us and thus also broadening the space of our thoughts. The great creators, rather than derail themselves out of discourse, know how to take the psychotic invention to a level at which it can lift current discourse to a new power, refined and enhanced.


(Translation: Philip Dravers)

1 Lacan, J. “Television”, in Television: A Challenge to the Psychoanalytic Establishment, trans. Denis Hollier et al, Norton, New York & London, 1990, p. 30.