By Rudolf Bernet
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Additional resources for An introduction to Husserlian phenomenology
Rather, he seeks to displace the classical humanist subject by demonstrating the production of the subject purely through language. Yet Diana Fuss questions whether an account of the subject based in language can fully detach itself from the essentialist notions which it so readily discards. Fuss suggests that Lacan relies heavily on essentialist ‘underpinnings’ while espousing a radically antiessentialist argument, particularly in his revision of Freud and in his emphasis on the ‘speaking subject’.
110 Here Lacan reveals his post-Saussurean credentials in his insistence that identities may only be derived from relational differences. ) Lacan draws a parallel between language acquisition – where the child unconsciously assimilates the notions that signs only obtain meaning by virtue of their difference from other signs, and that the sign presupposes the absence of the object it signifies – and sexual identity. To enter language is to become decentred, to become a ‘substitute anyone’111 instead of the centre of the world.
Central to his project is his theory of the mirror stage in infant development, and it is this thesis which supposedly underwrites his radical nominalism while simultaneously discrediting ‘realistic’ understandings of self and world. It is a well-known Freudian belief that the infant perceives no clear distinction between itself and the external world, between subject and object. 101 In this pre-Oedipal state, the child experiences a ‘symbiotic’ relationship with the mother’s body; that is, there are no boundaries between the identities of child and mother.