Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 62, Issue 4, pp 515–531 | Cite as

A Lacanian Ethics of Non-Personal Responsibility

  • Robert C. Reed


It is widely believed that Jacques Lacan fails to explain adequately how the subject, allegedly no more than an effect of signifiers in the Symbolic order, can take responsibility for her actions. I argue that the subject can find an appropriate measure for her actions in an awareness of the role her desire plays in her self- and world-constitution. I propose a measure derived from Simone Weil’s ethics of decreation: the subject accepts a “non-personal” symbolic understanding of herself that opens up space in her world of signifiers for all that is unknown, threatening, or demanding about the other’s desire. Lacan’s critics must therefore respond to Weil’s contention that ethics requires almost no “self” at all.


Jacques Lacan Simone Weil Ethics Responsibility Psychoanalysis 



A version of this paper was presented at the conference on “Psychology and the Other” held at Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in October 2011. I would like to thank the conference participants, as well as anonymous reviewers, for their helpful comments and suggestions. I owe an immeasurable debt to the outstanding teaching of Jeffrey Bloechl and William Richardson, both of whom taught courses on Lacan at Boston College. I take sole responsibility, however, for any infelicities or inaccuracies in my interpretation of Lacan.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Boston CollegeChestnut HillUSA

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