Lacan, The Mirror and the “I”
This chapter focuses on the famous lecture Lacan delivered 1949 in Zürich, Switzerland, at the Sixteenth International Congress of Psychoanalysis. The issue has since this lecture been of central importance in psychoanalysis. At different stages in his life, like in the days of Lady Welby, the connection between the Self and the Sign together with their social context as forwarded by Peirce, was a new and growing insight in psychiatric circles. The conference text already announced tensions between Lacan’s insights and the traditional views in international psychoanalytic circles. A never researched aspect became visible, which is the political appreciation of the semiotic dimension of Lacan’s views on the emergence of the ego. We underline how the psychologist reveals a libidinal dynamism that hitherto remained problematic and the semiotician reveals an ontological structure of the human world (political structures and dynamics included), which needs an identification produced by the mirror event. What Lacan calls “the specular image” in each engendering life is recognized as a threshold of the visible world, which we experience the moment we embrace the mirrored imago of our own body as we do in hallucinations and dreams.
The strength and appropriateness of Lacan’s view on speech and discourse in psychoanalysis was a great surprise and for many a source of renewed inspiration in the days of his Rome conference. It shows in the first place, how semiotic analyses of Lacan’s texts can deepen the psychoanalytic and even philosophical dimensions pertaining to for instance the unfolding of the subject, as is the case in the “mirror—‘I’ “ text. It is furthermore crucial to understand a point of culmination in the philosophy of the 20th century whereby Peirce and Lacan are observed in parallel, thanks to the semiotic approach. Finally, our understanding of the subject as a living force in the sign pool of everyday broadens our view on the subject as being a sign-for-others and thus being dependent upon the role of an interpretant.