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 much admired by some as despised by others, his theoretical legacy went far beyond the clinical field from which he was born and absorbed many fields of philosophy and the social sciences. Even intellectuals as renowned as Slavoj Zizek base their philosophy on the work of Lacan.
However, Jaques Lacan is not known to formulate simple and easy to understand explanations with precision. He left few texts in writing, preferred to disseminate his ideas orally in seminars and, in addition, his ideas have been reformulated several times over the years.
This is why people who have undertaken to immerse themselves in Lacan’s work do not have to face an easy task. However, and while it is impossible to bequeath to understand the work of this post-Freudian by reading a single article, a number of guidelines can be kept in mind when starting to study his work.
7 principles for understanding Lacan
You can read below some ideas to understand Lacan.
1. Start by discovering Freud
Jacques Lacan structures his work from the great ideas on the human psyche proposed by Sigmund Freud years ago. After all, Lacan is a follower of the psychodynamic current, And from his student years, he wanted to apply the principles of psychoanalysis in the treatment of psychotic patients in psychiatric institutions.
This is why to understand Lacan it is absolutely essential to know the work of Sigmund Freud and his main theories, for example that which speaks of the human unconscious.
2. Learn more about structuralism and post-structuralism
Lacan’s work receives many influences from the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, considered one of the couples of structuralism. Knowing their distinction between signifier and meaning is of capital importance for understanding Lacan, who he theorized a lot on phenomena of a symbolic nature.
To contextualize Saussure’s ideas, it is important to understand what structuralism is and, on the contrary, poststructuralism.
3. Read introductory books to Lacan
Start understanding Lacan from introductory guides this can lead to starting to internalize the work of this intellectual from a biased perspective, but if one chooses the starting point well, it fully compensates. These readings will allow you to identify relatively easily what are the fundamental pillars of Lacan’s theories, to start building knowledge from these foundations.
If you know English, for example, you can start with this introductory book to Lacan.
4. Read the Lacan texts, but better if they are commented on
After choosing an introductory book to Lacan’s thought, you probably don’t have the time or the intention to read another to review the same topics from a slightly different point of view, so you can now venture to read the texts of this thinker.
However, it would not be wrong for you to use texts with comments from other authors interspersed. This will help you familiarize yourself with the vocabulary he uses, which is important for understanding Lacan as he used terms in everyday use with another meaning that the majority of the population uses. Besides, if you understand French, there is no excuse not to read the original texts.
5. Participate in learning groups
To transmit your ideas, Lacan preferred to do it verbally, involving his audience in a sort of learning session. in real time based on the Socratic method. As we no longer have the opportunity to attend Jacques Lacan’s classes, discussion sessions with other learners of Lacan’s work can produce the same effect: confront ideas and interpretations, apply what has been read to recent cases, etc.
Particularly interesting this lecture (which also had a moment of extreme tension, from the 28th minute):
6. Note the limits of Lacan’s work
The propositions of the psychodynamic current have no basis to explain the functioning of the human mind, as Freud wanted. Lacan’s work is no exception.. His contributions are, in any case, of a philosophical nature and of interest to the world of the human sciences. We must keep this in mind so as not to fall into the trap of bringing everything that is known about reality into Lacan’s explanatory diagrams. It would be little less than fundamentalism and would not help to form a true picture of the theoretical heritage of this thinker.
7. Be patient
Understanding Lacan is a difficult task and there are very few shortcuts to quickly learning the sidewalk of his work.. This is why it is worth thinking that the interiorization of the Lacanian heritage will be a task that will require years of dedication in order not to be frustrated.