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Title: Love in twentieth-century French thought : Sartre and Lacan
Author: John-Richards, Sinan
ISNI:       0000 0004 8508 3051
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis investigates the possibility of love in twentieth-century French thought, focusing in particular on Jean-Paul Sartre’s early philosophy and Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalysis. I explore the philosophical status and metaphysical (im)possibility of love to advance my central argument that Sartre’s impossible notion of en soi pour soi developed in L’Être et le néant (1943) resurfaces in Lacan’s later psychoanalysis, notably in Encore (1975), as jouissance féminine. Sartre argues in L’Être et le néant that love is impossible, that in their attempts to love one another, subjects are helplessly trying to become en soi pour soi, which is an impossible wish to become God himself. For Sartre, the subject needs to choose between love and freedom, and this choice is a false one since the subject is unquestionably condemned to his/her freedom. We appeal to F.W.J. Schelling’s speculative onto-theology to suggest that Sartre’s highly original arguments for the contents of pour soi rest on unstable metaphysical foundations, thereby allowing us to reinvest love with possibility once again. This move situates our turn to Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalysis, which is equally steeped in onto-theology. First, we show that Lacan’s intellectual strategy was to highlight the necessary but impossible dualism found in Sartre’s concept of en soi pour soi. We investigate Lacan’s many formulations of this dualism: knowledge and truth, conscious and unconscious, and Symbolic and Real, to show that these pairs are all different names for a similar dualism Schelling identified at the heart of God, qualified by Sartre as impossible. Therefore, we show how Sartre’s en soi pour soi is a convincing shorthand for Lacan’s central object of study. Second, we present and explain aspects of Lacan’s philosophical project to show how, for Lacan, the subject is marked by various pathologies. For Lacan, as for Sartre and Schelling before him, the subject is ontologically sick, and, by its very structure, the Oedipus complex produces subjects that are prey to a mental collapse at any moment. As a result, for Lacan, the subject has no choice but to identify with their potential madness that is a constitutive aspect of their subjectivity. Finally, in a similar vein, this thesis argues that love in the Lacanian schema is the subject’s mad wish to reunite en soi with pour soi, which is an always impossible yet necessary aspect of subjectivity.
Supervisor: Howells, Christina Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Philosophy, French ; Idealism, German ; Lacan, Jacques, 1901-1981 ; Scude´ry, Madeleine de, 1607-1701