Lacanian Review Online: Making Promises

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When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender
This I could not do

(Leonard Cohen, The Partisan)
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20th March 2019

What Is A Knave?
Germán L. García 

 

It is difficult because in French one uses the word ‘canaille’ [knave] to refer to the people, the rabble. Which is to say that Lacan is being ironic. I don’t know what he is trying to say. One would have to listen to Lacan’s tone when he says ‘canaille’.

[…]

When Lacan says these things it is evident that he is referring to someone that an American would have called a psychopath. To someone who does not consider himself responsible for anything, who does not take the blame for anything. What are you going to do? The first to want to do nothing is him.

It seems to me that this is what Lacan is referring to. He is not referring to a social qualification about what, we could say, society might think. If you read the definition of a psychopath formulated by a Yank it is the same as the definition of the Nietzschean superman: he has no memory, no identity, he does not feel guilty, he does what he likes, it does not cost him anything, he never pays for anything, etc.

This is Nietzsche’s superman in The Genealogy of Morals. Nietzsche sets out from the thesis that to educate is to create a subject, an animal. He says “to create an animal capable of making promises”.

In order to promise I need to have memory, because if I say “Look, I don’t remember. Did I promise you something? I don’t remember.” If I promise I have to have identity. I ask you “And who promised you this?” “Germán García ” “Germán García ? What does that have to do with me?”

That is, I have to recognize myself under an identity, I have to have a memory, and I have to have Schuld, as they say in German, which is both “debt” and “guilt”. That is, if I promise, I remember that I have promised, and I recognize that it was me, etc., and so now I have to pay.

Nietzsche says that this whole apparatus forms an arc that goes from the maternal caress to political torture. I mean that, whether for good or ill, that you are going to have to learn to behave yourself.

 


Interview by Iara Bianchi for De Inconscientes® - Full interview in Spanish HERE
Translated by Roger Litten
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