The unconscious by Antony Easthope

By Antony Easthope

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G. 1977b:203, 1993:167). Freud argues that: cs=word-presentations+thing-presentations but that: ucs=only thing-presentations. This formulation implies that the means of representation alone is enough to split conscious and unconscious. In this view the unconscious has become, as it were, functionally unconscious FREUD AND LACAN 41 because you can’t be conscious only of thing-presentations without the words. It is not actively repressed but really more like Freud’s preconscious. In early Freud the unconscious is almost a kind of agency while in Lacan it appears more as an effect, in the gaps which interrupt consciousness.

The contrast between word-presentations and thingpresentations helps to explain Freud’s view that the unconscious is timeless. He gives the example of a patient who says to him: ‘You ask who this person in the dream can be. It’s not my mother’. FREUD AND LACAN 39 Freud comments that we at once emend this to, ‘So it is his mother’ (1973–86, vol 11:437). He regards the capacity to negate or deny like this (the word Verneinung means both ‘negation’ and ‘denial’) as peculiar to consciousness; the capacity to distinguish ‘it is’ and ‘it is not’ are possible only in the abstract and logical mode of words and language.

Castration can be misunderstood, and there may well be good reasons people do their best to make a joke of it. In the first place no society would last very long if fathers actually castrated their sons. Second, the signifiers which represent castration are quite specific in that the process consists of a threat to the genitals, not something else. In reality this might not seem too bad; after all, worse things can happen to you. But in fantasy castration is the worst thing that FREUD AND LACAN 31 can happen.

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