Life and death
Whoever gives life inscribes death as destiny. Freud, in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, inextricably linked life and death. In this essay he expresses the convenience of relating the initial disjunction that he had established between life instincts and death instincts in order “[…] to be able to relate these two polarisations to one another, reducing them to one.” In that same text, he affirms the following: “[…] everything living dies for internal reasons,” […] we can only say: the aim of all life is death and, looking backwards, that inanimate things existed before living ones.”
Lacan will complete the Freudian perspective when he points out, in Seminar XI, that the advent of the subject to the world responds to the supposition of two lacks. A symbolic one, due to its dependence on the signifier, “[…] the signifier is first of all in the field of the Other,”and an earlier one that qualifies as real: “the real lack is what the living being loses, that part of himself qua living being, in reproducing himself through the way of sex. This lack is real because it relates to something real, namely, that the living being, by being subject to sex, has fallen under the blow of individual death.”
Lacan takes from Heidegger his conception of being-towards-death that will lead him, at the beginning of his teaching, to place the goal of confronting death “as every fully realised being has to” as the objective to be achieved in an analysis. Heidegger’s imaginary cosmology of being-in-the-world leads him to postulate transhumance through life to the limit of death. But in Heidegger, sexuality appears excluded: “out of place,” Lacan will say, as in Christianity. And we could also add, as in assisted reproductive techniques.
Assisted reproductive techniques, especially gamete and embryo cryopreservation, brings to the fore and literally realise the Freudian expression, that the inanimate was there before the animate. Time can now also be frozen, which allows modifying the chronology that organised the conception and its distribution in the generations. By giving rise to possibilities unimaginable a few decades ago, they render old the expression “one is born out of two.”
The decline of symbolic filiation and the promotion of the child as an object
If until not long ago the fiction that allowed identifying family ties with blood ties could be sustained, this fiction has completely exploded, reaffirming Lacan’s initial thesis that in the human family, when “[…]—father, mother and children – are the same as those of the biological family … this identity is in fact nothing more than a numerical equality.”
From the subject’s perspective, filiation always had a fictional character. This is something Freud clarified in his text Family Romance, where he develops the logic by which the child imagines a different affiliation from that given to him by his parents. Freud tells us that “[…] the child’s imagination becomes engaged in the task of getting free from the parents of whom he now has a low opinion and of replacing them by others, who, as a rule, are of higher social standing.” However, he clarifies that in “[…]these works of fiction, […] we find that these new and aristocratic parents are equipped with attributes that are derived entirely from real recollections of the actual and humble ones; so that in fact the child is not getting rid of his father but exalting him.” We can understand that these quotes from Freud, dating from 1909, refer to the lack of the father as the origin of the symbolic debt. Lacan will refer to symbolic debt in Seminar II. There he tells us that “[…] the unconscious is the discourse of the other. […] It is the discourse of my father for instance, in so far as my father made mistakes which I am absolutely condemned to reproduce – that’s what we call the super-ego.”
However, it seems clear that, with the decline of the paternal function, the clinic of filiation and symbolic debt has changed. It is something that Lacan already warned of in Seminar VIII, where he affirms the following: “we are no longer solely subject to feeling guilty owing to symbolic debt. We can, in the most proximate sense that the word indicates, be reproached for bearing responsibility for the debt. In short, it is the very debt that gave us our place that can be stolen from us […].”
The time of the decline of the father of tradition, and the substitution of the ideal for the object, has consequences in the transmission of filiation. As Jacques-Alain Miller has pointed out, “[…] the promotion of the surplus jouissance that Lacan points out makes sense from the eclipse of the ideal, from which the contemporary crisis of identification is usually explained. Let’s write it this way: a> I (hereinafter, a predominates over the ideal).”
Marie-Hélène Brousse has pointed out, in this context of modernity defined by Lacan as the “ascent to the zenith of the object a,” how the child currently constitutes an eminent form of the object and how this object value has displaced him from the place previously “[…] situated in the interest of the lineage and the transmission of the name.”
Currently, we can observe that when the transmission of the lineage-debt is no longer in the foreground, the dimension of the child as a surplus jouissance object appears less veiled. This brings to the fore a truth of structure: the fact that the authentic access to the origin is the access to the place of the subject as an object in its erection as a living being. This is the place where the desire of the Other reveals itself in its proximity to the jouissance of the Other. Lacan tells us that this implies accessing, beyond the reduction of the ideals of the person, “[…] it is as desire’s object a, as what he was to the Other in its erection as a living being as wanted or unwanted when he came into the world […].”
The pretense of self-generation without owing anything to the Other
Another novel aspect that we can observe in the dynamics of filiation results from the intersection of two factors. On the one hand, we have the self-deterministic claim of the subject, proper to capitalist discourse. To this factor is added the renunciation of parental influence so as not to condition the evolution of their children. This resignation currently reaches in some cases, the non-assignment of the so-called gender identity, nor the assumption of any sexual orientation.
A paradigmatic example of this is found in the cases of trans children and adolescents, whose casuistry is clearly increasing. In these cases, the claim to form a self-constructed identity is clearly observed, which begins by giving itself a proper name that does not owe anything to the Other. As Daniel Roy has pointed out: “we would have to learn from the fact that these children let us hear as their first demand a change of name to another, chosen by themselves. […] A statement from whoever is responsible for the arrival of a new speaking being to our world.”
The current trans phenomenon cannot be explained exclusively from the clinic of foreclosure, and we could put it in series with the claim of the subject of the capitalist discourse to choose sex in a “fluid” way. In some cases of the transgender clinic, there is a glimpse of the oedipal non-mediation but the operation of castration. Which shows that the true agent of castration is language.
Somehow the contemporary subject knows that truth is inherent to discourse and that there is no ultimate truth. In the same way that there are as many parents as S1 because any signifier capable of fastening meaning and jouissance fulfills that function. Jacques-Alain Miller has clarified how, as soon as he had isolated the central signifier, the master signifier, “[…] next to this matheme of the discourse of the master, he traced the first lines for the matheme of the capitalist discourse, a modification of the discourse of the master, in which it is the barred subject that is put in the place of this S1:
This is not so much a promotion of hysteria as it is the promotion of the subject without guidelines.”
The subject dreams, then, of being able to command his own determinations, his S1.
The contemporary subject knows that not all jouissance passes to counting, that is why the master’s discourse is in crisis. He knows that the cypher is infinite, because the real is not to be known as truth. Not all jouissance passes to the unconscious. The subject, in his attempt to owe nothing to the Other, and supported by the circularity of capitalist discourse that ignores the impossibility, makes his betrothal with the object.
The question of the origin and its variations
In any case, the irreducibility of the family for any subject, includes the question of origin. For the subjects more attached to tradition, the symbolic debt-transmission can better veil the dimension of the object that the subject has been for the Other. But, in any case, as François Ansermet has clarified, the casuistry linked to the practices of assisted reproduction does not eliminate the fictional dimension in response to the enigma of desire that has convoked the subject to the world.
What we sometimes observe is a push to say everything (on the parents’ side), and a demand to know everything (on the child’s side). This knowing everything is often referred to literally, confusing the dimension of truth with accuracy. This results in striking and symptomatic return effects. Often these effects are linked to the sacralisation of the right to health that would make it convenient to know the genetic inheritance. Thus, the convenience, or not, of the anonymity of gamete or embryo donors is discussed. Some time ago, in a documentary broadcast on television, it was reflected how the mother of a girl explained to her daughter (gestated by embryo donation), that, that was her other mother, by showing her a photo. The girl, crying uncontrollably, screamed at her that she wanted to have only one mother. However, in the United States, forums and groups of subjects conceived through the use of anonymous donors have been formed and are organising to force donors to come out of anonymity.
It is possible to sense that we are on the verge of a change. Each time the responsibility of re-editing one’s birth with the intention of self-generation and the production of variable and changing identities, will fall more and more on each subject. This will not eliminate the question of the origin, but it will multiply the fictions and semblants.
Translated by Lorena Hojman Davis
Review by Caroline Heanue
Picture: ©Yasmina Assbane. Instagram
 Freud, S.: “Beyond the Pleasure Principle”, The International Psycho Analytical Library Number 4, The International Psycho Analytical Press London, Vienna, 1912
 Ibid, p. 38.
 Lacan, J.: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XI: The four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis, W.W. Norton &Company, New York-London, (1999), p. 205.
 Lacan, J.: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book I: Freud’s papers on technique, W.W. Norton &Company, New York-London, 1988, p. 287.
 Lacan J.: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX: On Feminine Sexuality. The limits of Love and Knowledge, W.W. Norton &Company, New York-London, 1998, p. 113.
 Lacan, J.: “FAMILY COMPLEXES IN THE FORMATION OF THE INDIVIDUAL”, 1938, Translated by Cormac Gallagher, School of Psychotherapy St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin 4, p. 7.
 Freud, S.: Family Romances. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume IX (1906-1908) p. 238.
 Ibid., p. 240.
 Lacan J.: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book II: The Ego in Freud’s Theory, W.W. Norton &Company, New York-London, 1988, p. 89.
 Lacan, J.: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book VIII: Transference, Polity Press, 2015, p. 302.
 Miller, J.-A.: El Otro que no existe y sus comités de ética (en colaboración con Éric Laurent). Buenos Aires, Paidós, 1983, p. 141.
 Brousse, M.-H.: “Un neologismo de actualidad: la parentalidad”, Carretel, 12, p. 54.
 Lacan, J.: “Remarks on Daniel Lagache’s Presentation: Psychoanalysis and Personality Structure”, in: Ecrits, W.W. Norton &Company, New York-London, First Complete Edition in English, 2002, p. 571.
 Roy, D.: “Cuatro perspectivas sobre la diferencia sexual”, Carretel, 15, p. 150.
 Miller J.-A.: “Milanese Intuitions (2)” in https://www.lacanianworksexchange.net/s/20020512-22-Miller_Milanese-Intuitions-1-2-y928.pdf, p. 11-12.
 Ansermet, F.: “Le roman de la congélation”, la Cause freudienne, 60, pp. 55-61.