Saint Paul and Freud: The denial of the soverign good in Lacan's the ethics of psychoanalysis

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Howard, Daragh
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MA in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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The thesis comprises the presentation of Lacan's proposal in Seminar VII that Saint Paul and Freud are telling us the same thing. Namely, that what they articulate concerning the law and pleasure stands in opposition to the notion, found in traditional ethics, that a relationship of complementarity can be affirmed between pleasure and a Sovereign Good. Lacan's own thesis, as he tells us in Seminar VII (p. 20), runs counter to this idea, and it involves the proposal that the moral law affirms itself in opposition to pleasure. He claims that this denial can, in the first instance, be recognised in the respective articulations of the law found in Saint Paul's and Freud's writings. And furthermore, that it is in the meaning given to pleasure by Freud, which, he says, is profoundly different to anyone else's, that the essence of this denial can be located. In Chapter I, Saint Paul's treatment of the law is presented within the context of the overall scheme that is identified in his writings concerning the matters of sin, the human condition and mankind's relation to God. Consequently, this involves a consideration of Saint Paul's works, and that of some of his commentators, that extends beyond the passages that Lacan refers to in Seminar VII. The denial of the Sovereign Good is addressed in Chapter II. The intention there is to examine how it is that Lacan arrives at the conclusion that Saint Paul and Freud are telling us the same thing about the Sovereign Good. It is Lacan's contention that traditional ethics misrecognises the nature of the object on which pleasure depends, and that what is articulated in the doctrines of Saint Paul and Freud affirm something contrary to what the moral tradition has to say in respect of the relation of pleasure and this object. Lacan locates the essence of Freud's denial of the Sovereign Good in the Project for a Scientific Psychology, and Chapter III comprises an account of Lacan's reading of this work in Seminar VII, along with a summary of what appears in the Standard Edition. By way of conclusion, it is intended that an account will be provided of the importance that Lacan attaches to what Freud articulates in the Project for the ethics of psychoanalysis.