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Lacant's Mirror Image

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The excerpt begins with an opposition to the rationalist and existentialist ideologies. In fact, he states that "I", the self in Lacanian terms, is completely independent from the Cogito (Latin for I think). This is a reference to the formulation of the French 17th century philosopher RenÐ"© Descartes: cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am. Cartesian philosophy claims the only certainty lies in the human capacity for rational thought, the intellect. In fact, he states that the dependence of the I on the Cogito is a false correlation when scrutinized by the psychoanalytical eye.

He then recounts an experiment observed by Wolfgang KÐ"¶hler, who wrote on the mentality of apes.

A monkey and a young child are placed in front of the mirror. The monkey has more "life experience" than the toddler and yet, past the Aha-Erlebnis (A-ha! experience of recognizing oneself in a mirror) the monkey quickly loses interest in its mirror image, whereas the child engages in playful interaction. The child delights in the false image and enjoys the deceit that he was at first subject to. This, according to Lacan fazes out at the age of 18 months. It is the result of the libido, or id; the part of the human that seeks pleasure, and specifically sexual pleasure, in Freud's psychoanalytical writings. He also states that the structure itself, the ontological composition of the human being, predisposes him to enjoying deception. This acceptance is crucial for normal development because all knowledge is paranoiac: It is the result of outside interactions.

Again, Lacan differs with Freud's idea of identification. Here, the first identification is not with the same-sex parent ( during the Oedipal phase ), but with the false mirror image. The child assumes his self-hood through a deceiving, virtual image. The I is later formed through human interactions, through language. But the ego is always constructed in relation to a fiction because the mirror image is strange and distorted. Yet the possession of this mirror image is necessary for the subject to occupy the visible world. This vision is presented as universal. It also found in nature. He cites pigeons and locusts as examples.

As humans, we look for human characteristics in the world around us. We see beauty in what resembles what we see in our image.

Through further animal observation, Lacan observes that the development of a notion of



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