The Act of Being

Is there another way than unconsciously installing an imaginary signified, referent, or subject supposed to know? Early on Lacan posed the idea of the Name (or No) of the Father as a superior version, referencing both the a-signifying signifier of the proper name as well as the act or cut of negation as a crucial limit to the signifying chain. Later he refined this idea by stating that one could do without the Name of the Father (in the familial sense) if one knew how to use it.

It was through the case of James Joyce the artist who traveled from absent father to inventive poet, from symptom to “saint man,” that Lacan made his claim: the importance of the letter and the act in the transformation from symptom of the other to sinthome of invention – the analytic act. Yet this sinthome remains in relation to the other: not for the other but in the presence of the other – not an answer to the demand of the other but an expression, a speech act, witnessed by the other.

If the artist James Joyce is the future model of the analytic act, then St Thomas Aquinas is its prehistory. In order to move beyond the impasse of the divided subject of Cartesian modernity, Lacan went back before the enlightenment to Medieval times where the scholastic Aquinas provided a proof of God as the Act of Being: Being as Act.

How are we to resolve the gap between Essence and Existence – between the universal and the particular? The Kantian correlationism between noumena and phenomena and all the phenomenologies that follow are unable to resolve this gap. While the dialectic of Hegel comes closer with a dynamic method, this solution too remains trapped in time as deferral of a teleological universal. Kierkegaard comes closest to grasping the truth of choice, decision, and the act, but despairs at linking the contingent act of existence to the universal. For Aquinas Being already is act, and therefore becoming – unable to be universal or total. Likewise there is no local being-there or Existence in time, space, matter, energy without becoming. That is, man is nothing but change, transformation, becoming. This is his truth and it is up to each man to find this truth for himself.