Demand and Desire on Lacan’s Torus — Işık Barış Fidaner

I previously demonstrated that Lacan’s torus is the 3D spatial approximation of the combinatorial unworld [1]. In the present text I will examine this idea in terms of demand and desire. We will depart from the following schema (this is a version of Lacan’s figure in Seminar 9, see [1]):


In this schema we see two overlapping entities:

1) A torus.

2) Three intersecting sets A, B, C.

These two entities roughly overlap in three parts:

1) At the center, the torus’ middle hole roughly overlaps with the occurrence of the sets’ full combination {A, B, C}.

2) Around the image, the space around the torus roughly overlaps with the occurrence of the sets’ non-combination {}.

3) At the peripheral area between 1 and 2, the volume of the torus roughly overlaps with the occurrences of the sets’ partial combinations {A}, {B}, {C}, {A, B}, {A, C}, {B, C}. These six areas are marked by two different shades of grey because the one-sets and the two-sets divide the full combination {A, B, C} by different amounts (see [1]). The areas 1 and 2 are unmarked because neither of them divide the combination.

Recall that A, B, C designate symbols in language. Each of the three intersecting circles designate a demand for its symbol. The first impression that the schema evokes is the fact that a demand for A is entangled with a demand for B, and it’s likewise for C and other symbols.

Different fields of study handle this entanglement between demands differently. Probability theory prefers to disavow the entanglement and model A, B, C, etc. as “disjoint events” that independently contribute to a “full probability = 1” that symbolizes an inevitability. Information theory imagines a perfect intersubjective communication between A and B (Alice and Bob) and holds C (Carol) responsible for the distorting entanglement. Quantum mechanics actually theorizes the conditions of possibility of such entanglements, as in Karen Barad’s “intra-action”.

How about psychoanalysis? In psychoanalysis, the entanglements among the demands for symbols drive a metonymical movement through symbolic chains. This movement is called desire. Desire designates a circular walk around the grey areas on the schema. The objet petit a that causes this movement of desire is in the middle (see [1] as to why). This middle area where all demands for symbols intersect also designates the demand for love that is common to all of them. The demand for love at the center is the passage point that allows one demand to turn into another demand: It’s as if you put your finger in the middle of the schema and rotate the circle of demand around your finger to obtain the specific demands for A, B, C.

The Master-Signifier S1 names a certain demand that claims to capture the central demand for love and stop the movement of desire. This is how the Master’s discourse temporarily gains the upper hand. The S1 will even shield and arm itself with a battery of signifiers that serve itself. This is S2 as knowledge in the function of the University discourse. But since the Master-Signifier shares the demand for love with any other signifier, the desire will eventually reawaken and contest the legitimacy of the current master. This is how the hysteric’s discourse defies the master. When desire re-initiates and continues its movement, it will eventually shift to and settle for another signifier. This is the effect of the analytic discourse.

Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


[1] See “Lacan’s Torus is the 3D Spatial Approximation of the Combinatorial Unworld”

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