Subjective Initiation and Objective Initiation — Işık Barış Fidaner

There are two kinds of initiation, subjective and objective [1]. Let’s examine them one by one.


In subjective initiation, someone is subjected to an existing Master-Signifier. Examples: rite of passage, circumcision, baptism. The society is held together by a Master-Signifier exempted from castration. This exemption needs to be validated repeatedly by enacting the necessity to castrate every subject initiated to the society. Before the subjective initiation, there is only impossible jouissance manifest as the lack in the Other. This might evoke a figure prior to the initiation: a helpless baby, a mischievous child, a delinquent, a trickster. After enacting the necessity of castration, some part of the initiate’s jouissance specializes to become his/her organ of desire, partly turning the prior impossibility into a new world of possibilities embodied in the society’s knowledge. Thanks to the subject’s initiation, the Master-Signifier can now represent the subject for the rest of the signifiers that constitute the society’s language and social system.


In objective initiation, the necessity of a new objectivity is born from a prior contingent object. Any initiated subject has a desire to pursue a variety of objects in his/her social world. From the subject’s social standpoint, these objects are random things that can be labeled as either good or bad, useful or useless, according to the society’s knowledge. But the subject also has an object-cause of desire which is emphatically not simply a random thing to be labeled good or bad. At first, this special object looks like a significant albeit contingent or accidental occurrence that requires an interpretation. In fact, it has deep links to the pre-initiation impossible jouissance of the lack in the Other. This link or mark constitutes the symptom, which can manifest in alternate forms such as dreams, jokes, slips of the tongue, parapraxes, etc. In objective initiation, the real exception of a symptom is turned into the symbolic exception of a Master-Signifier [2], using the special object-cause of desire as a symbolic basis for a new objective world. This is how the shaman authorizes the chieftain through ceremonies or how the church authorizes the military through religion. This is also how the word “sinthome” authorizes Lacan through Joyce.

In terms of Lacan’s four discourses, the hysteric’s discourse and the university discourse owes more to subjective initiation, whereas the analytic discourse and the Master’s discourse owes more to objective initiation.

The hysteric’s discourse repeatedly evokes the impossible jouissance of the lack in the Other and thereby enacts a constant renewal of the subjective initiation of the possible knowledge; whereas the university discourse disavows the lack in the Other by monotonously enforcing the present possibilities of knowledge that derived from a previous subjective initiation. These two attitudes are recognizable as that of the student and of the academic in a university.

The analytic discourse enacts renewed objective initiations by interpreting the symptomatic manifestations that originate from the lack in the Other and thereby producing new Master-Signifiers; whereas the Master’s discourse attempts to repress and suffocate novel symptoms by enforcing the monotonous repetition of a Master-Signifier from a previous objective initiation.

In brief, the hysteric’s discourse and the analytic discourse renew the subjective initiation and the objective initiation respectively; whereas the university discourse and the Master’s discourse nostalgically stick to the social symbolic product of an earlier subjective initiation and objective initiation respectively.

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] Subjective initiation and objective initiation correspond to P2 and P1 in the opportunistic media ecology. See “The Opportunistic Media Ecology Has Supplanted The Law”

[2] See “Symbolic Exception and Real Exception”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s