Prelude 14, Ricardo Rojas

Desire-of-knowledge and Entzweiung of the Subject*

“Such, at least, is the way traced by neurosis for the psychoanalyst so that,
in truth, by its repetition he can bring it to an end(….)
This is something he could not accomplish except by supposing that désêtre (disbeing)
is nothing but the desire-of-knowledge. ”  Jacques Lacan[i]


The syntagma desire-of-knowledge introduces paradoxes. In The Symposium[ii] what is at stake in the desire-of-knowledge is the agalma, which can be read with the clues: being-of-knowledge and being-of-truth.[iii]. If the outcome is an effect of truth, it marks the primacy of the signifier where desire is a desire-of-knowledge, “aroused by a cause connected with the formation of a subject,”[iv] with its unfolding effect – Entzweiung – between being-of knowledge and being-of-truth, between the “I think” and the “I am”. Between knowledge and truth there is a hole, the object “a”, because even though the being-of-truth is the aim, the agalma, this trace that the analyzand follows in his analysis, is impossible to reach. The topology of the subject in his relations with these three terms:


The “First Version of the Proposition of 9 October on the Psychoanalyst of the School”[v] situates the analyst at the level of the “s” of pure signification that can only be determinable by a displacement which is desire, and where there is no other choice than it becoming the desire of the Other in its pure form as desire-of-knowledge. The function of the agalma of the Subjet-supposed-to-knowledge then is the way of centering what is at stake in the choice of knowledge in the moment of the pass, and stressing that the not-knowing is central.

The plus-de-jouir,[vi] is what answers the loss of jouissance whence was engendered an animation that is unfettered when joined to the desire-of-knowledge. “The truth is pure desire-of-knowledge” but the effect of thought comes under suspicion, because thought is not only the question posed regarding the truth of the knowledge – the great Hegelian step. The Freudian advance is to outline it as that which impedes access to knowledge, the point of failure of the “I don’t know” from where the unconscious emerges as a desire of knowledge with its dimension of the unformulable, just like in Freud’s dream “he didn’t know”. The truth that psychoanalysis interrogates in the unconscious as “failure creator of knowledge”, the point of origin of the desire-of-knowledge, of a censored knowledge, is nothing other than correlate of that failure. In the study of the relations between knowledge and truth, from the time he distinguished demand from desire, what Freud points to – Lacan tells us – is the designation of a place of incidence of a particular desire, the point at which sexuality comes into play as fundamental in the domain of the desire-of-knowledge.

The desire-of-knowledge[vii] does not lead to knowledge; rather it is the hysteric’s discourse that leads to knowledge. It is she who animates a man with the desire-of-knowledge. Whereas it is as object “a” that the analyst occupies the position in the discourse, that is to say, he is present as cause of desire for the subject, offering himself as the target of the analytic operation – crazy, we could say, paradoxical – in as much as the subject commits to follow the trace of a desire-of-knowledge that has nothing to do with knowledge.

On the side of the analysand there is more a horror of knowledge”[viii], than desire-of-knowledge which makes it different from the desire of man as desire of the Other. To the desire-of-knowledge is then attributed the desire to invent knowledge.

That is why the passant testifies to being in the service of the desire-of-knowledge even without acknowledging what he brings; the same happens for the  passeur who interrogates. A risk for both[ix] is that this knowledge is constructed from their own harvest. Because in other knowledges, such knowledge would not be given a place, it is rather this that makes one doubt that the knowledge of the passant had emerged. This is why, Lacan tells us, that it is necessary for a passeur to listen to it. That is, if one succumbs to the weight of other knowledges – for example, succumbs to the temptation of making what has been heard into doxa – rather than preserving the weight of the unknown, it ends up in a belief that the knowledge has not been barred. Hence the answer of the Cartel could be that they are not convinced of the end. Perhaps, to avoid this Verleugnung, it might be necessary for the participants in the Cartel of the Pass “to belong”[x] like the passeurs, to that moment of the pass, so that this particular knowledge that is outside the frame of other established knowledges can be listened to. And here we return to the epigraph at the beginning in which désêtre (disbeing) is nothing other than the desire-of-knowledge, (of knowledge) of the hole, hence the parenthesis introduced by Lacan, which we write (a).

Translation by Gabriela Zorzutti


*This Prelude is a reminder of the teachings of Lacan following the traces of this syntagma desire-of-knowedge

[i] Text dated February 3, 1969, Of a Reform in its hole, unpublished, Version of Patrick Valas.

[ii] In Seminar VIII, The Transference, Lacan sets out to decipher Plato’s Symposium, where he deduces the relationship of knowledge to the agalma.

[iii] It is in Seminar XII, Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis, that Lacan provides these clues which will reappear in the summary of his teaching in the same seminar and in Seminar XIII (lesson of 04/20/1966), in which he comments on the summary. .

[iv] See Lacan’s text “On a purpose” (Ecrits, 2006, p. 303) which serves as punctuation, in which he reviews the work on topology that he developed in Seminar XII, Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis, a seminar that along with the following one, makes precisions regarding the subject to which the conceptualization of psychoanalysis refers.

[v] In this text, which appeared in Autres Ecrits(Seuil 2001), Lacan develops the relations between the subject-supposed-to-knowledge and the agalma, with respect to the end of analysis.

[vi] It is in Seminar XVI, From an Other to the other, that he develops the notion of plus-de-jouir. During the entire seminar he tries to clarify what the knowledge, in the analytic experience, concerns.

[vii] Seminar XVII, The Other side of Psychoanalysis, where he examines the relations of knowledge and truth in the discourses.

[viii] It is in Seminar XXI, The-names-of-the Father/The non-dupes err, that he clarifies the relations with the horror of knowledge.

[ix] 1974-05-08 Note that Jacques Lacan addresses personally those who were susceptible to being designated passants, Published in Analyse freudienne presse, 1993, n° 4, p. 42.

[x] A Heideggerian expression developed by Beatriz Maya in one of her elaborations of her experience as passant and passeur, “Lo que pasa en el pase” (What passes in the pass) #1, Publication of the EPFCL-ALN

Translator’s note: The graphic has the word ‘knowledge” on the right and “truth” at the bottom.