What is a Discourse?

Knowledge, Entropy, and Life in Lacan

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4 November, 2018, 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

£45 – £65

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A surrealist image containing 2 figures: a skeleton, facing an android woman with a bird on her head.

A one-day intensive course.

In what is arguably his most politically oriented work, Seminar XVII – The Other Side of Psychoanalysis (1969-70), Jacques Lacan coins the neologism anthropie in order to refer to a form of entropy – a degradation or loss of energy – that would be specific to the anthropos, the human animal. In this one-day intensive course we will scrutinise this expression by first unravelling the closely related notion of discourse, which is the main focus of Seminar XVII.

Second, we will see how, in his early Seminars of the 1950s, Lacan already attempted to single out the peculiarity of the speaking animal with respect to other forms-of-life by pointing out that its potentially self-destructive death instinct is somehow anti-entropically contained through the concomitant production of information as an increase in “levels of differentiation”.

Third, we will dwell on how Seminar XVII further articulates and rectifies this scenario. At this point, the symbolic order of language, discourse, and knowledge is no longer simply seen as a tentative solution to the “perturbed” biological nature of Homo sapiens but also as an integral part of its predicament. The very slowing down of entropy – the separation of linguistic life from animal undeadness – itself enhances entropy. There is a structural entropic feature of knowledge that attempts to totalise knowledge, or differentiation, which increasingly indifferentiates it in a chaotic manner.

On the one hand, this endeavour – epitomised by the capitalist-bureaucratic capture of knowledge and its contradictory brandishing of the “happy life” as an elimination of loss – is itself inconclusive. On the other hand, the enhancement of entropy through knowledge may turn out to be truly irreversible and can already be given very concrete or at least evocative names, such a nuclear holocaust, environmental point of no return, pandemic malware, super-intelligent AI takeover, and so on.


Some prior knowledge of Lacan is advisable but not necessary.

  • J. Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XVII (Norton, 2007) [especially lessons I, III]
  • J. Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book I (Norton, 1991) [pp. 121, 145, 147, 148-9]
  • J. Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book II (Norton, 1991) [pp. 31, 74, 80-81, 83, 95, 113, 115, 221-222, 227, 232-233, 238, 30]
  • L. Chiesa, The Not-Two: Logic and God in Lacan (MIT Press, 2016) [pp. 145-151]
  • L. Chiesa, “The World of Desire: Lacan Between Evolutionary Biology and Psychoanalytic Theory”, in Filozofksi Vestnik, XXX, 2, 2009 [especially pp. 106-110] [available at https://ojs.zrc-sazu.si/filozofski-vestnik/article/viewFile/3212/2928]
  • P. Macherey, “Lacan et le discours universitaire (1)” [available at https://philolarge.hypotheses.org/87]

Course tutor: Lorenzo Chiesa


10.00am – first session
12.00pm – lunch break
12.45pm – second session
2.45pm – tea break
3.00 – third session
5.00pm – finish

Lorenzo Chiesa is a philosopher who has published extensively on psychoanalysis. His works in this field include Subjectivity and Otherness: A Philosophical Reading of Lacan (MIT Press, 2007); Lacan and Philosophy: The New Generation (Re.press, 2014); The Not-Two: Logic and God in Lacan (MIT Press, 2016); and The Virtual Point of Freedom (Northwestern University Press, 2016). He is Director of the GSH – Genoa School of Humanities. Since 2014, he has been Visiting Professor at the European University at Saint Petersburg and at the Freud’s Dream Museum of the same city. Previously, he was Professor of Modern European Thought at the University of Kent, where he founded and directed the Centre for Critical Thought.


4 November, 2018
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
£45 – £65
Event Category:


Freud Museum London
20 Maresfield Gardens
London, NW3 5SX United Kingdom
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020 7435 2002

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