other, The (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
The notion of "the Other" was developed by Jacques Lacan in particular (rits, pp. 9, 16, 55-56, 379, 431, 575, 690, 751, 807, 852).
Yet, properly speaking, the Other is not a Freudian concept, even if it seems central to the experience of treatment.
Situating the dream and the unconscious in "another scene" was as far as Freud went in conceptualizing this place. The Topographical theory (consciousreconsciousnconscious) like the structural theory (idgouperego) does not allow for the radical otherness of the unconscious, because it situates its terms on the same level. But the unconscious is what forces us to think three-dimensionally despite the dualities that define the imaginary.
The Lacanian Other does not have a philosophical origin either. Platonic otherness (cf. Timaeus) is reserved for what temporarily disrupts sameness, considered as ideal. Of course, the difference between the sexes is in all likelihood the imaginary basis for Plato's thought. But homosexual influence, which generally underlies his thought, continues to treat woman as a degraded man, that is, identical except for a single detail, but at the price of investing this detail narcissistically.
The Other dimension introduced by Freud and conceptualized by Lacan is all the same an essential contribution to the conduct of treatment, as well as to the cultural field.
How can a reader grasp a category that, without being magical or supernatural, cannot be touched or seen? Perhaps by appealing to the shared experience of speech, insofar as it always supposes an interlocutort is said that a child learns not so much to speak as to respond, in such a way that the original address remains the force behind his words. Dialogue both unites and divides speaker and listener through what they are unaware of and what motivates them, the unconscious. This reciprocal opening is just what is needed if each is going to seek in the other the object, the unknown cause of his own desire, without which each one sings his or her own song, and no harmony results.
This other place, which is circumscribed by the opening proper to the "speaking-being," (who engages the lost object, the great sustainer of desire, through the operation that Freud called castration) and which overlaps with that of the partner, is the gap, covered or sutured, that shelters the unconscious.
The Other as a concept refers to the heterogeneity of this place, as that from which a speaker's own speech comes back to him or her; when that happens, the speaker discovers that he is a subject. But it is also the place to which the speaker talks back, since it conceals the object that concerns him or her most intimately. Our two interlocutors, assumed to exist in the same space, are thus revealed as radically heterogeneous. No longer does any supposed detail differentiate them. Rather the place that they occupy, the one coming to the locus of the Other to represent the lost object (object a, according to Lacan) ignites desire.
Coming thus from the Other, the address made to the subject comes to him by the intermediary of the little other that supports desire. But just because it is reduced to being represented by either the gap or the eclipse (Lacan writes that the all of Euclidian space is supported by the gap that it veils), the Other place is not for all that a dark continent. It comes to the infant by his mother's speech. Later the infant will have to abstract from that speech the laws of language. This necessary orderinghown by Ferdinand de Saussure to be organized by signifiers that each refer to another signifier rather than to some objectntroduces the child to the dimension of loss.
This loss becomes evident when the speaker receives from this place a message that expresses a desire. When a slip of the tongue makes it too explicit, he feels shame. Neurosis is the I's refusal to adapt to, or endorse, this desire coming from the Other, which the subject might experience as pathological or foreign (in obsession) or intrusive (in hysteria).
This Other place, as an unimpeachable third party, is the only thing that makes it possible for two speakers to avoid a fatal, mirror-image confrontation, in which it is the word of one against the other. Not only the place of lack, the Other is also the place of truth insofar as it allows our ideas, however vain, the dignity of representing the truth.
We live in a time when the remarkable progress of science tends to foreclose any such otherness, its defining importance for human experience notwithstanding. The unmediated duality that science promotes is discernible even in the success of economic liberalism, even in the elevation of the idea of direct democracy. The very face of power is obliged to display itself as a mirror image, familiar and without mystery; while powerful popular tendencies push for the homogenization of human groups. It will be the better for us if analysis can prevent us from underestimating the risks.
See also: Alienation; ; Althusser, Louis; ; Demand; Four discourses; Fantasy, formula of; Foreclosure; Graph of Desire; Imaginary identification/symbolic identification; Imaginary, the (Lacan); Jouissance (Lacan); Matheme; Mirror stage; Object a; Phallus; Splitting of the subject; Optical schema; L and R schema; ; Subject; Subject of the unconscious; Subject's desire; Symbolic, the (Lacan); Unary trait.
Lacan, Jacques. (1966).rits. Paris: Seuil.
. (2002).rits: A Selection. (Bruce Fink, Trans.). New York: W. W. Norton.
Berman, E. (2002). Identifying with the other, a conflictual vital necessity. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 12, 141-152.
Laplanche, Jean. (1997). The theory of seduction and the problem of the other. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 78, 653-666.