Paper 5 – Introducing the Dupe, the Double and Desire

Freud in “The Uncanny” introduces a notion of the mirror stage with the concept of the double.[i] Following Rank he tells us that the double has connections with the mirror reflection, and is a creation from a very early mental stage. It has a friendly and an unfriendly aspect. Its origins in primary narcissism which is the friendly aspect assure the subject of his immortality.[ii] Lacan has given me the idea that immortality is the key to Freud’s concept of narcissism. In its unfriendly aspect the double, one year before the death drive appears formally introduced, is the harbinger of death.[iii] In this sense “The Uncanny” becomes the preface to Beyond the Pleasure Principle.

In his post war papers Lacan locates the death drive in the dual imaginary relation, calling it a narcissistic suicidal tendency.[iv] It’s suicidal because a strike against the little other is a strike against the self. Freud refers to Rank (1914) who suggested the double had a paranoid aspect. This is in line with the two dimensions of Lacan’s mirror stage of libidinal dynamism and connaissance paranoiaque. The friendly aspect of the ego falls under libidinal dynamism where the ego is a little other invested with imaginary libido. The unfriendly aspect falls under paranoid knowledge. It wasn’t until 1923 that Capgras formalised the double’s status as a delusion and therefore as psychotic.[v]

Lacan himself understood the double in a relation between the imaginary and the real. There is no mention of foreclosure. “In the mirror experience it can happen that the image in which we believe changes. If the specular image in front of us which is our stature, our face, our pair of eyes, lets the dimension of our own gaze emerge, the value of the image begins to change- especially if there is a moment in which this gaze appears in the mirror and begins to no longer gaze at us ourselves. A feeling of strangeness begins which opens the door to anxiety [. . .] This passage from the specular image to the double which escapes me is the point where something happens, the articulation of which we give to the function of the object a, which allows us to show the generality, the presence in the whole phenomenal field.”[vi] (My translation since there is no official translation.) The feeling of strangeness indicates loss of identifications. Instead we have the object gaze which no longer gazes at the subject. It doesn’t hold me in its gaze. It’s not the gaze of the Other which has ceased to exist. The double is not an object of identification. It cannot be grasped in the mirror. If it is perceived, it will not be experienced as an ego.  The specular image becomes the foreign and invasive image of the double. The ego has been transformed into a persecutory phenomenon, a psychotic phenomenon.[vii] The sign of a foreclosure is the transformation of an image or of something symbolic into the real.  The double is non-ego which Freud calls the harbinger of death. Capgras’ paper had not yet been published, and I don’t know if Freud ever read it after it was published.  In counterphobic activity the ego is often able to undertake to dress up the object (a) in a chasuble. The (a) nevertheless creates anxiety on occasion.[viii]

The friendly libido is imaginary circulating between the specular image and the ego. It would be an imaginary enjoyment. The unfriendly libido comes with an injection of death drive, but it is still a drive worthy of the name enjoyment. Under libidinal dynamism the ego is identified with the little other of the specular image for its sense of self. Under paranoiac knowledge, the unfriendly aspect, the ego is at risk of being robbed by the little other of its sense of self, as Lacan puts it in 1946.[ix] When the day of the matheme arrives, the friendly aspect will be formalised first simply as a then as i(a), the image of the little other. He borrows the former matheme, changes its use and indexes it on the unfriendly aspect where it loses its image functioning to become: (a). The object (a) is not part of the mirror stage. It is hidden by the mirror stage. Its interference in the imaginary is experienced as anxiety. Lacan gives the object little (a) the status of the real in S10.

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