Richard Dawkins: Favorite Book (fwd)

Frances Bolton (PHI) fbolton at
Tue Dec 1 09:14:47 PST 1998

On Tue, 1 Dec 1998, Les Schaffer wrote:

> if you could stop pretending that every asshole on this list runs in
> your circles and hence knows all the uhhh ins and outs of lacan's
> 'erect penises' vs. 'the phallus', could you maybe take a minute to be
> more specific in your objection so i can follow your argument?
I was calling Levitt an asshole because he is mean, arrogant, and a dirty arguer. I am not "pretending that 'every asshole' (?) on this list runs in my circles and knows Lacan, either. I have no idea where you got that. Clever pun, unnecessary snottiness.

Lacan was a psychonanalyst, and sort of loony. A real greedhead, he kept shortening his sessions with patients until they were about 15 minutes. He didn't let analysands talk--he said he would get more if they were silent. A couple committed suicide after he abruptly ended the analytic relationship. he made a lot of money--if session are 15 minutes ong you can see alot of people in one day. he got kicked out of whatever the major psychoanalytic society is for these escapades. One more anecdote: he was invited to MIT by Chomsky and I think Dennett to give a talk on thinking. He bewildered the audience by saying he thought through his feet.

That said, some of his theory is interesting. (although I notice at conferences, when people use lacan they are always quick to note that they are NOT lacanians) The Phallus is the transcendental ideal of the penis, ominpotent and ominiscent. The penis hopes to achieve that ideal, but of course never can. This inability creates Issues.

I'm more familar with the science wars (the whole Sokal/postie thing) then I am with Lacan. I read Dawkins reading of Lacan as a deliberate attempt to ridicule posties rather than as even a half-hearted attempt to read his stuff on the Phallus.

That said, I was at a conference a few weeks ago where someone gave a paper on Lacanian math. I haven't read the original Lacan, but this guy (Arkady Plotnitsky) pointed out that Lacan was using the phrase "erectile tissue" which I guess is another thing altogether.

Hope that was helpful.


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