I suggest a parallel between Hegel and Lacan which should surprise neither Hegelians nor Lacanians. Hegel was a totalizing philosopher. He argued that the same structures and dynamics pervade all forms of human experience. In The Philosophy of Right , Hegel described the dialectic through which a person becomes a legal, social, and political subject. A Hegelian would expect that the formation of a person as a psychoanalytical subject would follow the same dialectic. Hegelian philosophy purports to be a circular (or perhaps spiraling) system. Hegel did not merely show that his conception of subjectivity logically and necessarily developed from the application of his dialectical system. He also suggested that if one started instead with his conception of subjectivity, one would necessarily develop a dialectical system. This was Hegel's project in The Phenomenology of Spirit .
Lacan often acknowledged Hegel's influence on his rewriting of Freud. But he frequently tried to distinguish himself from his intellectual forebear, as illustrated by the quotation at the head of this chapter. I believe, however, that Lacan's "science of desire" derived as much from the Hegelian insight that "the desire of man is the desire of the other" as it did from the Freudian theory of the unconscious. Unlike the person hypothesized by classical liberal philosophy, unlike the masculine stereotype
of pop psychology and different-voice feminism, the Hegelian and Lacanian subjects are not preexisting, self-standing, autonomous individuals seeking to maximize their utility by owning and controlling things and people. Both Hegel and Lacan recognized that subjectivity is a human creation—a hard-won achievement but an incomplete and imperfect one. The subject is not autonomous but is driven by an erotic desire to be recognized by another human being—to be desired by another person. Subjectivity can only be intersubjectivity, and this intersubjectivity must be mediated by objectivity.
The influence of Hegel's theory of desire, as developed in The Phenomenology of Spirit in particular, on Lacan's early work is widely recognized. I am making a slightly different point. I am arguing that Hegel continued to exert an indirect and, perhaps, unconscious influence on Lacan throughout his life which is reflected in his late theory of feminine sexuality. I wish to show the similarity between Lacan's account of the origin of law, language, and sexuality and Hegel's account of the origin of law, property, and contract in The Philosophy of Right .
The interrelationship between Hegel and Lacan goes deeper than mere similarity. If Hegel was right that the totality of his dialectic is a logical necessity, and if I am right that the application of Hegel's dialectic results in Lacanian theory of the psychoanalytic subject, then one should be able to go back and reread Hegel and find the Lacanian subject already waiting there. If Lacan is a true son of Hegel, this can only be because Hegel's Minerva was already great with her Freudian child.