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Jacques-Alain Miller translated by Daniel Collins, The Symptom 5, Winter 2 ! What is the proo" o" the unconscious# $t %ust so happens that $ muse o&er this question, that $ abandon mysel" to it' And to tell the truth, it is a (ind o" bemusement, it is abandon' )ut the ne*t patient is al+ays already there to pull me out o" my o+n doubt, "or this patient , +ho spea(s to me, +ho is -oin- to spea( to me, +ho is -oin- to address himsel" to me, +ho comes ri-ht in and doesn.t %ust pass by my +indo+ , is quite real, and $ don.t ta(e pleasure in doubtin- his e*istence' )ut is this patient be"ore me the proo" o" the unconscious# Does he pro&e the e*istence o" the unconscious# /o' 0e only pro&es the e*istence o" psychoanalysis, not that o" the unconscious' $" $ am a psychoanalyst, i" $ rise to the challen-e +hen someone as(s to do an analysis +ith me, i" $ underta(e there"ore to accept this predicate o" 1psychoanalyst1 and to inscribe mysel" in this "unction, then hadn.t $ better identi"y mysel" as such# That is, hadn.t $ better be in the place +here $ am thus called to "unction +ithout thin(in- o" ad&anta-e, and hadn.t $ better do +hat $ ha&e to do# $ ne&er ha&e to doubt the unconscious as lon- as $ accept the psychoanalytic act' Musin- has no place in it' The psychoanalytic act, +hich is the act o" the psychoanalyst, arises, li(e all acts +orthy o" the name, e* nihilo' This means that any act +orthy o" the name isn.t deduced2 it isn.t a deliberation, neither a calculation nor a compromise' 3&en i" a care"ul consideration o" the pros and cons precedes it, one reco-ni4es an act as that +hich e*ceeds its reasons' That.s +hy the act is "oundational, primordial, creati&e' 3&ery act +orthy o" the name creates a ne+ truth, +hich isn.t by &irtue o" that "act eternal, but +hich has a chance to be un"or-ettable "or the sub%ect supported by this act' Thus the act creates a truth eterni4ed in the sub%ect, +ho chan-es because o" it' The act is an absolute be-innin-, quasi-di&ine, +hich means that in the order o" the si-ni"ier, it is an a*iom, and in relation to the sub%ect, it is certitude' And it installs the "irst si-ni"ier "rom +hich is constituted the sub%ect o" a ne+ (no+led-e , a (no+led-e that is -uaranteed by that act' )ut then you.ll as(, +hat -uarantees the act# /othin-' The act is ne&er o" the order o" -uarantee, but o" the order o" ris(' This means that it isn.t its o+n -uarantee' 3&en 5od +ouldn.t (no+ ho+ to be his o+n -uarantee' We can only say that 5od is authori4ed only by himsel"' $ can thin( about it as much as $ +ant, but $ only accede to the act by passin- throu-h the moment , +e could e&en say the de"ile , o" an 1$ don.t thin('1 To be in the act, it is necessary not to thin(' $" the act is so di""icult "or the obsessional, and i" he ne&ertheless dreams about it a lot, i" he desires it, i" he in&ests it +ith a &alue beyond measure and absolute, it.s precisely to that e*tent that the obsessional thin(s and that he is still a thin(in--bein-' $n that re-ard, obsession is nothin- other than the patholo-y o" thou-ht by +hich the "undamental indetermination o" thou-ht is burdened +ith all the +ei-ht o" doubt' And the same -oes "or unconscious thou-ht' $t is the act, as determination +ith all the "orce o" certitude, that.s decisi&e' Thus a dis%unction6 act or unconscious' 7roperly spea(in-, the act is the re%ection o" the unconscious , +hich also means that inso"ar as $ am the support o" an act, $ don.t ha&e an unconscious' $.m no lon-er hoo(ed up to the unconscious 8 Je suis dsabonn l'inconscient9' $nso"ar as $ am the support o" an act, $ am not a sub%ect' What $ %ust re"erred to as ris(, $ could also call "raud 8imposture9 since the premise o" the act -oes beyond +hat $ thin(, beyond +hat $ (no+' $t.s a "raud because as unconscious, $ am one +ho (no+s not +hat $ do' $n this respect, e&ery act is a "raud since in the act $ am actin- as i" $ (ne+ +hat $ +as doin- e&en thou-h $ don.t (no+ anythin- about it' Correction6 e&ery act is a "raud e*cept that $ don.t ha&e anythin- to do +ith it and that a true act isn.t the sub%ect.s because there is no sub%ect o" the act' So, as a psychoanalyst, $ don.t ha&e to doubt the unconscious' $ don.t ha&e to doubt that $ (no+ in a certain +ay o" the e*istence o" the unconscious' As a psychoanalyst, $ lay the "oundation "or the unconscious, inso"ar as $ induce the one +ho addresses me to spea( in the dimension o" the unconscious' $ lay the "oundation "or the unconscious, and at "irst it.s at the patient.s ris(, and e&en at the patient.s e*pense' /e&ertheless, my question , 1What is the proo" o" the unconscious#1 , remains in spite o" this pra-matic resolution' $ say that it.s a pra-matic solution because e&en +ithout ha&in- an ans+er, $ continue to do +hat $ ha&e to do as a psychoanalyst, and "or the best reasons in the +orld' So it.s a pra-matic resolution, not a theoretical one' Certainly $ don.t ha&e, li(e Descartes, the leisure to meditate on certainty and e*istence' And besides, does the unconscious demand that +e pro&e its

e*istence# $t isn.t e&en certain that 5od demands that' 5od, +hen he e*isted, demanded that +e lo&e him, not that +e that +e pro&e him' $n "act, by pro&in- him, +e lo&e him less, e&en not at all' The death o" 5od be-an +ith his proo"' $t.s not %ust that proo"s +ear out the truth, they (ill it' So +hy do $ trouble mysel" +ith the question o" +hat pro&es the unconscious# 3&en thou-h Descartes is all alone in his hermita-e, sittin- by his "ire +ith his ball o" +a*, $.m not alone, inso"ar as the psychoanalyst isn.t alone, since his ball o" +a* li&es, and tal(s, and thin(s' The analyst doesn.t ha&e anythin- to do +ith the 1$ thin(, there"ore $ am1 because he restricts himsel" to the 1$ don.t thin(1 "rom +hich he deri&es his bein-, lea&inthe lac(-in-bein- 8manque--tre9 to the one +ho thin(s on the couch' )asically, the psychoanalyst can restrict himsel" to practicin- psychoanalysis' :et.s say that that.s the pra-matic "orm o" his in"atuation, to ta(e up a term that +as recently in&o(ed' That.s already a lot' )ut i" he also +ants to thin( about psychoanalysis, ho+ could a psychoanalyst a&oid the question, 1What is the proo" o" the unconscious#1 There is a con&enient response' Trans"erence pro&es the unconscious, that is , let.s put it this +ay , the lo&e o" the unconscious' )ut lo&e and si-ns o" lo&e are not proo"s, i" +e admit at the &ery least that since the ad&ent o" the scienti"ic discourse, the requirements o" a proo" ha&e o&erruled and disquali"ied the testimony o" lo&e' And that.s +hy the question o" +hat pro&es the unconscious persists' $t imposes itsel" on the analyst as soon as he thin(s, and e&en as soon as he addresses himsel" to those +ho don.t reco-ni4e themsel&es in it' ;b&iously, the analyst could address only those +ho do see themsel&es in it, to analysts, that is, to +hat is there "or all to see' )ut it.s "or those +ho don.t see themsel&es in this question that $ spea( today, and not "or my collea-ues' That.s the hic that.s there "or all to see' <or +hat are the criteria o" a proo"# There.s only a proo" i" the ;ther consents to it' $n this sense, lo-ic is only an e*treme "orm o" rhetoric' A proo" "or one isn.t necessarily a proo" "or the ;ther' ;ne e&en sees this in mathematics, +here there isn.t the least a-reement amonmathematicians on the criteria "or the proo" o" e*istence +hen in"inity is at issue' Thus, it isn.t certain that the question o" +hat pro&es the unconscious is collecti&i4able' 7erhaps it can only be posed to each person one by one6 +hat proo" do you ha&e o" the e*istence o" the unconscious# $n any case, that.s a question that the analyst can.t e&ade, unless he ma(es his act a "raud' This is the question that undoes the in"atuation6 +hat is it, "or you, that pro&es the e*istence o" the unconscious other than bein- an analyst# The ans+er, i" there is one, comes "irst o" all "rom one.s o+n analysis' That.s +hy an analysis al+ays be-ins +ith an act o" "aith' )ecause the proo"s, i" they come, only come alon- later' /obody be-ins an analysis in certainty' Certainty, in the ideal case, at any rate, comes at the end o" analysis, +ith the handin- o&er o" the psychoanalytic act' $" certainty is on the side o" the act, +hy not say that it.s ne&er on the side o" the unconscious# The "ormations o" the unconscious, the narration o" dreams, the slip, the mista(e, and their interpretation, to my mind don.t in any +ay pro&e the e*istence o" the unconscious' They don.t in any +ay e*clude the possibility that the unconscious is ima-inary' $n "act, the unconscious is ima-inary i" one means by that not only the re-ister o" the ima-e, inso"ar as it.s di""erent "rom the real, but also the re-ister o" meanin- as di""erent "rom the real' $" +e accept that meanin- is ima-inary, i" +e put it in this re-ister, then +e must also posit that the unconscious is ima-inary' The "ormations o" the unconscious and their interpretation by the analyst don.t -o any "arther than demonstratin- that there is some meanin- there +here +e could discern none be"ore , be"ore <reud and be"ore one tries it "or onesel"' Meanin-, all ri-ht, as much meanin- as you +ant= )ut that doesn.t mean it.s there to demonstrate the e*istence o" the unconscious' That only demonstrates its elaboration, +hich only e&er remains in the order o" the possible' :oo( at analysts, e&en the best, +hen they try to de"ine the calculus o" interpretation' They only succeed in pointin- out +hat phrase they used to complete a sentence o" their analysand' They succeed in determinin- +hich si-ni"ier 2 is %oined to the si-ni"ier > that their patient o""ered them' Thus they conclude upon the probable e""ect o" si-ni"ication that "ollo+s "rom it, and they can present it to you in all li(elihood' )ut that doesn.t -et beyond the ima-inary o" meanin-' A -ap is maintained bet+een the e""ect o" si-ni"ication , as probable as it may be , and the response o" the real that seems to accompany it' And in "act, on +hat side should +e loo( "or this response o" the real# We al+ays loo( "or it on the side o" the symptom' We can demonstrate as much as +e +ant o" the e""ects o" si-ni"ication, but our standard o" measure is to (no+ i" anythin- chan-es +ith the symptom' )asically, +e already reco-ni4e that +hat ma(es the unconscious e*-ist is the symptom 8 c'est le symptme qui fait ex-istence de l'inconscient9, and not the "ormations o" the unconscious' $t.s in this sense that the symptom isn.t to be

placed on the same le&el as the "ormations o" the unconscious' 5ranted, it is one o" them, inso"ar as +e reco-ni4e "ormations o" the unconscious as those "ormations "or +hich +e can suppose an intentional si-ni"ication' We can suppose in a dream, a slip, a %o(e, and a symptomatic mista(e a certain 1that means'1 And it.s "rom this supposed meanin- that +e can in"er any si-ni"yin- intention, a supposed (no+led-e, +hich the response o" the supposed sub%ect o" (no+led-e 8sujet-suppos-savoir9 then encapsulates' )ut supposition isn.t e*istence' $t.s e&en the opposite 8 contraire9 o" e*istence' )ut e&en i" the supposed meanin- insists, and thus demonstrates the coherence o" the (no+led-e that $ in"er "rom it, it doesn.t, "or all that, ma(e it e*-ist' To spea( o" the e*-istence o" the unconscious is to say somethin- more, and e&en somethin- entirely di""erent "rom spea(in- about its insistence' 3&en thou-h both are repetition, they aren.t the same' :et.s admit that the symptom , inso"ar as it is interpretable, inso"ar as +e can "ind a meanin- in it and "rom this meanin- in"er a (no+led-e , belon-s to the re-ister o" the "ormations o" the unconscious' The symptom ne&ertheless is distin-uished "rom the others by, i" $ may put it this +ay, its ob%ecti&ity' <irst o" all because the symptom endures +hile a "ormation o" the unconscious is in essence a transitory bein-, e&asi&e, elusi&e' We can al+ays say about a dream , and this happens e&en to psychoanalysts , that it.s only a dream, but +e ne&er say about a symptom that it.s only a symptom' That.s +hat <reud butted up a-ainst, the resistance o" the symptom' The symptom reaches the unconscious2 its jouissance e*ists, ob%ecti&ely e*-ists, "or the symptom al+ays includes a re"erence to the master' That.s +hy it.s ob%ecti&e' $.ll e&en say, to simpli"y, that the symptom is al+ays social' We see this in the selection o" psychiatric patients +here it.s the social that determines the symptom, and thin-s &ary accordin- to the apparatuses o" mastery' )ut e&en in analytic e*perience, +here selection, +e thin(, is personal and sub%ecti&e, the symptom announces itsel" "undamentally throu-h some "la+ in the sub%ect.s mastery' There is no symptom e*cept +here there is some sub%ecti&e "la+ o" mastery and thus a re"erence to masterin-' That.s +hy "rom the "irst, the symptom has al+ays been led to resubmit itsel" to its master so that it remasters you' The doctor in particular has been the a-ent o" this "unction, and let.s note that he doesn.t shy a+ay "rom identi"yin- the sub%ect +ith the symptom' <or him, i" you ha&e the symptom, you are the symptom, and that.s ho+ desi-nated' ?ou aren.t John or Jac( anymore, but a pleurisy or an abscess' $n that re-ard, the reduction o" the sub%ect to a symptom , not the rei"ication, but the symptomi"ication or the becomin--a-symptom , is reali4ed in a short circuit startin- at this le&el' )ecause o" the symptom, the analyst is called to the place o" the master2 but he is called to hold that place in a ne+ +ay, a +ay that isn.t therapeutic as such' <or there is no therapy that isn.t done in the name o" the discourse o" the master' The therapist is a priest +ho o""ers the symptom as a sacri"ice to the master' We analysts are e*actly li(e company doctors6 -i&en the current coordinates o" the discourse o" the master, it.s necessarily as a patholo-y o" labor that the symptom presents itsel"' This is +hat undermines the discourse o" the master, hinders its "unctionin- and thro+s +or( into disarray' $t.s not only 1$.m not able to +or(,1 but 1$.m not able to stop mysel" "rom +or(in-'1 What counts, as "ar as the symptom is concerned, is the 1$.m not able,1 +hich is a "ormula "or stoppin-, but at the same time a "ormula "or repetition tied to stoppin-' $t.s basically an 1$.m not able to stop mysel"'1 And it.s only inso"ar as the discourse o" the master de"ines the "eelin- o" reality and the criteria o" e*istence that the "ailures and resistances that the discourse o" the master encounters in the name o" the sub%ecti&e symptom count as e*istence' Symptoms count as e*-istence because o" the discourse o" the master' $t.s on account o" the "act that the unconscious in the symptom, and e&en in the social symptom, is made to e*-ist that it is susceptible to demonstration to e&eryone' The response o" the body in hysteria and the response o" thou-ht in obsession could ser&e +ell enou-h as proo" "or the sub%ect, but "or e&eryone, the proo" +ould be by the response o" the social body or o" social thou-ht' <rom this results the "act that the per&erse symptom or the psychotic symptom al+ays includes a s+eepin- con&iction that is happily re"used to the neurotic' Thus the symptom is to be de"ined not as "ormation o" the unconscious, but as "unction o" the unconscious , a "unction that carries a "ormation o" the unconscious into the real' $t is simplest to say that the symptom carries an e""ect o" si-ni"ication into the real and that throu-h the symptom, an e""ect o" si-ni"ication becomes equi&alent to a response o" the real' The annoyin- thin- is that this "ormula doesn.t meet scienti"ic standards' Science, in e""ect, doesn.t allo+ that e""ects o" si-ni"ication can be the

equi&alent o" the response o" the real' To be sure, science in&esti-ates the real under the 5alilean supposition that nature spea(s the lan-ua-e o" mathematics, that the real responds in mathematical si-ni"iers' When the real is in&esti-ated by science as it is symbolically elaborated, it responds directly in the symbolic' )ut response o" the real that +e analysts in&esti-ate , let.s call it the real o" %ouissance , is made o" meanin-' We bear +itness to this oursel&es by our interpretations' And e&en i" +e suppose, in con"ormity +ith the scienti"ic hypothesis, that the real is +ritten in letters, it.s necessary "or us to account "or +hat the letters si-ni"y, that is, it.s necessary "or us to add to the real an e""ect o" si-ni"ication' That is to say, i" the symptom is a "unction that -oes "rom the symbolic to the real, there is, "or us no direct path that leads us "rom the real to the symbolic and that +e need as an ima-inary mediation , one o" meanin-' )ut +hat to do about it# To be able to ma(e this mediation happen, that.s :acan.s dream' $.ll end by indicatin- +hat all this chan-es in the status o" the ;ther, +hich is "or :acan the cornerstone o" psychoanalysis' $s the ;ther already constituted in the symbolic# What could ma(e us belie&e it are precisely the "ormations o" the unconscious, inso"ar as they are messa-es that are susceptible to interpretation' And +e can use them to demonstrate that in a "ormation o" the unconscious is an appeal to the ;ther that it conceals , the other interprets and the other -uarantees the meanin- that it includes' ;n the other hand, i" +e approach the unconscious not throu-h its "ormations, but throu-h the symptom, then +e be-in to suspect that perhaps this ;ther is only constituted in the ima-inary, and in that sense, this ;ther, unli(e the symptom, doesn.t e*ist' What is the partner o" the sub%ect# $s it the ;ther, the bi- ;ther, in +hich he is constituted as such, and +here he is spo(en o" to the point o" bein- spo(en# ;r is it rather the little a by +hich he en%oys himsel"' $" +e approach the unconscious throu-h its "ormations, +e could say that the partner o" the sub%ect is the ;ther' )ut i" +e approach it throu-h the symptom, its partner is the little a' This +ould mean that, "rom this point o" &ie+, the ;ther is supported by the objet a' The question then becomes one o" (no+in- ho+ the ;ther comes to be substituted "or objet a, that is, ho+ it is turned into a metaphor, not the metaphor o" the sub%ect, but ho+ rather bein- comes to be substituted "or the letter2 ho+ it is that "or the letter "undamentally +ithout A there comes to be substituted the si-ni"ier that returns to the ;ther2 ho+ it could happen that +e could respond to the sub%ect "rom place +here its only partner +as solitude in the %ouissance o" the symptom' The poet tells us ho+ , "rom )eatrice, his )eatrice, the di&ine ;ther +as born, and also his o+n idea o" beatitude' 0e sho+s us that the creation o" the bi- ;ther starts +ith the %ouissance o" the sub%ect' )ut it.s not "rom %ust any %ouissance that an ;ther can be born2 this only happens i" the ;ther is already in the symptom, i" there.s already a breach in the automatism o" jouissance' 0o+ is the other present in the repetition o" the symptom# Al+ays as 8>9' ?ou can see it in obsession, +hich ma(es o" the 1minus one1 a temporal instance , in the sense that +e say, 1that +as a close one1 8il tait moins une9' $n that &ery haste, +hich is jouissance, the ;ther o" e*pectation is created, and so, in e*ca&atin- the place o" the 1minus one,1 the place o" the ;ther is prepared' :oo( at hysteria, in +hich the sub%ect subtracts a letter, the letter, so as to become "undamentally, i" $ may say, a +ant-to-be 8manque--tre9' <rom this +e +ill in analysis (no+ ho+ to -rasp not only the metaphors o" the sub%ect, but also the metaphors o" jouissance' With the obsessional this +ill be his petri"ication, his 1turnin- to stone,1 +hich already indicates the dri&e, and this petri"ication doesn.t contradict +hat occasionally complements it, namely, a-itation or acti&ism' With the hysteric +e "ind not "i*ation, but 1"ication,1 that is absenti"ication, +hich establishes her presence and +hich the sub%ect must then ta(e to the e*treme that +e call histrionics, but +hich is in "act hysterical presentness 8 prsentisme9, continually eaten a+ay by absenti"ication' <or the per&ert, $ +on.t claim petri"ication, in spite o" Man @ay.s portrait o" Sade2 instead, $.d say (no+led-i"ication 8savoirification9' <or the psychotic, +ithout de&elopin- the point, $ +ould in&o(e his 1hati"ication1 8hafication). I'll conclude by talking about the implications of conceiving of the symptom as a function of ex-istence. There is no promise here that we overrule its absolute remainder and its rantings and ravings. The symptom as interpretable, even supposing that it had disappeared, leaves an unelaborated kernel. e could call this kernel incurable. !fter that, what else remains to be done but to assume it " not #ust the assumption of castration, but the assumption of the symptom$ This assumption " doubtless with some immodesty "

goes as far as an %I am what I am.% That's why I wanted to begin to pose the &uestion that remains " what is the proof of the unconscious$ notes ' !ctes ( ) *, L'acte et la rptition, +,-.