The ethics of consequences

“Of these streets that go deep into the west,

there will be one (I don’t know which one) that I have traveled

already for the last time, indifferent

and without guessing it, submitted … “

“Limits”, by Jorge Luis Borges.

We know that our freedom is restricted from the moment we are born, we do not choose our parents or our genetic code, or the day of our death, or the multiple contingencies of our destiny. However, today more than ever freedom is claimed unambiguously, outside of any type of conditioning, free from influences, ignorant of its limits. Thus, determinations that go beyond the field of ego choices are repudiated: dismissal of the unconscious, denial of the extimacy of the body, unbelief relative to death, etc. Such rejections are enlisted with the liberal premises relative to considering the State as an organism of coercion with respect to individual liberties. Is that how Aníbal Leserre developed it well[1], the neoliberalism which Hydra not only reproduces, but also has an all-encompassing power that affects our clinic. Currently, such utopias are very evident when in the middle of the peak of the COVID pandemic that haunts us, a freedom supposedly limited by the government is hoisted. We see in this sort of collective push to hold meetings, take off the chinstrap, shake the bodies denying the reality of the virus, the way in which the voice of freedom is nothing more than the push to enjoy under the order of the epochal superego. There where the subject thinks he is free, that is where he is most held.

Liberal maxims are sometimes raised by the progressive movements themselves, which overturn any determination, attributing it to a past that must be overcome. It was Lacan who knew how to notice that the slogan “your body is yours” marked the marriage of liberalism with science.

“… in the impulse of: your body is yours, in which an adage of liberalism was vulgarized towards the beginning of the century” the question of knowing if by ignoring how that body is considered by the subject of science, one will have the right to divide it for the exchange ». […]”[2]

Well distanced from these proclamations, Lacan considered that far from being our property, the body is that stranger that inhabits us and that can sometimes “set up camp”[3].

A teenager begins to explore the gay world under all the offers that arise via the internet, he has relationships without a condom, not only does he not worry about the possible contagion of sexually transmitted diseases, but he claims them in the name of absolute surrender. “I want total freedom in sex,” he tells me, knowing how challenging that statement is. He goes from one relationship to another experiencing – according to his words – the pleasure in the vertigo of not being linked to anyone. His slender and asexual young vegan body with a strange androgynous beauty, anorexic of flesh, is contrasted with the practices so dark to which it is exposed. Suddenly a urinary infection puts a brake on his street adventures, I tell him that total freedom is impossible. Is it then the real of the body or the unsuspected consequences of the acts, what today functions as a stop to the chimeras of the absence of boundaries? It is the unbound death drive that is played out in the name of … freedom. Precisely Freud[4] He said that what stops its lethal outcome are the bonds of Eros. It is still extremely suggestive that Thánatos is associated with detachment, loosening, and disunity since these are, at times, the values ​​that many subjects of our time evoke: non-commitment, not being linked to anything. It is undoubtedly the figure that the superego takes as an imperative of enjoyment and it should be remembered how Freud locates in these demands the pure cultivation of the death instinct[5]. This imperative produces a liquefaction of ties, which is why Gustavo Dessal[6] considers that liquid love means much more than addressing the effects that hypermodernity has had on social ties, since it designates instinctual disengagement, that is, the triumph of Thanatos over Eros

They have[7], – surely inspired by psychoanalysis – affirms that at present the constraints are no longer so much external but internal, and that these are offered as freedom, thus the society of performance is that of self-exploration. In the case described above, these imperatives are what lead the young man to live new experiences, more and more, believing … that he is free.

This case shows that it is only from the consequences that such practices can have that a limit to everything is possible. The principle that makes the ethics of psychoanalysis is valid here today as yesterday, which is always that of consequences and not that of intentions. Wisely Miller[8] he opposes this policy to that of the beautiful soul, which is that of good faith, that of judgment first, that of the self – we would say – as the only instance. Goethe, in Confessions of a beautiful soul, introduced this term into modern history, but it was Hegel who, from a radically critical perspective, uncovered the essential characteristics of this romantic figure of consciousness:

“It is, then, that part of the figure of the spirit certain of itself that remains still in its concept and that is called the beautiful soul”[9].

Certainly such stillness of spirit to which the great German philosopher refers indicates the closure of the concept in the First Judgment, as Miller points out. The effects of the acts open a dimension that disrupts the ego intentionality and that leads to the Last Judgment[10]. Would its consequences today be the only thing that would put a limit to the chimeras of freedom?

Silvia Ons is a psychoanalyst.


[1]Leserre, A., (2019) The neoliberal hydra, Bs.As., Grass

[2]Lacan J., «Allocution on the psychosis of the child», Other Writings, Paidós, 2012, p. 389.

[3] Lacan, J., (2006) The Seminary, Book 23, El sinthome Bs.As., Paidós, p. 64

[4] Freud, S., (1976): “Beyond the pleasure principle”, t. XXIII in Complete works, Bs.As., Amorrortu

[5] Freud, S., (1976) “The ego and the id”Opt.cit. p.p., 53-54

[6]Dessal, G., Bauman, Z., (2014) The return of the pendulum, Bs. As., Economic Culture Fund

[7]Han, B-Ch, (2016) Violence topology. Barcelona, Herder

[8]Miller, JA, (1999) Lacanian Politics, Bs. As., Diva Collection, pp. 101-4

[9]Hegel, G. W. F., (1987) Phenomenology of the spirit, Mexico, Fondo de Cultura Económica, p.464

[10]Miller, JA, opt.cit


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