Lacan, the Death Drive, and Philosophy.

Tuesday 26 September 2023, 2:30 pm
PhD student
R. Farías Rivas
prof. dr. P.I.M.M. Van Haute †, prof. dr. A.L. Messina (Universidad Diego Portales, CL)
dr. A.S. Kleinherenbrink

The dissertation focuses on Jacques Lacan's interpretation of the death drive, a psychoanalytic notion that aims to elucidate the baffling clinical phenomenon of compulsive repetition. Specifically, the dissertation offers a theoretical reconstruction of the obscure concept, as well as an evaluation of its significance in the context of modern and especially contemporary philosophy. On the former front, the death drive appears not as a psycho-biological tendency towards inert matter (Freud’s classic “death instinct”), but as the ultimate paradox both driving unconscious desire and demarcating psychoanalytic rationality itself. On the latter front, Lacan also held the death drive to have a profoundly anti-philosophical significance, insofar being the one dimension of psychic suffering that cannot be reconciled with, and even resists, philosophical reason. In the recent mainstream conversation, however, the death drive has also become a key notion in Žižek’s well-known philosophical popularization of Lacanian theory, where it rather features as the properly ontological problem and horizon of our turbulent times. Thus, against its seeming original thrust in Lacan’s reflection, the death drive has easily been turned into a philosophical concept, which makes a proper psychoanalytical study and philosophical evaluation of the notion all the more relevant. 
Rodrigo Farías Rivas majored in Psychology and Philosophy in the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. He is a Clinical Psychologist, wrote his undergraduate Philosophy thesis on Wittgenstein and Lacan, and is now defending his Ph.D. dissertation in Philosophy on the Lacanian notion of the death drive with Radboud University Nijmegen (the Netherlands) and Diego Portales University (Chile). He has also written articles on Kant, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Borges, Foucault, Blanchot, and Eco, as well as articles on pop culture under a pseudonym for comedy website He currently teaches in Chile.