Signifying Truth: Augustine, Lacan, and a Theory of Language


  • Zachary Tavlin University of Washington



In this paper, I will show how a retroactive reading of Augustine by Lacan can help us understand more clearly the process of the subject’s accession to language and inter- human relations on the path toward understanding. I will distinguish the Lacanian reading from the reductive Wittgensteinian reading, placing Augustine’s theory on language and learning in a broader context, particularly with regard to the process of subjectivization. Lacan explicitly read Augustine’s scenario of the jealous child in the Confessions, and devoted an early seminar to his theory of language and signification; I propose to take these readings seriously while showing that their psychoanalytic relevance extends further into Augustine’s theory of language and subjectivity than perhaps is normally recognized. Ultimately, though Lacan can help to clarify the stakes in which the linguistic subject is ontologically limited (and in which ‘corporeal’, symbolic reality is truth- deficient), this reading will help to show where Augustine’s theology has specifically informed his theory of language and its subject, and where its revisions must fail (or set out somewhere on their own). 


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How to Cite

Tavlin, Z. (2013). Signifying Truth: Augustine, Lacan, and a Theory of Language. Language and Psychoanalysis, 2(2), 64–76.



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