Of Fleshly Garments: Ascesis and Desire in the Ethic of Psychoanalysis

Julia Frances Saville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Discusses J. Lacan's notion that the 19th century's acknowledgment of humanity's pleasure in the pain of both others and oneself can be traced not to an obvious figure like the Marquis de Sade but to Immanuel Kant and his formulation of ascesis and the sublime. Lacan's ethic of not giving up on or in to one's desire gives an ironic cast to the virtues claimed by traditional asceticism. The author focuses on the empowerment and seduction that Lacan detects in Kant's quid pro quo ascetic economy. Lacan demonstrated that categories like the sublime and the quest for the sublimity of absolute freedom threaten both individual ethical and broader cultural freedom. Lacan does this by juxtaposing the absolute position of Kant with the equally absolute position of de Sade in dialectical strategy of "unsettlement."
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-75
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Imago
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1992


  • moral principles
  • sublimity
  • emotional sublimation
  • symbolic order
  • Lacanian real
  • desire
  • evil
  • legal objections


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