“Tout le monde est dupe”: The Lacanian Ethics of Stupidity
Seminar XXI, Les non-dupes errent (1973-1974), is one of the most fascinating and at the same time undervalued moments in Lacan’s teaching. This paper aims at discussing the epistemological and political implications of this seminar, focusing in particular on the neglected and insufficiently highlighted role of mediation that it performs between the “late” and “the very last” Lacan. In the first part it will provide a brief contextualization of the seminar: as will be argued, Lacan’s return to the crucial notion of the Names of the Father is inseparable from the postulate of the reciprocal equivalence of the three registers (the Symbolic, the Imaginary, the Real), and consequently implicates the substantial downsizing of the primacy of the Symbolic – if not its drastic devaluation. In the second part, the article will introduce Lacan’s dialectical theory of Stupidity: stressing the semantic misunderstanding of the seminar title (Les non-dupes errent means both “The unduped wander” and “The unduped are mistaken”), Lacan equates science, psychoanalysis and religion as three different ways in which the subject gets “duped” from knowledge [savoir]. Finally, inspired by a recent intuition of Alain Badiou, the paper will suggest that the Lacanian triad of stupidity (psychoanalysis, science, religion) is actually a dialectical square, whose fourth position is occupied by cynical knowledge (i.e. an alleged and unsustainable form of non-knowledge).