The last teaching of Lacan, that I only now address thematically, and with caution, does not invite you to set fire to that which you adored. I reassure you, but that would be a denial, because the last teaching in effect puts into question what might appear to be acquired once and for all. And it is that which disquiets.1
The first sentence recognizes the significant difference between the early and the late teaching of Lacan. This sentences also suggests that the what is learned from engagement with the early Lacan does not need to be set alight and burned when one engages with the teaching of the late Lacan.
The second sentence, as I read it, suggests that regardless of how much one has gained from study of the early Lacan, what is “known” or “understood” will need to be revised in when considered in the light that the teaching of the late Lacan.
It is not easy to find one’s self lost in a land one thought they knew so well. The effect of the last teaching of Lacan is a disquieting feeling of being lost and unsure of what direction to move in. The latest teaching of Lacan is an eerie place, familiar but also unlike anyplace we have ever been.
It is nonetheless not a question of setting fire. It is a question of not adoring anything, that is to say of not confusing the real with the constructions that are the artifices with which we scaffold it.2
We do not need to walk away from or abandon whatever we have learned from everything that comes before Lacan’s last teaching. Be that as it may, we should not adore what we “know” or “understand”, nor should we assume that our knowledge is real. The last teaching of Lacan requires us to realize that we can’t realize the real as such. The real is an impossible possibility.