Paranoiac knowledge  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

According to Jacques Lacan, paranoiac knowledge is all comprehension by humans, imbued with a sense of the "I" or the ego.


In 1931 Lacan received his license as a forensic psychiatrist, and in 1932 was awarded the Doctorat d'état for his thesis, De la Psychose paranoiaque dans les rapports avec la personnalité. While this thesis drew considerable acclaim outside psychoanalytic circles, particularly among the surrealist artists, it was largely ignored by psychoanalysts. He also published Motives of Paranoiac Crime: The Crime of the Papin Sisters in the surrealist journal Minotaure in 1933.


According to Lacan, while Paranoia is a disturbed thought process characterized by excessive anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion, paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs concerning a perceived threat. In the original Greek, παράνοια (paranoia) simply means madness (para = outside; nous = mind) and, historically, this characterization was used to describe any delusional state. However, paranoia, often in reference to conspiracy, recalls a person's mirror stage, where a person first identifies himself or herself. In accordance with Jacques Lacan's epistemological beliefs, knowledge incorporates three classifications, the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real. In French, the differentiation of symbolic knowledge and imaginary knowledge adheres to the words connaissance and savoir, where connaissance represents imaginary knowledge (all knowledge of the ego) and savoir represents symbolic knowledge (all knowledge of taxonomy and classification). Little text covers knowledge of the real.

Development of Paranoia

Paranoiac knowledge develops from our imaginary relation to the Other as a primordial misidentification or illusory self-recognition of autonomy, control, and mastery, thus leading to persecutory anxiety and self-alienation. While desire by others threatens to invade and destroy our uniquely subjective inner experiences, the structure of language processes the differentiation between unwanted and wanted desire. And thus, the processes of knowing are in themselves paranoiac because they confront the real and, in it, the unknown.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Paranoiac knowledge" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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