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Zizek often draws on Lacan term the Big Other; what is this and what does it mean?

One supposes that there may also then be a little other - is this right?

What would be sensible examples of either kind?

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    Not really related to your question, but ... I just notice that "Big Other" is quite similar to "Big Brother". Just a random coincidence? – celtschk Aug 24 '14 at 21:35
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    @celtschk:Possibly not; perhaps a freudian slip, if one can still believe in that sort of thing; Zizeks sublime object of ideology does make the case for the equation Big Other=Big Brother; though that equals sign should be taken informally. – Mozibur Ullah Aug 24 '14 at 21:39
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    Is 'the Big Other' quantified Other? Or is it a categorical Other--like Capital "A"rt? – xtian Aug 25 '14 at 18:28
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    this exists plato.stanford.edu/entries/lacan and may help – user6917 Aug 25 '14 at 19:41
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    Is this like the body without organs? I love this postmodern stuff. Can you supply some context for us ignorami? What's a big other, and can you give an example please? – user4894 Aug 26 '14 at 0:38
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Well, the examples you offer seem to be oppositions...East v. West, a discourse that valorizes belief v. a discourse that valorizes knowledge, and man v. woman. The “Big Other” is the symbolic texture of human subjectivity, whence come norms, expectations, desires, prohibitions, regimes of representation, guaranties of meaning, and many other things.

The "Other" in Big Other can be distracting; it tends to personify, if not caricature, what I described in the previous sentence. I think that many people tend to think of the Big Other as a Big (br)Other, which is a mistake. The Big Other is purely virtual, and of it Lacan would often say that it doesn’t exist (he would also say “there is no Other of the Other,” which was a way of saying that there is no metalanguage that could provide a guarantee to our meanings).

Regarding the relation between man and woman, it is reasonable to see them as being little others for each other; in some ways this is accurate, but I think only in a superficial way. The relation between little others is, one some level, always one of narcissism, aggression, and competition. If you think about it, to some extent, this pertains to all relations between all individuals.

But the relation between ‘man’ and ‘woman,’ this is something a little different... I think that lacanians would tend to speak of one as being the symptom of the other, and I think the same is true for the relation between Orient and Occident. As to the relation between Religion and Philosophy, I don’t know.

  • Since little others can be thought of as neighbors, fellow citizens, enemies, friends, peers, or lovers, and Big Others can be thought of as collections of social conventions, codes, norms, laws, etc., why shouldn't we simply abandon the lacanian parlance and call little others 'persons' and Big Others 'cultures'? What is it that makes the other "other"?

    What is it that grounds the Other's (or other's) alterity, that makes it fundamentally unassimilable?

    Jouissance.

Here is a link to an article by J.A. Miller that addresses this idea.

http://www.lacan.com/symptom/?p=36

  • The "little other" is the Big Other of the Big Other, ie, the little other is any "other" that doesn't qualify as Big Other. – Luís Henrique Aug 8 '16 at 20:37
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this wiki site is a good Lacan resource, at least - I have encountered it a few times.

http://nosubject.com/index.php?title=Other

The big Other designates radical alterity, an otherness which transcends the illusory otherness of the imaginary because it cannot be assimilated through identification. Lacan equates the big Other with language and the law, and hence the big Other is inscribed in the symbolic order.

So the little other

is inscribed in the imaginary order as both the counterpart and the specular image.

The imaginary is the realm of image and imagination, deception and lure

and so the other is what we imagine other people to be, whereas the Other is their symbolic existence - which is the Otherness that operates within the law.

The law is

the set of universal principles which make social existence possible

and so, the Other is the Other that we interact and are obliged to, etc..

It may help, if this just seems like STUFF, to read an article or two of Lacan's and see how he uses these concepts. E.g. in the purloined letter.

The first is a glance that sees nothing: the King and the police. The second, a glance which sees that the first sees nothing and deludes itself as to the secrecy of what it hides: the Queen, then the Minister. The third sees that the first two glances leave what should be hidden exposed to whoever would seize it: the Minister, and finally Dupin.

I read the first glance to be the imaginary, the second glance the symbolic, and the third the real. But it was quite some time ago and I should add the caveat that I have been told I was wrong there, by a fan of Zzizek.

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The Big Other is simply the symbolic order as it exists for an individual subject (language, law, culture, etc.)

And yes, there is a little other as well. The little others are essentially other individuals.

Lacan writes them "Other" and "other" (Autre/autre in french).

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    As an example, Said writes of the Orient as the Big Other for the Occident; does this count as one? Hegel, posits a dynamic between Religion and Philosophy, are they big others for each other? Does the other of a man, as a gender, a woman, operate as a Big Other or as a little other? – Mozibur Ullah Jan 26 '15 at 12:23
  • Since little others can be thought of as neighbors, fellow citizens, enemies, friends, peers, or lovers, and Big Others can be thought of as collections of social conventions, codes, norms, laws, etc., why shouldn't we simply abandon the lacanian parlance and call little others 'persons' and Big Others 'cultures'? – matt Apr 6 '15 at 18:24
  • To this I should have added: What is it that makes the other "other"? What is it that grounds the Other's (or other's) alterity? – matt Apr 6 '15 at 18:36
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It's not who but what. Thinking about it, I have come to simplify the concept as something toward whose real or, most often, imagined expectations one makes appearances. Any religion, ideology, authority figure, creed or cause can be this thing. Also, social pressure, for those who feel its coercion, is literally this thing.

In other words, the big other is always and everywhere a crutch of sorts to an immature individual, whose mental point of reference is by definition more outside than internal, as there is little or no internal, self-sufficient material built up in such a person.

  • If you have references to Zizek or Lacan or someone taking a similar view this would support your answer and give the reader a place to go for more information. – Frank Hubeny Jun 13 at 11:34

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