Lacan's notion of the mirror stage seems to rely directly on the ability of the child to see. Some are born blind, so they do not have the opportunity to "see" their self-image in a mirror.

A similar case could be made for children in an Amazonian tribe. They wouldn't have access to mirrors, nor to other reflecting surfaces (rivers are pretty muddy).

The British philosopher Raymond Tallis, in his book Not Saussure: A Critique of Post-Saussurean Literary Theory, makes a similar argument, pointing out the apparent absurdity of any theory that proposes an accidental basis for a fundamental aspect of human development:

One measure of the value, truth or explanatory power of a theory is its ability to predict novel facts or at least to accommodate facts that were not taken into account when the theory was originally formulated. If epistemological maturation and the formation of a world picture were dependent upon catching sight of oneself in a mirror, then the theory would predict that congenitally blind indiv­iduals would lack selfhood and be unable to enter language, society or the world at large. There is no evidence whatsoever that this implausible consequence of the theory is borne out in practice.
— Raymond Tallis, Not Saussure: A Critique of Post-Saussurean Literary Theory, Macmillan, 1988, p. 153

How does Lacan get around this? What relevance (if any) does this theory hold for the developmental process of children who are unable to see?

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    Lacan's mirror stage is sufficiently problematic (i.e. not well supported by evidence) that I wouldn't worry about corner cases like blind children except as an amusing diversion.
    – Rex Kerr
    Apr 23 '12 at 16:39

Lacans notion of the mirror stage seems to rely directly on the ability of the child to see

Actually, it doesn't. The case of an infant seeing itself in a mirror is used as an exemplary case of self-recognition; Lacan posits that all children pass through this stage of self-recognition, as reflected (primarily) in the mother as primary caregiver. Clearly, for blind infants, this would occur in some other register within what Lacan calls the perception-consciousness system.

Similarly, Freud (to the best of my knowledge) does not explicitly describe the dreams of blind people in The Interpretation of Dreams; this omission does not imply that blind people are lacking the unconscious drive for wish-fulfillment, etc.

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    I had surmised that, but I couldn't see an explicit recognition of that in the literature that I've seen. Thats an interesting question itself - the dreams of the blind. Apr 20 '12 at 7:35
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    Do you have a citation from the literature that justifies this interpretation? I, too, would answer this way off-hand, but what's asked in the question seems to be a major area of criticism of Lacan's from people in the field of psychology (which by the way, I took the liberty of adding to the question :-)).
    – Cody Gray
    Apr 20 '12 at 20:03
  • @CodyGray: Well, it's been about 20 years since I read Lacan seriously, but from my recollection, nobody within the broader psychoanalytic community raised objections along these lines-- it was taken for granted that he was not speaking solely of literal mirrors. Apr 21 '12 at 10:50

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