Aphanisis is the psychological term used to denote the disappearance of sexual desire. It comes from the Greek aphanes, meaning 'invisible'. According to the theories of Ernest Jones, who coined the term in 1927, aphanisis is the foundation of all neuroses.
Aphanisis is an important concept in Lacanian psychoanalysis (cf. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis), although, following Jones, Lacan appropriated and altered the term's meaning somewhat substantially. In Lacanian theory, aphanisis describes the process through which a subject is eclipsed behind any signifier used to conceive of her. The subject as such is, accordingly, barred, a mere interstice; the signifier reigns supreme. Barred and riven by the Other (of language), a subject has no choice but to conceive of herself vis-a-vis something other than herself, something 'outside' or radically separated from her. In this very process of conceiving of herself, of making herself thinkable, and thus communicable, a subject accomplishes her own radical alienation. Because the Other is the sole means through which a 'subject' can be rendered thinkable, aphanisis, the disappearance or the fading of the subject behind any signifier used to conceive of it, is an essential concept for understanding subjectivity and the peril of the subject's fundamental emptiness.
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