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Synopsis of Jacques-Alain Miller, ‘Action de la structure’

[‘Action of the Structure’]

CpA 9.6:93–105

Jacques-Alain Miller’s ‘Action de la Structure’ was first written in 1964, but was published for the first time in the summer of 1968 in Volume 9 of the Cahiers pour l’Analyse, along with a prefatory ‘Avertissement’ and a new appendix entitled ‘Note on the Causes of Science’. It is a companion piece to ‘La Suture: Éléments de la logique du signifiant’ (CpA 1.3), although the relations between the two texts are not fully spelled out. In the ‘Preamble’, Miller states that his aim is to arrive at a critical understanding of Jacques Lacan’s version of psychoanalytic theory, and to put it to the test by constructing a systematic exposition of it that joins up with ‘other discourses’ (CpA 9.6:94). The opening and concluding sentences of the original text reveal Miller’s concern to be specifically to join the two discourses of psychoanalysis and Marxism. ‘Psychoanalysis, like Marxism, provides the principle for a new organisation of the conceptual field […]. For our part, we understand ourselves as subscribing to this reorganisation and attempt to count its cost’ (CpA 9.6:93). Since psychoanalysis has been ‘liberated by Jacques Lacan from the interpretation of the individual as psychological subject’ (CpA 9.6:103), while Marxism has been ‘liberated by Louis Althusser of the obstacle [l’hypothèque] that burdened it with a conception of society as historical subject […] we think that it is now possible to join these two discourses. We maintain that the discourses of Marx and Freud might communicate with each other via regulated transformations, and might reflect one another in a unitary theoretical discourse’ (CpA 9.6:103). In the ‘Avertissement’ to the text, Miller mentions that the text was initially written for a cartel organised by the École freudienne, the institute for psychoanalysis founded by Lacan in 1964. The cartel was designated by its particular object of interest: the theory of discourse. The text was ‘initially written in order to justify the name the members of this group took on in order to inscribe their work, and to mark it as a tributary that originates in that same conceptual field’ (CpA 9.6:93).

In the preamble Miller goes on to cite Georges Canguilhem’s maxim (which also serves as an epigraph on the inner leaf of each of the volumes of the Cahiers) that ‘to work on a concept is to produce variations in its extension and comprehension, to generalise it by incorporating traits of exception, to export it outside its region of origin, to take for a model or conversely to search for a model for it, in short to progressively confer on it, through regulated transformations, the function of a form’.1 The original essay is divided into three parts: I. Structure, II. Subject and III. Science. These may be taken as the concepts on which Miller wishes to work in the essay, but several other concepts are also worked on, extended and generalised: notably, the concepts of foreclosure, ideology, miscognition, overdetermination, structural causality, suture, and the unconscious. The 1968 appendix provides a nuanced account of the vantage point presupposed by the essay, returning to the philosophy of Spinoza, Fichte, and Schelling in order to develop a theory of an ‘anonymous’ doctrine of science.


In the first section, on ‘Structure’, Miller identifies what is specific to structuralism in its psychoanalytic guise. Lacanian psychoanalytic structuralism takes up the notion of structure while retaining hold of the ‘ineliminable’ feature of ‘subjectivity’ that has been occluded by the version of structuralism based on linguistic principles. What has been missed is the relation the subject has with its speech. The objects of psychoanalytic structuralism are ‘experiences’, which ‘unfold according to their own interior time, indiscernible from the progress of their constitution’ (CpA 9.6:95). The ‘dynamics’ of structuralism is to be found in the displacement of elements. Miller suggests that structure can thus minimally be defined as ‘that which puts in place an experience for the subject that it includes’. The concept of structure therefore needs to be qualified with two extra ‘functions’: ‘structuration, or the action of the structure; and subjectivity, in its status as subjected [assujettie]’. If the consequences of this ‘hypothesis’ are drawn, it is possible to ‘engender’, or bring about a genesis of, ‘structure’ itself [engendre la structure].

Miller proposes that the concept of structuration can be analysed on its own terms. Structures present themselves in two ways. On the one hand, on an ‘actual’ plane, where they are given to the observer, and on the other hand, in their ‘virtual’ dimension, through which all their states are capable of being deduced (CpA 9.6:95). There is thus a ‘structuring structure’ and a ‘structured structure’. Miller stresses that these distinctions are to be located at the methodological level of analysis, and that no ‘structural time’ or movement can be ascribed at this point in the argument.

If, however, the minimal assumption of a ‘reflexive element’ [élément reflexif] is added, something more emerges. ‘If we now assume the presence of an element that turns back on reality and perceives it, reflects it and signifies it, an element capable of redoubling itself on its own account, then a general distortion ensues, one which affects the whole structural economy and recomposes it according to new laws’ (95). From the moment that the structure involves such an element, (1) its actuality gains the status of an ‘experience’, (2) ‘the virtuality of the structuring process is converted into an absence’, and (3) ‘this absence is produced in the real order of the structure’, and ‘the action of the structure comes to be supported by a lack’.

The introduction of the reflexive element institutes a tertiary dimension of the ‘structured-insofar-as-it-is-lived’, which Miller correlates with what Lacan calls the Imaginary. What results from this is ‘the reduplication of the ideal structural system’. But the ‘duplicity’ produced will in turn ‘afflict the reflexive element which provokes it’ (CpA 9.6:96). The subject that emerges out of this primary process of structuration is to begin with nothing more than a ‘support’, a ‘subjected subject’. The relation of the subject to the structure is mediated by a miscognition. A system of representations is established, built around ‘the fundamental absence in the structuring process’, and ‘compensat[ing] for the production of lack’. The imaginary is thus both an effect and, more profoundly, a means of structuration with its own specific mechanisms of production.

The representations are put into play by what they conceal [dérober] – by what they have the function of concealing, so that they exist only in order to hide the reason for their existence. It is their own structuring structure that they conceal, for what structures reality structures them. That their reflection in subjectivity grants them a coherence, another name for their inertia, constitutes them in systems, and incessantly works to make them independent of the action of the structuring [process], implies that it is inwardly [intérieurement] that the lack which they ward off summons them [implique que c’est intérieurement que le manque auquel elles parent, les intime] (CpA 9.6:96).

The action of the structuring process is manifest in different ways at the imaginary, symbolic and real levels. How it appears depending on the ‘resistance’ of the systems of representation. From this Miller derives a new conception of overdetermination: ‘We call overdetermination the structuring determination which, by being exercised through the biases of the imaginary, becomes indirect, unequal and eccentric in relation to its effects’ (CpA 9.6:96).

Miller proceeds to outline a complex account of how ‘the totality of structure’ may be reconstituted. Although overdetermination must be ‘relate[d] back to lack as to its principle’, lack itself never appears as such, and is instead always misrecognised by the inhabitants of the structure. It is at this juncture that Miller attempts to fuse his conceptions of suture and structural causality: ‘We must deduce from this that, in this place where the lack of the cause is produced in the space of its effects, an element interposes itself that accomplishes its suturation’ (CpA 9.6:96). Every structure includes a ‘lure’ or ‘decoy’ [leurre] which takes the place of the lack [tenant lieu de manque], but which is at the same time ‘the weakest link of the given sequence’, a ‘vacillating point’ which only partially belongs to the plane of actuality. The ‘the whole virtual plane (of structuring space) is concentrated’ in this vacillating point. The place of this function ‘can be named the utopic point of the structure, its improper point, or its point at infinity’ (CpA 9.6:97). These are the points at which the ‘“transcendental” space of structuration’ intersects with ‘experiential, structured space’. To perceive the reality of these vacillating points, a ‘conversion of perspective’ and ‘regulation of the gaze’ is necessary. If this is to be more than imaginary and subject to misrecognition, it can only be done by ‘transform[ing] some state of a structure’, and setting out from the utopic points that are specific to each of the levels at which lack mobilises structure.


At the beginning of the second section, ‘Subject’, Miller remarks on the apparent paradox of beginning with the concept of structure and proceeding to the notion of subjectivity. He says that the ‘insertion’ of the subject in structures must be taken for granted. ‘It is essential to preserve the order here, which goes from structure to subject’ (CpA 9.6:97). It is not possible to begin from any immediate datum of experience. If, contra certain strains of structuralism, it is in any case necessary to appeal to the notion of subjectivity, it is not in the form of a ‘regent’, but of the ‘subjected subject’ [sujette]. This kind of subjectivity does not occupy a position of foundation, and its consciousness is always distributed by the mechanisms of lack and overdetermination. The subject is always localised in a structure. This conception of the subject retains none of the attributes of the psychological nor of the phenomenological subject. Miller suggests that Foucault’s conception of an archaeology of the sciences points the way beyond phenomenological theories of subjectivity.

The concept of overdetermination leads us to the point where we can recognise as ‘spontaneous’ the subject’s orientation towards the lure of the imaginary. ‘Fundamentally, the subject is deceived: its misunderstanding or mistake [méprise] is constitutive’ (CpA 9.6:98). The domain of perception studied by psychology is fundamentally marked by ideology:

The psychological sphere, that of volitions and appetites, in other words of motivations, is derived from the functional miscognition of the structuring process, with the result that people always act in the light of an end, i.e. in the light of what they perceive as useful. Since the adequate systems that elaborate this misrecognition of the cause form, for Claude Lévi-Strauss, the object of ethnology, this latter remains a psychology, and we must rely on psychoanalysis to delimit the field of psychology (CpA 9.6:99).

The theory of the subject also prepares the way for a new conception of intersubjectivity. What unites the subject and the Other ‘and arranges their relations, of which we only perceive the effects, is knotted [se noue] and decided on an Other Scene, and refers them to an absolute alterity in absence [altérité absolue en absence], or so to speak, exponentialised [exponentiée]’. No intersubjectivity can fill the lack essential to structuration, ‘except by an imaginary formation that sutures it’. Liberal and humanist politics participate in this ‘suture’, indefinitely searching for that object which might come to fill in what they conceive as human ‘dissatisfaction’ (what Locke called unease), and thus guarantee the transparency of interhuman relations. Any idea of a ‘politics of happiness [politique du bonheur]’ can only reinforce ‘the inadequation of the subject to the structure’. The Hegelian notion of alienation, which presupposes the possibility of an autonomous sphere of self-consciousness, must also be superseded. Since subject only appears ‘in the real’ through misrecognizing itself, ‘an alienation is essential to the subject’.2 The subject is intrinsically an actor, and is a director [metteur en scène] only in his fantasy [fantasme] (CpA 9.6:100).


In the final section of the original 1964 text, Miller deals with the concept of science. Given what has preceded, how is it possible for discourse to gain an adequate relation to an object at all? How is science possible? Moreover, there are reflexive questions to be asked about how a discourse of overdetermination is itself possible. The theory of discourse must therefore pose the question of its own relation to science, and then, finally, the question of its own possibility.

If logic governs the field of the statement [énoncé], while psychoanalysis articulates the field of speech [parole], there must be a third position for a theory of discourse.The difference between logical formalization and statements in the linguistic field is that the latter refer back to a code whose virtuality is essential for messages to be possible (CpA 9.6:100); the subject’s speech is inverted as soon as it is uttered in the field of the Other (since, amongst other reasons, it is liable to interpretation in ways other than directly intended). The lack of the code at the level of speech, and the lack of the subject-agent in the place of the code, however, combine in such a way as to generate the possibility an unconscious (CpA 9.6:101). While the subject is correctly conceived as always ‘repeating’ a ‘primordial and generative’ relation to the Other, a full theory of discourse would also reveal more specific circuits of repetition emerging from the primary split between subject and Other. For instance, there is an ‘Other scene’ of the class-struggle, with its own specific combinatory of ‘class-interests’. It is in principle possible to become quite specific about this distribution of lacks. A psychoanalytic structuralist approach to statements can search through the array of placeholders for the specific lacks that support particular structures. This kind of reading is ‘transgressive’, since it traverses the statement towards the enunciation. ‘Analysis’ remains an appropriate name for this kind of reading.

Miller then develops a conception of structural causality using Lacan’s account of metonymy and metaphor. Althusser himself refers to Miller’s analyses on this subject as early as 1968 (in the essay ‘The Object of Capital’). ‘Metonymic causality’, he states, is ‘an expression Jacques-Alain Miller has introduced to characterize a form of structural causality registered in Freud by Jacques Lacan’.3 The way in which psychoanalytic structuralism circles the lack at the centre of structure yields up the principle of the action of the structure. This is nothing other than the operation of suture. By taking the placeholder as a point of departure, it is possible to make the plane of the statement in all its contradictions ‘pivot’, so as to reveal the pattern of displacements:

We will therefore need to explore the space of the displacement of the determination. At once univocal, repressed and interior, withdrawn and declared, only metonymic causality might qualify it. The cause is metaphorised in a discourse, and in general in any structure for the necessary condition of the functioning of structural causality is that the subject takes the effect for the cause. Fundamental law of the action of the structure (CpA 9.6:102).

So is an autonomous, self-determining discourse, without an unconscious, possible at all? A closed discourse is only possible from one particular subjective position, one which bears a special relation to truth. The closure proper to scientific discourse, Miller insists, should not be confused with the suture of non-scientific discourse. Its procedure of negation is in fact more radical: it actually expels lack [elle met le manque à la porte], in the manner of a foreclosure:

Thought from within the field it circumscribes, this closing [fermeture] will be given the name:closure [clôture]. But the limit of this circumscription has a density, it has an exterior; in other words, scientific discourse is not marked [frappé] by a simple lack – rather the lack of a lack is also a lack. (CpA 9.6:102)

Miller calls this ‘lack of a lack’ that is itself a lack a ‘double negation’: ‘It is this double negation that confers positivity on the field of the theory of discourse’. This conception will be taken up and put to the test by François Regnault in ‘Dialectique d’épistémologies’ (CpA 9.4) and Alain Badiou in ‘Marque et manque: A propos du zéro’ (CpA 10.8). Scientific discourses do not have utopic elements, but this special ‘lack of a lack’ nevertheless creates a space for ideology at the borders of scientific discourse.

We need to envisage [figurer] two superposed spaces, without quilting point [point de capiton], without slippage (lapsus) from the one to the other. The enclosure proper to science therefore operates a redistribution [répartition] between a closed field, on the one hand, of which one perceives no limit if one considers it from the inside, and a foreclosed space. Foreclosure is the other side of closure. This term will suffice to indicate that every science is structured like a psychosis: the foreclosed returns under the form of the impossible. (CpA 9.6:102-103)

This conception allows us to rediscover the notion of the epistemological break from the other side. Every novel discourse emerges in a field of overdetermination at the limit of science, and which provides the space for the scientific subject to grasp itself anew. Althusserian Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis provide the two most advanced discourses of overdetermination, and should join forces in a ‘unitary theoretical discourse’.

Appendix on Fichte and the ‘Doctrine of Science’

In the ‘Note on the causes of science’, added in 1968, Miller pursues the idea of a general theory of discourse a step further by reflecting on the idea of a doctrine of science. In Sur la logique et la théorie de la science (1942), Jean Cavaillès had taken up Bernard Bolzano’s logicist conception of a Wissenschaftslehre or doctrine of science, according to which science is ‘an object sui generis, original in its essence, autonomous in its movement’.4 Cavaillès claims that Bolzano’s conception is in antinomy with the fact of the historical development of the sciences, even that of mathematics, whose twentieth century developments Cavaillès recounts in his 1938 Remarques sur la formation de la théorie abstraite des ensembles (to which Miller refers in CpA 1.3:48). For Cavaillès a ‘doctrine of science’ can only emerge retrospectively through the progress of the sciences. In Miller’s ‘Note’, however, the reference to Cavaillès and Bolzano is left implicit (to be taken up explicitly in Regnault’s ‘Dialectique d’épistémologies’; CpA 9.4:46,57). Instead, he returns to the methodological reflections on critique initiated by J.G. Fichte in his 1794 Wissenschaftslehre (referred to by Miller as Principes de la Doctrine de la science; translated into English as The Science of Knowledge).

Miller begins with a fresh definition of the concept of the doctrine of science. Any doctrine of science is forced to face the question of its own status, ie. how a doctrine of science ‘without exteriority’ is possible. Such a doctrine could have no meaning, or at least could have none that can be stated. It is non-constructible, and strictly speaking impossible and unnameable. Any discourse that claimed to be adequate to it would always be on one side of it, and yet always already caught within it:

These marvellous properties flow from one alone: its auto-reflexivity, which, by prohibiting any division through its own enunciation, creates in its field the indiscernible meta-language of the object-language [langage-objet]. It would therefore contradict the concept of the Anonymous Doctrine if one could isolate it in some one place in the Universe of discourse. To expound it, in other words, to lack it, in order to produce its absence in language by identifying its surroundings, is an infinite enterprise (CpA 9.6:104).

This reference to ‘the indiscernible meta-language of the object-language’ takes up ideas developed by Miller in his 1967 piece ‘U ou Il n’y a pas de métalangage’ (which remained unpublished until 1975). Pursuing Lacan’s references to Bertrand Russell’s theory of types in Seminar XII, Miller had explored Russell’s concept of the ‘object language’ or ‘basic language’ that must be presupposed in a stratified hierarchy of languages.5

Miller notes that Fichte wanted exactly what has just been described, but nevertheless remains primarily a philosopher who ‘speaks, and for whom books constitute nothing more than the residue of speech’. Fichte writes the Principles of the Doctrine of Science [ie. the 1794 Wissenschaftslehre] as a ‘manual for its auditors’, for his students. He failed to write down the Doctrine, because there can be no metalanguage of the Doctrine. This is the deepest reason why he asks his readers to enact the process of auto-reflexivity ‘each on his own account and each time as if for the first time’. As in psychoanalysis, the process can only terminate at the moment the student discovers that it is interminable, ‘when the operator glimpses that he will not be able to construct the doctrine in himself, but rather that it will construct itself in him’. As Fichte puts it, the doctrine is ‘not a reality which exists, but something that we ought to, and yet cannot, produce’.6 Miller suggests that this ‘reality’ is analogous to the reality of indestructible desire in Freud: it designates an auto-reflexive and therefore auto-reproducing object, with an impossible construction, or an infinite activity, for a correlate (104).

F.W.J. Schelling’s development of the relation of Fichte’s philosophy to Spinozism in his early text On the I as the Principle of Philosophy pushes this train of thought to its conclusion. To hold oneself to the I am as if it were an Unconditioned comes down to giving to the absolute I the properties that Spinoza gives to absolute substance. Insofar as Spinoza himself implies that God cannot be understood as ‘conscious of himself’ (105), Fichte’s thought terminates in an affirmation of the unconscious.

Referring to Fichte’s methodological text ‘Concerning the Concept of the Doctrine of Science or, of So-Called “Philosophy”’ (1794), Miller suggests that Fichte was in any case already on the way to producing a ‘logic of the signifier’, in which the relation to the object is ‘antinomical’. To identify this movement in Fichte (or Spinoza and Freud) is not to offer some master key to the doctrine of science itself. It rather points to a ‘doctrine of the thought that calculates, verifies and experiments, to the exclusion of perception, of consciousness, and of all modes of sentiment’ (105).

From the perspective of the idea of a doctrine of science, the task of the history of the sciences is to reveal the subjective positions that have made science possible. Referring implicitly to Lacan’s account of the causes of science in ‘Science et la vérité’ (CpA 1.1:21: E, 871), Miller proposes that ‘in order to situate the position of a subject in any conjuncture’, what it is necessary to know are ‘the relations it entertains with the instance of the guarantee, with its statements, with their object’. Clarification of these modes or positions permits the further identification of the particular causes that determine the nature and emergence of what Lacan calls the subject of science.

References to this text in other articles in the Cahiers pour l’Analyse:

English translation:

  • Miller, Jacques-Alain. ‘Action of the Structure’ trans. Christian Kerslake, revised by Peter Hallward. In Concept and Form, volume I: Key Texts from the Cahiers pour l’Analyse, ed. Peter Hallward and Knox Peden. London: Verso 2012.

Primary bibliography:

  • Canguilhem, Georges, ‘Dialectique et philosophie du non chez Gaston Bachelard’, Revue Internationale de Philosophie, 1963.
  • Fichte, Johann Gottlieb, Über den Begriff der Wissenschaftslehre oder der sogenannten Philosophie [1794] . In Sämmtliche Werke, ed. I.H. Fichte. Berlin: Veit, 1845-46, vol. 1. ‘Concerning the Concept of the Wissenschaftslehre, or, of So-Called “Philosophy”’, trans. Daniel Breazeale. In Early Philosophical Writings. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988.
  • ---., Grundlage der gesammten Wissenschaftslehre [1794]. In Sämmtliche Werke, ed. I.H. Fichte, vol. 1. The Science of Knowledge, trans. Peter Heath & John Lachs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.
  • Foucault, Michel, Naissance de la clinique. Paris: PUF, 1963. The Birth of the Clinic, trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1973.
  • Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph, ‘Vom Ich als Prinzip der Philosophie’ [1795]. In Sämmtliche Werke. Stuttgart and Augsburg: J.G. Cotta’scher Verlag, 1856-61, vol. 1. ‘On the “I” as Principle of Philosophy’. In The Unconditional in Human Knowledge: Four Early Essays, trans. Fritz Marti. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1980.

Secondary bibliography:

  • Althusser, Louis, ‘L’Objet du Capital’ . In Louis Althusser et al., Lire le Capital [1965]. Paris: PUF ‘Quadrige’, 1996. Reading Capital, abbreviated 1968 edition, trans. Ben Brewster. London: New Left Books, 1970.
  • Cavaillès, Jean, Sur la logique et la théorie de la science [1942], prefaces by Gaston Bachelard, Georges Canguilhem and Charles Ehresmann. 2nd edition. Paris: Vrin, 2008. ‘On Logic and the Theory of Science’, trans. Theodore Kisiel. In Phenomenology and the Natural Sciences: Essays and Translations, ed. Joseph J. Kockelmans and Theodore J. Kisiel. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970.
  • ---. Remarques sur la formation de la théorie abstraite des ensembles [1938]. In Philosophie Mathématique. Paris: Hermann, 1962.
  • Feltham, Oliver. Alain Badiou: Live Theory. London: Continuum, 2008. Chapter 1.
  • Fraser, Zachary Luke. ‘The Category of Formalization: From Epistemological Break to Truth Procedure’, Introduction to Alain Badiou, The Concept of Model. Melbourne:, 2007.
  • Lacan, Jacques. Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Penguin, 1977.
  • ---., Seminar XII: Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis (1964-1965), trans. Cormac Gallagher, unpublished manuscript.
  • Miller, Jacques-Alain. ‘U ou “Il n’y a pas de métalangage”’. Written 1967, published in Ornicar? 5 (1975-76). Reprinted in Un Début dans la vie. Paris: Gallimard, 2002.
  • Roudinesco, Elisabeth. Jacques Lacan & Co: A History of Psychoanalysis in France, 1925-1985 [1986], trans. Jeffrey Mehlman. London: Free Association, 1990.
  • Russell, Bertrand, An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth [1940]. London: Penguin, 1969.


1. Georges Canguilhem, ‘Dialectique et philosophie du non chez Gaston Bachelard’, 452.

2. In Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, Lacan had argued that ‘alienation’ was necessary to inclusion in the symbolic order, but that nevertheless a ‘separation’ was possible for the subject from the signifier (16th session, 27 May, 1964).

3. ‘The structure is not an essence outside the economic phenomena which comes and alters their aspect, forms and relations and which is effective on them as an absent cause, absent because it is outside them. The absence of the cause in the structure’s “metonymic causality” on its effects is not the fault of the exteriority of the structure with respect to the economic phenomena; on the contrary, it is the very form of the interiority of the structure, as a structure, in its effects. This implies therefore that the effects are not outside the structure, are not a pre-existing object, element or space in which the structure arrives to imprint its mark; on the contrary, it implies that the structure is immanent in its effects, a cause immanent in its effects in the Spinozist sense of the term, that the whole existence of the structure consists of its effects, in short that the structure, which is merely a specific combination of its peculiar elements, is nothing outside its effects’. Louis Althusser, ‘The Object of Capital’, Reading Capital, 188-89.

4. Jean Cavaillès, Sur la logique et la théorie de la science, 100.

5. Lacan, Seminar XII, Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis, 2nd session, 9 December 1964; Russell, ‘The Object-Language’, in An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth, 59-72. In ‘U ou “Il n’y a pas de métalangage”’, Miller had argued that while there is ‘no absolute metalanguage […], no more than there is a greatest number’ (Un Début dans la vie, 128), language nevertheless possesses a lower limit in the ‘object language’, the ineliminable ‘language being used’, or ‘U-language’, in the terminology of the logician Haskell B. Curry. The U-language would be ‘non-stratified’, ‘monostratic’, and ‘inconsistent’ in its autoreflexivity. If one makes the ‘hypothesis’ that there is a unique language ‘in which we live and speak’, which is ‘always there, presupposed without having been posited, this is tantamount to presupposing the existence of ‘God’’ (134). The ‘Note on the Causes of Science’ develops a different conception of metalanguage on the basis of Fichte’s ideas about auto-reflexivity.

6. Fichte, Wissenschaftlehre, I, 101. The Science of Knowledge, 102, trans. modified.