Freud’s critique of dispositionalism began with the observation that our mental life is not a smoothly flowing stream of consciousness. It is an interrupted stream that runs through tunnels and under bridges, disappearing on one side and reappearing on the other. ‘The data of consciousness,’ Freud wrote in ‘The Unconscious’ (1915), ‘have a very large number of gaps in them … Our most personal daily experience acquaints us with ideas that come into our head, we know not from where, and with intellectual conclusions arrived at, we do not know how.’
If the castration complex is to normalize the child, Lacan argues, what the child must be made to perceive is that what satisfies or orders the desire of the mother is not any visible (imaginary) feature of the father (his obviously better physical endowments, and so on). The child must come to see that the whims of the mother are themselves ordered by a Law that exceeds and tames them. This law is what Lacan famously dubs the name ( nom ) of the father, trading on a felicitous homonymy in French between nom (name) and non (the "no!" to incestuous union). When the father intervenes, (at least when he is what Lacan calls the symbolic father) Lacan's argument is that he does so less as a living enjoying individual than as the delegate and spokesperson of a body of social Law and convention that is also recognised by the mother, as a socialised being, to be decisive. This body of nomoi is what Lacan calls the big Other of the child's given sociolinguistic community. Insofar as the force of its Law is what the child at castration perceives to be what moves the mother and gives the father's words their "performative force" (Austin), Lacan also calls it the "phallic order."