(belle âme) The beautiful soul (Ger. schöne Seele) is a stage in the dialectic of self-consciousness which Hegel describes in the Phenomenology of Spirit (Hegel, 1807). The beautiful soul projects its own disorder onto the world and attempts to cure this disorder by imposing ‘the law of the heart’ on everyone else. For Lacan, the beautiful soul is a perfect metaphor for the ego; ‘the ego of modern man…has taken on its form in the dialectical impasse of the belle âme who does not recognise his very own raison d’être in the disorder that he denounces in the world’ (E, 70). In a more extreme way, the beautiful soul also illustrates the structure of paranoiac misrecognition (see MÉCONNAISSANCE)(Ec, 172–3).
The concept of the beautiful soul illustrates the way that neurotics often deny their own responsibility for what is going on around them (see ACT). The ethics of psychoanalysis enjoin analysands to recognise their own part in their sufferings. Thus when Dora complains about being treated as an object of exchange by the men around her, Freud’s first intervention is to confront her with her own complicity in this exchange (Ec, 218–19; see Freud, 1905e).