Points of Contact and Criticism Between Wittgenstein and Freud

By Steve Hoenisch
Copyright 1996-2015 Steve Hoenisch | www.Criticism.Com

1 Dreams

Dreams. Freud, Wittgenstein says, held that "all dreams are wish fulfillments." Wittgenstein, on the other hand, holds that "it is probable ... there is no single line of explanation for all of them" ("Conversations on Freud," p. 47).

Interpretation as Meaning. For Freud, the meaning of a dream could often be revealed through the interpretation of it. For Wittgenstein, "any interpretation still hangs in the air along with what it interprets, and cannot give it any support. Interpretations by themselves do not determine meaning" ([Philosophical Investigations], No. 198).

Reductionism. Freud was misguided, Wittgenstein says, in that he "wanted to find some one explanation which would show what dreaming is. He wanted to find the essence of dreaming" (L&C, p. 48).

2 Science

Science. Freud considered his approach to be scientific. Wittgenstein considered both his and Freud's approach to be philosophical, not scientific.

Weltanschauung. Freud's agenda, Bouveresse says, was "to eliminate metaphysics in favor of the 'scientific' conception of the world." Wittgenstein thought such agendas naive.

Theory. Freud attempted to construct a theory that explained the range of psychological behavior. Wittgenstein thought misguided the construction of a single philosophical theory, and he may have thought that psychoanalysis lacked the power to explain the range of psychic behavior.

3 Traits and Teachings

Courage. Wittgenstein saw courage, a trait he valued highly, in Freud's originality and ingeniousness.

Cleverness. Wittgenstein often remarked that Freud was clever, a view that contains, as Bouveresse points out, an element of implicit criticism -- and also of self-criticism, for Wittgenstein often feared that he, too, was only clever, rather than wise, the trait for which he strived. Wittgenstein says: "Wisdom is something I never would expect from Freud. Cleverness, certainly; but not wisdom" (Lectures and Conversations, p. 41).

Danger to the Public. Bouveresse notes that Wittgenstein compared the "incalculable harm" Freud had done to the harm he himself had probably done to philosophy -- both of their enterprises allowed anyone to claim they could treat philosophical or psychological maladies. Wittgenstein once remarked that his and Freud's "teachings, like wine, had made people drunk. They did not know how to use the teaching soberly."

Creation of a School. Freud, Bouveresse says, thought it indispensable to create a school to spread his ideas, whereas Wittgenstein did not believe that philosophy had new truths to communicate and did not want to create a school.

4 Related

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Wittgenstein and Freud: Points of Contact and Criticism

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