Wittgenstein, freud and the nature of psychoanalytic explanation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Ludwig Wittgenstein was of two minds about psychoanalysis, as he was about many things. Though generally dubious about the worth of psychology, Wittgenstein made an exception for Freud, whom he considered one of the few authors truly worth reading: ‘Here at last is a psychologist who has something to say’ (Drury 1984: 136). In the 1940s he went so far as to describe himself as a ‘disciple’ and ‘follower’ of Freud, and to speak of Freud’s ‘extraordinary scientific achievement’ (LA: 41). Yet, all the while, Wittgenstein remained sharply critical of what he called Freud’s ‘fishy’ way of thinking (Malcolm 1984: 100), and he generally suggested that psychoanalytic insights had more of an aesthetic than a scientific character. Freud he deemed more clever than wise, a man of formidable intelligence and imagination but also of ‘colossal prejudice’, a ‘prejudice which is very likely to mislead people’ (LA: 26).1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWittgenstein, Theory and the Arts
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages43
ISBN (Electronic)9781135199524
ISBN (Print)0415228751, 9780415228756
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

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  • Cite this

    Sass, L. A. (2011). Wittgenstein, freud and the nature of psychoanalytic explanation. In Wittgenstein, Theory and the Arts (pp. 253-295). Taylor and Francis. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203870204-19