Here Rush Rhees is introducing W ittgenstein’s ‘Conversations on Freud,’ in Wittgenstein: Lectures and

In document Illustrated nonsense : ethics and aesthetic practice in the writing of Ludwig Wittgenstein (Page 126-128)

Enigmatic Dream Fragment

4 Here Rush Rhees is introducing W ittgenstein’s ‘Conversations on Freud,’ in Wittgenstein: Lectures and

Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology & Religious Belief, ed. Cyril Barrett (Oxford: Basil Blackwell,

1966), 41.

5 According to Bouveresse in Wittgenstein Reads Freud, p. 4: ‘W ittgenstein’s readings o f Freud seem concerned chiefly with the works published before the First World War. The two works he cites most frequently are The Psychopathology of Everyday Life and, in particular, The Interpretation o f Dreams', on several occasions he also alludes to Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious. But as Brian

McGuinness notes, he was probably familiar with much more of Freud’s work ‘simply through osm osis.’ McGuinness discusses the cultural influence o f Freud’s work in Brian Me Guinness, ‘Freud and

W ittgenstein,’ in Wittgenstein and his Times, ed. Me Guinness (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), 27. h Ludwig Wittgenstein, ‘Conversations on Freud,’ Wittgenstein: Lectures and Conversations on

Aesthetics, Psychology & Religious Belief, ed. Cyril Barrett (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1966).

Derrida ‘Freud and the Scene o f Writing’ Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University o f Chicago Press, 1978). Later texts by Derrida which engage with Freud include: Jacques Derrida, The

Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University o f Chicago Press,

1987 and Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1996).

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Wittgenstein’s argument with academia

In the following section I will draw on Wittgenstein’s reading of Freud to help articulate what I take to be Wittgenstein’s true argument with academia. In the previous chapter I briefly outlined Henry Staten’s charge that Wittgenstein avoids close readings of academic texts and fails to trace the historical origins of this own thought.8 Simon Glendinning, on the other hand, has a different stance. He suggests Wittgenstein’s intention is not to dismiss the history of philosophy but to reveal the ‘unplaceable’ quality of philosophy, its operation beyond the traditional cannon.9 In support of this argument he draws attention to Wittgenstein’s decision to begin the Investigations with Saint Augustine’s autobiographical reflections on language learning from his Confessions, instead of an explicitly philosophical passage from elsewhere in the book.10 In Glendinning’s view, by showing that philosophy might emerge at any point in our lives, Wittgenstein re-enforces Derrida’s claim that philosophy is not a specific genre of thought but a discourse which underpins Western culture generally.

But if, as Derrida suggests, the philosophical ideal really is the mythology of culture, then Wittgenstein’s critique of the academic imaginary seems to be eclipsed. In the following sections 1 will challenge this view. 1 will argue that although Wittgenstein shows that philosophical fantasies can pervade our everyday lives, he also maintains a very particular argument with academia. I use the word ‘academia’ here to indicate that Wittgenstein’s argument is not just with the collection of texts that are traditionally categorised as philosophical, but more broadly with many of the conventions and rhetorical devices of learned thought. I believe that Wittgenstein’s ‘Conversations on Freud,’ might usefully introduce certain details of this argument.

x Staten’s claim is not completely true in the sense that Wittgenstein does cite the influence of various thinkers (such as Schopenhauer, Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, Saint Augustine and Sigmund Freud) and he also deploys certain philosophical conventions (the symbolism of logic, for example) and evokes certain traditional philosophical ideals. Most notably he hopes his own work will help overcome illusion and clarify thought. Actual references to the history of philosophy, however, are sporadic and

Wittgenstein attempts no systematic readings of its texts.

9 Simon Glendinning, On Being with Others: Heidegger, Derrida, Wittgenstein, (London: Routledge,

1998) , 85.

10 Indeed, by finding philosophy in the work of the psychoanalyst Freud, he challenges the conventional boundary of the philosophical discipline.

The ‘straightforward’ dream

Consider, for example, Wittgenstein’s reaction to Freud’s insistence that dreams are camouflaged wish fulfilments.

To say that dreams are wish fulfilments is very important chiefly because it points to the sort of interpretation that is wanted - the sort of thing that would be an interpretation of a dream. As contrasted with an interpretation which said that dreams were simply memories of what had happened, for instance. (We don’t feel that memories call for an interpretation in the same way as we feel this about dreams.) And some dreams obviously are wish fulfilments; such as the sexual dreams of adults, for instance. But it seems muddled to say that all dreams are hallucinated wish fulfilments. (Freud very commonly gives what we might call sexual interpretation. But it is interesting that among all the reports of dreams which he gives, there is not a single example of a straightforward sexual dream. Yet these are common as rain.) Partly because this doesn’t seem to fit with dreams that spring from fear rather than from longing. Partly because the majority of dreams Freud considers have to be regarded as camouflaged wish fulfilments; and in this case they simply don’t fulfil the wish. Ex hypothesi the wish is not allowed to be fulfilled, and something else is hallucinated instead. If the wish is cheated in this way, then the dream can hardly be called a fulfilment of it. Also it becomes impossible to say whether it is the wish or the censor that is cheated. Apparently both are, and the result is that neither is satisfied. So that the dream is not an hallucinated satisfaction of anything.11

Wittgenstein’s strategy of reading (or perhaps more accurately misreading) Freud resembles Stone’s account of the deconstructive critique put forward by remark 201 of the Investigations, in an important regard. For he dramatises the general Freudian account of dreaming in order to reveal its paradoxical nature and he confines himself only to the ordinary or literal connotations of Freud’s words. In both cases Wittgenstein’s aim seems to be to reveal the contradictions and incoherency of a general theory and in both cases Wittgenstein refuses to find in these theoretical words anything other than what we might ordinarily say.

In fact the passage is comprised of a whole series of emphatic refusals, on Wittgenstein’s behalf, to be situated within Freud’s system of thought. (1) ‘We don’t feel that memories call for an interpretation in the same way as we feel this about

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