Enigmatic Dream Fragment
11 Wittgenstein ‘Conversations on Freud,’ 47 Wittgenstein’s italics (Latin term italicized by me).
123 dreams’ Wittgenstein reminds us. But this misses Freud’s point, which is that wish fulfilment dreams are displaced childhood memories and hence do ‘call for an interpretation.’ (2) ‘And some dreams obviously are wish fulfilments; such as the sexual dreams of adults, for instance.’ But by limiting wish fulfilment dreams to dreams that are literally about sex, Wittgenstein disregards Freud’s account of repression and displacement. (3) ‘But it seems muddled to say that all dreams are hallucinated wish fulfilments . . . partly because this does not seem to fit with dreams that spring from fear rather than from longing.’ However, by confining wish fulfilment to a ‘commonplace’ definition such as ‘dreams which spring from . . . longing,’ Wittgenstein blatantly disregards Freud’s insistence that sexual dreams often evoke fear and anxiety. (4) In camouflaged wish fulfilments ‘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.’ Freud would agree with Wittgenstein that in our conscious life, wishing something is not the same as fulfilling the wish. However, Freud’s point is that the unconscious is unable to distinguish between ‘wishing’ and ‘doing,’ so it is in this sense that he believes we can speak of dreams as wish fulfilments. (5) ‘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.' In the final sentences of the passage Wittgenstein tries to imagine what a camouflaged wish fulfilment might actually be like and concludes that, strictly speaking, it would not be a fulfilment of anything.
Something new is being said by Freud, new sets of concepts and metaphors are taking shape, but Wittgenstein hears only the everyday, the literal sense of what he says. What does this deflationary appeal to the commonplace meanings of Freud’s words really entail?
In an important regard, Wittgenstein’s reading of Freud clearly resembles the pattern identified by Stone. Wittgenstein ‘draw[s] attention to something to which everybody would agree’ (all dreams are not literally about sex; wishing and doing are not the same, etc.) and frames the remainder of what he says as ‘paradox inducing.’12 But nor can Stone adequately describe Wittgenstein’s approach to Freud for two main reasons.
Firstly, as we have already seen, Wittgenstein does not conclude that the paradoxical nature of Freud’s account renders his work completely unappealing. As Rhees recalls, Wittgenstein ‘would speak of himself - at the period of these discussions - as “a disciple
12 Martin Stone, ‘Wittgenstein on deconstruction,’ The New Wittgenstein, (London: Routledge, 2000),
of Freud” and a “follower of Freud.”’n So whatever Wittgenstein’s argument with academia, his intension is not to make Freud’s views entirely unattractive.
Secondly, Stone does not seriously consider the paradoxes inherent in Wittgenstein’s own procedure. For, as Wittgenstein’s account of Freud makes clear, in order to ‘return’ words from their academic to their ordinary or straightforward sense, Wittgenstein wilfully misreads Freud’s work, separating its concepts from their intellectual context, from the debates, the case studies, the texts and the history which form their ‘home. ’ 14 Indeed this makes Wittgenstein more like the metaphysician than he may be willing to admit, for he approaches Freud’s work like a foreigner, a savage or a child, disregarding its nuances and taking its metaphors literally.M ore broadly one might say that while the metaphysician is estranged from the details of the everyday, Wittgenstein consciously estranges himself from many of the conventions of academic practise. For only an outsider, or perhaps a person who pretends to stand outside, is in a position to hear only commonplace meanings of theoretical strivings, or to illustrate academic ‘turns of speech. ’ 16
There are two different ways that one might think about Wittgenstein’s strategy of wilful misreading; as defamatory refusal of new thoughts or as an effort to open an academic vocabulary to further perhaps unimagined readings. From the latter perspective, Wittgenstein also resembles Stone’s ‘interprevist,’ for he too opens words to unforseen contexts. But given that the non-academic meanings Wittgenstein opens Freud’s words to are not really new, but simply commonplace, everyday associations, it would be strange indeed to interpret his wilful misreading as an act of creative re interpretation, an opening to the possibilities of language. For surely when Wittgenstein alludes to the straight forward sexual dream, or appeals to the literal or everyday connotations of Freud’s words, he pins down the meaning of Freud’s words and hence evokes the ‘metaphysics of presence’?
The difficulty of this view, however, is that Wittgenstein explicitly objects to Freud’s search for the ‘essence of dreaming,’ and indeed he sees his appeal to literal sexual dreams as part of this critique. 17 So one must either conclude that Wittgenstein tries to
13 Russ Rhees in Wittgenstein, ‘Conversations on Freud,’ 41.
14 In this sense he is different from Le Doeuff who charts the history of philosophical image use.
15 Speaking about the activity of doing philosophy Wittgenstein writes: ‘When we do philosophy we are like savages, primitive people, who hear the expressions of civilized men, put a false interpretation on
them, and then draw the queerest conclusions from it.’ Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical
Investigations, 2nd edition, ed. G. E. M Anscombe & R. Rhees, trans. G. E. M Anscombe (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1958), §194.
1(1 Wittgenstein, Investigations, §295. 17 Wittgenstein ‘Conversations on Freud,’ 48.
125 replace Freud’s essentialist account of dreaming, with his own essentialist reading of Freud’s words, or that Wittgenstein’s appeal to everyday connotations is not a claim about the essential meaning of Freud’s words at all. To better understand what motivates Wittgenstein’s wilful misr ead in g I will turn to his account of the mythological dimension of Freud’s work.
The double aspect of fantasy
In ‘Conversations on Freud' Wittgenstein imaginatively stages an encounter between himself and Freud. ‘“Do you want to say, gentlemen,”’ asks Freud, “‘that changes in mental phenomena are guided by chance? ’” 18 In response to Freud, Wittgenstein retorts:
‘psychologists want to say: “there must be some law” - although no law has yet been found . . . where to me the fact that there aren’t any such laws seems important. ’ 19 The causal laws governing physical bodies can be tested, but there are no experiments that will determine the causes of ‘feeling and motivation. ’ 20 It is common to criticise Freud’s theories because they are impossible to prove or disprove, but significantly Wittgenstein does not dismiss Freud’s work on this basis. Instead, he uses Freud to find ways to describe psychological concepts such as ‘feeling and motivation’ without posing general explanatory laws. He wants to liberate Freud’s thought from its claim to be a science. 21 Wittgenstein’s task then, is to describe the rhetorical mechanism Freud uses in order to make us feel that his explanations must be so.
Freud refers to various ancient m y th s...an d claim s that his researchers have now explained how it came about that anybody should think or propound a myth of that sort. W hereas in fact Freud has done som ething different. He has not given a scientific explanation o f the ancient myth. W hat he has done is to propound a new myth. The attractiveness o f the suggestion, for instance, that all anxiety is a repetition of the anxiety of the birth traum a, is ju st the attractiveness o f a m ythology. ‘It is all the
1S Wittgenstein, ‘Conversations on Freud,’ 42. 19 Wittgenstein, ‘Conversations on Freud,’ 42 20 Wittgenstein, ‘Conversations on Freud,’ 42.
21 Wittgenstein believes that under some circumstances Freud’s mythological accounts are capable of helping patients. For example, the concept ‘Urszene’ gives a tragic form to life. ‘Many people have, at some period, serious trouble in their lives - so serious as to lead to thoughts of suicide. This is likely to appear to one as something nasty, as a situation which is too foul to be a subject of a tragedy. And it may then be an immense relief if it can be shown that one’s life has the pattern . . . of a tragedy - the tragic working out and repetition of a pattern which was determined by the primal scene.’ However this myth or ‘primal scene,’ cannot provide a causal explanation of a patient’s dream, rather Freud must accept that the ‘primal scene’ is whichever scene ‘the patient recognizes as such’ or the scene that ‘effects the cure.’ See Wittgenstein, ‘Conversations on Freud,’ 51.
outcome of something that happened long ago.’ Alm ost like referring to a totem .22
According to Wittgenstein, what Freud’s work has ‘actually brought out’ is that an explanation which people are ‘disinclined to accept’ is likely to be one that they are also ‘inclined to accept. ’ 23 For example, Freud’s procedure of free association ( frier Einfall), is not simply something that the public is resistant to, rather the procedure holds a strange appeal. The feelings of inclination and disinclination also mingle in a second way. Wittgenstein suggests that it would be a valuable discovery if it turned out that that the analyst’s predictions and ‘what the dreamer is led to by freier EinfalV were often the same, but ‘it would be queer to claim (as Freud seems to) that they must always coincide. ’ 24 Yet it is precisely the ‘queer’ insistence ‘ must always ’ that is so attractive. 25 As Wittgenstein observes in Philosophical Investigations, words that seem strange or ‘queer’ are often highly compelling: “‘But this isn’t how it is!” - we say. “Yet this is how it has to be!” ’ 26
In conclusion, Wittgenstein warns that: ‘although one may discover in the course of [analysis] various things about oneself, one must have a very strong, keen and persistent criticism in order to recognize and see through the mythology that is offered or imposed on one. There is an inducement to say, “Yes, of course, it must be like that.” A powerful mythology.’ 27 Here, Wittgenstein uses the word ‘mythology’ to mark, not this or that particular picture, but the feeling that any given picture must be so. ‘To learn from Freud you have to be critical,’ Wittgenstein tells Rhees, ‘and psychoanalysis generally prevents this. ’ 28
Wittgenstein’s keen criticism is evident in his account of the mythological means by which Freud establishes himself as a science. Nevertheless, the influence of Freud can equally be seen in the way that Wittgenstein’s analysis of the mechanism of fantasy echoes Freud’s insistence in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life that unconscious fantasy formations such as parapraxis or slips and errors often pass us by in ordinary life, their strangeness quite unnoticed. 29 According to Paul Kegan: ‘Freud is the first observer to be philosophically struck,’ not by the number of slips, ‘but by how
22 Wittgenstein, ‘Conversations on Freud,’ 51. 23 Wittgenstein, ‘Conversations on Freud,’ 43. 24 Wittgenstein, ‘Conversations on Freud,’ 46. 25 My italics.
2(1 Wittgenstein, Investigations, §112. Wittgenstein’s italics. 27 Wittgenstein, ‘Conversations on Freud,’ 51-52.
2X Rhees’ recollection in Wittgenstein, ‘Conversations on Freud,’ 41.
127 unintrigued we are by the fact - how feckless, how innocent.’™ Indeed as Wittgenstein himself says of Freud, the very symbols that from one perspective seem ‘queer’ can also appear to us as ‘the most natural thing in the world. ’ 31
The double aspect of the fantasy formations of the unconscious - at once normal and peculiar - can help shed light on a problem raised at the end of the previous chapter. In order to align Wittgenstein and Derrida, Glendinning and Staten both emphasise the ‘automatism’ of the metaphysical fantasy, its sheer normality. 32 Stone, by contrast, reduces metaphysics to a narrow subjective response - the insistence that a particular combination of words is ‘spooky.’ So how can Wittgenstein stage fantasy in terms of feeling, but at the same time present fantasy as an all-pervasive, yet largely unthought norm? Drawing on Freud, Wittgenstein shows that fantasy can appear under two aspects: as something natural and beyond remark, and as something remarkable, ‘queer’ and potentially unsettling. This suggests that there is a felt and an unfelt dimension to fantasy, and that Wittgenstein’s intention is to reveal both these dimensions. 33 In broad terms Wittgenstein’s account of the double aspect of fantasy lends further support to Glendinning’s claim that the ‘metaphysics of presence’ operates regardless of whether it is felt at a given moment. Nevertheless, Glendinning’s reading does not help us understand why Wittgenstein pays such careful attention to the lived and felt aspect of metaphysics. In this regard he does not fully engage with the therapeutic dimension of Wittgenstein’s thought, its engagement with the symptomatic manifestations of fantasy. The following chapter will develop an account of therapy in Wittgenstein’s writing, by investigating the relation between these two dimensions of fantasy. Although I will continue to draw on Derrida’s work at times, I will need to move beyond the scope of the deconstructive readers I address in this chapter. For the moment, however, I want to further explicate the distinctiveness of Wittgenstein’s rhetorical strategy and this returns me to my comparative discussion of Wittgenstein and Derrida.
Wittgenstein’s critique of fantasy
Although the double aspect of fantasy lends a certain support to Derrida’s claim that the
30 Paul Kegan, ‘Introduction,’ to Sigmund Freud, The Psychopathology o f Everyday Life (London:
Penguin books, 2002), ix.
31 Wittgenstein, ‘Conversations on Freud,’ 44.
32 Henry Staten, Wittgenstein and Derrida (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985), 79.
philosophical ideal of presence is a cultural mythology, there is no reason to assume on this basis that Wittgenstein also holds that the ‘metaphysics of presence’ is the philosophical ideal and the mythology of our culture. To illustrate this point I will look further at Wittgenstein’s reading of Freud. According to Wittgenstein, Freud masks the strange mythic quality of the demand - it must be so - by purporting to be a science that breaks with all mythology. But this ‘break’ is itself a myth, an imaginary creation. In broad terms Derrida makes a similar point in ‘White Mythology’ where he argues that metaphysical thought claims to break with myth and metaphor, while all the while depending on it. 34
Nevertheless, two features distinguish Wittgenstein’s critique of Freud from Derrida’s. Firstly, Wittgenstein directly links Freud’s search for the essence of dreaming to Freud’s denial that ‘he might be partly right but not altogether so. ’ 35 As Jacques Bouveresse argues in Wittgenstein and Freud, Wittgenstein criticises Freud for trying to convert a potentially valuable point of view into a discourse that assumes the title of a general science. But conversely we might say that Freud’s claim that psychoanalysis is a general science is made possible by virtue o f his refusal to be seen as a localised expertise which is ‘partly right but not altogether so. ’ 36 For it is only by displaying ‘a certain scepticism’ towards his own partial knowledge that Freud is able to give the impression that his discourse has a general authority.5'
Secondly - and here we return to Wittgenstein’s wilful misreading of Freud - Wittgenstein confines himself to the everyday connotations of Freud’s words. Indeed the following extract might be read as emblematic of Wittgenstein’s whole procedure. 38 ‘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. ’ 39 Not only does Wittgenstein explicitly describe his task as one of remaining open to the ordinary or literal sense of theoretical terms in this passage, but most importantly he also goes on to link the generalisation of the ‘sexual interpretation’ by Freud, to Freud’s refusal of the ‘literal’ or ‘commonsense’ use of the word ‘sexual.’ The metaphorical generalisation of a ‘sexual interpretation’ into all aspects of dreaming is made possible
34 See Derrida’s ‘White Mythology,’ for example. 35 Wittgenstein, ‘Conversations on Freud,’ 48 36 Wittgenstein, ‘Conversations on Freud,’ 48.
37 This phrase is originally used to describe the work of Pierre Roussel in Michele Le Doeuff, ‘Pierre
Roussel’s Chiasmas’ in The Philosophical Imaginary, 169.
3X The term ‘emblematic’ is also used by Le Doeuff when she identifies the chiasmas at work in ‘Pierre Roussel’s Chiasmas.’
129 by virtue of this refusal, Wittgenstein suggests.
Neither of these strategies is particularly in keeping with Derrida’s rhetorical practice. Wittgenstein’s suggestion that Freud ‘might be partially right but not altogether so’ would probably seem, from a Derridian perspective, to replace a logic of all or nothing with an ‘empiricism of degrees’ or ‘logic of approximation, ’ 40 and Wittgenstein’s referral to ‘straightforward’ sexual dreams could not but help appear as a re-legitimisation of the primacy of literal or proper meaning. However, as I have already begun to suggest, there is something quite different at stake in Wittgenstein’s reading of Freud. When Wittgenstein says that Freud does not create a general science but a new myth - the myth that it is possible to break with all myth - the myth he is speaking of cannot adequately be summed up as ‘the metaphysics of presence,’ even though it is true to say that this is an immensely important target for Wittgenstein. For in his reading of Freud, he demonstrates that the naturalness or necessity of Freud’s account emerges by virtue of a series of sceptical gestures, for example: the denial that his expertise might be partial and the denial that some dreams might literally be about sex.
In her essay ‘Pierre Roussel’s Chiasmas’ Michelle Le Dceuff makes a similar point regarding Lacanian psychoanalysis: ‘The Lacanian,’ Le Dceuff writes, ‘continually reminds us that the analytic cure is not intended to ‘heal’ or help (this being the practical corollary of the denial of partial knowledge).’
One might have thought that the analysts would content themselves with possessing a partial competence, a specialized knowledge, a particular technique of cure. But it is