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Freud or faux

The popular appeal of Freud's ideas has never been greater, but their scientific value has recently been under sustained attack. The philosopher AC Grayling discusses both the reasons for this renewed scepticism and Freud's lasting appeal

By AC Grayling   March 1997

Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote that just when he was coming to the conclusion that psychology is nonsense, he read Freud and underwent a revelation. Thereafter he called himself Freud’s disciple and described him as “one of the few authors worth reading.” At the same time he was severely critical of psychoanalysis, calling it “fanciful pseudo-explanation.” He warned a friend who was studying Freud’s theories, “psychoanalysis is a dangerous and foul practice, it has done no end of harm and comparatively little good.”

Wittgenstein’s ambivalence is easily explained. He admired Freud the artist, but found his theories confused and misleading. In so…

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