Freud approaches this problem from a psychiatric angle the cure of neurosis, psychosis, perversion, and so on. He assumes that his readers are sensible people who can see through the self-deceptions of the neurotics he describes. Wittgenstein, on the other hand, takes an ironical approach to himself and his readers, believing that we are almost certainly deluded, even if we have been analysed by an orthodox analyst. He makes us feel that language, understanding and knowledge are but a thin net over an abyss. Wittgenstein and Psychoanalysis brings these two great, enormously influential Viennese thinkers together in the arena of a postmodern encounter. The question at issue is which of these two philosophies is the better form of relevant therapy for us today? Or is it ever a matter of contest between them?
John M. Heaton is a psychotherapist and one-time colleague of R.D. Laing. He is also the author of Introducing Wittgenstein, published by Icon/Totem.