Wittgenstein on Freud Reading Answers

The Academic passage ‘Wittgenstein on Freud’ is a reading passage that appeared in an IELTS Test. Read the passage below and answer questions 27-40. Beyond the questions, you will find the answers along with the location of the answers in the passage and the keywords that help you find out the answers.

Wittgenstein on Freud

  1. Ludwig von Wittgenstein has justly been regarded as one of the major philosophers of the twentieth century, especially for his writings on the philosophy of language and logic. His work on psychoanalysis and criticism of his fellow Viennese, Sigmund Freud, have, however, been generally overlooked.
  2. Wittgenstein is both highly critical of and at the same time greatly admiring of Freud’s work. Perhaps it would be fairer to say that he is not critical so much of psychoanalysis as of Freud claims for it. For Freud, it was essential that his work be regarded as science: that he had developed a new branch of medicine based on scientific principles, having established causal relationships between behaviour in childhood and that in adulthood. Wittgenstein, while accepting the usefulness of Freud’s method, disputes that these relationships are causal, therefore denying Freud’s theories’ scientific validity.
  3. In causal relationships, we can at least imagine contradictory cases. For example, I can imagine placing a pan of water on a hot stone and water freezing(of course I do not expect it to happen and would be very surprised if I did). With Freud’s theory, however, this is not the case. One of the central planks of this theory is the pursuit of hidden meaning in such things as dreams, work of art, even language(the famous ‘Freudian slip’). Take the example of dreams. For Freud, these are all sexual wish-fulfillments. Freud however, will not accept any contradiction to his theory and argues that in these cases the sexual element is camouflaged, or even repressed. This is a strange notion, for how can a dream fulfil a wish if the desire is so disguised that the dreamer does not even recognise it? More importantly, if under no circumstances will Freud allow his hypothesis to be contradicted, how can we verify it? It therefore behoves us to recognise that, despite his assertions Freud’s theories are not causal hypotheses, and thus not scientific.
  4. One might ask, given this analysis, how Freud came to make this mistake, or rather why he believed that his explanations were causal. It is a confusion between what we might call the “depth-grammar” and “surface-grammar” of certain sentences. If we say, ‘the window broke because the stone hit it’, we are outlining a causal relationship between the stone hitting the window and the window breaking, this being designated by the word ‘because’. However, if we say, ‘he hit her because he was angry’, whilst it may appear that the word ‘because’ performs the same function, this is not the case. The similarity lies only on the surface; if we look at the depth-grammar, we see that in the first sentences ‘because’ denotes a causal relationship, whereas in the second we are rather talking in terms of motivations, reasons and other non-causal terms. Freud’s mistake, therefore, is to believe that both types of sentences are similar: he confuses the surface-grammar.
  5. Despite all this confusion, I have stated that Wittgenstein was highly appreciative of Freud’s work, and this is because he essentially reformulates what Freud was trying to do. Freud believed that he was explaining people’s behaviour, while Wittgenstein suggests that he is redescribing it. To him, Freud is providing a ‘picture’ of human behaviour which may enable us to make certain connections that other ways of looking would not reveal, and by showing these patterns and connections the method may have therapeutic value. In this case, although the ‘picture’ described by Freud’s method is not a true one(for by Wittgenstein’s arguments it cannot be), nevertheless it is unique, enabling the patient to have insights into their problems that no other method could provide.

Questions 27-32

Do the following statements agree with the information given in the passage?

In boxes 27-32, write:

YES if the statement agrees with the information

NO if the statement contradicts the information

NOT GIVEN if there is no information given

27) Wittgenstein was a great moral philosopher.

28) Wittgenstein owes the high regard in which he is held, in part, to his work on the philosophy of language and logic.

29) Wittgenstein totally admired Freud’s work without reservation.

30) Wittgenstein supports Freud’s claims as to the causal relationship between childhood behaviour and that in adulthood.

31) Freud’s theory on causal relationships enjoys considerable support in spite of Wittgenstein’s objections.

32) The writer agrees with Wittgenstein that Freud’s theory re causal hypotheses is not specific.

Questions 33-40

Complete the text below, using one word only from the passage for each blank space. Write your answers in boxes 33-40 on your answer sheet.

Despite 33)…….. confusion regarding surface-grammar, Wittgenstein held his work in high regard.

Freud believed that he was 34)…..…… people’s behaviour, while to Wittgenstein he was merely 35)……….. it. In other words, Wittgenstein believes that Freud provides a 36)…… of human behaviour, which allows us to look at things in different ways. This, according to Wittgenstein may be 37)…..…… .

According to the writer, although Freud’s ‘picture’ is not genuine, still it is 38)……….. . It allows the 39)….…… to have 40)…..…… into his or her problems.


The answers to questions 27-40 are given below with their explanations.

Question Number Answer Keywords Location of Keywords
28 YES Ludwig von Wittgenstein, major philosophers, twentieth century, language and logic Paragraph 1; lines 1-2
29 NO Wittgenstein, highly critical, greatly admiring, Freud’s work. Paragraph 2; line 1
30 NO established causal relationships, behavior, childhood, adulthood, usefulness, Freud’s method, disputes, relationships, causal, denying Freud’s theories’ scientific validity. Paragraph 2; lines 4-7
32 YES behoves us, recognise that, Freud’s theories, causal hypotheses, not scientific Paragraph 3; last 2 lines
33 Freud’s Freud’s mistake, believe, both types of sentences, similar, confuses, surface-grammar. Paragraph 4; last 2 lines
34 Explaining Freud believed, explaining people’s behaviour Paragraph 5; lines 2-3
35 Redescribing while Wittgenstein suggests that he is redescribing it Paragraph 5; lines 3-4
36 Picture Freud, providing, ‘picture’, human behaviour Paragraph 5; line 4
37 Therapeutic showing, patterns, connections, method, therapeutic value Paragraph 5; lines 5-6
38 Unique Freud’s method, not a true one, Wittgenstein’s arguments, cannot be, nevertheless, unique Paragraph 5; lines 7-8
39 Patient unique, enabling the patient Paragraph 5; line 8
40 Insight(s) patient, insights, problems Paragraph 5; line 8

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