Weininger Otto - Sex and character


Author : Weininger Otto
Title : Sex and character
Year : 1903

Link download : Weininger_Otto_-_Sex_and_character.zip

There are few instances in the history of literature in which a work so mature in its scientific purpose and so original in its philosophic aspect as " Sex and Character " has been produced by a student who was at the time of its completion less than thirty years of age. " Sex and Character " was at once accepted by scientific authorities, who had direct knowledge of its subject matter, as a book that demanded respectful consideration, whether or not its conclusions might be accepted. It may at once be admitted that the book is by no means in harmony with contemporary thought. If the conclusions of Weininger should be accepted, discu^^sions concerning the emancipation of women, the relation of women to culture, and the results of sexuality would be deprived of their foundation. In this treatise, we have presented, with all the penetrating acumen of the trained logician, a characterisation of sexual types, " M " (the ideal man), and " W " (the ideal woman). The psychological phenomena are traced back to a final source and the author undertakes to present what he believes to be a definitive solution altogether alien to the field of inquiry wherein the answer has hitherto been sought. In the science of characterology, here formuliited for the first time, we have a strenuous scientific achievement of the first importance. All former psychologies have been the psychology of the male, written by men, and more or less consciously applicable only to man as distinguished from humanity. " Woman does not betray her secret," said Kant, and this has been true till now. But now she has revealed it —by the voice of a man. The things women say about themselves have been suggested by men ; they repeat the discoveries, more or less real, which men have made about them. By a highly original method of analysis, a man has succeeded for the first time in giving scientific and abstract utterance to that which only some few great artists have suggested by concrete images hitherto. Weininger, working out an original system of characterology (psychological typology) rich in prospective possibilities, undertook the construction of a universal psychology of woman which penetrates to the nethermost depths, and is based not only on a vast systematic mastery of scientific knowledge, but on what can only be described as an appalling comprehension of the feminine soul in its most secret recesses. This newly created method embraces the whole domain of human consciousness ; research must be carried out on the lines laid down by Nature—in three stages, and from three distinct points of view : the biologico-physiological, the psychologically descriptive, and the philosophically appreciative. I will not dwell here on the equipment essential for such a task, the necessary combination of a comprehensive knowledge of natural history with a minute and exhaustive mastery of psychological and philosophical science—a combination destined, perhaps, to prove unique. The general characterisation of the ideal woman, " W," is followed by the construction of individual types, which are finally resolved into two elemental figures (Platonic conceptions to some extent), the Courtesan and the Mother. These are differentiated by their pre-occupation with the sexual act (the main, and ir^the ultimate sense, sole interest of " W"), in the first case, as an end in itself, in the second as the process which results in the possession of a child. The abnormal type, the hysterical woman, leads up to a psychological (not physiological) theory of hysteria, which is acutely and convincingly defined as " the organic mendacity of woman." Weininger himself attached the highest importance to the ethico-philosophical chapters that conclude his work, in which he passes from the special problem of sexuality to the problems of individual talent, genius, aesthetics, memory, the ego, the Jewish race, and many others, nsing finally to the ultimate logical and moral principles of judgment. From his most universal standpoint he succeeds in estimating woman as a part of humanity, and, above all, subjectively. Here he deliberately comes into sharp conflict with the fashionable tendencies towards an unscientific monism and its accompanying phenomena, pan-sexuality and the ethics of species, and characterises very aptly the customary superficialities of the many non-philosophical modern apostles, of whom Wilhelm Bölsche and Ellen Key are perhaps the most representative types. Weininger, in defiance of all reigning fashions, represents a consolidated dualism, closely related to the eternal systems of Plato, of Christianity, and of Kant, which finds an original issue in a bitterly tragic conception of the universe. Richard Wagner gives artistic expression in his Parsifal to the conception Weininger sets forth scientifically. It is, in fact, the old doctrine of the divine life and of redemption to which the whole book, with its array of detail, is consecrated. In Kundry, Weininger recognises the most profound conception of woman in all literature. In her redemption by the spotless Parsifal, the young philosopher sees the way of mankind marked out; he contrasts with this the programme of the modern feminist movement, with its superficialities and its lies; and so, in conclusion, the book returns to the problem, which, in spite of all its wealth of thought, remains its governing idea : the problem of the sexes and the possibility of a moral relation between them—a moral relation fundamentally different from what is commonly understood by the term, of course. In this volume is revealed the mind of one who was, it may be believed, a conscientious student, and to whom life brought only unhappiness and tragedy. No thoughtful man can lay down the book without being impressed by the earnestness and the honesty of the author's investigations. ...

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