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Otto Weininger Notes


ad35& Brilliance of Weininger's book (Sex and Character). The obvious brilliant and cultured time & place from which he comes. Compared with my own efforts, conscious I am writing in a time degraded by journalism. What is the audience I address but the kind of public that might read 'quality' newspapers' & a few magazines like Time Out, & why should I address such an audience? Because what other one is there?

ad38 His rejection of empirical psychology from the point of view of Kantian freewill, later made so much of by existentialists. Of course there are difficulties with empirical psychology and what statements it feels moved to make about the value and purpose of life. Difficulties answered by the will to power. Assertion of freewill like a subjective interpretation of the will to power. If some psychological system lays down the supposed path to happiness I am of course free to reject that, but why might I feel motivated to do so? Freewill seems an almost meaningless explanation except insofar as it is a confession of relativism, a refusal to judge or classify people's ideas about themselves. Against Weininger, Dollards book Caste and Class in a Southern Town suggests the extent to which character, intelligence and capacity are the result of social position. One might put up a similar case for inferiority of the Negro or even the Irish. Linking of maleness with acceptance of categorical imperative, too tendentious and dogmatic. Going too far in saying what genius must be like, in so doing he manages to abut the freedom he claims for it. Much of what he says about memory is fine, his idea of the polarity of male and female is brilliant in its way. Concede his own genius.

ad40 Spengler described Weininger as a great Jewish mystic, a late religious consciousness destroyed in the agony of an essentially Magian dualism. His dismissal of science and of the analytic or empirical mode of thought, too cavalier. A very young man and a Germanic cultural patriot, perhaps he underestimated the power of some things that are not said. His Christianity in his lack of appreciation of the need for negation blasphemy etc., thus of the satisfaction that can be provided by some forms of pure science or analytical philosophy.... Weininger wants to capture the forces of life into a particular doctrine, he even seems to want assent to that on the part of those worthy to represent life. He attacks Nietzsche for wanting to shock. How could he understand Satan?

ad42 I follow him quite well as far as his discussion of genius. Original genius as expression of essential male principle. Certainly it is one the things desirable. Also what he says about memory. But I begin to lose interest when he brings in his  Kantian, Fichtean concept of ethics. Fichtean ethics seems to me to be a form of western approximation to the dance of Shiva. It is an alternative to nirvana, action deified. Wittgenstein noted how Weininger puts the whole of human character in hierarchy of valuation. He cannot accept that there is simply variety, diversity, and different forms of fulfilment. Phallic worship he sees as satanic. Phallus as Dante's central pillar of Hell.


Consider the great central question of what is the purpose of life. There is something one seeks beyond the transient satisfaction of the everyday. Imagining an eternity of reincarnation one may get tempted towards some kind of Buddhism. .. his is a Christian way deeply intolerant. To think in terms of an ethical imperative is deeply intolerant.


Crowley’s idea of white magic. Genius before trapped in his ethical imperative (by which he judges others, not only himself).

Redemption, moksha.

Attempting to define the good too closely is the cardinal error. Hence the strange confusion by which a purportedly virile and life giving idea becomes coercive and repressive.


Can he really see closely into the hearts of men? Many a genius might find his conscience leads him to formulations very different from Weininger’s own. And he, the energetic genius may be in search of type of religious satisfaction.

But this might take various forms and certainly does not necessarily involve the renunciation of the senses.


Nor can his concept of lying pass without criticism. What is a lie? there are lies to oneself, lies to others why should the latter necessarily matter? What I mean to say is that even using his own principles, there are different escapes from the devilish female matter than the one he proposes. To limit the escape route to one way is admittedly typically Christian.


His remarks on Jews are interesting. He explains the Jewish attachment to the commonplace as resulting from the slavishness inculcated by their religion.

Dogmatic statements of the supreme greatness of Kant and Wagner. This setting oneself up as an authority on matters of taste. A form of supreme connoisseurship. Perhaps a fault to which the young are pone, I know I was.

Like an intellectual equivalent of wine snobbery.


 Jewish attachment to the commonplace resulting from he slavishness inculcated by their religion.


Man moral, woman amoral

To be moral is to be master, pace Humpty Dumpty .


Surely it is slavish to accept that what gives you your happiness is crime? However happily you accept it.

The master wants to be lawgiver. He wants to be in charge of the value he sets upon his actions and experiences.

Consequently he will not delight in naughtiness after the fashion of a child.

Guilt to him is something hardly to be borne.

Weininger felt he had to reject woman and the senses. But that which satisfies is surely good?

We may suppose satisfaction to be possible without the guilt he felt.

Without the sense that violation of the Kantian rule is immoral or amoral and hence womanish and slavish.

One notes the prominence of neo-Christian Kantian type ideas in certain intellectual circles.

In the establishment the type of the amiable rogue is known but he is immoral or amoral.

ad55& Wittgenstein's criticism of Weininger's hierarchical arrangement of human nature. Similar to what one would presume would be Nietzsche's. The will to power concept is a thorough repudiation of dualism, ie there is no downward force only upward according to their various natures.

ae79 Woman, says Weininger, is not even animal but plant like. The plant image emphasises the profoundly biological nature of sexual attraction. Misogyny may be interpreted as a flaw in oneself. One receives what one gives. Woman is delightful insofar as she can reflect your own delight and your confidence in yourself. To look for more than that may be a grave mistake. Woman is the object of desire. But false expectations may viciously rebound. Your taste, your love, ultimately sexual, but what underlies it all? Different women desire different men, that makes for human variety but if you are lucky there are enough for you. See yourself also as a plant, the most fundamental nature of the instinct, its essence. Your self confidence, your definition, yourself. The extent to which that is what you are. The nature of woman is to respond to that, to be attracted to that. Perhaps insofar as she threatens it she is responding to a weakness a fear that is in yourself.

af125& Weininger on erotics and aesthetics. The nude. 'The love bestowed by the man is the standard of what is beautiful and what is hateful in woman'. Other quotes. Sympathy for Weininger's rejection of sex and his concentration on such concepts as the genius. I could see where his frustration led him to such a position....there is an emotional arousal akin to sexual excitement but which finds its release in aesthetic contemplation. 'In fact the sexual impulse is in reality opposed to the conception of beauty'.

af160& Machismo as low and repellent. But the rejection of that is not to be embracing either of feminism or of homosexuality. What concerns Weininger are the values of creativity and genius. Prospect of sex inducing confusion. Machismo trivialising the pursuit of the will, turning it into a question of style, actually feminising it. Affirmationism identifies with glories in the will. It is prepared to accept suffering. What it must not do is to identify the joy of life too closely with the object of some particular desire. That produces an anxiety obsessed way of living rather like salvationism. Importance of memory.

ai146 People say that Hegel was committed to liberal values. In one sense that may be so but it seems incidental. Part of his excitement is that of an alternative to the English model of civilisation. It is that of a state which knows, and in which all kinds of ideas of protest find themselves a place in constructing the future, usually as a part of something even more exciting than themselves. Take Weininger's ideal of culture. His inclusion of Carlyle's 'Heroes and Hero-worship' & all sorts of other books as part of a general wisdom. As if all the separate insights all put together make a whole. Compare him here with Colin Wilson's Outsider. A different conception of science to the empiricist.

aj188 In the case of male homosexuality one can understand it in terms of weakness. Inadequacy. That seems a simple explanation. But then what is lesbianism? Weininger actually sees it as a good and positive thing, womanhood trying to overcome its limitations.

aj371 Weininger on Jewish versus Aryan father son relations.

"In the Indo-Germanic races, especially in the case of the more gifted, but also
in quite ordinary individuals, there is never complete harmony between father
and son; consciously, or unconsciously, there is always in the mind of the son a
certain feeling of impatience against the man who, unasked, brought him into the
world, gave him a name, and determined his limitations in this earthly life. It
is only amongst the Jews that the son feels deeply rooted in the family and is
fully at one with his father. It scarcely ever happens amongst Christians that
father and son are really friends."

Our culture has an ever restless rebellious quality. Affirmation is to be found amongst forms which look hideous to the elders.

ak304 Many of the influences on Wittgenstein were very peripheral to his main thought. It is obvious why Wittgenstein was attracted to Spengler and Weininger, they were interesting and persuasive writers. Many academic commentators seem to lack the philosophical temperament, they are not sufficiently challenged by doubt.

al10 Note that Walter Duranty was another Weininger fan. He got himself into trouble by recommending the book after the 2nd world war

al112 If there is no such thing as a genius then women are men's equals if not superiors.....So rare to come across a real genius. Was Gurdjieff a genius? Hegel? Ouspensky Boehme? DH. Lawrence? Otto Weininger? Weininger sees genius as primordial maleness. But how could one survey the whole field of genius without falling under someone's spell? Culture of the late Habsburg empire versus English culture. The former is a culture of the genius. What Weininger does is to bring out the implication of the concept of genius. Genius based culture is brilliant but pays insufficient attention to foundations. Weininger himself says that England is less successful at producing geniuses than other European countries. To what might we attribute this? The political system. The genius is like the despot, he does not have to pay too much attention to the legitimacy of his ideas.

am37 Gunter Grass. Eddie Amsel reading Weininger (Dog Years)

am49 Wittgenstein grew up in an atmosphere of Viennese anti-Semitism. Weininger as influenced by Chamberlain. In such an atmosphere even basic Christianity took an anti Judaic taint.

aq89 Reading fascinating biography of Weininger (Abrahamsen - The Mind and Death of a Genius). Interesting points. A Vienna, with cultural life largely Jewish, dominated by Schopenhauer's and Nietzsche's philosophies. Leopold Weininger the father. A goldsmith of the highest creative skill. A Wagner fanatic, who saw Wagner as the consummation of art and the aesthetic experience. An anti Semitic Jew. A moral man who refused to see his brother on his death bed because he had left his wife. Weininger taking his doctoral thesis to Freud, who disliked it (as of course he would) but was impressed by the man. Weininger learning so many languages, including Norwegian. His admiration for Hamsun (he loved Pan) and Peer Gynt. His strange personality. The desires to murder that he felt. His extreme intellectuality. I agree with Wittgenstein in finding him fascinating. I am dubious of his homosexuality. Or perhaps that homosexuality is always the straightforward thing it is taken to be. Sexual problems can take many forms. It is one of the fatuous beliefs of our age that every psychological problem has a simple solution. ….Wittgenstein said one could put not in front of all of Weininger s statements and they would still be interesting. His travels through Norway, Germany etc, shortly before his suicide. His tormented personality expressed something more interesting than a simple failure of health. Apparently he had a great influence. There is actually something encouraging about his life and work. His very intellectuality, his difficulty with simple enjoyment.

aq207 The femininity of the Jew, idea emphasised by Weininger. The pull back to normality, to family, childhood. Phases of woman's existence. How often does she represent something higher? Only for a brief phase of her existence, as when looking or a mate. Opposing male deviance, as well as male originality. From the little girl's aversion to the roughness of boys to the mature woman's approval of severe punishments for offenders.

ap175 On the difference between Jewish and gentile relations of father and son.

ap238 Comedy in Martin Eden. His quoting of Weininger while supposedly in love.

ap332 Weininger on matchmakers, relate to the Jewish agony aunt.

 link:-Sex and Character


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