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Strange borderlands

Monday, 11 Jun 2018

Otto Weininger on Dr John Dunn. Weininger’s position was the polar opposite to feminism. In the Weiningerian world, femininity is something from which women should be freed, just as Weininger had freed himself from Judaism. Woman and Jew represented passivity to Weininger. They represented the slave mentality in much of humankind as a whole.

In this context of metaphor and symbol, woman is not able to influence the environment, unlike the the male (genius) who can influence the outside world to an inordinate degree. No matter the scope of his personality, all that a person feels of the world or of himself stems from his constitution. The genius is set apartby having the ‘living macrocosm in himself’ wrote Weininger in Sex and Character.

Here Weininger steps into the strange borderlands between innate consciousness and determinateness. On the one hand, all that an individual feels of the world or of himself stems from his constitution and is thus determined. On the other hand, each individual is the centre of a united picture of the way in which the sensible world relates to itself, an anchor for communication and coherency. (Here there is not a little of the Spinozan thinking substance). Within Weininger's framework, personality is the central event of consciousness. Time and the world exist within the self. Weininger is in this respect an egoist in the Stirnerite mould, who stresses the primacy of the ego over environment. Consciousness is not a product since a person is constituted biologically, not historically. No wonder this aspect of Weininger appealed so much to the apostate feminist Dora Marsden who notably renamed the journal she edited from the New Freewoman to the Egoist.

For all its primacy, the ego can be restrained in its quest to build a universe by a Judaic and feminised culture of narrow bestial consciousness. This is the sirenic call to be resisted. But what comes out of Weininger’s struggle to locate the centre of self amidst the Zarathustran kampf boils down to this: whereas philosophers stressed that mind made the world, Weininger’s characterology added a biological substrate to the mind’s experience. The body (nature, matter) made the mind in order to fabricate a world. The mind is not a passive product ofthe world as John Locke insisted. On the contrary, the inordinate cosmic power of the genius stands against the world, with the power to extend beyond the world and shape the universe. Stands against, but is yet a part of the world. Substance and thought are one. Thus we have Weininger the Spinozist monist who would have his cake and eat it. All this despite Weininger’s vitriolic comments about Spinoza who, by being a Jew, was predetermined in the Weiningerian schema to be ever a ‘slave and a determinist’.

© John Dunn.

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