Otto Weininger

I have been reading Sex and Character by Otto Weininger.

Weininger believed:

* That all people are mixtures of masculine and feminine essences.
* That women have no souls, no consciousness, no sense of morality, no logic in their thought processes, and no possibility of spirituality.
* That women are wholly consumed by their sexual desires.
* That spirituality and “genius” are the highest manifestations of masculinity, and it is the duty of a man to forego his sexual, feminine side and embrace an abstract, mystical love of God.
* That Jews and psychologists are fundamentally feminine in nature.

This is a high point in my study of cranks. A crank is a person who strongly believes something that is almost certainly false. The most interesting cranks are smart people who just happen to have been caught in a delusion. Cranks, and especially intelligent cranks, are interesting to study because they shed light on the psychology of delusion. One can identify from studying them the factors that lead people to become cranks.

My ultimate goal in studying cranks is to determine whether or not I am a crank.

Weininger is one of the most fascinating cranks which I have come across. In his work profound truth is inextricably plaited up with profound falsehood. Often he seems to me to make a penetrating and accurate observation about the nature of female or male psychology, and in the very same statement to denigrate women in the most infuriating fashion. It amazes me that somebody can be so right and so wrong simultaneously.

I have a great deal of compassion for Weininger. I feel that he was not a bad person. To my knowledge he never mistreated any woman. With the information I have, I feel that Weininger was a brilliant, moral, spiritually mature person who also strongly held excessively misogynistic false beliefs. I hypothesize that these beliefs stemmed from deep-seated issues with his own sexuality. Nor do I conceive of his misogyny as an adjunct to an otherwise sound personality; rather, I imagine it as an inextricable part of his character, integrated into the roots of his belief system and his value system, such that the positive and the negative in him are inseparably married.

What interests me about Weininger is that he is a person who appears to have had in spades almost all of the qualities to which I aspire. I feel that he was an earnest and capable seeker of truth. And yet he was so deeply wrong. He had everything going for him, and still he was thoroughly, fundamentally, reprehensibly wrong.

I wonder if I am like Weininger. Do I deal in profound truths, or do I deal in profound falsehoods? Pointedly, have I fallen victim to an “extraterrestrial delusion?”

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